Thursday, January 31, 2008


A blast from the past to remind us of that straight talk we're all so enamored of.

(02-18) 04:00 PST Greenville, S.C. -- Arizona Sen. John McCain refused to apologize yesterday for his use of a racial slur to condemn the North Vietnamese prison guards who tortured and held him captive during the war.

``I hate the gooks,'' McCain said yesterday in response to a question from reporters aboard his campaign bus. ``I will hate them as long as I live.''

Has his attitude in general changed since that innocent summer that capped the previous millennium? There's nothing to indicate that that's the case. Despite his pinched jocularity with the credulous dupes of the political media, McCain is one of the more notoriously ill-tempered members of the Senate, engaging in vitriolic, profane tirades with colleagues who displease him. He sings "Bomb Iran" to the tune of Barbara Ann at campaign rallies as if it's funny; he speaks with eerily measured certainty of more -- and presumably better -- wars. Where is not important, nor is why. That will be decided at the post-election pitch meeting, when disinformation and no-bid contracts will be outlined for the political wing of the WGA.

Back to McCain supposedly being exempt from his use of racial slurs. Look, no one questions what he endured (well, a few do -- check out the comments, with one guy accusing McCain of cooperating and collaborating with his tormentors, but for the sake of argument, we're talking about mostly rational people), but no one dares to dig, dares to follow up, dares to question the received and accepted orthodoxy.

Why was McCain captured and tortured? Because he was shot down while bombing villages, as part of an invasion that was not known for bothering to discriminate combatants from civilians. Hell, we've kept hundreds of people -- many of them simply handed over for reward money by this or that warlord -- for half a decade bound and blinfolded in Guantanamo, with no charges, no lawyers, no recourse, no end in sight. It's not daily beatings and bone-breakings, and starvation and terror, but it ain't pleasant either. It's certainly not constitutional.

What exactly is the purpose of torture? In the case of the current American use, it is notionally a program of "enhanced interrogation" techniques, designed to break the person's psyche rather than his body, and take advantage of that weakened state. The discrepancy between knowledgeable people who say this is materially useless and politically very counterproductive, versus the few who insist (but are strangely unable to corroborate) that actual lives have been saved with sensory deprivation, refrigerated cells, forced painful positions for extended periods of time, and ear-shattering volumes of rap or metal, is on a par with other notable "controversies" such as global warming or intelligent design.

It doesn't "work" because that's not what torture is meant to do. It's meant (like racial slurs) to dehumanize the victim and desensitize the torturer. And on that level it seems to work just fine. It's horrible even to contemplate the miseries that were visited on McCain, but they did not happen in a vacuum. Actually, they did happen in an utter moral vacuum, one in which a great many Americans took several decades to finally reach closure, and forgive the Vietnamese for what we did to them. And a remaining few never will let it go, even though the Vietnamese moved on a long time ago. Insisting on calling them wogs, when there's no practical or even political reason to do so, just keeps the ball rolling.

Runaway Ralph

Hoo boy. Here we go again:

Ralph Nader has formed a presidential exploratory committee, and said in an interview Wednesday that he will launch another presidential bid if he's convinced he can raise enough money to appear on the vast majority of state ballots this fall.

Nader, who ran as an independent candidate in each of the past three presidential elections, told that he will run in 2008 if he is convinced over the next month that he would be able to raise $10 million over the course of the campaign — and attract enough lawyers willing to work free of charge to get his name on state ballots.

If Nader is serious about meeting his own pre-requisites, then it seems very unlikely that he'll go through with it. No matter; we're in for another round of folks gnashing their teeth and getting their tits in an uproar over Big Bad Ralph interfering in, um, the democratic process. It's a perfect complement to Nader's increasingly malignant, incoherent narcissism. Edwards probably wouldn't have had anything to do with him, but surely Kucinich would have welcomed any practical help and support Nader might have mustered. That doesn't seem to be part of Ralph's agenda.

But no matter. Come summer, if we are faced with a nearly indistinguishable contest of Hillary vs. McCain, and Ralph keeps buzzing around, we'll get the usual litany of how if we really cared about the possibility of avoiding the more regressive agenda, we'd just suck it up and vote for Miss Thang, even if we still have no idea exactly what she'll actually stand and fight for (how 'bout Kyl-Lieberman 2: Tehran Boogaloo), and what she'll have to break out her trusty political anemometer for to divine which way the winds are tacking. On the other hand, McCain will be perfectly clear, even when he's pulling shit out of his ass, thus attracting far more fence-sitters.

But people will still find a way to blame Nader, or blame Diebold, or whatever. It's easier than admitting that maybe the system has failed utterly. Because even if Hillary wins, as with the Big Demo Wave of '06, a lot of people will be left holding their dicks and wondering where the promised follow-through is. It's in your hand, bub. You're lookin' at it.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Moon Landing

Lacey Underall: My uncle says you've got a screw loose.
Ty Webb: Your uncle molests collies. -- Caddyshack

New Moonie pool boy John Solomon hits the ground running. Gee, didn't see that one coming. [emphasis in original]

Solomon's claim that "the blogs point to no factual errors" is also a dodge. The issue with Solomon isn't so much the botching of individual facts, but his artful arrangement of them to insinuate all sorts of wrongdoing that just never happened.

Indeed, it seems obvious that this is precisely why the [Moonie] Times hired him -- because he's very skilled at taking available facts, arranging them into hit pieces, and passing them off as real news.

Have fun with your new friends, Johnny. Make sure you ask around about Craig Spence.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Fear and Loathing in Manchester

The minions of The Beast encounter a vast array of cartoon characters at the New Hampshire primary. Naturally, hijinks ensue. Check it out.

Bill in a China Shop

So the smoke has cleared from the South Carolina blowout all of a nonce, as if the Clintons (and really, not to get all Rash Limpballs or anything, this is once again a package deal, so caveat emptor and all) had not done their damndest to at least give Obama's presumed core constituencies something to think about. Well, they thought about it, and Obama carried the state by four touchdowns.

Naturally, as the campaign blossoms into colorful algae across our benighted land come February 5, folks reconsider their strategery. Is the Clenis suddenly a liability? Was he always, and we were just blinded by his conferred emeritus status? Ah, but the news of his retirement seems to have not reached him, which would be fine if the perceived relegation to First Gentleman would allow him to more fully reach the potential he duly squandered while in office. (Then again, I may simply be ventriloquizing the long-standing assumption that Bill always meant better than his actions always seemed to indicate.)

I agree that Bill Clinton is a unique politician in many ways, and that he is using his unique status in a manner that might be perceived as an unfair advantage. Except it's not as much of an advantage as its proponents seem to think, if South Carolina and Iowa were any indication. Super Tuesday will likely finalize the dilemma, and then what? The iconodules will have to settle on a wampeter, and ride that fuckin' pony for the next nine months against either a crazy uncle or a smooth-talkin' corporate raider, both of which tend to appeal much more to the average 'merkin's Archie Bunker core than any measure of oleaginous sincerity. Fuck solving actual problems, what they want is a big swingin' cock, and Hillary's (and, in turn, Bill's) baggage probably offsets her not-inconsiderable political love sausage.

None of which, by the way, excuses Nooners' burbling imprecations, especially since one assumes she actually expects legal tender in exchange for her intellectual buffoonery.

Bill Clinton, with his trembly, red-faced rage, makes John McCain look young. His divisive and destructive daily comportment—this is a former president of the United States—is a civic embarrassment. It is also an education, and there is something heartening in this.

Translation: He made that poor girl do that icky, icky thing with his Special Sailor a decade ago, and now he displays fits of apoplexy when everything is sunshine and lollipops. Well, pardon my Scotch, but bullshit, dearie. Whatever ill-timed fits of pique Mister Man may have engaged in, they are none of your concern, since you signed your soul over to L. Ron Reagan a generation ago, and thus as a high priestess of Conservatology, have no standing in intramural squabbles on the Other Side. Stick to critiquing the morons on your side of the fence, when you're not on about talking dolphins and such.

Or, you know, not.

As for the Republicans, their slow civil war continues. The primary race itself is winnowing down and clarifying: It is John McCain versus Mitt Romney, period. At the same time the conservative journalistic world is convulsed by recrimination and attack. They're throwing each other out of the party. Republicans have become very good at that. David Brooks damns Rush Limbaugh who knocks Bill Kristol who anathematizes whoever is to be anathematized this week. This Web site opposes that magazine.

The rage is due to many things. A world is ending, the old world of conservative meaning, and ascendancy. Loss leads to resentment. (See Clinton, Bill.) Different pundits back different candidates. Some opportunistically discover new virtues in candidates who appear at the moment to be winning. Some feel they cannot be fully frank about causes and effects.

Hilarious. Look, honey, your favorite horse is way the hell down the road, but congratulations on finally getting around to shutting that barn door. Republicans don't know what they stand for anymore because the modern breed never stood for a fucking thing anyway, besides making money and causing trouble. Not that the old breed were a huge sight better, but they also weren't a clowder of closet-case authoritarian chickenshits.

On the pundit civil wars, Rush Limbaugh declared on the radio this week, "I'm here to tell you, if either of these two guys [Mr. McCain or Mike Huckabee] get the nomination, it's going to destroy the Republican Party. It's going to change it forever, be the end of it!"

This is absurd. George W. Bush destroyed the Republican Party, by which I mean he sundered it, broke its constituent pieces apart and set them against each other. He did this on spending, the size of government, war, the ability to prosecute war, immigration and other issues.

This is, of course, the same Nooners who wrote so enthusiastically for Reagan you would have assumed they were blood relatives, and who, after one typically mediocre State of the Union speech, wistfully fantasized that the studly Fredo Arbusto, sudden bringer of utter ruination to Gawd's Own Partay, would peel off his suit to reveal a Superman outfit, replete with cape. (Like we really needed to know just what sort of imagery makes Peggy's butter churn.)

But Nooners' pathologies over all things Clintonian, statistically anomalous as they seem, are mirrored not only in her ideological kin, but in the Clintonistas themselves. They overlook the visible flaws even as they stumble over their sharp corners, repeating to themselves the Arkansas Buddhist mantra that politics is the art of the possible. And indeed it is, but to get to the stage of what is possible you maybe should be seen as credible, as standing for something, anything, beyond and above it simply being Your Turn. One can already easily envision the extension of current Democratic capitulation under a Clinton/Richardson administration, the puling genuflection to corporate interests and moral retards, the preventive compromises and premature triangulations.

What Bill Clinton doesn't seem to understand is that he doesn't have to convince me to vote for his wife so much as explain to me exactly why I shouldn't vote for someone else, when there are several actual -- if comically inept and intellectually inert -- Republicans to choose from.

Meet the Morons

I know how and why movies like this keep getting made, and I have an unfortunate jones for Carmen Electra at times, but shit, each one of these stupid pop-culture parody movies looks more unwatchable than the last. I guess if I was a dippy teenager trying to get laid I could sit through maybe half of one of these things, but unless Law & Order is lying to me, you can get a blowjob pretty much any time you go to the mall.

Update: God, it sounds even more dismal, if that's possible, than I had assumed:

As Bryan Curtis has pointed out in Slate, the spoofs of Zucker, Abrahams, and Zucker—the team behind Airplane! and The Naked Gun—are characterized by their facility with the tone and detail work of genre films and their genius combination of straight-faced B-movie actors with lowbrow punch lines and sight gags. Friedberg and Seltzer, rather than tweak the clichés of the movies they parody, take a NOW: That's What I Call Movies! approach, using farts and leather underwear to not-critique a collection of pre-chewed moments from recent blockbusters. In Meet the Spartans, the mere act of referring to Transformers, Happy Feet, Spider-Man 3, Ghost Rider, Rocky Balboa, Stomp the Yard, Shrek, Lindsay Lohan, Kevin Federline, or Deal or No Deal is presumed to be hilarious. (If you'll indulge me for a second, I will pause to crack up Friedberg and Seltzer: "Paris Hilton.")

That's pretty much what it appears to be from the incessant commercials, but it's additionally lame that not only is this cheap pastiche nearly as short (64 minutes) as the shelf-life of its pop-culture references, but one of the commercial's big sight-gags (Spider-Man yanking Donald Trump's toupée) is actually part of the closing credits. That's fucking weak. Not that anyone was figuring it to be a crucial part of the narrative, but shit, why not just do a skit-driven compilation, à la Kentucky Fried Movie? The capital of Nebraska is still Lincoln.

Spoof movies can still be inventive and genuinely funny, as shown by Hot Fuzz and Walk Hard. But this sort of shit is just a pissant toss-off, like Pee Diddly fucking up Kashmir by remixing the drums and going "yeeeaah, yo, come on now" throughout. Motherfuckers get their hands chopped off in Saudi Arabia for that kinda shit. They sure as hell shouldn't make money from it.

Our Son of a Bitch

As I heard the "breaking news" last night of the far-too-late passing of the murderous fiend Suharto, I tried to mentally summarize my thoughts about this (to lamentably paraphrase one of the better lines from, ahem, Scrubs) bastard-coated bastard with bastard filling.

Two thoughts instantly caught my brain (and dragged it for fifty yards): one, that a Third World hole like Indonesia surely has more worthy uses for its presumably ludicrous and inept health-care system than to keep doddering kleptocrats in some perpetual machine-enabled state of undeath; two, that Suharto was responsible for more deaths than even our modern Middle Eastern neo-Hitlerian hobgoblin himself, Saddam Hussein.

Whither the urgency, then, not to mention that Suharto received far more American weaponry and training over many years (yes, including from humanitarian demi-god Bill Clinton) than Saddam could ever have dreamed of. But then, Suharto managed to internalize most of his pathological aggression upon his own people, rather than scaring his neighbors every few years. And Saddam was merely sitting atop something we coveted, not assuring that it all passed safely through the Straits of Malacca. Priorities, people.

Dennis Perrin sums it up pretty well. In a just world, Suharto would have ended up a perforated carcass in a rainy ditch thirty years ago -- or, like Saddam, jeered at and dropped at the end of a heavy rope -- instead of living out his dotage in stolen luxury, not unlike Idi Amin.

Free Money

Help me out here, folks, 'cause maybe it's me, maybe I'm missing something: perusing this link in Froomkin's Friday column, I note the shameless attempts to tug at my compassion, yet I feel strangely, well, untugged. Here's the part Froomkin himself excerpted to bolster his argument:

The economic-stimulus package being negotiated at the federal level should be shaped so that it helps the poorest of the poor, low-income people in Rapid City and their advocates say.

Mari King, a 25-year-old pregnant mother of two, who relies on food stamps and income-based housing, didn't qualify for the tax rebate of up to $800 per qualifying individual that was initially proposed by President Bush. And it was unclear Thursday whether she would be covered by an expanded assistance plan being negotiated by congressional leaders to give smaller checks, possibly about $300, to virtually anyone who earns a paycheck.

As an asthmatic with other health issues who is currently out of work, King relies on government assistance to get by. She said she and her children have daily financial needs that could be helped by a few hundred dollars.

"It would do a lot," she said as she selected free food items at the food pantry on North Maple Ave. in Rapid City. "There are things I'd like to buy for my kids that I can't buy. I could do some thing for them that I can't do now."

She really doesn't get why she won't get any money? Seriously? You live on the dole, in government-subsidized housing and use food stamps and, one assumes, benefit from government-subsidized health care to treat the asthma and "other issues", as well as crank out kids you can't afford -- and you want to know where your fucking cut of the action is? Where do people even get balls this big?

There are a lot of things that bug me about this bullshit "economic stimulus" package, mainly that because the Democrats capitulated because that's what Democrats do, the primary beneficiaries of the package coincidentally happen to be many of the same people who got the economy into this fix in the first place. It's just not enough to bail out all the grifters who set up this subprime fiasco -- the people who pushed loans on people too stupid to figure out their debt/income ratio; the bond-insurers who underwrote these phantom assets; the hedge-fund bookies who bundled it all into collateralized debt obligations and put it all on 33 Black.

Nope, the bailout's not quite enough. Let's also give those poor sods a fat chunk of cash this May (which, if the economy is truly in such dire straits, would seem to be a bit late). They can trade in their Beemers and Lexuses, and it will trickle down to the peons who get to park and detail the nice new cock-mobiles. It's a trick, a boondoggle, a sop to the scammers who fucked us once again, who talk about risk-reward scenarios like they're the second coming of Adam Fucking Smith, yet never take any real risks and don't realize that Smith utterly loathed people exactly like themselves.

So. We are apparently beset, it seems, by be-suited grifters on one hand, expecting the taxpayers to pay off their casino losses in the middle of two wars, and on the other by people who are fully funded by the state as it is, having the taxpayer underwrite every bad decision they make without recourse or redress, wondering why they do not get to share in what they are already soaking in.

I hate these sorts of stories, because they invariably test the limits of my right-thinking librul notions of compassion and charity. I end up at least recognizing the shadow of common terrain with people I typically despise, sinecured haters who have never done an honest day's work in their own lives, but gleefully kick poor people, and regard them as a subspecies. I cringe at even the appearance of such an association.

I feel very sorry for this woman's kids, frankly, more than anyone else in this story. And if we can piss $2bn per week down a hole in Iraq, it's not unreasonable to think that we might kick a couple hundred bucks to the less fortunate once in a while.

But the tone of this article (perhaps selectively edited for effect) and this woman's plaint is galling to me, not that I expect an expression of gratitude, so much as a glimmer of recognition on her part that she has not been expected to take responsibility for any of her decisions, or maybe the hope that she might endeavor to use this helping hand to get her own shit blessedly together. Where is the father of these children, and where is his contribution to their well-being? Do we need to offer a condom or birth-control pill allowance; can one or the other of them get a vasectomy or a tubal ligation? Are we allowed to ask such questions, or are we merely permitted to open our wallets and pretend that we care?

So here's the deal, sweet cheeks -- you can have my cut of the action. I work for a living, and it feels like blood money anyway (even though, rather than a true "rebate", it's more likely an advance to be recouped next year). I'll send it to the nearest Target or Wal-Mart in the form of an electronic voucher, since gift cards can be traded for cash. But you can buy clothes and toys and games -- and yes, even food -- for your kids. Hell, buy something nice for yourself. You've earned it.

In exchange, you must take steps to assure that you do not have any more children you cannot afford. This means either prophylactic or permanent birth-control measures, paid for by the state, as well as the garnishment of the father's (or, perhaps, fathers') wages until child-support obligations have been retroactively fulfilled. You must also make an effort to take some sort of job training or re-training classes, in an occupation of your choice that can accommodate your disabilities, which will be completely paid for by the state, which will also help with job placement and day-care services.

I don't think it's too much to ask, but I have a feeling that you might.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Just Cringe, Baby

An Open Letter to Al Davis:

Mr. Davis:

As a longtime fan of the Oakland Raiders, I believe -- no, I have no doubt whatsoever -- that I speak for the majority of the team's fans when I implore to you to quit meddling with the team. It's one thing to be a "hands-on" owner; it's quite another to be actively interfering with people's ability and desire to perform the jobs you hired them for.

You have a long history of undermining people and affecting the team's efficiency. A perfect example of this is Jon Gruden. After Gruden took a stagnant team and turned them into a playoff-caliber squad, you ran him out of town. Since he got his revenge in the Super Bowl the following season, the Raiders have won nineteen games in five full seasons. Put that into perspective: if New England wins next week's Super Bowl, they will have won the same number of games in one season.

I agree that it sucks that Randy Moss suddenly rediscovered his ability to run routes and catch passes the day he left Oakland. I hope he falls on his face next week and the Patriots lose by 30 points; I hope Moss never gets that Super Bowl ring he craves. But he was also never going to be that player with the Raiders. He made that abundantly clear; he's a quitter and a bad teammate. But that also says something about the company culture of the Raiders.

A sports team, to state the obvious, is a business. You cannot run any real business like it's your personal toy. Players and fans alike see that the organizational culture is a diseased joke, built to fail. Your product is defective because your workers, to put it kindly, have no incentive to give a damn. A solid business needs continuity and stability, and a transparent decision process guided by rationality, not imperial fiat. You run the Raiders the way Dick Cheney runs this country -- behind everyone's back, under cover of night, with opaque statements and oblique power plays. How's that been working?

Keeping Rob Ryan as defensive coordinator might preserve some continuity, but if it's Kiffin's decision to get rid of him, you should let him make that decision and stand or fall on the results. So what if the players "like" Ryan? They didn't play or tackle well anyway, constantly folded under pressure, and surrendered six 4th-quarter leads during the season, enough to make the difference between cellar-dweller and wild-card. They don't seem to "like" him well enough to play competently for him. There are as many reasons to dump Ryan as to keep him, and you signed a contract agreeing to let Lane Kiffin make that decision.

Let me put it this way: I had multiple opportunities this season to get box tickets for my family for free, and I declined them. Why? Because I'm embarrassed for the team and the fans, the few people who do an honest day's work on the field, and the fans who work and pay to come see the team. Got that? I don't even want to come see the team for free. It's not worth the time or the gas money. And I was there for the first game back in Oakland in '95; I was there for Reggie White's final game on Christmas Eve 2000. I've been a fan for over 30 years.

So if I'm not going to bother to come watch your team for free, I sure as hell am not giving you any more of my money for tickets or gear until you stop lawn-darting this team that we all have enjoyed over the years. If you really care about the team, really care about the health of your business, then let people do their jobs. The team will never succeed until then; nobody in their right mind would want the job. Really, the only thing that makes sense at this point is that you are intentionally trying to ruin the team.

An exasperated fan

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Joining a Fan Club

It had to happen.

When I see people at Crooked Timber open threads asking why they should take you seriously, and spend hundreds of comments calling you an idiot, [. . .] then I want to cry. They're being dishonest and cruel and not allowing you to make a single mistake. They're setting you up to fail.

They have no understanding of how to be a genuine scholar. I work like hell to help those around me have the best arguments possible, even if I disagree with those arguments. I understand the spirit Liberal Fascism was written in. And I'm sorry you live in a nation of genuine fascists, and I mean that word in its worst sense. There's no way I would accept the attitude of Henry Farrell from anyone around me; it is something I would end friendships over.

I'm just amazed you can take this abuse and keep going strong . . .

There's a great many things someone should pound into the soft head of this weepy mezzofanuc, but who has the time? Simply stated, the facts are as follows: Goldberg set himself up to fail with poor (ahem) "scholarship" and bad-faith arguments and premises, which in turn means that the fanboy himself clearly has "no understanding of how to be a genuine scholar"; a nation of "genuine fascists, [the] worst sense [of the word]", would by definition mean that a tragically disempowered free-thinker such as Doughy Ramone™ would never have gotten a book contract in the first place, not to mention his long-standing sinecure at the drive-up window of Duh Corner.

Oh, and uh, asshole? He can take this abuse and keep going strong because he's getting paid. You, on the other hand, are making a chump out of yourself for free.

As for Funyun Boy's valiant attempts to engage his snarky tormentors, he finally responds more, um, substantially to Dave Neiwert. I actually got Dave's book In God's Country back when it first came out, when Neiwert and myself were denizens of the same chat fora. I can unequivocally say that Dave is everything that Goldberg is not -- an excellent writer and debater, fast on his feet, operating from good faith in his arguments, intellectually honest, and an exhaustive researcher. He's given Goldberg far more time and attention than he deserves, and painstakingly picked apart this asinine book for exactly what it is -- a thin reed for the otherwise unemployable.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Heath Ledger

It's always an enormous tragedy when someone takes their life, but particularly so when they are young and talented, and have their lives and careers ahead of them. A permanent solution to a temporary problem, as they say. You just never know what torment lies just beneath the surface of even seemingly happy, well-adjusted people.

Rest in peace.

Hanging By A Fred

It's the end of an era, folks.

Even before he left the race Thompson made it clear he would not be terribly disappointed with a loss.

Apparently the feeling was mutual, though given the current chaos of what's left of Ol' Fred's Party, it's hard to tell exactly what these people are thinking (if anything) at this point. The people seem to think they want them some Saint John (Poor Ol' Straight Talk) McCain, which means it's now up to the rented scriveners to convince the rubes that they really want Romney's corporate sheen over POST's faux-populist rambunctions. Either that or they start building up their arsenal of rhetorical IEDs with which to sabotage whichever Democrat is lucky enough to be selected to clean up Fredo's messes.

In any case, it may behoove the green-eyeshade brigade to follow the donations to the Friends of Fred Fund, just on the off chance that a lifelong lobbyist and lawyer might have figgered that a guy could trade on his name recognition and rake in a few mil spending a couple months on the road crackin' wise 'n' havin' folks pull his finger. Even factoring in the countless Rotary speeches featuring addled codgers and Aunt Bea's wax-bean casserole, it's not a bad payday.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

That Makes Two of Us

Money quote from the Times' profile on Jimmy Breslin:

“I think he’d rather spend time with Tony Salerno than Norman Podhoretz,” said Pete Hamill, the editor and writer, placing in one sentence a neocon and a mob boss, both of whom might be troubled by the company.

I can't imagine who wouldn't rather hang out with a criminal who at least knows he's a criminal and is unapologetic about it, than a puling, scrivening shit who plays board games with human lives by the hundreds of thousands. Even in the worst things you've ever read or seen about the various ethnic mafiosi, the killing of women and children is generally proscribed, rather than seen as necessary strategery. Not to get all Aesop, but a wolf with at least some conscience is a much better acquaintance than a viper with nothing but inexplicable access.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

NFL Playoff Predictions

Usually I try to hit these on wild-card weekend, but that happened to be when my electricity was knocked out for three days, and I was in the middle of that ten-day flu shit that's apparently hit practically everywhere. So I'm way behind the usual curve now, but tomorrow's championship games both feature some surprise underdogs. Most people, including myself, had assumed that the Patriots juggernaut and the resurgent Packers would be in the mix, but I figured the Colts, banged up as they were, would squeak past an equally beaten Charger team just on the strength of home-field advantage. And nobody really looked good in the NFC besides Green Bay and Dallas, but the Giants have defied expectations.

AFC Championship -- Should we even bother? Randy Moss will be double-covered the entire time (and might be distracted by his adventures with a would-be shakedown artist this past week), but San Diego's safeties can be had, and if not, New England simply has too many offensive weapons to choose from. Cover Moss, they'll take six yards at a time from Welker or ten-twelve yards from Stallworth. Drop seven into coverage, and they beat you with Maroney, who would be a star on any other team int he league, but here is simply overshadowed by the rest of the talent. Billy Volek is a better backup than he's given credit, and is probably better and more reliable than Philip Rivers, but unless Volek can pick apart the Pats' defense, it's going to be an ass-pounding, snow or no. Patriots 38, Chargers 13.

NFC Championship -- This one could be closer, thanks to the Giants' excellent pass-rush tandem of Umenyiora and Strahan, but the Pack's o-line did just fine holding league sack leader Patrick Kerney down. The Packers' blazing, hard-hitting defensive secondary has probably been taping pictures of Eli Manning to the back of their girlfriends' heads the entire week in anticipation. It's just fun having a conference championship game in snowbound Green Bay for first time in forever, and the Pack will not disappoint. Packers 31, Giants 9.

Super Bowl -- This would be a great, if cliché-ridden story -- old lion makes triumphant comeback leading young team to showdown against a team with a perfect record, led by an outstanding former sixth-round pick who is at the prime of his career. Still, I don't think the Pats have faced a defense quite like Green Bay's all season, and if Atari Bigby settles down and plays to his potential, Charles Woodson and Al Harris will create havoc for Brady and his receiver corps all day. Favre has his own developing crew of receivers to work with, and each of New England's Super Bowl victories have only been by a field goal. It really comes down to whom you would rather have in your corner for the inevitable fourth-quarter comeback, and I seriously think Green Bay has a shot here. Packers 38, Patriots 35.

Crazy Train

I recall the early-'70s mini-trend in American interest in chess, as at that time I was at the age where kids either become good at chess or have no interest in it. (I enjoyed the game, but never cultivated the patience necessary to become truly good at it. I haven't played in probably twenty years but, this past Christmas, my in-laws gave my daughter one of those multi-game sets, and by far, the game that has captured her interest is chess. It's been fun showing her the basics of strategy.)

Also, being originally from Pasadena, I was acutely aware of Bobby Fischer, and acutely embarrassed for his increasingly infantile tirades over the years. The cliché is that genius can drive men to madness, but I think the truth is that sometimes crazy people happen to be able to channel their singular obsessions into greatness. A sad, slow demise for someone who had unlimited potential.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Spooge Against the Machine

Ugly apparition, God's gift to oxygen, the puffed up immortal son
How they love him, 'cause he'll become the ghost at number one
How does it feel to be the only one?
How does it feel to be the only one that knows that you're right?
How does it feel to be a loaded gun?
How does it feel inside a chamber packed with piss and spite? -- Jellyfish

Occasionally when I venture into skewering pop-culture cows, I find myself at least attempting to guard against becoming one of those tedious, pedantic cultural elitists that everyone (including myself) hates. It can be difficult to parse that fine distinction between pointing out, for example, why The Wire is quantifiably, undeniably better than Deal or No Deal or what have you, instead of just randomly beating the shit out of people for bothering to read or listen to music or watch anything on teevee.

Fortunately, people like Lee Siegel take some of that cultural elitist heat just by being themselves.

His diatribe would bring to mind the prescient haranguing style of Pauline Kael, even if Mr. Siegel, who does not treat his own reputation lightly, were not trumpeting the phrase “Pauline Kael of the Internet” himself.

In any case, Mr. Siegel has done something in which Ms. Kael once specialized: nailing an inchoate malaise that we already experience but cannot easily explain. He asks, in brief, why we are living so gullibly through what would have been the plot of a science-fiction movie 15 years ago. Why does the freedom promised by the Internet feel so regimented and constricting? Why do its forms of democracy have their totalitarian side? What happens to popular culture when its sole emphasis is on popularity? How have we gone “from ‘I love that thing he does!’ to ‘Look at all those page views!’ in just a few years”? Mr. Siegel links all these questions to a fundamental assumption about the Internet, one that has been widely posited by other analysts: that it is a liberating entity, one that generates endless opportunities for creative endeavor.

He is quick to insist that most of those opportunities boil down to business matters, and that “the Internet’s vision of ‘consumers’ as ‘producers’ has turned inner life into an advanced type of commodity.” At the risk of harping heavily on this central point, Mr. Siegel provides example after example of how surreptitiously this process of co-option works.

He shows, for instance, how the fan of a television show can be led to a Web site where the show can be approached in a supposedly interactive fashion. “ ‘Which character are you most like?’ ” he asks, citing a question posed about “Grey’s Anatomy.” And parenthetically: “(You’ll also have to read an ad for a vaccine against genital warts. Ask your doctor if it’s right for you.)”

How can you not like someone who calls himself "the Pauline Kael of the Internet"? Oy. Where to begin? The "inner life" was commodified long ago, probably even before Dark Ages popes were selling indulgences. Pop culture has always and ever, by definition, been about popularity first and foremost. And if goony fansites save a few trees by replicating what goony chick mags have been doing for decades, so much the better. The mindless commodification is not new, merely its current media, not that the old media don't do their damndest to keep up. Pauline Sprezzatura should know better, and probably does. He has simply found a marketable niche to ply.

Peppering his argument with potshots at writers (among them Mark Dery and Malcolm Gladwell) who view any of these developments enthusiastically, Mr. Siegel both defines and decries an array of current misconceptions. We are being persuaded that information and knowledge are interchangeable, he claims, when they are not; we would have citizen heart surgeons if information were all that mattered.

Why is this only a problem in the blogosphere, where 99% of the participants engage in their craft for free? Why is this not more, far more of a problem in Siegel's vaunted legit media, where people like Billy Kristol, who have no clue what the fuck they're talking about, never run out of paid gigs? How does a couch loaf like Jonah Goldberg get a fucking publishing contract, and all the promo gigs he can squeeze into a pair of Dockers his schedule? Talk about blurring the distinctions between "information" and "knowledge", and making a buck and peddling undue influence while you're at it. Fugging chump.

And mainstream news outlets, which Mr. Siegel is otherwise delighted to assail (his love-hate relationship with The New York Times is particularly intense), suddenly look worthwhile to him by virtue of their real, earned authority. Better the old press than the new tyranny of bloggers. Their self-interest, he says, makes them more mainstream than any standard news source could possibly be.

Again, follow the money, and look at accountability, fool. Siegel himself is proof that the blogosphere exercises far more institutional discretion and accountability than most mainstream media outlets.

The vindictiveness and disproportionate influence of the blogosphere is a particularly sore subject. Who is it that “rewrote history, made anonymous accusations, hired and elevated hacks and phonies, ruined reputations at will, and airbrushed suddenly unwanted associates out of documents and photographs”? Mr. Siegel’s immediate answer is Stalin. But he alleges that the new power players of the blogosphere have appropriated similar powers.

Mr. Siegel himself became a great big blog-attack casualty when, in what he wishfully calls “my rollicking misadventure in the online world,” he was caught pseudonymously praising himself on the Web site of The New Republic, where he had been a particularly savage and reckless blogger. One of the improbable virtues of “Against the Machine” is that it presents a rigorously sane, fair and illuminating incarnation of its more often hotheaded author.

Heh. Stalin would have taken a tool like Siegel and either turned him into a state mouthpiece, thrown him and his family into the gulag, or just ended his ass. This is positively, literally pantload-esque hyperbole at its worse. This preening butthole didn't get dropped down the memory poop-chute, unfortunately -- like Pantload, he got a fucking book contract for his troubles. And he's still pissed off because he got caught red-handed.

"Rollicking misadventure", how typically self-serving, like he's some swaggering buccaneer of teh intartubez, sailing the seas of virtual cheese and avasting unfortunate galleons who have the misfortune to cross his path. Bullshit. Siegel engaged in one of the more pathetic episodes of sock-puppetry in recent memory, showing up on his own blog under another handle to pimp himself. And he can't stand it that it completely disintegrated any semblance of credibility he might have had out in this brave new commodified dimension. No one except his old-media dead-tree publish-any-piece-of-crap-for-a-buck buddies care about what he says about anything. And he knows it.


I don't think these people will be truly happy until they get what they're preparing for.

The Associated Press began preparing Britney Spears’ obituary within the past month, has learned.

"We are not wishing it, but if Britney passed away, it’s easily one of the biggest stories in a long time," AP entertainment editor Jesse Washington tells Us.

"I think one would agree that Britney seems at risk right now," Washington adds. "Of course, we would never wish any type of misfortune on anybody and hope that we would never have to use it until 50 years from now…but if something were to happen, we would have to be prepared."

These people are pathological. It's one thing to be a celebrity ass-sniffer, and maintain the pretense that you're a "reporter" or a "journalist". Whatever. Most people have to lie to themselves about something, somewhere along the line. But these guys are basically hounding this girl, writing almost wishfully about the likelihood of her killing herself in some instances.

Perhaps they will get their wish, and then they can spend the next year telling us how tragic it all is, that they harassed to death someone who clearly wasn't emotionally equipped to handle it. Who knows, maybe a couple of them will have the presence of mind to follow suit. There is just something fundamentally indecent about a person who enthusiastically prepares an obituary for a 25-year-old ahead of time, especially during a week in which another hard-living 25-year-old, one with some actual talent, exited far too early. As far as "jobs" go, there's more dignity in shoveling elephant shit while wearing clown shoes and speedos and a rainbow afro wig.

True Colors

Looks like the Huckster's got hisse'f some new friends.

A pro-Confederate Flag third-party group is running new radio ads in South Carolina praising Mike Huckabee's pro-state's-rights stance on the flag issue -- and slamming John McCain over his repeated criticism of the controversial symbol.

"Mike Huckabee's stand is a breath of fresh air," say the ads, which are paid for by the Americans for the Preservation of American Culture. "Gov. Huckabee understands that all the average guy with a Confederate Flag on his pickup truck is saying is: He's proud to be a Southerner."

Funny how the most important "right" for the "states' rights" crowd is the right to be a fucking asshole, but whatever. At least everybody knows where everybody stands, and now all them god-botherers know right where their boy Huck's at.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Life Ain't Nothin' But Bitchez An' Money

I, for one, am shocked at the possibility that Tweety regards his little clubhouse as a place to sort chicks out by their fuckability quotient. Political considerations aside, it always seemed axiomatic that Li'l Tweety does the majority of the voting. The problem is his compulsion to talk about it, and not in a jokey, ironic way. I'm sure if he could, he'd lick his eyebrows when discussing fresh trim.

Power is money is sex, and if you talk about any one of those things, they are all automatically in the mix, especially if rather than actually being in the power/money/sex circle, you just make a living talking about the people who roll in that circle. I don't think anyone was confusing his daily tent-pitching with cogent analysis. Life really is a dick-measuring contest for a lot of people, and Tweety has always differed from, say, Andrew Dice Clay only by a matter of degree, except Dice probably got enough tail to keep a guy like Tweety busy for a dozen lifetimes.

[Update: Apparently Matthews prefaced tonight's ass-cast with a mea culpa of sorts, chock-full of homilies about how much he loves politics. Well, of course he does. He gets paid a shitload of money for empty speculation and gratuitous leering; he gets to regard politics as pure bloodsport because for him it is, he's effectively immunized from its consequences.

Why shouldn't he regard it as vaudeville, when every single person he talks to does? It's systemic, a daily binge-and-purge where he and his cohorts get use the likes of Hillary Clinton to work on their wimmin problems, and expiate their lingering daddy issues on Mitt Romney's stud shoulders or John McCain's wrinkled love sausage. No surprise that the stars of poliporn might be a tad unbalanced in their worldview. Poor cuss doesn't even know what he's sorry about.]

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Mo' Pantload, Mo' Problems

Edroso has a pretty solid fisking of Goldbleg's doorstop, just to add to the pile of circumstantial evidence building on our boy's tendentious (to put it mildly) style of argumentation.

And that's really what this book is about. Throughout Liberal Fascism Goldberg inserts complaints that liberals unfairly call conservatives fascists -- a slur that, in our age of blogospheric intemperance and extraordinary renditions, is even harder to escape than when hippies were yelling it. Well, he'll show them. Having heard the "Why do you think they called it National Socialism?" routine for decades, I have some idea of the depth of Goldberg's well of resentment. Though he has plowed up a lot of source material to stuff his magnum opus, that sense of ancient grievance permeates and dooms his book. Goldberg betrays a palpable need to get all his (and previous generations of American conservatives') grudges in, from Rousseau to John Kerry. And he's got to prove they're all fascists. Even a skilled polemicist would have collapsed under the weight of the task, but a skilled polemicist would have known enough to rein it in a little. Goldberg doesn't. Whenever he does manage to string a few points together, The Quest calls him unto a new absurdity.

That's it right there. It's not a manifesto or even a competent polemic, so much as the usual laundry list hoisted by perpetually aggrieved doofuses. Unencumbered by empirical reality or even ideological coherence, they instead forge ahead on the illusionary strengths of preferential quasi-consistency. As Roy is fond of saying, it's the "Choc-o-mut ice cream is conservative 'cause I like Choc-o-mut ice cream".

Calling Goldberg a village idiot is certainly an earned right, given his toddler-like inability to wage competent responses to his detractors. However, even that epithet, accurate as it is, fails to take into measure what is ultimately as cynical a premise as one could ask for.

The guy calls the book Liberal Fascism, and in nearly 500 pages is apparently unable to consistently or competently define either of those words. Nanny-statism is not "fascism", boyo, regardless of seemingly similar impulses; where nannyism is the sometimes tedious and obnoxious collection of bien pensant suggestions and proposals, real fascism is pure muscle and gall, backed with the blessings of corporations and/or the military. (And as the latter gets more and more subsumed operationally into the former, the distinctions will blur, and redound to the holders of power. Perhaps some future preznit will appoint some future Erik Prince to the Joint Chiefs of Staff.) Violence or the threat of violence or financial ruination, and heaps of empty hortatory rhetoric, are part of the tacit or overt enforcement mechanism in a genuinely fascist regime. None of those things apply to the more socially-oriented programs Goldberg and his ilk constantly decry (as if they are even remotely part of that magickal free market they profess to adore).

Goldberg may even actually think on some level that he's slaying a dragon here, but it's the usual lib-baiting army of strawmen set to the sophist's torch. In a truly capitalist paradise, he and his buddies would be forced to ply an honest trade outside the scope of non-profit sinecures, and in a truly fascist society he would be doing exactly what he is doing -- being a cherry-picking, scrivening factotum for the baser impulses of his political party.

Shit List

In the spirit of The Beast's year-end compilation, check out Pajiba's 2nd Annual Shit List. Fun stuff.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Pantzkrieg Plop

By Doughy Ramone

[with apologies to the actual Ramones]

Hey ho, Pantload, hey ho, Pantload (2x)

The libruls are the fascists
I don't care what the facts says
I pull 'em out of my ass
Pantzkrieg Plop

The critics call me zero
They're jealous of what me know
Can't live without my Cheetos
Pantzkrieg Plop

Hey ho, Pantload
Cherry-pick the info
Get paid for it somehow
Don't know what you talk 'bout

[repeat ad pantloadum]

Sunday, January 13, 2008


First of all, Pony Blow is being too clever by half when he talks about "getting it wrong". He and the people he shills for got things exactly right, in that they did precisely what they set out to do -- overthrow Saddam and establish a permanent garrison in the heart of the Middle East. Anything else can be chalked up to pure indifference as much as incompetence, ignorance, arrogance, or the rest of it. The consequences are incidental to their overall stated intent from the outset.

This is what is so infuriating about this insatiable need for media people to try to be "objective", to let "both sides" have their say. They are not even clear about what the "sides" are. It is a false dichotomy of "liberal" versus "conservative"; it is one group of people who are fed up and frustrated with being pushed around by the Cheney gang, and thinking that the Democrats are going to Do Something About This Motherfucking Shit, versus a group of people who literally have zero regard for truth, facts, reasoned debate, any of it. Snow didn't go on Bill Maher's show to "debate facts", he went on to continue his role as press secretary, which is to disinform, obfuscate, and flat-out lie.

Obviously, this is not news, but it begs the question -- why is the debate being driven by people who either don't know or don't care about the things they are talking about? This is so basic, so fundamental, and yet no one seems to be able to answer it. Why is Jonah Goldberg a published author on a press junket, making the rounds to all these media outlets? He has no idea what he's talking about, he can't even explain the premise of his book without betraying his central arguments; he sits there and baldly insists that he is not contending that "fascism" (by his own colorful definition) is inherently evil, or that "liberals" are compared to Nazis.

And yet the cover of his fucking book features a smiley-face with a Hitler mustache, and the title and subtitle consciously conflating liberalism with fascism and totalitarianism. Is he retarded, or merely disingenuous? Probably neither -- it's just another gig for him, an excuse to peddle skewed clichés to a moronic audience that hasn't the sense to know or care what's going on. It's affirmation for people who need a few fresh talking points. Given Goldberg's impossibly obtuse arguments and defenses, I'm honestly surprised the book doesn't come with a bumper sticker or two.

But he makes the rounds, peppers his cognitive dissonance with just enough references to make it sound like he's a read a book, but is unwilling and unable to explain himself. Pornmumu did the same damned thing with Party of Death, went on every show explaining that he wasn't saying that Democrats enjoy killing people. Motherfucker, it's the title of your book.

Personally, I assume that a certain percentage of media outlets, given the scope and degree of vertical integration, simply have a shared, vested interest in helping move product, regardless of the toxicity of that product. This happened last summer, when Ann Coulter got a full hour on Tweety Matthews' show to pimp the paperback edition of her book at the time. It was purely coincidental, no doubt, that the company that publishes Tweety's books owns the company that publishes Coulter's books.

No doubt Goldberg will be on Maher's show in a week or two peddling his nonsense, oblivious to the totalitarian impulses he quite actively supports. He bitches and moans about health-care initiatives and environmentalism, but has fuck all to say about a government that quite openly spies on its own people, kidnaps and tortures foreigners, and just got caught trying to manufacture a Gulf of Tonkin incident to start yet another war.

Perhaps someday, in the context of providing this much-vaunted "balance", one of our intrepid hosts or interviewers can get around to asking these people point-blank about some of these troublesome inconsistencies underpinning their most fundamental arguments.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Bonfire of the Inanities

I'm not so surprised that MoDo fudged a dateline, so much as I don't really get why someone who has to crank out 750 words twice a week needs an assistant. O grueling schedule, thou unforgiving whipcracker! I mean, shit, it's not as if the poor dear has to bring home the bacon and fry it up in the pan. Lest my snark be misunderstood as sexism, let me be more clear -- a newspaper columnist, regardless of gender or whatever, should not require a field assistant for the workload, such as it is. I'm sure Bobo Brooks has peons to cut his strip steak for him, but hell, look at him. Just fuckin' look at him.

As for the "subject" of the column (and far too many others), enough already. We get it -- since the pollsters were thwarted, the new theory is that a coterie of sob sisters came through to show somebody that they're not going to take something, and sent a message to, um....well, someone, dammit. I dunno, it's as incoherent of a premise as one could imagine.

Seriously, what message of irritation and discontent is being sent, and to whom, and to what end, by casting this mythical last-minute "you go girl" endorsement for Hillary? It's like it's not even possible that maybe she was just a little bit more on top of her game in that locale than Obama was. Certainly her ground game and GOTV votes were known to be more substantial and entrenched than Obama's. Yet the CW is a barrage of warmed-over Sex in the City tropes.

I think that's the real scenario, just a combination of message discipline, longer standing in the state, and a bit of luck, and I definitely hope that's what it is. I'd hate to think that these media dildos had any clue about what went on in NH, because if they were right, that would mean that there's a bunch of emotional ninnies who let a contrived media episode prod their narcissistic tendencies right into the voting booth. Which is what those snake-handling gay-marriage whackjobs do.

My Favorite Pantload

There are some great tags for Pudge's li'l Hitler-smiley-face crappus maximus. Some personal favorites: "cheeto-erotic asphyxiation"; "editor promised cake"; "jonah made a poopie"; "if ann coulter was circumcised".

I am also not too humble to point out that two of my own goofy little riffs are in there somehow -- "doughbob loadpants" and "cheetohouse five". Awesome.

Here's one more, based on one from the second link page: "the da vinci choad". Feel free to spread that one around.

Bonus: Check out Dave Neiwert's comprehensive refutation of our boy's tedious nonsense. Naturally Goldberg is countering by sharing fan mail on his promo blog, in between appearances on Dennis Miller and Laura Ingraham. How....convincing.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Briar Patch Politics

Now ol' Br'er Hogg, see, he know a thing or two about people, sometime things they don't rightly know about theyself. Bein' a Hogg anyways is a connivin' line o' work, makin' sho the trough always full and yo' snout always in it. It ain't easy when alls ya got to work wit' is hoofs. So when Hogg not talkin' behind his neighba's back, he comin' hat in hoof, offerin' ad-vice 'n' in-sights 'n' such. When he get excited he give it away, 'cuz his little curly tail start to shake 'n' wag, 'n' he cain't he'p it.

Bein' a Hogg is a tricky thing.

[Hillary Clinton's] remarks helped wash away the memory of her angry replies to attacks at the debate's start. [Obama's] trash talking was an unattractive carryover from his days playing pickup basketball at Harvard, and capped a mediocre night.

The other personal moment came on Monday, when a woman in Portsmouth asked her "how do you do it?" Mrs. Clinton's emotional reply was powerful and warm. Voters rarely see her in such a spontaneous moment. It was humanizing and appealing. And unlike her often contrived and calculated attempts to appear down-to-earth, this was real.

Third, the Clintons began -- at first not very artfully -- to raise questions about the fitness for the Oval Office of a first-term senator with no real accomplishments or experience.

Former President Bill Clinton hit a nerve by drawing attention to Mr. Obama's conflicting statements on Iraq. There's more -- and more powerful -- material available. Mr. Obama has failed to rise to leadership on a single major issue in the Senate. In the Illinois legislature, he had a habit of ducking major issues, voting "present" on bills important to many Democratic interest groups, like abortion-rights and gun-control advocates. He is often lazy, given to misstatements and exaggerations and, when he doesn't know the answer, too ready to try to bluff his way through.

Uh-huh. This is like Bobby Knight calling Bill Parcells a high-toned prick. This is the same "person" who, the last time Saint John McCain won New Hampshire, set Marion Robertson's flying monkeys loose on McCain and his "black love child", in the service of unleashing a figurehead legacy doofus whose sole achievement at the time had been trading Sammy Sosa for a sack of magic beans. Nothing like free, unsolicited oppo research proferred to the candidate with the highest-polling negatives. I'm sure he means well.

In any respectable profession, a creepy jockstrap-sniffer like Karl Rove would be disqualified from being heard by decent people. Which means he'll probably have his own New York Times column in another year or so.

List of Lists

Here's a nice change of pace: Mark Morford's top 12 "Top 10" lists of 2007.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Hooter's Gulch Has Spoken

So our curious process of pretending that people in small towns matter (especially when they can be bamboozled into voting against themselves) continues, with the six codgers of Petticoat Junction Dixville Crotch Notch voting for Martin Van Buren, or the earth-imprisoned shade of John McCain, whichever shows more moxie and or gumption.

Seriously, this tedious mothballed "tradition" is but a short-and-curly above the one where they pull the giant rat out of its cage in East Bumfuck, Pennsylvania (it is Pennsylvania, right?) and try to divine whether it sees its shadow or not. There is no practicality in exalting the troubled niches of snowed-in, homogenous micro-states in the service of "representative" democracy.

On the other hand, perhaps a few of our more impressionable folks bought into the Ike Turner treatment of the fair maiden Guinevere. Jesus. Gullible much, honey? Or has it never occurred that the best way to vote against the media is to turn it off and/or gang-fax them mercilessly. They'll fold like a cheap botoxed accordion, faster than Tweety can order three fingers of Bushmills (which sounds good right about now).

News You Can Lose

One benefit of being out of the proverbial loop for a weekend is coming back and having to wonder momentarily what the hell this happy horseshit even means. Of course it means exactly what it says, yet when the people involved and "story" described are parsed, it all becomes both inscrutable and ineffable, utterly opaque yet somehow pellucid, a meta-Rosetta for a diseased, debauched celebrity death cult. Whatever happened to the good old days when Frank Sinatra banged cocktail waitresses and insulted the maître d'?

Consider briefly the primary characters in this scenario:
  • Britney Spears -- Popularly known as a "singer", yet apparently never actually "sings" without renting high-dollar teams of songwriters and producers, and running it all through Pro Tools. There is no evidence that Spears even listens to music, much less actually writes and performs it. Say what you want about the hippie chick with the out-of-tune acoustic at your local Coffee Hut, at least she's trying something; there is a solid chance that Spears literally does not know which end of a guitar is up.

    Distinguishing characteristics: exploitive childhood has predictably curdled into an adult swamp of mindless, unsexy exhibitionism and narcissism. Somehow managed to make a skeevy moron like Kevin Federline look like the responsible parent with her indifferent, borderline sociopathic approach to parenting. Future choices include becoming a plush toy for some doddering oil baron, or robbing liquor stores. Either way massive amounts of barbiturates will be involved. Some people may regard Dana Plato as a cautionary tale; others as a role model. Spears has apparently confounded either perception by genuinely not even having heard of poor Dana.

  • Phil McGraw -- Still not licensed to practice psychology. Got his big break as a jury consultant back when Oprah crossed the Texas beef mafia. Differs from Jerry Springer mostly incrementally. Springer's smug leer seemed to intimate that, even in the guise of dispensing advice, he probably wouldn't say no if one of his toothless retard guests offered him a blowjob. Dr. Phil seems to get more of a rush telling his slightly more upscale morons that they're morons, appears genuinely perplexed that, being self-destructive morons, they have no common sense, but still thinks he's helping them, rather than validating their self-esteem and impulse-control issues. Probably has more in common with his Muppet doppelgänger than he cares to admit.

  • The muppet has his own series of diet and parenting books out this spring.

  • Scenario -- Spears' parents, who seem to have moseyed semi-upright from Al Capp's imagination, seriously thought it'd be a good idea to have a self-promoting teevee shrink visit their dysfunctional daughter in the hospital, and that he'd keep his piehole shut. Here's the thing, and even the Spearses should realize this -- there are plenty of actual therapists out there who might have a chance to help their daughter without making a circus out of it; however, given that she's neither intellectually nor emotionally equipped to get out of what she's gotten herself into, it's highly unlikely. But it was never going to happen with Dr. Phil. Seriously, do these people think they're supposed to call Bob Vila to re-roof their fuckin' house? What's wrong with them?

Anyway, more briefly -- a "singer" who does not actually sing is supposed to enter into therapy with a pop shrink who is not actually licensed, commissioned by her idiot parents who, if they really wanted to help her, would have done so a long time ago. And the "news" is that the whole thing got called off.

Is there a more perfect metaphor for the heavily-dimpled adipose tissue that is American culture/media/society?

GeeDub Quote of the Day

Look, I recognize some people don't like accountability. In other words, accountability says if you're failing, we're going to expose that and expect you to change.

Simply priceless. Just when you thought he couldn't possibly be any more un-selfaware. In other words, if there is such a thing as accountability, as Bush's own faith insists there is, eternity in hell (which, for Bush, is probably a never-ending word-a-day calendar) is a guarantee.

Bonus oratory lesson from ol' Bust -- I mean Bu, uh Buster, see, um, er Busta R-r-rhymes:
In other words, in return -- and I -- you know, I was -- I was an old governor of a state.

Jesus Christ, it's like watching Helen Keller play darts, or that dingbat beauty-pageant chick try to find "the Iraq" on a map.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Don't Know Much About History

History is odd. I will be long gone before the true history of the Bush administration is written. I'm still reading analyses of Abraham Lincoln's presidency. -- GeeDub Bush

Sigh. This tired-ass riff is as stale as the one about the yellow rug in the Oval Office, or how peachy-cool it is that Daddy shot Japanese and now Junior can be friends with them, maybe pitch a tent on the South Lawn and cook fucking s'mores. Jesus H. Christ.

Look, Cletus, there is nothing "odd" whatsoever about history. History is just people doing things, and other people writing about those things, the people who did them, and the people who had to deal with the consequences. As such, it is a quintessentially human endeavor, one that is generally not helped much by this or that writer's need to justify themselves, either to their academic peers, popular demand, or ideological brethren. Realism should at least trump hagiography, insofar as the craft itself generally consists of its practitioners reading their stuff to each other, not unlike the network news.

Thus I would venture that it is infinitely more likely that ten, twenty, fifty years from now, more people will find valuable perspective in, say, The One-Percent Doctrine than Rebel in Chief. Why? Because odds are that events will continue to unfold in accordance with one far more than the other. Nobody's going to give a damn about a Freedom Institute appended to a coloring-book library of redacted lies, and nobody's going to give a shit about what a court jester like Bob Woodward had to say about anything.

Bush is right in that time and perspective are the ultimate arbiters of whether you're remembered as a Lincoln or a Fillmore. But in his case, time is only going to strengthen the perception that he initiated what was essentially a war on gravity, to the immense profit of a select few who just happened to be part of or associated with his term in office. Gravity eventually wins, and Cheney and Halliburton and Blackwater and the Carlyle Group and the rest of them got their filthy pelf.

What gets remembered most is whether we continued to allow these people to metastasize, and bring us the rest of the way down, or if we start to recognize our own collective roles and disengage from the system, so as to delegitimize its more energetic misdeeds.

Tears of a Crown

I'm with LaSalle on this one; in fact, I've been pretty sick of this "can't win for losing" narrative on HRC for some time. That such a sentiment could overcome my usual solid "couldn't happen to a nicer person" vibe gives an idea of how old it's getting.

But it's part of the narrative arc the kewl kidz have circumscribed for her in their slam books. They built up her veneer of inevitability all summer, when it was never there to begin with. Now that they realize that it was not there, and that given the sheer length of time, it was bound to change, they default into tear-down mode. And now she's the second coming of Ed Muskie. These people are pathological.

Except when it comes to Poor Ol' Straight Talk, then they can't line up to snorkel his wrinkly crazy junk fast enough. Most of 'em don't even need kneepads, so eager are they for the job.

One thing to keep in mind about the HRC hate, that doesn't get talked about much, and there's an analogy of sorts to it in the abortion debate. A frequent meme peddled by feminists is that it's the evil penisocracy that's keeping womyn down. This is not exactly true; many of the most committed, vitriolic pro-lifers are women. Like I tell the wife, "Hey, we can't do it without your help, you know. You're 51% of the population -- how can we do it all by ourselves?".

Well, it's the same with repressing women in Islamic countries, and it's the same with pillorying Hillary. Women are much more adept at undermining other women than men can ever hope to be. Whether it's the stereotypical southern belle passive-aggressively cursing a loathed rival with a catty "bless her heart", or a more strident urban professional reifying her disempowerment by vicariously living through someone else's life or career choices, it happens more often than people like to admit.

And while I refuse to sit through endless chat-show reiterations of this horseshit, I will confidently bet my left nut that many of the more pointed pronunciamentos on What It All Means when a chick cries in public will be uttered by the likes of Norah O'Donnell, while Tweety leers down her top and tries to think of a diplomatic way to speculate that maybe it was just that time of the month. Keep her away from the red phone!

This nation does have a great deal of growing up to do with regard to perceived gender roles, but it is important to recognize that both genders have substantial parts in perpetuating those stereotypes.

And hasn't Edwards blossomed into quite the little cockpuncher? If he can get the nomination or a running-mate nod, he's going to be a pit bull in the general campaign. Somebody has to be.

[Update: The Rude Pundit puts the whole dynamic very aptly, I think. The whole Hillary saga has this heavy vibe, the impending dread of a shotgun wedding, featuring someone who is understandably defensive after being picked on for decades, but still seems not to recognize that they've long since squandered their idealistic principles for cheap trinkets of political comity. Either you meant to vote for Kyl-Lieberman or you got rolled by the thugs again, in either case of which you have no standing to criticize them. People who cannot recognize that they've traded their moral ground (or worse yet, do recognize it but cannot admit it) are trapped in a box mostly of their own making.

HRC's unique viability has insulated her from much of this, but we are finding out that the Saint Bill cult is not quite as deep and wide as they had hoped. They would still be light-years ahead of anyone on the Republican roster, but do not promise the tectonic change that the most committed primary voters routinely demand.]

End of the Road

The bigger the lie, the more they believe. -- Bunk

The Wire, perhaps the most complete narrative vision ever committed to the small screen, enters its homestretch with characteristic ambition. I had to wait until tonight to catch the premiere, because of the power outage, and it was well worth the wait. Absolutely riveting stuff -- or as Paul Gilbert once said about Tony MacAlpine, "blazing, amazing phrasing". There has probably not been a bigger booster of the show in the professional critics' demimonde than Tim Goodman, and he returns to his riffing decos without missing a beat.

What continues to amaze me about the show -- and not only has this held up under watching the previous seasons, it has actually become more apparent -- is how the sprawling narrative manages to operate with such precise, coherent economy. Everything has meaning; there are no stray bits of dialogue, no dick-yanking excursions down rabbit-holes or histrionic showpieces, like so many crumbs propelled out of Tony Soprano's cruel maw in a moment of pique. (I loved The Sopranos, but let's face it, quite a few episodes were diverted or taken up by this weird need to fuck with the audience over their expectations, and it became too meta at times. How many years did fans obsess on fuckin' Pine Barrens?)

Anyway, The Wire is an ever-rarer gem. One thing the writers' strike has shown, as bad as some of the hackery was out there, without them most of the networks might as well show test patterns or wall-to-wall commercials. I mean, what the fuck is a Dance War, is that like Deney Terrio in fuckin' stripper fatigues and a gamy headband threatening to break out his "bazooka" or something? Why is that liver-lipped comb-forward motherfucker Trump on the teevee again, does someone think it's going to be different with Big Pussy and Gene Simmons? Why not just have a three-hour, eat up the entire prime-time bloc cheezefest called What Fucking Wrong Turn Did You Take in Life That You Can Sit Through This, Hunh? (Or, as it was called in the underrated Idiocracy, Ow! My Balls!)

Ahem. The Wire. It's a sad state of affairs that the people who would love it are already watching it, and that the people who would like it if they gave it the chance are happy with Howie Mandel and his fuckin' suitcases. And if you are one of those folks that just missed out on it the first time around, I absolutely urge you to Netflix the earlier seasons and check it out from the start. It is nothing short of spectacular in its thematic scope, and an impossibly great ensemble, where even the bit characters are flawless. I doubt we'll see anything close to it for a very long time, if ever.

Vacation, All I Ever Wanted

The storm in this area over the weekend was pretty nasty, but I have seen worse. They made it sound like the next Hurricane Katrina or something. That said, I finally just got my power back on late last night (not complaining; my next door neighbor literally has not gotten theirs back yet), and apparently a power spike damaged something in my home PC. So posting will be even more intermittent than usual for the next week or so. Talk amongst yourselves.

[Update: Turns out to be the monitor, which I can live with for now. It never hurts to keep the old clunker out in the garage just in case.]

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Groundhog Day

My, wasn't that something? So the mythical quadrennial Iowan, stoic watcher of the frozen cornfield, came out in droves for Obama and Huckabee (and apparently Chuck Norris, who must have promised each caucuser (caucusian?) a free Total Gym™). The results are not nearly as surprising as the margins of victory; Obama sprinted away from what looked to be essentially a three-way tie, while Huckabee's ROI must be several orders of magnitude beyond Romney. Weird, wild stuff.

Obviously we can thumb our dicks over either party's performance until the next one, but as the top three Dems seem more evenly matched, and despite my misgivings, I think any of them would be far better than any of the GOP candidates, I want to focus briefly on the latter.

The CW is that Romney's problem is his lack of authenticity which, not coincidentally, is presumed to be Huck's strong suit. This is asinine. Romney's strength is that he's full of shit; the guy just wants to win and make money, and he'll say whatever he thinks will get him those things. What could be more American?

Huckabee is the flip side of this dilemma -- his sincerity, considering many of his positions and convictions, and his bewildering lack of even fundamental foreign policy knowledge (what, lamentably, could also be more American?), is and should be a very genuine liability. So the state evangos decided to turn out for Huck this round. BFD. He has no money, no national presence, no state tracking beyond Iowa, and virtually the entire party apparatus has already condemned him. That little-engine-that-could shit might play out in East Bumfuck, but even notional scrutiny on a larger scale will probably unravel him.

Whatever supposed shot of Viagra Old Man Thompson got the last few days won't sustain him past New Hampshire, and Ron Paul has peaked. McCain will probably take NH, and is still weirdly adored by the media weasels, so he'll remain viable for a while. But this still looks like Romney's race to win, especially if he picks up the next few, McCain fades back a bit, and Romney convinces him to join up as running mate. Lot can happen in a couple weeks.

Best news of all -- aside from the huge Democratic turnout, and disparity between party turnouts -- is that Giuliani has blessedly imploded, finishing a distant sixth, with no promising spots on the horizon. The whole world just exhaled a sigh of relief.

Predicted finishing order for Wyoming Republican caucus: Romney 22%; Huckabee 20%; random farm animal 19%; Ron Paul 15%; Thompson 11%; Ronald Reagan 7%; undecided 5%; Chuck Norris 1%.

Missing the Point

Perhaps being deliberately obtuse so as not to be caught me-tooing a current mini-wave of the blogonistas, Jack Shafer takes the opposite tack and berates the leading cats of the herd for picking on poor ol' Billy Kristol.

Pundits are wrong sometimes and right others. Pundits shouldn't lose or win gigs on the basis of how many of their predictions come true but whether they write interesting copy. Kristol—love him or hate him—writes interesting copy.

Yes, and if the Times wishes to descend into the print version of talk-radio carnydom, this is certainly one way to do it. What I have read of Kristol's schtick strikes me less as "interesting" and more as pointedly, even needlessly combative. That he has occasionally locked spurs with fellow ideological banty roosters like Newt Gingrich is of little relevance, except that it illustrates that both men live (and are employed) by their ability and desire to antagonize. The problem is not Kristol's consistent wrongness, in and of itself -- it's that he doesn't give a shit about being right or wrong, not only because there's no consequences, but also because it doesn't even seem to occur to him. In a sensible profession, this would likely be a disqualifying characteristic.

Where most other people were wrong on Iraq in terms of degree, Kristol has been wrong by design, unrepentantly so; for him, it was to be merely the prelude to an overhaul of the most ancient settled region on the planet. Societies have thrived and perished there for nine thousand years, but they're going to unfuck themselves in a generation or two because Billy Kristol says so. Shafer's right that it's an "interesting" gambit, to be sure, but what it isn't is competent, logical analysis, which is at least nominally the game of the major-league columnist.

But then major-league papers like the Times and WaPo have their own institutional instincts to follow, the way the government does no matter which face adorns its official stationery. It is the crucible in which acceptable mainstream opinions are contoured and refined, to bamboozle the less sensible into going along with the right riff, and to disempower the more rational set of readers by desensitizing them to cheap tricks and rhetorical flummery, getting them to chase sophist phantoms or (better yet) to give up altogether in frustration.

It would be much simpler if newspapers rededicated themselves to harder news stories and more rigorous opinion writing, instead of coughing up this or that hack to serve as an emotional tampon for a dissociative niche of sob sisters. Whom, exactly, would fall into Kristol's niche? Embittered dead-enders who, rather than simply admit that they fucked up and they're willing to at least meet the rest of the planet halfway, prefer to double down because they meant to do this shit. Is there some hidden ontological quest in catering to such a group, or is it an elaborate practical joke?

What other reason could there be, ferchrissakes, for off-brand legacy dimwits like Kristol and Pantload to always find work, to get cush gigs at flagship newspapers, to peddle their flatulent jabber to the repulsed and the indifferent and the irrational, not even bothering any longer to conceal their nonsense with even the appearance of an innovative idea or thought? Why do the keepers o' the First Amendment flame prattle on so nervously about the pernicious gubmint threats to their profession, when they prove so willing to give ample and frequent space to some of their most vicious detractors? Maybe that's part of the shakedown this crew uses, the "prove you're not liberal traitors by giving us jobs" move. You know the Moonie Times doesn't fall for that shit.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

The Simple Life

A friendly (and excruciatingly thorough) reminder of the old Dorothy Parker line about how if you want to know what God thinks of money, look at who He gives it to. These are just uniformly dreadful people.

Extra kudos to Bill Clinton of all people, for meeting with one of his most vicious and unprincipled enemies, a man who literally did everything he could possibly think of to undermine Clinton's administration (which, given that BC never met an issue he couldn't triangulate into non-Euclidean geometry, was really a needless quest). Countless Clinton minions have written breathlessly and prolifically over the years of Scaife's vicious harassment, the perfidious lies, the baseless smears, blah blah blah, and instead of telling this wretched creep off, he has lunch with him. Unless it was a petit déjeuner of watercress-and-fuck-you sandwiches, I don't get it.

I dunno, either words mean something or they don't. If some rich asshole with too much time on his hands spends a decade and millions of dollars calling me a murderer, a rapist, a traitor, etc., lunch would be at the bottom of my to-do list. That's just me.

Maybe BC got Scaife to call off his hell-hounds on the missus for awhile, seeing as how she's not exactly intending to upend any applecarts. But it seems that if you're a person of principle, and unprincipled people make an industry out of calumniating your character and the things you believe in, there is no forgiveness without an abject public apology. Anything else just legitimizes these thugs.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Top Ten Myths About Iraq 2007

From Juan Cole.

Our Man In Islamabad

From the "no shit, Sherlock" file comes the revelation that Pervez Musharraf's government might be fudging or concealing crucial facts about Benzair Bhutto's assassination. I know, we're all shocked by this.

LAHORE, Pakistan — New details of Benazir Bhutto’s final moments, including indications that her doctors felt pressured to conform to government accounts of her death, fueled the arguments over her assassination on Sunday and added to the pressure on Pakistan’s leaders to accept an international inquiry.

Athar Minallah, a board member of the hospital where Ms. Bhutto was treated, released her medical report along with an open letter showing that her doctors wanted to distance themselves from the government theory that Ms. Bhutto had died by hitting her head on a lever of her car’s sunroof during the attack.

In his letter, Mr. Minallah, who is also a prominent lawyer, said the doctors believed that an autopsy was needed to provide the answers to how she actually died. Their request for one last Thursday was denied by the local police chief.

A political assassination and no autopsy? Why would anyone think something's a bit hinky?

What's really confusing here is the cui bono aspect of it; just because Musharraf and the military and intel services are all rushing to sweep this under in a series of ham-fisted maneuvers doesn't mean they did it, oddly. This is as good an assessment of the situation as I have read yet. But the fact that the U.S. media is openly questioning the official Pakistani government line here tells me that Musharraf is done. Will we settle on Nawaz Sharif, or do what we can to prop Bhutto Junior in place? Most likely the second option, but this is going to be very ugly for some time to come.