WOLF ON DEAN
We just finished reading “Out
of Left Field” by Jamie Wolf [August 29–September 4], an excellent analysis
of the Howard Dean presidential campaign, far superior to anything that has
appeared in the national press, including The New York Times and The
Economist. Thank you for publishing a comprehensive piece on this important
candidate. We’re looking forward to the follow-up.
—Don Meyer, Ginny Meyer
Jamie Wolf puzzles over a certain phrase, whose source eluded her, that came
to mind on witnessing what I would call Howard Dean’s “best self,” revealed
when he pitches his appeal to the electorate’s own collective best self.
This has become rare in a political and commercial culture in which we have
grown accustomed to being addressed as (resentful) taxpayers and (heedless)
consumers, and rarely, if ever, as (responsible) citizens. The phrase — “the
Beloved Community” — has a magnificent pedigree. It was the nutshell term used
by the architects of the civil rights movement for their vision of the realization,
in social and political practice, of the simple, basic truth that we are all
in this together. To formulate and devise ways to fulfill our ongoing responsibilities
is the central, imperative task of our political institutions, working in concert
with the various formations of civil society.
The right has attempted to hijack and distort this concept to its own purposes,
serving up disingenuous pabulum about volunteerism as the solution to all social
ills — a thousand points of light, compassionate conservatism and all that —
but this is just eyewash meant to obscure their actual aim of destroying the
public sector. In fact, a robust and effective public sector and a thoughtfully
regulated private sphere together are necessary to allow civil society
to function, by stepping in where the market fails (secure health care, anyone?
reliable power grid? workplace safety? pollution controls?) and also by saving
capitalism from its inevitable tendency to bite itself in the rump (capital
accumulation leading to monopolies, thereby stifling competition; corporate
policies pumping up quarterly profits at the expense of long-term planning and
investment; wages driven so low that no one can afford the products; etc.).
The Beloved Community — gorgeously described in U.S. Representative John Lewis’
1998 memoir Walking With the Wind — is pretty close to what the late
philosopher John Rawls called “the infrastructure of justice,” and it is the
prescription for the survival of neighborhoods, cities, states, countries and
the planet. We must, after all, as Auden wrote, love one another or die.
As Harold Meyerson’s piece in the same issue [“Ladders
of Hope,” Powerlines] reports, the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy
(LAANE) has crafted a bold politics of the Beloved Community and, moreover,
has shown an ability, startling in these benighted times, to see it implemented.
I hope someone will slip a member of Howard Dean’s inner circle of advisers
a copy of the LAANE playbook.
COOPER ON THE RECALL
Just when I fear the Weekly is completely blinded by Democratic
partisanship, an amazing and courageous article comes along — this time from
race cardsharp Marc Cooper, in “Courts, Coups and Clinton Too”
[Dissonance, September 19–25]. The only thing I think he missed is why it
would not be contradictory for the U.S. Supreme Court to rule in favor of the
recallers when they ruled against the recounters in Florida. The reason is simple.
California has a standard for counting punch-card ballots: Three of four corners
must be dislodged. Florida did not have a standard, hence different counties
used different methods to evaluate those ballots — from the slightest indentation
to the now-infamous dangling chad. Regardless of what the Democrats, ACLU, labor
leaders or the activist judges of the 9th Circuit say, it is not the same situation
at all. If punch cards all counted the same way were good enough to get Davis
into office, they ought to be good enough to throw him back out again if that’s
what the voters decide to do.
BRADLEY ON POLLSTERS
Regarding the wildly different results of the L.A. Times vs.
Field polls cited in Bill Bradley’s “Eraser”
[September 19–25], I have decided to develop a new polling service based
on an advanced, scientific methodology. I call it the “I Just Pulled This Out
of My Ass” poll. It will initially be focused on the recall election, but we
expect to offer our services (by exclusive subscription service only, of course)
in future state and national issues.
As a way to raise awareness of our new and exciting service, we challenge
the L.A. Times and Field polls to a three-way polling smackdown to see
whose numbers are actually reflected in the final results on Election Day. Winner
takes all, and the loser shuts his trap forever and ever and ever.
Thank you for your support.
POWERS ON WARM SPIT
John Powers writes that John Nance Garner said that being vice president
was as useful as a “bucket of warm spit” [“Devil’s
Island,” On, September 26–October 2]. Aaaarrgghhh! That ‰ is the bowdlerized
version. Think about it — it makes no sense. What Garner said was “warm bucket
of piss,” but the papers of the 1930s changed it so they wouldn’t harm the delicate
sensibilities of their readers.
HIP CREDENTIALS EXTENDED,
I’d like to thank Alec Bemis for “A
Day With the Locust” [September 19–25], his long-overdue look into Southern
California’s ADD, weird-assed, super-eclectic, artistic punks the Locust. There
has been a scene for this music for at least 10 years now. I know from firsthand
experience how difficult and frustrating the Locust’s relentless quest to make
people understand and appreciate the difference between pop bullshit media and
true honest artistic expression can be. I, along with many others, want to thank
the Locust, Fetus Eaters, Deadfood, Shubba-Ho, Watch Me Burn and the rest of
the L.A. Vomit Core scene for being honest and true to themselves. I wish the
rest of the shiny-shirt Supercuts Lego crowd some day will catch on.
Please never again put the Locust anywhere near your newsletter or whatever
the hell it is. You’re going places you shouldn’t be going, which is the “underground
scene.” You think by putting our music out you are helping it. Well, you’re
not, you suck. Stay away from it.
Re: the “Branches and Roots of Brutality” appendix to “A Day With the Locust.”
Mr. Bungle was not formed by Mike Patton following his success with Faith No
More. Mr. Bungle was where Patton was discovered by FNM. Patton joined FNM on
the condition that Mr. Bungle — who had branched out from “death metal” and
were showing their virtuosity long before John Zorn produced their self-titled
debut album — would be signed to Warner Bros. and that no mention of his name,
or that of any of Mr. Bungle’s other masked members, would be publicized. Early
demos and pics can be found at https://bunglefever.com.
TOTALLY IN CHARACTER
I can understand not liking my play Spinelli. What I can’t
understand is the bizarre closing line of [Martin Hernández’s] review [New Theater
Reviews, September 26–October 2], “And would the devout albeit philandering
Tracy even question his Roman Catholicism by taking a case challenging his God?”
Does Mr. Hernandez know that Spencer Tracy played virtually the same role in
the film Inherit the Wind?
After reading several of Mark Frauenfelder and Carla Sinclair’s spellbinding
tales from the South Pacific, I must conclude that, along with their homes,
friends and careers, they also left behind their writing skills. I certainly
hope they didn’t take you for too much.
New York City
The photos that accompanied Tamar Lando’s
“Union Triage” article in last week’s issue were taken by Virginia Lee Hunter.