Quantcast

Special 'Let’s Have a Beer' Edition | The Nation

  •  
Eric Alterman

Eric Alterman

Well-chosen words on music, movies and politics, with the occasional special guest.

Special 'Let’s Have a Beer' Edition

Wrapup: I did two columns about the Skip Gates affair this week, God help me. The first one is my "Think Again column." It's called "Why Does BarackObama Hate America? (Hint: Blame ACORN)" and it'shere.

Then there's my Nation column, which is called, "Class, not 'Race,' withwhich I imagine most Nation readers will strongly disagree and that'shere.That's all for now.

This week on Moyers:With almost twenty years inside the health insurance industry, WendellPotter saw for-profit insurers hijack our healthcare system and putprofits before patients. Now, he speaks with Bill Moyers about how thosecompanies are standing in the way of health care reform.  Potter spokeout against the industry for the first time last month, testifyingbefore the Senate Commerce Committee he said, "Recently it becameabundantly clear to me that the industry's charm offensive, which is themost visible part of a duplicitous and well-financed PR and lobbyingcampaign, may well shape reform in a way that benefits Wall Street farmore than average Americans."  Wendell Potter is a senior fellow onhealth care for the nonpartisan watchdog group Center for Media andDemocracy, for which he writes a blog on health care reform.

Alter-reviews:

David Bowie, Storytellers by Sal:

The premise of VH-1's Storytellers was to get an artist to spill thebeans about the genesis of his most popular songs, and maybe give apointer or two about the songwriting process. Who better than DavidBowie then, an artist I have been a huge fan of since Ziggy Stardustfound its way into my bedroom and scared the crap out of my mother in1972, and whose lyrics consistently make little to no sense...to me. Onthis CD/DVD release, you get the episode as it aired, as well as 4 bonustracks that didn't. Inexplicably, those 4 tracks are only tagged ontothe DVD. (Super annoying.)

Musically, it's fine, with Bowie and his band performing almost acousticversions of songs, that really were just part of his current tour's setlist, as opposed to songs that may have benefited from the backgroundthe show was there to offer. Bowie's storytelling is a bit camp, anddoesn't really address the songs and their content so much as it justillustrates what may have gone on around the time of the writing. So thecrazy lyrics of "Drive In Saturday" get little explanation, but Bowiedoes inform us that it was written for Mott The Hoople as a follow-up to"All The Young Dudes." Mott turned it down, and Bowie overreacted byshaving off his eyebrows. I guess that's a cool enough story.

Sal Nunziato, BURNING WOOD

The mail:

Name: Walter Crockett
Hometown: Worcester, Mass.

I think this glorification of Walter Cronkite has gone a bit overboard. It's very much like glorifying Dwight D. Eisenhower because he wasn't as utterly stupid, ignorant and craven as the major Republicans who came after him.

Sure, Eisenhower deserves some credit for having a brain and some principles, but he was no great president and Cronkite was no great newsman. He was a middle-of-the-road TV journalist who for much of his career had no compunctions about reflexively siding with government and entrenched power. He was not a muckraker. He did not risk his career for the truth, though he was willing at times -- particularly after he retired -- to point out inconvenient truths.

That Cronkite and Eisenhower have come to be seen as profiles in courage and role models is a sign of how far to the right our country has drifted in 40 years.

Today, any stand on principle from a Republican politician or any sign of scruples from a TV journalist is cause for celebration. I'll celebrate too, that there's still a sliver of hope left in this world, but we really ought to demand more.

Name: Ed Tracey
Hometown: Lebanon, New Hampshire

Professor, only one item that I could add to your comprehensive "Health-Care Wimps" essay, about why Democrats shouldn't be living in fear of 1994.

1994 represented the forty-year mark of Democratic control of at least one of the two houses of Congress (and often both). And so the burgeoning talk-radio ensemble could legitimately raise the time-for-a-change banner. It's easy to blame Bill Clinton for having it happen on his watch, but the seeds of 1994 had been planted much earlier.

But today? What the Democrats paid for after forty years, the GOP blew in only twelve years (and I believe would have happened sooner but for 9-11). The general public has a dim view of the GOP, something the Blue Dogs cannot - or will not - recognize.

Name: Ben Miller
Hometown: Washington, DC

Mr. Alterman:

I do think Health Care legislation in some form will pass but let's for a second think about what if it does not. The media and the right will go crazy, blaming it on Obama and saying it is a massive failure to the president. And maybe they are right.

But it is 2009. Almost anyone with any sense will admit that the health care system needs to be fixed. Democrats control the presidency, and have large majorities in both the House and the Senate - so if Health Care legislation cannot pass, what does it say about the current state of American politics?

Think back to the Bush Administration, when they had political capital and were intent on spending it. What major legislation did they pass? They cut some taxes, passed a bankruptcy bill to help the credit card companies, but otherwise, they accomplished little in terms of a domestic agenda.

The question that needs to be addressed is why is so little being done, despite both parties having opportunities in recent years to push through an agenda where the opposing party can do and say little to stop it. What are these politicians doing?

Obama campaigned on change, and came in with a monumental to-do list. The thought was because of the favorable numbers in Congress, much of Obama's plans would pass quickly. As a liberal, I was excited, because I was certain these ideas would ultimately improve our country, and possibly cause many to realize that the standard GOP attacks against liberals were nothing more than words.

But here we are -- the president wants to pass health care, Ted Kennedy and many other prominent democrats want to pass health care, and it needs to get done. And yet Congress drags its feet. Is it all because of special interest groups having too much power and enough clout to stop anything that would mean real change? We are seeing it with health care and as well with financial oversight.

Is it a lack of political courage on the part of many politicians on both sides of the aisle -- afraid to put their names to something that would alter the status quo. Sure it might work, but what if it doesn't?

Regardless of political affiliation, I find most people I know simply frustrated with politics because more so than at any time I can remember, so little seems to get done. It is particularly glaring right now when we all know so much needs to be accomplished (and I am not talking about the Senate holding hearings on the merits of the BCS).

Hopefully I am proven wrong, and a meaningful health care bill gets passed in the Fall. If not, it will be a blow to the President, but more so, it will be another black mark on all who serve in Congress, calling into question their loyalties -- is it to the country or simply to political gain/coverage.

Name: Robert Carrick
Hometown: Colorado Springs, CO

Your recent "Think Again" article on "Why Not The Best" merely highlights an issue you took up once before: the right wing "noise machine." Recently retired, I do a fair amount of channel surfing and viewing various blogs and the message that anyone, dems or otherwise, are trying to get out about the facts behind the need for health care reform are being drowned out by this noise machine. As his sliding popularity shows Obama is losing the war of words. He has not been able to effectively counter the lies coming from the republicans and their media coharts. Have we surrendered to the likes of Beck, O'Reilly and Limbaugh? Where is the push back? Where are the facts that you highlighted? Where is the outrage? A recent visit to the ER by my daughter (dehydrated to a dangerous level by intestinal flu plus nursing a new born) saw her receive two liters of fluids and some anti- nausea medicine. The bill was $7,900 or about 15% her total salary! She had insurance and paid only $100 but it highlighted the plight of those not insured. One illness like that and you are bankrupt. Sorry, to take your time or that of your staff but it is sickening to see what is happening...I'm sick of seeing non stop Republicans spewing on various TV/cable shows with no effective counter point! Sooner or later that lie oft repeated is going to be embraced by those listening as the truth and that is happening right now!

Name: Mike Nolan
Hometown: Frankfort, KY

Lt. Col. Batemen has usually been a marvelous source of good information on all matters military, but in September 2008 he accused Glenn Greenwald of "twisting history" in regard to the permanent stationing of an Army brigade in the U.S. to help deal with civil unrest. Now that the Cheney plan to subvert both federal laws and the Constitution by using Army troops to arrest U.S. citizens has come to light, perhaps Col. Batemen will revise his criticism of Mr. Greenwald. Even an apology would not be out of order.

Name: Meryl Wheeler
Hometown: Brooklyn, NY

Regarding perfection in pop singles, I think "Gloria" qualifies too. So, apparently, did a bunch of Austin musicians who played it for 24 hours straight when the Liberty Lunch closed. Van Morrison even called in. http://www.texasmonthly.com/2009-08-01/webextra7.php.

Name: Beth Harrison
Hometown: Arlington, VA

Eric, please pass on my compliments to Mr. Charles Pierce. His appearance on Countdown on Thursday, July 23 was absolutely fabulous, smacking the birthers back under the rocks where they belong.

Paul McCartney is playing Fedex Field in August, but hubbie and I won't be going -- we are loathe to put any money in Daniel Snyder's (Redskins owner) pocket. Washington DC has its share of lousy team owners (save Ted Leonsis), but Snyder has got to be one of the worst owners in the NFL.

Name: Jim Hassinger
Hometown: Glendale, CA

Hey, I just wanted to give a big yessirree bob to Mr. Pierce for his excellent appearance on Countdown of Thursday night. The host kept trying to get you to jump on the birthers for being nuts, and the G.O.P. for trying to spread it, and you brought up the uncomfortable truth -- that number one for transmitting bad memes is none other than the "mainstream" media. Yay! The truth.

Name: Victor Winograd
Hometown: New York City

Dr A- Substitute "You Can't Sit Down" by the immortal Dovells for the bubble-gummy banality "Double Shot of My Baby's Love" on your list of two minute r&r miracles and I'll follow you anywhere!

Name: Timothy Barrett
Hometown: Louisville, Ky

President Obama took to the pressroom to defend healthcare reform by alleging that it will not add to the ten-year deficit forecast, but reduce it by up to 30%. The press focused all its questions, but one, on healthcare. The chattering MSM later focused all their attention on the one non-healthcare question Obama answered. What did he think about the alleged racial profiling case at Cambridge?

Dr. Henry Louis Gates, a notable black scholar, was arrested after a neighbor called police when he saw a two men go into Gates' house after some difficulty with the door. Dr. Gates was likely miffed at being questioned in his own house. He might have been rude, too. The office allegedly ignored him and proceeded to the door. Dr. Gates followed him. The officer arrested him for public disturbance, a rather flimsy claim to make in Dr. Gates' own home.

Obama answered the question from his heart. Oops. He was a little miffed at the idea of a brother getting arrested in his own home for complaining about racial profiling. He called the officer's actions "stupid". Oh, my.

Obama is right. Regardless of the propriety of Dr. Gates' profiling assertion, the officer should have apologized for the inconvenience and offered Dr. Gates his superior's name as well. That's the least he could do. Dr. Gates would likely have dropped it or only made a single call to the superior. Arresting Dr. Gates was a sure fire way to make a mess of everything and it was stupid. But it is possible the officer was a little miffed at being questioned about his motives by a black man. Or maybe he was just having a bad day and took it out on this angry black man following him to the door. I'm pretty sure, whatever the officer was thinking, it would have been different if Dr. Gates were white.

But Dr. Gates and President Obama, two respected figures in America, are both black. They have, I am convinced, been treated disrespectfully at times because they are black. If you have every had to endure such attention from someone because they have leverage over you, you fear they may be violent, or you feel outnumbered, you know what it is like to later feel that sickening mix of shame, anger and deep sadness, while you ponder all the ways you wish that things had been different.

What if you had somehow gotten an upper hand, avoided the situation altogether, or wielded any number of fantasy powers you might imagine to combat that winking recognition that your opponent knows he's hurt you. Now, imagine that these occurrences, which you and I can count on one hand in our experience, but have never forgotten, happen once every year to us, once every month, or even once a week. They don't have to be big, like being arrested in your own home, they can be small, like a clerk ignoring you for too long, following just you in a store filled with customers, or simply not being as happy to see you. Might that experience affect you?

Obama shed his cool over this one. Many talking heads called him on it. Limbaugh-types revisited the "angry black man" meme, others accuse him of not respecting law enforcement, and still more of stereotyping white officers. I think that some of these people feel no empathy or have little respect for President Obama. They either feel, or want to make voters feel, that he is not one of us; that his experience is not valid and his response in this case is itself racist.

I think all of us assume things about a person based on our experience with people who look or act like him, sometimes wrongly and sometimes rightly. This is not racism, it's adaptation and it has aided our survival through evolution. However, in modern society it can hurt the person we stereotype. Perhaps this is what the officer and Dr. Gates were both experiencing. Racism is assuming a person has derogatory attributes, is undeserving of respect, or shouldn't have equal rights and opportunity, based solely on skin color or ethnicity. It's a socialized belief system that some races are inferior. The edges of these learned behaviors are blurry. Both are regretful, but only racism can be eradicated through awareness and education. But you have to recognize it first.

Before commenting, please read our Community Guidelines.