Wednesday, August 31

Shut Up I

There's a little folder nestled inside my blog bookmarks with a dozen or so right-wing blogs. There used to be a couple I read every day and commented on occasionally, but around the time their pet adventure in Iraq started going south the civility and rationality some had prided themselves on (deservedly or not) flew out the window and I just gave up. There's a couple I read on a sporadic basis, but I don't mine them for material. If you see a piece about Powerline here it's close to a sure bet I saw a link somewhere else.

I really wanted no part of any reaction to Katrina from the right, and I was just following a link about some information I was curious about when I wound up at and found this:
Dear Less-Than-Decent Left :

We interrupt your previously scheduled shrieking of "Blame Chimpy McBushitlerCo!" and "We can blame this all on global warming!" to bring you this much-needed dose of reality:

We don't want to ruin your little view of the world, but America's corporate giants are stepping up in a big way to help those in need.

The link, incidentally, took me to a Kos entry talking about the reduction of our National Guard forces. How that qualifies as blaming Chimpy McBushitlerCo or global warming I'm as unclear on as how corporate donations refute it.

The science behind global warming speaks for itself, and your political objections don't change a thing. As for Bush, maybe it's now time Republicans start accepting responsibility for what they've wrought. In reality it's long overdue, but a generation of insisting that taxes be cut and cut and cut, offered as a Unified Theory of Improving Everything, followed by a foolhardy invasion of Iraq manned largely by the National Guard and Army reserve in order to avoid the political fallout of conscription, now lie on the President's doorstep. That criticism is fair and justified.

Well at that point some instinct I should have resisted took hold of me and I checked in with Michelle Malkin. I think I already knew what I'd find:
Meanwhile, over at the Daily Kos , one diarist and some of his commenters are going absolutely insane with their Bush hatred and blaming him for wanting to kill off black residents of New Orleans.


I pray other liberal bloggers will rise above this muck and join the blogger relief effort.

Now, first, I give Michelle credit for the rhetorical restraint of directing her objections to the people who actually made the comments instead of blaming Norbizness' alter ego. And I thank her for her prayers. I return the compliment by saluting the efforts of those right-wing bloggers' relief effort she touted without noting that I personally imagine anyone who can find his way onto the internet can also find a way to contact the Red Cross without my putting up a banner.

But the thing that struck me amidst the humanitarianism was that the twenty-five mentions of the word "looting" on her front page included this:
A state police official, Col. Henry Whitehorn of the Louisiana State Police, says: "Based on what I've seen on the news, there's a lot of chaos." Oooo-kay. No condemnation of the looting. No warning to looters that they will pay consequences.

In a natural disaster which in New Orleans alone may dwarf anything we've experienced in the last century, where thousands of people, mostly poor, are stranded without electricity in 90º heat, with no running water, no food, and little or no information, just exactly where should preventing people from taking what's of use to themselves from stores which will never open to sell it to them rank on our list of priorities? What "consequences" should we be threatening them with? I ask in all seriousness; I'm eager to learn how the "humanitarian" mind works.

Shut Up II

John McCain, on CBS Sunday morning:
Vietnam never had a legitimate government in Saigon that the people believed in and trusted. There was superpower engagement in a huge way. [In Iraq] we [have] a problem with the Syrians -- but nothing like what the Chinese and Russians were doing for the North Vietnamese. You had basic sanctuary in North Vietnam. The whole situation, I think, was very, very different.

Funny thing about comparisons: they never work if they aren't honest. "Saigon" never had a legitimate government because "South Vietnam" was a creation of the United States, and its government existed only because we prevented national elections in 1956 under the Geneva Accords because our side was going to lose. The US recognized the government of Bao Dai in 1950, then the overthrow by rigged referendum installing Ngô Dình Diem in 1955, and after that the various corrupt military strongmen we played footsie with for our own political ends. Sorta like Saddam whatsisname.

So the suggestion that this time we have a real, honest-to-goodness democratically backed government in Iraq which is free to write its own constitution so long as it meets our approval should be taken under advisement. It's what we said the last time, Senator.

And for the record, since this is still not very well understood, before 1965 or so the Viet Minh were supplied from three sources: leftover weapons from the French colonialists, homemade weapons, and what they captured from us (or what we supplied to our friends in Saigon that they turned around and sold). The Russians didn't really begin supplying the Vietnamese until after they'd given us a couple of black eyes, and the Chinese, no real friends of the Vietnamese, basically just permitted Soviet supplies to move through their territory unimpeded. But thanks for the opportunity to dispel some cherished Vietnam War myths; it's always good to keep in practice.

Tuesday, August 30

Well, That Settles It. It Really Was A Working Vacation

"The President is obviously aware of the scope of the disaster."
--NBC's Bob Kur, from the White House

Look, let's be fair. The President--even the poorly-spoken, ill-informed, unengaged, sorry excuse of a backwater Junior Chamber of Commerce huckster we're saddled with now--has a symbolic, extra-Constitutional role to play in times of national disaster. Does it occur to any of you that that role is in fact undercut by the perpetual nose-wiping and meat-cutting you feel you have to do for the man? You're talking about the actual Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, who's managed to conduct The Global War on Terror in between bike rides and ten-hour naps for the past month, and now he's springing into action as the titular head of FEMA? And it's not like I took that sentence out of context--that pretty much was the report. And Bill didn't even get invited to the barbecue.

Happy Birthday

Robert Crumb, born August 30, 1943

Wall To Wall

Katrina coverage reminded me of Albert Brooks on the old Letterman show many moons ago, talking about his in-flight movie being Six Pack with Kenny Rogers and wondering if the plane was going down would they at least switch to Paths of Glory or something? "I don't wanna die with Kenny," is how he put it.

So, in the case of a hurricane you've been tracking for days, weeks, and particularly one with such a potential for serious consequences, wouldn't it be possible to bring in real journalists? People who can speak extemporaneously or think on their feet? Warn viewers first, if you must. "Due to the exceptional circumstances the world finds itself in at present, we have replaced Ken & Barbie with real journalists. Please do not panic. Regularly scheduled fluffery will return as soon as feasible."

I have friends in N'awlins. I was trying to watch early Monday. Gad. Ten minutes at a time, tops, was all I could take, switching back and forth between MSNBC and CNN like that would act as a studpidity tourniquet. I heard one guy refer to a "very heavily forested trees area" and watched as a forklift hoisted another to demonstrate how high twenty feet was. Wow. It was way up near the ceiling.

Monday, August 29

Like You Didn't Already Know The Soundtrack Of Your Life Sucks

Via Roxanne, the You Graduated In A Crappy Year For Music meme (list Top 100 Pop Hits for your graduating year; hilarity results). Roxanne struck out the songs she hated. I follow her convention only because hunting down everyone involved and killing them slowly is impractical. Riley approved efforts are in bold, comments in italics, hell, it's self-explanatory and too long already:

Top 100 Hits of 1972

1. The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face, Roberta Flack
Never got it.
2. Alone Again (Naturally), Gilbert O'Sullivan
Our first candidate for public disembowelment.
3. American Pie, Don McLean
Can't believe chewing on this thing is still a cottage industry.
4. Without You, Nilsson
Great cover of a Pete Ham/Tom Evans song from an enormously talented guy who, when he climbed to the Toppermost of the Poppermost immediately released an album giving Warner Brothers the finger.
5. Candy Man, Sammy Davis Jr.
There is absolutely nothing I could say.
6. I Gotcha, Joe Tex
Transitional between his great 60s work and his bad case of the cutes in the 70s.
7. Lean On Me, Bill Withers
Bill was capable of some great work, but his most famous hit ain't it.
8. Baby Don't Get Hooked On Me, Mac Davis
Commercial country has never recovered from Mac Davis.
9. Brand New Key, Melanie
As if Melanie wasn't bad enough, it's Melanie being sexually suggestive.
10. Daddy Dont You Walk So Fast, Wayne Newton
That's it. There is no God.
11. Let's Stay Together, Al Green
Because if there was a God, how could this possibly rank below Wayne Newton?
12. Brandy (You're A Fine Girl), Looking Glass
Ick. Doo-doo doo-doo/ doo-doo-doo doo-doo. No one but Tom Waits should ever sing about sailors.
13. Oh Girl, Chi-Lites
I'm leaving this in neutral. These guys were from Chicago, but the sound is pure Philly, and by the mid-70s the Philly sound was all cream and no Kahlua.
14. Nice To Be With You, Gallery
Tony Orlando wannabe.
15. My Ding-A-Ling, Chuck Berry
Chuck, how could you?
16. If Loving You Is Wrong I Don't Want To Be Right, Luther Ingram
17. Heart Of Gold, Neil Young

18. Betcha By Golly, Wow, Stylistics
See #13, though this is closer to bold because the Stylistics were the best of the lot.
19. I'll Take You There, Staple Singers
To the bone.
20. Ben, Michael Jackson
Theme song from a rat-movie sequel.
21. The Lion Sleeps Tonight, Robert John
22. Outa-space, Billy Preston
23. Slippin' Into Darkness, War
24. Long Cool Woman (In A Black Dress), Hollies
Never got this either. I'm surprised to learn it wasn't higher ranked. Tinny Brit-soul vocal from a band that doesn't deserve to be remembered.
25. How Do You Do, Mouth and MacNeal
Hippie bubblegum. "Sounds like Mouth & MacNeal" was one of my favorite insults long after everyone had forgotten who they were.
27. Song Sung Blue, Neil Diamond
28. A Horse With No Name, America
"The heat was hot."
28. Popcorn, Hot Butter
Most annoying instrumental ever. Period. My roommate in the dorm had the 45. He played it twice. They still haven't found his body.
29. Everybody Plays The Fool, Main Ingredient
More cream, but a good song.
30. Precious And Few, Climax
31. Last Night I Didn't Get To Sleep At All, 5th Dimension
32. Nights In White Satin, Moody Blues
Ersatz trippy proto-progs in everyone's 8-track collection.
33. Go All The Way, Raspberries
34. Too Late To Turn Back Now, Cornelius Brothers and Sister Rose
35. Back Stabbers, O'Jays
The Supremes of Philadelphia. These guys got the A material while others were more deserving. How is this all the way down here?
36. Down By The Lazy River, Osmonds
37. Sunshine, Jonathan Edwards
Paving the way for John Denver.
38. Starting All Over Again, Mel and Tim
39. Day Atter Day, Badfinger
40. Rocket Man, Elton John
I didn't hate Dame Elton until later, but this sucks.
41. Rockin' Robin, Michael Jackson
Again with the animals? Michael's gonna wind up in trouble some day, mark my words.
42. Beautiful Sunday, Daniel Boone
43. Scorpio, Dennis Coffey and The Detroit Guitar Band
44. Morning Has Broken, Cat Stevens
I like Cat, but this takes all his worst features and exaggerates them.
45. The City Of New Orleans, Arlo Guthrie
Barely passable version of a great Steve Goodman song.
46. Garden Party, Rick Nelson
And I like Rick, and I can appreciate the sentiment, but if there's anything worse than a story song, it's a whiny story song.
47. I Can See Clearly Now, Johnny Nash
48. Burning Love, Elvis Presley
The best late Elvis, I think, but please don't make me go over the catalogue to make sure.
49. Clean Up Woman, Betty Wright
50. Hold Your Head Up, Argent
Rod Argent (Zombies) could write a song, and he got away with an excursion into psychedelica, but nobody gets away with that Vanilla Fudge organ stuff.
51. Jungle Fever, Chakachas
52. Everything I Own, Bread
53. In The Rain, Dramatics
54. Look What You Done For Me, Al Green
55. The Happiest Girl In The Whole U.S.A., Donna Fargo
I'd just pass this by without comment, but it's notable for giving voice to the same late-Vietnam, head-in-the-sand fallback position that gave us Happy Talk News.
56. Bang A Gong (Get It On), T. Rex
Like Zeus' own thunderbolt.
57. Mother And Child Reunion, Paul Simon
58. Where Is The Love, Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway
59. I'm Still In Love With You, Al Green
60. Layla, Derek and The Dominos
61. Day Dreaming, Aretha Franklin
Meaning no disrespect to either, this is a Dionne Warwick song.
62. The Way Of Love, Cher
In a sure-to-be controversial move the judges are leaving this one in neutral, because kicking someone singing what should have been a Leslie Gore song as light opera, through her sinus cavities, seems superfluous.
63. Black And White, Three Dog Night
64. Sylvia's Mother, Dr. Hook and The Medicine Show
65. Hurting Each Other, Carpenters
66. Coconut, Nilsson
I know, I know. Neutral's too good for it, but Harry was a music hall guy at heart, and I don't think he imagined this would be a hit. Plus it's a three-minute song with one stupid punchline, yet I don't think anybody actually got it.
68. Puppy Love, Donny Osmond
A cover, no less.
69. You Don't Mess Around With Jim, Jim Croce
Flying a beat-up single engine plane was the best career move he ever made.
70. Hot Rod Lincoln, Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen
71. A Cowboy's Work Is Never Done, Sonny and Cher
72. Joy, Apollo 100
73. Anticipation, Carly Simon
Better as a ketchup commercial.
74. Never Been To Spain, Three Dog Night
75. Kiss An Angel Good Morning, Charlie Pride
76. School's Out, Alice Cooper
"We can't even think of a word that rhymes!" Plus this was before he became the Vincent Price of rock.
77. Saturday In The Park, Chicago
78. Drowning In The Sea Of Love, Joe Simon
Which makes the Simons 1-for-3.
79. Use Me, Bill Withers
80. Family Affair, Sly and The Family Stone
81. Troglodyte, Jimmy Castor Bunch
82. The Witch Queen Of New Orleans, Redbone
83. Freddie's Dead, Curtis Mayfield
84. Power Of Love, Joe Simon
85. Ain't Understanding Mellow, Jerry Butler and Brenda Lee Eager
Not my favorite, but The Iceman could do little wrong.
86. Taxi, Harry Chapin
A story song. A fourteen-minute story song.
87. Don't Say You Don't Rememeer, Beverly Bremers
I don't.
87. Sealed With A Kiss, Bobby Vinton
88. I Saw The Light, Todd Rundgren
I think he was being billed as "Runt" when this was released. It's actually a remake of the version he did with the The Nazz.
89. Motorcycle Mama, Sailcat
90. Day By Day, Godspell Soundtrack
Jesus Christ, Superstar, meet Leo Sayer.
91. Roundabout, Yes
There was a chance to strangle them in the cradle, and we missed it.
92. Doctor My Eyes, Jackson Browne
I don't mean to be too harsh, because he was my wife's dream date, but it was all downhill from here for Jackson, the posterboy for sensitive, country-rock California singer-songwriters backed by slick studio musicians with no feel whatsoever.
93. I'd Like To Teach The World To Sing, New Seekers
I may make an exception to that "hunting down and killing" remark.
94. Vincent / Castles In The Air, Don Mclean
95. Baby Let Me Take You (In My Arms), Detroit Emeralds
96. Speak To The Sky, Rick Springfield
I have no memory of this.
97. I'd Like To Teach The World To Sing, Hillside Singers
God, it's here twice?? Have to hire a hitman, then.
98. Walking In The Rain With The One I Love, Love Unlimited
99. Good Foot, Pt. 1, James Brown
Why was everything "Pt. 1" with James? I had an ongoing feud with my music major neighbor, who thought James' output in the 70s beat his 60s stuff. This is no Cold Sweat, Pt. 1. But it's still James.
100. Pop That Thang, Isley Bros.
Nice to end on a high point.

Per Rox I have to pick a favorite? The Staples.

The Carousel Will Not Be Turning Until Further Notice

The New Pornographers: Twin Cinema. Nine thumbs up, at least.

Happy Birthday

Charlie "Yardbird" Parker (August 29,1920--March 12,1955)
Jack Teagarden (August 29, 1905--January 15, 1964)

Bobo On The Couch

Note that Mr. Riley neither engages in, nor encourages in any way the inclination of others to engage in, anything resembling "psychology". The latter group includes persons of his acquaintance who are, in fact, "psychologists" by trade. Mr. Riley, who remains mired in the 60s, expresses a preference for the iconoclasm of R.D. Lang over the fantasies of Dr. Sig Heiler. Psychological insight should be left to the professionals of The Learning Channel.

Mr. Riley was once informed by one of the above acquaintances, in casual conversation, mind you, that his inability to remember his dreams beyond waking "must be for some reason", the implication being that said reason involved hiding deep dark secrets from himself due to "compensation", "dissociative complex", or fear of something-or-other the ancient Greeks used to tell stories about. Riley believes the reason, if there is one, is more closely related to the reason he can't remember where he left his car keys.

Not that he insists he is the picture of emotional health, which would of course place him "in denial". He freely admits that the opposite is the case, a fact he underscores on the Internet on an almost daily but not particularly "obsessive" basis. It is rather that he believes this to be the case with every human being on the planet capable of feeling emotion and has to question the philosophical basis of letting one small subset of that group decide to lock up another. He is forced to acknowledge, sadly, that somebody's always gonna be locking up somebody else for something, and sometimes for very good reasons. Riley's a practical man, which is why when psychologists finally manage to "cure" people of homosexuality or masturbation, say, or their erroneous insistence that intoxication can be enjoyable, he'll sign up. In the meantime, his repeated hurling of the phrase "poor potty training" at his adversaries is merely for its rapidly dwindling comic effect.

Anyway, the couch is open. David Brooks, please make yourself comfortable. What's your problem, exactly? Oh, How to win in Iraq. Very common form of delusion these days. Did you read the intro? We don't have much sympathy for delusion around here, unless it's accompanied by living on the streets amid fabulous and brightly colored animal life. Your particular brand of delusion we like to refer to as "willful".

"Andrew Krepinevich is a careful, scholarly man. A graduate of West Point and a retired lieutenant colonel, his book, 'The Army and Vietnam,' is a classic on how to fight counterinsurgency warfare. "

Y'know, I've been looking for a good book on how the U.S. Army was so successful in Vietnam. I'll pick that up as soon as I've finished Laura Bush's book on safe driving.

"Over the past year or so he's been asking his friends and former colleagues in the military a few simple questions: Which of the several known strategies for fighting insurgents are you guys employing in Iraq? What metrics are you using to measure your progress?

The answers have been disturbing. There is no clear strategy. There are no clear metrics."

I'm sorry, there must have been some mistake. I was told you were delusional, not that you've just come out of a three-year coma.

"Krepinevich's proposal is hardly new. He's merely describing a classic counterinsurgency strategy, which was used, among other places, in Malaya by the British in the 1950's."

Ah, yes, Malaya, the favorite example of the forced-relocation counterinsurgency plan among neocons who've recently regained consciousness, for the simple reason that it's the only time it's worked. But Malaya was a guerilla war, not an insurgency, the enemy were the minority ethnic Chinese most Malayans didn't care for, and they were fighting side by side with the same Brits they'd fought the Japanese with. Now, as I say, I'll be picking up Colonel Krepinevich's article just as soon as I finish How To Be A Respected Pop Vocalist by Ashlee Simpson, but maybe you can fill in some details for me. How exactly is this supposed to work in Iraq? We back...whom? The Shi'a? We relocate the population of Baghdad where now?

"You set up safe havens where you can establish good security. Because you don't have enough manpower to do this everywhere at once, you select a few key cities and take control. Then you slowly expand the size of your safe havens, like an oil spot spreading across the pavement.

Once you've secured a town or city, you throw in all the economic and political resources you have to make that place grow. The locals see the benefits of working with you. Your own troops and the folks back home watching on TV can see concrete signs of progress in these newly regenerated neighborhoods. You mix your troops in with indigenous security forces, and through intimate contact with the locals you begin to even out the intelligence advantage that otherwise goes to the insurgents."

Mr. Brooks, may I remind you that the first step towards getting help is admitting you have a problem?

We had a plan. It was called "overthrowing Saddam". Mission accomplished. When we first faced the possibility of an insurgency, the nation's brain trust met it with another plan. That one was called "Bring it on!" It, too, was highly successful. It's been brought on like nobody's business ever since.

"The fact is, the U.S. didn't adopt this blindingly obvious strategy because it violates some of the key Rumsfeldian notions about how the U.S. military should operate in the 21st century."

I knew this wasn't going to be easy. The so-called Rumsfeld doctrine, like everything else about Operation Shifting Rationale, was at the time a smokescreen for a political reality the Bush administration found unpleasant, namely that we could not muster enough troops for anything beyond a lightning strike without instituting a draft and/or waiting many months to build sufficient troop strength or an international coalition requiring time to reach a political settlement. The Bush administration was concerned with swagger, not military realities.

"Today, public opinion is turning against the war not because people have given up on the goal of advancing freedom, but because they are not sure this war is winnable."

Well, it looks like your time is up, which is a concept you're just going to have to get used to, Mr. Brooks. Public opinion "is turning" against the war the same way wind and water "are forming" the Grand Canyon. I don't think we are able to help you. But if it makes you feel any better, public opinion doesn't expect you people who got us into this cock-up to do anything but cover your humiliating retreat with plenty of flag waving, and we know you're up to that. And we're well on the road to rehabilitating your reputation as a wingnut. $250, please.

Sunday, August 28

Plus He's Already Got Endorsements From Peter Gazinya, Ilene Dover, and Chuck Roast

Eric Alterman makes the catch:

Friday the Paper of Record's Op-Ed page featured a public fluffing of former Massachusetts Governor Bill Weld, who just announced he's running for governor of New York, performed by John P. Gregg, who is a former speechwriter for Weld.

That's not the catch. That much was admitted up front. Gregg offered this revealing anecdote:
Of course, Bill Weld's real specialty is to use his playfully naughty personality to dominate news coverage and soften his patrician background.

In early 1993, when he was trying to raise his profile for a potential White House bid, I heard Mick Jagger, in an interview, say he preferred Friedrich von Hayek's laissez-faire economics to Bill Clinton's more Keynesian views at the time. Bill Weld was a big Hayek fan and told me to put it in some remarks. When he made the speech, he added the flourish: "I've always been a Stones man, and this confirms my faith," which proved the lead anecdote in a favorable story in The Economist.

Turns out that ol' Jumpin' Jack Flash himself did express his admiration for the work of von Hayek (though without the Clinton reference) all right. In an interview with Wayne Campbell, the excellent host of Wayne's World.

It's The Land Of Opportunity, Chris. If You Just Keep Working At It We're Sure You'll Reach Your Goal.

"I’m not someone shouting back at the TV in some bar.”

-Christopher Hitchens, quoted in the New York Observer

Saturday, August 27

Happy Birthday

Man Ray (Emmanuel Radnitzky) August 27, 1890--November 18, 1976


Pace Kathy, yesterday's discussion of The Great Swing Revival was not intended as an intergenerational grenade toss, and the fact that I followed it by marching off to another site and actually tossing one--a long one, no less--instead of having the wit and grace to put the pin back in is an unrelated source of embarrassment for me. If you're going to actually indulge in that sort of behavior you should have the good sense to keep it short, which, believe it or not, I've usually done on comparable occasions. I once told someone prattling about "Boomers" that I "could never get enough of people congratulating themselves on being young". I would have reused it, but it didn't quite fit.

But there's a few things I'd like to get straight (with myself, mostly). Most of those being personal and cranky but at least one having Larger Implications:

1) "Boomer", "Gen-X" and the like are the stuff of headline writers. Generations certainly have their shared experiences, and the post-War baby boom is real enough in a demographic sense, but the foolishness of making sweeping pronouncements about the people contained in those demographics is easily and amply demonstrated by the simple expedient of looking around you.

2) What we think of as "The Sixties"--in reality a convergence of shifts in thought, behavior, interpersonal relationships, politics, pop culture, etc. etc., most of which actually took place in the 50s--knocked down an already shaky cultural edifice, and loose bricks hit more than a few people on the head. Those people have been shaking their fists about it ever since, and they've done their damnedest to demonize the whole litany of 60s Excess. But, again, taking a look around is all it takes to demonstrate how cultural change works, even when it's propelled by commercial interests and mass communications. "The Sixties", even as an oversimplification, was not the product of some left syndicalist free-love pot-smokin' Berkley associate professor putting some crazy ideas in the heads of a few impressionable young people leading to an exponential tidal wave swamping the previously idyllic Christian America.

3) What I wrote specifically about Mark Gavereau Judge missing about the abhorred lowliness of the Sixties was tailored to what I'd learned about him. It's certainly possible to cast a wider net, and I can do so without apology. The Republican party has been making political hay out of the mythical American Eden of the 50s for twenty-five years now, but it never does anything about it. Why is that? Because they know people wouldn't stand for it. It's the Red Staters watching Desperate Housewives and buying porn. If you removed everything James Dobson finds objectionable about the culture tomorrow, it's the sort of person who complains about the Sixties who'd be out of his coconut first. And the whole process of knocking down the artificial barriers to how people really want to live and ought to be allowed to would begin all over again.

4) I've got no brief against complaints about Boomers, writ large, assuming they are raised against cultural trends and don't treat people like ants. Hell, I agree with most of 'em.

5) I was born eight years into the Baby Boom. I grew up in the Midwest. I wasn't yet old enough to drive when the Sixties (nominally) ended. I'd just turned ten when the Beatles played Sullivan. I found sex, drugs, and rock and roll highly enjoyable, and I still do, but most people in my high school were beer and car aficionados. I didn't break faith with the government; the government broke faith with me. I had a lottery number for the year the draft ended, but my opposition to the war had nothing to do with my own meat. I never drove a VW, said "Far out" or "groovy", or owned a bong. I didn't go carrying pictures of Chairman Mao. If I've known a dozen hippies in my life eight of them were the recently minted faux variety, and they're the ones who wear patchouli. I never knew any revolutionaries, but Angela DeAngelis, who burned to death in that SLA house, student taught at my high school one semester. The people I went to college with were mostly there to get an education and have a good time while doing so, like college students before and since. Some where idealists. Some were Marxists. Some were idiots. I could have made more money if that's what I wanted to do, and I may be able to retire someday if neither my wife nor I get a catastrophic illness. I've never knowingly cheated anybody and I'm scrupulously honest on my taxes. I've paid more into Social Security than I'll ever get out, and I'm fine with that. And if you imagine you know who I am because you watched Hair one night, or they make you listen to the Oldies station at work, well, lemme buy you a beer some time.

Friday, August 26

Judge Not, Lest Ye Be Judge

A couple days back s.z. directed my attention to the Spence Publishing site, the home of Jittery Anne Jacobsen's new book. I browsed the shrubbery of their authors list, because what good is free time if you don't waste it?

It looked promising. It was chockablock with the sort of pseudo-scholarly wingnut screed which purports to be a philosophical musing on some cherished bugbear (Feminism, say, or anti-religious bias) or a densely-reasoned "contrarian" view of The Unexpectedly Negative Impact of some liberal do-gooder policy or other, and as usual the scholarly pose is dropped by the second sentence of the blurb, where we're informed they expose the delusions of the Left! and shatter its popular myths! lest some potential buyer somehow Miss the Point. By ignoring anything on the subject of Global Terrorism and everyone named Horowitz, I thought this might be prime scouting ground for the Respected Conservative Thinker who was still playing AA ball.

For reasons I think will be obvious I was immediately drawn to:

If It Ain't Got That Swing: The Rebirth of Grown-Up Culture (2000) by one Mark Gavereau Judge.

And perhaps some reasons that aren't so obvious, such as the fact that I'm a sucker for books by people with three names when the middle one is a family name, and the fact that it was only $5.00. But the catch there was that it costs that much to ship it. So I made a mental note to look for it next time I'm at Barnes & Noble, and if it doesn't cost any more than its weight in Duralogs™, I'm in.

Meanwhile there's time to google Mr. Judge and see what crawls out. If I couldn't read the book, maybe there were excerpts somewhere. I found the next best thing, which was a short essay on "Swing and Spirituality" Mr. Judge penned for I open it and was greeted with:

Hi Lindy Hoppers!!!

Okay. Three exclamation points and you're out, no exceptions. Right off the frickin' bat. Aw, well, it's no reason I can't read a little more. Plenty of time left to murder, and we could get a sense of what might have been. Then again, maybe not. The piece has little to do with Swing and nothing whatever to do with Spirituality, unless you want to count the fuzzy and oddly New Age-y description of the spiritual ardor Judge says he feels after dancing for an hour. Instead the piece is mostly about how Mark Gavereau Judge, former Gen-X teenage drunkard (the topic of his first book) became a Lindy Hopper, and transcended all that Gen-X grunge crap that was so emotionless and musically stilted.

I spent a lot more time with Mr. Judge over the next 48 hours. I decided pretty early on that there probably was nothing in his book that couldn't be surmised from the blurb at Spence. Jesse Walker's July 2001 review in Reason was subtitled "A music critic's juvenile cultural politics", which just about says it all, except that Walker adds that Judge switches the date of his conversion to Swing dancer from 1993 (the jitterbuzz piece) to the book's 1995, presumably for didactic purposes (in the former, swing dancing replaces hanging out in taverns; in the latter it's his conversion to neoconservatism and a renewal of his Catholicism which leads to the new grown-up lifestyle).

But then, what's fudging a date when you're fudging an entire cultural phenomenon and rewriting the history of a period you know little about? If there's little of interest in Mark Gavereau Judge, aging Gen-X thinker, yet there's still some interest in him as a cultural phenomenon on his own. Searching out his articles (he's currently writing in what's left of The American Spectator) one finds a man, now 40, who went from being drunk to being belligerent. If we gathered in a room together, could we recite his bio in unison without prior communication? I think so. All together, now: "I was a Liberal and teenaged punk rock fan before I saw the light and returned to the Church." And his targets? "Liberals, the 60s, resentful anti-war protesters, the 60s, Liberals who compare Bush to Hitler, the 60s, Liberals who are just like Hitler, immoral Boomers, the 60s..." Oh, and for good measure he's got some free advice Democrats should follow unless they want to become a permanent minority party.

Jeeze, fuckin' enough, already. What exactly did you sober up for? You write a book glorifying an eighteen-month micro-fad as The Savior of Western Civilization in Really Nice Shoes. Uh, Attention Cherry Poppin' Daddies! We need a clean-up on aisle five. You couldn't see that comin'? If you've gotta slag the decade before you learned to read, is it too much to ask that you read up about it now? My god, I wish I had a nickel for every nominally intelligent person whose perspective on the the 60s is the history of Woodstock, hashish, and Lava Lamps as told by Nancy Reagan, and who then turns around and acts like Nancy Reagan was forcibly silenced for the decade. Richard Nixon was President. People were making the very same arguments while the 60s were going on.You can look stuff like this up. The Counter-Cultural Thought Police did not suddenly round up everybody who listened to Frank Sinatra. There's a reason it was called the Counter Culture.

So, Mark, you imagine now that in the Golden Age of Ozzie and Harriet and the Three-Bedroom Ranch on Elm Street you'd live as one happy little well-dressed Lindy Hopper? You're ill-informed and spoiled. Care to man the barricades against contraception? That's what your Church was doing in the 50s. The urban poor who weren't ghettoized for their skin color were largely Irish and Catholic, like you, and there was still a residual distrust of both in Middle America leftover from the day when it was blatant and virulent. The one year I was lead in the Lord's Prayer every morning in public school, the one Catholic girl who said "tresspasses" instead of "debts" was taunted mercilessly. That's why there are Catholic schools, Mark. When the cry went up in 1959 that John Kennedy would be beholden to Rome as President, it wasn't the Right that came to his defense. Care to take your life in your hands for dancing with a black woman (let alone deciding to marry one)? Go to jail for mail fraud for ordering a movie featuring a bare-breasted woman? Divorce? Plan on having it ruin your social standing and your career in many places. Forget about ruining your life as a sullen punk-rockin' drunk--you wouldn't have gotten away with reading comic books. Those empty one-night stands of yours? Sodomy laws weren't just for gays in those days, Mr. Judge.

It's conveniently easy to simply wish away the institutional racism, the second-class citizenship of women, the sexual repression and blue-law censoriousness of those golden days now, isn't it? So easy to blame every social ill you can dream up on the excesses of the people who lived with those things and finally said Enough! But then, you can walk down the street in that snazzy Zoot suit of yours without worrying that some jarheads on leave are gonna beat the shit out of you for wearin' it, can't you now?

Thursday, August 25

Happy Birthday

Elvis Costello (Declan MacManus) born August 25, 1954

I bought My Aim Is True on the first day of release after driving all over town to find a copy. I don't remember, now, what had tipped me off to it.

Five bars in ("Now that your picture's in the paper/ being rhythmically admired...") and I'd seen the future of rock and roll, and, without knowing it, the beginning of a run of the four greatest pop albums ever to be completely ignored by local radio, although I did hear Linda Ronstadt's cover of "Allison" once, which caused me to drive over a curb and tear out the oil pan plug. To be fair, "Freebird" and "Stairway to Heaven" do take up a lot of time, especially when that's all you play. I wish now I'd saved the two dismissive sentences the guy in the Star wrote about him.


I'm old. I may have blogged about that before, but, hey, I'm old. I forget.

Another round of World O'Crap's Wingnut Island, another loss for The Team That Name-Checks Edmund Burke. Not that it wasn't deserved; the loser, Armstrong "Your Message Here" Williams was a foregone conclusion of a loser when he was called in as a last-minute replacement for David Brooks, who probably would have gotten tossed if he had shown up.

Even so, I was a bitter, bitter man. It was obvious from the comments--and this time it wasn't a bunch of people following a link from Atrios, it was the very cream of a very creamy collection of commenters. And it's obvious they refuse to do my bidding.

I'm old, and I'm concerned about incontinent nostalgia. Maybe I've blogged about that before. But in my day, a wingnut wasn't prized for his nuttiness. He wasn't prized at all, come to think of it. Now those were good times. But if he had been it wouldn't have been for his nuttiness, but his wingy goodness. They had faces then, and they were all screwed up like they'd just eaten something sour. In a Grant Wood painting.

So, okay, it's a young man's game. To be popular, today's wingnut has to have a fire in his belly and nothing in his head, and that fire must be fueled by improper potty training and a lifelong grudge against everyone who had sex in high school, or even a date. Railing about "the 18th Century Enlightenment" is so 19th Century. I suspect that even knowing there was an 18th Century is horribly passé.

On the other hand, it's not as if Bobo Brooks or George Will were getting more tail than Burt Ward, back in the day. So they're a little more graceful, okay, a lot more graceful, about not revealing the depths of their psychosexual issues with every utterance than, say, the Corner Kids. Does it make them any less wingnutty? But then again, maybe I'm the one who's got the wrong end of the telescope here. Maybe the public is right, and the finest wingnuttery is the stuff that looks like the picture on the wrapper and not the pathetic, real candy bar underneath.

Then I thought, "Hey, what's that throbbing just above my left eye?" And it occurred to me, I have a blog! And while popular culture is not exactly my strong suit, it seems to me that all the people who get voted off reality shows get their own shows, or guest-star shots on WB sitcoms, or they get to do panel on the late night show with the guy who replaced the guy who Jon Stewart replaced. And is there a blog anywhere more equipped to welcome Z-list celebrities? Probably. But I called dibs.

So why not invite the losers over, let 'em sit on the couch, lie on the couch, whatever's comfortable, and see what we can do to shake up the old image, bring out that inner 3rd chair violist, and whip this team into shape, whaddya say? Are you with me? Yeah!

Aw, well, this is probably gonna wind up in the garage with all my other half-finished projects.

Wednesday, August 24

Not Tonight, Dear, I Have A Blog Headache

• I don't think I was naive about it, exactly, when I started, and by now it's an established fact of the regular routine, like dirty dishes or five minutes of sex once a month, but the weird recursiveness of blogging, the subconscious mining of everything one comes into contact with for possible post material comes bubbling up to the surface and lodges somewhere behind my left eye.

• And then Those Other Bloggers make me do things I don't want to do, like try to hit the stop loading button after the article appears but before WaPo crashes my browser, or think about things. Yes, I'm looking at you, Robin, but also Alex (Dylan covers) and Kathy (Peaches, Lost Glory Of), just to mention three who hijacked my inner dialogue(s) in the last twenty-four hours. I'm sure you all mean well.

• In a just world, everybody at CNN would be excited that they'd gotten a mention from Norbizness.

• My neighbors went camping Saturday, which in fact means they rented a cabin somewhere rustic and drank margaritas there for a change, and left their dog at home to howl all night in their absence. But in practical terms that means we never got their hand-me-down copy of the Sunday Times, and it wasn't until this evening when I checked in with Pharyngula that I learned I'd missed a three-parter on the Great ID vs Evolution Non-Debate. And frankly, at this point I'm too tired to try to read the damn thing and the inescapable rise in blood pressure won't do me any good so close to bedtime. I did, however, read through all the comments, and you might check out the reply that PZ got from Kenneth Chang, the Timesman who wrote one of the pieces. It was good of him to take the time. Same goes for the dozens of readers who then pointed out how utterly deficient the whole faux-balance "on the other hand, scientists say..." approach is when dealing with matters of fact. Yeah. And it's also deficient when dealing with matters of politics. Chang also insisted that he was writing for a general audience and PZ's well-informed readers might lack the patience to go over well-trod ground. This is a bit like defending Judy Miller by claiming she was writing only for the gullible.

• On the other hand, the Op-Ed section printed this, a defense of something I've always believed: that the teaching of evolutionary science, in public schools and to the general public, should begin with an understanding of geologic time. Not a rote memorization of the names of epochs and eras, but a real understanding of time's vastness.

• I'm old enough to remember when Pat Robertson was just a religious nutcase. I was actually a bit surprised to see that CBS was giving his remarks some coverage, but then whatever hairdo it was they had hosting tossed it to Gloria Borger, who proceeded to say, well, you know, Pat's got a history of saying these outrageous things, and they probably bring in the cash, so it's not really like he's a kook like Cindy Sheehan or something.

• Some kitten or other managed to chew through the D string on my guitar this morning. How long ago did I take those last two aspirin?

Tuesday, August 23


Courtesy the excellent-as-always work at Fact-esque I managed to catch up with Dana Milbank's online Cindy Sheehan Q&A last week. WaPo's been crashing my browser for the last six weeks, and frankly I typically went there only when following someone's link to something, so I haven't counted it as much of a loss or bothered to open another browser to try to make it work. If you need the links go read Robin. Go read Robin anyway.

The thing that struck me first about Milbank was how he made hash of the story. The Sheehan story, clearly, comes in at least three parts: the protest of a lone mother of a soldier KIA in Iraq and Bush's refusal to meet with her; the attendant political uproar on both sides; and, as always, the media's story of the media's coverage of the first two. Milbank diced the pieces fine and fried 'em in a goodly measure of lard. The results, as my Poor Wife would say, would have tasted better if it had had some flavor.

For Milbank the Big Question was whether Cindy Sheehan would become a symbol for a burgeoning anti-war protest movement, an idea which can only be described as a stealth Republican talking point. Sheehan's protest is a single, bright-blue flame: she caught George W. Bush on another vacation at Crawford, redolent of the one in August four years ago, the George W. Bush who doesn't have the courage to face any of his fellow citizens who aren't hand-picked and checked for forbidden t-shirt messages beforehand, and she called him on it. Stuck in right in his craw, in fact, with the Traveling Photo-Op Circus right there to record it. In twenty-four hours that protest replaced his psychosomatic facial boil with her permanent brand.

It's nothing new, and it's not open to debate anymore. We've watched Bush fiddle while the Army burned for three years now; only the mass media outlets and their hired help seem unaware of this. Saying the Question is whether this leads to massive street protests is just an attempt to change the rules of the game after it's clear you've gotten your ass kicked. And that ass kicking occurred two years ago, in Iraq, and it's been sinking in among the general populace ever since the last election as its unqualified support finally succumbs to a harsh reality that isn't amenable to lies and slogans and red white and blue bunting. What's happened in Crawford is just an acknowledgement.

Milbank gave the game away with Question One, which asked whether he thought Bush was calculating a right wing backlash:
No doubt Bush and his aides now wish he had met with her 12 days ago. But to back down at this point would be impossible for Bush, whose display of resolve is a signature attribute.

Display of resolve. He doesn't doubt Bush regrets the decision, but not changing his mind now demonstrates resolve. Do you define resolve that way in your daily life? Do you suppose Dana Milbank does, when, say, the SUV comes back from the shop still making that clunking noise, and the mechanic says, "I said it was fixed when you picked it up, and I'm sticking to it?"

Sunday and Monday Mike Allen picked up the ball and ran around in circles with it, perhaps waiting for Milbank to declare that a touchdown:
The way that choice was made, and the reasons for it, provide a vivid illustration of several hallmarks of Bush's style, including his insistence on protocol, his concern with precedent, his resistance to intrusions and his aversion to hand-wringing.

Yeah, and, Mike, it provides a vivid illustration of several other hallmarks of Bush's style, ones which may be hard to view if one is on his hands and knees with his mouth full of platitudes. Sheehan's protest really put the contrast between the president's style and his substance in sharp relief, or couldn't you see from where you were?

And after a brief detour to let unnamed White House officials (in the papers, are there any other kind?) accuse Sheehan of being objectively pro-Palestinian, it's time to remind our readers that we've come up with a new way to keep score:
But if Sheehan winds up providing the catalyst for a muscular antiwar movement, Bush's handling of the matter will turn out to be not only characteristic but also consequential.

Well, looking at the president's personal history, I think we can all agree that facing actual consequences is not one of his characteristics.

But, y'know, this is 2005, and insisting that it's 1965 doesn't really add much to the argument. Street protests had their place in the Vietnam era, and they have their place today. But what ended the war back then was the slow dawning on that part of the public willing to face reality that it was a colossal mistake fueled by lies and paid for in American blood, and it's the same thing today, except there's no long line of mistakes and deceptions tracing back four administrations. This one belongs to Bush and the Right, and the game is no longer about staying the course or the rightness of their decisions. We don't need any demonstrations to convince people this was a total fiasco. There was never any belief that actually meeting with Cindy Sheehan was going to change anything. The whole world knows that cowboy suit is a stage prop, even if the WaPo don't, and it no longer matters whether he keeps wearing it or takes it off and burns in on national teevee, except to the brave Americans who are yet to die for him.

Allen followed this up with a cutesy feature Monday on the hippies and hybrid-fueled car driving liberals who now share a bank of Port-a-Potties, but no showers, at Camp Casey. And no, those aren't my dismissive characterizations of what he wrote. Hippies and liberal with their hybrid-fueled cars. All of them smelly, and many of them entertained by Joan Baez.

"For a crowd of peace activists," Allen writes, "many seemed angry." Drop by Indianapolis on your way home, Mike. I'll be freshly showered. I drive a regular ol' compact. And I'll show you angry.

Monday, August 22

Why Didn't I Think Of That?

King Kaufman:

There's good news for Cindy Sheehan. After this weekend she now knows exactly what she has to do to get an audience with President Bush.

Win the Tour de France seven straight times.

Happy Birthday

John Lee Hooker August 22, 1916–-June 21, 2001

Indiana Almanac

• My fellow Hoosiers may have noticed that Reluctant First Lady Cheri "Last Month I Had To Look Up How She Spells Her Name" Daniels is suddenly everywhere at once. Front page story in the Metro section, with two pictures, the second story in two weeks, plus a cookbook coming out. I don't see gubernatorial polls very often, and in their absence it would be irresponsible of me not to speculate: the Mighty Atom is skewing heavily towards "short-fused little tyrant with zero political instincts who can't handle routine criticism", and had the State Police drag the First Lady out of Xanadu in an effort to humanize him. Good luck.

• Speaking of Cheri Daniels' first and third husband, he wasn't particularly humanized by the fluff job he got from the Star last Saturday, but it probably felt pretty good nevertheless. Headlined "No Cut Is Too Tiny For 'The Blade'" the story reported on the details of the $150 M savings listed in the 89-page progress report Daniels released Friday.

Now, I played sports for many years in my green youth, and I knew a lot of people who had locker-room nicknames that didn't make it into print. Maybe Mitch is being called "The Blade" in the State GOP headquarters shower room, but not anywhere I've heard it I've heard him called lots of other things. Maybe I run in the wrong circles.

Courtesy the Star's handy sidebar, here's some highlights:

•Agriculture: The Department of Agriculture stopped giving grants to a bed-and-breakfast, saving $100,000.

Note that according to the story the location of said bed-and-breakfast and the nature of the grants was not disclosed.

•BMV: The Bureau of Motor Vehicles stopped mailing notices for driver's license renewals, saving $200,000, and stopped buying bottled water for offices, saving $35,000.

Think how much we could save if employees brought their own toilet paper. And their own film for the cameras. And...

•DNR: The Department of Natural Resources is switching from Ford Expeditions to less-expensive Chevy Trailblazers, saving $100,000.

Okay, there's a $9K difference in list price, so that means they're buying 14 Trailblazers. Which means if they made do with the Expeditions they already have they'd save $430,000.

•Lottery: The Hoosier Lottery switched from color to black-and-white newsletters, saving $21,670 a year.

No word yet on how much the State would have saved by not printing an 89-page handout detailing this stuff.

• Meanwhile, last month Daniels announced that Indiana had outbid Ohio and Wisconsin in the race to nab the headquarters of NSK Precision America Corporation and its twenty jobs, at a cost to taxpayers of at least $2.5 M. NSK PA President C.T. "Gus" Kontonickas promised that the workforce could increase by 30-40% over the next four years.

You get all that? Promised that it could. Mitch Daniels is a former director of the Office of Management and Budget, so presumably he already understands that 40% of 20 could equal eight jobs. Though he was Bush's OMB director, so maybe I spoke too soon.

[Gus, by the way, sounds like a real charmer. At the big celebration (cost unavailable) Daniels said, "You're going to like it here. You're going to make lots of money." To which Gus replied, "I'd better." Man, I love Republican humor.]

And the State and the city of Jeffersonville will pony up $4.3 M to move MedVenture Technology Corp and 175 jobs across the river from Louisville. Ain't free enterprise wonderful? And these are the guys who didn't want to buy the Colts a new stadium with gambling money.

• By the way, I have nothing but good things to say about the Star's new political writer, Matthew Tully, who manages to write a political column without referring to the script. Sunday he detailed the infighting between Hamilton County's (Indianapolis' wealthy, Republicans-only north suburb) new GOP Chairman and its County-Commissioner-for-Life, which includes charges of a too-cozy relationship with the county's vendors. Too bad Mitch's new Personal Grand Inquisitor can only look into state business.

I've been watching this for twenty-five years now, and critical mass is no more than a decade away in Hamilton County, if we live that long. When it finally explodes they're going to be asking, "What's that smell?" between the Appalachians and the Mississippi River.

Tully also notes that the new Chairman, Charlie White, had a run-in last year with state GOP chairman Jim Kittle, and admits to calling him "a 10-letter word so crude that a newspaper can't even even print it." I know Jim Kittle, and I can attest that Charlie White has, indeed, met the man.

Sunday, August 21

Happy Birthday

William "Count" Basie Aug. 21, 1904–April 26 ,1984
Joe Strummer (John Graham Mellor) Aug. 21, 1952–Dec.22, 2002

Friday, August 19

Okay, That Was Me, Part One: The Early Years

Standard legal disclaimer applies.

• If you're the guy who thirty some years ago was innocently working underneath his car one summer night using light provided by another car's headlights, and three long-haired maniacs screeched to a halt in the middle of the street and rushed you, then looked confused when you crawled out from underneath to see what the hell was going on, I was the tall one.

Explanation: Well, the cars were parked just off the road, at an angle, and the driver's side door of the one the guy was lying under was bashed. As we drove up we thought there'd been an accident and he was bleeding to death under there. Good thing he started moving before we grabbed his ankles and pulled. In our defense, in those days Midwestern high school boys typically did not score weed anywhere near that potent.

• Assuming you are one of three young women in my high school who received an identical letter revealing my secret admiration for you and my desire to father your child before the recently-discovered inoperable brain tumor snuffed me out, I made all that up.

Note: I'm pretty sure this was understood at the time.

• If you were a first year art teacher in the early 70s and came home one day to find the pencil sharpener had been emptied in your purse, I think I know who did it.

Cross exam: Just what was your purse doing just sitting there next to the pencil sharpener, anyway?

•  If, on the other hand, you were the rabid right-wing history teacher who sponsored the passing out of little paper flag badges on the first Vietnam Moratorium Day, and then was cowardly enough to claim it had been scheduled "long before" you knew about the Moratorium, I'm not apologizing for the three-year barrage of magazine subscriptions, and I can only hope the FBI showed up to ask you about your continuing interest in Soviet Life.

• If by chance you were in north-central Indiana in the spring of 1971 and saw a train hauling a pig which was standing up on a flatcar, it's probably one I helped put there. I've always wondered where that pig wound up.

Clarification: It was dead when we found it.

• And I'll never know for sure, but there is at least the possibility that I was the source for one of the goofiest urban legends of all time: the idea that Frank Zappa was the son of Teevee's Mr. Greenjeans. One of the hippier-than-thou types who used to hang around my girlfriend told me he was "into" Zappa. I hated people who were "into" things, so I said, "You know that song "Son of Mr. Green Genes"? Well, he really is the son of Mr. Greenjeans."

Don't expect later installments to maintain this level of excitement.

Friday Shuffle, Size Doesn't Matter

Little Richard: All Around the World
Little Feat: Willin'
Big Joe Turner: Roll 'Em Pete
Big Country: Lost Patrol
Big Star: The Ballad of El Goodo
Little Steven: Out of the Darkness
Small Faces: Itchycoo Park
Big Bill Broonzy: All By Myself
Little Walter: Mellow Down Easy
Millie Small: My Boy Lollipop*

*I don't actually own "My Boy Lollipop", but I couldn't resist.

Thursday, August 18


NY Times: Bad Iraq War News Has Some in G.O.P. Worried Over '06 Vote

Republicans said they were losing hope that the United States would be effectively out of Iraq - or at least that casualties would stop filling the evening news programs - by the time the Congressional campaigns begin in earnest. Mr. Bush recently declined to set any timetable for withdrawing United States troops.'s a war every one of you except Lincoln Chafee voted for, without having the courage to actually declare it. No one dared suggest raising taxes to pay for it, or conscripting young people to fight it, and you hid half the FY 2004 costs until after the election. You stood by while the Army manpower equation was broken, and you nickel and dimed vets for good measure. As the thing went to hell you were busy debating whether or not Terri Schiavo was really, absolutely in a persistent vegetative state and whether ballplayers might be using steroids. And now that it's such an unholy fucking mess that even you can't pretend there are any more corners we're about to turn, the big concern you might actually have to face voters on the issue. God Bless America.

Wednesday, August 17


I waited long enough to tout emptywheel's six-part examination, "What Judy Miller Did as an Embed" at The Next Hurrah that it's now concluded, but that seems as good a time as any. The final installment contains links to all the earlier pieces.

Um, No.

AP: Harvard to Investigate Origins of Life

Mon Aug 15, 9:03 AM ET

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. - Harvard University is joining the long-running debate over the theory of evolution by launching a research project to study how life began.

The team of researchers will receive $1 million in funding annually from Harvard over the next few years. The project begins with an admission that some mysteries about life's origins cannot be explained.

"My expectation is that we will be able to reduce this to a very simple series of logical events that could have taken place with no divine intervention," said David R. Liu, a professor of chemistry and chemical biology at Harvard.

My wife has a soap opera. This is my primary reason for blogging anonymously.

No, really, The Young and the Restless, "Y&R" to the headline writers at TV Guide™, was the slog of choice of her crowd at college, and she tunes in now and then out of incontinent nostalgia. Or it may be she only turns it on when I'm also at home just to hear me hoot at the thing, or do my Victor Newman/Eric Braeden/Hans Gudegast monotone--the man reads every goddam line exactly the same, plus he's been in this country for forty years and his accent is now thicker than it was on The Rat Patrol. Anyway, the point is, I've watched this nonsense over the years, and it frequently is moved along in its glacial fashion by writing which is so utterly, incomprehensibly stupid as to defy explanation. Forget the fact that toddlers are regularly packed off to "boarding school", forgotten about for two years, and return old enough to vote. The silly manipulations of bedrock reality based on the dictates of soap peddling I understand. It's when jaw-droppingly idiotic events take place which could just as easily have been written to conform to a non-delusional view of the world that I begin to despair for the future of the race. Like the time Paul Williams, PI, found a cassette tape containing vital evidence and there was a two-day delay while he found a guy he knew who owned a cassette player. Or the Abbott family, who took their privately-held international cosmetics giant public and managed to sell 51% of the stock.

This AP story is right out of that same stable. Evolution is a theory, yes; it is also an observable fact. There is no "debate" over the theory of evolution which Harvard is joining, let alone one it has been standing on the sidelines of until now. The announced project concerns abiogenesis, which, while no where near as established as evolution, is considerably less controversial than creationists try to portray it. And evolution does not rise or fall based on what Harvard may or may not discover; evolution is established whether the ultimate source of self-replicating molecules was primordial soup, a cosmic Thunderer in long white beard and sandals, or two giant turtles humping.

So just how difficult could it have been to write this story in accordance with the facts?

Tuesday, August 16

Mitch Mitch Mitch

You may recall that one of the ways Indiana's CEO tried to deflect criticism, not to mention legal questions, about his refusal to live in the Governor's mansion was by turning the place into a catering hall for hire, which is just the sort of entrepreneurial spirit we need at the top: just because the product isn't good enough for me doesn't mean I can't make a buck off of it. But it's a move which might have caused an itchy rash last week when Planned Parenthood rented the place for an appreciation dinner and drew protesters led by Republican State Senator and former VP of Indiana Right to Life Jeff Drozda.

The protest itself is of zero interest--even the Star buried the story and took issue with some of the group's claims, though I did note they counted 50 sign carriers while when I drove by there were 18, four of them children, and there didn't look to be any more than that when Drozda was interviewed on local news. Be that as it may there were a couple of interesting items. One: Drozda tried to make hay out of State AG Steve Carter's raid on Planned Parenthood files and seemed to forget that he was actually out in public. He said something about "criminal indictments" before realizing he was on tape, then tried to remember the official spin: "under investigation for possible criminal activity." No such criminal activity has even been alleged at this point, and in fact Carter's raid was explicitly a fishing expedition, pure and simple: he went after records of any patients under 14 on the grounds that if there was any evidence of sexual activity failure to report it could be a crime.

A Class B misdemeanor.

I'm waiting to see if Drozda will protest if the Catholic Archdiocese of Indianapolis decides to rent the place. After all, that's one organization we know hid evidence of child abuse.

By the way, Steve, you were given the first dozen or so records you asked for, and Planned Parenthood only filed suit after you went back for seventy-three more, and they were shot down in court two months ago. How long does it take to read a medical record, anyway?

Daniels, the Master of the Photo Op, was really interesting in all this. Instead of the fiesty yapping attack spaniel we're used to seeing when anyone calls his judgment into question, the interview I saw found Mitch in a blue shirt practically huddled in the corner of a blue room, just a comb-over on the bottom right corner of the screen, apparently hoping a timely tornado warning would cover him over entirely, and he mumbled. Mitch mumbled. Jesus wept. He squeezed out something about "innocent until proven guilty", which was really inspiring considering nobody's been charged with anything. And just to show my good faith, Mitch, I'm going to start thinking of you in the same way.

And The Blind Shall See, And Then Lamely Write About It

If memory serves I was the sixth person in my elementary class to be sentenced to a lifetime of wearing glasses, the first being some girl who had apparently been born wearing them and was permanently excused from kickball and other forms of violence. The two boys who had preceded me to this doom were both at the nerdy end of the Playground Pecking Order, which furthered my anxiety. But I was a reasonably robust youth, good glove man, fair range on my jumper, owner of one of the first Schwinn Stingrays with a passable wheelie distance. It was a couple years yet before those cheaters became an issue, in my introduction to the pubescent poolside mating ritual when some hot little number in a two-piece (girls my age always wore pastel-colored two-piece suits in those days with a sort of Tactical Décolletage Prevention System of extra material flopping around the top) would come up to me and say, "I waved at you and you just ignored me." Explaining that without my glasses her location on the other side of the pool effectively rendered her a fuzzy blob was worse than worthless. I was slow to catch on to the fact that I should just play along. Fortunately we changed school districts when I was fourteen and I got to start over again.

I didn't have to think much about glasses until about three years ago when, having sailed along in its wake for a few years my age-related hyperopia suddenly pulled out and overtook my myopia like it was standing still, creating a condition known as dystopia. No more than six months after I'd got new glasses, and turned down bifocals, I found myself holding newspapers at arm's length and adjusting the attitude of anything with small print like I was trying to dock a space capsule.

It's only marginally annoying. I've never worn glasses to read, and my closeup vision is still sharp, it's just hard to find the focal point. I worked one summer at the Coca-Cola plant and I read the Louisiana state motto off the seal on a bottle cap that came down the return line. None of my co-workers would believe it, until the guy who took one home to read it under magnification reported the next day that I was right. I wasn't about to buy new glasses so soon, and I eventually solved the problem, at least temporarily, by buying one of those eyeglass-holding cords so I can just let 'em fall to my chest when I need to read something close up.

I wear my shades for driving, because they're polarized, and I'm not about to switch glasses in the parking lot, so I'm sure there are several local businesses where the employees know me as The Crazy Older Guy Who's Always Wearing Shades, except that now they're always hanging from my neck. I was in the produce section this afternoon and my attention was commanded by an infant, maybe just over the toddler line, sitting in a cart about twenty yards away making happy baby sounds. Mom came walking up talking baby talk back at her. I thought I recognized her as a young woman of marginal acquaintance who shops there and has a child in that demographic. And, well, you know me; something took hold and I decided to walk up behind her and say, "Boy, that's the ugliest baby I've ever seen."

I guess it's a good thing that three steps before I blurted this out I realized the Mommy in question was about four inches too short to be my acquaintance.

Monday, August 15

Back To School

Yes, it's that time again, the time when, in my youth, I had three more weeks of vacation time left, the time when my wife comes home with eight-page handouts from her principal and the Superintendent, outlining their "vision" for the coming year in what can best be described as a race between platitudes and exclamation points.

The school year's already started off with a bang! and for once that wasn't the sound of a drive-by shooting or a meth lab blowing up. Down Franklin Township way the district's PR man got himself suspended indefinitely without pay, and it was the finest piece of reality television ever seen in these parts, unless you're old enough to remember the six hours of live will-he-or-won't-he coverage of Tony Kiritsis with his shotgun wired to a mortgage executive's neck.

Last November, first-year teacher and newspaper advisor Chad Tuley got in hot water when the Franklin Central paper printed a front page story about a student arrested at the school on suspicion of murder. Principal Kevin Koers went ballistic, suspended Tuley and told the press he had ordered him not to print the story, a charge Tuley denied. In a later meeting officials decided there had been a misunderstanding, and Tuley returned to teaching though he was barred from the newspaper.

In April Tuley received a poor evaluation and was told he would be transferred to middle school to make room for the new journalism advisor the school had hired. He filed suit. Last week WISH-TV 8 sent its education reporter Leslie Olsen (or, as she pronounces it, "Lethly Olthen") to catch up with Tuley as he unpacked his stuff at his new assignment. Olsen had received permission from the principal to tape inside the school. In the middle of the report in barges the PR guy, former Star reporter Scott Miley, yelling at her to get out NOW! Miley was a print journalist, so it's understandable that he didn't quite catch the reason a camera was there. Olsen rather calmly tried to explain that she had permission to be in the building. Miley at one point informed her that she was "on private property", thereby explaining how he got his job with the Star. At another point Miley turned to Tuley, who was off camera, and shouted, "Do you understand me? Don't just stand there, say Yes or No!"

Eight ran the tape that evening, and like clockwork the Superintendent of Franklin Schools issued a public apology and suspended Miley. The Star coverage the next day said he'd been suspeded for "raising his voice" and noted Olsen had "challenged (his) request that she not conduct interviews on school property" while failing to mention she already had permission to do so.

I don't know if my wife has any contacts in Franklin Township, but there are two burning questions local media isn't going to answer for me. One, who ratted on Olsen to the admistration offices? And two, why does a public school system need a PR director, let alone one who imagines he outranks teachers?

The Good News From Iraq

10) Contrary to pre-war fears, our troops were not slowed down by throngs of cheering Iraqis or buried under tons of proffered bouquets.

9) Just as we proved in WWII with the Sherman tank, the American fighting man does not need armor to win battles.

8) Whatever the dosage, no amount of hard reality can shake the faith of one-third of our populace.

7) Similarly, our cadres of Television Experts can withstand a direct hit on their credibility without having the wind knocked out of them.

6) No matter how much complicity, co-operation, and cheerleading the mass market media engages in, blaming them when things go south is still a viable option.

5) Similarly, now that it's generally understood that administration and Pentagon officials are lying through their teeth it is no longer necessary to declare previous statements "inoperative".

4) Calling Saddam Hussein "Sodom", once explained by George Herbert Walker Aloyisus Bush I as necessary to distinguish him from King Hussein of Jordan, has proven more popular than Vanilla Coke™.

3) Next time, General Ripper promises he will personally oversee collection of digital cameras and picture phones.

2) Turns out they're used to going without electricity.

1) The shining example of Iraqi democracy will serve as a Beacon of Freedom for the rest of the region. Or else.

Sunday, August 14

Try David Brooks Today. Now YOU Can Nod Off In Your Bowl Of Soup Just Like Your Favorite Rock Stars, But Without Dangerous Narcotics.

World O'Crap's cosmically amusing Ultimate Wingnut Challenge has entered the critical stage. A couple days ago it was necessary for me to plead against the wholesale elimination of the "Conservative Thinker" Team. It was a close-run thing, and even so David Brooks was almost voted off the Island as an individual.

It's a conundrum, all right. Who is the biggest wingnut? The slaveringly unhinged self-promoter or the simply unhinged drooler? It seems that the "Thinker" team faces an uphill battle: their Oxford shirt and bowtie uniforms are not as marketable to today's hip-hop demographic; the eschewing of trash-talking for the subtler pleasures of middlebrow obfuscation, and a more ecumenical approach to religious bigotry, just don't put the meat in the seats. Brooks, especially, finds himself in the position of one of Marge Schott's pet Negroes of the 1970s, not allowed to grow his Afro out more than 2-1/2 inches, sideburns no longer than the bottom of the earlobe, only one religious medal around the neck, and that tucked discreetly inside the undershirt. Sure, those are mostly self-imposed restrictions, and without them David Brooks would be wearing Frank Gorshin's old Joker suit while peddling books of his funny captions to pictures of 70s hairdos on late-night teevee like James Lileks instead of dressing up in William Safir(e)'s moth-eaten purple mantle for appearances on News Hour. Brooks' inner wingnut should not be underestimated just because for him taking a paragraph to say "Islamofascist" is preferable to incontinent blurting.

So I've come to approach Brooks' recent columns in a slightly different frame of mind, and if I may say so, it doesn't make him anymore entertaining. Take last Wednesday's "All Cultures Are Not Created Equal". Please. In it Brooks urges imaginary students to undertake an imaginary course of study: Cultural Geography.

Mind you, that's not because Cultural Geography doesn't exist, but because what Brooks limns with his golden Sharpie is something else: explaining the inherent superiority of Western white people by adopting the trappings of science.

Oh but now I'm behaving like a culture thug:
This is the line of inquiry that is now impolite to pursue. The gospel of multiculturalism preaches that all groups and cultures are equally wonderful. There are a certain number of close-minded thugs, especially on university campuses, who accuse anybody who asks intelligent questions about groups and enduring traits of being racist or sexist. The economists and scientists tend to assume that material factors drive history - resources and brain chemistry - because that's what they can measure and count.

Of course, this is the David Brooks who informed us that "conservatives" were superior to their liberal brethren because of their deep and abiding devotion to an intellectual tradition, so once again it's befuddling to note how that tradition has managed to miss the most basic truth of the scientific method and its two centuries of dominance: Science is not materialist out of an assumption that the material is all that exists. Science is materialist because that's the only way we can know we know something to the limitations of our knowing anything whatever. And that dominance has continued because of results, not because of the quirks of history and social control by which, say, modern Christianity maintains its place.

I've watched this over thirty years now and I have to confess a grudging admiration. It really is all but impossible to tell whether this is actual willful ignorance or very accomplished lying. Does Brooks actually believe these are "intelligent questions", or that they are somehow repressed by an academic elite? Anyone with a passing familiarity of the sciences, hard or soft, knows that this is simply not the case. What Brooks repeats here is nothing more than the superstition-trumps-science argument of the Biblical literalists repackaged for the upscale market: we can simply will away millions of pieces of evidence which have been constantly debated since the days of Malinowski and Bloomfield, and can return to the gentlemanly armchair pursuits of The Golden Bough and dust-choked Classicism because the political program of Bobo and his ilk would fare so much better if we did.

And check out the standard of proof:
Not long ago, people said that globalization and the revolution in communications technology would bring us all together. But the opposite is true. People are taking advantage of freedom and technology to create new groups and cultural zones. Old national identities and behavior patterns are proving surprisingly durable. People are moving into self-segregating communities with people like themselves, and building invisible and sometimes visible barriers to keep strangers out.

Pay no attention to that strawman in the opening sentence. This is the First Axiom of Wingnut Science, high and low: history began five years ago, or ten, or sixty, but no more than that. America stands outside history's currents apart from the mystic chords which connect her to her "Judeo Christian" heritage and whatever Greek and Roman ideas it chooses to co-opt, once again because ignoring unpleasant realities is vital to making the argument work. Bobo makes his bones with that silly sidewalk sociology, yet we're supposed to believe he stumbled upon it in some sort of plastic bubble. The American suburbanites of his sloppy sketches, with their gas-guzzling bottomless consumerism and vague awareness of the rest of the planet are somehow inerrant in their slightest whim and unfailing in their selection of what wind to blow with this week. We can unearth the socio-geographic explanation for why the cultural backwater of Islam denies rights to women, because after all we gave them the right to vote in 1920, not to mention the fact that they control their own reproductive systems so long as the choose a pharmacist who agrees with them. We can lecture the world about freedom, because we get around to solving the murder of civil rights workers within four decades, tops. Surely we can discover the hidden geographical and cultural forces which drove us to the very pinnacle of human perfection, and why it is those same forces prevent us from providing health care to one-third of our Hispanics or granting same-sex partners the right to marry, not to mention how it is that those same cultural-geographic forces wouldn't have worked if we'd left the land in the hands of the people who were here first.

Look, I'm a threadbare woodsman with a rusted axe in the groves of academe, but I find it a little hard to believe that this stuff can even find much purchase outside the strictures of science, no matter how often you name-check Max Weber. I'm not sure I think Brooks is the nuttiest of wingnuts, but I hope this little masquerade will be seen in the broad light of day.

Saturday, August 13

Don't Look In The Basement

Above: Most of the button collection (there's about half as many on the back), stuck to an old satin smoking jacket, now residing in a covered clothes rack in the basement. At one time it graced the dining room, but then my wife decided she wanted the rescued department-store mannequin that wore it to take to school for some reason.

Sometime in 1968, shortly after putting on my manly gown, I saw a two-page feature on buttons in a magazine and was immediately hooked. Buttons seemed like the very pinnacle of East Village smartass cool, which was all I aspired to be. Then that summer my best friend came back from the Auto Show with posters! Posters, we knew from other magazines, were also very cool, in more of a West Coast psychedelia way. I conned my dad into thinking I wanted to go look at cars. Instead I immediately went looking for the poster guy, and when I found him he also had...buttons!

My dad's a very sweet guy, and he always rather encouraged idiosyncratic behavior in his children. So he didn't even ask to see what I'd bought, and I'm not sure how he'd have reacted. My allowance money had covered three: a Peace symbol, "Where is Lee Harvey Oswald Now That We Really Need Him?", and "Marcel Proust is a Yenta." I didn't know what that last one meant, exactly, but I was pretty sure it was funny.

Buttons, sadly, disappeared sometime after that, as did the three I bought that evening, but they made a comeback in the 80s, which is what most of that collection dates to. I worked downtown in those days, and generally stuck a button on my lapel to entertain my co-workers (never more than one at a time, which I consider the height of gaucherie). I used to pop over to O'Malia's grocery for lunch, and as I approached the entrance one sunny afternoon, there stood then-Indiana First Lady Susan Bayh, wife of Evan, who ironically enough is cute as a button. She was collecting for some charity. She was standing there by her cheery self, no visible police guards or flunkies, greeting people walking into the store and telling them about whatever her cause was. I dropped a fin in the collection box, because at least her father-in-law was a real Democrat, making sure she saw it the way you do with charitable giving that you'd rather not give. "That's very nice of you," she said. "Oh, what's your button say?" I was slow to react.

It was one of the more scabrous ones. I don't remember which one exactly; maybe one from the list below. All I remember is she moved her head in long enough to read it, turned even whiter, and took a step back in a sort of unobtrustive, wife-of-a-politician way. I wished her good luck.

The basement's now fairly kitten-proof, but I'm still moving stuff around, and I pulled out the smoking jacket this evening. Thought you might enjoy some of the highlights:

• General Philosophy:

"It's never too late to have a happy childhood"

"Every day is a blind date"

"Live Each Day as if You Gave a Shit"

• Human Sexuality:

"Are you using your mouth for anything important right now?"

"Do you give good head or are all my friends lying to me?"

"Guess How Many Donuts Can Fit On My Dick"

• Theology:

"God Revealed Himself to Me, and Boy, Is He Hung"

"Jerry Falwell Can Suck My Dick"

• Economics:

"Money is how people with no talent keep score"

"We Cheat The Other Guy & Pass the Savings On to YOU!"

• Popular Culture:

"Ward, You've Been Awfully Hard on the Beaver Lately!"

"Are you going to come quietly or do I have to use earplugs?"

"TV Made Me What I Am Today"

• Personal Growth:

"I Don't Speak English"

"10 Cents A Dance"

"Cheerful People Are Just Ignorant"

"I Take Drugs Seriously"

• National Politics

In the I-thought-it-couldn't-get-any-more-depressing elections of '80, '84, and '88 I relied on antiques: "I Like Ike" and "No Third Term"

'92: "Shit happened" with picture of Bush/Quayle; "Schwarzkopf for President. Let's Just Get It Over With"

'96: "You're Just Mad Because You Aren't Getting Any"

• Best of Show

Belongs to my wife: "If They Can Send a Man to the Moon, Why Can't They Send Them All?"

Friday, August 12

A Friday Free

T.Bogg is on fire, even for him. Same with Wolcott. World O'Crap continues to hide her subtle brilliance beneath her overt brilliance with Wingnut Island. Tom Burka says everything that needs to be said with a headline. Fact-esque is on top of everything. Patrick Smith, Salon's Pilot you can Ask, shows just how sloppy and hysterical the mass media are even when there's no reason to be.

Chris Clarke brings a tear to my eye, and then he does it again, and then Professor Bérubé does it for good measure, all in a twenty-four hour period.

And one brave woman in Crawford, TX, reduces George W. Bush from a prick to a pinprick.

Me? I'm crackin' wise about Fried Twinkies and tossin' paperwads for a kitten.

I'm too old. I'm too comfortable. And I've got the love of a woman too good for me. I grew up in the birthplace of the John Birch Society, reading the crackpot-before-its-time Puliam family newspaper. I had tracts and letters from the corpulent and hate-filled bully Gregg Dixon, one of the founding licensed beggars of The Moral Majority, stuffed in my mailbox at the school newspaper on a weekly basis because I wrote against the war, against racism, and for rock and roll. I watched the descent of network news, the willful choice of comforting fiction over complex and mystifying fact, the ready acquiescence to the idea that reality needed to be balanced by appending the thoughts of the unhinged to every topic. I watched the glorification of a second-rate actor and dim-witted phony the way Ionesco watches his fellow citizens in "The Rhinoceros". I saw the shitty Soviet Heroic-Realist scupture the Right insisted on erecting next to The Wall because fake piety is preferable to real piety in its book.

Special pleading? Well, TBogg is nearly as old as I am, and he still walks into that alley every day to take on the likes of Malkin and Goldberg and Coulter. God bless 'im. But I'm just too tired of these fifteenth generation photocopies, they and the sorry gas-filled lawyers and basement dwellers who've turned xenophobia and poor potty training into a political crusade, who will gladly fight to the last drop of someone else's blood, who bravely pound the virtual lectern so long as they believe there's a mob at their backs to do the dirty work.

Well, it only takes one strong man to face down a mob. And today her name is Cindy Sheehan.

Friday Shuffle, Auto Parts

Commander Cody and the Lost Planet Airmen: Hot Rod Lincoln
Dead Milkmen: Bitchin' Camaro
Wilson Pickett: Mustang Sally
Jackie Lomax: The Eagle Laughs At You
ABC: Poison Arrow
Box Tops: Neon Rainbow
Leroy "Stuff" Smith: If You're A Viper
Mink Deville: Cadillac Walk (with apologies to Corndog; it's the version I have)
Townes van Zandt: Talkin' Thunderbird Blues
The Dictators: (I Live For) Cars And Girls


• I go to the grocery at least once every three days, not counting the longer, once or twice weekly trip to the natural foods store. It occurred to me today that if I changed the schedule so I went every day I could start a grocery-shopping blog with no shortage of material, ever.

• Today: What is the deal with baggers? Is there some sort of industry-standard hand/eye coordination testing scale, and if you score above "Glacial" you're disqualified? I just don't get it. I've done plenty of menial labor in my life and it always seemed to me that the faster you worked the faster the hours flew by. And the "Paper or plastic?" tap dance, which has now become an attempt to intimidate you into taking plastic--"Is plastic okay?" "Only if you're making my eyeglass lenses, sonny."--has become, somehow, a separate transaction of its own. You express your preference, and there's something like a two minute delay before the actual bagging begins, like the kid has to fill out a form first. At least they don't introduce themselves by name. The one I drew today was the poster boy for inertia. I loaded the milk, laundry detergent, Pepsi, three bags of cat litter, and wrote the check and he's still working on the second bag (of two). And the cashier now gets impatient and starts ringing up the next customer, and sort of shunts her stuff to the inside rail, like that's gonna keep this kid from getting things mixed up. Naturally when I got to the car I found that 97% of the total weight was in one of the bags. Which, in fairness, at least he double-bagged.

• Preliminary word has it that the big Fair semi-edible food treat this year is creampuffs the size of WNBA basketballs.

• And Emperor Governor Mitch "Just Who Is That Comb-Over Supposed To Fool?" Daniels has got himself his own exhibit at this year's shindig: "Governor Daniels' Sports Spot" is located just east of the Dickies' FFA pavilion, and features rope jumpers, gymnasts, and that ilk. There will also be a celebrity basketball game which First Lady Cheri Daniels is scheduled to coach, assuming no one lets her know ahead of time she'll have to move to Indianapolis to do so.

• As usual, my deficit-reducing suggestion (have him sit over one of those water tank deals while people paid money to try to dunk him with baseballs) was ignored.

• Mitch, by the way, recently launched INShape Indiana, a program designed to encourage Hoosiers to eat healthier and improve their physical conditioning by providing web links. When Daniels is fresh out of photo ops we get shots of him jogging on an indoor track, prompting this irresponsible speculation from one observer (me): "That weenie-arm never did a day of athletics in his life, until sometime around 40 his internist suggested he'd be able to overcharge seniors for their Lily medications several years longer if he started working out."

• Oh, and speaking of Mitch, he also announced that he will no longer be taking RV One, the governor's mansion he does deign to live in, to partisan political gatherings, despite the fact that it was perfectly okay for him to do so two weeks ago and the Democrats are just a bunch of whiners. This blog apologizes if it got anyone's hopes up about getting to view the state's most popular tourist attraction.

Thursday, August 11


This evening the tiniest of brownouts ate my longish piece on Bush signing the new Highway spending bill. I blame local teevee. Not for the Highway bill, although last week they were touting the fact that Indiana's share was going to rise from 92 cents on the dollar to 94--they said it like it represented a major coup--but because the Indiana State Fair opened Wednesday, which means the news hairdos redouble their efforts to tell you just how unbearably hot it is. They do this every frickin' year, like it's news that it's hot in August. "Will the heat affect Fair attendance?" has got to be among the top five reported stories of the year. Every year. I'm not sure why anyone is supposed to give a rat's ass about Fair attendence. Is there some danger they'll just decide not to have one next year? I'm not sure why I should care about that either. You've seen one cow, you've basically seen 'em all, has always been my motto.

I'll grant you, the last time I was actually in attendance at the Indiana State Fair was 1964, and I was in custody. I think that after about an hour I tried to get my dad to give me the car keys and let me pick up the rest of the family later. I was only half joking. I knew even then that 10-year-olds couldn't drive. But I still feel pretty current with all the goings-on, because the damn thing gets wall-to-wall coverage on local news. This started about a decade ago. The Fair had hit hard times, much like similar bucolic enterprises such as Hee-Haw, to name just one. Somebody must have induced the locals to fluff the thing, because suddenly, besides the one hapless cub reporter they used to send to eat cotton candy on camera and interview children who'd already had far too much sugar, they started sending a weather person, who informed you it was hot. Now it's like the whole crew camps there for two weeks. And there's been a big image makeover. The Fair is no longer the grandaddy of all 4-H meetings with a supermarket parking lot carnival on the side. Now it's a celebration of cuisine with a pig barn attached. The big story each year--I am not making this up--is what commercial piece of shit candy or confection somebody is deep frying. Deep fried Twinkies. Deep fried Snickers. I'm not sure this stuff is even approved for human consumption, even when it isn't prepared for you by someone in a trailer with no running water or toilet facilities, and it's all anybody can talk about for two weeks. It's a fortnight of all the unbridled enthusiasm of a Star Trek convention applied to melted and re-congealed Cheez Whiz served on a stick.

The whole thing does make for a nice respite from all the Health Beat stories about obesity and the dangers of sunburn, though.

And that Highway bill? Boondoggle. Sixty-three hundred earmarked projects, or roughly one dozen for each Congressman. A nine-billion dollar rescission so that Bush could claim it met his tough fiscal stance, which apparently amounted to a threat to veto the thing (like he even knows how to do that) if it held so much gravy that Don Young literally burst before the signing. This is the candidate Bush who vowed in 2000 to appoint a commission to investigate pork barrel spending. The Republican party of the Contract With America. The small government, decisions are best made at the local level guys. I suppose we should be thankful we aren't building a highway to Mars, although maybe I shouldn't have said that out loud.