Monday, October 30

Parson Weems Does Selma

Kathleen Parker, "When good men look away, " October 25

Seeing Christopher Dickey's review of Doug Marlette's novel Magic Time reminded me I let last week's little gem from Parker slip away. It wasn't really worthy of attention on its own terms--to my knowledge that's pretty much the same thing as saying "it was a Kathleen Parker column"--but it's an interesting sociological document just the same.

In brief, Marlette's novel concerns a Mississippi-born journalist working in New York during the first Gulf War. When terrorists blow up an art museum he's drawn back into the Mississippi Burning of his youth, when his activist first love was among the four people killed in a church bombing. Parker:
Visiting history through Ransom's eyes, we see the affinity between those who murdered civil rights workers and those who blow up art museums. Or fly airplanes into buildings. Both are fueled by resentment and nihilism; both wrap themselves in a mantle of religion.

Same story, different sheets.

Great line; I wonder if she thought of "Same sheets, different day" first and rejected it as too rude for the delicate digestions at Townhall?

I've now read half a dozen actual reviews of the book and none of them treats the terrorist story as anything more than a catalyst for the main plot, but who knows, maybe Parker is right. Or maybe not:
Marlette is especially riveted by the "Good German phenomenon" -- how good people can avert their gaze from horror. How did decent people look the other way when Goodman, Schwerner and Chaney, young men in their 20s, were savagely beaten and shot to death?

Those questions inevitably lead to others. Forget what Jesus would do. What would Allah do?

I dunno. Whaddya want them to do? They've reportedly been watchin' human idiocy at work for a long time, so they're probably beyond peeing their sheets over it.

This is the lesser of our two sociological themes here, though I'm not sure it's the minor one in the grand scheme of things: the remarkable rewriting of WWII as a cartoon battle of Good Mouse vs. Bad Cat. Fascism is now Stalinism, Chamberlain an animated stick figure who single-handedly capitulated to the Nazi Holocaust, before Sir Winston, Pope Infallible I of the Neocon Church, jumped up to save the day. And we might look back with some nostalgia at the early days of the fiasco of an occupation in Iraq, when the warfloggers invented an entire German resistance movement ("The Werewolves") out of a single murder and some graffiti, in order to explain a few minor glitches in the Bush administration plan. Okay, that last was a bit of overstatement. Strike "plan".

Now as to "Good German". Marlette may indeed be interested in the phenomenon; he may even make use of it in the fictional Delta of the mid-60s. But tell me what alternative history Parker's been smoking? "Good Germans" did not avert their gaze from horror. They were active participants. They danced around the bonfires of "foreign" books. They smashed the shops, burned the Synagogues, and beat Jews to death on Kristallnacht. They heiled their lungs out and bought up the souvenir tee shirts at Fuhrerfest '33. They ratted on relatives, friends and neighbors for thoughtcrime. They drove the trains to the concentration camps. They flocked to the cinema. They sent their children to breeding camps, or into the Hitlerjungen, and when the wind was right they could smell the ovens, twenty-four hours a day.
The religious fanatics who wage war against the West are no less certain of their cause than were the Ku Klux Klaners who bombed black churches and believed that the Jews were destroying their civilization....

Southern white Christians abdicated their moral responsibility and demonstrated their cowardice and complicity by allowing Klansmen to hijack their religion and terrorize blacks in the name of their Jesus. If Muslims want theirs to be taken seriously as the religion of peace they claim it to be, they will have to marginalize and condemn those they insist have hijacked their religion.

Otherwise history will judge them as we have judged our own. In the final analysis, good people do not turn away.

Drat, I knew I'd leave something off that list. How 'bout "the idea that Nazi Germany (and by extension Italy?) wasn't a Christian nation"?

I mean, if you're going to condemn a billion people stretching from North Africa to the Philippines, isn't it fair to ask how history will judge the Good Christians who conducted two World Wars, enslaved millions, and practically wiped out the entire native population of the Americas? Or is this another case of history beginning when we say it does?

Regardless, I'm not going to take lessons in geopolitics from someone who either doesn't know her own history of a mere forty years ago, or picked it up in a work of fiction, or chooses to rewrite it. The idea that racism and segregation thrived in the South because the basically decent people let a few hot-headed Klansmen run amok is beyond ludicrous; it's an insult to the incredible courage and perseverance of the Movement. Klansmen may have been involved in many of the most-remembered attacks of the era, but it wasn't the Klan that attacked marchers on the Edmund Pettus Bridge; it wasn't the Klan that rioted at Ole Miss or blocked the school door in Alabama. It was ordinary decent Christian citizens who refused service to Nigras at hotels and restaurants and public restrooms, and ordinary Southerners who poured molasses on the heads of lunch-counter demonstrators or stabbed them with lit cigarettes. It was the Episcopal Church in Alabama which turned away its own clergy from services. It was John Edgar Hoover who pored over tapes of Dr. King's sex life but refused to warn him about credible death threats the Bureau turned up. It wasn't the Klan which dutifully questioned King's "ties to known Communists" in the New York Times, or the Herald Tribune, or grilled him on in interminably on Meet the Press. It's not the Klan which has erected statues of Nathan Bedford Forrest in every public park in Dixie.

Yes, of course, there were some brave Southern whites who spoke up, and many more who remained silent out of fear. Events like the murders of Chaney, Goodman, and Schwerner, and the bombing of 16th Street Baptist, opened a lot of eyes. But to suggest that most simply turned away from a system they knew was wrong, rather than being active supporters of segregation, just flies in the face of of the brave struggle for civil rights, a struggle by and large fought by African Americans. Ms Parker, maybe it's time to switch to non-fiction. In your reading and your columns.

Friday, October 27

Happy Birthday

Frances Ann Lebowitz
born October 27, 1950

Is An Idea Officially Past It's Sell-by Date Once Jonah Goldberg Has Adopted It?

Jonah Goldberg, "The Great Paradox of Political Economy: A big-picture look." October 25

Stephen Colbert: Are there monkeys as smart as you?

Peter Agre: I'm sure there are quite a few, quite a few.

Colbert: Oh really? Do they give a Nobel prize for throwing your own feces?

Agre: That's the Economics prize, I think.

No, they don't bother with editors at NRO--is there anyone left in the marketplace who's concerned about reputation?--but you'd still imagine that "A big-picture look" would just feel wrong to anyone who reads at a tenth-grade level. "That's Jonah Goldberg," we imagine some NRO staffer instructing the new intern. "He's our big-picture looker-atter."

Of course there's little enough danger we would be dealing with The Big Picture anyway. Instead it's another episode of Pop Statistics From Some Right-Wing Publication I Was Reading in the Crapper, seasoned with the brief Right Blogostan viral infection of a couple weeks back, the Things Are Better Than Ever Because Poor People Have Cell Phones idiocy:
To understand how subjective poverty in America is, one need only recognize the fact that most rich people from a century ago would be considered poor by today’s standards, and today’s poor would be considered rich by the standards of 1900.

Although, leave it to Jonah to take a misapplied mundanity and turn it into a sweeping vista of pure stupidity. This is how we understand how subjective poverty is in America. Because only in America has technological progress marched forward. Because it is a distinctly American trait that our socio-economic measures are biased against the Right.
In 1900, 2 percent of homes had electricity, and 1 out of 10 homes had flush toilets. Today, pretty much all of them do. In other words, the tangible goods that defined wealth have been democratized.

No, Dillweed, in other words in 98% of localities in the continental United States you can't build, sell, or rent a house without indoor plumbing. It's a cultural advancement, such as it is, and not a technological one; yours is the side which argues that property rights ought to include renting a house with no toilets and letting the market decide. In 1900 most city streets were full of horseshit, much like your columns are today. Typhoid Mary was working as a cook. It's not like some sudden technological breakthrough took the scales from everyone's eyes. Zoning laws, health inspections, public sanitation, standardized safety regulations...these things required a change in public outlook, not a wait until there was enough profit in it for someone to invent a solution.

Maybe we just weren't forceful enough about this before. Okay, on the simplest level: are you saying you'd rather be an inner-city dwelling busboy working double shifts in 2006 than be John Pierpont Morgan soaking in your solid-gold bathtub in your private rail car in 1902, with a nubile bathing attendant on either side or you, because the latter couldn't buy the Complete Season I of Scrubs on DVD?

It's tautological. It's utterly meaningless to treat some hypothetical person as if he/she were stuck in one exact moment in time and were screaming to get out. It's just the flip side of the old joke about the kid who tells his parents he wishes he'd been born in 1776. "Why, son?" they ask. "Because I wouldn't have to study so much history." Yes, poverty is relative. The rest of the world already gets it.

And goddammit, Jonah, you're a middle-aged man. You may not remember a world before cable, but you might dig back and recall the personal computer or the home video system. Were people at the time saying, "Shit, I don't want this crappy 128K thing" ? No, they were rushing to get their hands on the latest technological marvel. It's fucking relative.

The very idea of people living their lives based on technological advancement is barely a hundred years old. Mass urbanization began in this country in the first two decades of the 20th century. Long-term food preservation by canning is scarcely older. We now feed many more people using smaller and smaller plots of land. As a result, we now have many more people. We've compensated for this party by our choice of crops, particularly corn. And corn requires enormous amounts of nitrogen. And we supply that nitrogen--plants can't take it directly out of the atmosphere--by industrial processes which use enormous amounts of energy. And that energy comes from fossil fuels.

Okay, okay, you don't care, because a) you've got an iPod nobody in 1973 could have bought at any price and b) your standard response to any sort of limit on technological development is to close your eyes, plug your ears, and insist that technology will solve every problem technology faces, because otherwise there wouldn't be a Star Trek. And that's fine by me. I just mean to point out here that you're telling, at best, half the story from the perspective of the small-town Jaycee civic booster. There are drawbacks and limitations to technology. Nuclear weapons. Thalidomide. 8-Tracks.

Now, I'm not as phlegmatic about the other unspoken part of this argument as I am about scientific illiteracy in a science-fiction fanboy, or about modern man congratulating himself for his great perspicacity in being born recently. And that's the fact that much of the improvement of life for the poor, or Lucky Duckies, if you will, is a result of political action, the sort of political action your lot opposed at every turn until it comes time to pat yourself on the back for it. 40 hour, 5 day work weeks. The end of child labor and unsafe working conditions. Rural electrification. Programs to end smallpox, rickets, and many other disease and nutritional deficiencies in poor children. Unleaded gasoline is a government mandate, not a technological breakthrough, and as a result (and the mandated elimination of lead in paint) there's much less lead poisoning in children than fifty years ago. And, of course, the New Deal and Great Society programs which have reduced poverty and provided access to medical care for the poor. Of course we still have an abysmal child mortality rate, and poor nutrition, and the least cost-efficient healthcare, and the most overpriced prescription drugs, and a shameful discrepancy in public education between rich and poor, but the last twenty-five years of retrenchment have given you the opportunity to blame all that on the children who suffer it. Let 'em eat cake. Let 'em watch teevee. Let 'em sprout gills. Right, fat boy?

What a sad, bumptious, unconcerned little fellow you are, Jonah Goldberg. What an unintentional argument against every sort of privilege you claim as a right. What an antidote to American exceptionalism! The more you crow the more we're reminded that crow should be your steady diet.

Spam Poetry Friday

A disturbed coup. I can Hold your ancestors
Evenly, surely.
Kindly help me out with this transfer.
There's no earthly reason why you should.

OK, you win.
Time for a change.

I want you
Ye pointed thing,
Dyslexic weapon,
Spongecake, dressmake.
A elusive, javelin--freewheel! Parachuting institutional.
Drop 10 pounds in 7 days!

Bentham and profligacy
Hey there HELP.

Gnat elastic--airtight.
It's scissor and Bizet--Hey!
caries try proliferate; account access is limited.
new password: weep.

Free and

Adult material
Barbecue Tools
finished cleaning lawn




Thursday, October 26

Rush to Judgment Day

Sure, leave it to the Republicans to come up with an attack ad featuring the mild-to-moderately mentally deficient, whom it's impossible to attack and ridiculous to try to rebut. They told the one guy there this was about human cloning, fer chrissakes. And he swallowed it. How do you argue with that?

Well, we did a little research. First, all four of those people became American citizens at birth. Not a one of them bothered to apply for citizenship in utero. And none of them is either from Missouri or has a permanent residence in Missouri. Not sure why that's important, but Michael J. Fox was born a Canadian. In each case it's fair to ask why.

Now, Jeff Suppan, he's a baseball player. I'm not sure if you're aware of this, but professional baseball players are the stupidest athletes in the world. It's a scientific fact. The guys with triple-digit IQs become baseball nerds, like George Will. Kurt Warner's a quarterback. They're usually a bit smarter than the average ballplayer, but not after eight or ten concussions. Jim Caviezel, the actor, is well-known for playing Jesus both on and off screen, and Patricia Heaton has been conveniently identified in the graphic as having graced the long-running sitcom Everybody Loves Raymond. Quite a tribute to your celebrity there, ma'm. The guy from G.I. Jane didn't need a mnemonic device.

Several doctors and other experts noted off the record that the four appeared to be heavily medicated in order to appear more normal. "Look, they're all standing or sitting more or less straight, although they did have to prop poor Kurt Warner against a wall, and they're not gesticulating wildly or passing out pamphlets or calling out to be raptured or anything. I'm pretty sure that's for effect," one told me.

We're not calling anybody's sincerely held beliefs into question here, oh no. It's just that giving all those Parkinsons, and Alzeheimer's patients, victims of spinal cord injuries, and countless others the hope that Jesus will be here soon to toss all the medical professionals who tried to cure them into the Lake of Everlasting Sterno just raises expectations that, in the end, will only be cruelly dashed.

Monday, October 23

Where'd Everybody Go?

David Brooks, "Thinning The Herd"
David Brooks, "Where the Right Went Wrong," review of Andrew Sullivan's The Conservative Soul: How We Lost It, How to Get It Back,
New York Times October 22

The source of our amusement, this time: the man who's written three books which divine your political leanings according to the relative prevalence of crabgrass on your lawn now tries to tell us there's no such thing as the Religious Right:
As any number of historians, sociologists and pollsters can tell you, the evangelical Protestants who now exercise a major influence on the Republican Party are an infinitely diverse and contradictory group, and their relationship to these hyperpartisans is extremely ambivalent.

Free $28.95 Surf and Turf at the Chambersburg Red Lobster with equal or greater purchase (limit one) for:
If [Sullivan] had spent more time with the people he describes as fundamentalists, he would have found that this category has no meaning.

'Member when the non-existent Religious Right dragged Bush back from Crawford to express his ambivalence about the Schiavo case?
Many [evangelicals] disagree with him (and me) about gay marriage. Many people do believe that truth is revealed, and that one must work one’s way toward it. And yet to divide the world between fundamentalists and autonomous free thinkers is to create a dichotomy that distorts more than it reveals.

Red Stater, remove thy beer goggles:
As insular Democrats know little about what life is like in flyover country, so insular Republicans know little about how people think in the suburban Northeast, where blue New York Times delivery bags dot the driveways each morn.

Thanks for the 47th tour of your souvenir concert t-shirt drawer:
“The conservatism I grew up around” Sullivan writes on the second page of the book, “was a combination of lower taxes, less government spending, freer trade, freer markets, individual liberty, personal responsibility and a strong anti-Communist foreign policy.” His heroes were Thatcher, Reagan, Solzhenitsyn, Havel, Hayek and Orwell.

Solidarity with our oppressed furry brothers:
I know only two self-confessed Oakeshottians in Washington — Sullivan and me. And yet Oakeshott’s modesty can never be the main strain in one’s thinking, though it should always be the warning voice in the back of your mind.

Michael Moore, high caloric intake of:
The people who are most destructively closed-minded in America are people like Donald Rumsfeld ,Ann Coulter and Howard Dean , and they are not exactly religious nuts. [original punctuation preserved]

Humor, Most Unintentional from a man who got every detail wrong about Franklin County, PA and found a byline at the Times waiting for him as a result:
As Robert Lang, the superlative suburban specialist at Virginia Tech, notes, when people mess up a project in an office park, there are consequences. But Donald Rumsfeld never gets fired. Jerry Bremer and Tommy Franks get medals.

Obligatory Burke reference, (1600 words in):
Conservatives need to relearn the lessons of Burke and Hayek — that the world is complex, and efforts to transform it will have unintended consequences, most of them bad. But if American conservatives give up their optimism and their universal creed, they will once again be a small sect at the fringes of political life.

Saturday, October 21

Friday, October 20

More Adventures of Crazymom

I haven't written about Alzheimer's lately, in part because I was trying to give a fair trial to the absurd diagnosis from the Institute on Aging at a certain religious hospital on the northside of Indianapolis which is supposed to be the best in the city. My sister discovered two weeks ago that Mom was supposed to have been scheduled for a four-week follow-up exam, an interesting omission on their part since at the meeting with the family the doctor went into great detail about what needed to be done in the next six months. But she left the follow-up out somehow, and it was only caught when my sister called the social worker, who'd been on vacation when the meeting was held, to explain that our mother, now taken off her dementia drug in favor of Zoloft was behaving, well, as if she were demented:

• She told the woman at the desk there was a man in her room using the telephone, and they had to come up and make him get out. They ran up and found him--he was on the phone, all right. He was also on the television.

• She has repeatedly entered the apartment below hers and called the desk to report that someone had moved all her furniture around.

• They found her with suitcases packed (a regular pastime of hers) one morning and were informed that her recently deceased husband was coming in the truck to pick her up. She was fully aware that he was dead.

• Zombie husband then kidnapped my sister's oldest child and took her to Florida.

• The next day she went to the desk at 4 AM to report that her children had not returned from school.

This, you might imagine, has begun to convince us that the new medical regimen was falling short of expectations, which is what got my sister to call the social worker in the first place. The social worker suggested that one reason they may have missed the dementia was there was not enough emphasis placed on it in the pre-exam questionnaire my sister filled out. She told me earlier this week that my mother's cheery demeanor at the exam might have thrown them off, and that, while they had an affidavit from the supervising nurse at the assisted living center, a woman who is around my mother 40 hours a week and has 25 years of experience in geriatrics, they couldn't use that as evidence and really needed to hear it from a family member, which they didn't at the last exam because my sister was working and I was on my deathbed.

There are times when I convince myself that there is no solution to the political mess this country has created absent some huge disaster, that at some point in the 1970s (my estimate) we passed some invisible mile marker where brain power was no longer sufficient to keep pace with "reality", that this is widely if tacitly understood, and that as a result practically every last person you meet on the street is a lying cynical bastard who would do any nasty bit of self-serving business for $20, let alone for the opportunity to appear on television. And more and more I call those times "the good days."

A Priest, A Congressman, And An Altar Boy Walk Into A Bar...

Maybe it's just me--I have more respect for honest drunks than I do for people who announce they're going to rehab--but once in rehab, aren't you, I dunno, supposed to be rehabbing? Is turning in the priest really such a rush job? It's been forty years, what's a couple more weeks?

And don't get me wrong--I'm remarkably tolerant of individual's religious preferences, but most religious organizations can't be kicked around in public enough for my tastes, and the Catholic church and its army of pederasts are at the top of that list. But at the same time I find Foley's sudden willingness to disgrace the religion he used to wear on his sleeve almost as sleezy as his IMs.

Tuesday, October 17

Joys of Monogamy, Part 1477

As horrible as it is to endure your beloved's suffering through an illness you tracked into the house, when even your constant, brow-cooling ministrations (selflessly ignoring, I should add, your own continuing weakness from the same damned bug) do not make up for the harm you've caused, however blamelessly, there is always, in any strong, committed, long-term relationship the knowledge that there must be some long-forgotten act for which you've finally been revenged.

And the Search for a Ginny Heffernan Review That Doesn't Reference Chevy Chase Continues

Virginia Heffernan, "Funny Business", a review of A FUTILE AND STUPID GESTURE: How Doug Kenney and National Lampoon Changed Comedy Forever by Josh Karp. New York Times October 15.

Between sometime in 1971, when the Girl of my Dreams introduced us, and sometime in autumn '73, when I realized I'd actually have to do the reading if I wanted to get by in college, The National Lampoon was a boon companion, giver of strength, enlivener of study halls and peddler of comic book smut, and a guru of sorts. I looked forward to each month's issue with an eagerness topped only by sex, dope, or both.

I have never had that sort of relationship with the work of someone who criticizes teevee shows for a living.

So take that as an admission of bias, right off the bat.
Plenty of goateed comedy writers, Harvard Lampoon veterans and Hollywood people in Brioni suits still mist up at the memory of Kenney, the raffish humor whiz who helped start National Lampoon in 1970, helped write “Animal House” and “Caddyshack” and then fell or jumped off a cliff in Hawaii in 1980. He definitely had one blowout decade. But from his parodies and japes, which have dated unevenly, as well as his life’s erratic plot points, it’s hard to get exactly why people thought he was so cool. Even “A Futile and Stupid Gesture,” Josh Karp’s painstaking argument for his supergenius, doesn’t close the case.

They ship the free books to the Times by the truckload, but not many fly my way, so for the moment at least I have no opinion on Josh Karp's case for Kenney's supergenius, if that's the case he makes.

But that "dated unevenly" there--we detect a hidden theme. So has Mark Twain. So has Perelman. So has Thurber. I dare you to read his "Dare dey iz" colored dialogue on a full stomach. Anyone writing topical material will date. It's not a fair criticism. But I don't think it's meant to be:
So what did Kenney and National Lampoon actually change? Well, for one, Kenney and his jerky clowns — in creating a magazine that begat a stage show, a television show (“Saturday Night Live”) and a movie franchise — staple-gunned a certain kind of absurdist conceptual humor to gross-out jokes about puking, violence and masturbation. That worked well. Today we can see it in Kevin Smith movies and “The Andy Milonakis Show” on MTV2. These guys also put on paper a mouthy, enraged countercultural comedy — the kind that aligns itself with rock ’n’ roll, and not with the Catskills — for which future generations of blander comedians would pine, as they do on Aaron Sorkin ’s new television drama, “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip.”

Hmmm. I don't think the ugly commercialized anthem rock of the 70s is a rebuke to Chuck Berry or the Beatles, and what some character in a Brat Pack movie said about either is utterly immaterial, unless, of course, it was interesting enough to, I dunno, actually quote or something.

And I'm pretty sure the point isn't lost on Heffernan, but nothing is going to get in the way of some good historically uninformed intergenerational sneering. "Absurdist conceptual humor staple-gunned to gross-out jokes" might be an accurate description of Kenney's movies, but it short-changes NatLamp's literary tradition and its political humor, something Heffernan apparently has combined with the booger jokes to construct a nice solid chip for her shoulder.

Look, the one critical faculty that's absolutely essential if you're going to write about it is the ability to tell chicken liver from chicken shit. Even my eighteen-year-old self found some of the gross-out humor of the old Lampoon disturbing and unfunny. But we might at least acknowledge that they didn't invent the concept of mingling high and low comedy in 1970, and that in context of something like Michael O'Donoghue's "The Vietnamese Baby Book" is 180º from some guy diving into a pool of pig shit on teevee.
This is how prestigious colleges, notably Harvard , Kenney’s alma mater, came to function as comedy schools that offered immersive lessons in life-defining irony: America’s would-be laureates wasting their brains on panty raids and toga parties. (By introducing date-rape culture, coeducation dampened the comedy, replacing it with sadder genres, like the college melodrama and the P.C. procedural, including “Oleanna,” “The Human Stain” and the trials of Larry Summers.)...

From the moment [Kenney] and his enigmatic Harvard classmate, Henry Beard, signed on with Matty take The Harvard Lampoon national, they seemed to enter into a stoned and never ending bull session. They cracked each other up, and though their knockout one-liners seem slightly less uproarious on paper, they considered themselves and their recruits — sharpies like Michael O’Donoghue, Brian McConnachie and Sean Kelly — to be comedy’s leading edge....

The sophomore pose Karp must have affected when listening to bumptious showoffs like Tony Hendra and Chevy Chase talk about their glory days was surely equally demanding; unfortunately, he reprises that naïveté in the voice of the book. In fact, Karp seems to have come away from talking to these old comics and hustlers, many of them famously bad company, without forming any opinion of them, except that to a man they were larger than life. That’s too much larger-than-life. Not everyone can be romantic, tragic, glamorous and brilliant — and yet almost everyone here is. For a gang that purported to hate pretense, it’s hard to think of a group more intent on self-exaltation.

Just a buncha drug addicts cracking themselves up and imagining they're comedy's leading there someone left who can apologize in the name of the Sixties for Ms Heffernan being forced to choose at an early age between being a hopelessly passé stoner girl and a humorless careerist drudge? Or could we at least get her to stop stalking Chevy Chase (she not only reviewed his Friars' Club roast (why?) while she was at Slate, she also managed to work into a piece about Stephen Colbert a suggestion than Tina Fey and Jimmy Fallon were funnier than he on Weekend Update, something which should have triggered an intervention)? We get it already. A certain percentage of you were so smitten with the Nancy Reagan view of the universe you were force-fed in junior high that we're being forced to listen to an endless repetition of those arguments as a justification for a remarkable lack of accomplishment, an unfeeling devotion to consumerist culture, and a self-aggrandizing faux-libertarian unconcern with politics which has robbed you of much of your birthright without so much as a peep from your general direction. But you didn't choke to death on your own vomit, no. Congratulations.
And that’s where P. J. O’Rourke comes in handy. Along with the brilliant Bruce McCall, O’Rourke is probably the most resilient comedy writer to come out of the early National Lampoon. He saw through the anarchists’ narcissism, and has been satirizing it for years in “Rolling Stone” and elsewhere. But the conservative O’Rourke was reviled by the Lampoon staff, who saw themselves as consummately left-wing — or disorganized, or real, or drunk, or something. For his pains, O’Rourke, who was more professional than they, and more reliably funny, won the indignation of his colleagues, whom he later left in the dust. If anyone “changed comedy forever,” it was O’Rourke.

I briefly considered just letting this end the piece, and letting Ms Heffernan return to the important work of unmasking YouTube personalities, but please. By your mid-late 20s you ought to realize that the world is not bound by your personal CD collection.

Sunday, October 15


(Disambiguation) for "Shit", the interjection to last night's performance by the Mets, see Roy.

In case anybody was wondering, I spent my time, between Thursday, 12:30 AM and Saturday, roughly 54 hours later, either prostrate, or in the bathroom, or in transit between the two. Regular readers will know I'm too fastidious for a blow-by-blow (or chunk-by-chunk) recap, but suffice it to say there's a rather mean-spirited virus out there with a hatred (if I may anthropomorphize) of anthropomorphs, and really, who can blame it? Plus the damned digestive terrorist had struck me, like Proust's misapprehending invalid (I made it through page 2!), just as the little hand began agonizing its way back down to dawn, and I was left with no one to fuss over me, the choice of a guest-room bed too short and sheet-less or a couch too narrow and home to a fourteen-pound cat named Stinky but nicknamed Gandhi for no small mastery of passive-resistance technique for my pathetic attempts at sweat-drenched sleep, and a downstairs toilet whose antique flapper arrangement had chosen just this week to begin entangling itself in the jerry-rigged clip I'd lovingly fashioned, causing it to refuse to shut off roughly one flush in two, causing me to get back up off the couch and jiggle the goddam thing, only to return to find the cat had resumed his chess Grandmaster occupation of the middle, at which point it didn't matter since I was urgently required in the bathroom again. I believe I can say that before this demonic mutant perversion of that Life that everyone seems so crazy about was satiated not a single molecule of anything resembling nourishment remained in my GI tract, and I believe that toward the end of this opening sixteen-hour segment of the ordeal I was actually wicking moisture from the air just so I could throw it up.

This was followed by about twenty hours of sleep interrupted every couple hours or so for a selection from the surgery diet menu in a bid to stay hydrated, during which I kept dreaming the same dream (nothing meaningful, just something about software facial recognition and the Pythagorean theorem). Every time I closed my eyes the same thing started up again. Before long I would have swapped it even for more puking.

Anyhow, eventually I started feeling somewhat human, and I got some solid food (omelet with tarragon and parsley from the garden and some very old asiago pressato from the back of the fridge) last night, and the fever broke for good, and the road to recovery looked straight, downhill, and festooned with bluebells until about 4 this AM when, after a couple minutes of fitful tossing my wife got up and ran to the bathroom...

Saturday, October 14


That's it?


Five years after the worst attack on American soil and that's what they've got? The shining example of the War on Terra? $150 billion worth of Homeland Security? The fruits of Patriot Acts I & II and god knows what other extra-legal shenanigans?

This is what will re-energize the lamest lame duck ever? The treason indictment in absentia of some mook with a towel on his head who made videos in his parent's basement?


This is what they've got to sell to the American people after five years. The grownups in charge. The restorers of honesty. The high-minded small-government patriots, the principled architects of a New Century, the American Exceptionalists, dispensers of democracy. The tough-minded winners of the Cold War.

This is why it was so important to elect Republicans? To change the tone in Washington? So that six years later they'd have this proud record of achievement to run on? Is this the campaign they envisioned two years ago? "Whaddya got for '06?" "Well, I figure we can charge some surly punk on myspace with treason." "Bingo!"

Post-teenaged adolescents? The government can't even protect us from actual teenagers.

And this is the party which insists that it alone can protect us, it alone is moral, and our big problem is we've become too timid to use our manly righteousness in the pursuit of the Good. Yet they're afraid to run on their own record.


Wednesday, October 11

The Ball Keeps Rolling Downhill Even After the Machine Says "TILT"

Mark "Insert Scabrous Nickname That'll Wow 'Em on the Playground Here" Levin:
Last evening on my radio show, I suggested that in dealing with North Korea's nuclear test it was time to go back to the Cold War model of Mutually Assured Destruction; that we assist Japan and South Korea in developing nuclear weapons; and that we also arm Taiwan.

Say, aren't those...what's the word? Democracies? Don't they get to vote or somethin'?
We need to arm our allies in the Pacific Rim in response not only to North Korea's nuclear ambitions, but to limit China's ambitions. North Korea is a satellite of China, and North Korea couldn't survive without China's support, let alone develop nuclear arms. China's protestations today make for good reading, but they are meaningless.

It's like trying to stop a leak coming from behind a wall...Mark "The Men in Black Hack" Levin finds the point about China and still ends up with his pants all wet. Mutually Assured Destruction? At this point it's Assured Destruction of any state that used nukes in any non-US-approved way (the sole exception being Israel, which, of course, doesn't have any). To reach "mutual" we'll have to give up about half our arsenal, even before we start quibbling about just what, if anything, is "assured" about North Korea's supposed nukes.

Now, if we required a regional response to Kim, land-based weapons would not be the answer, even assuming that what headline writers in this country insist about the Japanese would ever become the reality with enough actual Japanese to turn into a genuine nuclear weapons program (they're a little pressed for space over there--maybe they could squeeze a few silos into the Hiroshima Peace Memorial). Land-based nuke sites are more-or-less agreed to be pretty fucking good targets for nuclear attack, and that's without mentioning the sort of provocation China would see in arming Taiwan (they're funny that way). And we're talking about two island nations and a peninsula. We can put ICBMs and nuke-tipped Cruise missiles on submarines these days, Mark. Those are boats that go under the water. And come back up. No, really. You don't have to hold your breath or anything.

And "limit China's ambitions?" Okay, we're gonna give you a Gold Star for clawing your way to the 20th Century by the end of the paragraph, but China's ambitions in the 21st Century are unlikely to be thwarted by anyone in the foreseeable future, excepting maybe China, and certainly not by the United States of America, which really needs the replacement for its own slave labor. And if you'd like to thank someone for that state of affairs it would be the armchair Buck Turgidsons--such as yourself--who've pissed away sixty years of diplomatic opportunities because it's so much more satisfying to make a muscle in the bathroom mirror and pretend that this time you'll get to keep your lunch money.

Axis of So Fucking What

October, 1962: As Huntley/Brinkley scare the nation shitless (without CGG!) about real nuclear weapons a mere 90 miles from Miami, the Kennedy administration knows two things the public doesn't, or doesn't seem to. What most people could not know (and damn sure weren't going to be told) was that the missiles were there as a direct result of our ongoing efforts to kill Castro. What they could have figured out for themselves, but don't seem to've over forty years later, is that those weapons were useless, certainly offensively. They couldn't be coordinated with a Soviet attack. Launched before a Soviet attack they were an early warning; launched later and, well, they wouldn't be: once we knew the Soviets were attacking Cuba was toast.

The possibly alleged missile of October 06 is nothing like the days of the Great Nuclear Staredown, but there's much of the same unreality in how it's been played, and in the way that unreality trumps common sense now. North Korea now threatens to develop the Bomb, as well as the rudiments of an ICBM system. To do what with, exactly? Launch at Japan in the brief moment before the northern half of the peninsula is nuked like a breakfast burrito mistakenly microwaved for fifteen minutes? How many sub-based nuclear weapons do you suppose are aimed at North Korea right this minute?

It's simple, so simple they even understand it in the Bush administration, though it seems lost on their rooting section: the only reason for a 2nd-to-5th rate military power to get the Bomb is defensive. Even uncontrollable madmen like Saddam Hussein and Kim Jong Il, and anti-Semitic Israel eradicators like Mahmoud Ahmadinejad understand it. Since 1946, joining the nuclear club has meant, most of all, that you don't get invaded.

Second: Kim has as much rope as the Chinese want him to have; the notion that they're as "concerned" as the rest of the world is just ridiculous. It's like suggesting that if Mexico were test-firing rockets into the Gulf and we went to the UN to tell the world our hands were tied the world would buy it. North Korea is China's left jab in the Pacific, and it's being thrown to feel out a United States which is proving to be the Primo Carnera of international diplomacy.


In case you haven't been following the Indiana Pacers in the preseason, lemme bring you up to speed: as of this writing they haven't shot at anyone in almost five days.

Police called to the now-infamous Strip Club Incident early Friday morning found, in addition to a somewhat battered swingman, a small amount of marijuana (described as "about one joint") in the driver's-side door of point guard Jamaal Tinsley's SUV, something which led to no arrests but lent a new perspective on the chronic problems which have kept Tinsley out of the lineup roughly half of his Pacers career.

There was some public grumbling about the lack of charges, but there were several passengers in Tinsley's vehicle and ownership of the demon weed could not be determined. And it's pretty standard practice here not to file charges for possession of misdemeanor amounts, as I can personally attest, since I was once given the opportunity to simply dump out the small amount of pot I happened to be holding for a friend. The officer was even nice enough to let me keep the heirloom ebony hash pipe I've been holding for the same friend since 1971.

Like most Hoosiers I'd figured that was the end of it, but then this afternoon I checked the Indianapolis Star and learned:
Authorities are still trying to link marijuana found in Tinsley’s car to an owner. Tests on the plastic bag found no fingerprints, Mount said. Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi’s office has ordered a DNA test on the plastic bag in hopes of linking it to someone, [IPD Sgt. Matthew] Mount said.

A DNA test on the baggie that held a gram or two of pot. And yes, in case you're wondering, the Marion County Prosecutor is up for reelection this year.

Monday, October 9

The One Time of Year When I'll Allow that the Woman Who Planted Grapes All Over the Property Wasn't Completely Insane

They're some sort of Scuppernong or sumpthin', though.
Even the birds won't eat 'em.

Y'know, I'm Beginning To Wonder if Elvis Passed Around Any of His Special Vitamins When He Visited the White House

I slept poorly Saturday night--even for me--and the cat alarm system is disconnected on Sunday mornings, since my Poor Wife is usually up before me. So I'm lingering over morning tea a bit and trying to decide just how much of CBS Sunday Morning I can stand without lapsing into a coma. The Poor Wife never misses it, because there's generally some Arts segment she'll watch or even tape for her classes. But for me the thing is a sorry reminder of the glory days of CBS, of the time when there were news programs on the air. Not that Morning was one--it's been on life support since before Charlie "A Chicken In Every Port" Kuralt shuffled off to that Big Tri-State Bi-Annual Flea Market in the Sky--but it began as an extension of The CBS Morning News with the great Hughes Rudd, even though that program is usually remembered, if at all, for the twenty-minute teevee career of his partner Sally Quinn. And whatever happened to her, anyway? *

So I was sitting there watching Charles Osgood, the thinking-man's Charlie Gibson, and trying to work up the energy to propel myself somewhere else. (I'm not gonna bother checking anybody's bio. My recollection is that Osgood, who gives the impression of having been one of Murrow's boys, actually came on the national scene in the early 70s--late enough that the bowtie seemed an affectation, early enough that it wasn't a sad, "Lookit me, I'm an against-the-grain Conservative" George Will piece of political theatre--first as a smart guy, then filling the near-vacuum of News Whimsy, which it turns out was empty for a reason. Gibson turned up slightly later, as a sort of 70s ABC News version of the Bright Boy, which is to say, a CBS smart guy marked down 30%. He then morphed into David Hartman without the head injury.) And they managed to hook me on a story about the World's Largest Muskie, and dammit, I swear that "hook" thing there was accidental. This even though I was clearly informed that before that story came up I'd be watching a paean to Rod Fucking Stewart, Worst Recording Star in the History of the Gramophone.

What no one bothered to mention was that CBS Sunday Morning now features the witless wit of one Ben Stein, former game-show host and longest continual Nixon apologist not interrupted by a stretch in the Big House, in a segment called "Commentary". I do not know why a program which barely brushes up against any actual news needs a Commentary section, or why, if it does, that spot should permanently belong to Ben Stein, who should be required to pay for such a spot like any other political ad. Witness:
Naturally, like every other American parent, I am troubled indeed by the revelations about Mark Foley sending sexually explicit e-mails to teenage Congressional pages.

"But..." I shout at the screen.

"But..." says Ben:
I am stunned about the amount of attention the subject is getting in the national media. It's 24/7 on all the cable news stations, all over major front pages, and leading the network news. I agree it's a big story, but let's put it in perspective:

There's a war on in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in Central Africa. Something roughly like of 1,200 civilians each day are being raped and or murdered or dying of disease or hunger in that war. Millions have died, and very rarely does anyone in the media mention it.

In Darfur, Sudan, there is an ongoing genocide, taking thousands of lives every day, while the world does nothing, and I mean nothing.

The security situation in Afghanistan, which we thought we had conquered a few years ago, is collapsing. Half of the country is enemy infested. Our commanders there are begging–yes, begging–for more troops, planes, and helicopters, and their pleas are going unanswered. The Taliban, which sheltered Osama bin Laden, is resurgent all over the nation. If we lose there–and we are losing — Osama bin Laden has beaten us — again.

Okay, obviously this is bullshit. Ben Stein knows it's bullshit, and CBS knows it's bullshit, and presumably every last viewer of Morning, none of whom has tuned in to be updated on African genocide they know or care little if anything about, but could probably do with a little gratuituous sex once breakfast was digested. And all of the above know that Ben Stein is doing his damndest to portray the Foley matter as a sex scandal, and one whose only news value is its titillation factor, when everyone knows better. And we need not even mention the three-four dozen Missing Blonde Teens of the Month which have elapsed while not a peep issued from Mr. Stein.

Nah, I'd already discounted that, as they say on the Street. The thing that struck me was that Ben Stein, one of the biggest feces-flingers in the Monkey House when it comes to news coverage of Iraq and the War on Terra (he who called Abu Ghraib "frat-boy hijinks") now warns us that we may lose Afghanistan for want of serious news coverage.

* Don't bother. I know.

Thursday, October 5

Happy Birthday

Autherine Juanita Lucy
born October 5, 1929

But Some Chickenhawks Are More Equal Than Others

When I realized, last weekend, that the Foley story had legs to match its cute little butt one of the first things that popped into my head was "I sure hope Ben Shapiro doesn't take next Wednesday off."

Well, when the stars are right they're right, and Benji never fails to disappoint.

Mark Foley Shames Republicans, But Would Do Democrats Proud

Okay, about that title...I'm married to a public school teacher, and as everyone knows we are forced to recruit because we're always encouraging underaged girls to get abortions, but there is something to be said for a little time spent in the fresh air of the playground, where one may learn that a sharp poke in the nose is the possible outcome of using words as cudgels. Mind you, I'm not advocating violence; I'm just saying that a healthy respect breeds a healthy respect, and Ben Shapiro spent way too much time cooped up with his Mumsy.
The following column contains language that some readers may find offensive .

I've been busy lately. Does it say that at the beginning of every Human Events column now?

Really, though. I love this. I wish I could think of the libertoonian who did the same thing a month or so back and who, unlike Ben, obviously did not find the material offensive himself. If you're so fucking concerned about what offends people, don't write it or say it. Sheesh, I don't walk around the mall saying "fuck" in other people's hearing, and it's obviously not because I find "fuck" objectionable, but because I find rudeness to strangers in public objectionable. Either do or don't do. Quit insisting that Hollywood ought to consider the most innocent lamb that might walk into a room and hear a swear when you can't say "Clinton" without "blowjob", whether or not you erect that stupid yellow tape around the crime scene.

Of course our forgotten Libertoonian friend might actually have thought he was providing a service, whereas Ben just increases his schoolmarm jollies by advertising adult content. I'm really eager to read his book on porn, by the way. I do so wish one would hurry up and fall off the refuse truck.
The Democrats finally have their issue. Rep. Mark Foley (R.-Fla.) resigned his seat in the House of Representatives on Friday, September 29, after news leaked that he had sexually harassed an underage male Congressional page.

I'm sure I've said this before, at least as often as I've bothered with a Ben Shapiro column, but y'know, for a Harvard 3L he sure doesn't seem to have learned anything about sticking to legal definitions when tossing around accusations. Sexual harassment? Doan' think so. Underage? Apparently not.

And "Democrats finally have their issue"? I'm confident that most Democrats believe their issue is the damage done to the country and the globe with six years of rule by right-wing ideologues and super criminals, and they wish the mass-market media and the mass-market paperback buyer agreed. Foley's a lagniappe, sonny.
Foley repeatedly e-mailed and instant messaged the page, revoltingly asking him to undress, to measure his genitals with a ruler, to list details regarding frequency and method of masturbation, and to tell Foley when he was aroused. "[I'd] love to slip [your shorts] off you … and [grab] the one-eyed snake," Foley messaged the teen.

Why repeat these perverse details? To demonstrate that House Republicans were not simply negligent in failing to investigate allegations regarding Foley's pedophilia -- they were downright malfeasant. When a 16-year-old page informed top House Republicans that Foley had e-mailed him and asked for a picture, the Republicans did nothing. When Republican officials confronted Foley over the e-mails, Foley explained that they were innocent mentoring -- and Republicans did nothing.

Again, not to split hairs, but is Ben really going to class? The distinction between "negligence" and "malfeasance" here is non-existent, unless you want to argue the possibility that the House Republican leadership didn't know "pedophiliac sexual harassment" was a crime.

In fact, many of Benji's cohorts have been arguing just this point; JPod, at the Corner, for example, cushioning Hastert's nuts with the satin pillow of "He wasn't Foley's boss and so had no real power over him". And there's plenty of discussion about what laws, if any, Foley may actually have broken. In Indiana he could be charged if he was acting in loco parentis or if he was using some coercive force, but otherwise it might come down, e.g., to whether a prosecutor wanted the headlines badly enough to try and fail to make a pandering charge stick.

So a plague on the legalists and on sloppy 3Ls. It's the apparent recklessness of the House leadership which is the issue here, that and the cynicism born of money and electoral power. That's the issue. It's beyond the simple hypocrisy of the thing, though that's powerful enough.
Trusting Foley at his word was inexcusable. If Foley had contacted a female page asking for her picture, there is no doubt he would have been grilled.

Well, knowing what we know about Foley, he might have been toasted. [rimshot]
House Republicans should have known better than to trust Foley here. Foley has been accused of closet homosexuality since his entry into politics; studies show that homosexuals are disproportionately prone to pedophilia.

No offense, mind you, but I wonder why it is homophobes are always pulling stuff like that out of their asses?
Democrats are surely correct to bludgeon House Republicans with the Foley scandal. Nonetheless, their outrage seems somewhat incongruous when we take into account their moral belief system. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D.-Calif.), who labeled House Republicans' behavior here "abhorrent," is a vocal opponent of parental consent laws with regard to abortions for underage girls. This is the same Democratic Party that repeatedly endorsed homosexual page-molester Rep. Gerry Studds (D.-Mass.), even after his affair with a 17-year-old male page had been revealed. This is the same party that consistently defended Bill Clinton, calling his affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky a private matter.

And The Amazing Kreskin stands by as the randomly-selected member of the audience, whom he has never met, opens the envelope, pulls out the sheet of paper, and reads: "Abortion, Gerry Studds, and Bill Clinton's penis."
On what moral basis do Democrats condemn Foley? They have no basis for moral outrage, since they have championed the destruction of traditional morality for decades. Instead, they condemn Foley and the Republicans for hypocrisy. Foley, when he wasn't spending his time molesting teenage boys, pushed for legislation to crack down on child pornography. House Republicans, when they weren't busy ignoring Foley's scummy behavior, pushed for legislation to uphold traditional values. The big sin here, according to the social left, is that Foley and the Republicans tried to bolster antiquated sexual mores while simultaneously bucking them in personal life. Were Mark Foley a liberal Democrat from San Francisco, liberals would be hard-pressed to spot a problem with his behavior.

I'm sorry, Ben. Did you say something? Musta dozed off.

Wednesday, October 4

Tuesday, October 3

Happy Birthday

Edward Ray Cochran
October 3, 1938--April 17, 1960

is taht a congressman in ur pocket, or r u just happy 2 c me?

Don't worry, America. Investigators are standing by.
One: listened, sort of, to Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council on CNN, who was being pressed by John King to say something substance about the Republican leadership in re: Foley. What Perkins did say, at least four times, was some variation on this:

"If the Republican leadership did fail to act it may be because they were afraid of being seen as homophobic or gay bashing."

Yes indeedy, always a big problem for the Pugs, their homophobophobia.

Of course, maybe part of the problem is the instantaneous equation of pedophilia and homosexuality, but what do I know?

UPDATE: Newt said it too.

Memo to: Bay, et al.
Subject: Righteous anger at Republican leadership

I'll believe you when I see you pursue this to the bitter end. It means absolutely nothing for you to come out against pederasty. Have a look at Mr. Perkins' weaseling above. Half the pubic social "conservatives" in this country are in the employ of the RNC, and it's been going on for a quarter-century. Are you people going to call them out, at long last? You either get Hastert's scalp on this or you quit altogether. That should be the deal.

Of course at that point you and our ilk will still be a bunch of hypocrites, but there's no getting around that.

Regards, dr

Two: Can't remember if I've told this story. A guy who taught in my high school was, several years later, arrested at the direction of future Indianapolis mayor and Bush administration flunkey, prosecutor Stephen "Goldsmythe" Goldsmith because he (the teacher) called up a former student, by then aged 19, and asked her if she'd care to perform in what are euphemistically known as "adult videos". The young woman in question took offense, but rather than tell her former teacher to go fuck himself and tape that she called up the most ambitious sumbitch ever elected prosecutor, and he had her wear a wire to a meeting with the guy. Who wound up on the front page of the paper charged with pandering. His teaching career was over, of course. And no argument that his judgment was poor enough that that wasn't exactly a bad thing.

But I’m married to a teacher, and it’s something we both live with--any accusation will wind up on the front page of the paper and it’s Career Over. Which just adds a little piquance to the Foley deal and the freshly-minted legalists on the Right--such as Tony Snow, who was required to say that the administration believed in innocence before the Bar and in the conduct of a full investigation before any rash acts, such as imprisonment. With a straight face.

Monday, October 2

Oh, Like Alex Has Room To Talk...

after the pic he emailed me a couple months ago.


• Sunday night's top story on the CBS Evening News: video of Mohammed Atta and Osama bin Laden found six years ago in Afghanistan. No, really. The top story.

• Which relegated coverage of former Rep. Mark "How Much To Rent The Last Boy Scout?" Foley to one of the bridesmaid slots, which meant I almost missed it due to a severe case of Lester Holt, who--and I mean this sincerely--should be doing local weather somewhere. He's just that good.

Regardless, I stuck around and was rewarded with a half-dozen reminders that it is the Democrats who would like to make this a national campaign issue. No, really. A U.S. Representative--and not just any U.S. Representative, but the Chairman of the House Caucus on Missing and Exploited Children--sends hot, sweaty pederastic emails to one or more Congressional boy pages, and the House leadership knows and ignores it, and it's a partisan issue?

All I can figure is the gang at CBS expected the Democrats to try to understand why Foley would choose to act that way. Y'know, like they're always doing with terrorists.

• Meanwhile, you have to love Dennis Hastert's explanation: "I didn't know anything about it. I was merely informed." The perfect microcosm of our politics, in other words.

• And this was mere prelude to a 60 Minutes interview with Bob Woodward, whose unparalleled Washington insider access has apparently allowed him to figure out what's gone wrong in Iraq a scant thirty-six months after the rest of us.

• Which puts him two months ahead of the "Rummy Must Go!" curve.

• "It raises questions about the hyper-partisanship of the Clinton era."

--professional weasel Chris Wallace to Charlie Rose, proving that despite the passage of several days he still had no clue what had gone on on his own show, in case there was somebody out there who'd missed the point initially.

• Extra credit to Rep. Peter "The Amityville Congressman" King, the microencephalic who is now the apparent public face of GOP moderation, for, on the same show, managing to work Michael Moore into the discussion.

• And kudos to John Harris of WaPo and former journalist Al Hunt who spent their five-minute segment of the show proving that the idea that Conventional Wisdom is the height to which most pundits aspire is, if anything, overly optimistic. Hunt: "The core Democraic base loves the fact that Hillary jumped in." Harris: "Bush tends not to care what the Washington commentariat has to say."

• So which is worse, exactly--an administration that gets advice from Laura Bush, or an administration that doesn't take it and then it turns out they could have used it?

• I'm really sorry that the past two weeks of self-indulgence and self-abuse have caused me to short Indiana politics at High Noon of its silly season, because: a) Mitch's boy in the Department of Natural Resources ruled that for the next twelve months Hoosiers will be able to pursue their Constitutional freedoms by arming themselves in State Parks. This was followed the very next day by the Chief High Lord CEO himself declaring that the election year sop to the NRA was, and I quote, "a coincidence," suggesting it's high time we brought back the Constitutional right to tar and feathers; b) In another election-year shocker, poster-boy for Hoosier entrepreneurial incompetence Joel Silverman resigned as High Commissioner and Official Golf Shirt Color Selector of the Bureau of Motor Vehicles. Silverman's resignation became effective roughly four floors after he was tossed out his office window. The following day, announcing that the move was purely coincidental, Mitch again shouldered the blame for the total meltdown of the BMV computer system Silverman had overseen, immediately before he pointed out that the problem was really caused by everyone else. No word yet on what lucky Fortune 500 firm will be snapping up Mr. Silverman's services, but we do know it won't be Galyan's*.

By the way, on his resignation letter, just under the signature, Silverman left reference to a Bible verse which I've now lost, but I'm sure it had something to do with humility. And I had to renew our license plates this month, and when I got to my car our new entrepreneurial-approved computer system coughed up our address from fifteen years ago. Which, I imagine, is where the damn thing went, since it hasn't arrived and the others got here three weeks ago.

• And the race for Indianapolis prosecutor--the last city office held by the once invincible Republican machine--got dirty fairly quickly, but the highlight for me so far came last week as incumbent Carl "Tanning Bed" Brizzi led the charge as his office served search warrants on the Coroner's office. Brizzi is a world-class camera hog even in off-years, but he's still a piker compared to his predecessor Steve "Goldsmythe" Goldsmith, who once mounted a bulldozer to help knock down a "crack house" at precisely 5:00:15 one PM. Anyway, the issue at the Coroner's office is, apparently, the theft of money from a corpse which occurred two years ago, and the release of a body for cremation before the family and prosecutor's office knew about it. Just the sort of thing that calls for a Prosecutor undaunted by the requirement to jump out of a car while the cameras roll and sprint ten yards to the front entrance. I'm tardy, and I've lost the quote, but someone in the Coroner's office told the Star something to the effect that you could tell Brizzi took the case seriously by the amount of makeup he was wearing.

* That would be the major sporting goods retailer which Silverman managed to lose under the couch while he served as its CEO.