American Bandwidth

American Bandwidth

by Michael E. Ross

Paperback

$20.49
Eligible for FREE SHIPPING
  • Get it by Monday, September 24 ,  Order by 12:00 PM Eastern and choose Expedited Shipping at checkout.

Overview

American Bandwidth by Michael E. Ross

America between the 2004 election and the first 100 days of the Obama administration - its knights and knuckleheads, its fears and joys, its new ironies and old habits, its capacity for change and transition - is topic A in this collection of essays and blog posts from a longtime observer of American life, politics and popular culture. A veteran reporter, essayist and critic, Michael E. Ross brings an incisive eye to presidential politics, press ethics and accountability, television news, activism in pop culture, the impact of Hurricane Katrina, the war in Iraq and other issues. In an often funny, always insightful collection of recent writing, the author offers takes on George Bush, Barack Obama, John McCain, Hillary Clinton, Michael Richards, Apple, Rupert Murdoch, FEMA, Mitt Romney, the GEICO cavemen, Michael Jackson and others in the national life. Valedictories for James Brown, August Wilson, Hunter Thompson, Norman Mailer, Coretta Scott King, Gerald Ford, Norman Whitfield, Tim Russert and Michael Jackson are spirited salutes to indispensable voices in the public discourse. Throughout, he explores with honesty, empathy and a jagged wit the ways we transform the nation and the ways the nation transforms us. The American bandwidth is wider than it's ever been before. This is part of how that happened.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781449018993
Publisher: AuthorHouse
Publication date: 10/16/2009
Pages: 440
Product dimensions: 5.00(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.98(d)

Read an Excerpt

AMERICAN BANDWIDTH

WEBLOGS AND ESSAYS
By MICHAEL E. ROSS

AuthorHouse

Copyright © 2009 Michael E. Ross
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-4490-1899-3


Chapter One

VICTORY OF THE RAPTORS

Having done all he could do to moderate the doctrinaire raptors and neocon pterodactyls that have haunted and circled his office for four years, Colin Powell has had enough. Today, Powell, in his customarily succinct, direct and professional style, announced his resignation as Secretary of State, arguably the best since George Marshall. That Powell could submerge for nearly four years his own gut centrist- humanist instincts, to the betterment of a foreign policy devised and practiced by the most ideologically animated president of our time, speaks volumes about the nobility and tragedy that loyalty engenders.

Colin Powell's departure is maybe the clearest, most dramatic indication that the generals have won, at least in the short term, on matters concerning the Iraq war; the pterodactyls are morphing into hawks, and from there into fighters and Hueys destined for either Iraq or Afghanistan. Condoleezza Rice, the hawk perched permanently, it seems, on George Bush's shoulder in his public appearances, is in line to succeed Powell as Secretary of State.

The confirmation hearings are a done deal - bet that. Rice, along with Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, John Bolton and Douglas Feith, are thearchitects of the unilateral- action imperative whose primacy at the White House has just been assured.

This would not seem to be a good time to buy real estate in Tehran. * * *

Powell's exit is one of several at the White House; previously John Ashcroft and Don Evans made their departures known, and others leaving include Energy Secretary Spencer Abrahams, Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman, and Education Secretary Rod Paige, who, of the three, was something of an embarrassment to the administration. This happens all the time in the second term of an administration, the literal housecleaning that, we're led to believe, points to fresh thinking for the next four years. But you think about the ideological promises made before the election, and you wonder how many of the new occupants of these musical chairs will be bound up more by partisan inclinations than by their basic competence for the job? Will Ashcroft's replacement be more insensitive to civil liberties than he's been?

And then there is the X factor, the element that squares the equation - the likely, almost certain, imminent retirements from the Supreme Court. William Rehnquist and, possibly, Sandra Day O'Connor, are probable departures, one surely by the recess in June, the other before that first week in October. And Bush's nominee, just as sure as Condi to be confirmed, will complete the payback to the most conservative elements of the Republican Party.

One nominee at a time, George Bush is serving notice that, mostly, the second verse will be the same as the first. In the process of literally rebuilding itself, the administration is reflecting a paradox of modern American government: stasis within change, immobility within transition. Them changes at the top may be no changes at all. And for a president seemingly at odds with the world - and a world at war, at that - no change isn't progress, or even stability. No change is falling behind.

11/16/2004

Chapter Two

FALLUJAH

The battle for Fallujah, long awaited, long dreaded, is underway. U.S. and coalition forces are engaged in a street-by-street, block-by-block ballistic canvass of the holy city of Iraq. The casualties for Americans are mounting; estimates from the U.S. military say 10 Americans were killed Tuesday, the worst single day for American forces in the country in about six months.

What, of course, emerges from the American military spokesman is the boilerplate retreat to the powers of the American armed forces and our resolve to see it through. More than one news report of the day crows that U.S. forces have contained "70 per cent" of Fallujah. Implicit in the statistic is the John Wayne aspect of American might. It suggests a redux of the annihilation of the first Gulf War, an easy dispatch of an enemy whose challenge was the mother of all follies.

But it may be, and probably is, a deception. You can't escape the unsettling fact that the long interregnum between announcement and action has put a lot of people in motion. For weeks the coalition and the interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi had issued ominous warnings about the then-impending attack. Every day, it seems, there was talk of Allawi losing his patience, threats of the closing of the window of opportunity. And in that time, mercifully, many of the ordinary people of Fallujah got the hell out. But not so mercifully, so did many of the insurgents that American forces are pouring into Fallujah just dying to find in the first place.

The problem with being the world's sole military leviathan is mainly an inability to conceal your intentions. When you're that big, you're not real subtle. You can't be. You are subject to your own mass and power; you can't get out of your own way. So your enemy knows what to do to avoid you, and when to do it. That begins to explain the relative ease with which the U.S.-led coalition has taken so much of the city. Analysts have begun to offer dire scenarios, perfectly plausible, of how the bulk of the insurgents had already made good their escape days, if not weeks, before the United States forces got there. It would be, the reasoning goes, like trying to contain a blob of mercury in a bathroom sink basin on a moving train.

This should be no surprise when you engage in the second longest telegraphed punch in the history of American warfare - the first being the eternity of time between the "axis of evil" State of the Union and the beginning of the shock & awe days. If we'd given the Nazis this much advance warning before the D-Day invasion, we'd never have gotten ashore, or if or when we did, the cost, already horrific, would have increased by orders of magnitude.

That 70 percent containment in Fallujah could be 90 percent by the weekend. The unaddressed question, or at least the underaddressed question, is a good one: Where have all the insurgents gone?

To Samarra, maybe, or Mosul, or Baiji, the site of a major refinery. There's been new violence in all of them, and others, in recent days.

11/11/2004

Chapter Three

NEW BOSS, SAME AS THE OLD

In the Nov. 15 issue of Newsweek, in an essay hopefully titled "A President Who Listens," columnist Anna Quindlen lays out the case for President Bush to make changes in his second term - mainly, to work hard to be a conciliatory figure, someone who, having achieved the Holy Grail of presidential politics (a second term and a like-minded Congress), might now be inclined to work hard at binding up the nation's wounds, closing the bicolor divide that defines these United States today.

All props to Quindlen (a former denizen of The New York Times who, like your humble narrator, moved on to something better), but even a casual reading of the Bush mindset, and particularly the Bush zeitgeist, will point to how unlikely that sea change is.

"Bush rarely strayed from the reservation of in-house affirmation or cheering crowds," Quindlen writes. "He made up his mind and it stayed made. There was thus no premium and no point in listening to those who had other points of view. ... A second term is terrifying to his opponents, who believe he will use the freedom of incumbency to do everything from loading the [Supreme] court to reinstating the draft ... He could consider how bitter the division in this country are and vow to try to mend them. Lest this sound too altruistic, he might also remember that being a two-term president who leaves behind a nation in which half its citizens can barely tolerate the other half is a surefire way to leave a legacy of colossal failure."

* * * Quindlen's noble, hopeful viewpoint, however, runs up against the political realities of the moment. The most pressing of those realities is the national state of war. We're a country at war right now, for better or worse, and that fact alone has been at the root of the Bush administration world-view. Since so much of the Bush world-view stems from that easy, comfortable us-against-them polarity, the available evidence suggests that it's likely to be a waste of time waiting and hoping for any fraction of a wholesale repudiation of his previous identity.

All year long George Bush campaigned with a pit-bull zeal against his immediate opponent, Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry. But in the wider sense Bush was campaigning against a stronger, more problematic opponent. Bush was campaigning against change, against deviating from the course he set this nation on in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. His intransigence, his unwillingness to shift from that course in the slightest, has come to be seen as a strength - maybe the only strength he could most effectively bring to bear against opponents foreign and domestic.

Change is contrary to his world-view, his and that of the proxies and handlers he works with. For George Bush to perform an about-face, for him to morph into Ted Kennedy and make sweeping changes in his policies and initiatives at this point would be to contradict much, if not everything, he stood for throughout his first term. It would amount to an admission of failure - an admission that, considering his narrow but decisive-enough victory at the polls Nov. 2, would be not only a political blunder but also a repudiation of the 59 million red-state voters who put him over the top.

There's probably no better, more convincing proof of Bush's intention to stay the course than Condoleezza Rice, now the National Security Adviser and soon to be Secretary of State. Rice has always been one of the administration's most resolute hawks, and from her new perch she'll be in an even more solid position to impose her policies and her will on an administration already in lockstep with her thinking.

* * * George Bush won't make any wholesale changes in his approach to governing for two more fundamental reasons. First, such changes are beyond his capability. As Quindlen said, we've known since 2000 that Bush set great score by the idea of having an idea and sticking with it, no matter what. Despite his reputation as a Texas governor who was willing to reach across the statehouse aisle to achieve some degree of bipartisan consensus, George Bush as president has consistently defended his own personal focus on a national objective, and how best to achieve it.

That focus was reflected in his steadfast resistance to the Kyoto Accords, his antipathy to the United States being subject to rulings from the International Court in The Hague, his ringing rebuff of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. Any hope of him offering an olive branch to his opponents here and abroad, of rejecting his own still-emerging conservative stance and becoming the Kum Ba Yah president, went out the window on Sept. 11, 2001. In those terrible moments, George Bush's constitutional conviction of a binary, dualistic, us-vs.-them sense of the world, maybe to that point still subject to persuasion, was vindicated, confirmed and hardened forever. It was ratified again on Nov. 2, 2004.

Why should he throw over such proof of his rightness, his certainty, even if he could?

The second reason, stemming in some ways from the first, is more frightening. George Bush doesn't really care. He stormed back into power on Election Day having made pledges to a base of supporters, and he intends to honor those pledges, and by extension his own sense of mission, no matter what. Opponents be damned. The act of listening presumes that one cares about what somebody else has to say; the Bush doctrine has convincingly shown that is not the case. With no further political horizons to survey, why on earth would he even care about changing now? George Bush can't see the divisive course he's set this nation on. With such short-sightedness as a big component of his own identity, there's no real hope of any centrist transformation when this administration has made so many formidable gains by appealing to the starker, grimmer, more ideologically animated aspects of the national identity.

* * * Like me, Anna Quindlen is of the era of the baby boomers, those Americans born between 1946 and 1964, that demographic for whom rock & roll was not just diversion but cultural signpost. Quindlen no doubt remembers that Who classic "Won't Get Fooled Again" - maybe she (like all of us) copped a buzz in a long-ago dormitory room, shouting the song's signature phrase. Meet the new boss ... same as the old boss!"

Pete Townshend was a more astute political thinker than he knew when he wrote it. That phrase expresses what we're likely left with in these edgy days: a president who, emboldened by a political victory narrower than a mandate but broader than a photo finish, will stick to his guns.

"America has spoken ... I gained political capital," he said after the election, "and I intend to spend it." We face a greater danger than before, if that's possible: a president of the United States with nothing to lose.

11/28/2004

Chapter Four

THE WAY WE SAY WE LIVE NOW

In 1999 Jack Nicholson dropped trou. The Oscar-winning actor (who said in "Chinatown" that "I'm not supposed to be the one who's caught with his pants down") mooned the crowd at the Golden Globes Awards ceremony, receiving applause and gales of riotous laughter from the assembled guests, and no punishment whatsoever. In 2005 Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Randy Moss pretended to moon the crowd at a pro football game; the National Football League fined him $10,000.

Those two very different reactions to two not dissimilar events underscore the depth of the nation's cultural divide - one recently characterized with color-coding - and an unease in the national mood. There's a disconnect somewhere.

The election in November revealed some of the country's enduring ambivalence; the colors red and blue have come to be a shorthand, a kind of code for differing values and passions.

But that divide's also reflected in a seeming disconnect between outrage and actions - the things Americans say they're angered by and the ways Americans indicate that anger, or fail to for very long. The reactions also show how popular culture, sports and other outlets of the national economy thrive on that outrage, even depend on it for their survival.

Football officials, talk-radio commentators and a range of other Americans, were incensed at an ABC promotional spot aired during the Nov. 15 broadcast of ABC's "Monday Night Football." The promo featured Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Terrell Owens in a steamy faux locker-room encounter with actress Nicollette Sheridan, a star of ABC's "Desperate Housewives."

Despite the outrage after the incident, or maybe because of it, "Desperate Housewives" continues to enjoy ratings success; the show is regularly one of the top three shows on network TV. Lately it's been the second-most popular show behind "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation," a bonanza for CBS. Since the Monday Night debacle, "Housewives" went on to win two Golden Globe awards, including one for best comedy.

God knows it's not just TV. The popularity of fast foods like Hardee's Monster Thickburger (1,420 calories, 107 grams of fat), has flourished despite prevailing concerns about health and diet, and the outrage of doctors and nutritionists.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest, a Washington-based nutrition and health advocacy organization, has called the Monster "the fast-food equivalent of a snuff film."

That hasn't financially hurt the company; the Monster is part of a high-calorie line of burgers Hardee's introduced in April 2003. Since then, chairman Andy Puzder told the Associated Press, sales for the restaurant chain have risen steadily.

Poker's rising popularity on cable television programs - shows that feature celebrities playing the game for lucrative stakes - is at odds with the parents, educators and state officials opposed to poker playing among high school students.

The clamor for change in professional sports - in the wake of a widening steroid scandal in baseball and the fallout from the Nov. 19 brawl between basketball fans and players for two NBA teams - hasn't yet had a material bottom-line effect on the national obsession with athletes and athletics.

Despite a history of fighting that goes back years, for example, the NBA started the 2004-05 season with strong fan attendance: Seventeen sold-out home-opening games - a record - brought fan attendance to 95 percent capacity for the first week of the season, the AP reported in November. (Continues...)



Excerpted from AMERICAN BANDWIDTH by MICHAEL E. ROSS Copyright © 2009 by Michael E. Ross. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Contents

Victory Of The Raptors....................1
Fallujah....................3
New Boss, Same As The Old....................5
The Way We Say We Live Now....................9
Fear And Loathing In The Next World....................13
'St Luke, Report To The Newsroom'....................15
American Tsunami....................21
American Tsunami II....................25
American Tsunami III....................28
American Tsunami IV....................31
August Wilson's Century In Blacks And Blues....................34
American Tsunami V....................37
Lennon....................39
The [Brand Name Here] News....................42
The 'Brokeback' Effect....................44
Note To Potus: Laura To Taj Mahal Asap....................47
Coretta Scott King And Them Changes....................49
Vietnam, The Sequel....................51
O'Connor Speaks, No Tape At 11....................55
Pooh! Baby! Meet Me At The Ivy....................59
#715....................61
Meltdown In LA....................63
The Wake-Up Bomb....................67
James Brown: Mr. Soul....................70
Gerald Ford, Lately....................76
The Last Men Standing....................80
Cavemen 'R' Us....................83
Barack Obama And The E-Word....................87
Imus In The Mourning....................91
God Bless You, Mr Vonnegut....................95
Murdoch! Murdoch! Nightamre Of Murdoch!....................98
Vietnam, The Sequel II....................101
Turkey In The Straw Poll?....................104
MSNBC: Blowin' With The Wind....................106
Norman Mailer:The Life Of Our Time....................108
Black Like Us....................114
Misty....................117
Plan B (1) (a)....................120
Sign 'O' The Times....................123
Yes He Can....................125
Ladies And Gentlemen, The Spinners....................129
Calling The Question....................133
'Thriller' Returns....................139
The Substance Of Symbolism....................142
Hillary's Cog-Diss Problem....................148
The McCain Scrutiny....................151
Ralph Redux....................155
Hillary Rodham Chameleon....................159
'The Designated Hebrew': Billy Crystal Digs In....................162
Indiana Jones And The Evil Empire....................165
A Defining Moment....................168
Five Years After....................174
Mrs Clinton Misremembers....................180
The McCain Scrutiny III....................184
The McCain Scrutiny IV....................189
That Was The News Model That Was....................192
'Bitter' Pill And Antidote....................196
The Burn Rate In Three Parts....................202
Campaign For An Undignified Climbdown....................207
Casualty Of War....................211
Waterloo, S.D....................213
The Imaginary Advantage....................215
Yes He Did....................218
The McCain Scrutiny VIII....................222
Tim Russert: The Right Kind Of Gotcha....................226
Unified Field Theory....................231
Malefaction Jackson....................235
Ich Bin Ein Bürger Der Welt....................238
Obama's Hiphop Tango: Consequences Of A Courtship....................242
Gangs Of America....................246
Obama-Biden 2008....................250
Barack Obama 20....................254
McCain-Palin 2008: The Odd Couple....................257
The Late No-Show....................262
Norman Whitfield: Just His Imagination....................264
Obama-McCain Debate II: That One....................267
Obama-McCain III: Wall Of Airquotes....................272
Levi Stubbs: Not The Same Old Song....................276
The All-American Family Crisis....................278
America 20: The United States Of A Miracle....................280
The McCain Scrutiny XIX....................285
A Russian Forecast For America....................289
Movement Music: Motown At 50....................294
We'll Be Seeing You, No 6....................297
The Changeling: Pop Iconography And Barack Obama....................301
Goodbye, Farewell & Amen....................305
The Whole World In His Hands....................308
The Movers Are Here: Obama Assumes The Presidency....................311
The Age Of Ubiquity....................315
Comic Relief In The Obama Age....................318
Mending Global Fences....................321
'Kind Of Blue' At 50....................325
Note To The President: Take The Shot....................328
'Slumdog Millionaire' And The New American Movie....................332
Skin In The Game: Two Sides Of President's Day....................335
Stimulation Day....................338
A Seat At The Table: Malcolm X, 44 Years After....................342
The Duke, The Coin, The Realm....................345
The Rocky Paper Horrorshow....................347
Michelle Obama, Everywoman....................351
Meeting The Press....................354
Barbarians On The Tumbrels: Aig's USA IOU....................358
Swinging London....................363
The G-20 Prescription....................365
Reversal Of Misfortune....................368
That Was The Week That Will Be....................370
The Man Who Fell To Earth....................372
War's Ultimate Cost, Visible....................376
Permanent Marker....................379
Weak Tea From The GOP....................383
Barry And The Pirates....................387
And A Child Shall Lead Them: Meghan McCain Rocks The House....................391
Days Of Hair On Fire: The Bush White House Rationale For Torture....................394
Arlen Specter's Great Migration....................399
Day 1(00)....................403
Planet Michael....................407
Index....................411
Sources & Select Bibliography....................423
About The Author....................427

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See All Customer Reviews