Friday, February 26

Buggery! And Now That I Have Your Attention, Buggery!

OUR story so far: What the Transcontinental Railroad brought to the vast herds of American bison, what the Internets brought to window peepers, the National Interstate and Defense Highways Act of 1956 brought to Hamilton County, Indiana, USA: the opportunity for a sort of cosmic ruin wrapped in Profit. And if you imagine the City Fathers of Carmel, IN, were gonna let that one pass by you don't know Carmel, IN. Or City Fathers. Or Dad's Clubs. Or America. In fact what are you, a goddam Commie?

(Children's ice cream, Mandrake? Yesterday AM I switched on the teevee for some reason just as the Today Show came on with its opening parody of The News designed to make that 1% of America which remembers Dave Garroway imagine it's back in high school, or something. This despite the fact that it's not even the fucking news anymore, which was driven home, like I needed that, by the fact that the lead story was the death of that SeaWorld trainer. And over and over (and, oh, over) again the teleprompter readers reminded us that the tragedy occurred in full view of the audience, including parents with children! With Children! As though anybody else is gonna be in Orlando in late winter hoping to wring some precious amusement out of captive marine mammals spouting on command, or elephants in tutus, or roller-skating chimps. The Children! Shut up. It's not the lesson I'd have them taught, and God Knows it's not how I'd've taught it even if it was, but dollars to doughnuts "Lookee! We can put Big Fishies in a tank for the slack-jawed amusement of thoughtless Consumption addicts, and the profit of corporations with little or no concern for the sale conditions of valuable breeding stock with a bad track record" is gonna wind up haunting some of the adorable little tykes at some point, too. Just wait'll they have kids of their own!)

Yes, Defense Highways (back up to the start if you don't remember), and that wasn't just there to assuage the ever-watchful and philosophically-consistent legislative watchdogs of Eisenhower's own party about the largest public works project in history (to that time, at least). Eisenhower famously admired the Autobahn, just as he famously got no closer to actual combat in a thirty-five year military career spanning both World Wars than mop-up operations against the Bonus Army. In fairness, he didn't really have much experience playing defense, apart from the occasional rescue of surviving remnants of his fuck-ups at the Kasserine Pass, or Bastogne, say, so we might be charitable enough to suggest it never fucking occurred to him that the transportation benefits of a first-class road system extended to the attacker as well. Either that or, as is more likely, neither he nor any other marginally sane person in 1950s America really believed any of that Red Dawn shit.

Cut to: Today. Far be it from us to kick Hamilton county while it's down; it's just that it always deserves kicking somewhere. Last week came word that what was being described as a "bullying incident" had taken place on the boy's basketball team bus a month earlier on a trip home from Terre Haute, a hundred miles to the southwest. Apparently three senior boys had "bullied" two freshman players. [The Reader will note that here we leave the familiar, if ecologically-challenged realm where things which are said are in some way related to Facts, or someone's understanding of Facts, that someone being a person using those words to convey Facts, and enter the Republican Zone.]

We are, as you know, a public-education savvy household. So when the Principal of Carmel High School comes on a dismisses the thing out of hand while congratulating himself on his quick and correct action once this matter was brought to his attention, my Poor Wife and I listened with what your Doctor calls "exponentially elevated skepticism levels". Nothing to see here, Folks! The young men in question have been disciplined. Sorry, but confidentiality laws prevent us from giving you any further information. In conclusion, not a crime. Bye.

Now, in case you skipped that video, or you'd been struck dumb long before the Coach's comment was relayed, here it is again:

That is, at this point--we're just scratching the surface yet, people, but even now we know that "bullying" occurred on a public school bus, during transportation of students from a school-sponsored extra-curricular event, which resulted in the suspension of three players who were presumably being supervised at that moment by said Coach, and possibly as many as three assistants--part of the public comment from the school is a bad locker-room homily about standing up to Adversity when Adversity shoves something up your bunghole. Well, he ain't the Math Bowl Coach.

Now, there is an anti-bullying law in effect in Indiana for public schools, but it is so toothless it's practically gumless into the bargain. Nevertheless, is this how you want officials at your child's school to treat the issue? Is this the sort of awareness you'd expect from administrators? Or teachers? Or lunch ladies?

And this was merely the Prelude, the strutting of Players across the stage before the real tale began. It's difficult at this point (one week later!) to keep all the leaks in chronological order, but what has been rather feebly dismissed as the "rumor mill" by school officials pretty much exploded at this point. The students were known, despite the school's solicitous concern for their Rights, because they were the three Seniors who didn't dress for the game. (Whether they, in fact, had an expectation of privacy that included anonymity, given what the Court has routinely decided about high school students in general and extra-curricularists in particular, is moot.) By the weekend we had heard "rumors" that one of the freshman players had received treatment in an emergency room; that the report to the school (variously, on February 10 or 15 or 16) had come not from the parents of either player, but from the parent of a student not on the team who had reported gossip which was filling the halls; and that, contrary to the initial assurances the incient had not risen to the level of criminality, the hospital had filed a police report concerning the ER visit, and that there was a police report filed the day before the public announcement which included potential charges of battery, criminal confinement, and criminal deviate conduct. "Criminal deviate conduct" under Indiana law means someone has been forced to perform a deviate sexual act against his or her will. (Oddly enough, to this point, every "unfounded rumor going around" has proven to be pretty much on target.)

So now the pressure is building on these petty tyrants, and it's not the sort usually associated with Coaches and the rectums of dewy-limbed Youth. On Wednesday there's a joint Press Conference featuring the school, the district, and Carmel Police, who, you'll recall, weren't anywhere in the picture the last time we got the unvarnished truth from these little Röhms. And now they're saying even less than they did the first time. The cops hit the ground running by informing everyone that the investigation is likely to take a while, say, your standard Search for WMDs timeframe, apparently under the impression that this will give everyone time to find something else to amuse themselves with but, Surprise! it actually encourages local media impersonators to climb on the story and hope for a ride on the Major Market Comet or something. * Then one or two old-timers remembers the Freedom of Information Act, and demands the police report. Which was released the next day (yesterday):

And which one or two cranks seem to think has, oh, a little more readactivity than strictly legal, though just the ten minutes of supervisory oblivion is pretty damning. Meanwhile, Channel 59 finds a parent of a freshman team member (not one of the assault victims) who says (anonymously) 1) the attack did involve a region more commonly employed for egress, 2) that the fear of these kids was so pervasive that none of the freshmen wanted to enter the locker room unaccompanied, 3) they all kept their sweatpants tied as tightly as they could manage, and that 4) Principal Williams' principled speech to the freshman team about the incident included the threat that anyone who spoke to the Media would be kicked off the team and suspended from school, confirmation of an earlier "unfounded rumor" Williams has denied. And another report of a locker-room assault has been filed.

Meanwhile, how three or four coaches missed this happening on a bus they were supervising is perhaps open to discussion, if we're feeling charitable; how they miss a pattern of behavior so widespread among twelve boys supervised by three adults, or how an administration misses the slightest hint of what's common knowledge in its own halls, is not. Which goes double for a police department deciding physical evidence of a sexual assault on a fifteen-year-old kid isn't worth investigating until it turns up on the teevee. We are reminded, as always with these things, how bright the line between zero tolerance for such things and looking the other way because it's your star athletes, and how difficult it is to act like you're honest when you have no intention of letting that get in your way.


* Don't mean to minimize the contribution, or the honest concerns about bullying, just the dedication to getting a story wherever one arises. Channel 59 has gone so far as to issue a public declaration that it will stay with the story regardless, which gives you an idea of what sort of "Why are you still covering this when it's already settled and/or Under Investigation?" pressures they're getting from rich people. And as with Tiger Wood's little fender-bender, if the initial Apology had been up to standard the whole thing would've been left to the Pulitizer-Prize-winning journalists at the Enquirer, and we'd be back talking about the weather.

Wednesday, February 24

Run That By Me Again. I Was Educated In Indiana.

Marijuana use by seniors goes up as boomers age

By MATT SEDENSKY, Associated Press Writer

Long a fixture among young people, use of the country's most popular illicit drug is now growing among the AARP set, as the massive generation of baby boomers who came of age in the 1960s and '70s grows older.

The number of people aged 50 and older reporting marijuana use in the prior year went up from 1.9 percent to 2.9 percent from 2002 to 2008, according to surveys from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

The rise was most dramatic among 55- to 59-year-olds, whose reported marijuana use more than tripled from 1.6 percent in 2002 to 5.1 percent.

SO, as more people who smoke marijuana become Seniors, more Seniors smoke marijuana?


Dateline: February 24, 2025

As Gen-Xers Age, Tattoos Migrate South

Dateline: February 24, 2050

Senior Rainbow Parties: Too Much Lipstick, Not Enough Dipstick

Man, I wanna live to be 100.

Tuesday, February 23

When You Can't Tell One End Of A Shovel From The Other, Digging Yourself Out Is Problematic At Best

ITEM: Indiana Governor Mitch "I'm Small On The Inside, Too" Daniels travels to Washington, D.C. to put the Ass in National Governors' Association, picks up an award ("Best Miniaturization, Scale Model, or Simulacrum") like, I'm guessing, every other governor in attendance, and tells Dan Balz, who writes for some local rag which has appropriated the name of the Washington Post in its absence that he's "leaving the door open" for a 2012 run, but just because so many people asked him to do so, or crack a window, for godssake, not because he really wants to.

This, of course, set off the usual festival of slack-jawed repetition which for some reason still goes by the name of "news", and I'd already braced for it when the locals came on. And sure enough, it was the top story, and surer enough, it was treated as though the fact that five people were talking about it made it louder, which made it more emphatic, thus truthier, even though by this time Daniels had issued a coy little clarification, as though he'd just been minding his own business when Dan Balz stopped by and asked him an innocent question.

But the interesting thing was, Channel 8 tosses it, as they do all "important" political "news", to Jim Shella. I always try to get the political sound and fury from Shella, not because he's The Dean of Statehouse Reporters, but because he's the most incompetent liar. And I'm expecting a rerun of last week's Festival of Appreciation for Evan Bayh, Courageous Political Maverick, because, after all, this is Indiana, where, if you're famous enough to get your name in an out-of-state paper, or appear on th' teevee, you've got a sinecure for life; Claude Akins packed 'em in at mall openings, that guy Rupert from Survival (yes, I know) is just a Libertarian Party endorsement away from being the next mayor of Indianapolis, and whenever Axl Rose or David Lee Roth is ready there's six figures waiting for a weekend entertainment reporter, sobriety and pants optional.

Instead, Shella runs clips of Daniels repeatedly insisting he wouldn't be a candidate for, won't be a candidate for, and has no interest in being a candidate for President, and a particularly humor-packed one from his last gubernatorial race (with prop RV in the background; think he's ridden in one since?) where he announces that this will positively be his last campaign, like, forever, promise, promise, hope t'die, because the only thing he's interested in is completing the fabulous makeover he's given the Hoosier State, before he returns, like Cincinnatus, to the plowin'.

And I can't really believe my eyes; I'm wondering if last week's check from the GOP bounced or sumthin. Then they come back for the lite banter and portentous exit comment segment, and Shella says something like--I was a bit in shock, so I didn't catch it exactly--"a lot of us really believed him when he made those promises."

And I swear to God there was a little catch in his voice. My choice here was to bust out laughing or fall down and bang my head, and I chose A. Y'know, there're probably people in this state whose distaste for Daniels exceeds mine, but I'm guessing all of them have either been directly screwed by one or more of his actions (individually, not the class-action screwing we've all enjoyed), or know him personally. But fer chrissakes, holding the man to his word? What th' hell's wrong with you? How thoroughly has this frankly incredible belief in his honesty colored the coverage he's received, which involved, oh, the total fabrication of his record? I don't believe a word that's ever come out of his tiny mouth, yet I think these things are totally expected, and should be accorded the same free pass we give Diet Coke and Christianity and everyone else who fills our every conscious moment with shit not even the person saying it believes, and I'm not Dean of anything. Daniels has been running for President since, I'm guessing, the moment he realized he couldn't run for Napoleon, certainly since he realized, at the end of his first Legislative session, how little effort is required to gull people, and doubly so since Sarah Palin stole his thunder (and risks, in the "fiscal" "conservative" view, unleashing hordes of insufficiently-deodorized day laborers on the political process, where they might eventually put down their flags and guns long enough to realize who's really been fuckin' 'em over).

And now, perhaps even more amazing--or breathtakingly dishonest--than a political reporter claiming he believed Mitch Daniels'--or any politician's, for that matter--renouncement of political ambition, is an Indiana political insider pretending it hasn't occurred to him what running a national campaign while accompanied by Cheri "Paco, If You Don't Put Some Goddam Tequila In The Next One You're Gonna Be Back Out Trimming Bushes" Daniels gazing lovingly up down at you would entail. Hell, yes, Daniels is running for President. Hell yes, he'd rather be a kingmaker. Because he knows that's the best he'll be able to do. Daniels is running for Chief of Staff. (Maybe Veep, but Imperial Gatekeeper is much more his style than even a Cheneyesque #2.) Running for President might be the best way to lay a claim; certainly it would be the best way to increase his slush fund before he was "forced" to "live on" a government check for another four years.

ITEM: Jesus, the Balz piece does it again:
Early in his tenure as governor, Daniels angered conservatives when he proposed raising taxes to help balance the state budget. Since then, however, he has become a favorite of fiscal hawks for the way he has run his state. Though conservative on social issues, Daniels has not made them a focal point of his political agenda.

Sigh. The goddam "one year surtax" again. Either we are going to accept every instance of revenue-enhancin' weasel words as genuine, or we oppose them in every instance, Dan. Daniels did not ever propose to raise taxes. He proposed a surtax to reduce the state's deficit, or "deficit", and this act of political courage lasted exactly fourteen hours thirty-six minutes, when the screaming from his own party abated just enough for him to recant. Once the reverb had died down someone with some actual budgetary expertise explained to him that the "deficit" he'd campaigned on was a matter of paper, and that by shifting accounts around and laying off the remainder on local governments he could claim to've averted a budget Crisis without really doing anything.

People keep bringing this up, but none of them ever looks at how that money could be so vital to balancing the budget one minute, and then gone, forgotten, and unneeded the next. It's also noteworthy that despite five years of his leadership resulting in an exponentially worse budgetary crisis, that political courage hasn't returned. We're now slicing schools to the marrow instead.

As for him supposed being "socially conservative but not insistent about it", well, bosh. Daniels is a Straussian elitist. He's contemptuous of the religious nuts he shares a party with, but he finds their devotion to order, duty, and slave wages useful. It's true he's helped keep the religious crackpots in the Legislature in check, but that's not quite the accomplishment you Beltway types imagine; Indiana's been fairly reticent about passing the sort of valid-until-the-first-court-challenge social legislation Kansas spends its time on. And just into Mitch's first term the real religious nuts mounted challenges to sitting Republican legislators in safe Republican districts, and won a few. So it's five parts political calculation, three parts contempt, and two parts watchin' your own ass.

No national political writer can really imagine that Daniels is going to waltz through the "social" "conservatives" of his party nationally, not if he also imagines that Mitch will really be running to win, not running as a hired gun to keep the financial bosses in the game. He'll make whatever concessions to his "beliefs" he finds prudent and necessary, Dan. Trust us.

ITEM: We continue to heart Charles Pierce, just in case you were wondering:
Does it make me a bad American to admit that I'm a little sick and tired at this point of the 1980 US Olympic Hockey team and its win over a Soviet team that, as the years go by, looks more and more like a bunch of people who no longer were that enthusiastic about their jobs or the State that employed them?

All I know, Charlie, is that is doesn't make you alone.
[Sunday] in its infinite wisdom, the NBC mother network gave us another retrospective on the 1980 Lake Placid miracle in the middle of which Al Michaels--who, at this point, seems firmly to believe that he landed on Omaha Beach or something 30 years ago--said, "It seemed like we went from burning flags to waving them."…

The only people I remember burning American flags in 1980 were the Iranians, whom I am fairly sure Michaels did not have in mind. The country was somewhat dispirited and the inspired fakery of the Reagan Revolution was just a bit over the horizon, which I am fairly sure Michaels does have in mind. Dragooning that admittedly marvelous game into the service of reactionary politics has been subtext of every anniversary piece done on the 1980 team ever since.

I saw a piece of that interview, and snapped it off when Michaels said something about it "feeling like a victory in the Cold War"; I'm not sure how I lasted that long, unless I couldn't find the remote. And this was the third goddam misty-eyed retrospective I'd seen in eighteen hours. Enough, already. It's a game, it's history, and half the fucking import of the thing depends on this Cold War malarky, which, even if it were relevant to something other than the interior of the worst sort of jingoist skulls, and Al Michaels' subsequent career, would be a sword cutting in two directions.

I'm no hockey expert. I remember tuning in The Miracle sometime late in the 2nd, and the Commies looked to me like a beaten crew. It happens. If it hadn't, would we have Healthcare, and an Equal Rights Amendment, and all be singing the Internationale now? I thought the really remarkable thing was the US comeback win over Finland, but then, I'm not a real fan and I miss some of the intricacies, like how it serves as a surrogate battle over opposing economic systems. The Blue Line's represents the M1, right?

ITEM: I've mentioned on any number of occasions that the stupid gotcha! tricks of the Press are determined more by the requirements of the script than heartfelt political partisanship, which requires a heart, for starters: Jerry Ford Doesn't Know Poland Is Communist and George H.M.S. Bush Incompetently Vomits On Kiichi being two. So thanks for the reminder that "Al Haig tried to take over the government" belongs up there. Wasn't sure anybody who tried to fob that shit off was still alive.

ITEM: Okay, okay, so Ice Dancing doesn't even qualify as the broad side of the barn, but look: Musical Theatre sensibilities, Regional Musical Theatre gesticulations, and an utter tone-deafness to cultural sensitivities even after they're fucking pointed out to you--part and parcel of an utter tone-deafness to anything which occurred in the 20th century and wasn't absorbed by Regional Musical Theatre, apparently--is one thing, and the expected one at that. But you, no doubt after months of intense executive sessions, hit on Folk Dance as a "theme"--compare, for example, the theme of Alpine Skiing, which was "go faster than everyone else until you get to the bottom"--and you allow Cancan?

This stuff is a harbinger, folks, and it's not pretty. It's four times as incompetent as it was twenty years ago--not even I expect that--and look where that got us. The announcerpods at Monday's two-man bobsled kept reminding us it was "the fastest course in the world", apparently having forgotten about how it sped one guy to his Reward. Oh, well, maybe the Who will rescue the Closing Ceremonies.

Monday, February 22

A New Low In Low

Ross "Finger on the Pulse" Douthat, "Enquiring Minds". February 21

CORPUS Christi, hasn't Harvard demanded this guy's degree back yet?
Last Thursday, after weeks of hedging, the Pulitzer Committee acknowledged that the Enquirer’s extensive coverage of John Edwards’s double life — stories that were first ignored, then dismissed, and finally vindicated in the mainstream press — would be considered for investigative reporting and national news reporting awards.

By rights, the Edwards story should have been entered in the “public service” category as well. If the supermarket tabloid’s reporters hadn’t gone digging where other journalists declined to even tread, we might never have learned how close the Democratic Party came to nominating a truly disgraceful character for the presidency.

Yeah, thank God we avoided that ugly precedent.

Let's just take a moment to dispose of any actual issues which might be involved here, since Ross won't be touching on them (understandable, since the specter of S-E-X has been summoned from, you know, Down There):

• The Tsk-Tsk, Cluck-Cluck-Cluck Factor was turned up to 11 in Edward's case--not that Ross needs any, well, prodding--because of Elizabeth Edward's cancer. Not that she isn't a courageous woman--though, personally, I wish she'd used some of that courage to turn down a book deal--and not that I believe her health could have, or should have remained private. But I found that press conference extraordinarily creepy (not her fault; I'm sure she had other things on her mind). It was a fucking year before the primaries, for one thing; John Edwards couldn't suspend his campaigning for a few months? And it was guaranteed to be given the Full Oprah treatment, which couldn't hurt, eh? Who said anything about that then?

• We think Skepticism is always warranted, and cynicism justified by the preponderance of the evidence in any case you'd care to name, but look: if you've decided, retroactively, that John "Gunslinger" Edwards is the evilest man ever to come within several dozen percentage points of lasting more than one month in a major party primary, then there's one fact you ought to face. None of us has any control over the inner life of our candidates, and few of us have Ross' plerophoric ability to judge them so completely. What we can do, then, is not fucking go ass over teacup over these staged events, no matter how poignant or admirable or rich in symbolism (and there goes NBC's Olympic coverage). Thousands of people in this country wake up every morning facing the same, or worse; few if any have lifetime government healthcare, and many of those who do had to spend themselves into poverty first to get it. Somehow the mass-market empathy for Elizabeth Edwards--to be sure, a champion of public healthcare--didn't translate into Senate votes for taking care of people who really need it.

• Newt Gingrich, Ross? Is he less disgraceful than Edwards? Yet you seem willing to engage him in debate over the future of that Crime Family you both belong to.

Now, as we attempt to segue into what Douthat seems to imagine is the real issue--how the "reputable" Press' disinterest in John Edwards' character came this close to putting a man in the White House we later would have determined to be a serial philanderer, thereby requiring Congressional Republicans to grind the nation's business to a halt in order to read "fellatio" into the Record seven thousand times per week--a prospect which gives young Ross the shudders, no doubt--let us note that one man's "The mainstream Press totally ignored the story" is another man's "Yeah, because they were focused on his grooming practices".

We're willing to admit that some of this "The Press gives x a free pass" depends on your view of x, even though this is our stock in trade; the distinction, Your Honor, is that I'm not a paid fucking shill for either of the two major parties, and my belief about the national Press--that it defends not one "side" or the other, but the interests of its corporate bosses and the status quo its "personalities" bask in--is empirically demonstrable. I don't think the Press "ignored" the multiple questions about George W. Bush's character--and how'd that one work out?--in 2000 because of some simple-minded partisan bias of the type Mr. Douthat earns his living peddling. I think it did so because that's the way the Press works, generally, with a minor in "charges from what is euphemistically termed The Left in this country will be pushed back against more forcefully than those from The Right in no small measure because the whole Librul Media canard has played so well for forty years". For any of us the ideal Press scrutiny is the exact amount needed to topple our enemies and give our friends the benefit of the doubt. Patience is that virtue we admire in the driver behind us, but not the one in front. Douthat's Outrage meter is pegged by Edwards, but fails to register Newt. He's entitled; we're entitled to ask Why, and to ask the Times why he doesn't have to show his work.
It’s remarkable, in a way, that the Enquirer still exists at all, let alone that it’s enjoying a moment in the journalistic sun. In the age of Gawker, Twitter, and, a weekly scandal sheet seems quaint, if not archaic. And in an era when newspapers are fighting desperately for readers, you would think that the mainstream media — hemorrhaging subscribers and hungry for online eyeballs — would uncover all the really interesting scandals first.

But you’d be wrong. The Internet is very good at generating gossip, but lousy at the dogged work of transforming rumor into news. And the national press almost seems more uncertain about when and whether to probe into politicians’ private lives than it was in the days when The Miami Herald cheerfully ran a photograph of Donna Rice sitting side-saddle on Gary Hart’s lap.

First, this observation courtesy a guy whose "reporting" consists of linking to articles he's read, and, second, who can't seem ever to understand how far away he should stay from anything that happened more than six years ago. Gary Hart wasn't the guy who was caught due to the Media's clear-eyed sense of mission and dogged bone-sniffing; he's the guy who was caught because he dared the curs of the national Press to follow him and catch him at something. Meanwhile the Republican nominee-to-be, George Herbert Walker Bush, carried on an affair that'd been an open secret for years.

And, for good measure, chose Dan Fucking Quayle to be a heartbeat away from the Presidency, which was more of a joke than a scandal, but should've been both. Quayle had only recently returned from a golf outing where he shared living arrangements with seven other Republicans and insurance lobbyist/demirep Paula Parkinson. Between the two of 'em you've got enough shady finances, malfeasance, draft-dodging, miching mallecho, and whiffs of soiled silk to've disgraced the character of a half-dozen national nominees. The Bulldog Press went sniffing around Kitty Dukakis' medical records.

Look, Ross boy, I don't expect you to know this stuff; I do expect that at some point you might recognize your lack and tread with some care. John Edwards is a detestable human being--though it ought to be noted here that it's your people, not mine, who claim to be in the forgiveness business--but he's not President of the United States at this moment not because he cheated on his cancer-stricken wife, and lied about it, and not because the National Enquirer happened to find some shit that stuck, for the first time since that Dingo did Eat the Baby. He's not President because Democratic primary voters, after the geek show in Iowa, didn't fucking vote for him. If you'd like to discard the cosseting fiction that this represents Democracy in Action, and that voters made an informed choice based on the issues, go ahead (but, for once, consider how it's going to play when the shoe's on the Right foot). But to suggest that sexual peccadilloes are a surer measure of character than, say, stealing from future generations to conduct an unnecessary war, or torturing captives in its pursuit, or listening in on private conversations just beggars belief, not to mention pointing out that had Edwards gained the Democratic nomination he'd be President today, thanks to the criminal mess of things your party made, whatever you think of its collective character.

One other thing: the real question here is "When did the Pulitizer committee lose its fucking mind, and is that evidence that whatever's going around is contagious"? Not that I expect you to ask it, Ross. At least until they're passing out statues to someone who did it to a Republican.

Saturday, February 20

Forget It, Jake

A) Young, good-looking, famous, and incredibly wealthy guy bangs cocktail waitresses two at a time.

B) Fame and wealth are courtesy legions of teevee viewers, synods of teevee executives, and bordellos of advertisers paying homage to his ability to hit a ball with a stick, provided it ain't raining and no one sneezes.

C) Accidental discovery of his abilities swinging a different kind of stick, a circuitous revelation via a goddam nation of full-time celebrity window-peepers, leads to a country in shock, advertisers in apoplexy, and innocent ESPN writers discovering that athletes sometimes have illicit sex, though, thankfully, such seems to have been limited to just this one case so far as they're aware.

D) Discovery of human failure of the sort which occurs in approximately 40% of all the sacred marriages in this country--where over 50% end in divorce for one reason or another--causes sudden realization in prime teevee-commercial-viewing demographic that lifeless celebrity testimonials provided any paying advertiser--be they financial shenanigan specialist, child-labor exploiter, or producer of unsafe, crappy, carbon-belching suburban Panzers--might be something less than heartfelt.

E) Withdrawn endorsement income and possibility that impressionable young golfers might try this sex business, find it enjoyable, and therefore give up golf compels weepy-assed (though still utterly affectless, proving all those commercial pitches really were his best efforts) "confession" of poon addiction to large teevee audience and brutally confined friends and family, thereby leading both print and teevee punditocracy to ponder how this played vis-a-vis the national catharsis required before golf fans will be able to enjoy watching him chip onto the manicured green at some restricted country club ever again.

And maybe it's just me, but the thing that came immediately to my mind was "We only demand psychological purgation of (A), when it's the one thing any of them did which is halfway understandable."

Friday, February 19

Dead Horse Flails 3/25¢

• I got to the IRS bombing news late (that is, I heard about it during the day, but didn't see any coverage until local and national news tried to spoil my digestion that evening), so I didn't see the hysterical Is It Terrism coverage until after it wasn't. When, as you know, it became Just A Crazy Guy Did Something Crazy After Fighting With His Wife story. Stack's "rambling" 3000-word web posting (roughly one Douthat Month, to provide some scale) was more referenced than read from, of course. That he'd had "disagreements" with the IRS just sorta laid there, as though We All Understand The Motive, Huh? Even If He Took It Too Far.

And I'm sure I speak for dozens of Americans when I say, "Could you just make up your fucking minds, please?" Guy with political agenda crashes private plane into government building? Disgruntled. Guy with political agenda lights his Fruit of the Looms on an airliner? Two-week news cycle about the Obama administration's ineffective approach to terrorism.

(Two bets Vegas won't cover: that it will be blamed on Obama, in some circles, and that they'll be roundly ignored by the sort of people who man our teleprompters and don't want to wind up waiting in security lines before boarding their corporate jets.)

• Meanwhile, if there was some reference to the ease with which Stack got away with this I musta missed it.

In other words, if it's pants-fouling terrifying when a Nigerian does it, but the tension eases when it's just some Caucasoid maniac with an IRS beef, then your former argument is defunct. Otherwise, it's the exact same fucking story, and Stack's motivation is irrelevant.

• Forget it, Jake, it's Olympic Coverage Syndrome:

"I knew Joe had a hang-up with the I.R.S. on account of them breaking him, taking his savings away,” said Jack Cook, the stepfather of Mr. Stack’s wife, in a telephone interview from his home in Oklahoma. “And that’s undoubtedly the reason he flew the airplane against that building. Not to kill people, but just to damage the I.R.S.”

The MSM. Objectively Pro-terrorist since 2001.

Thursday, February 18

Programs! Gitcher Programs! You Can't Tell A Heart-Warming Story Of Triumph Over Adversity From A Gesture Rich In Symbolism Without A Program!

They sure ain't posin' Kobe that way. Although
if they'd asked he'd have probably stood behind her.

Karen Crouse, the Newspaper of Record, this very AM:
The first time Shani Davis won an Olympic gold medal in the 1,000 meters, he skated a victory lap while hugging a teddy bear. On Wednesday night, after becoming the first man to successfully defend his title in the event, Davis held an American flag to his chest, a gesture rich in symbolism.

IF there's one thing I'm practiced at it's knowing when I'm not wanted. For teevee Olympics coverage the recognition came in 1976, the Nadia Comaneci Games, La Première Olympiade de People Magazine. Now, to be sure, Mozart was tossing off symphonies when he was five, and Picasso could out-duel Dürer with a #2 pencil at eight, but you'll note that, in general, the Arts are not dominated by pre-teens. Anything which is should be made tougher, more dangerous, and kept off Prime Time.

Don't get me wrong; I hate gymnastics. But I'd've been willing to share. It's just that we didn't share. No one even bothered to ask. Overnight the Quadrennial Games became twelve nights solid of Summer Blockbuster movie trailers (and they were all chick flicks, but, hey, unlike SI at least I'm tryin' to be fair!) sandwiched between two outdoor Busby Berkley numbers.

(It was impossible to watch those Perfect 10s, by the way, without the overwhelming suspicion that one was being Took, and that the whole thing had been calculated by whomever controlled the Gymnastics federation after he/it/them seeing the profit potential in the American public's Cold War Be Damned embrace of the Gosh Darn Bug Cuteness of Olga Korbut four years previous. Especially seeing as how, up to that point, it had been every American's patriotic duty to believe Olympic judging was apodictally corrupt because the Warsaw Pact cheated the Free World every single time. Similarly, it was impossible to miss the nostril-filling Corporate Desalinization efforts underway since Tommie Smith and John Carlos had raised the Black Power salute, rather than the National Spirits, in '68, even if you had a touch of hay fever.)

And, perhaps by accident of timing, perhaps not, the guiding principle in all this since has been the most iconic Chick Flick of All Time: Rocky IV. George Foreman had waved a little American flag around when he won in Mexico City, but that was either evidence of his precocious salesmanship or a Fuck You to Smith and Carlos and Ali; you'll note that George never got drafted. It was Bruce Jenner, in '76, who--looking to cash in at the tail-end of the You Gotta Remain An Amateur Era--turned flag-waving into a required part of the post-victory orgy. Today there's a three-person support team to make sure the winner, and his teammates, are directed to whomever's holding the prop flag supply at ringside, ten yards past the finish line. And, as might be expected, this culminated, in 2000, in Bob Costas doing his best Lindsey Vonn pose for Nike, which had just seen spokessprinter Maurice Green and the rest of the victorious 400 m relay team pose and preen using the Stars and Stripes the way a Vogue model would use a bolt of chiffon. "Certainly no disrespect for our national symbol was intended, folks! Back after this."

Of course by now everybody does it, and NBC polices the thing by showing only events Americans win. I mean, aside from the events they show the occasional Foreigner win, in order to prove the coverage isn't three-quarters jingoist claptrap and one-quarter Overcoming Injury, Mom's Cancer, and the Death of a Beloved Goldfish. Not to mention the decapitation of a couple competitors. The only criticism--the only criticism--allowed to stand was the griping about Ursain Bolt celebrating for the final six meters of the 100, in what would turn out to be the greatest Track and Field accomplishment in thirty decades--and not drug-assisted, to boot, although at this point everyone out there is partly slimed by association, thanks so much--and the only such display we know wasn't fucking calculated in advance for maximum Wheaties-box photo potential.

Okay, that's hitting the broadside of a barn, but I didn't ask NBC to paint everything red. I swear my objection to all the facile nationalism isn't political, although the Right in this country has done everything it possibly could to turn The Flag into the Coca-Cola™ logo with more stars. It's about sportsmanship, a quaint old notion of my dotage and, like all my notions, one with limited commercial appeal. It's the Olympics, formerly the quadrennial meeting of a vicious world to celebrate the evanescence of Sport, and Life, for that matter, now the Global Five Ring Franchise-Rights Holding Company with Biennial Spin-off in a world so vicious it trades punches during the Invocation before getting down to lying and cheating in earnest. How nice it'd be, just once, to see some God-approved victor parade with the Olympic flag!

Yeah, I'm a dreamer. I just happen to realize that the world would be a much better place if the people who professed religious conviction were forced to act like it when the chips are down, and if the sort of emotional adolescent who has to see his country's flag waved over something he has nothing whatsoever to do with (athletic accomplishments) or wants nothing whatsoever to do with (chasing armed insurgents across the Fourth World) demanded it be done with respect and etiquette, not used as a prop pennant for commercial semaphore. And I'd like to teach the world to sing. Doesn't mean I expect it.

Okay, the IOC has been run by corrupt Nazi officials since before Germany was run by corrupt Nazi officials. And there's nothing on God's Green Earth could shame NBC, and the whole thing's a Ponzi scheme run by national committees and international cartels, and that's apparently just how we like it so long as we win the medal count. Is it too much to ask we find a way to be honest about it? Costas at least seemed to realize it was the money at stake which made excusing Greene and company from using Old Glory as bath towels the only option; last night the speed skating color man was doing double duty as Shani Davis' PR flack, spending near as much time telling us how universally loved the man was as he did calling the race, and he didn't seem to realize he was jumping through hoops that were melted down and sold as scrap twenty-five years ago. Just win, baby. Get with the program. If you're going to treat the Olympics as a permanent extension of the Cold War, or World War VI, or whatever--I'm not even sure you know why we're supposed to hate everybody else--and he's an American, the problem is solved, because there is no problem. If he'd already pocketed his endorsement checks, and, for that matter, the Gold medal, that's it. Nothing else matters, and nobody's supposed to care about anything else unless he's Jamaican or Canadian or something. The number of Americans who will be able to spell "Shani" two weeks from now = the number of Americans employed by the speed skating federation + members of his extended family. Not that that's really a whole lot fewer than the number who can do it now; I probably should rethink the spelling thing.

Or there was a little matter of the fact that he'd simply quit the 500, which he, and a lot of other "big" skating "stars" treat as a mere warmup, thereby depriving someone else of a moment in the Olympic sun klieg lights, and committing a disqualifying offense if this were Track and Field. Ms Crouse?
For Davis, the victory validated his controversial decision to skip out on the 500 meters midway through the event Monday, after a lengthy delay caused by a malfunctioning resurfacing machine and a middling first race.

Finished translating that into English? Good. Let's just note that the criticism had nothing whatsoever to do with whether he'd win the 1000 m Gold, nor whether he'd save energy if he didn't skate the 500. The first was an imponderable until the competition was over; the second could have been answered before the trials, before he learned to skate, or before this whole mess became something that would've make P.T. Barnum blush.

Wednesday, February 17

A Big Bag Of Purina Blue Dog, Stray Dog, And Enormous, Unwarranted, And Publicly Repudiated Presidential Ego Chow

I SPENT part of last night looking for someone else's United States Senator who'd thrown up his hands and walked off because the Senate was so gosh-darned contentious an' stuff. I narrowed my search to the era of Great Compromises and Nullification fights , y'know, when the desperate needs of Our Country were both necessary and, well, desperate: great sectarian and moral clashes, philosophical chasms spackled over by the Founders for the sake of Compromise, the earliest struggles of the democratic impulse and entrenched wealth, not this "figuring out how to pay for all the disastrous wars and de-criminalized fiscal criminality these same bozos voted us into in the first place and still going out for drinks after". And somehow I couldn't find any. Henry Clay and John C. Calhoun pretty much died at their desks. Daniel Webster resigned, but that was because he'd pissed off his constituents irrevocably by compromising their shared Abolitionist ideals. Hell, Charles Sumner went back to the Senate after having his brains cudgeled out, and this in an era where having no brains was an impediment to public service and book deals, rather than a prerequisite.

For the most part, those who did resign had the grace to take their states with them, to get their po' folks to wage war for 'em, without shoes, and to skedaddle wearing women's clothing once the jig was up. I'd settle for Bayh convincing anyone to die in one of those Endless Insurgencies for Peace he favors, without wrecking the economy first as a financial incentive.

(Incidentally, we know none of them employed the term "dysfunctional" at any point. We know this because its egregious ugliness and pseudo-scientificalism-soundingness point to a 20th century origin, which turns out to be the case. )

We need to vote out ideologues! sez the New Posterboy for a Return to Sanity [sic]. We might point out that if he's planning on returning to Indiana to start performing those good deeds he's gonna be hard-pressed to find many in his own (ostensible) party, though it is also true, considering what help he's been to the Indiana Democratic party over the years, that someone'll have to tell him where it's located for starters.

Stop talking to this fuck! Assuming he was actually concerned about rancorous partisanship, which he ain't, the attendant hand-wringing is coming from that same Press which can't get enough partisan wrangling on a nightly basis, so much so that it creates what it can't find lying around, unless there's something really important like a sex scandal or Dick Cheney sighting to hand. Is there a term that means "kabuki squared"? There's a goddam media orgy going on now because some backbench Senator whose claim to fame is Absolutely Nothing, I mean, whose claim to fame is facilitating the other party's year-long attempt to block every piece of legislation the majority proposed, says We're So Partisan Now He's Going Home! These are people who're paid to cover our politics, not a sack of turnips pondering the workings of the United States Senate for the first time. The fact that Bayh is styled a moderate, or a centrist, is now supposed to mean that his helping the Republicans halve the Jobs Stimulus bill was a moderate, hence wise and conciliatory thing to do--doubly so, I suppose, if you're a journalist who already has a job--not a facilitation of the impasse his party, and his President, had just that month been sent to Washington to try to fix. He voted against the first round of Bush tax cuts, then voted to extend them when it got a little closer to his own reelection. This entitles him to call other Senators hypocrites. He and the other Blue Dogs tanked national health care. For other people. Now the incivility he experienced has soured him so that's he's coming home, or going somewhere, to selflessly work to find people jobs. Which is the one thing he has a track record for, having found his wife several over the past decade.

These are the people who're paid to know this. If you've got to ask him what he's going to do to serve the nation now, ask him th' fuck he did when he had the power? It wasn't demanding a Bi-Partisan Bullshit Fiscal Commission during the Bush years, when he helped the other side wreck the US economy, its military, and its international standing. It wasn't demanding the Defense half of the budget share the pain. It sure wasn't protecting the little guy from predatory usury practices. Interesting how all those stances are ideology-free.

The absolute nadir of this coverage came in the Indianapolis Racist Beacon, where political columnist Matt "I Just Play A Retard" Tully, a man who writes for a daily anti-fluoridationist tract, who has seen how real entrenched ideologues have responded to Bayh in his own state, and who, into the bargain, is well aware of the sort of wheeler-dealer, self-and-spouse-aggrandizing cv the Mediocre Compromiser was going to have to explain away by November, hacks up this [as always, this valuable piece of real estate will be hidden by the time you click the link]:
I hate to be naive. But the thought that a 54-year-old father of two teenage sons might want to give something else a try, while also stepping away from a toxic political environment, doesn't seem far-fetched.

Now first, if Washington is particularly toxic compared to, say, any other year since the founding of the Republic, then Evan Bayh is one of the estrogen-producing testicle bubbles it's broken out in. And two, I hate to be naive, but you're a liar. S'funny, but a year ago, when the entire Republican caucus announced it pretty much would be blocking every last piece of the country's business, in, y'know, a time of desperate need, at least until we got a President who was born in this country, I don't remember "toxic" being the description of choice.
With that said, Bayh's decision was a stunner -- the biggest political surprise in years in Indiana. Democrats used words such as "shocked" and "stunned" and "wow."

And people say the Democrats can't compete with Frank Luntz…

Ladies and gentlemen, particularly those of you lucky enough not to have this come at you at the breakfast table: two fucking weeks ago, a fortnight, two sennights, all any of these fucks could talk about was Mike Pence's poll showing Mike Pence beating Evan Bayh in Mike Pence's poll. Fifteen months ago, all any of 'em could talk about was Barack Obama, African-American Democrat, carrying Indiana, the biggest local political story in Forever! But, then, that was then, and this is after Evan Bayh said something somebody national covered for the first time ever.

Tuesday, February 16

Okay, Well, He Never Wore Blue Shoes With A Brown Suit.

I SUPPOSE I'm obligated to say something about Evan Bayh, since people other than Hoosiers and leftist bloggers are now talking about him, at least more than when he was alive, which isn't saying much. Not that they had any reason to.

Okay. Here goes: I don't care. Bayh's "retirement", and his retirement "message" are as empty as his list of legislative accomplishments. The earth-shaking effect of his bombshell announcement on Democrats is somewhat ameliorated by the fact that 1) it's the Press; anything it finds earth-shaking about politics is guaranteed to be too trivial to think about, not so difficult as to require thinking about, and almost certainly ass-backwards; 2) This makes, by my wholly disinterested count, either an equal number of retiring Republican and Democratic Senators, or one more Democrat, which might mean something, okay, provided: 3) someone could explain to me why losing a Supermajority they did nothing with means dick.

And, of course, Birch Evans "Evan" Bayh III is one reason Senate Democrats couldn't do anything with 60 votes. Not the most egregious reason, maybe, but that's only because he's never tried hard at anything.

A politician for the sake of a political career, so far as I can tell. The man's been my governor twice and my junior Senator for a decade, and I have no idea what, if anything, he stands for, other than periodically approving campaign commercials which tout his love of family, his hatred of taxes, and remind you what the flag of his nation looks like. He's four-square for Fiscal Responsibility, which means, of course, that he believes the fraction of the budget which isn't one of the Defense Department outlays he rubber stamps should be made accountable for balancing the rest. Other than the costs of collection, collating, and underlining the hot parts of every domestic communication, that is. Nothing if not consistent.

He turned up in the mid-80s in Indiana with the name recognition and hairdo of Glen Campbell, and was elected Secretary of State by acclamation. This was a little disconcerting to me to begin with, since the "name" that was being "recognized" was that of his father, Birch Evans "Birch" Bayh II, the last Democratic Senator from the state of Indiana, and a man who'd spent the previous two decades fighting off slime attacks for having opposed the Vietnam War and, worse, being a Democrat. The fact that Hoosiers could be convinced to vote for him because they recognized his name just enough to not remember where they'd heard it before did not bode well, to my way of thinking, for the remainder of the 20th century, let alone what, if anything, was to follow.

Then he's elected Governor of Indiana, which, as we've come to realize recently, really doesn't say much for you. And here's the central mystery, again: it's on nothing but name recognition, and seeing as how it's now thirty-five years since Indiana voted for a Democrat for anything, and a decade after Dan Fucking Quayle clobbered his father by portraying him as someone slightly to the left of Fidel, name recognition makes no fucking sense to me whatsoever ("Hi, I'm Charles Starkweather, Jr., and I'd like to be your next United States Senator!").

But the mystery* only deepens. Here's a guy who's seen Indiana politics go from a two-party system to a GOPocracy, from Homer Earl Capehart, the man his daddy defeated, a No Socialism! type who nonetheless helped line up Republican votes for the Civil Rights Act, to a time when most people would bet you a dollar no Republican did vote for the Civil Rights Act. He watched as the state party came to be dominated by anti-fluoridationists like Quayle, Dan and Woody Burton, and John Mutz. He saw his father denounced as a traitor for opposing a war that came within a couple years of possibly claiming him, and saw him defeated by an empty suit who spent that war as head of the Dan Quayle Typing Brigade at Stout Field.

He saw all that, and said to himself, "Hey, that looks pretty good! Break me off'n a piece of it."

Swear to God. George W. Bush started a multi-trillion dollar, military-and-budget wrecking war because it might've looked to somebody like Iraq tried to kill his Daddy, if they squinted hard enough. Bayh gets elected governor, and before they'd swept up the confetti he's posing in front of a banner they'd made for him in the Abraham Lincoln's print shop, proclaiming him the young Ronald Reagan. Time and intravenous drug use may have clouded my memories of that a bit. So say it took a full week, just to be on the safe side.

Bayh's entire political career is bordered in a single maxim: People in Indiana are the same dumbfucks who voted for Quayle; the only way you'll ever win there is to out-dumbfuck 'em.

Th' fuck did you go into politics, then? To track down the men who killed your Pa and teach 'em about firearms safety, or respecting the noise ordinance? Evan Bayh is like a man who, with unlimited financial backing and no apparently intellectual or emotional disabilities serving as a bar, took one look at architecture school and decided hod carrier was more his line. And got his wife a job knitting hod cozies.

The next step, naturally, was deciding he was Presidential timber. God Bless the U.S.A.

Then, of course, it's two terms, no sale as the VP, and a histrionic "retirement" announcement that makes about as much sense as anything he ever did. "Partisan rancor"? You entered the Senate January 3, 1999, two weeks after the strictly partisan Blow Job Impeachment Trial and Supreme Court Light Opera Tryouts. Whaddid they, invite you into the Republican caucus for a couple choruses of Kumbaya once you were settled? You lived through minority Senate Republicans perfecting the art of the non-filibuster filibuster, through majority Senate Republicans threatening to blow up the filibuster unless Democrats promised not to use it, and back to minority Senate Republicans perfecting the art of the non-filibuster filibuster, this time against a filibuster-proof majority voters gave your own (ostensible) party, and the only thing you did about it was help that majority gang of Republicans get its way there in the middle. Partisan rancor? It comes from the other party, the one you've been so solicitous of the needs of.

You're the "centrist" of "centrists" in the liberal party. Oddly enough, this does not make you the exact geo-political center of the country, or a commanding presence, or a guy with a big stick. It made you, by happenstance, a guy with a stash of stamps when somebody smarter, but penniless, wanted to mail a letter. Some of us would argue that partisanship isn't really all that changed from 2000, or '94, or '92, or '81, or '64, excepting that the Republican party can rest assured now that the Democrats won't fight it. So people in your Daddy's day went out for drinks after arguing across the aisle for a blistering three-and-one-half hours four days a week? So what? That's like saying board members at Augusta will ring for cocktails after arguing about the Eisenhower Tree. (No, I take that back; the modern US Senate has had three black members. World of difference.) Th' fuck would you want to go toss back a few with a co-worker who acts like he's blind drunk during business hours? The Republican party is clinically fucking insane, and the obvious contagion factor was roundly ignored. If this is the source of your trouble, Senator Bayh, why didn't you say so? Why didn't you say so five years ago, or ten? Trying to compromise a pack of rabid terriers into submission was your big idea, Senator. It didn't work, so you take your ball and go home? Sure. Might you at least say so on your way out?

Or is it all about how that phony Pence for Senate poll freaked you th' hell out, and let you know that the Lovely Susan Bayh's part-time hobby, collecting really mammoth decorative checks, was gonna be an issue this time? They's trouble, and then they's trouble, as my Daddy would've told me if he talked like that.


* We mean that poetically; there's no mystery as to what Ev's been up to the past three decades, or what god he's been serving.

Monday, February 15

It's Just Like Cell Phones: You Can't Always Tell If The Guy In Line Behind You Is Talking To Someone Else, Or He's Just A Crazed Sterno Bum.

Shorter Frank Rich: Sarah Palin is a vapid, faux-populist hypocrite, and Democrats better stop making fun of her. February 14

Liberals had a blast mocking Sarah Palin last weekend when she was caught addressing the Tea Party Convention with a cheat sheet scrawled on her hand. Even the president’s press secretary, Robert Gibbs, couldn’t resist getting into the act and treated a White House briefing to a Palin hand gag of his own.

Yet the laughter rang hollow. You had to wonder if Palin, who is nothing if not cunning, had sprung a trap. She knows all too well that the more the so-called elites lampoon her, the more she cements her cred with the third of the country that is her base. Her hand hieroglyphics may not have been speaking aids but bait.

THERE are wheels within wheels, and liars within the Times Op-Ed pages, and sometimes you get an onion that's pretty much all skin, but usually not this late in winter. Let's us start with the fact that this is the same guy who thought Al Gore's serial prevarications were the Biggest Issue of the 2000 campaign. So much so that he took the trouble to make them up himself. How'd that Love-y Story thing work out for ya? Or that Love-y Canal-y thing? How'd it work out for the rest of us, Fuckhead?

Next, lemme ask you: assuming you actually know someone who lives west of the Lincoln Tunnel, what are the odds, y'think, that he found Palin's--I almost said bizarre, but is there anything the woman does that could be considered odd, seeing as how it comes from Sarah Palin?--palm scribbles worthy of a horselaugh? Alternately, assuming you know, or heard of, someone who found all that Liberal mocking unfair, unseemly, or Treason in a Time of War; what are the odds he's already a die-hard Palin fan, or a member of the White House Press Corps whose flight happened to get diverted to somewhere in the sticks, possibly Idaho or Oiowa?

The White House Press Corps, the folks who only recently managed to stop laughing at George W. Bush's "Where's Those WMDs?" routine, is only body whose membership includes people who do not draw a check from Rupert Murdock which found Gibbs' Palin mockery an offense to good taste and its own gravitas. The White House Press Corps is who Frank Rich is offended on behalf of. It sure ain't whatever percentage of Americans still have a basic sense of proportion and two brain cells to rub together (63%, according to Gallup, but that was self-described). And this has nothing whatsoever to do with whether Sarah Palin deserves mockery, and certainly nothing to do with how a White House Press Secretary is expected to behave, and everything to do with the fact that The Press won't be caught dead criticizing her, or laughing at her, or pointing out that she's crazier than a cat with bladder stones, unless it doesn't realize the mike is still live.

If Rahm Emanuel calls MoveOn "a bunch of turds" he's just being a tough-talking adult, goddmmit, provided the Plumber's Union isn't offended. If Dennis Kucinich pulled down 100 large for speaking to an anti-globalization group, and read his speech off his forearm, the jokes would still be writing themselves. I don't really care that much if Democrats are being discriminated against; but when it's the truth being snubbed it's an entirely different matter. I'm not sure why Palin deserves any more coverage than, say, William E. Miller or Lloyd Bentsen--or Elizabeth Kucinich--but if she does she certainly deserves to be covered, not covered for.

(While we're at it: those notes weren't speaking aids, but question-and-answer aids, which you'd have known if you watched the real coverage on Comedy Central, Frank; Palin had to look down at her hand at at least one point, and if that's bait she's a goddam Performance artist, not a dumbass ideologue. She couldn't extemporize "Tax Cuts" in front of an audience of Teabaggers. This, depending on your genetic make-up and the facts of your upbringing, is either wildly amusing or deeply disturbing. Those are the two choices.)

Is there some possible way the depths of the last disaster, the one the Press, and the Liberal denizens of the Times Op-Ed page in particular, helped bring about by insisting that Democrats shouldn't criticize an opponent who was obviously missing half the intellect required for the job, has escaped you guys? Or do you consider yourselves harbingers of the New Age ("Those Wall St. bankers takin' huge bonuses after screwing everything up? Hell, I was way ahead of those guys.") ? Is this really, at the fucking bottom, nothing more than a game to you? Don't get me wrong; I sincerely hope Sarah Palin is the Republican nominee in 2012. But that's because I think the party, and the country, deserve her, and deserve to finish what they started if they're going to prevent anyone else from trying to correct it otherwise. Plus it'd mean that Mitch Daniels isn't the nominee. But that's just me. You guys are supposed to be responsible.

Sunday, February 14

Sudden Stop

FIRST: Bode Miller is the greatest Men's skier the United States has ever produced, and not by a little. This is not subject to review, and he shouldn't be subject to his self-appointed Good Ol' Grampa, Tom Bwokaw, second-guessing him, his effort, or his balls-out style. We would, however, be a much better nation if the opposite were the case, and the fucking disaster Mistah Bwokaw and his chums helped launched by not doing their jobs, balls-out, or at all, was subject to regular review by honest people like Miller with no fucking crippling ego issues. Or if, for example, Bwokaw wasn't the latest freeloading beneficiary of what Noah Cross said about old whores and ugly buildings becoming respectable if they hung around long enough.

Miller, you may recall or have had impinged upon you since, was the Practically a Goddam Hippie who ungraciously failed to win five Golds at Torino, thereby letting down NBC, which had spent some fraction of the 2% of its Winter Olympic budget that doesn't go to shill figure skating or skateboarding on snow hyping him as a lock. That was bad enough, but what was several orders of magnitude worse, Miller failed to thank Jesus anyway, apologize profusely to Yum! Brands International, or, in general, act as though how he performed was the business of anyone besides himself.

Blasphemy jail for you! It's interesting that hundreds of thousands root for the Chicago Cubs every season, that Bosox fans only grew more vehement with each passing year of the Curse of the Bambino, and that there's still a Baltimore Colts Marching Band, but Miller misses a couple of gates, in a year in which he placed third in the World Cup--like any American gives a shit what happens in snow sports after the Olympic torch is extinguished--and wound up as the Shoeless Joe Jackson of the Naughts. No, take that back; Shoeless Joe has supporters.

As the Worst Decade in the History of the Republic Not Accompanied by an Almost-Providentially Chosen Leader as a Counterweight draws to a close, it is clear that no argument, no pristine example, will convince Americans to look at how Money has besmirched Sport. Even sports they care about, let alone how this was translated to the Olympics, which used to be a cesspool of semi-amateurism, before the Quadrennial Celebration of Peaceful Intercontinental Competition was told what's what by US television networks. The only people old enough now to remember the near seamless transition from the Cosmic Unfairness of the Soviet hockey team getting to train year-round as the Soviet Army hockey team, while our amateurs were unfairly forced to get by on small stipends and full college scholarships, to the Cosmos-Approved Dominance of Team USAUSAUSA! brought to you by Chevy Trucks, Dow Chemicals, and Rosebud Sleds, seem to approve of it. Provided you win the all Gold Medals you're supposed to, or thank Jesus for letting you try.

Yes, indeed, that battle was lost a generation ago, which is why it's hardly surprising that the New York Times last week brought us the tragic plight of US speedskaters who did not become overnight millionaires just for training. Or why it's more-or-less to be expected that the IOC, and the Games Canadian organizers, would blame Nodar Kumaritashvili for his own death on a luge course they immediately shortened, walled-off, and padded, not because it was unsafe, mind you, but because of the fragile emotional state of the athletes in the wake of his death.

I mean, what'd we expect? The Governor of Indiana, whose name escapes me at the moment, blames the Federal government for asking Toyota to maybe fix the problems that make its cars unmerchantible sometime before they kill everybody. This is what you get. It's what you get when you turn things over to people for whom profit is the one motivator and money the only standard.

And I'm not going to be a hypocrite. I'm a fan of open-wheel racing, and I've seen five wrecks that killed men involved. I've also seen that the people in charge worked to make things safer, and did. At various points they've slowed Indy cars down rather than have raw speed outpace a reasonable guarantee of safety. And that goes back thirty and forty years, back to my youth, when wearing a bicycle helmet was a sure way of getting your brains knocked out by schoolyard yahoos, not a requirement every parent enforced without thinking.

It's 2010. You had a course where speeds were running 20 kph faster than what was called for, and the structural pillars just outside the course weren't already padded? What happened? Couldn't find a corporate sponsor? You try Bubble-Pak? Serta? Silly-Putty?

Friday, February 12

It's The Journey

• Had to go to the bank this morning, and at some point it hit me that they'd plowed the side streets overnight, including my own little street, which I'd already driven down without noticing. Now, we got about a foot of snow here, which is no big whoop if you have anything approaching an historical perspective or a long-term memory, and it fell in 2-1/2 stages, the first and biggest of which was over last weekend, so it was even less of a problem than it would've been otherwise, and even Mayor Gregory G. Pyle, USMC, managed to handle it. Problem is, though, that when you get that much snow here it tends to stick around a few days, which gives people, and news hairdos, time to talk about it, and after a couple days they have to say something besides, "Above average snowfall, wasn't it?" and "So much for Global Warming!". And what they say, typically, is "How come the roads haven't been scraped clean enough for you to break an axle in the pot holes underneath? Huh? Huh?"

Then this, by virtue of repetition, becomes The Stupid Local Political Chatter That Won't Die of the Week, and within a couple days the Mayor is forced to send out a henchspokesman to either explain, or explain away, the fact that the city ain't gonna plow your goddam side street, like ever, because we just don't have the resources. And, they might add, but don't, if you had the fucking juice you'd be on the plow list already, so shut th' fuck up.

And this Mayor's had to work overtime at it, because he's Mr. Principled Frugality when it comes to campaign speeches, sewage treatment, or greenspace; just about everything, in fact, besides trying to convince us that generations which won't have voted for him, probably under any circumstances with their benefit of hindsight, would appreciate paying for "his" "vision" of a few $ billions worth of solutions to other counties' commuting problems. Channel 8, for one, has assigned a reporter to the High Cost of Road Salt beat ten months of the year, just to keep up.

So I wasn't even paying attention, and when it suddenly dawned on me that I was driving on cleared roadway, I thought about how I'd seen the Mayor's mouthpiece three times in the three previous days spouting the number of miles of surface streets in Marion county, and how they never ever plowed beyond secondary routes, and, well, sorry.

Indianapolis has had one "Democratic" mayor (think Evan Bayh, but with human warmth) since we've lived in this house, and, well, one since I've been old enough to vote, which is pretty much what the Republicans had in mind when they annexed the county forty years back. He did it without fuss; my street got plowed twice while he was Mayor, when there was something like 15-18" of snow, enough to start preventing people from getting out. He, it follows, was run out of town because the statehouse Republicans fucked up property taxes. His predecessor, the legendary Incontinent Privatizer Stephen Goldsmythe, once ignored a snow of that size. Period. Said he'd ignore it, then did ignore it. Told anyone who asked that it was his business how the city spent its money. He then came about as close to being defeated by an African-American woman with no money or name recognition above 38th Street as is theoretically possible. Which, of course, convinced him it was time to run for governor. Publicly, I mean; he'd already been doing it in private since he made Eagle Scout.

Now, a couple things occurred to me immediately after I noticed the road thing: One, that the difference between Democrats and Republicans is that Democrats disappoint you by what they do, whereas Republicans lie to you first and then do it. The second is that, while California and its thirty-years of crackpot budgets are the harbinger, Indiana is that Great Midwestern open laboratory where you see just how this stuff will play out when it's run by people who slightly mis-heard the story and are short about ten-fifteen IQ points.

• This, then, was the dystopian reverie which I had broken at the stoplight at SR 37 ("Gateway to Beautiful Hamilton County") by the enormously happy dog occupying the back seat of the car in front of me. We were sort of bonding through the intervening auto glass, and it occurred to me that the whole world loves a gregarious scavenger. In daylight.

• And I was getting a wad of cash back, on the grounds that I'd forgotten to ask my Poor Wife if she needed some scratch, which apparently gave the teller an impression, so she asked, as I was tucking it away, "Are you going out to buy your wife a present?"

"Nah. Her birthday was a couple days ago, so I get to slide by. It's what attracted me to her. I used to ask every woman I met, 'are you an Aquarius by any chance?' and they all thought I was just into astrology."

Hope that made her weekend. Wait, I hope somebody else makes her weekend, romantic old fool that I am.

• Then I nearly drove into oncoming traffic on the way home when Maria Bamford popped into my head (specifically this sweet little reworking of a stock routine she did on John Oliver's stand-up show a couple weeks ago):

Wednesday, February 10

Wash Hands Before Returning To Work

OUR story so far: In the 1960s the Indianapolis Water Company, which has, for some reason, been owned almost exclusively by carpetbaggers since the 1880s--oddly, unlike the Gas Company, which has operated as a municipally-owned charitable trust since the 1930s, and whose shining example never fucking gets mentioned in and around the incontinent pools of privatization state and local government soak in--decided to cash in on "excess" land it had purchased in Hamilton County (Indianapolis' neighbor in the Cool White North) in the 1920s, and turned into Geist Reservoir, by building a subdivision. The Indianapolis City Council opposed the move right up until the time the land was appraised for something like $4 million (about $30 million in today's dollars, but that's a mere adjustment for inflation; this was prime "lakefront" property* at the beginning of White Flight and the (unexpected) tail-end of the endless plain of 50s prosperity). Opposition evaporated, somehow. Then the state utility regulators ordered the Water Company to divest itself of the land-peddling operation. In other words, they were ordered to form a shell company so the exact same people would get the exact same profit, without any ethical or practical concerns being raised by that profit being visible on the Water Company's books. Think Chinatown, except with characters painted by Grant Wood, plus the Murchison family (best known as the founders of the Dallas Cowboys and the assassins of John F. Kennedy), and the incest storyline replaced by sheep fucking.

Then the recently-annexed far-reaches of Marion County proved Not Far Enough Away From Africa, and white flight filled in the rest of the local farmland; the region, which had always been dominated by the Party of Lincoln--just then in the process of turning into the Party of Ratfucking Nixon Clones--didn't just permit, but enforced an unfettered development plan that made the aftermath of the Homestead Act look like a Rockettes routine. And the poster child for this is something called Fishers, Indiana, a sleepy farm village thirty years ago, and now a sort of Jaycees' wet dream of subdivisions, strip malls, and traffic congestion. There is essentially one way into or out of the place, Interstate 69, which peters out to the south into the surface streets of Indianapolis, where most of these people work, or "work".

True to the tenets of modern-day Republican hegemonies, this situation has engendered calls for everyone else's taxes to solve their problem, a noteworthy embrace of mass-transit, specifically the taxpayer-funded creation of a light-rail system. This, in a county where it is technically illegal to drive anything other than an SUV, unless you have a doctor's note attesting to your male menopause.

Now, sure as shucks, this would reduce the number of gas hogs on the road, somewhat, and sometime in the future, when the price of operating one made taking mass transit attractive to the sort of person who isn't about to do so otherwise, and this is a good thing. But it's also true that this won't happen without a permanent gas crisis, and a permanent gas crisis would solve the problem without giving these fucks an alternative way to get into my town. Then they can all get jobs at Linens 'N Things, which will fail because all its customers get the employee discount, and the whole thing will revert to pastureland. It's the Circle of Life. Let's add here that burning the fucking eyesore to the ground would accomplish the same thing, do so much quicker, and encourage much-needed biodiversity.

Anyway, this is old news, and so are the ongoing efforts to figure out a way to make everyone but the people who benefit pay for the thing, the latest of which landed the recommendations of its $10 billion date-rape feasibility study on the pages of today's Indianapolis Racist Beacon. It ascribes the plans to "a group of Central Indiana business leaders" who wind up being identified, in a sidebar, as a guy who operates a holding company, and who used to advise George W. Bush and James Danforth Quayle on economic issues, and has presumably been paroled since; a partner at the biggest law firm in town and chairman-elect of the Chamber of Commerce; and the vice-president and general manager of FedEx in Indianapolis. So no, in case you were wondering, a) they don't think they even have to try anymore; and b) the goddam Robber Baron pedigree didn't prevent any commenting wingnuts from reading "Mass Transit" and accusing the Obama administration of syphoning gas.

We generally don't ever link to that daily source of cents-off coupons, anti-fluoridation screeds, and snapshots of twenty-something partyers whose expressions belie the theoretical depression of mental functioning provided by the intoxicating beverages that lured them there, because its contents are so valuable the links disappear in a couple days, after which you're welcome to buy them. I don't know what happens to the comments, but this is one of those rare instances where I offer--not commend, mind you--them to stout-hearted readers who haven't eaten recently. The Racist Beacon recently had the decency to put these things behind a link, instead of splashing them over the unsuspecting reader who merely scrolled to the bottom of a story. Here's some ideas once you get there:

• Time how long it took for someone to mention "low-income housing".

• Count the pages until someone else equates Obama and Hitler.

• Marvel that the guy who warns mass transit will encourage gays to move to the suburbs can operate a computer, or place a restaurant order without assaulting the waitress.

Your teacher will have more project suggestions.

And, look, I do not urge anyone to read this sort of thing, but it has to dim your hopes for the future of the Republic, if any. What I will say is this: the mass-market "news" operations which facilitate this sort of thing ought to own up to it honestly, and let those millions of childish, ignorant Americans Jacob Weisberg knows are out there in on a secret only internet denizens and Daily Show watchers are informed of: the real depth of ignorance, petulance, and homicidal befuddlement which attaches itself unequally to our two major political parties. Might encourage more of them to be a little less ignorant. (Channel 8, for example, reads selected viewer comments from its website, always carefully chosen to represent "both" sides of an "issue", and to avoid using the term "nigger President" when families are gathered around the dinner table.)

Then again, maybe the first recipients of the news ought to be the news deliverers themselves, as Weisberg colleague Fred Kaplan is moved to ask why responsible Republicans haven't spoken out against Sarah Palin. And, especially dear to the Slate lifer, why none of that crowd has run to the defense of the President's advancements of Our Global Struggle for the Survival of the General Region which Used To Contain Western Culture.

Like Weisberg before him, Kaplan doesn't actually name any responsible Republicans, which may or may not suggest that they already know the answer and are just funnin' with us, Slate style. So let's answer it. Why aren't Republicans rushing to defend the Obama record on the War on Terra and Underpants? Because they don't give a fuck. Because they don't believe in it. Some might still believe there's the potential for genuine attacks that transcend some religion-mazed flunkey setting his magic briefs ablaze, but even they realize that's not war, and the danger most Americans face is being killed by their supermarkets, or their doctors, or their stockbrokers. (Of course the real threat to those Republicans is that voters will recognize this.) They don't care about what the President does to further this vital national campaign, because they won't get the credit. This is the one service Sarah Palin (whose book-signing stop here--the one she ended early--was in Hamilton County, by the way) provides to the nation: she can't sell this shit, and the more she tries the more she underlines the fact that there is no longer any factual debate going on at all. The woman has the gravitas and moral force of a particularly dim young mother exhorting her brood to go to sleep lest benign imps come out from under the bed and tickle them without mercy. She's a tenth-rate Sunday School teacher. Make that substitute Sunday School teacher.

Why don't "responsible Republicans" oppose Sarah Palin? Besides money? How about Math? Palin's hyperobjection to Rahm Emanuel's use of "retard" is to her gosh-darn support of Rush Limbaugh's repeated use of "retard" as Republican concern over global terrorism is to what Republicans actually do about it. There's no such fucking thing as "responsibility" anymore. Responsibility requires some sense of Truth: absolute, relative, empirical, or plerophoric; the Republican party gave up on those decades ago, though it does still trot out the Divine, or the Divine Miss Rand, perfunctorily and on occasion. How could it be otherwise? If anything, God's track record over the past four decades is even worse than Milton Friedman's.

This is beginning to substantiate my suspicion that the craftiest move St. Ronnie ever made was driving marijuana production indoors, where it would be subjected to the machinations of High Times readers, who would shortly flood the market with pot so strong it required normal people with lives and things to do to set aside eight to twelve hours of nothing to do but respirate before they could think of toking up. And that this--crafty old bastard!--was what Kaplan and Weisberg were bonging when they half-formed impressions of the Reagan Revolution. It must've been something like that for them not to recognize that Sarah Palin is Ronald Reagan, and that the Teabagger Army is the Republican party he midwifed. I realize--I'm not sure I believe--that some Republican die-hards claim to have been in it only for the tax breaks and the securities crime, and claim to have been Shocked! Shocked! when they realized they were sharing a clubhouse with Strom Thrumond's legitimate children. This would probably be a little easier to believe if you weren't still trying to canonize Th' Gipper.

You ask me, well, hell, what's a little Light Rail suppose to mean when the cards are still so obviously stacked in favor of the people who gave you suburban sprawl, highways to nowhere, and gas guzzlers to get you there, Stop Here to Pay Toll? (Jesus fuck, that and griping about the Obama administration is all Mitch Daniels has left in the bag. He just announced he wants three new bridges over the Ohio, presumably so all the unemployed workers he's created can get out of the state quicker.) And when there is, so obviously, no end in the number of people who'll fellate them for quarters, then moan about how both parties are equally at fault for permitting it? Seems to me the only answer is a Palin presidency; not because I imagine it's going to teach a lesson to people who so steadfastly, and thoroughly, managed to refuse to learn it from Reagan or Bush, but because they fucking deserve it.


* Locals will no doubt get the joke: the "lake" people ponied up exorbitant amounts to live on is a reservoir, hence subject to being drawn down as needed, plus their habit of having someone dump several tons of fertilizer and god knows what else on their lawns, most of which ends up fertilizing said "lake", has resulted--who knew?--in pestilential levels of blue-green algae and the attendant rendering of any and all aquatic activity which results in getting slightly wet the rough equivalent of seeing how much habanero purée you can rub on yourself before hospitalization is required. The result--when these people aren't suing the Town of Fishers over annexation--is that they complained to state legislators, who, of course, came running and did nothing, nothing here including telling these assholes to quit dumping phosphorous compounds in the glorified drainage ditch they voluntarily located to.

Tuesday, February 9

Well, Yes And No

Jacob Weisberg, "Down with People: Blame the childish, ignorant American public--not politicians--for our political and economic crisis." February 6

SLATE recently adopted the new Comment technology that's so popular on the internets, which led me to consider, one idle hour, swapping my regular time-wasting for a career of replying to every single one of their items, "I agree. But the opposite is also the case."

Lemme ask ya: what do you say about a piece that notes about Senator/ Spokesdick Scott Brown that he "has signed a no-new-taxes pledge and called for an across-the-board tax cut on families and businesses. But [he] doesn't want government to spend any less money: He opposes reductions in Medicare payments and all other spending cuts of any significance." which follows that immediately with "I don't mean to suggest that honesty is what separates the two parties." And then:
Increasingly, the crucial distinction is between the minority of serious politicians in either party who are prepared to speak directly about our choices, on the one hand, and the majority who indulge the public's delusions, on the other. I would put President Obama and his economic team in the first group, along with California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Because to me you left the issue of honesty behind at the first mention of politicians (not to mention confounding it beyond belief by suggesting there are serious politicians in both parties, and being reduced to claiming Ah-nuld as the Republican standard-bearer). Which I don't intend as a crack, but as a sharp instrument inserted under the flap of the argument for a peek inside. If we're going to use honesty as the standard the conversation is dead before it begins, because no one would recognize it if it ran naked down the street, and because once it's brought up the Little, White sort is guaranteed to be equated with the Big variety: the fact that John Kerry or Michael Dukakis engaged in photo ops while campaigning for national office cancels out attacks on their service to this country or the use of blatant racism by their opponents. But both sides do it!
Republicans are more indulgent of the public's unrealism in general, but Democrats have spent years fostering their own forms of denial. Where Republicans encourage popular myths about taxes, spending, and climate change, Democrats tend to stoke our fantasies about the sustainability of entitlement spending as well as about the cost of new programs.

Jeez Louise, what does it take to get a paid observer of the nation's politics to, y'know, observe? The Democrats, with the help of the Obama administration and historic majorities in both Houses, just managed to defeat national health care, a major plank of their platform back in Aught Eight, after first trying to convert it into Not National Health Care, Except in the Sense that Insurance Companies Will Get Everybody's Money. And they defeated it because the majority in one House in particular objected to "busting the budget" such that they might, at some time in the future, actually have to start thinking about defense appropriations rather than rubber-stamping them after the second reading and before a four-day weekend. I'm pretty sure even Slate covered this.

So, forget for a moment that "The People Are Stupid!" is--however justified--a think piece published by an outfit most famous in American letters for having brought together the best minds from both ends of the American center, plus a Scotched Englishman, and finding absolute agreement about our vital interest in finding and destroying Iraq's nuclear arsenal. We can't get through the article itself without trotting out--I'm not saying one party is the more dishonest!--this malarky about the modern Democratic party as the socialist progeny of Eleanor Roosevelt and Saul Alinsky. What sort of stupidity are we bent on exposing here, again?
The usual way to describe such inconsistent demands from voters is to say that the public is an angry, populist, tea-partying mood. But a lot more people are watching American Idol than are watching Glenn Beck, and our collective illogic is mostly negligent rather than militant.

Well, let's at least note here that some negligence might be indistinguishable from "getting your news from Slate", or, to be fair about it, just about every other mass-market news source which employs this "don't actually say anything without reminding the reader that 'both' sides are equally at fault. Meaning all except FOX.

After which it's the public's fault for not seeing things clearer, or reading between the lines, or something.

Two things, here, and that's the first one: when has the Press been held accountable? It didn't just cheerlead for the Iraq war while embedded; it colluded with the Bush administration in the run-up. Was that due to the public stupidity demanding immediate military action? The polls didn't say so. The business press was still fellating Goldman Sachs as global markets tottered, and it got right back to work as soon as that sweet guvment Viagra took effect. Was an ignorant public demanding that? Is that the same ignorant public which found discussions of Enron, or the details of health care, "too boring" or "not sexy enough", according to the people who get to explain away all their news decisions that way?

Three ('88, '00, '04) of our last six Presidential elections turned on such utter imbecility as to make the National Enquirer blush; at issue at the time, in order: the S&L bailout, then the largest in history, and the direct result--hell, the goddam linchpin--of Reaganism; the Presidential candidacy of a man too butt-ignorant to organize a group of caddies; and the disastrous results, domestic and foreign, of the back-room deal that gave him a first term. I'm sorry, did you notice those getting wide coverage? Maybe they were squeezed in there somewhere between Willie Horton and Windsurfing. Or tank rides and Love Story. The Press wants every story to be a Shit Storm, and it wants every story to be trivial--or the New Pearl Harbor--so it doesn't have to take sides. It's funny, y'know, teachers get rained on constantly because their students can't read, but the Press has no responsibility to an electorate which somehow imagines Octomom to be a story of national import, or Iran one of the world's foremost nuclear powers.

The second thing is this: the opposite of stupidity always winds up approaching 100% congruence with the writer's own opinions (that is, the ones he holds today). The sustainability of entitlement spending? We've managed to sustain war spending for the sixty-five years since the last war we declared ended. Once in a generation somebody'll get around to muttering about military or historical decline, while sounding like they hope nobody heard, and while meaning that We'd better fucking amp up the Defense spending if we wanna keep pushing countries with no air force around. Where th' fuck were you when the Congress was authorizing a war without declaring one, agreeing to fund it off the books, and cutting taxes at the same time, Mr. Weisberg? Oh, right. Rooting for it. Now you're suddenly excused from the consequences because you noticed them seven years later? Stupid public!
The charitable interpretation is that Brown embodies naive optimism, an approach to politics that Ronald Reagan left as one of his more dubious legacies to Republican Party.

No. That's not charity, it's a Get Out of Jail Free card. And it's a mark of you Reagantots, right and left, that you imagine there's any Reagan legacy other than talking tough about deficit spending before blowing the national paycheck, the kids' college fund, and ever' las' stack of seed corn on Space Shields, Invisible Bombers, and Aircraft carriers--none of which we had any real need for--and raking in the resulting political benefits. And it still works, in no small measure because people keep repeating crap about "Reagan's legacy" as though it wasn't the clear delineation of a well-earned historical decline, but just a little by-gum Patriotic excess. Which is just, well, stupid.