Tuesday, June 30

Corn Pone-ography

SO Fred Dumbo Thompson resents the one-sided treatment Republicans receive from The Librul Media when they're caught with their dicks in a wringer, or an Argentine. This, of course, immediately raises two questions:

What exactly has he been paying attention to over the past fifteen years, if it's not the world? and

Fred Dumbo Thompson is still alive?

Fred's point-by-litany: Spitzer, Blago (either he believes that's Blagojevich's last name, or else One Take Fred didn't want to chance it), McGreevy, Kilpatrick, Mrs. John Conyers [sic], William Jefferson, Rangel, Murtha, Roland Burris, John Edwards, Bill Clinton. Yuh see any pattern he-yur? Fred asks, rhetorically and with only six extra syllables.

Okay, so we haven't even said anything nasty about Michael Jackson--yet--which ought to prove beyond all doubt that we don't speak ill of the unplanted dead, but ol' Fred's riper'n' the back room of that Kosher butcher shop used t' be over on Westfield Boulevard, so at this point it's somebody else's fault he's not on the other side of the grass. It is, of course, easy enough to point out that some of us could actually identify everyone on the list and maybe cough up a list of their misdeeds, or alleged misdeeds (we're sure Fred, who was a pretend prosecutor before he was a pretend Presidential candidate, wouldn't convict anyone without a fair trial) thanks to The Media; s'easy enough to ask what political figure in American history got as much bad press as Bill Clinton's johnson, or which in the past five years reached Blogojevich levels; some of us might even recall that "Mrs. John Conyers" was christened Monica. More partisan observers of Fred's bipartisanship might be heard to suggest that list would barely cover a decent week back when his party was in power, or that it responded to ethics charges against Tom DeLay by changing the definition of ethics. (There are, of course, many sound reasons not to belong to either party; not having 'Gary Hartpence' tossed at you by some dipshit who imagines it's some sort of Magic Rhetorical Ninja Throwing Star is one of the best.)

Instead, we'd just like to know two things. One, what conceivable news environment exists where the unexplained disappearance of the governor of one of These United States would not be "news"? Particularly when accompanied by a series of conflicting explanations, and non-explanations, from the man's staff and family? And that's leaving out the part about how it was his Republican opponents in South Carolina who were apparently responsible for the truth leaking out. How can anyone in 2009 America--even someone who's been deceased for much of the 21st century--suggest that a politician + sex story plays out in partisan fashion? Maybe one could get covered up that way, but once it feels daylight the 24-hour carnival is on.

Two, if the Sanford story really is a (bipartisan) scandal of John Edwards, et. al., proportions, why did we see such a concerted effort to minimize the effects as soon as the story broke? We haven't seen the likes of the Republican stampede which took place the moment another Clinton cock-sniffer grabbed an express flight to Hypocriteville since the Bush II administration took control of Federal oil and mineral leases. If it's so fucking bipartisan that it's unfair to bring it up, might we enquire as to why you don't even wait on the facts before waddling in?

Monday, June 29

Tales Of Bald-Headed Minoxidil Salesmen

Ross Douthat, "The Way We Love Now". June 28

I TRIED, really. I watched as much as I could of this bloggingheads [note: abridged New York Times version; I couldn't bring myself to link the whole thing] "debate" between a guy who thinks all abortions are murder, and one who thinks only some are, while the rest are just icky. Will they be able to reach a compromise? Only 62 minutes and 45 seconds will tell, apparently.

Which leaves me out; I think I might've made 10% of that, but, in my defense, I did go right past the time where William Saletan actually utters the word "icky" the way a triage nurse skips a broken femur to get to a sucking chest wound.

His "opponent", Steven Waldman of Beliefnet, is the posterboy for Early Onset Monochromatic Vision Syndrome by Proxy, or, in this case, by Talking To Yourself for Thirty Years. The discussion of paying women to carry pregnancies to term includes his caveat if the money was too good some might get pregnant just to cash in; but he seems to endorse the idea of payments "if society wants to reduce the number of abortions". Which, of course, raises the question of why we should expect "society" to do something that the most ardent opponents of abortion have proven themselves unwilling to do over the past four decades.

And Waldman's prescription for compromise for his fellow Presumptive Uteri Landlords? Give up contraception! Yeah. Thanks for meeting us halfway, Steven. (Sometime after the suggestion that people making the Catholic-approved argument that contraception=murder simply, quote, "get over it" we will ask, with straight faces on both sides of the split screen, whether "pro-choicers" can accept the moral complexity of the issue.)

The damned thing is actually titled "Two Men, No Uteruses", and while we'll leave alone the use of the less-preferred plural form, the idea that this sort of mock-flippancy absolves all concerned from any responsibility for participating in White Guys Talk About Reproductive Rights, Episode 824 Million, is on display here in its full radiance. We're not sure you can actually be more arrogant that to imagine your "new ideas" (translation: new chunks of dead hossmeat, freshly whipped) hold some sort of sway over Constitutional processes just because your President has hosted a seminar. But if it's possible, advertising your White Maleness as though doing so defangs the criticism that you're the last constituency with standing is what manages it. I simply refuse to understand how this sort of thing comes about. No one in his right mind could imagine this is a search for compromise on abortion rights; it's an exercise in whether some anti-choice guy'll buy Salentan's argument that he should "agree to" first trimester abortions (or some time frame; Saletan's tapdancing made it impossible to gauge exactly when the cutoff date was). Not only is the discussion free of women, choice supporters, or moral doubt, it's also free of any compunction for the rest of us to listen. This is one of those matters, like WWI, the Crusades, or Late Night with Jimmy Fallon where everyone even remotely involved deserves censure. If anyone out there makes it all the way to the end, let me know how they solved it, won't you?

What I was trying to do (I knew it was doomed to failure) was get the taste, smell, and overwhelming urge to write about it out of my head after I ran smack dab into Douthat last night. (I thought we'd solved this "Does he publish on Monday? Or Tuesday?" business in favor of the latter, so I was innocently checking the Times last night when "Douthat: The Way We Love Now. Have modern American couples let anxieties about children, mortgages and success destroy their passion and romance?" struck me full in the face. I have no recollection of clicking through, though I know I did, and I have no idea what th' fuck he said, except that he was riffing on a couple of throwaway magazine articles, that Jon and Kate or whatever their names are made several "celebrity" appearances, and that the whole issue of "Romance" suddenly exonerates Republican philanderers (as it does for Brooks, too), even for dedicated Clinton cock-sniffers who once insisted that looking at Playboy was the moral equivalent of adultery. (That marvel of what used to be called a "think piece", back when you could say that about the profession of journalism without breaking up for the first fourteen takes, should replace Gandhi or Chuck Berry or somebody on the CD the next time NASA cons us into sending off a billion-dollars worth of space junk boldly seeking life outside the Solar System and outside the confines of the life expectancy of the human species. Any malevolent, silicon-based amphibian lifeform out there would take one listen to Ross and decide there was nothing on Earth they could possibly use.) Along the way we get divorce rates (high for the sort of toothless idiot Ross has likely never seen, but which, until recently, he imagined as a fertile field for bi-annual vote harvesting; low for the sort of self-centered elitist Rat Race contestant Ross--and Brooks--always seem to haul in as villains, somehow), out-of-wedlock childbirth, and more celebrities behaving badly, plus a ever-present hint that everyone who took part in the Cultural Revolution in the Unfortunate Sixties almost immediately regretted it. And it ends, as best I can recollect from those moments before I banged my head on the floor, with the suggestion that we might want to try hybridizing lower-class nymphomaniacs with high-achieving, sexless lawyers, accountants, and Op-Ed columnists, just to smooth things out a little.

Oh, sorry, I didn't mean "Op-Ed columnists" there; Douthat has been, one hopes happily, married for almost two years now, and this, accompanied by his highly developed moral sense and a vast knowledge of human sexuality culled from Newsweek's exhaustive coverage of the Sexual Revolution throughout his lifetime, excuses turning prime Times real estate into an Advice for the Lovelorn column. What I meant, of course, was that we need to marry off security-seeking ice queens to public moralist Republican office holders. So that Ross won't have to do any more solo tapdancing. That sorta thing can lead to leotard catalogues.

Friday, June 26

See, This Is Why We Can't Have Anything Nice. Because You Won't Stop Humping Its Leg.

Ted Anthony, AP: "For Generation X, a really bad day". June 26
The man-child named Michael Jackson and the luminous girl known as Farrah Fawcett-Majors jumped into our consciousness at a plastic moment in American culture -- a time when the celebrity juggernaut we know today was still in diapers. When they departed Thursday, just a few hours and a few miles apart, they left an entire generation -- a very strange generation indeed -- without two of its defining figures.

"These people were on our lunchboxes," said Gary Giovannetti, 38, a manager at HBO who grew up on Long Island awash in Farrah and MJ iconography. "This," he said, "is the moment when Generation X realizes they're grown up."

It was a long time coming. Cynical, disaffected, rife with ADD, lost between Boomers and millennials and sandwiched between Vietnam and the war on terror, Gen X has always been an oddity. It was the product of a transitional age when we were still putting people on celebrity pedestals but only starting to make an industry out of dragging them down.

Its memorable moments were diffuse and confusing -- the Ronald Reagan assassination attempt, the dawn of AIDS, the explosion of the Space Shuttle Challenger. It had no protest movement, no opponent to unite it, none of the things that typically shape the ill-defined beast we call an American generation.

These were the people who sent to the top of the charts a song called "We Don't Need Another Hero," then figured out how to churn them out wholesale, launching the celebrity obsession that is now an accepted part of American cultural fabric.

Meaning they were also, presumably, the same people who sent "Holding Out for a Hero" to the exact same chart position a scant twelve months earlier. Could you just stop it? Please?
And that was personified nowhere better than in the two people who died Thursday.

Okay, one, I don't know the graphic representation for the sound you make when you stick out your lower lip and fan it rapidly with your index finger while going "bluh bluh bluh", but kindly insert that here. Two, that's it? Nowhere better than Her Generation's (not yours) Answer to Betty Grable, and The Craziest Celebrity of All Time by a Factor of Six? (And crazy sad, not crazy inventive, at that. Incidentally, since we're in for a dime already, the Bathing Beauty dates to Mack Sennett's stable of adolescents, and the Blonde bombshell to Jean Harlow. Grable was a zero, then a wartime pinup, then a zero again. She was not the genesis of anything but Betty Grable jokes.) If I'd have known this was coming I'd have urged Kurt Colbain and David Foster Wallace to try dying on the same day, just so we could have had a better class of celebrity to endure the incontinent faux-adoration of.

In keeping with our unplanned theme of the week, You write about junk culture for a living! If you'd like to ponder its Deeper Meaning you're welcome to, though personally we'd prefer you didn't. But ponder it, or don't. Pondering yourself pondering it is not the same thing. In fact it is the opposite thing.

The modern Mindless Cult of Celebrity is at least as old as Valentino, and the organized caterwauling at early death is at least as old as, well, Valentino. It may come as a shock to someone who believes the world changed, forever, when he dirtied his first diaper, but there were people even then--innocent of teevees and Twitterings, if you can imagine it--who found this sort of thing grotesque, troubling, alarming, disgusting, laughable, anything but "a shared experience you either loved or hated, but took part in". Day of the Locust? Sunset Boulevard? The Last Tycoon, The Great Man, La Dolce Vita? The Sweet Smell of Success, which points us to the power wielded by celebrity-dragger Walter Winchell, practically unimaginable in today's terms. Hedda Hopper, Louella Parsons, GraphiC, Confidential all made a living at "dragging down" celebs. It generally stopped at the exact point where studio hush money began, but you might want to brush up on the bios of Charlie Chaplin and Fatty Arbuckle. Isn't a passing familiarity with this stuff some sort of minimum requirement at the AP, or is it enough to remember who or what was on your school lunch box? And how, exactly, is it that the high-viscosity sludge that passes for conventional wisdom manages to posit both the Angry, Discordant, Hippie-and-LSD-laced Sixties and a happier, simpler, eight years later when everyone gathered around the idiot box to love or hate Farrah Fawcett-Major's nip-nips? You think Aaron Spelling was something everyone took part in? Or disco? For that matter I distinctly remember my parents being somewhat less than enthusiastic Motown groove-thing shakers.

And so y'know what? If you've got to invent this Generation shit, then this one, like the previous one, has no fucking excuse for not knowing the difference. Just fucking take responsibility for this stuff, on your own. Quit trying to fob it off on your imaginary cohort, stop treating it as the inevitable result of those technological advancements that had the good taste, and good fortune, to occur while you were around to be aware of them. Crap culture has been with us at least since people left the farms, quit playing the piano in the parlor or the banjo on a stump, and started consuming ready-made pap. For just as long there have been people complaining it was all dreck. We know this because it must be. And we know you know it too, for the same reason. So, please, go have a private drink and toast the dear departed, or, more likely, toast yourself toasting them, and try being solemn about it for once.

Okay, just kiddin'. Really, though, could y'all try to bring this one in in less time than you spent on that People's Princess none of you knew a fucking thing about? Like the man said, it'd gratify some people, and astonish the rest.

Thursday, June 25

Actually, The One Thing That Surprises Me Is That The National Review Didn't Just Feature Him On The Cover Instead Of My Man Mitch

John Dickerson, "Heartless: The disturbing glee at Mark Sanford's downfall". June 24

THIS, then, has become our theme of the week: You work in political journalism! If you are not personally responsible for the Attention Deficit Disorder and the Scatology and the hypocritical Small Town School-Marmishness you have at least acquiesced in exchange for a paycheck, quite possibly for your entire career, since it describes the Press in general for at least a quarter-century. At the very least you might lay off the shocked finger-pointing and sad head-shaking when typical Press behavior is on display. Compared to you guys the American Psychological Association is a model of transparent motivation and self-criticism.

Take that back. Compared to you guys everyone else is a model of transparent motivation and self-criticism.

If Why didn't the President talk about Iraq? is a sick joke, coming from two major Bush administration lapdogs, Won't someone consider that Mark Sanford is a human being? is scribbled on the latrine door. And not just any latrine, but the Worst Toilet in Scotland. Roy makes the case more eloquently than a thousand Slate monkeys ever will, but without the suggestion that challenges to the human heart should trump political concerns in cases where Beltway insiders think they should. Disturbing glee? Only if you were also disturbed this morning when you noticed a large yellow ball of fiery gasses in the eastern sky. C'mon, Dickerson. It's Slate! It's the home of the Special Reverse Twist Counterintuitive Contrarianism masquerading as Just Common Sense. At what point in the distant past did You All Are So Heartless! Think of the Children! become as stale and phony as the Sexual Hijinks du Jour it supposedly disdains? Excepting that the Sexual Hijinks in question are generally of the Factual sort, often with added Hypocrisy of the "loudly campaigns and votes to prohibit just this sort of behavior" variety, whereas the "Oh, his Poor Family" routine is at best a (standard) argument and at worst a barely-concealed attempt to deflect a problem. And just because someone's crying--literally or figuratively--doesn't mean he's not a crocodile.
Mark Sanford is no longer missing, but he's obviously lost. The South Carolina governor's press conference was excruciating: apology, followed by self-flagellation, followed by apology. It was like watching a man light himself on fire. I thought about his kids mustering up the courage to watch it on YouTube some day. I thought about his wife having to suffer the anger and the loss. Perhaps even worse, she's also going to have to endure the armies of pity and the people like me trying to guess at what her feelings are.

So what th' fuck compels you to?
The scandal has ended Sanford's national political career. If the affair wasn't enough to do in Sanford as a presidential candidate, his erratic behavior was. He may be forced to resign as governor. Even if he stays in office, Democrats will figure out how much to exploit the scandal for their advantage.

Okay, again, this is news like The Dawn is news. You can't help speculating about a woman you don't know in the slightest, but Democrats are cruel jackals with a whiff of carrion in the breeze. Fucking choose one.
The personal impact of the Sanford affair is more gripping than the political. Sanford has done a horrible thing to his wife and family and friends. He seemed to know and feel this more profoundly than other politicians we've seen go through this familiar apology exercise before. That doesn't excuse him. Not that he was asking that anyone excuse him. He seemed to be trying to take all the blame, as he should. Some might think his explanations were excuses. To me they seemed like a man confessing the details of a crime.

Albeit one who had but two choices: face the cameras, or resign and try to hide out. Sanford chose to go weepy. He chose to make it about his "failures" and his staunch Christianity. He could have made it about the unique legal responsibilities he'd actively sought from the people of South Carolina, without anyone holding his precious family hostage, and then flaked on. And if he had, he would have resigned. There's a distinction between "confessing the details of a crime" and turning yourself over to the police to face the music, John.
The snap judgments failed to acknowledge a grain of the fundamental human carnage we were witnessing. You can laugh at Sanford, as you can laugh at a video of a wrecked Amy Winehouse falling all over her house. But at some point, even though they did it to themselves, you have to feel sorry for them as human beings. You can do that, I think, and not be a fan of adultery or drug use.

So, it didn't occur to you while you were typing that Amy Winehouse has never tried to throw anyone else in jail for public intoxication?
stopped for a moment to even nod to it. My thoughtful colleague William Saletan and Andrew Sullivan were exceptions.

"Liberal" Republican Pundits Longing In The Wake Of The Total Collapse Of Their Party To Find A Closet Big Enough To Crawl Back In for Sanford 2012!
Maybe there are others.

But finding them wouldn't advance my point.
Maybe people expressed these views in private conversations. But in the e-mails and Twitter entries and blog posts I read in the aftermath, Sanford's human ruin was greeted with what felt like antiseptic glee. The pain he's caused, the hypocrisies he's engaged in, seemed like license to deny him any humanity at all.

First that big glowing ball in the sky, now callous indifference by email and Twitter! Has the world turned upside down?
Sanford's fumbling efforts to explain how he's tried to rescue himself with his faith offered some people an opportunity to make fun of his religion, as if a confused, lost, flawed person were the right spokesman for anything.

So unfair, especially in light of the fact that the professionally religious--such as Mark Sanford, pre-last Thursday--never, ever, ever seize on anecdotal occurrences to advance their agenda. It's like they're being forced to fight with one hand tied behinds their backs, really.
People tend to think the most awful thing about a person is the most true thing.

Some do, no doubt, not that this comes as a revelation. Personally, I believe the most awful thing that comes out about a person in public life generally serves the same purpose that hush puppies serve for a pack of baying dogs.
They also apparently think it's the most true thing about his or her associations. So an e-mail arrived asking, "[I]s there any Republican not sleeping around?" Maybe Sanford should have been a presidential candidate. He apparently represents an entire party and an entire religion.

Not to mention the fact that this unfair tar job comes from The Party That Likes To Kill Little Babies. Well, at least we got to your real complaint before time ran out. So, no, John, you're right; one fallen hypocrite with Presidential aspirations does not represent the entire party and the entire religion. I think the actual question is whether the five-hundred forty-seven we now have lined up might begin to suggest a pattern.

One more John Dickerson quote, before we spend the rest of the day swapping salacious emails:
There are a couple of ways to get out of saying what the truth is. One is to say, well, I've got to get back to the business of the country. The problem is, he's not the president, he can't say that. He's also on recess. And the other thing is to attack your attackers, so they have attacked the media for going after him on this story. It's a legitimate story, though, and he's not coming up with the answers that he called for when President Clinton was in a similar fix.

That'd be Dickerson on CNN, July 6, 2001, taking about Representative Gary Condit. Ah. Simpler times.

Wednesday, June 24

Questions For Discussion

Mike Allen, politico.com:
A couple of surprising words were missing from President Barack Obama’s 55-minute news conference on Wednesday: “Iraq” — and “Afghanistan.”

Also MIA: “Korea,” “Pakistan,” “soldiers,” “surge” and “war” — as well as the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines.
The omissions were partly a result of the short attention span of the press, which did not ask about those topics after the president did not mention them in his opening statement.

But the silence on those subjects also provides a striking illustration of one of the singular differences between Obama and his predecessor.

Whereas President George W. Bush invoked his status as wartime commander in chief so often that it seemed like a crutch, Obama has much more of a domestic focus, and resists rhetorical calls to arms like “war on terror.”

Matt "Yardbird" Cooper, The Former Atlantic Monthly:
It tells you something that neither Afghanistan nor Iraq came up at the president's press conference. The United States is simultaneously prosecuting two wars in the Muslim world and neither merited a question of the president. It's the surest sign of how quickly attention shifts and flits from one topic to another and how surefooted the White House needs to be in a fluid news environment. Iran might have gotten one question a few weeks ago. Now it dominates the news conference. The collapse of the American automotive industry didn't come up either, nor did rail safety after yesterday's accident or hate crimes, which so dominated the news cycle after the shooting at the Holocaust Memorial. Nothing lasts.

So given the changing world, how did Obama do both in terms of style and substance?

1. Is Mike Allen's standing to criticize the tone and content of our national debate equal to Maury Povitch's? Or less than? Try to include recent vocabulary words, such as "mumpsimus", "coprophilia" and "corporate demirep" in your essay.

2. Do you think the revelation that "Things Change" occurred to Matt Cooper before he became Scooter Libby's buttboy, during the two or three seconds when he was contemplating whether he would be like to be the buttboy of some guy called Bubba or sing his lungs out, or shortly thereafter, while he was washing his undies?

3. The First Amendment to the US Constitution prohibits the abridgment of a Free Press. Given that none of the Founders, other than Ben Franklin, is known to have had a sense of humor, do you still think it's possible this was intended as some sort of Age of Enlightenment leg-pull that got lost in translation?

Tuesday, June 23

Rand and Superman

ITEM: Restaurant delivery truck's cargo of 400 pounds of meat is confiscated and buried in the Vigo County landfill [note: temporary truce with the soufflé shelf-life of Indianapolis Racist Collapsing Star links] when a seat-belt stop, or "seat-belt stop" reveals a truckload of meat products, or "meat" products, being transported free from the interference of goddam guvment bureaucratic refrigeration.

In case Megan-Jane McArdle-Galt is busy teaching disadvantaged children to read, or is stuck in line waiting for her new iPhone, we will remind readers of a socialist bent that when they start off at 75º, you get your sweet & sour wings that much quicker.

The story turned up last evening at the Racist Dying Star via stringer; my Poor Wife reports hearing nothing about it whatsoever on last night's local parade of hairstyles and attempted teleprompter reading. In fairness, both of 'em had their hands full with that late breaking Jon and Kate story.

ITEM: The "Supreme" Court, fresh from announcing it didn't have the courage to follow its own logic in the Voting Rights case, gets even by tying tin cans to your dog's tail, deciding that the Forest Grove (OR) school district is on the hook for $5200/mo for private, residential schooling for a student with ATHD "and other disabilities" it had found ineligible for special education services.

Now, 1) have I read the decision? No. 2) Did I watch last night as two local stations, and at least two of the nets, reported this with some variation of "The Court makes it easier to send your children to private school at taxpayer expense"? Yes. Yes indeedy-do.

In other news, Neil Bush announces the creation of the world's first Attention Deficit & Hyperactivity Super School, somewhere in Colorado. Competitive out-of-state tuition rates.

From what we can piece together from reports which do manage to let the facts get in the way of some good sensationalism, the main question was whether the district was liable under the law if the student had never received special-ed services from the public schools. The school had acknowledged learning disabilities, but the diagnosis of ATHD and other disabilities came after the private enrollment.

The majority downplayed the idea that the ruling could create a run on public funding, noting that only 1% of special-needs students are placed in private schools. But that, of course, is the figure before the Court opened the floodgates and prayed it wouldn't rain. And cui bono? Not poor students with learning disabilities. Wealthy ones whose parents can afford to shop for agreeable doctors and psychologists, assuming they don't already own one, pay for private institutionalization on spec, and hire the right lawyers to make the whole thing pay off.

And don't get me wrong. The law ought to be decided on the merits, and the chips allowed to fall where they may. Special needs students should get everything they're entitled to, including whatever it takes to give them a complete education. The district could have settled; in hindsight, when the Court goes 6-3 against maybe you got some bad advice. And the matter is now returned to the state, which has to apply the standard. But if you imagine this won't open the door to institutionalized blackmail by the wealthiest of our citizens, you're either of a sunnier disposition than I (talk about lowering the bar to the ground!), or we've been watching a different AMA, a different American Psychological Association, hell, a different America these last few decades. And if you think state legislatures are going to foot the bill, you must live somewhere other than Indiana:

ITEM: The education plan, or "education" "plan", of Bonzai Governor Rip van Daniels will cost Indianapolis Public Schools, the state's largest school district, as much as $47 million, it says, necessitating draconian cuts. The shortfall is potentially so severe that someone was heard whispering about the two new, full-time assistants the district gave Superintendent Eugene White so he'd have more time to change cufflinks between meetings.

In fairness, the man's goddam cufflinks weight about six pounds apiece, and probably require a full-time assistant with the use of a hand truck and laser level.

The reason for the funding decline--it comes in spite of Daniels' pledge to heroically raise state education spending 2% by using someone else's credit card--is the "Funding Follows the Student" formula, which rewards white flight districts for converting productive farmland into McMansionvilles, while penalizing urban students, or, rather, penalizes any of 'em who actually survive attending a school with no air conditioning. This is why the National Review, e.g., recently limned Mitch's Educational Achievements: because coming up with a clever bumpersticker slogan always trumps actually looking at the problem. Come to think of it, that's also exactly how they wound up touting his educational record. Must be a theme.

This, by the way, despite the fact that last weekend White was given a good fluffing in the political column in the Indianapolis Racist Fallen Star to...wait for it...blame the teachers' union (!) for the fact that he can't just fire everybody and hire some young innovators off the streets, apparently in recognition that But I made those scary black thugs pull up their pants! is having a diminishing effect on the state Legislature.

Now, let's just recap; I see some of you got here late: the African-American superintendent of Indianapolis Public Schools, a native of Strange Fruit, Alabama, a product of the Jim Crow South, the first member of his family to graduate from high school, who owes his higher education to the fact that his athletic prowess was one of the few acceptable avenues to one, rises to the Superintendency of the largest school district in Indiana, a district with a serious history of racial discrimination dating to the control of the state by the Ku Klux Klan in the 1920s, and one where the white-flight township schools were allowed to keep their independent status in the late 60s, when the city annexed the county wholesale. A Federal desegregation order then required those city schools to pay the white-flight schools to accept their minority students. For thirty years. There is a friggin' century of institutionally short-changing (to put it nicely) poor and melanin-enhanced students, which doesn't just continue but gets accelerated under Big Brain Mitch, and the Superintendent of the district which takes it in the shorts, sans lube, is mouthing Republican talking points about unions.

For the life of me, I can't understand how there's no vertigo pandemic.

Monday, June 22

I (Heart) Charles Pierce

ON the publicly celebrated, fer chrissakes, God-given Freedom to kick unprofitable customers off insurance rolls:
Watersheds just ain't what they used to be, I guess. There was a time, and not so long ago, when a story like this would have been a game-changer in the debate over reforming the nation's healthcare system, if anything as capricious, and vicious, and utterly random as what we have can rightly be called a "system." Executives of the insurance companies got up in front of the Congress and said, quite calmly, that, yes, they would continue to deny coverage to sick people in order to make themselves even wealthier. That should have resulted in sufficient political pressure to infuse a spine even into the members of this Congress. But we no longer are a viable self-governing political commonwealth, and our representatives know that, and truly don't give a damn, and the people in the elite political media could care less. (Hey, Mark Halperin, go clean a bedpan, OK?) It is on health issues where the gulf separating the inside and out Beltway realities swallows up common sense and, in doing so, causes the most material damage. The Schiavo case was a garish and noisy example, but the idea that a Democratic president and a Democratic congress can't craft a health-reform package that contains a substantial public option that 75 percent of the people out there want because the Democrats are overly sensitive to intramural political imperatives is the Schiavo case writ unacceptably large. This is a political class responding only to itself, speaking its own language, operating by its own rules while real people get ground up in a system that everyone knows is a rigged game. Hell, at 75 percent, the president has enough "political cover" to put a single-payer option back "on the table." But he won't. Some corrupt old white man might yell at him.

I've been trying to say that for 1745 posts.

Sunday, June 21

Back In My Day, When Professional Sports Writers Talked About "The Big O" They Meant Oscar Robertson

[T]he whole arm whipping around so fast and the wrist snap so fluid that it’s like watching a thick rope flicked and hissing,

He took off his shirt, which made spectators start wolf-whistling, and put on a fresh one. Nalbandian changed his shirt, too, but nobody wolf-whistled at him.

he tucked his sweaty hair behind his ears with one hand, left ear first, then right ear. He reached around to his backside to pull loose his shorts.

there’s flash-popping and Spanish flag-unfurling and a rising swell of noise and applause, and at some point Nadal lifts one arm and smiles at spectators, which sets off momentary pandemonium among the women.

I’ve heard people describe him as an evolutionary leap

Each was desperate, operatic, repeatedly to-the-brink-and-back; each ended with Nadal collapsing to the court in triumph and the spectators exhausted and perspiring, and if you are not a tennis person, I suspect this may be somewhat hard to fathom — the idea that watching two men spend that many hours hitting a ball could actually make your heart pound so hard that you have to keep jumping up and yelling and grabbing your own head. But let me just suggest that if there were ever a time to understand why people invoke Shakespearean tragedy and ancient gladiators and so on when they carry on about competitive tennis, now is that time.
In last year’s final, in fact, Nadal obliterated him so completely that people either stared in fascination or averted their eyes, as though witnessing a dreadful car wreck.

and I would not really have understood why that was had I not also been at Indian Wells in the middle of the night in March and watched Nadal’s face during that second set against Nalbandian, especially when Nadal began moving faster and faster, coiling, springing, powering the ball into back corners, missing, driving again. After a time, I realized a new sound was coming from Nadal in between the hitting grunts, an even more guttural sound that was low, feral and drawn out between intakes of breath. He was growling.

he walks in loose-limbed and with his hair disheveled and he sits down and says politely into the microphone, “Hello.”

I’ve seen him do this with a half-eaten chocolate-chip cookie in his hand, grinning and wiping crumbs from his mouth; but after he finished beating Nalbandian, he looked dark and irritated.

He needed a shave, though in truth he usually looks as if he needs a shave; it’s part of the allure. When he’s pleased, he has a way of smiling with half his mouth, too, as though he’s shyly just starting to realize how good he feels; the effect is of a young Harrison Ford, but with unbelievable biceps, and the combination of on-court savagery and off-court humility has disarmed people who have followed tennis closely for decades.

“You must remember,” Bouin said gently, in his lovely accented English, “that in tennis you have to kill the other.” Not just play better. Sometimes the one who plays better can lose. It’s a sport of splendid cruelty,

If he does play Wimbledon these next two weeks and wins, or if he holds off and recuperates and perhaps goes on to win the U.S. Open in September, he will have earned legitimate entry into the ranks of the all-time greats — not just the world No. 1’s, in other words, but the players whose names make up those best-ever lists that are constantly being debated and rearranged by fans.

Federer thrills people, too, but the Nadal thrill is so different from the Federer thrill that studying the two of them is like a gorgeous immersion course in the varieties of athletic possibility.

Nadal is muscled-up and explosive and relentless, so that his best tennis looks not like a gift from heaven but instead like the product of ferocious will.

His victories and his taped-up knees and his years as a very good No. 2 in the world all resonate together, as though the rewards and the wages of individual effort had been animated in a single human being: if you hurl yourself at a particular goal furiously enough and long enough you may tear your body up in the process, but maybe you can get there after all.

That Nadal now has the capacity to outplay Federer on multiple surfaces — that the signature game of the world’s highest-ranked tennis player is not a beautiful ballet unto victory but an imperfect, bruising, savage refusal to yield — this is why Nadal thrills people. This and the biceps.

Perez-Barbadillo tossed his cellphone. Nadal’s right arm jerked up and grabbed the phone out of the air, and he smiled and shrugged. “Whatever involves feeling, I do with the right.”

Hitting a tennis ball in elite competition is like a cross between boxing and pitching a baseball, situationally complicated like either but executed at much faster speed and requiring split-second calculations about many more variables

Massive posters of Nadal were plastered all over the tennis complex, like Times Square billboards, so that from on high he was smiling or making killer faces over the carnival array of standard tennis tournament commerce: frozen-lemonade stands, food courts, oversize yellow balls for collecting autographs.

Nadal’s arms, both of them, have inspired over the years a fervent subgroup of admirers, especially once he began appearing at international matches in what became his trademark outfit: sleeveless shirt, wide headband knotted around the unruly hair and his celebrated piratas, rakish knee-length shorts that made him look like a surfer who lifted weights in his spare time.

The Vamos Brigade, an international Nadal-watching Web site frequented mostly by enamored and effusive women, set up a special discussion devoted to Nadal’s new short-sleeved shirts and more conventional shorts; the title was Official Mourning Thread. “I found that if I just stared at his face long enough, I could make the sleeves disappear and see him sleeveless in my brain,” one correspondent wrote. Lamented another: “I miss the arms!!! The big, muscled, tanned arms.” Perhaps the young man was ready for a change, someone suggested. The response was quick and curt: “Please leave us alone to grieve.”

The arms have also been considered with more seriousness of purpose, as have the legs, by observers trying to dissect the mechanics of Nadal’s power and to guess at the cumulative toll his style of play may be taking on his body.

The “reverse” part comes at the finish, which is sometimes not the traditional across-the-chest follow-through, but rather a defiant full-arm snap upward, as though Nadal were whipping a lariat over his head or delivering an Italian obscene gesture

The man just works so hard, and all the time, and at such tremendous velocity.

The image of Nadal in poetic self-immolation, the glorious athlete pushing himself resolutely toward his own undoing, is so mesmerizing and distressing that I’ve heard it raised by spectators and coaches and by former competitors who now run the tournaments Rafa enters.

When I told Nadal about all the people who worried aloud to me about the level at which he is using up his body — this was back in March, it must be remembered, while he was winning everything in sight — he laughed and threw up his hands and looked for an instant less like an international tennis champion than a righteously ripped 22-year-old being told he was going to hurt himself if he kept snowboarding so fast.

Philippe Bouin told me when I found him at the French Open press center. “We’ve seen this movie many times. John Wayne never dies at the end of the movie. But this time, the cavalry was not there.”

Cynthia Gorney is a contributing writer to the magazine. She teaches at the Graduate School of Journalism at the University of California, Berkeley.


Friday, June 19

Notes On The Theoretical Impossibility Of Misspelling "Lynnnert Sykinnert"

1. I don't care.

2. I refuse to look it up.

3. As such it is sort of a running gag, albeit one that may take place entirely within my own skull. In fact my original draft the other day had "Lynnnnerd Skynnnnerd", which probably would have made the point clear, but I changed it in editing for some reason, probably intestinal gas.

4. The name is, reportedly, a "comic" misspelling of "Leonard Skinner", variously a high school shop teacher, gym teacher, or office martinet who gave the boys shit about their hair length. We are, certainly, not just sympathetic but empathetic, an attitude that continues despite an ongoing sexual relationship with a public school teacher. This does not require us to "get" the "joke" or pay attention to the (inexplicable) misspelling. We think "The Leonard Skinner Experience" might have been funny at the time, for about five minutes, provided we hailed from Muscle Shoals, say. Otherwise, not so much. We really believe it's important, once one obtains that GED, to refrain from entering young adulthood still carrying a massive chip about high school days on either shoulder.

5. "Southern rock" collided head-on with our college listening experience, beginning in the dorms, just as we were succoring our own sense of aesthetic superiority with Roxy Music, Lou Reed, Richard Thompson, Zappa, Beefheart, Randy Newman--and Little Feat and Leon Russell, lest one imagine we are immune to the twin charms of Boogie and Woogie--and soon had commandeered every turntable at every party, at least once someone managed to get Desperado stopped.

6. This was not too bad when it was just the Allmans, whose guitarists we admired for their skill, if not particularly for the uses to which they put it. As with anything you have no real use for, its becoming a pop-culture ubiquity eventually turns it into a series of assaults with a blunt-edged weapon, no matter how hard to try to avoid it (and I did not even own a radio between 1972-1995), or how quickly you turn over your lunch money. And like any cultural ubiquity, it very shortly became an excuse to water the drinks and increase the house's take. Enter Charlie Daniels. Enter The Marshall Tucker Band, whose ruderal flute solo on "Heard It In A Lo-ooove Song (Cain't Be Wrong)" likely killed my parents' elderly dog. Enter the Confederate Battle Flag as stage decor for white men singing music they'd stolen from Africans. Enter, especially, Løønnerg Skøøønerg.

6a. Incidentally, what radio I couldn't avoid, being from Indianapolis, was frequently The Bob and Tom Show, which, from syndication, people in other parts of the country today might imagine involves two guys laughing like Foley artists at someone else's jokes. In the 70s, pre-syndication, it involved those same two guys laughing incessantly at their own jokes, frequently centering, as my friend Greg puts it, on whether pussy or beer is life's greater pleasure. This yukfest was interrupted every twenty minutes or so so they could play "Stairway to Heaven" or "Freebird" for the twenty-second time that morning.

7. And the total cultural forced immersion is not the only, or even the real, problem; you and I have both ignored worse. It is that, so far as I can tell from what I was forced to observe, the entire Ludenord Skimnord opus consists of declarations of undying fealty to New World political boundaries set in 17th century England by the ruthless inbred oppressors of one's progenitors, or to malarial swamps in general, interspersed with musical exhortations to nameless groupies to hurry up and blow the Big Time Rock Singer, as he has a plane to catch.

8. The single exception, if you want to call it that, being the famous verse "replying" to Neil Young, who'd had the Canadian audacity to suggest that Southerners were not very nice to colored folks at some unspecified time period. And, look, while After the Gold Rush is probably my favorite Young album--okay, scratch that, it's Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere--"Southern Man" is a facile piece of crap whose proper response was Randy Newman's Good Old Boys, not a can of warm Pabst hurled at the popular Prairie Province singer-songwriter's head. Metaphorically, I mean. Ronnie Van Zant was presumably too busy getting blown to hurl any real beer cans.

Thursday, June 18

Ride A Painted Pony, Miss The Broad Side Of A Painted Barn

Jonah Goldberg, "Obama's Choice Is Not To Choose On Iran". June 17

AND "Wieldy" Is Not Goldberg's Choice On A Title.

It's raining here for something like the sixteenth straight day, capping what had previous been merely a remarkably wet Spring. I emptied two inches of water from the rain gauge last night for the third time in a week. The whole town smells like fish emulsion.

And I am, I think, remarkably unaffected by weather (or it may just be that I live in Indiana, where our pioneer stock has been obliterated, in just two generations, by air conditioning. It is possible, if one goes out in public frequently enough, to overhear the same Hoosier complain about the Heat, the Cold, the Breeze, and back to the Heat again in the course of 48 hours). I admit to a certain reluctance to squeegee out the garage yet again, and wet-vaccing enough water in the basement so that it will dry out if the out of doors ever does is always an unwelcome chore, but I think the reasons for my current malaise must lie elsewhere. There are a couple of threads in the weave. Last night my Poor Wife and I watched a Biography Channel piece on Animal House, a thing so delightful it makes John Landis appear tolerable, but which reminds us--sometimes pointedly--that Harold Ramis got the opportunity to write Groundhog Day while Doug Kenney got to write Caddyshack and fall off a cliff. It reminded us of the beauty of John Belushi and the legacy of Jim Belushi. It kept telling us that Animal House was some sort of godfather to the mucktide of teenage gross-out jerkoff exercises that followed, and that The National Lampoon was a sort of footnote to all this. Which is like saying the legacy of Kandinsky is that he inspired that painting elephant. It reminded us that somebody, somewhere, gainfully employed in the movie industry of the late 1970s, and so presumably aware of the Golden Era of '67-'76 just then turning to dust and hair-covered half-melted Milk Duds, wanted Chevy Chase to play Otter.

There's more. The long-delayed first pass (full albums only) at digitizing my vinyl collection reached the Ps, meaning I spent a week listening to Pere Ubu, being constantly reminded that certified genius was yet no guarantee your band would ever get a fair hearing, and which caused me, this morning, to consider whether Jonah Goldberg has ever confronted anything in the broadest definition of the arts which wasn't already pre-digested for him. Has the man ever expressed an attachment to anything the cheeseball culture rejects? (I was also reminded that David Letterman had given the Ubus a national stage, which by itself trumps everything the entire Palin clan has ever done, unless you imagine "single-handedly overpopulating pristine tundra" is an accomplishment of some sort.)

You may have already decided that it's Cold War IV which is givin' me the blues (do we all remember the "conservative" fad for naming--and debating--which World War they were currently leading? Let's join in. Do North Korea and Iran constitute one Cold War Revival, or Two?). "Obama Pressured To Strike Firmer Tone With Iran" says Helene Cooper today, referring to...wait for it...the reported positions of Iraq War Resolution signatories Joe Biden and Hilary Clinton. Can't anybody here play this game? Th' fuck do you people think just happened in Iraq? Do you think we stumbled around for five years before Finding The Key and making everything all right? No. We blew in there because a couple of psychopaths usurped the ultimate power of the World's Ultimate Power, and with it they transformed arrested sexuality, Daddy issues, and a hubris the size of Macedonia into an ill-timed, ill-planned disaster. The World's Most Overpriced Military did not simply lose to a country with no air power and a tenth-rate military reduced by two large-scale wars and fifteen years of international sanctions. No, it managed to lose to a country that didn't have a military at all, and which wasn't actually a country, churning our manpower and materiel into corn meal in the process. Whom are we supposed to be threatening? And with what? We figured out a way to buy ourselves out of trouble (largely) and present it as a victorious new understanding for domestic consumption. We aren't successfully out of Iraq yet, if that's still our intention, and that could yet prove to be tricky. The reason we didn't just pay everybody off and leave in April 2003 is that we would have seen clearly then what is willfully obscured today: it meant admitting defeat. It was a defeat, by the way, which came with the wise counsel of Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton.

We can no longer talk our way out of this; the more we talk the deeper we sink. We were formerly sinking because of the neocons revulsion with the truth. We continue sinking because the Democrats are equally afraid of it. So we find ourselves these comforting fictions, and shout 'em at the top of our lungs. But they aren't even the comforting fictions of religion; they're the same sorry excuses we used the last time, and the time before that. Why does our foreign policy sound like Jonah Goldberg makes sense, and Noam Chomsky is a sterno bum?
Declare yourself and your nation on the side of hope and change where it is more than a slogan and better than a rationalization for ever-bigger government. Stop measuring the success of your diplomacy with Iran by the degree to which the grinning, hate-filled stooge of a clerical junta will “temper” his rhetoric about the pressing need to destroy Israel and slow his ineluctable pursuit of nuclear weapons.

Instead, choose a higher standard. Look to history. Look to the aspirations of the students risking their lives and livelihoods to protest a sham election. Stop fawning over the mythological Muslim street only when it hates America, and look to the real Iranian street at the moment of its greatest need, when its heart may be open to loving America.

Really, if eight years of disaster is not enough of an answer to the perpetual campaign for hollow insincerity, then someone kindly remind this fuck just how much it accomplished when his side was in control. Weren't we all Georgians just last August? Weren't we Orange Revolutionaries and Cedar Revolutionaries before that? Is is at all peculiar that We weren't all Kurds as well, back when that would have been inconvenient for a Republican administration? Isn't it bad enough that a large chunk of American foreign policy is dedicated to the proposition that we can control the rest of the planet with our high-powered brain emanations? Does it have to be Jonah's brain?

Wednesday, June 17

Things To Ponder While Waiting For News Of The First "That Fly-Killing Proves Liberal Animal Coddlers Are The Real Murderers" Post To Hit

UNLESS I'm already too late on that.

• No, really, you do need to learn things after Kindergarten: I've mentioned before that my Poor Wife's classroom contains a set of the 1962 Collier's Encyclopedia, and that the casual examiner of roughly the same vintage and my shoe size may, nay, should be astonished at the level of Red baiting so clearly on display in an ostensible fact-reporting exercise. And it isn't like there's much that's happened in the intervening half-century to write it off as an aberration. As a result, neither the mass-market media nor the sort of "experts" it favors, are ever going to be able to yell loudly enough to convince me of anything similar. Not the threat of Kim Jong-il, not the moral outrage of Iranian elections stolen by a guy who, even prior to this, all Americans were presumably convinced would steal Their Baby's Medicine and use it to poison Jews. Never mind that his opponent isn't exactly the sort of friend we had in Ahmed Chalabi; never mind the Mullahs really run the country; never mind, as Glenn points out, that these are the exact same people whose large-scale incineration the Cheney administration and its elfin helpers contemplated on nearly every network Sunday gabfest for the previous six years. Is there some small but satisfying alteration in seratonin levels linked to going apeshit about these things, as opposed to just reporting the facts? Do you, in fact, know how to just report the facts?

Really, is it possible that our endless cycle of political fear-mongering--which, in the lifetime of those of us who've reached middle age, has gone from the possible thermonuclear destruction of the planet to the possible launch of a single radioactive missile with a 500-mile range and zero accuracy with absolutely no change whatsoever in tone--has some sort of biological imperative at its core? That the teleprompter readers and un-elected Fourth Branches of Government are, by their very self-absorbed roles, chemically induced to sound a warning to the rest of the herd? There's an idea for Conor Friedersdorf.

Greenwald, btw, links to Daniel Larison, who is also making sense, but whose rejection of the national impulse to morally condemn the human rights abuses of countries which refuse to play ball with us falls short, to the extent, at least, that we have no moral authority left.

• Speaking of the Cheney administration, it's bad enough the old bastid still commands air time; what exactly, Today Show, is in Lynne Cheney's expired portfolio? She's against heart attacks? That makes her a fucking pioneer or something? Maybe, just maybe, David Gregory could fucking think twice about being the second generation of Meet the Press host to foster incontinent Cheneyhood on the rest of us. Just sayin'. Not to mention the fact that the life Lynne Cheney is trying to save is that fucking prick of a husband of hers, perhaps in the hope that he can survive for a few more years of lying us into unnecessarily killing thousands more innocents.

And don't get me wrong; the more these two get the opportunity to encourage their Twenty Percenters, while reminding the reasonably conscious 60% they repulse exactly why, the better I like it.

• It may be too early to chalk another one up to the National Review Cover Curse, but the best cobbled-together plans of Budgetary Spork-Wielder Mitch "How's the Weather Down There?" Daniels gang aft agley on arrival at the Special Legislative Session he forced. (Late Breaking: the governor's CIB bailout scheme was killed by the House this morning. With luck the Senate won't be able to revive it, and the Board will go belly-up in October (the earliest, sunniest prediction), and the Colts and the NFL will try to field three months worth of games in the dark.) This is the way things work in these parts, which Daniels knows full well; the point is that he's never been able to stop grandstanding the process, which achieves nothing except a little face time, emphasis on the "little". Meanwhile, disgraced Mayor Gomer P. Ballard, USMC (ret), who got to dine on 'umbles last week in The Spork's pre-session photo-op, is now expressing doubts whether the necessary level of cuts can be achieved. This was your third plan, Pyle! At this point one cannot avoid the conclusion that his handlers Downtown have either abandoned any idea of a second term, or they're going for the the sympathy vote. Maybe a late reveal that the mayor Ain't Been Quite Right since his troops fragged him.

• Then again, there's evidence it Just Might get him re-elected: the sad news that a ten-year-old boy was killed last Thursday at 3 AM when struck by lightning at a popular commercial fishing hole on the city's far Southside (Motto: Gateway to Northern Alabama) turned into an episode of Maury yesterday when friends of the mother jumped the boy's paternal grandfather at the funeral, and the resulting melee sent three people to lockup and more to the hospital. Meanwhile, the Racist Star manages to find "experts" who say that the father's actions in exiting the tent where they'd first sought shelter for the safety of their vehicle was "exactly the right move".

Those experts, by the way, were a police department spokesman and a meteorologist. Which is pretty much like having a handwriting analyst and a polygraph operator say you made a good deal on your new car. Shoulda gone to the vehicle at the first sign of danger; shoulda known about the possibility of thunderstorms, which, in this instance, had actually been predicted. If you opted for the tent you should stay there unless there was a tree about to crush it. Crouch down, keeping on the ball of your toes to minimize ground contact. Better to be soaked than to be dead. And practice this stuff. When my Poor Wife and I were hiking either of us could yell "Lightning" at any time, and we had to respond properly, which included getting the sleeping pads off our packs to stand on. Yes, inside a car is safe; it's running for the car that's dangerous. And if you need "expert" advice on surviving in the woods, ask someone who actually does it.

Tuesday, June 16

Deeply Fried

MY Poor Wife watches CBS Sunday Morning, which is where the old movie house newsreels went to die, and which, incidentally, as CBS's abiding legacy of Charles Kuralt, is the second greatest monument to polygamy in the country. She does this because there is usually a fine arts segment which she tapes to show her classes. I mean she would, if doing so didn't violate copyright laws. (Seriously. She's scrupulous about that; I think you're permitted something like a one-week time-shift, and that's it.) She still tapes 'em.

And it's not like I'm a young man, or like I don't enjoy croquet, word games, and naps, but CBS Sunday Morning is seriously, pointedly, self-consciously wizened. And one of their regular vaudevillians is a guy named BIll Geist, who's like Andy Rooney without the good material. He's the author of several best-selling books, including The Big Five-Oh! Facing, Fearing, And Fighting Fifty. They are the sort of best-selling book which features the author on the cover pulling a face which indicates his basic, decent, regular guy confusion over one or more of life's little foibles. Perhaps you've read one, on a bet.

It's not like I walk down the street purposely destroying any whimsical yard ornament I see. Live, let live, and give terminal suburbanites whose IQs barely exceed their golf handicaps a wide berth, I always say. But then my Poor Wife watches this show, and it's on in the blasted AM of a Sunday, when going outdoors to escape it is frequently out of the question. And this week, apparently under the impression that Injury requires Insult to achieve what they call on Oprah "closure", Bill Geist went to a Politically Incorrect burger joint.

Yeah, a politically-incorrect burger joint, the Heart Attack Grill in Chandler, AZ, which specializes in the, let's say, massive, theatrically-presented dosages of fat and grease, lard-dipped, fried, and topped with sufficient cheeselike substance to physically camouflage two-to-four pounds of meat underneath shown above. This is known, in the Business, as schtick. When it is done to the exclusion of, or likely, for want of, actual good ideas the practitioner is known as "Carrot Top".

It is, in other words, the business concept of some guy who figured that the joke was good enough that you'd laugh just as hard the fiftieth time you heard it, and that furthermore there were enough people in, or passing through, the vicinity of Chandler, AZ so dedicated to striking a blow against Health Naziism that they'd spend money on this stuff. In this, the latter, we agree that the evidence suggests he's onto something; we are currently in the twenty-seventh year of the notion that saying something--anything, practically--which "violates" the "rules" of the "PC police" is as high as one need reach on the comedy or punditry scale. Although, for good measure, there's the hydraulically-enhanced waitresses in the Hooker Nurse outfits.

So we are not questioning the business acumen on display here; nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the public, as P.T. Barnum, or H. L. Mencken, or Milton Friedman once said. It is, from all appearances, just good old-fashioned hucksterism, and harmless, unless you actually eat the stuff, or care about the aesthetics of the plate, or have reached adulthood. No, rather, we walked into the room just as some culinary yahoo was stuffing parts of one of those treats directly into his gizzard, and were immediately struck with two questions. The first was, "What th' hell happened that the former haunt of Charles "Warm and Fuzzy Americana" Kuralt, the man who drove around the country for twenty-five years, looking for authentic feature stories of the 'Real America', as well as any wives or children he might have stashed somewhere and forgotten?" Do we really find that authentic America in strip malls now, or is it just that they're easier to get to? (The camera work, by the way, and Geist's leering old man knee-slappers, suggested it was, in fact, the nurse outfits.) The second--you may have tumbled onto this--was "How long is pre-packaged 'political incorrectness' going to amuse the easily amused and profoundly shallow?" Hasn't Political Incorrectness pretty much reached the point where it, too, is a series of someone else's strictures imposed on a powerless public at large? If one endures a quarter-century of any and every act which does not further the cause of White Guys Continuing To Run Everything being condemned as "PC", hasn't the mere passage of time set that in stone, too? Unless I eat a stick of bacon-wrapped lard, on a bun, extra cheese, I'm spoiling someone else's fun?

There was one other thing we wondered, namely, "Is Bill Geist gonna say 'You can almost feel your arteries clogging' six more times, or seven?"

Of course the point about "Political Correctness" was always the political; the correctness was pure construct, born of the spurious notion that the nation's colleges and universities were "censoring" "conservative" thought, which, of course, will remain nonsense so long as there are business schools and economics programs, and which, in the particular, was akin to complaining that the nation's symphony orchestras unfairly blacklist the works of Lynnerd Skynnerd. It managed to thrive for some reason, like aerosol cheese, Objectivism, and Chevy Chase, among people who are too lethargic to think things through. It collected petty grievances about warning labels, child-proof caps, and handicapped parking like a serge suit collects lint, and to much the same effect. The Politically Incorrect universe demands you share in the offense of the white male forced to think before he speaks. It has never asked you to share the offense of the people he used to offend with impunity.

Because, of course, it's bullshit. It's a collection of the chips from various right-wing establishment shoulders which happened to click at a time when the Democrats were running around pissing themselves because Ronald Reagan had been named King of America in perpetuity. And because, in all this time, it's those same wingers who are really PC. They're the ones who've talked around what they really wanted to say. Which is why I was amused by the reaction to the Letterman business which accused the Right of "adopting" Political Correctness when it suits them. The fact is that they've been its main practitioners all along, and it's only in the recent, dark days (dark clouds, dim prospects, dusky First Family) they've been driven to abandon it.

But not on a plate.

Sunday, June 14

And Look, If You Kids Haven't Seen Patty McCormack in The Bad Seed You Really Owe It To Yourselves

IN a frankly uncharacteristic bit of schadenfreude, Scott C. sends along two of NatRev's finest--Rich Lowry and Reihan Salam, which is what passes for finery in those parts--jumping on the Daniels 2012 bandwagon.

I have to admit that, when I was a younger man, this is the sort of thing that would threaten to ruin my breakfast. I honestly feel--have grown to feel--the same visceral revulsion to Indiana's Bonzai governor I once felt towards Ronald Reagan, and for many of the same reasons. They're both professional phonies and calculating little public liars, right down to their hairdos. They're both the beneficiaries of blatant, and shameless, rewrites of the public record by their political supporters. They both married Marie Antoinette.

There are distinctions. Reagan, reputedly, had charm, had a sense of humor (not that we all shared it), and probably was able to have sex with women before he amassed a personal fortune. Reagan, almost alone among 20th century Presidents, appeared to love the Pomp, Circumstance, and glad-handing more than he cared for the actual job; Daniels, if he can be said to enjoy anything beyond full-time ego husbandry, seems to prefer the part about telling other people what to do. Reagan was a fabulist; we cannot really be certain what, in his political persona, was genuine, what manufactured, and what a half-remembered movie he might or might not have appeared in. Daniels is a huckster. If you turned off the money spigot he'd go limp, which is pretty much what he was doing before all this Presidential nonsense started. I've had to watch the man for five years now, and aside from Keeping America A Place Where Rich People Can Get Over, I can't tell you a single thing he stands for. He has the soul of a fucking Account Manager. (The man has a two-day jail stint over marihuana possession in his jacket, and there's no indication whatsoever that he saw Reefer as anything other than a high-mark-up commodity with low advertising costs. At least Clinton acted like he felt he should be embarrassed. Daniels--while playing the Youthful Indiscretion Card--yet gives the impression of a man who thinks he was tripped up by some obscure accounting regulation. I'm telling you, kids, you hear a lot of bullshit about the Sixties, but there is one hard, fast rule: never trust anyone who sold weed just for the money. They're the juvenile animal-torturers of Hippiedom.) There are plenty enough Republican economic ideologues who'd be willing to pave over the state park system if there was money in it; Daniels gives the impression he's anxious to do so, and on spec. If you ever hear Daniels pitching Morning in America you can be pretty sure he just got a big donation from Kellogg's.

Of course the big difference is the era: Reagan benefitted from a sixteen-year campaign that finally caught the Nation's biorhythms at a triple low, while Daniels, absent some major Obama fuckup, will be sailing uphill, against a strong breeze, while dragging anchor. This is the principal reason I'm not running from car to car along the highway like Kevin McCarthy in Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

And before we delve into The Case for Mitch '12, let's note that his utter cupidity extends to the Republican base. He's got a few wingnut positions down pat, but in large part he's looked at Non-banking Republicans in the state the same way the Big Three Corn Beer Producers look at the average home brewer: as slightly annoying impediments to Profit, with a vaguely suspicious tendency to think and feel things. Rich "Kiss of Death" Lowry:
...more than any other Republican officeholder, Daniels points the way ahead for his bedraggled party. He’s a Reaganite who is not trapped in 1980s nostalgia; he’s a fiscal conservative who believes not just in limiting government, but in reforming it to address people’s everyday concerns; he’s a politician of principle who refuses to sell his program in off-puttingly partisan or ideological terms.

Absolutely right, except for the parts that are completely wrong. I doubt Mitch is "trapped in Reagan nostalgia", since that would require something approaching human sentiment, but he did give that inspiring commencement speech at Butler where he sniped at Baby Boomers like Reagan had his cops do at People's Park; his "reforms", mostly a matter of his first two years in office, have worked wonders, if your "everyday concerns" involve running your television station, finding someone's toll road to operate, or harvesting blocks of state-owned timber. If your everyday concerns involve food, water, shelter, and education for your children, well, not so much.

Finally, a word about Mitch's non-partisan salesmanship, and that word is "Fuckwits". He's a nasty little shit with a four-foot chip on his shoulder, and he's only five feet tall. During his first legislative session, in 2005, at the height of Iraqi insurgency, he called dilatory minority Democrats "car bombers". Honestly, if there's any truth to be found here at all--not that Truth has ever slowed down the GOP--it is, again, that Daniels has no real use for the red meat wing of the party, except as a reliable impediment to sensible environmental regulation. And I certainly understand the wishful thinking there, among the crowd at the Hudson Institute, for a candidate who can win without 'em, but please. If you think that's going to continue two weeks into the actual pre-campaign campaign you're farther gone than even I imagined.
When Daniels took office, the state had an $800-million deficit. He turned that into a $1.3-billion surplus (although it will be eaten into in the current downturn). Since 2005, he has saved roughly $450 million in the state’s budget and reduced the state’s rate of spending growth from 5.9 percent to 2.8 percent. “I tell you with certainty,” Daniels told his Washington audience, “concern about the debt and deficit has not gone out of style.”

Shades of Ronald Reagan. Now, budgets are complicated things, and I'm simple, but here goes: One, that deficit has been growing like the fish tale i' the adage; it was $500 million at the time, now it's $800-900. That deficit was not commonly so described before Mitch started running for Governor. It was the result of shifting accounts and obligations around to make the year-end look better, something which the state had been doing, with Democratic and Republican majorities in the Statehouse, for a couple of decades. We might also mention here that Indiana was particularly hard-hit by the first Bush II recession, the one where Mitch Daniels was director of the White House OMB. That is, then, that he returned to Indiana and campaigned as just the man to clean up the mess he'd helped create. It was the beginning of a theme.

Let us note, too, that we are talking about Indiana, not the Miraculous De-Stalinization of Eastern Europe, although Indiana Republicans tend to view fence-squatters like Evan Bayh as raving Bolshies. State spending is rarely luxurious or wanton, except for the parts you don't like. In 2005, with Republicans in control of both Houses and Daniels' campaign promises in their ears, the GOP froze state spending for two years across the board. They set about defunding state programs, leaving them the responsibility of local governments. In other words, when it came, say, to education, the state said, "Instead of working from a projection of how much money we need to accomplish our goals, we will simply freeze budgets, leave school districts to either make up the difference (in property taxes) or make cuts, both of will which occur at some remove, and then we trumpet our budget balancing." And it's a great accomplishment, assuming that's what you think governments ought to accomplish.

If you happen to differ, though, it's about as much of an accomplishment as leveling a tablespoon of flour is. Daniels sold off operation of the Toll Road for 75 years. Maybe a good deal, maybe not; in the absence of any extreme occurrence either way we'll have to leave that one to the distant future. An entire generation of Hoosiers yet unborn will grow up, learn to drive, grow old and die without ever getting to vote on the thing; we think they ought to decide on its success, after the money is accounted for. So far, part of it went into the slush fund that rewarded Wealthy Whitestan for its permanent Republican majority, and let it inflict roundabouts no one else wants on what was once a state highway, and a big chunk of it will go to building I-69, which environmentalists have fought my entire adult life, and which'll be great if you're a Canadian eagerly awaiting completion of the NAFTA highway, or if you're one of the nearly dozen people who've been complaining that the drive from Evansville to Indianapolis takes too long. You live in the smallest state west of New England!

Again, I'm no economics expert, but I know a thing or three about Indiana. It's not like our Democrats are chomping at the bit to run up the sort of debt Mitch oversaw at OMB. Hell, in most parts of the country it's not like they'd even be considered Democrats. No President is walking into Washington with a bag of flour, a measuring spoon and a ruler. God knows none of the Republicans we mistakenly elected over the last quarter century did so, or even made a halfway decent pantomime of it. Salam, brother:
One thing I find interesting about Daniels is that he was not very effective in the Bush White House, where his deficit-hating impulses were apparently checked by more powerful voices, he's really come into his own as governor. When he first came into office, he called for a tax hike on the most affluent Indianans. Though the surcharge was never passed, Daniels played against type and demonstrated his seriousness.

Okay, one, this is your second time touting Miracle Mitch; perhaps if you were actually doing the work you'd have learned by now that we're Hoosiers.

My god, how well the habits of Reagan hagiography have passed to a new generation! Daniels' spent thirty months at OMB, which were marked by the opposite of deficit reduction. In fact, they were marked by a new definition of The Opposite of Deficit Reduction. He wasn't there as an economist. He's not an economist. He was there as a manager. If his fiscal principles were being trampled by higher-ups he should have resigned earlier.

In fact, his budget-cuttin' persona as Indiana governor can be seen as an attempt to ameliorate his real record of service to his country. That "surcharge on the wealthy" business--please, get the news directly from an Indianan!--was practically the first thing out of his mouth, shocked the hell out of me, and lasted maybe all of two weeks while, predictably, his own party went ballistic. It is notable as the first, and practically the only time Mitch Daniels ever backed away from something his Enormous Brain had come up with (he did, with every other privatization scheme underperforming and/or mired in scandal, eventually give up on his hopes of selling off the Lottery, but that was never actually proposed; it stands in the same relation to the Toll Road sell-off and the Family and Social Services scam as On To Damascus! did to the neo-cons' war, namely, proof positive that all this is mostly just magical thinking).

It's possible he miscalculated; his very early tenure as governor betrayed an almost total innocence of the legislative process, though, as it turns out, this was just his ongoing belief that he could just point at things and cause them to burst into flames. It's also possible that the whole thing was calculated (as I suspected at the time) to present the image of Mitch Daniels, man with Demonstrated Seriousness! Jeez, taking a Brave but Doomed Stand in favor of something you know will never happen, thereby eliminating any chance you'll be shown up, is in the fucking libertarian-economic Republican DNA. Of course it also gave him an out on cutting programs, the Only Other Way to reduce the "deficit". And it's also notable as the last time he Seriously! proposed raising any sort of tax except the ones that have other people's fingerprints on them.

So look, kiddies; we understand your wish to be on top, your need to operate without oversight, and your desire that your clothing never go out of style. We are not concern trolls here, so we'll save the lectures about the difference between real change and finding someone who apes it, especially seeing as how the latter worked for you for so long. There's almost nothing we'd enjoy more than seeing The Mighty Atom out on the national hustings, calculating how much he needs to pander to the base without going Full Metal Mitt. One never says never, but my fellow Indianans and I have seen Daniels in action, and the way he suddenly lit up when the spotlight turned on him ought to clue you. This is not a Presidential campaign. It's another one of Cher's retirement tours.

Friday, June 12

Funny Thing Is, Come Here, Boy Is Said To Have Been Her Best Trick, Too

Caption: First Lady Nancy Reagan with First Dog Rex, a Cavalier King Charles spaniel, on the South Lawn of the White House, 1986. Courtesy of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library.

A Cavalier King Charles spaniel. Wow, that's unexpected. What were they originally bred for, rounding up dissidents?

Fun With Matrimony, Television, and Heroin, Vol. VIII

SO the Poor Wife and I were watching the idiot box, and one of those Deeply Caring Pharmaceutical Giant commercials comes on, this one for Alzheimer's, which is, in a way, the Cigarette of illness plugging, since they've got to get to you while you're still young, though of course the scale has slid. And so the suitably grey-haired but not superannuated woman is missing her keys, and just can't remember where she might have put them. The matter obviously troubles her deeply. Husband is informed. Husband opens the refrigerator. Keys are inside. Knowing look at helpmeet, still addled. Cue piano.

DR: So that's where I left 'em!

PW: Well, at least there'll be a light on when you go looking for them.

(And look: I rarely lose my keys, anymore, because for the first twenty years of my driving career they could be anywhere. My glasses are a little different story (though still much better than my youth) since I occasionally take 'em off outside for close-up work--I'll never get the hang of bifocals--or put 'em on the wrong shelf when I take a shower, and they'll stay lost until I retrace my steps. If only I would lose things in the fridge! At least you're guaranteed to look in there six or seven times before bed.)

Local news returns, with a story warning parents that their children could be on the smack! It's illustrated with a still of a twisted-off corner of a baggie, filled with white powder, beside a shiny Roosevelt dime.

PW: What's that dime doing there?

DR: It's for scale.

PW: What scale? You mean if you found an ounce and a half of white powder in your kid's pocket you'd decide it was nothing, because the bag was too big?

DR: Okay. Then it's metaphoric. It was a dime bag.

PW: So, what? they couldn't work a horse into the picture too?

(Which reminds me: the news hairdos also notified us this week that Bayer, once a proud member of the fine IG Farben family, was sending samples of its new powdered headache reliever through the mails, so listeners were instructed to relax their steady Homeland vigilance for the nonce, as it is trumped by the Profit Motive. Besides, being so tense all the time can lead to headaches and muscle tension, and where would you turn? These are the same people who went full metal apeshit over shampoo bombs a couple years back.)

Thursday, June 11


I Knew He Was Going To Say That: Surprising, no? that the nets didn't bother to invite any spokesmen for the nation's White Supremacist or Holocaust Denying organizations on air to renounce the Museum murders? To declare themselves Dedicated to Peaceful Change? What a difference one little week can make. Instant Karma, dudes. Check the recent history of the Republican party. You didn't think that was possible either, did you?

Of course it isn't all that recent, is it? The Reagan Miracle collapsed about as quickly as it was enacted, and it didn't take long before David Stockman had to admit the whole thing had been a conjurer's trick, something which came as an enormous surprise (not the conjuring bit, but the fact that there were some people out there who needed to be told). How many times--and how severely--were you burned by the Bush administration? I'm not asking when the accumulated levels of Obvious Bullshit will reach the point at which you feel desperate enough to start telling the truth, rather than shaping it, because we already know the answer is "Never". I'm just asking how you do it, personally, and how you still manage to look in the mirror, which for some of you must be eighty times a day. I do not believe, at the upper levels of network news, e.g., that everyone is that stupid. Nor do I believe that, in 2009, you're still afraid of right-wing emails, or still believe Zombie Dick Nixon will slink out in the middle of the night and revoke your Press privileges.

Then again, what was absolutely identical was the announcement that police think We've got a Lone Nut here! which, again, ran what must have been concurrently with them going through his pockets for the first time. It's incredible, and I mean that literally. I happen to live in a city where the murder rate exceeds the national average by a sizable fraction, and I never hear that about local snuffs. The cops haul in anyone in the general vicinity of a suspect, and when it's a Red Ball it's arrest 'em in time for the local news, then kick 'em in the early AM when you hope no one's looking. People are arrested for driving a vehicle that half-matches a partial description the cops got from an eighty-year-old glaucoma sufferer down the block. In the big feticide case last year (pregnant bank teller shot during robbery) they had about fifteen people in custody at one point, none of whom turned out to be involved, and the news hairdos were still spinning out everyone's alleged roles after they'd been cut loose. They nabbed two high school students because they were trying to sneak back into the nearby school which had been locked-down while they were off larking. It may very well be that these were Lone Nut cases, but instantaneously is not the time frame when that should be decided.

• All This Blather about the Consequences of Gay Marriage, Not a Word about the Nineteen Years and Counting of Public Cock Sniffing: Terry McAuliffe loses a Virginia primary. "Thank God. The Clinton era really is over, innit?" sez Sully. "One big loser was Bill Clinton, as the McAuliffe loss will be seen (rightly, mostly) as an echo of the Clinton loss and another blow to the Clinton brand," sez Ben Smith. "McAuliffe Loss Wraps Clinton Era," shouts the National Journal. These are your professional political pundits, folks, and welcome to 'em. Although this did provide a moment's merriment, when my googling took me to the Booman Tribune, where a similar-themed rant prompted AliceDem to ask, "Which didn't you like, was it the peace or the prosperity?"

Here's HuffPo columnist and Obama anal protuberance Jacob Heilbrunn:
McAuliffe epitomizes an earlier era, when political success translated into quick financial gain. He is redolent of the sleaze that permeated the Clinton presidency without any of its redeeming aspirations. Somehow McAuliffe parlayed a $100,000 investment in Atlantic Crossing, the forerunner to Global Crossing, into $18 million. As chairman of the Democratic National Committee, his only mission was to raise funds rather than devise a new political mission for the party. It has fallen to President Obama to stake out a new course that combines electoral savvy with genuine idealism.

Good Lord; Terry McAuliffe made money on the internets in the 1990s? How is it he's not still in prison?

Fer chrissakes. Is Terry McAuliffe a sleezy operator? Sure. Would I vote for him for governor of my state? Depends on whether he was running against Mitch Daniels or not. Would I throw him out of the Democratic party? Well, it's neither my party nor my problem, but if it were I'd damn sure be more circumspect about whom I called "redolent".

Krishna H. Vishnu, do you fucking whippersnappers think the Democratic party was lily-white before Bad Billy Clinton came along? It wasn't. It was dirty and mired in a national losing streak--to, may I remind you, the Fucking Psychopaths of the Republican party--that gave no signs of letting up. Was he my choice for President? Only in that I voted for him twice. Only in that he was preferable to four more years of the hind end of the Reagan administration, followed by eight years of J. Danforth Quayle. Get a pre-paid phone card and call somebody who knows. You fuckin' fucks trot out "sleeze" and "NAFTA" and "welfare reform" because you heard somebody else say it. We're not yet six months into the Genuine Electoral Savvy and Idealism regime. Has President Obama done nothing you've disagreed with? If so, you're an idiot. You think it took "electoral savvy" to defeat the Republicans in 2008? Really? What do you think it took to defeat the ass end of Reaganism, at a time when the Repugs threatened to regain Congress with every election? Pah. Bill Clinton wasn't my Dream Chief Executive, either, but then neither did I think he was the one-eyed snake of America's Fall from Grace. Then, or especially, now.

Just out of curiosity, any of youse guys remember who Sully supported for President in 2000?

• Oh, and sorry we missed that Legislative deadline: Despite crossing paths twice last week with Bonzai Mitch we never could quite work in the Final Solution to Indianapolis' little negative $45 million problem with the Capital Improvements Board (Motto: "Public Funding for the Private Good"), which was a real corker. At that Daniels 2012 photo-op last week the Mighty Atom stood next to Mayor Gomer Pyle, USMC, and depantsed him without anyone in the audience noticing. After prefacing the thing with a "The mess this man (Gomer) inherited..."--delivered, with a straight face, by the man most responsible for said mess--he proceeded to announce the (proposed) elimination of the Board and the gentle folding of its portfolio into the Marion County Building Authority, creating a new entity which would now have a minority of its members appointed by the mayor, as opposed to the old CIB, which was pure local hog fat.

The real treat--it's no trick for Mayor Pyle to act like he doesn't understand what's going on--was how suddenly two consulting firms which looked at the CIB operations noticed that it seemed to cost an order of magnitude more per revenue dollar generated to operate these facilities in Indianapolis than anyplace else the consultants could locate on earth. You didn't see this before? The recommendation now is for $27 million dollars in expense reductions for an operation which was only $30-some-odd-million in the red before the Pacers demanded $15 million in concessions, or else they're gonna go shoot up some other town's strip clubs.

No word yet on whether the discrepancy will trigger an investigation by the Inspector General young Mitch required the Republican legislature to create for him in 2005, the better to root out corruption in previous Democratic administrations. In fact, there's been no word on the Inspector General, well, ever, since the office was used to knock off a couple of skimming State Police officials the week after it was created. For all we know the man may be dead in there. And the other thing was that, if anyone happened to notice that the solution to the CIB problem bore a distinct resemblance to the Daniels-orchestrated takeover of the Football Barn Construction Program, itself a major cause of the red ink, they were too polite to mention it. This is Indiana.

• The Last Extra Mile: Can't leave without mentioning how truly moving the coverage of weepy ex-Chrysler dealers was, particularly coming from the same fucking people who were demanding massive restructuring and union give-backs what seems like thirty minutes ago. Indiana, of course, was smack-dab in the center of all this, being the claimant seeking a Court stay, as well as having Chrysler plants and associated businesses idled, and dealerships closed, so it was interesting watching local news use national feeds to cover the story, rather than, y'know, putting their choppers to use flying over to a closing car lot and talking to someone themselves. The single exception was the face-time given state treasurer Richard Mourdock, the suit behind the suit. Now that the state has gotten, predictably, nothing out of the deal but the $million-dollar price tag for legal fees, Mourdock's making the rounds saying he was legally obligated to file the suit--maybe; I dunno--and how he was never overruled on a single point of Law! The operation was a failure, and the patient died, but damn!, Dick, nice shiny set of scalpels.

Tuesday, June 9


BING! Finally there's a search engine for the Zune Age!


• When Ross Douthat makes more sense than you do, on a social issue, no less, it's either time to give it up, or time to keep your job at Slate: The Gray Lady's youngest columnist evah [caution: face mullet] pens a column on abortion which actually, sorta, kinda, a bit backhandedly, sure, manages to approach the issue as it is (a matter of Constitutional law), acknowledges that there is some counter-argument out there to the idea that Abortion is One Big Contraceptive Lark for procrastinators (which is to say Ross simply tries to pawn an Ace or two, as opposed to Saletan stacking the deck before dealing them to his straw adversaries), and goes the whole 750 words without referencing that Gallup poll. Someone once noted that Patience was that virtue we admire in the driver behind us, but not the one ahead, and if so, Douthat is still a tailgater, but he's not swerving madly from side to side while blowing his horn incessantly while caught behind a half-mile of traffic. Then again, he doesn't write for Slate.

Still, the Right's legal mythos apparently cannot be cast down the stairs if it still clings by age 25 or so; it's interesting how often people who claim that whenever the courts expand (personal) rights they are acting in loco senatorium yet believe the solution to this is achieving a legislative majority on the Court:
If anything, by enshrining a near-absolute right to abortion in the Constitution, the pro-choice side has ensured that the hard cases are more controversial than they otherwise would be.

Standing Truth on its head does have the advantage of allowing weasels to see it eye-to-eye, but, alas, this never has the desired effect. Let's try this again: had laws criminalizing abortion been properly, i.e., Constitutionally, formulated in the first place there would have been no Roe, because access to abortion was a fundamental (i.e. Constitutional) right unjustly taken away without the bother of the amendment process. By rights it would have been your side, Ross, which was agitating for judicial legislation. Go argue with the 19th century.
One reason there’s so much fierce argument about the latest of late-term abortions — Should there be a health exemption? A fetal deformity exemption? How broad should those exemptions be? — is that Americans aren’t permitted to debate anything else.

Oh bosh. The reason we argue over late-term abortions is that in forty years it's the only place where your side gained enough traction to assert some measure of (judicially sanctioned) legislative control. The anti-choice movement may be conflicted, confused, and/or dishonest about much of the issue, but it is not notably constrained by considerations of the trimester in which the Murder takes place. In fact, it is constrained only by internal political considerations from adding Contraception to its list of felonies.
The result would be laws with more respect for human life, a culture less inflamed by a small number of tragic cases — and a political debate, God willing, unmarred by crimes like George Tiller’s murder.

Know what, Ross? You broke it, you bought it. The GOP had a quarter century to make abortions illegal, it had twenty-five years to limit the debate to the third Trimester, and it had two-and-a-half decades to put anti-abortion terror organizations in prison. No middle ground will stop those people. Your people.

• I'm sorry, but must coverage of the sentencing of Eula Lee and Laura Ling make the debate over Who Lost China sound rational? Brutal regime? Check. International ploy, ulterior motives, bad actors on the world stage? Okay. But does applying all this by the trowelful make it more truthy or something? Is impotent railing supposed to make people feel better? I surely don't mind, but it does ring hollowing coming from the same bunch that peddled the rationale for the Iraq war, pushed paid Pentagon shills as non-partisan experts, and, to this day, presents Dick Cheney's continually-shifting liefest as one side of a national debate. One-way skepticism is the mark of religious conviction, not accurate reporting.

• Then there's what they are good at, which, locally, means shilling for Miley Cyrus appearances. I am too old to give a fuck, of course, except for a few philosophical questions: Is that what you went to college for? Given that it's the worst imaginable sort of commercial ipecac, and at the service of the soul-destroying Disney Corporation, which could survive very well without your free plugs (ABC is gettin' paid, sure), and, given that the average American likely believes in Jebus, angels, astrology, UFOs, Biblical cryptograms, Oprah, or psychology, making it odds-on that at least some of you imagine there's some psychic payment for all this to be collected by someone somewhere down the road, is there any shit you wouldn't eat off a plate, on air, for a dollar? And since you do this sort of thing day-in, day-out, with no recently recorded suicides, do you have someone else shave you, or do you still trust yourself with a razor? This last applies just to the men, plus one of the women.

The worst, though, was opening up the virtual front page of that virtual newspaper, The Indianapolis Racist Star and Shopping Guide to see the following headline hanging over the byline of the guy who occupies what used to be the pop music critic's chair:

Miley tickets will cut out the middle man.

Which, of course, one reads just to find out what sort of distortion is taking place, since the idea that "Miley Cyrus" would go to war with Ticketmaster is about as likely as "Johnnie Walker" turning Prohibitionist. Turns out, of course, that in the universe of Six Helpings of Turd Each Day! Ticketmaster is not a middle man. Ticket brokers are the middle man, and Ticketmaster is God's Own Sword of Just and Equitable Concert Prices for the parental ATMs of consumer-goods addled tweens.

Ticket scalping is legal in Indiana, except when the NCAAs or some other supra-legal organization comes to town to rent one of the stadia we maintain for 'em. Then it's suddenly illegal within whatever radius the city decides to enforce. Similarly, the point of this exercise has nothing whatever to do with fairness, and everything to do with PR; it's all about unleashing hordes of zombielike consumerettes on hapless parents, then tossing a few crumbs for them to fight the pigeons over. You think Ticketmaster's gonna thwart brokers from buying up the first six rows for Creed, or Crue Fest 2, if they want 'em?

And I fuggin' love ticket brokers, since there's about one event every three years that catches my attention, and I know that if I'm willing to pay 2/3 of face value for a single fucking Eagles ducat the Poor Wife an' I'll be sitting right up front. Surely now is an excellent time to teach mindless tweens a little something about Supply and Demand? Even if it's too late to teach their parents the value of contraception, or boarding school?