Friday, November 30

Which Beer Would You Have A Candidate With?

BY 1968 the United States had been in Vietnam for seven1, thirteen2, fourteen3, eighteen4, twenty-three5, or forty-eight 6 years, depending on when you start counting, but we were only three years into Escalation, which is what we called Surging back when the viral theory of accurate language was imperfectly understood. And we had a sitting President challenged in New Hampshire (how quaint!) by an anti-war candidate, and this at a time when a majority of Americans supported the war and a third of them wanted to go "all-out to win". (By the way, if you imagine this must mean something less that the proposed nuclear annihilation of that portion of the indigenous population of Indochina which had refused to accept Roman Catholicism in the 19th century your faith in human nature is greater than mine. Or than the evidence supports.)

(And for the record, it was support for Johnson's handling of the war--I'm using a lot of parenthesis these days for some reason--and not for the war itself which fell after Uncle Walter told us Tet meant we'd lost, though it had begun falling a year earlier.)

Forty years later a candidate has to have been an opponent of the current quagmire from the start (read: crackpot, traitor, crackpottraitor) to tell the public it once again suffers from Mass Directed Confabulation Syndrome; otherwise one insists that it's all Lyndon Johnson's George W. Bush's fault for an imperfect execution (which lets the public off the hook, since execution is the one thing it could have reasonably expected him to be good at). This despite the fact that this time the public overwhelmingly thinks knows the war to be a mistake, and a disaster, over and above the Moron-in-Chief and the Era of Delirium Tremens he ushered in. Even the guy who was perfectly placed, by virtue of being nowhere in the immediate vicinity when the Resolution passed, and who had every reason to pin the tail on the donkeys who had abetted it--like it was his one chance to win--refuses to do so. All of which makes a certain amount of sense if you're running for the President of Forty Years Ago, but the only explanation for it today is that Money is the antonym of Sense.

Which I didn't mean to spring on you, there, and I trust you were sitting down. It's just that yesterday's Okay Now It's Huckabee! fest (example), predicated on the idea that it potentially could mean something if he does well in a once-totally-ignored straw poll in a state whose second major import, not coincidentally, is straw, made me nostalgic for that Bygone Era--three weeks ago--when It! was Fred Dumbo Thompson. How well I remember Craig Crawford--he's the Olbermann guest who sounds like Bill Clinton with an undisclosed brain injury--informing me that Fred's extraordinary first debate performance, the one where he successfully avoided accidentally setting fire to his own tie, had doomed the Huckabee campaign. Now it turns out that Iowans are increasingly smitten by the way the former Arkansas governor tells that same homily about his preacher over and over. Or at least 24% of the something like 400 who told a voice identifying itself on the phone as a political pollster that they're likely to participate in the caucuses provided there's pie are.

I don't mind telling you I found the news cheering, since I'd begun to suspect that Republicans had gone nuts.

The euphoria was short-lived. Further research (this is why I'm a committed dilettante, by the way) revealed that 9% of respondents told Parents magazine that Rudy Giuliani is the Presidential candidate they'd most trust to babysit their children.

Still, hope springs eternal, and another round of fascinating YouTube debates, with attendant Hey, A Hillary Supporter Got To Ask A Question! scandal, has perhaps hastened the day when we'll choose a Chief Executive by having randomly-selected citizens pick from an onstage selection of luggage. Besides, whoever wins this time will likely be hated right off the bat, thus ending all speculation about when David Broder will write his first "Is the Honeymoon Over?" column.

1 Kennedy sends combat advisors, beginning military build-up.
2 With U.S. backing, Diem announces Republic of Vietnam product roll-out.
3 In the wake of Dien Bien Phu, CIA establishes military mission, protecting the investment, as it were.
4 U.S. money and U.S. Military Assistance Advisory Group arrive to aid the heroic French struggle. Note that it is only government/military organizations which find the need to specify their Advice constitutes Assistance.
5 Despite having been bankrupted through standing alone against Hitler, the United Kingdom in the Pacific Ltd., by this point a wholly-owned subsidiary of Uncle Sammy's Postwar Trans-Pacific Ricebowl, Inc., sends troops into Indochina to preserve the French Empire, the French at the time being otherwise occupied in skedaddling. Bolstered by two-hundred years of the sort of Sahib wisdom that permitted them to look upon the Americans a blithering idiots with a bank account, and unable to raise the cab fare to send their own people, the Brits send mostly Gurkhas, thus endearing themselves to the Chinese.
6 The Wilson administration ignores Ho's pleas for a end to French colonialism.

Wednesday, November 28

It's Like A Faustian Bargain, But Without The Faust!

NEW YORK (Reuters) - General Electric Co unit NBC Universal has reached an agreement with TiVo Inc to become the first major broadcaster with the right to use the digital recorder company's research and interactive advertising products, the Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday in its online edition.

The agreement will give the TV concern's networks such as NBC, Telemundo and Bravo -- as well as its NBC owned-and-operated TV stations -- access to TiVo's ratings data, the Journal said.

The deal will be announced as early as Tuesday, the Journal added.

NBC Universal is also planning to use the deal to sell advertisers TiVo products such as interactive tags, which enable a company's name to be seen even if a viewer is zapping through an ad, the Journal said.

YOU probably won't believe this, but back in the Dark Days of Analog computers were sometimes viewed as potential instruments of evil (!), waiting to run Amok; even the poor unassuming bar code was thought of as a precursor to government-sponsored anal probing and mass extermination camps, and people laughed at Soylent Green. Well, I did, anyway, but then I was high, plus I was only there in the first place because some high school friend of my sister's had suggested that if I took her to see it at the drive-in in my (used) Audi LS she'd let me drive her (almost pristine) Volvo, if you know what I mean, and then she wouldn't.

In fairness, people took concepts like "dehumanization" and "invasion of privacy" and "Nazi death camp" a lot more seriously in those days, and almost no one had seen Star Trek and its window into our technotopian future. The idea of a personal computer wasn't even on the radar. Hell, radar hadn't actually been on the radar all that long, now that I think about it. We hadn't yet experienced the joys of efficient, hydroponically-grown tomatoes, let alone realizing how much greater genetically-engineered varieties would bounce. We fed our cattle grain, if you can imagine, and not, well, less-successful cattle.

I'm not sure when this all changed, but I do know that to the extent Bill Gates is responsible we need to re-think our position on schoolyard bullying. I imagine we can also blame Christmas, which introduced Pong and Atari into American living rooms like undetected carbon monoxide, leaving our citizenry too groggy to realize that in a few short years every meal, opera, family gathering, retail shopping trip, theatre opening, bris, or spectator sporting event would occur under a thick blanket of ringing telephones and the loud recitation of one end of the witless conversations they presage. (All of this leaves out my personal complaint about the sort mindless commercial nostalgia for this stuff which posits it as some simpler, purer time, the sort of thing which might cause a professional scribe to quote someone renting hall space to a bunch of chiptone enthusiasts to the effect that "this is their Woodstock". And don't get me wrong. I have the utmost respect for these or any other artists, and nothing worse than benign neglect for their audience; it's the sort of people who say, "This is their Woodstock," I'd like to see eliminated, or at least driven mad by one side of a telephone conversation while they wait in the checkout line.)

Where the hell was I? Oh, so as of January 1 your TIVO will be spying on you not just for its own amusement, but in the service of the General Electric Corporation (NYSE: GE), a move which is not only being applauded in certain circles but lauded as bold and innovative. Thanks to this sort of modern innovation you don't even need to read the teevee listings anymore. If you did anyway, you'd find that over on the actual NBC tonight you can watch The Bionic Woman as updated for the Late Naughts (she's still a crime-busting techno-feminist with nice hair, but now she's considering Opting Out). Or, if you'd rather catch what market research convinced NBC to do with Bravo ("The Arts Network"), tune in for six prime-time hours of Project Runway. Bodes well, huh? Compared to that a little non-consensual anal probing while someone taps out Freut euch des Lebens on a rejiggered Merlin doesn't sound so bad. Maybe NBC could save a little bold and innovative thinking for the Product.

Tuesday, November 27

Happy Birthday

Johnny Allen Hendrix
November 27, 1942--September 18, 1970

Understanding Alien Cultures

"She liked sex. She was like those girls in high school who amazed you because they actually liked sex.”

--Danny Fields on Linda Stein.

Monday, November 26


PAUL Davies, in a Times Op-Ed Saturday (via PZ):
All science proceeds on the assumption that nature is ordered in a rational and intelligible way. You couldn’t be a scientist if you thought the universe was a meaningless jumble of odds and ends haphazardly juxtaposed.

Sure you could. Science doesn't "proceed" from any "assumption" about order. Order is a by-product of the assumption that if anything can be thought of as knowable it has to be demonstrated and duplicable. So far as I know, Science does not impugn other forms of knowledge, it simply classifies them as non-scientific. The discoveries of Thelonious Monk or Marcel Duchamp are no less valid for not being science (or, to put it in terms most math majors could accept, M. C. Escher).

We might excuse Davies on grounds of being a physicist, and thus (however inexcusably) lacking in insight into the less orderly sciences, but even if he weren't being given space in the Times to pull the old "Science is Faith, too" gag there's that troubling "meaningless" to deal with. How does "meaning" follow from Order and Rationality? Hasn't this been the fundamentalist argument since they woke up and realized 19th century science (and theology) had obliterated the inerrant Bible nonsense once and for all--that scientific materialism reduced life to meaningless random motion? And now it's on trial for the assumption of meaning? Kindly pick a side.

And speaking of meaningless jumbles, this proceeded by one day Hanna Rosin's Times Magazine tree-killer on how some Christian colleges have had to hire actual geologists an' stuff, and how this marks a sea-change in what used to be called, three or four euphemisms ago, Creation Science, which has now decided to add actual science to its belief system provided it agrees to stay out in the yard. Now if only they could get those pesky Young Earthers to shut up and hand over all that Discovery Institute money. (No, really; these poor souls now find themselves facing lecture halls full of kids who believe Adam and Eve rode dinosaurs, instead of eager young learners aware of the reality of the vast geological scale God created so smart-assed atheists would burn for all Eternity. And the even bigger nutcases get all the book deals.)

Really, the piece is not worth the time it took you to read that description, let alone me to write it, and if you're at all curious I recommend finding the print version, since the redolence of post-'04 advice to Democrats to begin kowtowing to "Values" voters is highly evocative of that bygone era.

The amazing coincidence of the two pieces being published on the same weekend may suggest to the more skeptical among the scientific-minded that some of that right-wing publishing money is finding its way outside the inner circle, which reminds me of the two-week Osmond assault on local "entertainment" news and its curiously robust supply of ammunition.

I am, in fact, a veteran of the entire national campaign of the Osmond sect, as my father was an Andy Williams fan and his low-key-to-the-point-of-coma "variety" program was regular viewing in our corner of early-60s suburbia, when that bucktoothed gaggle of talentless religious flakes was presented as a sort of barbershop version of the Andrews Sisters, minus both the Rum and the Coca-Cola™, and probably the Mafia boyfriends. Then my sister was just young and musically retarded enough to buy, and listen to--just the other side of my bedroom wall--stereophonic Osmond cult discs. This was in the day when Donny was programmed as Michael Jackson without the talent and Marie an ingenue "country" "singer". (Sis didn't listen to the excrescence that was "Little" Jimmy Osmond--in reality a dwarfish Catskills veteran hired and fitted with a dental prosthesis--or I'd still be in Cell Block D.)

And, okay, so they never really went all the way away in the interim, for some reason (Bobby Sherman must be pissed), but they were barely an undeserved bubble breaking the surface of the celebrity Olympic-sized pool of cess when suddenly, starting a couple weeks ago, the hopeless passenger of my Poor Wife's evening local news rides is bombarded with every mathematical permutation of rodent dentition in the state of Utah. Marie faints dead away from the exertion of haphazardly executing some two-minute dance routine, resulting in a five-day wall-to-wall. Then her father--whose name, visage, personality, show-biz function, or alternate claim to fame I don't ever recall ever having seen or heard before--died, and there was three days of funeral coverage (JFK must be pissed), and just when that had blessedly begun to subside somebody ran a feature on one of the original Osmond brothers who has overcome MS or shingles or something inspiring. And then--I may have the chronology inside out, as if that would matter--there was something about one or two or five of Marie's brood being sentenced to rehab. (This was reiterated to me at the dinner table celebration of my sister's eldest's fifteenth birthday yesterday, to which I replied that when the sample size was thirty-six the odds of at least two being in rehab on any given day were at most even money, and I'd be surprised if there wasn't at least one set of conjoined twins, a biological female being raised as a male, and two instances of Tay-Sachs disease into the bargain.) And, on the nights when local Directors of News felt this Western dessert dinner theatre version of the Icelandic Sagas was beginning to flag, middle-aged Donny would magically appear exhaling his wintergreen breath-saver and unscented Ban roll-on personality. Assuming, that is, that Mormons are permitted wintergreen.

Frankly, it seems like the minimum required for good democracy that such patent absurdities as the public fluffing of the Umpteenth Reincarnation of Creationism be accompanied by some boilerplate explaining just how much money had changed hands. And, in the case of the Osmonds, the exhumation of Howard Hughes in light of modern advancements in DNA testing. Because their revival has got to be costing somebody billions.

Sunday, November 25

TV Guide™ Roundup

And We Do Mean Return: It's either the writers' strike, or global warming recently thawed a group of TV Guide™ correspondents trapped in the ice since that ill-advised Pat Boone Live At Glacier National Park special . Either way, the golden era of letters to TV Guide™ as a window on the political zeitgeist of the North American shut-in circa 1967 appears headed for a comeback. Sharon Murguia, of Victorville, CA, writes to express her appreciation for shows like Friday Night Lights, "where parents try to teach their children to make good and right choices". Her fellow Golden Stater Mark Reyes, of Playa Del Rey, thinks the writers of Ugly Betty need to look up the definitions for "heart," "character," and "entertainment." Massapequa, NY's Herb Stark satirically adds that, given this season's barrage of mindless TV shows and graphically violent movies, he was surprised to hear the writers were on strike, since he thought they already were!

We're left to wonder whether anyone wrote in to demand the network news organizations get off the President's back already, but plenty of other Americans are engaged in traditional pursuits. Heartlander Gena Fisher, of Kidder, MO, says TV Guide™ rules! and adds "Four words: Robert Sean Leonard interview". Both Glasgow, KY's Michael Emberton, and Fort Lewis, WA's Brianna Donovan pledge fealty to The Office's Jim and Pam, despite a recent Jeer. And Maria Maxwell, of Wading River, NY, is disappointed that TV Guide™ spoiled the upcoming Sex and the City movie. They didn't do that sort of thing in the old days. Make over-praised teevee link sausages into movies, we mean.

Cheers: Danny Glover, charm and gravitas; Brian Williams, SNL; Elizabeth Banks, funny childbirth.

Jeers: Rules of Engagement, stranding Heather Locklear in a thankless, laughless role; AMC, running Mad Men reruns out of sequence.

Reader Jeer of the Week: Roy Herstein of San Fran notes Cold Case's anachronistic casting of 70-somethings Ralph Waite and Len Lesser as thirty-somethings in 1938.

That's a thirty!!

Thursday, November 22

I Blame Reagan

David Brooks, "The Segmented Society." November 20

MAYBE I'm mistaken--there was that long period before the Wall came down when I read Brooks only on Sunday--but it seems as though every time the man hangs some wingnut wash out in public he's back within 72 hours with one of these Why Can't We All Just Get Along routines. I can't quite decide if it's calculated or just the natural defense mechanism of the AV Club nerd.
The 1970s were a great moment for musical integration. Artists like the Rolling Stones and Springsteen drew on a range of musical influences and produced songs that might be country-influenced, soul-influenced, blues-influenced or a combination of all three. These mega-groups attracted gigantic followings and can still fill huge arenas.

But cultural history has pivot moments, and at some point toward the end of the 1970s or the early 1980s, the era of integration gave way to the era of fragmentation. There are now dozens of niche musical genres where there used to be this thing called rock. There are many bands that can fill 5,000-seat theaters, but there are almost no new groups with the broad following or longevity of the Rolling Stones, Springsteen or U2.

Dave, I'm just spitballin' here, but y'know, maybe the reason nobody today has that sort of longevity is that they'd have to be that old. Dr. Dre's pushing 25 years in the business, and Chuck D thirty. George Clinton's got a stage somewhere. But they're disqualified because they don't bring in the coveted 50-58 white concertgoer demographic?

Back in the Days of USENET I would frequently be forced to remark on how every argument eventually turned into an epistemology lecture. Today it seems every issue requires an explanation that the history of a thing does not begin at the point you become aware of it, and it is not appreciably broadened by bits of its history acquired contemporaneously. There's no substitute for doing some of the actual digging yourself.

When little Steven Van Zandt (b. 1950) and I were lads it was possible to pick up a considerable chuck of the history of Rock and Roll from listening to it on the radio--it was but a decade old, after all--where hourly Golden Oldies slots introduced you to Bill Haley and Elvis and Chuck and Little Richard and Jerry Lee. We heard doo-wop. We heard the Everly Brothers. We heard the officially sanctioned history of mostly black music as packaged for and sold to young white audiences. We didn't hear Louis Jordan, Chicago blues, Roy Brown or Wynonie Harris, or, for that matter, any of the gospel, jump, country, mountain, barrelhouse, boogie-woogie, swing, stride, or various folk musics that were present at the conception. Those required digging and diligence.

The 70s were the end of that musical integration, not its heyday, as a little diligence would have informed Brooks. National programming fragmented audiences. Black artists disappeared from rock stations once the Album Oriented Rock format descended (in fairness, it's tough to work in many artists of whatever color if you're dedicated to playing "Stairway to Heaven" three times an hour). In 1967 Stax died with Otis Redding, shortly after Motown self-destructed by losing Holland-Dozier-Holland. It was the lush soul of Gamble & Huff and Gladys Knight that crossed-over in the early 70s, but by then they had a home in urban radio, and why not?; they were not exactly a programming match for The Doobie Brothers. The soundtracks to Shaft and Superfly reached rock audiences, but between then and Disco white kids heard "Sweet Home Alabama," not "Living in America".

It's the Balkanization of the audience, not the music, Mr. Brooks. In the early 1970s I listened to the Stones, The Who, Frank Zappa, Captain Beefheart, The Velvet Underground, Roxy Music, Leon Russell, King Crimson, Van Morrison, Richard Thompson, Pink Floyd, Randy Newman, Nick Drake, Sly Stone, Dave Edmunds, Santana, Little Feat, Dr. John, Dan Hicks and His Hot Licks--all subsumed by the rubric "Rock and Roll". How many genres is that today, without counting James Brown or Miles Davis or Hugh Masekela, or Muddy and Wolf and Sonny Boy, whom you sought out in the other sections of the record store?
People have been writing about the fragmentation of American music for decades. Back in the Feb. 18, 1982, issue of Time, Jay Cocks wrote that American music was in splinters. But year after year, the segmentation builds.

Your honor, the prosecution rests; if Time sussed it out by 1982 I think we can safely date the actual occurrence to 1973 at the latest.

Is this important? Well, for one thing, I think it's curious that Mr. Road To Damascus At A Milton Friedman Lecture discounts the role of the market:
Technology drives some of the fragmentation. Computers allow musicians to produce a broader range of sounds. Top 40 radio no longer serves as the gateway for the listening public. Music industry executives can use market research to divide consumers into narrower and narrower slices.

Now, without questioning the validity of market research which tells the four guys who own radio stations in this country that people want to hear the same six songs over and over again, and that their attention spans are so short that any variation will send them screaming for the dial, and without pointing out that it is the relaxation of restrictions on ownership that permits them this sort of unlimited power, we will simply ask where the notion comes from? Why should those Prisoner of Science marketeers want to slice consumers into ever more narrow specimens?

I guess I'm just unclear on the theology. The Market is an all-powerful, scythe-wielding arbiter wholly at the mercy of what people tell market researchers? And Free Will, tapdancing angels, and Adam and Eve's navels come into it where, again?

If you haven't heard me say it before, believe me: I revere pop radio of the mid-1960s, when The Beatles were followed by Aretha was followed by Dylan was followed by Jackie Wilson. But like the man sez, when times are gone they're not old, they're dead. Top 40 radio didn't disappear due to new technologies; it disappeared due to new trends in separating the consumer from his currency. And in a market where the subject/object is literally or metaphorically fifteen years old, with a fifteen-year-old's discernment, attention span, and disposable income, we're now nearly three generations removed from that happy time when white audiences began to accept black music on its own terms. If anything stops The Market from trying to re-integrate pop music, beyond the marketeers themselves, it's that they've trained the consumer to expect a high level of familiarity and a zero-tolerance for anything "foreign".

And what of it, anyway? The Fascists made the runners train on time, The Market provides these warm-bath spaces for people to soak and be soaked in. Why should young urban audiences be listening to some California mope singing about his shirt? Why should blue-collar white teenagers be listening to Sufjan Stevens? Why shouldn't jazz fans feel superior to all of the above? I believe I've found one man's answer:
But other causes flow from the temper of the times. It’s considered inappropriate or even immoral for white musicians to appropriate African-American styles. And there’s the rise of the mass educated class.

Plus, how come it's okay to have Black History Month, but they won't let you have White History Month?

Apart from the fact that I'm willing to pay good money for every working white musician you can name who doesn't earn a living to some degree "appropriating African-American styles", I think we glimpse the real problem here: popular music now longer kowtows to a white middle-class sensibility. If only They would let us rap! Then it'd be something The Whole Family could enjoy!

Shoe a mite snug when They switch it to the other foot, Mr. Brooks?

Look, I not only admire Fats Domino, I still listen to him. This position is no longer supported, even in elevators. Big whoop. There never was an arts-loving public. I have no idea why my pubescent nieces would, or should, want to listen to him; good luck changing that by making him a school subject. Let them discover him on their own, if the time comes. Let 'em treat music as something that goes on in the background if they'd rather. And let David Brooks accept the results of that Free Market he worships so long as "higher earnings estimates" is at the top of his personal chart, even when somebody other than The Man gets him some.

Monday, November 19

They're Not Booing, They're Saying...Oh, Wait, They Are Booing.

Lou Cannon, "Reagan's Southern Stumble." Times November 18

LIKE some back-of-the-dust-jacket circle blurb, Cannon shows up in Sunday's Op-Ed pages to restate the position David Brooks ascribed to him, either because 1) Brooks is feeling some heat for that ill-advised November 9 column; 2) Bob Herbert joined in last week, necessitating some faux-balance in the flesh; or 3) Cannon thought using eight times as many words as Brooks spent on him would tip the balance.
POLITICAL mythologies endure. One myth that is enjoying a revival in a year when Republican presidential candidates are comparing themselves to Ronald Reagan, their iconic hero, is the notion that Mr. Reagan defeated President Jimmy Carter in 1980 by a coded appeal to white-supremacist voters.

Again, nobody says this, or if they do the answer is a single-sentence brush-off. (It takes a whole paragraph or two to deal with people who claim Reagan won by stealing Carter's debate book or horse-trading with the hostage-holding Ayatollah, but that's another story.) What is claimed is that the modern "conservative" Republican party--the one Reagan's victory cemented in place-has been making such appeals for forty-five years, that it is a sizable, and often unspoken part of its electoral prowess, and that his first public act as Candidate Reagan--that trip to Klanland where he told the assembled crowd that Rinse-O™ with Extra Bluing Crystals got his sheets their whitest--serves as a fine metaphor for the whole enterprise. Small wonder both Brooks nor Cannon feel compelled to inflate the claims made about the incident, seeing as how the facts are undeniable and undeniably not on their side.

And again: going into Mississippi in 1980 and declaring for States' Rights was not "speaking in code," any more than saying "I'm pro-life" at that Values Voters Bash is.
He had been talking this way for two decades as part of his pitch that the federal government had become too powerful.

And in those two decades not one person ever imagined he was talking about the Commerce Clause.
In the wake of Neshoba, Mr. Reagan’s critics pounced. President Carter’s campaign operatives portrayed Mr. Reagan as a divisive racist.

Well, he had been talking like that for twenty years, Lou...I'm really somewhat at a loss, though, to explain why opponents portraying Reagan as racially divisive redeems his comment. And if he'd issued a retraction, a clarification, or an apology in response we wouldn't be having this conversation now, would we?
The mythology of Neshoba is wrong in two distinct ways. First, Ronald Reagan was not a racist. Second, his Neshoba speech was not an effective symbolic appeal to white voters. Instead, it was a political misstep that cost him support.

Okay, if I understand this line of reasoning correctly, people who claim Reagan won the 1980 elections due to a racist appeal are wrong because 1) the appeal backfired; 2) it wasn't racist; and 3) what th' fuck are you talking about?
Any fair-minded look at Mr. Reagan’s biography and record demonstrates that he was not a bigot. In 1931, when Mr. Reagan was on the Eureka College football team, two black players were refused admission to a hotel in Elmhurst, Ill., where the team was playing. Mr. Reagan took them with him to Dixon, Ill., to spend the night at his parents’ home. He and one of the players, William Franklin Burghardt, remained friends and correspondents until Mr. Burghardt died in 1981.

Hey, Lou, sometime, have somebody introduce you to an African-American and try that one on him. Whatever his political stripe. I'm sure the two players involved appreciated the gesture, but we aren't talking about his college career, and it ain't exactly sitting in protest at a Whites Only lunch counter while inbred yahoos burn you with cigarettes. This is part of the transparent fradulence of the argument. Reagan did not have to personally espouse racism to appeal to racists for votes; he didn't have to personally support segregation to be a racist. It's a really touching story an' all about how, way back in the 1930s Reagan didn't imagine he'd catch the Black Plague by inviting two African-Americans into his parent's house. But the issue is whether, fifty years later, he and the Republican party he helped reshape consciously appealed to white racism in the wake of Lyndon Johnson ramrodding the Civil Rights Act of 1964, et. seq., and whether Reagan's campaign-kickoff speech in Philadelphia is a fair example of the process.

And the answer is, as the kids say today, Well, duh!
As a sports announcer in Iowa in the 1930s, Mr. Reagan opposed the segregation of Major League Baseball. As an actor in Hollywood he quit a Los Angeles country club because it did not admit Jews.

And joined the Jewish one (by the way, did Hillcrest admit blacks, Mr. Cannon?) And he was a Commie, until he married Mommy. What any of that has to do with the campaigns of '64 or beyond I'm not sure. We doff the bowler to any and all of Reagan's principled stands against discrimination, but we also point out that the remarks of a sportscaster and the acts of a President are not measured on the same efficiency scale. Lots of people in the 1930s and 40s who believed in some notion of equality, or who opposed Jim Crow on principle, so long as they were outside the South, were not exactly crazy about open housing, or their own schools being integrated, or Sweet Susie's black swain turning up for Thanksgiving dinner. We don't know about Reagan. We don't presume to judge. We know he presided over the realization of Nixon's Southern Strategy. We know his Cadillac-drivin' Welfare Queen, fictional except in his telling of it, remains an icon of the operation. We know that's enough.

In fact, maybe now is a good time to cut the shit, huh? I'm a white Northerner born in 1953, exactly twenty years after Lou Cannon. Anybody of my age bracket and climatological repose knows what kind of racism festers just below the surface in non-slave holding, non-segregated white America. It's a little less open and a little less virulent than a generation ago. But it's also true that it's less acceptable in public than it was. All the improvement is due to remarkably brave people who stood up against it and sometimes paid with their lives. And while that was going on--while black churches burned across the South, while Chaney, Schwerner, and Goodman were being disinterred from their Mississippi mass grave, while Lt. Colonel Lemuel Penn, USA, was shotgunned to death and while his killers awaited their perfunctory acquittal, while the infected gunshot wounds in his stomach--wounds he'd received from Alabama state troopers as he'd tried to stop them beating his 82-year-old grandfather--took a week to kill Jimmy Lee Jackson, while Jonathan Daniels lay dead on the ground in front of Varner's Grocery Store, while his killer awaited his perfunctory acquittal, while Viola Liuzzo was being shipped back to Detroit and John Edgar Hoover was insinuating that she'd been givin' those black bucks more than a ride in her car, just between us, now...Ronald Reagan and the extremist wing of the Republican party, soon to adopt the single-wing set, opposed them. Because of States' Rights, y'know.

Saturday, November 17

Morphemes of Longing and Unattainability in Early Jacobean Theatre and Letters to TV Guide™

This Week: Letters to TV Guide™

"Moonlight's Mick. St. John is everything a vampire should be and more," opines the juicy-monikered Yvonne Grapes of East Peoria, Illinois, who adds a seductive "Bite me, please!" Rowwwll! Peel me a Grapes! (Wait., there's an East Peoria?) But it's the same program's Alex O'Loughlin who hypersanguinates the juicy bits of Houston's Doddie Laborde ("He's sensitive, romantic, vulnerable and really, really good-looking") and Largo, Florida's R. Savoie ("Forget McSteamy, forget McDreamy"). Wooo-ooo! That's some scary stuff, kids! Prison Break engenders a slightly different glandular focus, as Amber L. Kier of Lake Isabella, California, jeers the Jeerers of Dominic Purcell's sweaty scenes, noting that he's under stress, in Panama, in summer, and it's hot. Enough said! says Amber, and we agree. But skeptical Staten Islander Tom DeLuca wants to know why, since the show's brothers were on the lam all last season, their hair never grows? It's the stress, Tom. They understand this on the West Coast.

Speaking of skeptics, Chris Bennett, of the Athol, Massachusetts, Bennetts, thinks Britney Spears should hire a chauffeur (What? And give up Show Business?), and Beth Harper, who hails from a Lexington in some state or other, wants to know why Jamie, the Bionic Woman, jumped over buildings while holding a mobile phone to her ear, rather than having a receiver as part of her bionic ear bundle. "I do," says Ms Harper. "It's called a Bluetooth." Hey, we'll do the jokes, Beth!

In programming notes, Hindman, Kentucky's Salina Gibson is glad Jerry O'Connell has her laughing every Tuesday night on Carpoolers, even though she still misses Crossing Jordan, and Gardnerville, Nevada's Patricia Johnson writes to thank ABC for bringing back Men in Trees, "one of the few entertaining, nonviolent, nongory shows worth waiting for." We agree with you as far as that goes, Patricia, but we also think that not waiting for entertaining, violent, gory shows has a lot to be said for it as well.

Jill C. Nobles, down Alpharetta, Georgia, way, sends kudos to DWTS' Samantha Harris for her fabulous, three-weeks-post-partum body, but scolds the wardrobe department for putting a nursing mother in a spaghetti-strap gown. It "needs to give the woman a little support," she thinks. Up North we're just a bit more progressive on the idea of possible exposure of a lactating breast or two, Jill C.! And speaking of female empowerment, Bellingham, Washington's David Hirsch wonders how Angie Harmon feels about the ad for Women's Murder Club on the back cover of the October 8 issue. "She's wearing a badge on her backside. Hope her job doesn't involve a lot of sitting." We're with you, David, but we fear Ms Harmon's politics park their apple-y bottom on the other side of the aisle. And it's not the statuesque Ms Harmon but her husband who's spent most of his working hours on his ass. And that's a thirty!

Friday, November 16

Friday That's Just The Vicodin Blogging

SHIT, pal, lemme tell ya. The Republic ain't doomed because Campbell Brown is helping us select a President. The Republic is doomed because Campbell Brown has a job. Campbell Brown is Diane Sawyer: The Next Generation. She's Mrs. Dan Fucking Senor, fer chrissakes. She was taped jumping up and down and hugging people when Bush (whom she was covering) "won" Florida. Remember when there was a shitstorm because Dan Rather spoke at a union picnic?

I mean, we're a country full of religious lunatics and nobody, nobody objects when the Spawn of Senor percolates a few feet from the potential Next President of the United States. People believe in UFOs, guardian angels, and the effectiveness of waterboarding, but they're content to imagine The Omen is "just a show"?

It's champions week on Jeopardy! and the other night the category was something like "Women's Names in Song Titles" and a) nobody got "Allison", but they got fucking John Glad He's Dead Denver's "Annie's Song", speaking of waterboarding, and b) some joker on the staff made Elvis Costello a lower-valued clue than Mr. Fucking Billion Units Country Ro-oads Whose Idea of the "Country" Was Motherfuckin' Aspen. Right. Thanks for trying to convince me the world is sane. Try harder next time. If you're not gonna try at all, try Slate, which says that Email Is Dead (cause kids these days IM). See how it's done? Now they just leave it to the reader to be the contrarian! Email isn't dying because teens IM. Email is doomed because once those dumbass little fuckers get ahold of this fucked-up planet everything is doomed. The fuckin' Movement "Conservatives" are just the warm up act, the Shecky Greene to their geriatric no-voiced Sinatra. Goldberg's gonna look like an actual public intellectual by the time this thing's over, I'm tellin' ya.

Okay, so that's unfair. I'm sorry. I didn't mean anything by it. I love kids. And we're already fuckin' doomed anyhow. We've been doomed since Reagan. We've got Captain Queeg on the bridge, only this one never had any marbles, and he isn't even smart enough to realize he steamed through his own tow line, let alone trying to cover it up anymore, and he's just Reagan 2.0. Wait'll we get Reagan Vista. I mean, people talk about what Reagan didn't do, like initiating thermonuclear war, as though this was a positive attribute. He couldn't do it because the public hadn't quite been dumbed down enough. Bush couldn't do it because somebody screwed up and dumbed down the government even faster. It'll all balance out someday. Huh? Well of course I realize Bush didn't have a Soviet Union to nuke. Reagan didn't have one to speak of either, and that never stopped him from pretending he did. You supply the prose poems, I'll supply the Holocaust.

You got another one? Anyway, did you watch Debate #473 last night? Pretty good. I'd rank it with #214, myself. Goddamn it, Hillary Clinton is the best candidate out there. It's not even close. That Huckabee guy might qualify as a promising minor leaguer, and don't get me started on the Quadrennial Let's Elect A Really Insane Guy shit. It's Hillary. She's good. She didn't panic. Just like Bill, she didn't fight fire with fire. She blew the goddam flame out, knocked the fucker over, put a boot to the throat, and said, calmly, "What was that, again?" Bill was swattin' fungoes compared to her. That gender-card crapola from last week just vanished. She swatted Edwards like he was a pouty three-year-old. And Obama, hell, it's "Why Won't You Stop Hitting Yourself?" Krugman:
But Mr. Obama’s Social Security mistake was, in fact, exactly what you’d expect from a candidate who promises to transcend partisanship in an age when that’s neither possible nor desirable.

Damn skippy. I mean, there are worse things than a President light on experience, and there are worse things than a President who fought against the Iraq War as Treasurer of the Chicago Ward-Heelers Society but can't quite bring himself to denounce Smoke and/or Mirrors as a foreign policy tool. But, at least among Democrats, there's nothing worse than a candidate who takes advice from Maureen Dowd.

For cryin' out loud, he tried to compare Clinton to Rudy & Mitt last night. Who the hell is advising this guy? Two-thirds of the Democratic party, and the entire netroots gaggle, is unhappy with the party, fed-up with Congress, and boiling mad about the last seven years, and somehow Barack Obama can't find anyplace to stand because some genius suggested branding him as Mr. Anti-Partisanship amid the fucking wreckage of a government vandalized by the other party's partisans. Lovely parting gifts! Thanks for playing our game!

Say one thing: President Clinton will kick Tim Russert's ass, but she'll probably be too subtle about it. I'd vote for her right now, if I could, for our next Press Secretary. Hell, I'll vote for her if she'll backchannel me and tell me the first thing her Press Secretary will do, on 1/20/09, is to stand up in front of the Press Corpse and read a two-page history of Vandalgate, Pardongate, and Giftgate with particular attention paid, by name, to Mike Allen and Andrea Mitchell, then suggest they all sleep on it and return bright and early tomorrow.

And make Ailes give Bill his own show.

But fer chrissakes, dude, a fucking Centrist Democrat is the best we can manage in a crisis. I mean, I watched the goddam Brian Williams Show last night--the next President should decree they can't call it "News" anymore--and it was just the local news with more helicopters. If you've got nothing to say, at least have a Friends rerun racked up. It's the Reagan Curse. We're a nation of Lucky Lotto players, man. You think trading Babe Ruth was anything compared to electing a bad actor past his sell-by date President? You think I've said "fuck" enough to drop down to "High School Sophomore" yet? Can you get this stuff in quantity?

Thursday, November 15

Th' Fuck?

Stop Me If You've Heard This Done Better

Michael Medved, Propaganda, and Perspective, on "American Empire" November 14

SPECIFICALLY by Scott; in reply I swore off tackling this thing on my own but my intestines have been arguing the point ever since.

DEAR GOD WON'T SOMEONE PLEASE MAKE IT SHORTER MICHAEL MEDVED: If you ignore all major evidence to the contrary, and pummel the few strawmen which might have penetrated the long-term memory of the contemporary habitué, the foreign policy of the United States looks remarkably beneficent.

“Jingos” at home demanded the annexation of all of Mexico, but instead President Polk accepted a treaty that added to the nation the sparsely populated territory of California, Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada and Utah (Texas had achieved its own independence from Mexico eleven years before).

The bloody (and seemingly innumerable) foreign wars of the Twentieth Century saw millions upon millions of American troops deployed to every corner of the globe but for the most part they came home at the earliest opportunity. President Wilson dispatched more than two-million American soldiers to France to win World War I, but in less than two years they had all left the Old World behind. The sixty year presence of American forces in Europe and Japan following the Second World War has not only decreased dramatically in size since the demise of the Soviet threat but continues today at the insistence of the host countries. Aside from the economic benefits to local economies from the numerous American bases, US troops (for better or worse) provide a security shield that has allowed our European allies to scrimp on defense spending, with military resources in no way commensurate with their economic or political power.

As to the territories added by the United States as part of its ongoing enlargement of its boundaries, none of these acquisitions followed the familiar colonial pattern of invasion and subjugation of hostile native populations.

For all his brutality, Pinochet succeeded in creating the most dynamic economy in Latin America and under American pressure he allowed a referendum on his own rule in 1988, then gave up power altogether less than two years later.

Osama bin Laden pointed to America’s humiliation in Somalia (where 18 mutilated soldiers led to a hasty American withdrawal) as one of the incidents that led him to characterize the United States as a “paper tiger” with no staying power. Bin Laden also mentioned the departure from Lebanon in 1983 after the suicide bombing that killed 261 Marines, and particularly noted the way that public impatience and exhaustion brought about the retreat from Vietnam. Ironically, by focusing on the American penchant for quick withdrawals from the world’s hot spots, our primary terrorist adversary undermined his own characterization of the United States as a ruthless imperialist power.

You have no doubt by now figured out that there's no real answering this stuff. Our precipitous, stab-in-the-back withdrawal from Vietnam after thirty years--instituted by the same perfidious Leftists Medved is fighting with the way an alcoholic wrestles skulls and snakes an' shit--is now the crowning glory of our selfless Christianity and a Cheeseburger foreign policy. Take that, Osama bin Obama! Shoot, Canada's ripe for the plucking, man, and what do we do? Nothing! QED!

I mean, it's not that this sort of nonsense gets spouted, though if I may say so Medved makes a particularly unconvincing spout. Good Lord, the piece runs on from dusk to dawn and the dog never barks once. Where's Basil Rathbone when you need him? You cannot construct this argument and simultaneously believe it. You can't pretend the Shah was installed by the West in response to Mossadegh and then announce that proves the Iranians are just too touchy for self-government. You can't use the Barbary Pirates as an example of our fleeting Christianized do-goodism while ignoring what we were doing on our own continent, however sparsely populated. You can't argue that US military and economic domination of the rest of the Hemisphere "doesn't count" because it didn't always employ the permanent occupying forces favored by the Big Three in the 19th century. If you see it, it's there, or else you're hallucinating. The best you could do is hand it over to Fred Doolin Dalton Thompson to read, and hope the audience is more interested in the popcorn. That is, if you don't mind a dozen takes, as Bogie once said.

Wednesday, November 14

Stop Me If You've Heard This One Before

I have expensive taste in eyewear. This is partly due to what the cultural sadists among us refer to as "fashion sense", and partly due to the fact that I've been wearing cheaters since age ten (I was a precocious child; the warnings about masturbation came too late) and thus appreciate the difference between well-made and cheap glasses in a visceral way; the faint impression of the nosepiece of a crappy pair I was saddled (obscure optometry pun*) with in 1967 is still visible if the lighting is right. And it's part accident: I live in the trendy little village of Broad Ripple, ** so my local optometrist is, well, trendy.

One nice thing about fashionable eyewear, aside from the fact that paying for it pretty much forces you to forgo the use of gasoline for a year, is that the modern trendy optometrist helpfully provides you with a list of celebrities who share your taste, except they get theirs gratis. I'm now a part of the Lunor family, alongside Stephen Spielberg, Ringo Starr, David Letterman, and Oprah. We have a LISTSERV group.

This made me wonder about what my first pair would have been like back in '64 if we'd have been so all-fired fucking celebrity obsessed. Here, kid, try these on. Abe Zapruder favors 'em.

The other salient feature of this place is that they have a battery of testing devices which, taken together, provide an answer to the mystery of what Josef Mengele was up to in his final years. The "patient" is laced, cuffed, or hydraulically flattened into a series of machines which contort him in various ways while all performing the identical task of shooting laser beams directly into his skull while he presses a clicker to indicate how close he is to passing out. The experience was actually remarkably similar to the time I saw Pink Floyd in 1974.

All of this occurs before they lead you, half-blind, into the exam room so you can sit in the chair while wondering if the doctor is, in fact, aware that he's scheduled to work this particular shift. This time he showed, eventually, and this time he told me that my pressure was higher than normal, although my glaucoma test was fine, and he'd be wanting to see me repeatedly for the next year to sample my baseline. I said I thought we should just meet for coffee first and see what happened. It turns out that humor is frowned upon in ophthalmology circles.

He told me very soothingly, twice, that I shouldn't lose any sleep over this, it was just precautionary. Which just makes me suspicious. Our first scheduled rendez-vous was two weeks ago. I arrived with the impression that I was just there to get my pressure checked, but instead I found myself being force-fed to half the machines again before being led, mad with vertigo, into a sound-proofed room where they keep the real torture devices. And I am now beginning to get the impression that something is horribly wrong with my eyes, there's some Malignant Monkey Growth he discovered last week and refused to tell me about before he could contact the CDC, and they're mostly interested in making sure the thing is confined to my skull for the few hours I have left and doesn't splash on anyone else when it explodes. I eventually got another pressure test (the tech actually forgot that one and I was pulled out of the exam room for it, another clue that they weren't being straight with me). So I got another dose of those eyeball-numbing drops, despite the fact that, as I tried to explain, the ones I'd gotten the previous week still seemed to be working, if by "working" one meant a continuation of the splitting headache I'd had constantly since. The tech looked at me like a nun looks at a condemned man (she was about eighteen inches away, so I could still see her) and then told me a story about her new puppy.

Several hours and no explosion later the doctor returned--I'm guessing he'd gotten the All Clear from Atlanta--and gave me some more drops, and shot another light into my eyes to see if there was anything left undestroyed, and he told me that my pressure was still high, but he now knew the reason--I have thicker corneas than previously observed in the species, which were giving a false reading. This reminded me that I had neglected to add "mutant" to my medical questionnaire.

SO they arrived last week, along with the Oakley shades (Michael Jordan, Djibril Cissé), and I've had the pleasure of trying to adjust to continual focus lenses, or gradient lenses, or whatever the hell they call 'em. I got them mostly because I felt obligated--I resisted bi-focals last time around, and everybody was so concerned about me I thought the least I could do was take their advice. And ten days later I still take 'em off to read and put them on top of my head in order to read boilerplate in public.

Which is what I was doing in the pasta aisle of the grocery yesterday. Mr. Riley has used De Cecco pasta (Jessica Alba, Christian Slater, Dom DeLuise) for the last thirty years, whenever possible, but certain shapes aren't available, so I was trying to read the fine print on some prohibitively expensive designer creste di gallo and there's a guy walking up and down and up and down and UP AND DOWN the friggin' aisle yammering non-fucking-stop into a fucking headset. And, no, he doesn't appear to work there, or be the field representative of some vendor, or to have dashed in from his job at Burger King; he's got a basket, which he is presently engaged in not filling because he's talking NON-FUCKING-STOP into this foolish piece of shit looped onto his head, and like all such people who just can't stop conducting their personal lives, ever, he's doing so at a volume you'd use to call a distant dog, and he's talking about nothing whatsoever, because if you had anything to actually talk about you wouldn't behave that way. And I'm still nursing that eyeball numb-er hangover. And I look up to give him the glare which says okay, at this point, if you were worth going to jail over the person on the other end of that foul contraption would now be listening to your internal digestive processes, and I notice that he's, like, thirty-five years old.

They hate us for our freedom.

* The bridge of pair of eyeglasses is shaped either like a saddle, or a keyhole. I'm a keyhole, unless I misunderstood the guy.

**I don't, and neither do 50% of the other people who claim to and 75% of the businesses that advertise a Broad Ripple location. The Village (more casually Ripple) was a small town on the Central Canal (actually two small towns, Broad Ripple and Wellington, one on either side) which was devoured by the cultural colossus that is Indianapolis in the 1920s. Hit hard economically in the 1950s when the first mega-mall went up a couple miles away, it bounced back as the commercial center of what passes for Bohemianism in the Middle West, and It retained its small-town atmosphere and 1920s infrastructure into the latter stages of the 20th century, when its high-powered merchants association--the closest thing it has to local governance--decided the more liquor licenses they allowed to be crammed into a three block area the better.

Monday, November 12

Look At All Those Lovely Right People

David Brooks, "History and Calumny." November 9

Shorter David Brooks: Telling the truth about Ronald Reagan is the same as telling vicious lies about other people, because Truth is complicated. And besides, Kevin Drum, radical Leftist, agrees.

The Background: Fresh from gaining the Republican Presidential nomination he'd been chasing for sixteen years, The Great Communicator heads to a fair outside Philadelphia, Mississippi, epicenter of the Chaney, Schwerner, and Goodman murders, where he mentions "States' Rights" in his speech (Brooks, by the way, avoids the capitalization). The ensuing twenty-five years of viciously accurate reporting of the incident leaves David Brooks unable to fully enjoy any of the thousands of public airports, roadways, bridges, naval vessels, laser-based weapons system development programs, scenic overlooks, or minority housing projects his party has named for The Gipper in the interim.

Obligatory, Doomed-to-Failure Compromise Offer: If I promise never to mention this again, will you promise never again to claim the Soviet Union collapsed because Ol' Dutch ordered the Berlin Wall removed?

Systematic Destruction of the Argument in Light of the Collapse of Compromise Talks:
The speech is taken as proof that the Republican majority was built on racism.

As proof? Proof? C'mon, that's the word you come up with? And even if it were, it's not like the incident occurred in a vacuum or anything.
In reality, Reagan strategists decided to spend the week following the 1980 Republican convention courting African-American votes. Reagan delivered a major address at the Urban League, visited Vernon Jordan in the hospital where he was recovering from gunshot wounds, toured the South Bronx and traveled to Chicago to meet with the editorial boards of Ebony and Jet magazines.

Which can be taken as proof that Reagan's strategists understood he had a problem dating at least to his opposition to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and that, unlike the days when he was a Goldwater spokesmodel, overt opposition to racial equality would no longer fly (at least so long as the Dixiecrat-Republican migration remained incomplete). If Reagan hit the chitlin' circuit, it's not exactly proof he had a hankerin' for some soul stew.
Lou Cannon of The Washington Post reported at the time that this schedule reflected a shift in Republican strategy. Some inside the campaign wanted to move away from the Southern strategy used by Nixon, believing there were more votes available in the northern suburbs and among working-class urban voters.

Well, that's an interesting way to avoid claiming Reagan campaigned for African-American votes, North or South. Lou Cannon made with the punditry at the time? Did he happen to mention later which side won?
But there was another event going on that week, the Neshoba County Fair, seven miles southwest of Philadelphia. The Neshoba County Fair was a major political rallying spot in Mississippi (Michael Dukakis would campaign there in 1988).

When they name an airport after him let me know.
Mississippi was a state that Republican strategists hoped to pick up. They’d recently done well in the upper South, but they still lagged in the Deep South, where racial tensions had been strongest. Jimmy Carter had carried Mississippi in 1976 by 14,000 votes.

Which leads us to conclude the Yellow Dog South didn't suddenly break out into Republicanism for the love of Voodoo Supply Side economics, which in turn causes us to consider if there's some salient feature we're all overlooking. We'll accept nominations from the floor.
So the decision was made to go to Neshoba. Exactly who made the decision is unclear. The campaign was famously disorganized, and Cannon reported: “The Reagan campaign’s hand had been forced to some degree by local announcement that he would go to the fair.” Reagan’s pollster Richard Wirthlin urged him not to go, but Reagan angrily countered that once the commitment had been made, he couldn’t back out.

The Reaganites then had an internal debate over whether to do the Urban League speech and then go to the fair, or to do the fair first. They decided to do the fair first, believing it would send the wrong message to go straight from the Urban League to Philadelphia, Miss.

So off goes stalwart Ronnie, brave and true, refusing to renege on someone else's promise, even though nobody knows whose, and despite a conflict over which he should do first, which seems to cast just the teeniest doubt on the idea that the whole thing was just an innocent misstep. And it's kinda funny that his theoretical support for theoretical States' Rights included theoretical elimination of the federal Department of Education, but not the elimination of the federal subsidy buffet for Bob Jones University.
Reagan’s speech at the fair was short and cheerful, and can be heard at: He told several jokes, and remarked: “I know speaking to this crowd, I’m speaking to a crowd that’s 90 percent Democrat.

And 100 percent white.
The use of the phrase “states’ rights” didn’t spark any reaction in the crowd, but it led the coverage in The Times and The Post the next day.

Because the meaning, to the crowd, to the reporters, and to Ronald Wilson Reagan, was unequivocal.

I'm not sure if the explanation is that Brooks, whose major area of study during the Civil Rights era was Go Potty, has simply never bothered to learn anything about it, settled for the happy-ending re-write, in which MLK went from Commie troublemaker to sainted sermonizer, rendering the issue closed business, or if he's lying. It's a fairly common thing for Reagan idolaters of a certain age to claim that their party's refusal to adopt a Frankly, Negroes Are Just Not All That Bright platform during their adult lives means there were no racist appeals dating back to the earliest reaches of American political history (circa 1980).

We might explain this as a heretofore unknown form of Lexical Drift, wherein words or phrases not only take on new, even opposite meanings but have the effect of changing the language retroactively; thus Reagan's speech becomes a defense of local toll booths on interstate highways, and Mark Twain turns into a Klansman. And Bleak House, where Sir Leicester "leans back and breathlessly ejaculates," becomes the most highly respected novel of silent onanism in English lit.

Or he could be lying:
You can look back on this history in many ways. It’s callous, at least, to use the phrase “states’ rights” in any context in Philadelphia. Reagan could have done something wonderful if he’d mentioned civil rights at the fair. He didn’t. And it’s obviously true that race played a role in the G.O.P.’s ascent.

So, went there, said that, and The Party of Lincoln does indeed have a little problem with regard to race dating to the ascendancy of the Reagan/Goldwater wing. Where's the slur--in disagreeing with Brooks' notions of its importance? Or are we redefining "calumny" now:

HAMLET: If thou dost marry, I'll give thee this plague
for thy dowry: be thou as chaste as ice,
as pure as snow, thou shalt not escape disagreeing with David Brooks.

Sunday, November 11


THERE are times when I think if I could change only one thing about this country it would be to return 11-11 to its original name and original meaning, even at the expense of losing its holiday status to another date selected to celebrate sacrifice and martial glory; even if it meant the dead of Passchendaele and Ypres and Belleau Wood were condemned to lie even less remembered than they are today. Just give them back the day, the hour the guns fell silent, even if we ignore it. And give the rest of us back some sense of the enormity of modern war, same as those who set aside the day had when they did so.

Worthless sacrifice is the rule of war, not the exception. We don't need any prodding to remember the fight against Fascism as noble, or to view all service as heroic. But it's obvious we too quickly forget that senseless, unspeakable slaughter has always started out sounding like a reasonable idea to too many people.

Friday, November 9

Bhutto Under House Arrest in Pakistan

By ZARAR KHAN, Associated Press Writer

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan - Pakistani police placed opposition leader Benazir Bhutto under house arrest Friday, uncoiling barbed wire in front of her Islamabad villa, and reportedly rounding up thousands of her supporters to block a mass protest against emergency rule.

Would now be a good time to remind people of the shit fit the Right had--post facto--over Jimmy Carter allowing the Shah into this country for medical treatment? Or is that just the contentious Boomer in me talking?

At Least He Looked Really Good When He Said It

The USAToday, yesterday:
For the record and as points of reference: Obama is 46, and had just turned 8-years-old when Woodstock was held. Clinton is 60, and would have been 21 when Max Yasgur's farm was used for that festival.

I refute it thus! The Great Ridgepole of Recognition for The Sixties™ isn't the Kennedy assassination, the other Kennedy assassination, the King assassination, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Freedom Rides, Selma, the great marches against racism or the war, Berkley, Kent State, Jackson State, Chicago '68, Malcom X; not even the Beatles on Sullivan or Dylan at Newport. Woodstock! Far out, man. You kids seem to know as much about your history as, well, Barack Obama.
I remember the year I went to camp
Heard about some lady named Selma and some blacks
Somebody put their fingers in the President's ears
And it wasn't too much later they came out with Johnson's Wax.

Where was Hillary when Andy Warhol was shot? And how old was Obama when she killed Vince Foster?

We've spoken before about this line of reasoning from Senator Obama, and I guess we'll be speaking about it again. But first, for fuck's sake! Is there any fucking evidence of Hillary Rodham, Wellesley '69, Political Science honors student, attendee of the 1968 Republican National Convention, who spent the summer between college graduation and Yale Law entry working in Alaska (and shutting down a cannery by blowing a whistle on its unsanitary conditions), not making macramé bong cozies, spending her free weekends as a hashish-and-patchouli-scented backup singer for Sly Stone?

As for Senator Without The Sixties Your Parents Would Have To Have Gone Farther Away Than Halfway Across The Pacific To Get Married, let us first reply (again) that the answer is easy: go ahead and bring us all together for this important business of yours. Who's stopping ya?

As we've noted many a time here, when people say The Sixties™ these days what they really mean, politically, is The Fifties, that time of imagined unification across the entire spectrum of Caucasian skin tones, that time when the movement which would finally kill Jim Crow arrived, when modern feminism started to take shape, when Ban the Bomb and environmentalism began. Silent Spring was published in 1962, and The Feminine Mystique a year later; in 1962 the Court struck down "non-denominational" prayer in public schools. For the record and as a point of reference, this was before you could buy Beatle Boots. Hillary Clinton was fourteen. These issues all have roots in the ostensibly conservative 50s; of all matters of contention supposedly kept alive by hidebound Boomers only Gay and Lesbian rights, and the battle over the Vietnam War (but not our involvement in it), trace directly to the Groovy Acid Decade.

Let's be fair all around. The junior Senator from the Land of Lincoln has a point, certainly, but it requires explaining, not just complaining. Who compromises what for your vision, Senator? From my own perspective it's the Right which has kept the cultural battles of The Sixties™ alive; Reagan was canonized for rolling them back, two decades later, when Hillary was thirty-four. It's the Right which uses pornography, Darwinism, multiculturalism, and abortion rights, to name but a few, as cudgels on the skull of the body politic. Do they stop now by your fiat? And they insist that the magic dust of The Sixties™ led to a mind-blowing detour from constant American principles, to the Personal, from the Property-Owning. That they are historically full of shit--this country was contentious at its founding, over the same philosophic issue, and the compromise of counting the ancestors of nearly every African-American in this country as 3/5 human is, I'm thinking, not the example Senator Obama would like me to use--is beside the point. You try explaining it to them. For the record and as a point of reference, I've been trying since before you were at madrassa. I know you never were at madrassa, but I've decided to give this compromise business a whirl. How'm I doin' so far?

Who compromises? I have. I voted for Jimmy Carter in '76 and Bill Clinton twice. Any vote I cast in 2008 will be a compromise, too. I share the country with racists, rapacious capitalists, Dominionists, resource-wasters, gun-toters, neo-colonialists, hate-spewing corrupters of the public airwaves, liars for profit, and people who can't get enough Brittany Spears news. I've haven't shot a one of them, fired and missed, or even tried to restrict their right to free speech, aside from that public ownership of the airwaves business. I've paid my taxes every year, including those that go to pay public servants who refuse to stop the part that goes to a war nobody wants and that seek to balance those books by cutting services to people like me. Just tell me what I'm supposed to give up now, Senator, in exchange for the joys of seeing your smiling visage in the Oval Office. Give me the specifics.

Oh, and do it someplace other than FAUX News, 'kay? That's where you should be telling them what they're giving up.

Thursday, November 8

We (Heart) R. Porrofatto

OKAY, we always do, but most recently for this , in a discussion of Alan Dershowitz' recent WSJ piece, "Nazi Supermen Are Our Intel Gathering Superiors," at LG&M:

Geez, Alan, it's a pity them expert Nazis weren't around for some of your famous clients, huh? Cuz after they'd worked their magic on O.J., you can bet that fucking glove woulda damn well fit.

Happy Birthday

Dorothy Day
November 8, 1897--November 29, 1980

Wednesday, November 7

Axe the Experts

Totally not stolen from Norbizness. Note the "e" on the end of "Axe".

TWO-term Indianapolis mayor Bart Peterson goes down in flames to a guy who was given no chance whatever, got no support from the Marion county GOP (until the last minute), and who remains unknown to that segment of the voting public which does not exchange Xmas cards with him.

Now, here's the thing: I've never been what you'd call a Bart Peterson fan, and the Indiana Democratic Party Led By a Guy Named Bayh that I have an emotional attachment to was Birch's, not Evan's. (Being a Democrat, or even Democratesque, in Indiana the past twenty-five years has been the best training anyone could ask for when faced with another inexplicable capitulation in the Senate.) Peterson gets big points for finally beginning the process that might someday result in the city not dumping raw sewage into the White River every time it rains--something three sinecured Republican mayors before him had simply refused to do on the grounds it would cost money--and he's consolidated police and fire protection left in the antiquated township system as patronage by those same predecessors. He's been the sort of competent, non-partisan manager Hoosiers tend to re-elect regardless of party.

But he ran afoul of a shocking murder rate, a long vendetta by the Indianapolis Racist Star, and, especially, this summer's Property Tax revolt, the one that took place in suspiciously wealthy sections of town and featured his name prominently displayed on its signage, despite the fact that the mayor of Indianapolis has little to do with those assessments and had nothing whatsoever to do with the State's handout to business that caused the big increases. (Peterson also made an uncharacteristic mistake by coming out swinging in last-minute political ads.)

Anyway, all of this will wind up as prelude in short order, as the New Improved property tax bills arrive before the '08 general elections and we get to see how many protesters saved their signs when it's Mitch "How's The Weather Down There" Daniels with his bacon on the fire. You'll forgive me if I smell Florida Recount Riot II; it could just be the river.

But on to the Expert: whatever Political Scientist Channel 8 had on last night said, at one point, that if Peterson and the City/County council had anticipated the Property Tax Rebellion they might've delayed raising the County tax until next year! Good Government in Action! This is the problem with our politics, folks, and I don't mean just locally; the damn thing is a fractal. Raising local taxes is, ostensibly, the sort of solution the tax protesters were after. It's certainly the sort of thing the new mayor will be faced with doing once property taxes are capped by the legislature next Spring; his only option is to cut services and hope that the murderers kill themselves off and it's too cold for outdoor protests when the streets don't get plowed. Our "Experts" feel that the best course of action is to do what's necessary only in off-years; it's apparently how one appeases an electorate incensed by flip-flopping.

Tuesday, November 6

Pissing Match

Fred Kaplan, "The Freedom Agenda Fizzles: How George Bush and Condoleezza Rice made a mess of Pakistan." Slate November 5

"NOW we've really got problems," is Kaplan's opener; one imagines that if things were to go from worser to most worser Slate might even find it necessary to start telling the truth in the first place instead of contradicting the anti-truth, or whatever it is they imagine they're doing over there. Kaplan continues:
The state of emergency in Pakistan signals yet another low point in President George W. Bush's foreign policy—a stark demonstration of his paltry influence and his bankrupt principles. More than that, the crackdown locks us in a crisis—a potentially dangerous dynamic—from which there appears to be no escape route.

Leave us recall that at the time of the invasion of Afghanistan, Dr. Rice was National Security Advisor. Or maybe "National Security Advisor," since for all the blather at the time about Rice and Colin Powell being the two most powerful African-Americans ever, or Rice and Karen Hughes as the Estrogen Emperors, Dick Cheney was in her chair, literally, not just as boss. Rice's tenure at State is a disaster, as it had to be. If she intended to salvage anything of her reputation, aside from her reputation as a sycophant and a tenth-rate intellect she should have resigned at the end of the first term. But then, shoes aren't free! Bush will go down in history as the man who found a foreign policy of marble and left one of partially-digested Texas tube steak, but let us note two things: disaster in Pakistan was a matter of when not if, and we set upon this road with the almost unanimous and completely unreflective support of the American people.

Sure, the name "Osama bin-Laden" only turns up these days when Mitt Romney tries to pronounce "Barrack Obama"--understandable mistake--but the sober reflection which was so badly needed and so completely absent (both supply and demand) might have been our best chance at capturing him. We gave the Taliban 24 hours to hand over both bin-Laden and their sovereignty; we've given Musharraf $10 B that we know of. What if we'd reversed that? Given the Taliban the golden handshake and Musharraf notice that we'd be in hot pursuit of al-Qaeda wherever it went? It may be that I'm the only man cynical enough to think Yellow is the favorite color of government officials everywhere, regardless of degree of religious conviction (or maybe that's just because of the particular examples of government officials and men of religious conviction I'm most familiar with); it may be that no President, even a functionally literate one, could have withstood the demand for vengeance long enough to make Dollar Diplomacy work. But it's certain that the opposite approach has stuck us in an endless occupation of Afghanistan even Slate can't turn inside out.

And where, we might add, just across the border we find one of the world's acknowledged nuclear powers, the one with the perpetually unsettled government and the perpetually simmering conflict with its nuclear-club neighbor just across the disputed border area that's been the site of military action since 1947. Gosh, who could have foreseen any problems with that? Not the gang at Slate. But then the 19,000 American troops currently in Afghanistan have no worries about the takeover of a nuclear arsenal just the other side of Waziristan (motto: Hey, At Least Our Border Isn't Disputed!), since we saw to it that India got extra fissionable materials just in case.

Yes, the Bush administration has been a disaster in Pakistan, and everywhere else for that matter, but who opposed the stick-to-the-hornets'-nest approach in the first place? We dealt with Musharraf at the same time we passed a war resolution ipse dixit, as they keep saying whenever I'm retried. The Congress of the United States, in effect, told Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, Doug Feith,, that they could chase whomever they chose wherever they wanted. One lone Representative--California's Barbara Lee--objected, on the grounds that the resolution was too broad. As I understand it, the death threats have now fallen to less than one per hour.

So enough, already. We know the administration screwed the pooch, but who was cheering on the sidelines as she was locked into that Michael Vick Heet-O-Matic™ Canine Corset? The time to think about this was September, 2001. Now is the time for you to piss yourself while remembering just why you're doing it again. The leading Presidential candidates of both parties are still making noises about Iran--if at different levels of insanity--and they've managed to convince about half the population. Maybe it's time we pissed ourselves forward for once.

Monday, November 5

Shut The Fug Up

Bruce Lipsky/Florida Times-Union
Apparently his handlers cut off the left flipper so he could wear one of those Purple Heart band-aids on it.

Jim Rutenberg, "Flip-Flopery: Said That vs. Meant This, a Hot Matchup for ’08." New York Times, November 4

Maureen Dowd, "Gift of Gall" New York Times, November 4

Frank Rich, "Noun + Verb + 9/11 + Iran = Democrats’ Defeat?" New York Times, November 4

Adam Nagourney and Patrick Healy, "Different Rules When A Rival Is A Woman?" New York Times, November 5

HERE'S the deal: it is past time, now, to acknowledge that our public press, writ large, is a collection of shameless careerists and liars of the Pathological class, or else we stop, once and for all, making fun of those labels that warn consumers not to point burning propane torches toward the face or operate that new bagel toaster while immersed in the morning bath. It's one or the other. These people cannot believe what they say, or we cannot believe they all survived their introductions to pointy-ended scissors.

This is Day 7 of the Hillary Gang-Bang. Why? I'm sure there have been other, comparable stories to have come out of either party's incontinent stream of debate infomercials, and if so I'm sorry to have slept through them. It's even possible that one or two may have involved substantive issues, however marginally. Had any of them received a week's worth of chatter--and counting--I'm guessing it might have penetrated my force field of indifference. Have I missed something? Even the twin concerns of Haircutgate and the Whitewater cleavage scandal--high on every American's list of dangerous river spans along our political turnpike--didn't last the weekend.

Let's begin with Rutenberg's "think piece" on flip-flopping, which happens to show up this weekend (in fairness, it gives every evidence of months of exhaustive research):
Last week, it was Senator Hillary Clinton’s turn. Under questioning from Tim Russert of NBC News in a debate Tuesday, she acknowledged saying recently that a proposal by Gov. Eliot Spitzer of New York to give illegal immigrants driver licenses “makes a lot of sense,” but that, in fact, “I did not say it should be done.” On Wednesday, her campaign said she supported the idea.

I have several answers to this, but seeing that all of them involve some variation on the You're A Fucking Moron theme, I will ask the reader, if any: have you ever said or thought something like this? "It makes a lot of sense to buy that new car," or "snap up that undervalued stock," or "get that $400 haircut," but at one and the same time you felt the timing was not right because your bank account was challenged or your portfolio unbalanced or those damn teenagers were sure to put your preening ass on YouTube? Would you, in fact, trust a business association with someone whose answer to each and every complex situation was to damn the torpedos and give you a poodle cut?

Okay, okay, the next day the campaign said she supported the idea. If this is a flop, where's the flip? You buy the car or not, you get the haircut or you sit on a kitchen chair while your spouse has at it with the dog shears. Have you never supported something you were equivocal about? I have in every Presidential election since 1976. She clarified her position not in response to the flip, or the flop, but to the flap. Is that something less than 100% consistency? Probably. Is that a standard we wish to enforce in each and every situation, however trivial? You're a Fucking Moron.

In case I need to remind anyone, I'm not exactly campaigning for Senator Clinton. And I'm getting pretty tired of having to defend her. But let's note here that some greater damage to the body politic is at work beyond the sliming of all things Clinton/Gore, constantly and in perpetuity, whatever degree of waterboarding the Truth is required. The question is a technical one. It has little or no relevance to "Illegal Immigration" as a Presidential campaign issue. It's a New York State matter. But because it has a "gotcha" quotient it is wielded as if Eliot Spitzer, and he alone, holds the key to our impending doom. The question may be fair, in the sense of "all's fair" or the sense that it's "fair" to ask Mitt about Utah's enforcement of polygamy laws, but it's guaranteed to be understood as weighing more than it does. See Bob Somerby on the questioning from the tragedy team of Russert and Williams, versus the questioning of Bush's challengers in 2000.

Before we head to more heavily manured pastures let's note, for the record, that John Kerry did not flip-flop on Iraq; he voted for the war resolution, and he later opposed the war. Isn't it obvious those are two different things? His vote on the resolution was wrong, and obviously so by 2004; would that more of our nation's elected officials had been willing to admit it. It may very well have been a political calculation. But that isn't what he was criticized for. Republicans did the Flipper dance, and the punditocracy did its best to learn the steps, but Kerry wasn't inconsistent on the war. Meanwhile back at the party where the act of flipflopping was such an enormity three years ago, the two leading candidates are running campaigns either based on little else or based on the notion that present-day massaging solves the problem. The guy in the dolphin suit is nowhere to be found, but no one's questioning his consistency.

I spent some time last week gleaning the October MoDo archives for her first mention of Hillary per column. The piece wasn't working out, and I tossed the research, but I was within one column of the end of the month and I'd found to that point precisely one (1) column that didn't mention Hillary at all, and I think that one was her drunkblogging live from Clarence Thomas' thought processes. By that point the word "Hillary" appeared as the 47th word in an average column, and that includes the other one--it was either about Rudy or about herself--where I thought "Hillary" was home free only to have her turn up on the second page as word 857. And that's not counting times like Sunday when she starts off [at word one (1)] by referring to the junior Senator from New York as Girlfriend. (Her unnamed supporters appear as Hillaryland and Hillville. As with the incessant downpour of W.s every time she writes about Bush, we ask: is there no one at the Times who can edit her? Or buy her some adult protective undergarments?)

Dowd's columns have been a veritable waterfall of urea's hot and sibilant torrents for months now, demanding that Barack Obama ("Senator Smooth Jazz") get tough with "Hillzilla"; now that her companions in fatuousness over at NBC have thoughtfully provided the context (though, sadly, the real engine was John "Breck Girl" Edwards), Mo is on to the planned meta-response: the denizens of "Hillville" are crying it's no fair to gang up on a girl, therefore "Senator Pothole" is not really a feminist. This, despite the fact that "Senator Code Pink Pinko" expressly said she'd been gang-tackled not because she was a woman but because she was the front-runner. This is the problem with healthcare in this country: most people have to shell out enormous sums by the hour to work out their personal problems with mental-health professionals, while a fortunate few actually get paid to do the same thing on the Times' Op-Ed pages.

The ever-reliable Adam Nagourney turns up on Day Two to put the facts behind the opinion. Geraldine Ferraro says the attacks on Senator Clinton would never had be unleashed on Senator Obama, because that would be racist, which is not permitted, while sexism is okay.

Once again we have several responses, the first of which is What Kind of Fucking Moron Thinks We're Such Fucking Morons? And the second is Who Got Sent Into What Sub-Basement To Look For Geraldine Ferraro's Number, And How Long Did It Take?

As much as I wish Ms Ferraro had responded, "Fuck you, Nagourney, you fucking asshole," she absolutely has a point, and it might make an interesting discussion if it were taken seriously and not rewritten by Adam Nagourney. Sexism didn't suddenly rear its head last Tuesday night, and to suggest that Ferraro is trying to provide Hillary Clinton with some protective coloration is flat fucking absurd. I'd like to see Nagourney try to endure in a lifetime the sort of shit that's been thrown at Clinton on a daily basis for the last fifteen years. One reason she's got that commanding lead is that over a series of months she's shown she can outpunch Edwards and Obama ("The Comely Twins").

Two more things. Frank Rich may not have devoted an entire column to this nonsense, but he did say of Clinton's defense of her Kyl-Lieberman vote:
Much like her now notorious effort to fudge her stand on Eliot Spitzer’s driver’s license program for illegal immigrants, this is a profile in vacillation. And this time Mrs. Clinton’s straddling stood out as it didn’t in 2002. That’s not because she was the only woman on stage but because she is the only Democratic candidate who has not said a firm no to Bush policy.

Y'know, I like to imagine that I, indolent headline reader, have some appreciation of, if not appreciation for, Senator Clinton's stance on Iraq, Iran, and whatever other little brown people make the list. I'm not willing to say she's the lone Democrat who isn't "saying what they really believe rather than trying to play both sides against the middle" (but Rich is). I may believe the troops never should have gone, or, failing that, should have been brought home years ago; that does not mean I think every candidate refusing to pledge to bring them home by a date specified by Tim Russert is politicking or lying. And if I do want to gauge who's being honest I'm not going to ask any savvy Times columnists who did their best to see to it that the idiot in the Oval Office got there in 2000.

The last thing is this: shame on John Fucking Haircut Edwards. Shame on everybody else for not telling Russert and Williams to get fucking serious or get off the fucking stage. That's the real problem, not whether our candidates have a favorite Bible verse, and it's well past time for someone to say so. Or, preferably, a gang.