Friday, October 30

Don't Leave Me Alone

HOPE you're somewhere cozy, with an enjoyable weekend ahead, somewhere Autumn's fiery spectacle is still on the trees, rather than in the yard, and where 5 PM means local teevee shows screwball comedies instead of showing screwballs being unintentionally comic.

The other day my Poor Wife had one of those dog-and-pony parents meeting nights, which left me alone with local news. This is, in itself, at least as interesting a portal into human behavior as anything David Brooks conjures up, because even now I have no fucking explanation for why I turned the damn thing on. She's the one who wants to see six weather reports every night. I'm the one who wants to shoot six teevee meteorologists. But once you've been married long enough you start to look alike, to finish each other's sentences, and to develop resistance to the same poisons. I turned the damn thing on just as if she were there.

The difference--you may already know this--is that I choose a channel and stick with it, rather than using the remote as a primitive device for recreating the Golden Age of Music Video Jump Cutting right in your own home theatre. And that channel is Channel 8, the choice of which has nothing whatsoever to do with the quality of the "news" (foolish notion!) or the people who mime it; 8 just seems to shout a little softer than the other two which're on at the same time. (The standard delivery at 13, by comparison, is Adenoidal Teenaged Evangelical Christian Reading Bible Passages to an Ampitheater of Nursing Home Residents, all of whom are seated at the back).

So, one reason I hope you aren't similarly afflicted is the H1N1 business, which has pretty much become the Missing Blonde Teenager of public health stories, except there are actual ramifications for actual people who actually watch the broadcasts. Fluff the threat, fluff the public health reaction, fluff the threat, fluff the vaccine, fluff the shortage of vaccine, fluff the blind panic that has resulted; repeat. And this has gone on since June at the latest, despite the fact that the trajectory of H1N1, if not its magnitude, has been known all that time. Influenza is understood; that's why there's the vaccine, and that's why there's a organized and targeted release. Influenza is also mutable, which is why last year's vaccine didn't always work. And younger populations can be seriously challenged by some combinations. This is not a mystery. There is no theory of information in which scaring the fucking bejebus out of people gets them to act more rationally, and none where re-running the same routine the fifty-seventh time gets the same reaction as the first. It's done simply because they believe the tone itself encourages people to tune in.

Which is nothing new if, as a helpless bystander, you see their weather reports six times daily.

What I'd like to know, though, is: where are the fucking teabaggers? If this isn't socialized medicine, what is? The gubment controls who gets vaccine which, if we really love freedom, ought to be going to the highest bidder.

(This was also the night they gave their Chief Meterologist/Consumer Electronics Guru and Guy Who Had His Chair Yanked Out From Under Him When They Located A Hot Weather Bunny space to do the most naked plugola I've ever seen, five minutes on the Droid, or Druid, or whatever the latest piece of plastic crap I can't live without is called. "Tomorrow we'll be showing how it stacks up head-to-head against the iPhone". You'll be what? I guess that despite the previous two-week's fertilizer storm I've endured about the thing, I wasn't supposed to rise to the faux-viral adverts, and I'm supposed to have missed, despite giving it all the inattention it deserved, that whoever's responsible for the thing is precisely promoting "how it stacks up head-to-head against the iPhone". Or that they've been buying ad time on your channel, and they gave you what you touted as an Exclusive. Or that today's report, the prelude to tomorrow's heavyweight bout, basically consisted of you narrating what was obviously a series of graphics produced by the people who make the Drone, or the Drear, or the Doofus. If the Market is so fucking perfect, how is it that an alternative news for people with two healthy, functioning hemispheres to their brains hasn't turned up in thirty fucking years?)

That Parents Night deal also set us back on our already-one-day-delayed Daily Show/Colbert viewing, so it was just last night when I caught the Embarrassment of That Steven Levitt guy, who'd already made a fool of Jon with his previous book. Drop the fucking interviews, already, or cut 'em to one or two a week, and ban anyone peddling a book with a political agenda masquerading as Not a Political Agenda. And all teevee newsreaders. Stewart's always going on about how his is a comedy show, and he's right. The worst moments are when he wanders off into something he knows nothing about, with no one on the staff able to stop him; I'd rather watch eight Olbermann Special Comments in a row. If you know enough to say "People are upset about it," you know enough to have found out why. Not to mention the underutilization of another group of performers. C'mon. Those guys can fill an extra 16 minutes a week, certainly without falling any flatter than another Susie Essman schmoozefest. Though, on the other hand, those interviews do make Colbert look that much better.

Wednesday, October 28

Well, You Can't Argue With Success

Bill "Too Young For Vietnam" Kristol, "A good time to be a 'conservative' ". October 27

IN case anyone got here late--not that I'm suggesting you are the sort of person who'd've got here early and stuck around--I put the quotes around "conservative" above. Kristol couldn't find enough honesty in his entire career to've done so. I do, in perpetuity, inspired by Nabokov's claim that "reality" was the only word in English which should always be surrounded by quotes. "Conservatism", obviously, lacks the cosmic implications; I'd be more than willing to drop the quotes if it would drop the pose. That offer's forty years old at this point, and has been met by the Doppler-shifted sound of goose-stepping in the opposite direction.

And let's be clear about this: it's Italian goose-stepping, by and large, all bluster and pretend big balls and so stupid you'd send your army into the world's largest desert with trainloads of pasta for rations (True, by the way). It's not my intention to toss around "Nazi" or even "Fascist" the way an arsonist tosses around an accelerant, not like a Goldberg, or even someone who knows what he's talking about. The Right is soft. It's been soft since Reagan (at least), since it retreated into its Whiteness and its sense of entitlement and its perpetual faux-disgruntlement. The Right's had eight years now to go marchin' off to war, having been handed a Pearl Harbor moment it couldn't have scripted any better. Noticed a shortage of "conservatives" in that time? I'm not saying there aren't nuts out there, of course, of every stripe, most of them too apolitical to bother with being apolitical; I'm saying that average public gun polisher , while perhaps not the best advert for a well-balanced weapon and a well-balanced mind, is probably only a major concern if your sister's married to one.

Take, for example, Bravo Company Billy:
The implications of this [a Gallup poll showing 40% of Americans self-identifying as "conservative"] for the Republican Party over the remaining three years of the Obama presidency are clear: The GOP is going to be pretty unapologetically conservative. There aren't going to be a lot of moderate Republican victories in intra-party skirmishes. And -- with the caveat that the political world can, of course, change quickly -- there will be a conservative Republican presidential nominee in 2012.

Y'know, first of all, we are well beyond the time when anyone should be asking what Bill Kristol imagines he has to sneer about, beyond a tidy income for doing nothing whatsoever, and inevitably getting that wrong, and ask why reasonable Republicans--and there must be some, even now--haven't wiped it off his face for him. Second, if you still had "Hubris" on your list of possible explanations for Republican behavior that do not, per se, avail themselves of perpetual juvenility and debilitating sexual psychosis, scratch it off; one is supposed to learn something when Hubris leads to complete disaster. Finally, it takes a Gallup poll for you to conclude that the next Republican presidential nominee will be "conservative"? As opposed to fucking what, exactly?

Supposing you imagine Perpetual Aggrievedness is the "conservative" meal ticket. Then what? Between 2012 and 2016 you're going to roll back whatever excuse we've made in place of health care reform, tax-cut our way out of the Bush Deficit that's rebounded back to you, and invade Iran? On the strength of a 2009 Gallup poll ?

And, sure: in my lifetime the American voter has reelected Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, and George W. Bush, and the gerrymandered Republican sinecure district whose rump bumps my own keeps reelecting Dan Fucking Burton. There's no idiocy left that could surprise me. But anyone who puts words on paper for a living--even if every last one of 'em is false--has got to understand at minimum that "consequences" is in the dictionary for a reason.

Tuesday, October 27

I'm Sick Of Repeating Myself. But I Repeat Myself.

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
Still expecting to sell the natives shit for Shinola.

-with apologies to T.S.E.

YOU are the New York Fucking Times, fer chrissakes. It's not working; it hasn't been working for some time. Clearly. And Maureen Dowd has been clinically insane for much, much longer. Do something. Failing that, apologize to Jimmy Carter for that Malaise business.

Faux Balance is the problem. Phony 18th century Toryism is the problem. Barely contained 19th century backwoods snake-handling religious mania is the problem. Do something. Cut 'em out. Call 'em out. Something.
Brooks, today:
Fortunately, for those who study the human comedy, the epicenter of overconfidence moves from year to year. Up until recently, people in the financial world bathed in the warm glow of their own self-approval. Hubris in that world always takes the same form: The geniuses there come to believe that they have mastered risk. The future is an algorithm and they’ve cracked the code.

Over the past year, the bonfire of overconfidence has shifted to Washington. Since the masters of finance have been exposed as idiots, the masters of government have concluded (somewhat illogically) that they must be really smart.

Okay, first, I could have stopped after "for those who study the human comedy". David Brooks sees the world as essentially comic? Bullshit. David Brooks sees his meal ticket as requiring a pinch of self-deprecation, not that he has much choice. He may, in fact, see this as "comic"; anyone who observes him in action will be convinced he also sees it as a sly bit of mummery designed to hornswoggle the rubes. Show me, please, the day when David Brooks found his own opinions laughable. Not this bullshit finger-wagging at Wall Street, or the Republican party, for doing precisely what Brooks urged--no, make that what Brooks endorsed as apodictic truth--right up to the point where it blew up in their faces. Show me, please, the time when the Cosmic Kaleidoscope of Hubris drew his attention when his party was on top.

And he's talking about Democrats, Congressional Democrats, who couldn't organize a one-man parade. Which party has operated in lockstep for the past thirty years? (Oh, yeah, sorry, I remember: you've got so many factions you couldn't name them all. Or more than two.) Which one continues to? How many Republican insiders are taking your calls these days, Dave?

(And by the way, love that "believed they'd mastered risk". I think the English translation is "equated freebooting and highway robbery with economic 'freedom' right up to the point where their own pockets were picked".

Do something! Douthat, yesterday:
This ecumenical era has borne real theological fruit, especially on issues that divided Catholics and Protestants during the Reformation. But what began as a daring experiment has decayed into bureaucratized complacency — a dull round of interdenominational statements on global warming and Third World debt, only tenuously connected to the Gospel.

At the same time, the more ecumenically minded denominations have lost believers to more assertive faiths — Pentecostalism, Evangelicalism, Mormonism and even Islam — or seen them drift into agnosticism and apathy.

Nobody is more aware of this erosion than Benedict. So the pope is going back to basics — touting the particular witness of Catholicism even when he’s addressing universal subjects, and seeking converts more than common ground.

Now, I'm sure this topics fascinates as many as two dozen Americans, several of whom might possibly read the Times, and all of whom could have constructed the argument for themselves from a two-inch news item. Have we not reached the point where mid-80s Pharisaic Christianity looks as dated as a Thompson Twins video? I mean, I can type "systematic shielding of altar-boy buggery" as easily as Douthat can turn a Papal Bull into a column, but I'd prefer to move on.

And, again, he's got an entire week to come up with something. and how long did it take him to prove he wasn't up to it? How long does it take to distinguish between diversity of opinion and giving 2400 words a week so two careerist lackeys can chew the cud? Do something about it.

Monday, October 26

Endlessly Repeated Idiocy. And Such Small Portions!

FIRST: one thousand apologies to Jaye Ramsey Sutter for any deleterious immune-system effects from the Pickle Men pic, and Best Wishes for a speedy recovery. I know in my own (still throbbing) lymph glands that it's cold comfort, but the one I was going to use was worse.

This reminded me of the local teevee news Homespun Hoosier Humorist and Whacky and/or Heartwarming Feature Story Narration Sinecure who used to
do restaurant reviews--this is the retired Homespun Hoosier Humorist, from the 70s, not the current guy who used to take his dog along with him as substitute for being even remotely interesting, and who was just seen yesterday encouraging some sixty-something perpetual adolescent to drive up and down his driveway at 8:30 AM of a quiet suburban Sunday in a homemade car which was apparently powered by some combination of late-50s NOVI racing engine and one or more decommissioned naval guns--where was I? Oh, who used to do restaurant reviews, which he sorta landed on after a decade of filling dead air as a sort of local Art Buchwald minus the wit, the political savvy, and the delivery. And every last fucking restaurant got ten stars, or whatever it was. Never varied. I think they might have dispensed with the star system after a while, but not out of any sense of embarrassment, just in the way the Town Slut eventually moves away and gets married. And sometime later he gave an interview in which he explained that very early on in his reviewing career he'd given some beanery or other a mediocre review, and they reported that it hurt their business, so he felt bad and always gave glowing reviews after that.

And he said this as though it were the most understandable thing in the world, and as though the moral of the story was he'd just not quite understood the power of television in his previous decade sopping up the perks of local celebrity. So, a thousand more apologies, Jaye, and lots more in advance, but on the other hand, we consider making people sicker a badge of authenticity.

Sometime yesterday--Halftime, probably--I went poking around the teevee schedule, and while crossing the News divide thought I spotted Jonah Goldberg in the little box o' feed in the corner. Sure enough. One C-SPAN or another was bringing dozens of Americans whose remotes were broken the ruminations of America's Overactive Swim Bladder. I lasted all of fifteen seconds, during which time he was explaining to his inexplicable audience--okay, maybe they were all armed with pies; I didn't stick around--how some liberals were drawn into Journalism, which Might Be a Good Thing in a Way for some reason I wasn't going to wait around to hear, since it would immediately be followed by the observation that however well intentioned this unfortunately led to ever' last bit of information US citizens could come by being filtered through the Filtering Filter of Liberalism. Which he probably then qualified some more.

I didn't check whether the Info button gave the recording date, so it might have been the release party for Liberal Fascism, or the trade paperback of Liberal Fascism, or any of several postponement parties for Liberal Fascism, or the blegging party for Liberal Fascism, or 1998, 1992, or him reciting from Mummy and Pater's flashcards anytime after he reached two-hundred pounds. Doesn't matter.

So either someone, somewhere, thought it was financially worthwhile to have Jonah Goldberg blather, in public, about the psychological makeup, a subject on which he appears no more knowledgeable than on any of the numberless other areas he's never studied, and 99-44/100% of those he has, of a group of people which he gives no indication of knowing a single example of, in an apparent effort to further the sales of a "book" he "wrote" which actually managed to set a new standard of lack of scholarship for Modern English with its title, or else he did so on his own. No wonder these people love capitalism.

And bear in mind that even if this had been an actual opinion, and not the psittacine squawking of some huge, flightless poultry experiment in producing the World's Most Massive Foie Gras gone horribly wrong, he still couldn't defend it; and just pause a moment to reflect where his evidence comes from: some mid-70s Gallup deal as reported in Newsweek, or US News, or somesuch which was based on self-reporting. And how it's continued for Goldberg's life span despite the fact that the last "liberal" act of the Mass Market US Press was reporting the results of the Washington Post's Watergate coverage. "Journalists" reported themselves to be libruhl, therefore they are. The required level of gullibility would also have you believe that all physicians went into medicine for the opportunity to serve Mankind, and all clowns love children.

And that, in turn, pretty much describes my political mood when I fired up the internet generator this AM and found Fareed Zakaria urging a more temperate approach to our sure-to-be successful Afghanistan Surge-a-Thon, if by "more temperate" you mean "anywhere to the Left of Dick Cheney". I mean, sorry, I must have missed the explanation of What th' Fuck Fareed Zakaria is doing there in the first place. His entire public career seems to consist not just of being absolutely wrong about everything while remaining likable, but also in leaving town after the disaster is widely acknowledged in order to follow the Mushy Middle to the Guaranteed Path to the Next Clusterfuck while mentioning "Democracy" a lot.

Sure, sure, there were plenty of So-Called Liberals and/or Moderates who got on board with the Iraq War, and few who've missed many meals for having done so. But most of 'em, to judge from the endless recapitulations after, want us to believe they bought into the Saddam=Rape Rooms Plus Everybody Though He Had Nukes routine, and would just as soon we not mention that they figured backing a sure winner couldn't hurt future employment opportunities in America's lucrative and growing Pre-emptive Invasion Excuse Mongering industry. Zakaria's the only one who immediately comes to mind when "Seems to have actually believed in that Islamic Democracy Domino Effect bullshit" comes up in conversation. And he's the guy who knows Islamic societies.
The crucial judgments that have to be made involve what the troops will do and how much of Afghanistan to cover. One option is the idea Ricks recently suggested to me: "Why not do the Petraeus plan [counterinsurgency] for the major population centers and the Biden plan [counterterrorism] for the rest of the country?" Following that middle course might be the most practical solution; more forces could still be needed, as McChrystal suggests, or perhaps we can make do with the almost 100,000 coalition forces already there. Obama should carefully consider all the options before racing to demonstrate how tough he is.

Squish, squish, squish. Y'know, sometime when you have more than 725 words in a major newspaper, and some time to spare from the vital business of showing that Dick Cheney is as full of shit now as he was when you agreed with him wholeheartedly, you might try telling us Why. Or else where we can get good deep-fried catfish in Pittsboro, IN.

Wednesday, October 21

The Continuing Cultural Fallout From That Frank Gorshin "Half Black/Half White" Star Trek Episode

Charles Lane, WaPo: "Medical marihuana is an insult to our intelligence". October 20

LIKE all men, I have been given bad times in which to live; live most weeks, it's a good week for avoiding the News altogether (with apologies to that blind Argentinian librarian).

Memo to the Times: God knows I don't ask for much--the public plucking of every last hennaed hair from MoDo's head, in Times Square, right after The Ball falls next January 1 isn't a personal request, but our due as Americans--but look: could we please stop the fucking charades over US interventionism already, sixty years after Korea? Public Divided! Obama at a Crossroads! McChrystal at a Crossroads! Dueling Vietnam books, one of them, favored by the Pentagon and blessed by an appearance on your Op-Ed pages last Sunday, written by a certifiable Lt. Colonel who apparently thinks our real problem in Nam was that we didn't lie enough. Like fuck we're trying to reason this out. Reason is clear. It's the goddam mission that's a complete mystery.

Here's the list, again, of where we've been, officially, since the Korean War ended paused, with the domestic interventions (Detroit, multiple locations following the King assassination, Wounded Knee, the US Virgin Islands, Los Angeles following the King beating verdicts, and the whole damn country after 9/11) redacted for the sake of praeteritio: Vietnam, Guatemala, Lebanon, Panama, Vietnam, Laos, Cuba, Panama, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Cambodia, Laos, Cambodia, Iran, Libya, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Lebanon, Grenada, Honduras, Iran, Libya, Bolivia, Iran, Libya, Philippines, Panama, Iraq, Somalia, Yugoslavia, Bosnia, Haiti, Sudan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Yugoslavia, Macedonia, Afghanistan, Philippines, Colombia, Iraq, Haiti, Pakistan, and Somalia.

That's forty-four in fifty-five years, meaning the real question is who Obama's going to invade by next March. And in all that time there's one, (1), uno, occasion where we decided "Y'know, on second thought, maybe not," and that was Lebanon, post-disaster Lebanon, and the Gipper, and the Gipper's free pass. If Zombie Ronald Reagan [redundancy intended] announced on FOX that it was time to come home it might create 48 hours of confusion, but that's it. Maybe it's escaped your notice (like you thought, maybe, the Yankees were finally giving box-seat holders some much-deserved elbow room?) but we can't even stop building stadiums at taxpayer expense so rich guys can sniff jocks. Are we really supposed to wonder whether Barack Obama will remove American troops from Afghanistan just because there's no good reason for them to be there beyond the bad headlines that'll haunt the final three years of his Presidency? Because Rahm Emanuel read a book about Vietnam? (And thanks, for that, really. You were born in 1959. Maybe while it was the major news story for the entire period of your entire secondary education would have been a better time to learn about it. Than, apparently, one weekend last month.)

(And, hey, how much fucking shit was aimed at George Herbert Walker Tiberius Prescott Bush I for leaving Iraq when the mission was finished, instead of fucking around for another generation?)

And that's assuming a level playing field in the President's mind, despite the tilted one in public. But this is the guy who made Afghanistan his Badge of Commander-in-Chiefyness. Hot Pursuit! Which has, to date, achieved his being backhanded by his hand-picked, recently-bestarred theatre commander (assuming you actually believe that; at any rate, it sure hasn't won him a whole lot of post-partisan pals on the Right). Just shut up. Short of outright disaster we will continue to send enough troops to prop up Karzai, who we just had to threaten to get to agree to a run-off election, and who will promise to follow the sterling example of Nguyen Van Thieu, at least through 2012. Enjoy the box seats, and the $15 nachos.

Y'know, I'm not sure there's any way out of the problem without a fundamental acknowledgement of more than the mere existence of the problem, straight through, that is, the trite recognition that not only are we a nation of facile liars, we've become a nation which values dishonesty, the more facile the better, above all else, to the point where we will shortly have to decide between becoming a purely cashless society or having one-third to one-half of our change-making retail transactions end in gunplay. Straight through, I say, to admitting that we are, in fact, and just twelve months after a half-dozen "Free" Marketeers nearly collapsed the global financial markets to cover a Call, still speeding in the opposite direction with bankrupt brakes and more interest in the cell phone conversation we're having than watching the road.

And, fuck, is there anything more fitting than a nation's attention caught last week by an actual bright shiny object? Okay, maybe it's a tie with the fact that the local cops at first believed the parents because their two body-language experts confirmed the couple was telling the truth. And okay, maybe it's that a professional writer of what used to be called "think pieces" carves off a chunk of Washington Post real estate to warn us of the dangers of…Medical Marihuana! Yes, it's 2009. I double-checked.
I don't think the federal government should be spending a whole lot of time on small-time druggies, and I'm undecided about legalizing pot, which enjoys 44 percent support among the general public, according to a recent poll. Recreational use is not the wisest thing -- and if my 12-year-old son is reading this, that means you! -- but it's no more harmful than other drugs (e.g., alcohol) and impossible to eradicate. On the other hand, I worry it's a gateway to harder stuff. So I think we probably should have an open debate about decriminalization.

Sure. Let's pencil that in after "open debate on Afghanistan" and "factual discussion of health care."

Gateway drug! No more harmful than, e.g., alcohol! Listen, Rube, the only way The Marihuana is anywhere near as dangerous as your third Dirty Martini is if you nod off briefly and accidentally set the couch on fire. And then try to put it out with alcohol.

So look: No. We can't have an open debate, because we're surrounded by a bunch of goddam fucking liars who've been conditioned to genuflect at the first mention of someone else enjoying himself. The opportunity for honest debate passed thirty years ago. I believe the final opportunity can be clocked to the minute, in fact, when John Chancellor, at the NBC anchor desk, solemnly intoned that a recent study had proven pot smoking caused gynecomastia in males, which, given the amount of pot being smoked in this country, would have turned every trip to the beach into one of those nudist volleyball film loops. Not that anyone by that point was much interested, let alone hopeful, about the "openness" and "honesty" any public debate would have involved. Thanks, in no small part, to that Gateway Drug mentality.
Usually, drugs have to pass exacting testing by the Food and Drug Administration before they go on the market. There's a good reason for this: we don't want people spending money on products that might be ineffective or actually harmful. In California and elsewhere, however, snake oil -- sorry, "medical marijuana" -- got on the market via a different route: popular referendum. The pot for sale in dispensaries is subject to none of the purity controls that actual pharmaceutical drugs must meet. Indeed, the new DOJ policy essentially recognizes a gray market for pot, leaving these supposedly seriously ill people at the mercy of their dealers -- I mean caregivers -- with respect to quality and efficacy.

Okay, first, abusus non tollit usum. What some people say, or do, or claim about a thing has nothing to do with its legitimate use. The idea's at least as old as Pliny, and that's Pliny the Elder.

Second, what do people get dispensary cards for? As an anodyne for the effect of AIDS or cancer treatments, bone pain, eating disorders. Not to cure any of them, no matter what Captain Haze said on the internets. You mutter some obligatory "oh, I'm not opposed to sick people using if it helps" to start off with, the old Establish Your Reasonableness Before Being Totally Unreasonable routine--another reason we can't have an open discussion--so why should pot be treated more harshly than the couple hundred "nutritional supplements" on sale at your local grocers? Because we owe it to Harry Anslinger? Pfffft. In a just world there wouldn't be any impediment to such people getting pot to relieve the pain. Or even just for fun. A few states have recognized the first half of the equation, and now the Feds recognize they've got better things to do, though not always so lucrative. But ooooh, let's wait for Congress to move The Marihuana off the same schedule as heroin. That'd be the Congress we elected in 2006 to end the Iraq war.

Finally, while the air quotes around "caregivers" speak for themselves, let's take a brief moment to howl at that "efficacy and quality" bit. Good Lord, there's more "efficacy and quality" in a dime bag today than there was in a quarter pound in my day. It's the government that adulterates the stuff, you Human Paraquat. And if it came to it, and I had to leave my baby, or my wallet, with a dope dealer, I mean "caregiver", a Congresscritter, or a Washington Post writer, well…I already listed 'em in order.

By the way, Steve Alford called. He's sending over a van to pick up his hairdo. *


* Obligatory semi-annual joke only Hoosiers will get. Just ignore it.

Tuesday, October 20

There's Never Anything On Teevee

Victor Davis Hanson, "Confessions of a Cultural Drop-out". October 17

ROY points us at Hanson; wise commenters nail down what little he doesn't; commenter Riley, still battling respiratory crap and attendant five-thousand things left undone just as the leaves start to fall, decides mid-novella to just hijack the thing. Y'all can have your money back if not satisfied.

Now the first problem we ran into, about six paragraphs into our rough draft, was that there was no seamless way to work in the ad hominem attack on Hanson we'd been harboring since we saw him on the Military History channel a week ago, commenting on Cannae. You may recall (hope so; I'm too lazy to look it up) that one insomniac night a couple months back we innocently let run the final fifteen minutes of a replay of some History Channel Thermopylae thing which had been designed for a homoerotic piggyback ride on the PR campaign for 300, because we were interested in what came on next. It didn't occur to us, in the cognitive twilight, that 1) Victor Davis Hanson would turn up as a commenter, or 2) that, having done so, he'd blather something about urination and defecation, which, while perhaps the legitimate focus of the odd academic thought or two, yet required some measure of self-control to avoid guffawing loudly enough to wake my Poor Wife, especially when set against the Tom of Finland animation.

That one was my own fault. But the other day I clicked on the Cannae story and ran headlong into him. Which was objectionable on the grounds that 1) I can't believe my karma is that bad; and 2) Hanson's Great Battles Retold As Simple Moral Lessons For Kids From Eight to Ninety-Eight is particularly exposed by Hannibal's textbook double envelopment (see Robert Bateman). The only thing I had to add was this: Thank you, Professor Fucking Sominex. I'm guessing that either the tables at the War College are padded, or they recommended everyone attending Hanson's lectures keep his helmet on.

There are two salient beauties to this approach: one really needn't worry all that much about substantive criticism of an approach to historical scholarship that was outmoded before one's birth when potential critics have to decide, early on, whether to continue reading/listening to you or whether to continue breathing; and it's almost perfectly transferable to any other endeavor where facts may be discounted or dismissed as irrelevant. For instance, right-wing political commentary.

Anyhooo, I've always been fascinated by how this Degenerate (now also Liberal Anti-Capitalist) Pop Culture routine has managed to surf along behind the crest of the zeitgeist all these years and still remain in one spot.
Why not DVDs?

If I watch DVDs, they surely are not of recent vintage. I couldn’t tell you a single release in the current most rented 100. I rewatch instead Westerns—Peckinpaugh, John Ford, the classics like Shane and High Noon, the greats like Henry Fonda, James Stewart, Lee Marvin, George C. Scott, Kirk Douglas, Burt Lancaster, Paul Newman, John Wayne, etc., and, as I wrote a few months ago, almost anything with a brilliant, but now forgotten character actor such as a Jack Palance, Richard Boone (cf. Cicero Grimes in Hombre), Ben Johnson, or Warren Oates—if only for their accents, ad-libbed lines, and carriage. Only the greats like DeNiro or Pacino, or a Robert Duvall, Tommy Lee Jones, and a few others (a Hackman, Eastwood, or Hopkins) approximate the old breed. (A Mickey Rourke, Gary Oldman, or John Malkovich are at least originals and, like real people, look the worse for it). So I find myself replaying something like a Das Boot or Breaker Morant, or supposedly corny 1930s and 1940s classics like How Green Was My Valley or The Best Years of Our Lives. If I want to watch a film that failed at the box-office, I’ll take One-Eyed Jacks or Major Dundee or Pat Garret and Billy the Kid; their failures are better than today’s “successes”.

Now, as several of Roy's commenters pointed out, this condition, in the less inclined to attribute every minor irritation in life to the cryptic machinations of Big Liberal, is known as "getting old." But as Hanson and I are the same age, I note it's also something more: it's fake. Not that one can't adopt a nostalgia for an era one never knew, although this has it in spades, but for the sense that today's Hollywood has suddenly departed from a norm when in fact Hanson and I have grown up and grown old with his very complaints in our ears.

Not that the Right hasn't been chomping on roast leg of Hollywood since the Silents, but, y'know, how does a 55-year-old limn Peckinpah without recalling the uproar his work created at the time? Movies were too sexy, too violent, anti-American, morally relativist, and insufficiently uplifting forty fucking years ago. If you don't care to watch anything made after Todd-AO, fine by me. Just quit trying to pretend it's a recent development. Movies started blowin' shit up--I mean, started being about shit blowing up--with Jaws and Star Wars, not Transformers. You're sure going to miss 85% of what's worthwhile in the 30s if "anti-corporate" pushes your gorge to your throat. How can you watch even a standard Sheepherders vs. Cattlemen oater without flying off the handle? If "some gay or feminist heroes fending off club-bearing white homophobic Mississippians in pick-ups" ruin the cinematic experience for you, what of a few thousand hours of crock o'shit representations of The American Indian? If moral relativism gives you the fantods, skip noir, dude. For that matter you might want to concentrate on Grace Kelly's corset, and not the story line, in future screenings of High Noon.

In fact, let's just make this a general maxim: If you want to walk through Life guided by the idea that the American Railroad Baron is the victim of calumniously bad PR, finding suitable entertainment is not your biggest problem.

Monday, October 19

While You're At It, Unscramble Me Two Eggs

Lt. Col (USA, ret.) Lewis Sorley, "The Vietnam War We Ignore". October 18

GOOD to see the Times springing for a real retired Looey Bird--they really should save Brooks for the post-victory opening of Kabul's first Olive Garden--and it's always interesting to catch up with the No, Here's The Real Story About Vietnam, (And This Time We Mean It!) brigades.

The first lesson of Vietnam, apparently, is that the people who use it as a cautionary tale of US military hubris and unexpected defeat are uninformed, hippie peacenik Fifth Columnists, but those who use it as a example of the incontrovertible advantages to be conferred on whatever quagmire we've managed to step in this time by one more troop escalation--as demonstrated by the fact that, after 1967, we really won in Vietnam--are military realists.

(A man after my own heart, Sorley's piece was bullet-pointed, at least in print--online this comes off as a series of Bauhaus printer's ornaments, for some reason--so if you detect an unexpected tenderheartedness to our vivisection, that's the reason.)
Vietnam is particularly tricky. While avoiding the missteps made there is of course a priority...

Not so much, though, as announcing that avoiding the "missteps" is a priority.

Y'know, Colonel, my memory ain't that great, but I really can't recall much support for the idea circa October, 2001. In fact the way I remember it, anybody so much as mentioned "the V word" or "the Q word" was an uninformed, hippie peacenik Fifth Columnist.
few seem aware of the many successful changes in strategy undertaken in the later years of the conflict.

Yes, in order to fully appreciate the lessons of the Vietnam war, we have to go all the way back to before Nixon was running it. Before we found the winning strategy, in other words.
The credit for those accomplishments goes in large part to three men: Ellsworth Bunker, who became the American ambassador to South Vietnam in 1967; William Colby, the C.I.A. officer in charge of rural “pacification” efforts; and Gen. Creighton Abrams, who became the top American commander there in 1968.

Each of whom, in his own way, had been responsible for implementing and/or prolonging the previous disasters. Colby had been spooking around the place since 1959. Abrams was Westmoreland's deputy, and far from implementing "clear and hold", continued Westy's war of attrition but without the incontinent troop escalation and unquestioned body counts. Hamburger Hill is one of Abrams' credits--that's late spring 1969, Colonel--and it's the political fallout from continued meat grinding, not Abrams' military insight, which accelerated the process of troop withdrawal and necessitated a change in tactics.

Ellsworth Bunker was an interesting man, but by the time he came to Vietnam, in his early 70s, was far too willing to see it as another Caribbean Problem--just spread the graft around among thuggish dictators friendly to "our" side, while keeping them there at the business end of overwhelming US military force--and much more supportive of Westmoreland than was Henry Cabot Lodge, the previous Yankee Brahmin in the post.
• Fight one war: Abrams, Bunker and Colby agreed that the war would be fought — and won or lost — in the villages….

In Afghanistan, it is vital that American and NATO troops get out of their protected bases to work alongside Afghan forces and build trust with civilians. In some ways this may be trickier than in Vietnam, as our troops will have to navigate the tribal and ethnic rivalries that have long divided Afghan society.

A problem hardly worth mentioning, since the pacific navigation of tricky questions of ethnic diversity is practically America's middle name. Hell, we even taught the guy who got us into all this the difference between Sunni and Shi'a. Eventually.
• Rethink combat operations…

In Afghanistan, combat does little good unless allied or Afghan forces remain behind to keep the Taliban from simply moving back in.

Would now be a good time to ask what, exactly, this got us in Vietnam? And whether the drawbacks to waiting eight years, until our attempts to force our will via superior bomb load have failed disastrously and ten times over, are not part of the lesson as well?
• Restrain the use of force…

Allied forces in Afghanistan may have to accept increased risks to themselves as the price of protecting the population. There have been some grumblings that they are hampered by the rules of engagement, and perhaps in platoon-level operations that it true. But Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top American commander in Afghanistan, is right that Western forces have to cut down on civilian deaths caused by air power and reckless use of force.

Sure. It's remarkable how forgiving native populations can be when you make a good faith effort to reduce the percentage you're killing indiscriminately.
• Create an effective central government: As Nguyen Van Thieu, who became South Vietnam’s president in 1967, gained experience and influence, senior Americans came to regard him as the “No. 1 pacification officer.”

And not just "A political grifter who'd've made an unholy three-headed combination of Jack Abramoff, Rod Blagojevitch, and Randy Cunningham blush."
He traveled extensively, promoting and evaluating local programs. And by 1972 his “Land to the Tiller” initiative had achieved genuine land reform, distributing two and a half million acres of land to nearly 400,000 farmers.

Giving many of them, in other words, what their parents might have gotten in 1956 if the United States hadn't blocked free elections in order to preserve the prerogatives of the colonial mandarins who ruled them.
President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan has no signature triumph like Land to the Tiller, nor has he made many efforts to reach out to average Afghans. Perhaps Washington should make some of its support to his government contingent on anticorruption efforts and delivering real services to his people.

Okay, but I thought we were learning the lessons of Vietnam here. The only thing that ended corruption in the South Vietnamese government was its dissolution.
• Support local governments…

Given the diversified population of Afghanistan there has been too much emphasis on central government — if the Karzai government lags in giving money and supplies to local and tribal leaders, the United States should consider doling out more aid directly to them.

Okay, look: before we flip over the next few cards and get to the reeking meat pile that's really at the center of the argument, let's stop and ask ourselves how we managed, yet fucking again, to wind up as all three props under yet another corrupt tin-horn dictator pretending to be a democrat. It's not from stupidity. It's not from refusing to learn the lessons of Vietnam, although we've certainly done our best to deny them. It's because we don't give a flying fuck for anyone who won't treat our tiniest whim as royal decree, unless they're too big for us to fuck with within the necessary tolerances for selling the project as "painless", and keeping most American's focus on prime-time television offerings.

Had we simply respected international law at the outset--sure, sure, Afghanistan was governed by a gang of sexually-degenerate religious thugs, but that doesn't stop us doing business with Texas--we might have gotten what we supposedly wanted, the non-Afghans who were responsible for 9/11. Maybe not, but we didn't get 'em in the event, anyway, and we were more than satisfied to torture whomever did got caught in our nets. Striking while the blood was up wasn't just the political calculation of the moment, it was also the result of thirty years of obfuscating the lessons of Vietnam, of maintaining the fiction that we didn't really lose, that we were too powerful to ever really lose, provided we stuck with the program come hell, high water, or public sentiment. There are the added subtexts: the Right's convenient World Government fantasies, which precluded reasoned diplomacy; Bush's Daddy Issues in Iraq, which had to be addressed on the timetable already established for maximum effect on 2004; and the whole reshaping the Middle East as the Kingdom of Israel II business. If you wanna explain why we should be studying the lessons of Vietnam now (even if they are your hand-picked lessons, and, well, somewhat divorced from the actual results), you might start by explaining why it should have taken eight years, just like it did in Nam.
• Control the borders: In South Vietnam, allied forces were never able to seal off borders with Cambodia, Laos or North Vietnam. The self-imposed prohibitions against going outside South Vietnam with ground forces allowed the enemy to use border areas for training, supply routes and sanctuary.

Jeez, what a surprise. The itch no crypto-colonialist can avoid scratching. Those self-imposed "prohibitions" also kept the Chinese as more-or-less disinterested observers, rather than nuclear-armed giant with a half-million Americans on its doorstep. Call it a lesson learned in Korea, if you'd like. And it's not like it stopped Nixon from extending the war into Cambodia or Laos now, is it?
Similarly, the Taliban uses the Pakistan border as its own barrier, and American drone attacks can do only so much. Either Washington must find a way to get the Pakistanis to step up the fight against the terrorists, or consider operations across the border.

Okay, sure, there's no possible downside whatsoever anyone could see from this. But what, exactly, are we doing this for, Colonel?
Maintain political support at home: All that was accomplished on the battlefield in the latter years of Vietnam was lost when Congress, having tired of the whole endeavor, drastically cut support for South Vietnam. Neither Lyndon Johnson nor Richard Nixon was able to rally public and press support for the war.

President Obama has said that Afghanistan is a war of necessity. If so, he must put his political capital behind it. As he and his advisers plan the new course for the war, he must also come up with a new approach for selling it to Congress and the American people.

Hey, feel free to think up an example or two, Colonel, in case the New York Times grants you a national stage or somethin'.

And look: how come nobody ever asks about the lessons of "maintaining political support"? It was maintained then with lies, deception, and political divisiveness. It's maintained now with lies, deception, political divisiveness, and a refusal to call on the public to sacrifice so much as a toenail clipping in its furtherance, at least overtly. What are the lessons of that, Colonel? What are the lessons of teaching that to another generation? While handing them the bill? And that's on top of fracturing our manpower and materiel for a generation, just like we did in Southeast Asia, while we were learning on the job.

Friday, October 16

Yes, Pooches Were Screwed, But In My Defense, Those Pooches Might Have Been Screwed Otherwise, Anyway, At Some Other Time And Place, By Someone Else

YESTERDAY Indiana Governor, 2012 Republican Presidential nominee, and ill-tempered card cheat Mitch Daniels was forced to announce that he'll terminate the state's ten-year experiment in seeing whether anybody would give a shit if the destitute and the disabled were handed over to the familiar tender, still-dryer-warm-blankie ministrations of the average ad hoc business consortium given a $1.3 billion government contract. Terminate early, that is. Like seven years early. Though in fairness, the other three years were merely disastrous.

Our story so far: in 2005, flush with the success of his high-speed ramming maneuver on the Indiana Toll Road (not to mention his Solomonic solution to Indiana's centuries-old Time Zone Conundrum, both of which required the legislative mastery of a stateload of hayseeds with nothing like his Enormous Brainial Facilities), Daniels and his henchmen went scouting around for anything else they could fence. $ Millions were pocketed by privatizing prison food--Indiana is saving money on prison food, a concept which, I guarantee you, had you ever been invited to dine at one of our state prison facilities would have rendered you speechless with wonder--which also had a little-remarked-upon beneficial effect on the state's massive timber industry, which needed to find something to do with the exponential increase in state trees it had been given, also by Daniels. Still more savings came from contracting out the operation of one of our under-utilized slammers. The contractor then thoughtfully filled the place with experienced out-of-state rioters who torched a third of the joint. Whether this was designed to make Hoosiers appreciate just how good we have it, intended as a metaphor for privatization, or just God's Idea of a Joke we will never know. Life, it turns out, is complicated, as was recently explained to me on the internets.

At some point it occurred to one of Mitch's bright boys that, like convicted felons and people presently in Ohio who needed to get to Illinois (or vice-versa) by auto while spending the absolute minimum amount of time in Indiana, people on welfare, food stamps, disability, or unemployment did not exactly vote Republican in large numbers. So after a suitable twenty-minutes of study, the consolidated Family and Social Services Administration went to a cosa nostra of concerns under the IBM umbrella (Motto: We're IBM. What th' Hell Could Go Wrong?), along with $1.3 billion.

And here's a thing I really enjoy, in the "Republicans gut government, then point to government's inefficiency" sense: it's been widely bruited about--then and now--that the real impetus for this was that FSSA was "dysfunctional". Sheesh, of course it was dysfunctional. It served the poor and needy. Even politicians who'd allow, in public, that this is something society might want to consider doing a little won't plant the flag somewhere and defend it. Saying FSSA was dysfunctional is like saying the clerk at the convenience store wasn't very helpful with your wine selection. Funny, Indiana's Strategic Overseas Junketing Program was workin' jes fine. Don't hear many complaints about months-long backlogs or disconnected phone calls at the Tax Abatements for Business Expansion reception desk. The only thing that delays the decision to build a new basketball palace or football barn is the amount of time required to distinguish between Foregone Conclusion and Slam Dunk. It's paying to keep the floors mopped that causes the trouble.

Now, unless you've skipped ahead, it may come as a shock to you that a) the goal of a consortium given $1.3 billion to perform a task turns out not to be how well it can perform that task, but how much under $1.3 billion it can spend while doing so; and b) the thing immediately went into Hell's Toilet.

It was all of two months old when the Bush administration demanded tighter oversight. The first publicly-acknowledged rollback came eight-months later; the first Class-Action lawsuit seven months after that. Four months later came word that a portion of the program would not be implemented due the the fact that it would fuck up the very process it was supposed to streamline. Which takes us to just over a year ago, not that the final months of a campaign marked by your using the millions in your war chest to inflate your economic record is a good time to be putting the kibosh an ongoing billion-dollar festival of pooch buggery.

By all accounts, through the entire process Indiana never missed nor altered a contract payment, nor demanded any adjustments for a program which ran for one-third of the contract life without coming anywhere near its standards. And Indiana's Big Entrepreneurial Brain does Nothing Whatsoever until the Feds are threatening to take their dollars away unless the system is fixed. Remember that when his campaign RV pulls into your state.

IBM, for its part, insists it was not in violation of the contract and has been wrongly terminated; it blames the unexpected rush of unemployed Hoosiers for its troubles, meaning that the 2008 recession is responsible for a product that was crappy in 2007. Is that a V-2 I hear? Daniels, meanwhile, says the program "just didn't work", something which probably sounds pretty pathetic unless you consider it's the only known instance of the man exhibiting anything approaching functional hindsight.

Wednesday, October 14

Man, I Wish "The Bell Jar" Would Change His Life, If You Catch My Drift.

TODAY the cold thing has taken up a sort of multi-floor residence in the lymph glands behind both my ears, meaning that I have no outwards signs of being sick other than an occasional dry cough, and a resultant Sympathy Factor of zero. The pain, fortunately, is excruciating, which means it's probably infection, not the less noticeable incipience of cancer or Republicanism.

Yes! Forget "Conservatism" as mental illness; Republicanism is viral in nature, and if you give me a couple minutes I'm sure I can dig up some biopsychologist, neurocogitator, or molecular paleontologist who agrees with me if you edit him right. It seems like a promising hypothesis, at least, especially considering this item, which I assure you was gonna be a much better post before Tomás de Fucking Torquemada took hold of my sinuses. And my mental processes feel like I'm still straightening them up after a party. But that didn't stop 'em at Valley Forge.

Via Blue Indiana we learn that enormous-craniumed and small in every other respect Indiana Governor Mitch "Come for the Combover, Stay for the Charm" Daniels passed out copies of a Charles "Bell Curve" Murray education tome at a meeting of the Indiana Education Roundtable last month, explaining that the book quote changed the way he thinks about education. (Full story at the Ft. Wayne Journal Gazette.)

And y'know, forget the connotations of casual racism; after all, the man is running for the Republican presidential nomination. The book was Real Education, and it's Murray's most recent hardback contribution to the world of ideas. 2008. Which means either that Mitch "The Brain" Daniels first came into contact with his libertoonian academic doppelgänger fourteen years after The Bell Curve and a quarter century after Losing Ground, or that he expects other people to believe he did. Which is more damning, exactly? Kee-rist, even I thought he had to be smarter than that, even if I secretly suspected he wasn't. You're sixty fucking years old, Stretch. The only books which are supposed to change your Life, or your Outlook, at that age are religious tomes, and then it's really only seemly if you're a hopeless alcoholic or imprisoned for three lifetimes. It's a mark of intellectual inferiority approaching We'd Like To Bring You In For Some More Tests Starting Tomorrow territory, and the willingness to admit it to other people, even if you're doing it for cynical political purposes, is goddam near hallucinatory. That Shooting Pack Animals From A Helicopter thing worked for La Palin, too. What're we, twenty-four months from you tearing one of the tame deer at Brown County Park limb from limb with your bare hands while the cameras roll?

And, fuck, it's Indiana. Every college degree comes with two bus tickets out of state. And you think we have too many undesirables applying to college? We're at risk of lowering the quality of our native pool boy, landscaper, and night watchman stock? And it took you till your early Golden Years to to tumble onto this?

My earliest recollections include a television in the house. Black and white, sure, and a screen the size of your mid-range iPod's, but still: my youth has more in common with twittering, rainbow parties, Jonas Brothers mousepads, and all the rest of the detritus of mass-market lobotomizing than it does transcendentalism, sonnets, and Malmsey Madeira, and I'd still like to know how th' fuck we got here. Mitch Daniels is considered not just a leader, but a friggin' paragon of temperate reflection in a major political party. This cannot be accompanied by anything remotely definable as reasoned consideration; one likes to imagine, at least, that even the denizens of some of the 19th century's most extensive swamplands would have sussed him out within ten minutes of his opening spiel and given him the option of leaving the county the way he came in, or riding a rail. If my next-door neighbor handed me a portion of Murray's oeuvre, with or without a tale of personal epiphany, I'd think less of him, as much for the admitting of it as the actual belief, and he went to a state school. If someone turned up peddling them door-to-door I'd grab the shotgun. And neither of them would have already spent half a taxpayer-funded career explaining to me how much smarter they are than everyone else.

And "society needs elites"? Mitch Daniels. I rest my case.

Tuesday, October 13

Olio: Giant Blobs of Free-Floating Mucous Edition

Lyndsey Layton, WaPo: "Under Obama, Regulatory Agencies Step Up Enforcement".

"In a move designed as much for symbolism as effect, the new chairman of the Consumer Product Safety Commission dispatched all 100 agency inspectors across the country last month to enforce a law that requires special drains on swimming pools to prevent children from entrapment. The agency shut down more than 200 pools."

Designed as much for symbolism as effect! Much like Jimmy Carter's Cardigans of Malaise. Maybe they should have shut them down symbolically. Or drained them symbolically, with a soda straw and a teaspoon.

Not that you'd learn this from reading a news account designed to make actual enforcement of actual laws designed to protect actual people sound like one of the Great Philosophical Quandaries of Western Thought, but the law in question, The Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act, was signed into law by then-Acting President Bush in December, 2007, and went into effect last December. There was, apparently, a shortage of the new drain covers for a time, which the CPSC acknowledged.

So at the end of the outdoor swimming season following the first year of the law's effect, which followed enactment by a full year, the Fed shuts down 200 public pools where the operators were something less than urgently concerned about the potential for disemboweling children, and it's "symbolic". So's every holiday's crackdown on highway speeders.

And okay, it's also "symbolic" in that 100 agents are all the CPSC can muster, and they're not all going to be out inspecting pools every day. Nor should they. And it's "symbolic" in that it was designed--perhaps--to make a point about Federal enforcement of a recent law and encourage compliance among the psychoneurologically profit-oriented (see Prof. Brooks, below). Feel free, next time, to employ any of the various resources available to the English speaker to explain what you meant, Ms Layton. Meanwhile, both the Sweep and the PR campaign are long-acknowledged ordnance in the law enforcement arsenal. "As much for symbolism as effect"--we used to call that "editorializing", by the way--is intended to append the headline "Obama Administration Enforces Federal Regulations" with "Without Regard For Jobs", instead of "Unlike Bush Administration".

Anthony McCartney, AP: "Anka Gets Credit for Co-Writing Jackson Single".

"The preparation of "This Is It" is eerily similar to how the surviving Beatles took outtakes from John Lennon following his murder and added their voices and instruments to craft the "Real Love" and "Free As a Bird" songs released as part of the "Anthology" project in 1996."

Yeah, yeah, yeah. Aside from the fact that the two post-mortem Beatles tunes turned up sixteen years after his murder, when the three survivors decided to cooperate with a career retrospective, while the Jackson number was stitched together while the funeral baked meats still served as cold hors d'oeuvres.

Andrew Sullivan, last seen throwing a day-long fit because some guy on CNBC (Motto: "We're More than just Jim Cramer! And We're on your Dial Somewhere, Honest!") reported that some anonymous guy at the White House said Gay Bloggers Wear Pajamas, or Only Leftists Oppose Don't Ask Don't Tell, or something (described today as a "smear". God, th' fuck do you react when you have a real problem?), gives Imaginary Professor of Applied Psychocalifragilistics, Lt. Col. (Hon.) David Brooks two big thumbs up:

"The combination of a reporter's ear and an intellectual's mind is a rare thing, which is why I'm grateful for David Brooks, and particularly excited about his burgeoning interest in and study of neuroscience. It seems quite likely to me that this relatively new field will be the most fecund in the future for understanding just who we mortals be."

First: I know that when you two were in college, having episodes of Stendhal Syndrome at Milton Friedman lectures and going to campus dances in Dame Thatcher drag, no one in his right mind would consider taking courses that didn't lead directly to lucrative employment, but fer chrissakes, didn't "try to refrain from pecking at the feed corn of a discipline you know absolutely nothing about, or, failing that, do not select a nugget you find particularly attractive and announce you've found a diamond" get through to either of you somehow? Bobo:

"Since I’m not an academic, I’m free to speculate that this work will someday give us new categories, which will replace misleading categories like ‘emotion’ and ‘reason.’ I suspect that the work will take us beyond the obsession with I.Q. and other conscious capacities and give us a firmer understanding of motivation, equilibrium, sensitivity and other unconscious capacities."

Not an academic? You couldn't report accurately on the menu at Red Lobster. Not an academic. You don't give a fuck about this stuff, except that, as a sort of wistful nostalgia for Omni magazine (the kind of thing that convinces someone like Andrew Sullivan that you're an intellectual), it allows you to ally Imaginary Scientificalistics of the Future to your personal conviction that amoral capitalist rapine is a biological imperative. Reason, Emotion, and IQ! Dave, you've got the same Enemies List as Coca-Cola™. Not that that should surprise anyone.

And who throws a fucking day-long fit because somebody insults bloggers?

Monday, October 12

Hello, Death? Riley. Listen, I Just Read Douthat's Column, And If Last Week's Offer's Still Open I'd Like To Reconsider.

Ross Douthat, "Heckuva Job, Barack". October 12

LEST we forget to state the obvious, let us begin by stating the obvious: this is Ross Douthat, current moistener of the John Tierney Chair of "Conservative" Sinecuristics at the Times; a man whose career mission--making religiofascism, Christian Division, sound dishwasher safe to people who were inclined to give it a pass anyway--was augmented, briefly, when he saw Wither "Conservatism", Inc. as a strong buy; a man whose present position of prominence leads us to conclude that Kathleen Parker was busy; Ross Fucking Douthat is lecturing Barack Obama about accepting something he didn't deserve.

(Memo to David Shipley: The boy needs a mentor even worse than he needs a personal stylist. Could you maybe give him some suggestions? Maybe assign a topic once in a while? This thing is So Last Friday that Dowd's already written about it, which means the zeitgeist has moved on and the only people still hollerin' are the Right, the crypto-Right, and Adult Idolaters of Geriatric Men in Dresses who're still pissed off that John Paul #2 never got one. If Mr. Bad Teenage Beard on the Cusp of Middle Age can't distinguish between last week's Bozo Kazoo Ensemble and actual ongoing issues, at least move him off Mondays, where he not only competes with Krugman, but regularly opens the week with preternaturally colorless takes on what the blogosphere would have talked to death a week ago, assuming the blogosphere consisted of himself, Rod Dreher, MoDo, and that professional Christian who was on Everybody Loves Raymond back in the Forties.)
This was Barack Obama’s chance.

Here was an opportunity to cut himself free, in a stroke, from the baggage that’s weighed his presidency down — the implausible expectations, the utopian dreams, the messianic hoo-ha.

Here was a place to draw a clean line between himself and all the overzealous Obamaphiles, at home and abroad, who poured their post-Christian, post-Marxist yearnings into the vessel of his 2008 campaign.

Here was a chance to establish himself, definitively, as an American president — too self-confident to accept an unearned accolade, and too instinctively democratic to go along with European humbug.

Now, a lot of things come to mind here, and not all of them involve homicide. First, and most obvious, the question of your alibi for the period when George W. Bush was being hailed as the New Churchill and a Carrier-landin' Fighter Jock. Are we really supposed to believe that, had the Nobel committee given Bush II the 2001 Peace Prize for his foolproof plan to end global terra and free the enslaved women of Islam your cohort would have objected? Second, where are these overzealous Obamaphiles, anyway? I'd like to know why they couldn't be bothered to show up and drone out all the Town Hall bleaters this past summer. Obama had adoring throngs during the campaign. So did Reagan. So did Bush II. Fer chrissakes, so did Nixon. A lot of his was based on how badly your party had fucked things up. For someone who was busy at the time cashing royalty checks for your plan to reform the party you sure seem to be having a lot of difficulty getting over it. Some of it is what campaigns do, and, again, if those'd been Dick Cheney or Mitt Romney or Rudy Giuliani crowds it would have been a validation of their policies, not evidence of a Messiah complex. And don't look at me; I complained loud and long about it, and urged 'em to fire whomever was responsible for those chanting bleachersful of Thorazined monastics. For that matter, I urged a boycott of the Blackeyed Peas, but that was really because Fergie sucks donkeys.

In other words, if you've got a problem with the interminable war over product placement that is the modern Presidential election--and, fuck it, every other election from Dog Catcher on up any more--then take it up with the people responsible. And while you're there, admit that your only real problem with it is that your side loses from time to time. Kee-rist, Ross, whose candidate was pilloried last time because he'd supported cosmetic reforms to the campaign finance laws?

And look, th' fuck is the problem with you guys learning practical lessons? One minute you're intent on sham-reforming the "Conservative" movement, like some Baby Brooks (Oh, if only the Party would toss out all those racists and rednecks and anyone else I'm uncomfortable snogging in public it'd be on the road to permanent majority!); as soon as you sense the tiniest political advantage you're back in the tenth row of the mob, next to the guy with the "Grow A Brian, Post-Marxists!" sandwich board. I mean, where exactly do you think this is going to get you? Do you really imagine that your party is in control of its loudest, most hate-filled elements? That they're going to sit politely while you nominate Romney, or Mitch Daniels, and schedule Sarah Palin's Convention speech for 6 AM Tuesday?
He didn’t take it. Instead, he took the Nobel Peace Prize.

Big mistake.

Yeah, because by turning it down he'd have earned your eternal admiration. Just like involving the Republican caucus in the Stimulus and Health Care reform negotiations, and hosting that pro-life symposium at the White House did.
People have argued that you can’t turn down a Nobel. Please. Of course you can. Obama is a gifted rhetorician with world-class speechwriters. All he would have needed was a simple, graceful statement emphasizing the impossibility of accepting such an honor during his first year in office, with America’s armed forces still deep in two unfinished wars.

Shit. Both were finished a long time ago. It's just inconvenient for some people to admit it.

Incidentally, we're 165 words into this week's prattling--you have a full week to come up with these, Ross--and you've already exhausted your Idea, which is a term I use just to show Christian charity isn't confined to Christians.

And I come this far, Ross (and no farther), just for a couple personal reflections. Back in December of 2000, I remember waiting for Supreme Court designee George W. Bush to acknowledge that he'd lost the popular vote, and in many people's minds stolen the hinkiest US Presidential election since the invention of the telephone. Just to acknowledge that many of his fellow citizens, including a majority of those who had bothered going to the polls, did not want him as President. It's a standard feature of victory speeches from landslide winners, but the best we got from Bush that night was a smirky Tough Shit. Which I will admit, while not was I was hoping for was at least an accurate preview of his Presidency.

And less than a year later I remember arguing that Bush should announce he would refuse to seek a second term, in order to run a truly non-partisan campaign against Trans-Global Chaos, or whatever it was. Of course I knew it would never happen; of course it wasn't long before we knew (and by "knew" I mean "had our apodictic certainty confirmed by independent observation") that the administration, its pals like Giuliani, and the rest of its party intended to wring every last ounce of partisan advantage out of The Day That Changed Everything.

I had no illusions; I'd have settled for a speech, however mangled, that acknowledged the complexity of the situation, and the overwhelming odds that what he was proposing was a generations-long occupation or four halfway around the world, but I didn't expect that, either. And the point is that this is what we got from your man during the two greatest Presidential crises of the quarter-century, and during a pair of incompetently-managed, PR-directed military actions which he, and you, tried to peddle as a Battle for Civilization Herself. So th' fuck gives you the right to demand anything, let alone adherence to your phony ethical demands, in such a small beer as this?

Thursday, October 8


• I was gonna write about the above, which I just caught over the weekend, when the search for a vidclip informed me that it's over a year old. I really need to watch more teevee.

Anyway, I'm not sure why anyone would concern themselves with teenage argot from a previous century, or teenagers, period, for that matter, but it's their money. Still, if that's your target group, I think it's safe to say that Gentle Admonition is a poor choice of format. I'd'a gone with the "What if Zinc suddenly disappeared?" classroom films approach, and made all the hot teenage couture ensembles not produced by The Gays vanish, and show the two twenty-something teens leaving the shop in identical muumuus, or something.

Also, one of those people is reportedly Hilary Duff. Have eliminated the brunette.

• Bestest thing on the internets, ever, in case you haven't seen it:

1) Wonkette uncovers Soviet-Realist rendition of Jesus H. Moses hand-delivering the US Constitution direct from Mt. Sinai, except that his copy seems to include only Article I, meaning either that our crappy Legislature is what's Divinely inspired, or the thing comes in installments, like the Time-Life Greatest Hits of the 70s collection. 2) Artist's website includes handy mouse-over explanation of all the Symbolism involved, an even greater treat than the aesthetic one. 3) Internet denizen "Shortpacked!" "corrects" mouse-over information, as the kids say. 4) Everyone's happy, including guy with horrible undiagnosed respiratory thing.

• Which forms a more perfect segue than I could manage to the military/historical Thought of Lt. Col. (Hon.) David Brooks, who yesterday engaged in a "Conversation" with Gail Collins, notable for being the only time they seem to have actually conversed during one. The give-and-take amounted to a mutual tongue-bathing of each other's book deals, of course. Like you expected any different.

Anyway, we get this from our Honorary Looey Bird:
When we first invaded [Afghanistan], it seemed like this gigantic victory for high-tech warfare. We had a few special forces types sneaking around the country pointing lasers at targets and then F-18s would blow them up. That seemed to vindicate the Donald Rumsfeld high-tech war doctrine, which in turn shaped the way we fought in Afghanistan and Iraq for years to come.

I don’t recall anybody, Democrat or Republican, questioning that strategy five years ago. I don’t recall anybody saying we needed a classic COIN strategy of lots of boots on the ground.

Which just might be because you were so busy crowing about our Amazing Technological Victory, pseudo-pondering how much gloating you could do without being unseemly, and rubbing the noses of imaginary hippies in the dirt. The Army spent twenty years absorbing the counterinsurgency lessons of Vietnam, but they're extremely unattractive to politicians in general and your party in particular, and they went out the window the instant you figured you had Righteousness on your side. Just bomb the shit out of people: it kills all our enemies and leaves us unscathed. Just like in did in Nam. Everyone in uniform knows this is the absolute key to guaranteed success, all right.

What You Heard At The Time, David Brooks, was identical to What You Were Shouting: partisan politics and myopic triumphalism, 100 tons of hubris in a 10 ton shell, which permitted no difference of opinion, let alone heard any. In 2001, just as in 2009, Afghanistan was a god-forsaken collection of badlands. It bordered Pakistan back then too, which bordered India, just like now, two swell members of the Nuclear Club which don't seem to care much for each other. And there was precisely Zero chance that The Grand Coalition was going to bag bin-Laden, get back in time for the start of the Parade season, and all's well that ends well. We undertook a generation-long occupation of one of the poorest countries on earth, half a world away, with no plan to increase troop levels, no public accounting, and for godssakes No New Taxes. Quick technological victory, everybody keeps cheering for two years, reelection, no questions asked. To say that what the Bush administration was up to in Afghanistan--while you shook your pom-poms, Brooks--revolved around the rosiest of rosy scenarios falls short only in that you can actually see through rose tints.

Wednesday, October 7

On The Anodyne Qualities Of The Wicked, Squawking Box In The Living Room

LET us suppose that you suddenly find yourself a middle-aged Midwesterner at the tail end of this previous weekend, slowly being forced to admit to himself that this time, just like fifteen times before, he has not managed to fight off whatever godawful respiratory disfunction his Poor Wife brought home from public school, aka Hell's Culture Medium, with the twin amulets of zinc lozenges and vitamin C, which have, at best, somewhat lessened its effects--to that point--while making the inside of his mouth taste, and feel, as if he'd been keeping a chaw of tin foil there for thirty-six hours. That--again! Groundhog Day!--the tiny incidence of sore throat two mornings ago, the one which has steadily gotten worse, is, in fact, connected to the lethargy so profound it's even noticeable in a man not particularly given to long-term exertion in the first place, and presages a similar slow breech of the mucous-control system, like the end of Force 10 from Navarone.

You will find yourself tempted to turn on the television, because listening to the enormous clogged drain inside your skull has become tedious, but this will only make things worse. For one thing, back when the Mutual Happy Ending Broadcast Committee that determines who gets what NFL game looked at Week Four, the Green Bay/ Minnesota match-up had to look like ratings dynamite or a roadside bomb. Would perennial sportscaster Marry or Fuck? Object Brett Fah-vuh-ruh be on the Vikings roster? Or re-re-re-retired? If he was playing, could he still actually grip a football? So they split the difference and gave it to ESPN for Monday night, meaning they missed out on having the real professional fluffers do tricks on NBC Sunday night, but they got an extra day to convince football fans to watch despite the Ultimate Junior High Grudge Match PR campaign. The catch here being that it seems, on Fahrrrve's part, to have actually been some sort of grudge match against the organization which had heartlessly decided a couple years ago that it would like to stop paying him $150,000 a minute to play a kid's game, which it had been doing for the previous fifteen seasons, and go with an outstanding prospect by the name of Aaron Rodgers, thirty years Faaahve-ruh's junior, despite the fact that F*vre's father is still tragically dead.

And despite the fact that this fucks the loyal fans of Lambeau Field, who were just months ago the loyalest, heart-warmingest aficionados in all of Sport, but who, it turns out, cannot collectively move razor blades, big-screen teevees, or sodium-laden cans of soup. Oh well, at least I didn't get sick on Sunday night, when I would have been forced to listen to Professional Decent Guy and Biblical Homo Abhorrer Tony "One and Done" Dungy.

Speaking of people who are willing to turn their life's love into a professional wrestling story arc for quarters, NASA, the not-quite-crypto-military agency which hasn't found anyone to torture yet, is all set to blow up the Moon as part of the Cowboys, Pirates, and Hunky ER Doctors in Space Program. Y'know, to see if there's enough theoretical water on the place to support a massive colonization program before anyone starts asking why we need a massive colonization program, or pointing out the track record of white people invading things. I learned this shortly after throbbing sinuses, burning throat, and fawning sportscasters had driven me to explore the uncharted reaches of Stuff I Recorded A Year Ago And Never Watched, specifically some PBS deal about Life On Mars? featuring scientists from NASA's Space Junk Division asking the eternal question: Does the possibility that Life evolved on other planets mean a lifelong employment opportunity, or what?

And don't get me wrong: I'm all for basic research for its own sake, and unlike lunar real estate scams, the Mars missions at least have some small justification, assuming all these people and all those millions were just sitting around going to waste otherwise. But, please, knock off the Search for Extraterrestrial Life routine, huh? Didn't that rock with the "wormholes" thing embarrass you enough? We know the conditions under which Life began on Earth. We know how unknowably vast are Time and Space. We're trying to "find" "Life" nearby not because it means anything, but because we can, and on everyone else's dime.

Look, think archeology. There's tons of banknotes out there for "Biblical" archeology, which employs plenty of archeologists willing to look for Noah's Ark, but which counts for precisely nothing, which everyone smart enough to be involved realizes. Meanwhile, finding the money to do real archeology is like asking for divine intervention. It's one thing to hope to find liquid water on Mars, or microbes on Enceladus; it's another to be seen openly rooting for that result, on camera, in a roomful of cheering nerds all working for Uncle Sugar, when you're all smart enough to find jobs elsewhere.

Which reminds me: as long as you're at it, could you do something about a diversity program, fer chrissakes? And a cure for the common cold would be nice, too.

Monday, October 5

Wither "Conservatism", Vol. MDCCXXXI

STOP, You're Killin' Me, Vol. CDXVII:

"What is the world coming to when Chicago can't fix an election anymore?"

--diminutive Indiana governor Mitch Daniels, commenting on the Olympic committee vote while in Chicago

Quote courtesy the cremains of the Indianapolis Sunday Racist Beacon's political stovepiper's grab-bag "Behind Closed Doors", which heretofore has saved the one-liners for last, but which now leads every week with a Daniels item, apparently as a contractual obligation. The Mighty Atom responded in kind by appearing in ads promoting the state's newspapers, meaning he justifiably reckons his risk of personal exposure by the Hoosier-centric press at zilch. I tried to hide it (the quote, I mean) from my Poor Wife, who spent the weekend getting progressively no better from this year's case of whatever the Walking Petri Dishes of Psycho Death Germs known as "her students" gave her, since hysterical laughter leads to five-minute coughing spasms, and it's impossible to hear the teevee over 'em. But she got to it before I did, and I missed the last ten minutes of The Sports Reporters.

My Poor Wife's illness discombobulated everything, of course, to the extent that we didn't hear Jon Stewart's routine about "at least the mainstream media won't pick up the blatantly-partisan, transparently absurd complaint that the President 'has better things to do' than make a twenty-minute speech in favor of the 2016 Olympics being held in Chicago, as told by the same people who thought six months worth of brush clearing in a four year term was a model of sound political husbandry," (followed, of course by mass-market news doing precisely that) until Sunday. And this was two days after the issue had been explained to everyone's satisfaction by Channel 8 Statehouse reporter Jim Shella, the Dean of non-charismatic Indiana Teevee Political Reporters by virtue of his twenty years helping inform the public how insiders imagine it should think about things. This is a lot like qualifying for your own cooking show by virtue of spending 5-10 on the serving line at the Michigan City pen. Shella--who got the first toss of the night (from an anchor desk which had, just 24 hours previously, been festooned with the Timeline for the Thrilling Chicago Olympics Announcement) to cover the "political fallout"--explained, rhetorically, about the story he had been given five-minutes' airtime to masticate, "Is this fair? Maybe not. But if Chicago had gotten the bid the President's supporters would have been giving him all the credit." Q.E.D.

Y'know, it's not like I expect, let alone hope for any better; it's just that I would like to see the theoretical construct of something other than an immediate and enthusiastic dive for the bottom turn up on occasion, just to prove that math is still a force to be reckoned with.

Which brings us, first, to David Brooks' Friday column, a rare opportunity to attempt a Shorter ("If Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh really ran the Republican Party, Mike Huckabee wouldn't have been the 2008 nominee"), and its double-reverse Slate doppelgänger, this "Book Club" discussion of Sam Tanenhaus' The Death of Conservatism, between Tanenhaus and Ross Douthat co-Republican apologist and Third Runner Up for the role of the quirky lab technician in NCIS: Los Angeles, Reihan Salam. The exchange is notable for the patient concision of Tanenhaus' dismantling of the "My Conservatism is the product of Burke, Bill Buckley, and Irving Kristol, and has nothing whatsoever to do with racist yahooliganism" routine that sprung like Athena's nerdy, pretentious cousin from the shitpile of George W. Bush's presidency:
Dear Reihan,

Actually, what you call a polemic means to be an interpretive history that makes the opposite case from the one described in your account. Revanchist conservatism did not originate as a form of populist protest. Rather, it was the brainchild of the very elites you say have no influence on our politics. It was conservative intellectuals who argued that the "managerial elite" (James Burnham), the "liberal establishment" (William Buckley), or the "new class" (Irving Kristol) had seized control of American politics and later our society. This argument, in its inverted Marxism, gave theoretical shape to the unarticulated anxieties and suspicions—anti-government, anti-institutional, antinomian—of the "small but intense and vocal minority," many of them "white evangelical Christians," who today populate the eroding island of movement conservatism. Even today the right insists it is driven by ideas, even if the leading thinkers are now Limbaugh and Beck, and the shock troops are tea-partiers and anti-tax demonstrators.

In other words, the movement has thrived not as a top-down operation, nor as a bottom-up one, but as a convergence of shared prejudices and cultural enmities. Thus, the right's first great modern tribune was Joe McCarthy, whose theatrical "investigations" of "enemies within" were either endorsed or indulged by each of the intellectuals mentioned above.

And can we just mention, here, that the fifth anniversary of Schiavo, aka, the point at which principled Burkeans looked up from their Waughs and Wodehouses and tried to determine where that rank smell was coming from, is but three months distant? When does the desire, or "desire", to address the problem some day, time and elections permitting, stop being news?

Friday, October 2

Did The IOC Mention Anything About "Deplorable Medical Care" And "Loose Gun-Wielding Psychopaths On Every Street Corner" By Any Chance?

Chicago Loses Bid for 2016 Olympic Games

Well, at least now the President can turn his full attention to health care reform. Which means the odds are good Spain will get some.

Well, What's In The News Today? Oh, Did You See This, Paul? The Economy's So Bad, Extortionists Now Take Checks!

DAVE--Homey, Bruder…Weatherman! Women who work on your show? A woman who worked on your show is the tyranny of the Heart. Women is the tyranny of their Big Shot Boss.

This is what you wanted to be a star for? It isn't about who you fuck, or fuck over, Dave. It is partly about the ethics of sleeping with employees, and the rest is about fucking everyone else, whether they consented or not.

And no, I'm not being hypocritical about Polanski. I happen to believe that judicial misconduct, and prosecutorial malfeasance, trump damn near everything, an opinion that is left untouched by the fact that this guy proves to be a serial liar, since he already was a known prosecutor. But it is strengthened by the I'm Not Even Going To Bother Hiding My Contempt for the Intelligence of the Public routine passing as a "confession". "Hey, I'm ruining my reputation in service of the truth," says Mr. Retired Prosecutor whose actions co-opted a case it now pleases them to renew. As though he didn't ruin both his and the LA justice system's reps when he admitted colluding with a judge. Hell, as though admitting you lied for money, and media attention, in a country full of people who do the former every day and dream of the chance to do the latter, doesn't make you the fucking idol of millions. It's like saying you blew your shot at Country music stardom by professing Jesus as your Lord and Savior.

Next time try passing it off as youthful indiscretion.

Hailstones the size of Canned Hams! Dave. It meant more to some of us than that some silly guy was being silly on local news. It meant somebody who saw through the bullshit that everyone else seemed so eager to gulp down by the heaping handful had at least made it to the place where he could twist a nose or two. It meant the hope that someday someone other than some British pop star might bite General Electric where it hurt. It meant being happy that you got rich, and forgetting it when the show slid into mediocrity and superciliousness and tabloid moments with Drew Fucking Barrymore.

'Cause y'know, Dave, Eugene Levy can make any number of crappy movies he wants, and he'll still be the guy from SCTV. But the unspoken part of the deal is, he can't show us how he spends the money. Dipping your willie in the steno pool is much, much worse.

In the next life, David Letterman, Bill Hicks is hosting the Tonight Show. And you are his seat cushion.

And thanks, by the way, for helping Sarah Palin reload.

Thursday, October 1

There Goes The Neighborhood Ballgame.

MY Poor Wife is home with Deadly Pan-Asiatic Barnyard Pneumonia, or a cold, despite the fact that she's be warned, several times by now, not to come down with any respiratory diseases while it's too warm to leave chicken stock outside overnight. And we happened to be out of Imagine Brand Organic Free-Range Low Sodium Chicken Broth, which is the only other way I'll make chicken soup (and Thanks and Honorable Mention to Kitchen Basics, which makes a perfectly serviceable no salt added stock that just doesn't cut it, for me, as a soup base, flavor-wise); Imagine Brand is a five-mile round trip distant, through crappy evening traffic, so after she sprung this on me I went to the grocery and looked for a canned soup to tide her over. Right. Progresso "Heart Healthy! No MSG! Reduced Sodium!" Right. Twenty percent of your Rational Daily Intake in half a can of soup. You're Good to Go, Murrica! Just try not to eat anything the rest of the day unless you harvest it yourself.

Four-hundred seventy milligrams of sodium in an eight ounce serving, which is actually less than half a can, since the fine folks at General Mills provide you with an extra 2.5 oz/ can, meaning you dine free once every 3.2 cans. If you live that long. Of that maybe 50mg is naturally occurring. Let's call it 100. So you increase that by 370% and plaster Healthy! And Reduced! all over the can, by comparison to the ghastly amounts in your "regular" soup.

And I'm not even a health nut--though I am a cook, a group you offend even more egregiously--just a guy whose Poor Wife was told to watch her sodium intake. It's more or less immaterial to me, personally, what you chose to dump in those vats of yours, but how you're allowed to peddle it isn't, and how it is that the Market won't ever respond to rationality without a fight ought to inform all our politics. Progresso soup isn't on My Grocer's Shelves because they've discovered the perfect amount of salt to complement Modified Food Starch and Alpo, any more than the "Progresso" name reflects a line of black-clad Italian women lovingly stirring simmering pots of just picked/ fresh grated/ recently slaughtered goodness stretching back to the Old Country, unless by "Old Country" you mean Teaneck, NJ or its environs. It's there because the General Millers pay retailers for the space that Campbell's doesn't. Can we not just fucking 'fees up? It's not like there aren't entire floors of Bright Boys at General Mills who could produce soups with reasonable amounts of salt and the same profit margins. They don' wanna. They'd rather hire other Bright Boys to advertise you out of your socks, because that's what they do.

Speaking of open secrets, the above explains the mood I was in this AM when I e-opened the Indianapolis Racist Beacon and e-turned to the four-page exposé, "Some Fear Charter Schools May Become Sports Powers".

A little background is in order here, though first we'll happily take the Under on "number of people now fearing Charter School Sports Hegemonies who also expressed the slightest concern about Charter Schools siphoning tax dollars from the academic programs of the neediest public school districts", assuming the Under to be "any positive number".

High School athletics in Indiana are basically governed by the Indiana High School Athletic Association, or IHOP, which, several years back, managed to ruin the only high school athletic competition in the nation worthy of national attention without it featuring some future Lebron James All-McDonald's Hottie playing his final year of semi-pro ball: the Indiana High School Basketball Tournament (think Hoosiers, but with 537 alcoholics). The IHOP decided that what Indiana really needed to drive its citizens back home to watch hockey every March was class basketball, so everyone could win. Everyone here defined as "mostly private religious schools which cull players from a considerably wider radius than their similarly-sized public counterparts". Used to be that on occasion some momentary attack of truthfulness would lead someone to admit such schools "recruit" athletes, which would result in immediate denunciations of such anti-Catholicism, anti-Christian, Obviously Jihadist-inspired infamy of a plain fact. But now, with the internets and insta-comment feature of the Racist Beacon, this pretty much consumes any and every discussion of high school sports in the state. Who says we ain't forward-looking in Indiana? Besides our Governor.

The IHOP has twice looked into bumping private schools up one Division to compensate, and twice turned it down. But that was before the Poor and Unsightly got into the act:
...what if a charter school specialized in sports? What if that school became an irresistible magnet for the city's elite athletes -- a prep school for sports that guaranteed college hopefuls a chance to play with the best, to be coached by the best and to dominate opponents?

It's the very scenario that some fear could severely damage the competitive fairness of one of Indiana's most treasured traditions -- high school basketball -- and it's one that some believe already is playing out in Gary. The basketball program at Thea Bowman Leadership Academy, a K-12 school that opened in 2003, has elicited enough ill will in recent years that at least one coach is refusing to schedule games against the team.

Yes, the children of the blasted urban lunarscape that once was Steeltown, USA, might be getting over in a way that was never intended! For nonwealthy nonwhites, anyway.

So now here's IHOP Commissioner Blake Ress (member of the Board since 1990, member of the Executive Committee since '93, Commish since 2000, so he's been on hand for the adoption of Class basketball and both challenges to the unlimited boundaries of private schools):
"The potential is there for a charter school to create imbalance because you draw from anywhere and (students) can go there without paying tuition. There's a wide pool of talent to choose from, and (charter schools) have access to it."

Within their school districts, that is, not to the edges of the known universe, like private schools. (It is suggested that one of the stars of an independent religious school and perennial athletic power's volleyball team requires three different interstate highways to reach school each morning, possibly crossing from Central into Eastern Time while she's at it. We're not really sure what time it is 'round here.)

Boundaries and access and imbalance are precisely the issues you've decided on twice already, which is certainly hypocritical enough, but without paying tuition? Doesn't that mean it's intended to be the province of wealthy parents only? 'Cause if I didn't know any better…