Thursday, September 30, 2004

SUMMATION. The postmorticians will carry the usual water for the usual suspects. Me, on the other hand, you can trust.

So let me say that each candidate made as good as case as could be expected for his policies. But the benefit of the event will probably go mostly to Kerry.

Kerry's great accomplishment was to counteract the cartoon image with which his opponents have tried to cover him. He did not appear the least indecisive; the President, in seeking to resurrect that talking point throughout the debate, seemed ignoble and mildly desperate. Kerry seemed to know what he was talking about, what he meant to do, and how he meant to do it. Even his traditional, rigid manner helped in this regard.

Bush's great accomplishment was to be the President of the United States. Which, as his father knows, only works if people think you're doing a good job.

To refer to the contest as a tie implies that both parties gained or lost a similar amount. I don't see it. Bush only showed what we already knew about him. Kerry, for his considerable failings, showed that what we had been told to believe about him was not self-evidently the truth.

Whether this amounts to anything depends on 1.) who saw it and 2.) who cares. Those factors are probably beyond the reach of conventional politics.

LET US GO ANOTHER WAY. The chess reporting wasn’t working for me – not without beer, anyway. Let’s try this in update fashion:

The point of conflict on international agreement is the same as has been portrayed outside here: Bush portrays his tough stand as more effective – as with the Korean talks, or lack thereof – and more noble, as when he challenges Kerry’s notion of a "global test" – Bush speaks of it as if it were some kinda candyass foofoo thing. That act doesn’t work so well with this Kerry guy, though, because he isn’t a candyass. Bush’s charges aren’t wilting him, and he made a great case about the decent opinion of the world (to paraphrase Washington) using the example of Kennedy and DeGaulle – which of course will be used in the blogosphere as proof of Kerry’s Frenchification. Might work there – doesn’t work here.

Bush shows surpising aplomb discussing the Korean discussions. First time he looks like a President all night.

Kerry is treating the Darfur question as a tactical issue, and this could be trouble because Bush is gonna go for outrage instead – which would expose his flank (i.e., he hasn’t done shit).

Do I win the pony? No, Bush is rattling off the financial contributions and diplomatic efforts for which he has been responsible. Cites also the African Union, even mentions the rainy season, which looks knowledgable.

Now they’re gonna talk character. Bush says, "Whoo! That’s a loaded question… Service to his country… great dad… 20 years in the Senate…" (Stop that!) Basically Bush works the flipflop angle. The idea is that Bush is strong, Kerry is weak.

Kerry begins nobly too – the compliments to Bush's wife, of course, point out that Bush said nothing about Mrs. Kerry. Kerry says certainty is only good if you’re right. That’s a key point and he should maybe repeat it three times, and during the next question too.

Bush says he won’t change his core values, or "wilt." Kerry says he’s never wilted and he’s never wavered. That will be fun for bloggers at some point, I imagine.

Getting to the end now… Kerry cites nuclear proliferation, and lauds his own work in that area, which is actually a salesman-politician trick and I don’t know it will go. He’s on the Russia case again, and that’s a fair cop – also a niche for him, if you will.

Bush hasn’t prepped as hard for this as Kerry, but he has an initiative and he’s trying to flog it. He refers to WMD instead of proliferation, which may not be such a hot idea. But the opportunity is not missed: Bush is more comfortable talking out his achievements, such as they are. Which is probably as it should be.

In close-out Kerry says he’ll do better, and Bush goes back to the Korean talks. Here is our Quemoy and Matsu.

The last question is about Putin, of all things. Bush is against Putin’s rollbacks of reform, and says he told Putin that. (Love to have been a fly on that wall.) Brings up Beslan, which is bringing up terror, and talks up his good relationship with Putin, which is of course a President’s prerogative. But the more he goes on about it, the weaker he seems – he’s actually acting out the role his people have assigned to Kerry – on-the-other-handing.

Kerry says he was in Russia at the USSR’s fall, and I’m sure Professor Reynolds will challenge this.

Kerry gets into the warm and thoughtful tone, then takes the first opportunity to return to the Korean exchange. This seems to throw Bush a little, because he scuttles back to Kerry the flip-flopper. That gives Kerry the chance to clarify his position on Iraq ("That’s not the issue").

Closeouts: Kerry is much better in conversation than in solo work (well, I’m better in scenes than monologues myself) but in this context his wooden, stentorian manner is not such a liability. "Freedom, not to fear" is a slogan that may or may not mean anything, depending on whether you believe him.

Bush is back on uncertainty and weakness vs. strength, and he begins with a list of things he’s going to do, more of them pretty formless. It’s a fireside chat, which, again, is what a President gets to do. Again, it depends on whether you believe him.

ALRIGHT, LET'S GET THIS OVER WITH. 9:00 pm. How odd this comes right after Survivor. Does the winner get a stick?

Coral Gables! Well, at least the accomodations will be nice. The rules sound complicated, and will probably be observed as they are at the Academy Awards -- oh, a buzzer? Hopefully it goes "Beee-Oooh" like the ones in old Warner Brothers cartoons.

K1: Well, that's a big claim. (Would you protect against 9/11 better? Yes I would.) I would have said, "We'll see."

I don't know how thanking Florida helps -- pre-empts Bush, I guess...

B1: ...Yeah, that was the idea.

He sounds like he's tired. "Take threats seriously before... they materialize... Saddam.. prison cell." Well, that's the pitch. "Free nations will help us achieve..."

Weird deflection of the Will Kerry Get Us All Killed question. I'm gonna win. I guess the cowboys will go for that. "Constantly stay on the offensive... spread liberty... show up at the polls... no doubt about it, it's tough... the enemy understands... they showed up in Afghanistan..." Taps podium.

K2: "Hunt down and kill the terrorists." Well, that's butch. "No connection to 9/11... WMD, not the removal of Saddam Hussein... massive error in judgment." That's his pitch. Now endorsements -- no one cares about that, I don't think. "President relied on Afghan warlords." Taps podium.

K3: Misjudgments? "Where do you want me to begin?... A timeline that's hard to follow because of delivery, the Big Stiff's signature failing. "Parents and say... I tried to do everything in my power..." Uses incident for emotion, failing in delivery. Opium in Afghanistan? He's pushing way too much in here.

B3: "Declared in 2002 that Hussein was a great threat... he said... not have the judgment to be President. I agree with him." The no-laughing rule holds. "I didn't need anybody to tell me to go to the UN..." Channeling Zell. "Disclose, disarm, or face consequences... Sixteen other resolutions and nothing took place... pre September 10th mentality... the world is safer without Saddam Hussein."

B4: Saddam/bin Laden? "We can do both... they have such hatred... essential we have strong alliances and we do..." Can't be a cowboy and a diplomat, George. bin Laden "is isolated... Sheik Mohammed is in prison... we're making progress." I get it now; the more problems we have, the better it's going.

"The Iraqs want to be free... Alawi... doesn't want U.S. Leadership to send mixed signals... when Iraq is free America will be more secure."

K4: "Iraq was not even close to the center of the war on terror before the President decided.... rushed to war... no plan to win the peace." This is his strong suit. "Body armor... kids in Ohio..." Emo Incident. Call it EO henceforth? "Kids in hospital..." We'll get tired of that. Kerry's dropping his g's now.

EXTENSION Ba: "He voted for the extension of force... don't see how you can lead... what message... troops... allies... Iraqis... steadfast and resolved." Ka: "Yes I will succeed... I don't believe this President can..." Maybe he should stop there and just glower.

K5: "Cops… firehouses… tunnels and bridges…" Hey, no fair! Foreign policy… "Cargo hold not x-rayed, does that make you feel safer… tax cut…" Hey, he’s hijacking and getting away from it. Maybe he does have the balls. "Nuclear and chemical plants… gave in to the chemical industry… former Soviet Union…."

B6: "How he’s gonna pay for all these promises." Oh, please. Then talks about all the things he’s somehow paying for. This is rank. "Stay on the offense…. Right 100% of the time…" Floundering. "Changed the culture of the FBI…" Bills of particulars are not going to work here. "Patriot Act is vital…" Wouldn’t lean on that.

EXTENSION: Kb: "100,000 hours of tapes unlistened… may be the enemy being right the next time." Hey, that’s good. "We didn’t need that tax cut." Bb: "I wake up every day… I work with Director Mueller… lotta really good people… hard work… you better have a president who chases these terrorists down." Awful.

B7: Home from Iraq? "Iraqi citizens trained to do the job…" Buncha numbers. Think they’re right? "I want to do… not for the sake of bringing them home…" OK. "See the Iraqis step up… ready to defend themselves… a nation that’s free, that’s when… artificial deadlines… opponent… six months… you can’t do that…" Why? You lie, why can’t he? "Ally on war on terror… secure Israel… Iran…"

K6: "Troops deserve better… ropeline coming out here… returnees… they said, ‘We need you.’" This trick might work. Bush’s father’s book, exit strategy: "Occupiers in a bitterly hostile land." Ouch. "Guarded the oil ministry… didn’t guard the borders… I know what it’s like… I’m gonna hold that summit."

EXTENSION Bc: "Help is on the way…. How… ‘wrong war, wrong time’… he voted against the… voted for it before he…"

Kc: "A mistake in how I talked about the war, the President made a mistake in invading Iraq. Which is worse?" Well, yeah. "Vietnam." The ears perk, not always with hope.

K7: Dying for a mistake? "They don’t have to provided we…." Elect me. Clever. More particular. Brings up Clarke, "FDR invading Mexico." He’s pretty good at this. "Summits… pull people together… he pushed them away… ‘no no, we’ll do this alone'… Halliburton."

B8: "Totally absurd… what’s he say to Tony Blair?" OK. "Poland?" Uh… "Call upon nations to serve? What’s the message gonna be… join us for the wrong war… I deal with them all the time.. they’re not gonna follow someone… politics… Japan… an Arab summit… Colin Powell helped set up that summit." Who?

K8: "Kofi Annan… never picked him up on that… when we went in we had three countries…"

B9: "You forgot Poland." Bush wins Milwaukee! "Called us the coerced and the bribed!" Name-calling? Tut.

B10: Miscalculation? "Because we achieved such a rapid victory… more of the Saddam loyalists were around." Huh? "I though they’d stay and fight but they didn’t and we’re fightin’ them now… I think you can be realistic and optimistic at the same time…. Mixed signals to our troops, our friends, and the Iraqi citizens…" Bill of particulars.

K9: "President has described one kind of mistake… even knowing that there was no imminent threat, he would have still done everything the same way… truth is what good policy is based on… but you can’t tell me… 8,300 and below that 4,000 and below that there isn’t anybody over the hundreds…" That is too good. Bush is gonna have to get angry.

K10: Lies? "I’ve never used the harshest words… but… SOTU… nuclear materials that didn’t exist… not the kind of coalition described… UN… rushed to war… he misled the American people… ‘planned carefully’… ‘last resort’… it is important… a fresh start… new credibility…" He’s building this like anyone will be listening after 20 minutes. I dunno.

B11: "’Osama uses the invasion’… Osama doesn’t get to decide… it wasn’t a mistake… when he said… when he said…" Kerry’s just writing on his pad. Maybe he thinks Bush makes the case against him badly. "Keeps changing his positions… that’s not how a Commander in Chief acts… the intelligence… same intelligence."

K11: "I wasn't misleading… threat… nor… when I said he had made a mistake… I’ve had one consistent position… a right way and a wrong way."

B12: "Only thing about my opponent’s position is that he’s been inconsistent… a free Iraq, a free Afghanistan."

B13: Worth the lives? "Every life is precious… A son or a daughter… Mitzi Johnson… Charlotte, NC…" Two can play at that game, Stiffy! "Caused her loved ones to be in harms way… teared up and laughed some… husband’s sacrifice was noble and worthy…" He’s better at it, too. "Saddam Hussein was a threat… spread freedom… Missy understood that… that’s what distinguishes us from the enemy…" He worked on this one. "Free Iraq… powerful…"

K12: "I know what it means to lose people in combat… question… reminds me of my own thinking when I came back… vital not to confuse the war, ever, with the warriors…. That’s one of the reasons why… I want to make sure the outcome honored their nobility…." That wasn’t bad either.

I need a break.

FOSTER BARTON UPDATE. Remember Foster Barton, the soldier who got beat up at a Toby Keith concert, which violence was then laid at the doorstep of John Kerry supporters? The Columbus cops have apparently picked up his alleged assailant -- a former soldier named Brent Cornwell:
When asked by the judge if he had anything to say, Cornwell said, "No, I just can't wait until [Delaware County Prosecutor Dave Yost] hears my side of the story."
I can't wait, either. I imagine he'll finger Joe Lockhart, or maybe Ted Rall, as the wheelman. Or it may be as I originally suspected -- a standard-issue fight in a parking lot which has been turned into a ridiculous smear on people who don't vote the right way. We'll see.

Infidel Cowboy says that, by questioning the particulars of this story, I "show obvious disdain for soldiers and anyone on the right." That's quite a leap, considering I never said a mean word about Foster. As for "anyone on the right," well, while I do come close sometimes, I don't see that either -- you know how we liberals are always flip-flopping and on-the-other-handing, so how could I rustle up enough moral clarity to disdain the entire right?

In fact, considering what gutless wimps we're supposed to be, it's amazing that he'd think a guy who attacked a U.S. soldier outside a Toby Keith concert -- a former soldier himself, yet --is one of us.

WHY THE DEBATE IS (SORT OF) IMPORTANT. A well-informed friend wrote to me today and suggested that we skip tonight's Presidential debate. We all know how we're going to vote already, he suggested; why not spare ourselves the aggravation?

While any course of action that might quiet the screaming voices in my head is worth considering, nonetheless I expect to watch (and liveblog -- or rather, given my dialup connection, lagblog) the debate. My main reason is simple. I want to see what this Kerry guy is about.

You'd think I'd know by now, but I'm a simple soul who just knows what he reads by the papers and sees on the TV, which is to say that I mainly know about Kerry what the Bush campaign wants me to know.

This is not to say that our media are all or even mainly Republican shills (though there are plenty of these, and all of them are much more egregious than whatever opposite numbers may exist on the left; today's New York Post, for example, was as on-message as polling-place handout -- even the style section had a huge article on Kerry's allegedly phony tan).

The media don't have to be shills -- they just have to be lazy and nervous. Repurposing a press-release is always easier than legwork, and after the document-kerning outrage, news orgs are even more risk-averse than usual, and that's saying something. And, with Karl Rove spoon- and force-feeding them stories, the media can take the easy way out more easily than ever.

So along with the boring pictures of candidates with their sleeves rolled up, each day we get a fairly predictable batch of stories. The Bush stories are usually stop-the-presses stuff about the movements of the President of the United States (look, he's going from Texas to Florida! Look, he's goin' again!). And any government event that can be spun, however shakily, as a net plus gets Bush's fingerprints stuck onto it (even a "flat consumer spending" story carries a talking point so carefully crafted -- "President Bush says his three major tax cuts have lifted the country out of recession, and are responsible for strong economic growth" -- one wonders whether the paper's editor didn't just pull it out of the appropriate drawer of a multi-chambered gift box from Ed Gillespie).

The Kerry stories, conversely, are about windsurfing, flipflops, botox and fake tans.

Our derelict Fourth Estate probably gets itself to sleep at night with the notion (eased into the bloodstream via a solution of single malt) that whatever factual slack their hackwork leaves will be taken up by concerned citizens. You know, like the Swift Boat Veterans.

The larger reality behind all this is the fact that the Republican Party has about twice as much money as the Democratic Party.

I really think I need to repeat that: the Republican Party has about twice as much money as the Democratic Party.

If you need more explanation than that, you haven't been paying attention. I don't mean attention to this column. I mean attention in life.

So tonight's event is Kerry's best chance to date to present and explain himself to hundreds, perhaps even thousands of citizens who have lost the remote and, through laziness or physical disability, cannot get up to switch to Vegas Hookers Gone Wild In Their New Queer-Eyed Home! It isn't much, but it's about as good as he's going to get this season.

I look forward with interest. Hell, maybe he'll convince me to vote for Nader.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

SEND JIMMY CARTER TO FLORIDA! From the Independent, news of Butterfly-ballot LePore's latest pre-fraud efforts in Florida:
After the 2000 débâcle, an unrepentant Theresa LePore was told by the state of Florida that she and her fellow election supervisors would have to replace the punchcard machines that had exposed the state to such ridicule. She flew to California, where she was quickly seduced by an electronic touchscreen voting system used in Riverside County, just east of Los Angeles.

She was told that Riverside's system had performed flawlessly in November 2000, even as she and her canvassing board had been hung up for weeks examining punchcards for dimpled, hanging or pregnant chads. But Riverside's tabulation system had in fact suffered meltdown on election night, creating the first of many controversies about the reliability and accuracy of its Sequoia Pacific machines.

Blissfully unaware of this, LePore spent $14.4m on her own Sequoia system and unveiled it for local elections in March 2002. It seems to have fallen at the first hurdle. A former mayor of Boca Raton, Emil Danciu, was flabbergasted to finish third in a race for a seat on Boca Raton city council. A poll shortly before the election had put him 17 points ahead of his nearest rival.

Supporters told his campaign office that when they tried to touch the screen to light up his name, the machine registered the name of an opponent. Danciu also found that 15 cartridges containing the vote totals from machines in his home precinct had disappeared on election night, delaying the result. It transpired that an election worker had taken them home, in violation of the most basicprocedures. Danciu's lawyer, his daughter Charlotte, said some cartridges were then found to be empty, for reasons that have never been adequately explained.
People are still fighting over the Sunshine State's notoriously Dem-specific voting-roll felon purges, but in Brother Bush's Florida, apparently you can always set another fire while they're stamping the first one out.

Florida's basically a banana-Republican state, and the current Justice Department is ill-equipped to deal with electoral inequities. It may well be time to call in independent monitors. Why not? What's the impediment? That it might damage our image before the world? You must be joking.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

SHORTER CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS. Fancy Bush doing something underhanded to win an election! Bloody Democrats, traitors all. Shame! Glug, glug, glug, glug, glug.

(P.S. Here is some recent intelligence on what Hitchens' Incorruptables are really like.)

(P.P.S. Here's more.)

Monday, September 27, 2004

WE ALSO DEFILE CHURCHES AND HAVE 'BORTIONS LIKE Y'ALL HAVE QUILTING BEES. The needle on my bullshit detector went flying off the dial at this:
Many Republicans are afraid to put Bush-Cheney bumper stickers on their cars or signs on their lawns because they are afraid of physical retaliation from angry liberals.

It is not just that one sees few Bush-Cheney bumper stickers and lawn signs -- even in areas in which one knows his support is high. I do not have such a bumper sticker or lawn sign. In fact, most Bush supporters I have asked, even those who are fairly passionate on the topic, just don't think the risk of a key-scratch or broken home or car window, or much worse, is worth whatever benefit one receives from a partisan bumper sticker or lawn sign. There are just too many personal stories of cars and homes defaced and damaged.
I should like to hear these stories, preferably attached to names and, especially, police reports, since even the most dedicated of operatives may find filing false statements with the local P.D. less attractive than telling tales of liberal vandalism to credulous web-trawlers.

But wait, there's more:
The sentiment is not symmetrical: One sees plenty of Kerry-Edwards bumber stickers and lawn signs -- even in highly Republican neighborhoods. Indeed, one sees plenty of such stickers and signs that express left-wing sentiments much more intense and partisan than mere support of the Democratic presidential ticket. Not infrequently these stickers and signs mention some form of violence or even death with respect to Republican officials.
Oh, come on buddy -- can't you quote even one of these homicidal lawn-signs? I may want to copy the slogans and print them on banners in time for our next liberal Kristallnacht, when my Greenshirt brethren and I will march and maraud through Suffolk County, targeting landscapers, CPAs, and golf equipment stores.

Final, incontrovertible proof this is bullshit: National Review has picked it up.

SPEAKING OF THAT ASSHOLE LILEKS... Jimbo, onetime nuclear incinerator of New York City in his dreams, decides to try sarcasm on us instead:
Let the Red Staters spend Sunday morning in itchy church clothes at Perkins... you’re in your elegant spare little apartment with a cup of coffee (frothed on top; sprinkle of nutmeg) and a pastry from that wonderful place around the corner (okay, it’s an Au Bon Pain -- hell, they’re all Bon Pain now) and there’s some light jazz on the radio. Morning jazz, if you had to give the genre a name. Anyway, it’s a sunny fall morning -- well, noonish... Note: buy Smuckers maple syrup. Or real Vermont maple? Vermont would be better. Especially in those bottles shaped like a maple leaf, very authentic... The whole world is going to hell. Except for New York. New York is fabulous. It just has to be.
All of this begs to be read in the voice Homer used to say, "Look at me, I'm Flanders! I'm a big four-eyed lame-o and I wear the same stupid sweater everyday!"

Wonder what brought this on? My guess: Gnat's already bitching that there's nothing to do in this one-horse town. "I hate the suburbs and I hate the Twins and I hate corn on the cob, Dah-dee!" "That's it, young lady! No Battlestar Gallactica for you tonight!" What do you think?

Sunday, September 26, 2004

NYTM REMIX. I am saddened to report that all references to alicublog have been edited out of today’s New York Times Magazine article on bloggers. Fortunately I obtained an early draft copy from the trash outside the reporter’s home, and have below reproduced the omitted copy:
I knocked several times on the green steel door of Edroso’s Williamsburg apartment before a loud, phlegmy voice bade me enter. I found the author of "alicublog" -- a little-read website devoted to politics, the arts, and bitter denunciations of the buy-back policies of local bars and clubs -- in his tiny bedroom, nestled between a closet and a bookshelf stuffed with volumes of 19th-century literature and old issues of Black Tail, and pounding furiously on an ash-smeared keyboard.

"Oh, it’s you," he said, not taking his eyes off the screen. He jerked a thumb toward his bed. I pushed aside empty bottles of vodka and Astrolube, and a copy of Commentary, and took a seat.

"Another death threat," sighed Edroso. "I answer every one personally. I say, ‘Look, motherfucker, here’s my address, here’s my schedule, you come over anytime and we’ll settle this like men.’ I told that pussy Josh Marshall to do likewise. As fucking if."

"Josh Marshall’s a friend of mine," I said.

His head swung around and his eyes burned into mine. "November 6, 2002, Red Rock West," he said evenly. "Tell Marshall I haven’t forgotten."

He finished off his pint bottle of bourbon and tossed it into the pile of empties at my feet.

Edroso moaned. He had just called up Wonkette’s site on his computer. "You know what you need to get ahead in this business?" he shouted. "Tits. Tits out to here." With both hands he gestured a few feet from his chest, then looked down and drew them in a few inches. "No, here," he said, and flexed his fingers. "Yeah, that’s better," he said with satisfaction.

I asked him what the impact of blogs had been on our national discourse. Edroso folded his arms and looked thoughtful for a long time. Then he started snoring. I josted him awake and, after telling him who I was and what I was doing in his bedroom, repeated the question.

"Before blogs," he said, "tendentious cranks such as myself had no outlets for our ill-informed opinions, besides Letters to the Editor and soapbox rants at parties that were winding down. Also we could not count on our reputations as fuckwads to extend much past the physical borders of our respective communities." He broke the seal on a fresh pint of Jim Beam and took a long swig. "But now," he continued, "we can all write Letters to the Editor round the clock, and see them published immediately, unedited and misspelled. And at three in the morning, we can get drunk by ourselves, and vomit forth our prejudices without having to yell ‘hey, where ya goin’?’ at people who suddenly decided they have to get home before the sitter gets nervous. And our names are curses on the lips of people who never even met us. " He raised his bottle grandly. "To technology!" he roared. "All hail the mighty microchip and modem! All hail the --" He looked at me, surprised. "Hey," he said, "who’re you?"

"So," I said, edging toward the door, "you would say that blogs have no real political impact?"

"I dunno," he said moodily, rising and rubbing his face with both hands. "What do I know? If I had any real talent, I’d be performing spectrographic analysis on George Bush’s dental records, or spending my disposable income on LexisNexis instead of on porn and Doritos. No wonder they never invite to their parties! No wonder the resumes I send to The Washington Monthly always wind up on The Smoking Gun!" His body shaking, his features contorted, he cried, "Christ, what a fraud I am!" and tore the keyboard from its port and hurled it to the floor.

While I fished bits of plastic from my hair and clothes, Edroso stared down at the smashed unit. "Shit," he muttered, and, opening his closet, pulled a fresh keyboard from a shelf apparently stocked with several of them.

"It’s after midnight," he said, plugging in the keyboard. "Gotta see what that asshole Lileks is doing."

Saturday, September 25, 2004

ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED? I must give big ups to elementropy on this post concerning the poisonous confluence of art and propaganda. I hope Retardo will not mind if I quote his quotation of Christopher Hitchens -- from back in his more lucid days -- concerning Norman Podhoretz' ravings against Norman Mailer:
This is not just boring and tenth-rate. It is sinister. Like Andrei Zhdanov, Stalin's literary enforcer, Podhoretz doesn't content himself with saying that a certain novelist is no longer in favour or no longer any good. That would be banal. No, it must be shown that he never was any good, that he always harboured the germs of anti-party feeling, that he was a rank rodent from the get-go. Then comes the airbrush, the rewritten entry in the encyclopaedia, the memory hole. But even Zhdanov's hacks would have made the effort to employ some new phrases and new disclosures.
We've been around this mulberry bush before, but I will have another go. For a while, back in the 90s, the culture war was salutary, bracing, tonic. It caught people's attention, perked up artists, and got the juices flowing. But these are different times. The big political machines have extended their tendrils so deep into every aspect of our lives that it is impossible to refer to any aspect of society without some Scrutinizer ascribing it a value, plus or minus, left or right.

The by-now old-fashioned term, P.C., never very meaningful, has been rendered utterly irrelevant by numerous flying squads of rightwing Kulturkommando, whose overreach in these matters is gloriously exemplified by Rod "Flanders" Dreher's denunciation of The Hours (yes, that innocuous little movie about Virginia Woolf and stuff) as an "apologia for evil" on the grounds that one of its characters, who leaves her husband and son, is portrayed sympathetically. (For God's sake, nobody tell Flanders about Medea!)

Not to say that the squads' efforts are all negative. At OpinionJournal yesterday, some guy tried to make the case that a Lebanese reality-TV show indicates the future of democracy in Arab nations -- at least, democracy of a sort:
To be sure, over the past century many Arab nations have experimented with democratic reforms, some going so far as to establish constitutions, regular elections and institutional checks and balances. But in the end the overwhelming tendency has been to assume the rhetoric and rituals of democracy without actually putting it in place.

Into this environment comes an independently produced TV program that both celebrates personal achievement and puts Arab audiences at the center of the decision-making process. "Super Star" encourages, in fact depends on, the active involvement of ordinary Arabs in a "democratic" endeavor with real-time, mutually beneficial results. If the Arab people cannot choose their political representatives free from coercion, at least now they can select a cultural representative to champion their musical tastes.
I'd like to believe that any person of normal intelligence would comprehend the crucial difference between a simulacrum of democracy -- e.g., the "thumbs-down" of the Roman Coliseum -- and the real thing. But the new culture war -- much more savage and damaging than the old one; a total culture war, to avail an old phrase -- will probably, soon enough, render all such fine distinctions imperceptible.

Then art will not exist, except as an arcane misnomer popularly applied to the circuses glorifying whomever is in charge.

It is embarrassing to have to say it aloud, but some things are more important than politics.

Friday, September 24, 2004

SIMON DRINKS THE KOOL-AID. I had a feeling this would happen.

Professor Glenn Reynolds used to tell people he was not a conservative, using a pro-gay-marriage stand as his trump non-con credential. But once he had descended sufficiently deeply into the Bush tank, he felt it necessary to issue this post (much longer than usual, because the need for obfuscation was so great), in which is explained that arguing for gay marriage was the worst thing its advocates could do ("that sort of thing can only serve to alienate Republicans"), and told his no doubt astonished gay readers that Bush's plan to amend the Constitution to exclude them was "not worth getting too excited about."

Now it's Roger L. Simon's turn. He has said that Bush's stance on gay issues "make[s] me cringe." Well, he ain't cringin' no more (not in that sense, anyway)! The tone of his Damascene conversion is less tortuous than Reynolds' and, as befits one who has shed some confining principles, more liberated and breezy:
Sure, [Bush] doesn't support gay marriage. But hardly anyone even talked about gay marriage in the whole history of our country until a few years ago. Relax. Gay rights are on extraordinarly fast upward curve. Take a slight breather to give the Islamic world a chance.
En otras palabras: Relax, bitches, we're goin' to Mars!

How long, do you figure, before Andrew Sullivan comes around?

Thursday, September 23, 2004

RETURN TO JIMBO. Say, I haven't looked in on James Lileks in a while. Wonder what the crazy old sonuvagun is up to? Hmm, says here he's noticed Jimmy Swaggart wants to kill a homosexual. Why, Jimmy Lileks is commencing to speak on it!
...anyone who uses him to discount the extraordinary and largely unheralded impact of religiously inspired philanthropy is a fool. I have no problem with atheists; if that's what they've come to believe in the end, then fine. But I have no time for atheists who look at the good works of churches, and nevertheless feel superior because they don't believe in a Magic Book...
Haw! Jimmy Swaggart makes a death threat, and the atheists get the lecture! Old Jimbo's still got that -- what'd you call it, Ed? "Ida Fixy"? Yeah, crazy as a loon, bless him.

FUNNY GIRL (DISCLAIMER: FANNY BRICE REFERENCE DOES NOT GUARANTEE ANTI-SEMITISM). The claim that being anti-neoconservative is the same thing as being anti-semitic has been brought to its logical apotheosis by Julia Gorin:
When a member of the enlightened classes, or Pat Buchanan, makes reference to a "neocon," what he's saying is "yid." That's right, "neoconservative," particularly in its shortened form, when employed by a nonconservative (or by Buchananites) and therefore meant derogatorily, is the modern, albeit more specific, word for "kike" that the left can say--and it has been doing so liberally (no pun intended) ever since American conservatism became yet something else that Jews have managed to benefit from--the conquered, final frontier of that famous Jewish manipulation.
I am aware that Gorin is supposed to be a comedian, though the absence of actual laughs in this and her other material argue against that impression. If this piece is intended as "satire," it is of the Ann Coulter variety -- you know, the kind where you make an outrageous assertion, your followers beat their chests and yell "boo-yah," and you ask the people staring at you in horror, "What's the matter, can't you take a joke?"

What's the tipoff? Special pleading, for one thing. Juvenal and Swift didn't take time out from their work to moan about how unjust it all was, whereas Gorin buffs up the alleged link to real anti-semitism ("Jews jokingly called one another by their Ellis Island designation 'keikle' [Yiddish for 'circle']..."). Neither did the masters cite the authority of contemporary pedants to justify their bagatelles, while Gorin cites bloggers and columnists in defense of her thesis.

The big problem, though, is that Gorin isn't really joking at all. Her outrageous thesis, the when-they-say-neocon-they-mean-yid idea, is something she believes -- or, at least, wants us to believe, so that we'll restrain our anti-war complaints for fear of appearing anti-semitic.

But maybe I don't I just don't get conservative humor. And maybe Swift really was trying to get the Irish to eat their children.

UPDATE. Much funnier than the alleged comedienne Gorin are readers' responses to her article. Lots on non-Jewish cons declare themselves neos in solidarity. (Brave, brave lads! They don't care if they never get another letter from Norman Lear!) One guy says he became a neocon when he realized Al Gore wanted to be dictator. Another says liberals aren't using the "neo" label to call attention to conservative Jews, but to make them look like Nazis. Aside from a few voices of sanity (most notably Steve Sailer's), this is as batshit crazy an assemblage as we're likely to see all day, or until the Rush Limbaugh Chorale holds its next rehearsal of The Foster Barton Song (T-shirt high, ranks closed...).

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

PERFECTLY KERNED BULLSHIT. When the kids ask me, "Why, Uncle Roy, what do you mean when you say that the rightwing attack machine greases its gears with excremental journalism?" I never have to reach far for a quote, as planted, massaged, and/or managed stories are as plentiful in the conservative press as sunshine in Florida.

Let's take a story making the rounds today, which has received so far the imprimatur of Jonah Goldberg ("SOME COWARDLY S.O.B. beats up a US soldier for wearing an Iraqi freedom shirt") and Professor Reynolds ("new climate of fear in America... not anti-war. Just on the other side"):
A local soldier back from the war in Iraq said he was beaten at an area concert because of what was printed on his T-shirt, NBC 4's Nancy Burton reported.

Foster Barton, 19, of Grove City, received a Purple Heart for his military service in Iraq. He almost lost his leg last month after a Humvee he was riding in ran over a landmine.

Barton said he was injured again Friday night in a crowded parking lot as he was leaving the Toby Keith concert at Germain Amphitheatre. The solider was injured so badly that he can't go back to Iraq as scheduled...

Barton and his family said he was beat up because he was wearing an Iraqi freedom T-shirt.
We know Goldberg and Reynolds, like the hundreds of Fighting Keyboarders who will flog this tale over the days to come, do not practice journalism, and now it appears that they do not exercise, or credit to others, even the basic sort of reasoning popularly known as common sense.

They imply that a guy who went to a Toby Keith concert and got into a fight -- which sounds like a normal, red-blooded American knucklehead's perfect Saturday night to me -- was motivated by leftist politics. (Even Goldberg's colleague Kathryn Lopez is confused by this; as confusion is the NRO denmother's natural state, however, this leads to no further questioning.)

Some witnesses say the assailant was "screaming profanities and making crude remarks about U.S. soldiers." While this seems to shout "leftist political operative" to our new Woodwards and Bernsteins, observers even mildly acquainted with waking reality would rank the possibility that the ruffian in question had once been rejected by the Army (or had an asshole father who once served, or had just been listening to "War Pigs" while availing a bong) much higher.

Other aspects of the story smell. For instance, it appears that the assailant has not been arrested. As one of the witnesses is described as "a friend of the alleged attacker," it cannot be that the cops are unable to locate him. If this assault is as the victim describes it -- unprovoked and severely damaging -- why isn't the perp in jail?

As my phony angle is as good, or as bad, as anyone else's, let me offer this: perhaps the bounder in question is a loyal Bush supporter and, having gotten a bellyful of Toby Keith's testosterone entertainment, went around looking to pounce on anyone who fit the profile of the enemy: i.e., a veteran with a Purple Heart.

Hell, if Barton were a multiple amputee, the guy might have killed him.

UPDATE. The story inspires the usual reasoned analysis in the blogosphere:

"Did John Kerry teach you guys anything? Oh, yeah, I suppose he did at that..." -- Weapons of Mass Destruction

"Apparently, 6 assailants, who are no doubt peace loving anti-war loyal oppositionist fans of [Ted] Rall, who attacked this soldier at a concert , didn't feel to surpressed..." -- Infidel Cowboy

"Nice to know Kerry hasn't lost it -- He can still get the loons to hate our bravest!" -- Life Trek

"...the angry anti-war rhetoric coming from leftists in this country -- yes, that includes John Kerry, Howard Dean, et al -- has reached a point where it is no longer distinguishable from the propaganda of our enemy .. and it is inciting the type of actions last Friday night at the Germain Amphitheater." -- Merry Mad Monk

"Peace-loving liberals: Yeah, those people you see at peace rallies really are the type that support our troops... Profanities. Crude remarks. Yeah, that sounds like our war protester-types." -- Hoy Story

Etc. Funny, I didn't get the memo from the Kerry campaign telling us to skulk around Toby Keith concerts looking for soldiers to beat up, did you guys? Ah well. It takes a Reichstag... actually, it doesn't even take that.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

ON THE INTERNET, NO ONE KNOWS YOUR STORY'S A DOG. Andrew Sullivan prefaces an alleged letter from a solider, linked from Hewitt, this way:
I can't "authenticate" it, and I hope Hewitt vetted it. (Hewitt is, alas, a pure partisan -- his own site's motto is about the destruction of Democrats, whoever they are -- but the email rings true to me.)
Sullivan doesn't know if it's real, the source has a grudge, but he's going with it anyway, and then commenting on it as if it were revealed truth. Advantage: Blogosphere! That'll show Rather.

(Earlier, Sullivan had refused to even visit the Iraqi Body Count page -- which is extensively sourced -- because "its biases are so blatant and so hostile to the liberation.")

I'm sure the Bush people will forgive Sullivan his (probably temporary and certainly unconvincing) apostasy. Anyone who can torture reality like that is too valuable to lose. Besides, they can always trot him out as some sort of "diversity" figurine -- until such time as they don't have to worry about appearing diverse at all.

BIG STIFF ON LATE NIGHT. Only saw a bit of this, but Kerry looked looser than usually, by which I mean that the stick up his ass seems to have been broken in several places, allowing great flexibility of movement.

I will say that his explanation of "voted for before I voted against" makes sense. Wonder how I missed hearing it before? Hey, look over there -- inappropriate kerning!

Monday, September 20, 2004

TIGHT NOT TOUCHING. The CBS memo thing seems to have worked out adversely for Dan Rather et alia. I imagine this link will give a good view of the bloggers' chest-beating denouement for quite some time. Their enthusiasm is wilder now than at their last victory party over Trent Lott, because, as I observed at the time, most of them didn't so much care about Lott's racism as they did about the prospect of a scalp to call their own. But, while Lott lost some accoutrements of power, Rather seems to be keeping his job. So for the moment effigies will have to do.

The next phase of the operation seeks to establish a link between the memos, CBS, and the Kerry campaign via Joe Lockhart. But the notion that Democrats and Big Media are mobbed up is received wisdom among the bloggers and their constituents -- right up there with the sanctity of gun ownership and heterosexual marriage -- so it is hard to see what hearts and minds are left to be won in that regard.

There are other options. Representative Christopher Cox has called for a Congressional investigation of CBS. This is probably just an attempt at leverage against an ancient enemy, but you never know where wildfire will get to once the flames have been fanned.

Some who remember the various bullshit stories floated about Clinton in the last decade might wonder at the fuss. Technology is a marvel, friends. Not only can it extend power to an unprecedented degree; it can also make the powerful look like underdogs, if there is a purpose to be served by it.

AND BESIDES, IT'S ALL ABOUT HOMOSEXUALS! Guess I wasn't the only serious political journalist watching the Emmys. Brent Bozell clone Tim Graham announces that "giving Emmy awards to 'Angels in America' is transparently political and anti-religious." Boy, I don't know why the nets don't turn their Emmy beat over to the guys from Fox and Friends -- soapbox cranks on awards shows are a barrel of laffs!

Even laffier, not to mention taffier, are the linked ravings of the original Bozell on Angels in America: "Artistically," he bravely begins, "it's a sprawling mess... a parade of blasphemy and profanity, a concerto of conservative-bashing... It’s exactly what playwrights and actors love – self-consciously writerly, intellectually preening, over-emoting..." Oh, and "Theologically, it’s even worse." Just in case you thought theatre criticism was Bozell's only stock in trade.

Part of the problem with these guys on art, any art, is that they confuse John Simon's old Tonight Show appearances with Hazlitt and Dr. Johnson. They think dyspepsia and outrage are criticism. And they think ideology is an artistic standard. Maybe in the journalistic schoolyard they inhabit, that kind of slipshod work passes, but not 'round here, sir.

And they wonder why artists don't like them.

Sunday, September 19, 2004

EMMYS. I spent most of Garry Shandling's monologue adjusting the color on my TV. It's amazing they found him a tux that fits so well, since he's been obviously been living on a sidewalk in L.A. for a couple of years. He's still pretty funny though.

Since I don't have cable and just watch the same few things over and over again (mostly test patterns, infomercials, and that episode of "Seinfeld" with Molly Shannon), I can't possibly judge what's going on here. I see they're sticking skits in between awards. I don't know about that. We'll see if the tabloid coverage tomorrow includes big pictures of the skits.

UPDATE. I kind of like the skits. It's you're going to be derivative, derive from quality. Speaking of "The Larry Sanders Show," it was nice to see Jeffrey Tambor up there. I really believe Hank Kingsley was one of the greatest comedy characters since Tartuffe -- an immediately recognizable type and completely unique and idiosyncratic at the same time.

Hey, is that Jon Stewart theme really "I Feel So Good" by Richard Thompson?

UPDATE 2. Elaine Stritch has the music people scared. Well, who wouldn't be? There goes the big flourish -- they have a trap door, I assume.

UPDATE 3. I think the Democrats should have nominated Jon Stewart. And while we're on the subject, I should be writing for his show. I make lots of jokes about politics. Perhaps I'll send them some of my humorous meditations on Professor Glenn Reynolds and Roger L. Simon, with a letter of introduction from Kevin Drum. Pure comedy gold!

UPDATE 4. I've got to see that Sopranos show sometime. I hear it's pretty good.

UPDATE 5. I can't wait for the tearful farewell episodes of "World According to Jim" and "CSI Miami."

UPDATE 6. Well, I guess Mary-Louise Parker and her dress will be in the papers tomorrow. That's a good combination: serious Broadway actress and vertical cleavage.

So, is the deal with The Forgotten that Julianne Moore is really dead, or that everyone else is dead, or that everyone including Julianne Moore is dead, or that we are all the dream of a sleeping giant?

I don't mean to brag and it's certainly nothing to brag about, but I figured out The Sixth Sense when Bruce Willis first met the kid. After that it was very funny. I kept expecting Willis to say to people, "Oh, so you won't talk, eh?" and "Givin' me the old silent treatment, are ya?"

Boy, I'd hate to be George Lopez' otolaryngologist.

UPDATE 7. Oh, now, that isn't fair -- Tony Kushner wrote that play already. What do they do when a Shakespeare play wins a writing award? Get Larry Gelbart come out and say how sad it is Bill couldn't be here because he would have been thrilled?

UPDATE 8. I don't know anything about reality shows. My Mom likes all of them, so I guess I have to go with the one with the midget, if only as a sort of cryptic tribute to Michael Dunn's great Dr. Loveless on The Wild, Wild West. I will say that the whole show should be presented by ordinary people who don't know what's going on. Or maybe it should be presented, like the craft awards on the Oscars and the Best Musical Program awards tonight, at ceremonies held earlier in San Luis Obispo, and mercilessly excerpted. Then they could run a whole bunch more more Kmart commercials, and Shandling could do improv with people in the first five rows.

UPDATE 9. I'm sure Pacino was great as Roy Cohn (one day I'll see if he was as good as Ron Liebman) but he's a terrible award-winner. He needs some writers, but hell, so does Kerry, what are you gonna do? I'm amazed what a robot Mike Nichols has turned into. Mike Nichols of Nichols and May! I guess that comes from being a one-man major entertainment institution for ninety years; after a while that tan seeps right down into your soul.

UPDATE 10. It's nice that they're talking about Danny Thomas, and so sad that he isn't around today to come out here with a big cigar and say, "Everything on television today is sex! They got 'Sex in the City,' sex in the country, sex in the bathroom, the living room, everywhere except in the bedroom, where it belongs! With two beds! You think Desi and Lucy woulda been funnier if they were sleeping the same bed? They'd both be lucky to wake up alive, lemme tell ya! And don't get me started on that rap music..."

If the cops were doing their jobs the Raveonettes would be in jail for that Jesus & Mary Chain ripoff.

UPDATE 11. Now, it's too bad that Patricia Heaton didn't win because I really had a premonition that this would be the year she just flipped out and started screaming about abortion and what a bunch of murderers everyone in the audience was. Plus, Sarah Jessica Parker isn't that good.

UPDATE 12. Conan is so funny. Not so funny is Kelsey Grammer. It's weird that the new Bob Hope is an actor obviously perfectly suited to play a blowhard, so much so that I'm sorry I didn't see his Macbeth -- it must have been hilarious.

These dead-people things are so weird. First of all, there are the lulls (who is that guy? He's Jack Elam, you stupid fuck, he was in Once Upon a Time in the West). Then there's the added weirdness of film people in the TV necrotribute. It seems almost presumptuous -- like the Fat People of America doing a tribute for Peter Ustinov and Brando. (Glad they showed a clip from "Roots: The Next Generation" though.) And the people who died latest get the biggest claps. In heaven right now, Tony Randall is doing a little victory dance around Alastair Cooke.

UPDATE 13. James Spader kinda walked into TV like a CEO who'd been squeezed out and decided, fuck it, I'll go run a little shop on the boardwalk like I don't give a shit because I don't. And the little shop is a major success.

UPDATE 14. I used to wonder if the absent nominees get to choose the pictures that are shown when their names are called. Emma Thompson convinces me that they do not. Meryl Streep was very charming. Mike Nichols' grin is getting creepier, like a Bond villain's: yes, yes, everythink is going accordink to plan...

UPDATE 15. It must suck to work on a mini-series for thousands of hours and then have "Angels in America" come out the same year. Goldfinger delivers a suitably downbeat valedictory.

Hey, now we're moving. "Arrested Development" lets Opie claim a much-deserved Emmy to go with his are-you-joking Oscar.

UPDATE 16. Thank God, we're almost done. Hey, everybody love-a "The Sopranos"! David Chase is a much more manicured type than I expected. But what do I know about real writers? Thank you and good night!

Friday, September 17, 2004

THE JOE ROGAN ADMINISTRATION. Here's a good, concise pdf from the Century Foundation, about rising personal debt in the U.S.A. (That TPM ad wasn't wasted, guys.) It is very clearly written, and peppered with astute and depressing observations like these:
Households are spending more of their incomes than ever on servicing their debts. The debt burden indicator constructed by the Federal Reserve, which measures how large a proportion of families’ incomes goes toward paying off debts, reached a new high recently... Low-income families have become especially vulnerable -- 27 percent of households in the lowest income group now report spending a staggering 40 percent of take-home earnings on debt payments.

Debt burdens are at record levels because families have been stretched to the limit in recent years. With more income going to housing and other rising expenses related to medical care, education, vehicles, child care, and so forth, families are relying on credit as a way to meet everyday needs. Remarkably, a family with two earners today actually has less discretionary income, after fixed costs like medical insurance and mortgage payments are accounted for, than did a family with only one breadwinner in the 1970s. [emphasis added]
This is one of those things that anyone who is over the age of 40, and who either lives in or has access to middle-class society, knows by both observation and instinct. Anyone who's trying to keep what was once a typical American life going, especially with kids and a house, knows that the slope's getting steeper.

But when you have pixie-dust salesmen like Larry Kudlow -- who thinks the President will landslide into a second term on the strength of the economy -- telling you that everything is going great, you might feel like a big loser if your own struggle isn't getting as exponentially easier as the economic experts tell you it should be.

So maybe a guy keeps his mouth shut about it, even to pollsters. For in the Fear Factory America has largely become, it hurts to admit defeat, or even a little weakness, because it is the same thing as loserhood, and in the modern imagination there is no greater crime than losing. So maybe he stays "positive," that is, works longer hours, or eats more bugs, just to stay even (and quietly accepts another five grand in debt to keep the house painted and the kids innoculated and the strain from showing too overtly); then, with the next jump in the price of staple goods, or the next disappointing raise, he steps up and does it again...

I wonder if the job has been done so well on him that he'll still feel that way in the voting booth.

YOU'VE GOT YOUR GOOD THINGS, AND I'VE GOT MINE. John J. Miller avails that popular rightwing dream-object, the cabby who confirms your prejudices:
My driver was Bosnian... Toward the end of the ride, he mentioned that he thinks Republicans are much more polite than Democrats. "Someone can be in the car with me for three minutes, and I'll know their party just from how they behave," he said... my driver turned around (we were at a red light) and lit up: "Ken Starr is the nicest man in Washington."
This contrasts strongly with the opinion of the cabbie with whom I rode last night, who told me that, during the recent Convention here, GOP delegates would routinely greet him with "To my hotel, nigger," urinate on themselves and the upholstery, and then run off without paying what they owed; whenever Rashawn (for that was my cabbie's name) shouted for a cop to apprehend the farebeaters, the delegates would merely wave their credentials in the officer's face and skip merrily away, singing the Horst Wessel Song.

Ken Starr, he noted, was particularly bad: "Fucker tried to shoot me in my own cab," said Rashawn. "But he was so fucked up on junk he couldn't draw a bead on me from the back seat, so he shot the chick that was suckin' his dick instead."

His Democratic fares, on the other hand, always offer to rub his shoulders as he drives, and tip him with summer houses in Amagansett.

Rashawn also tells me that this "little girl" is actually a 35-year-old midget who works for the RNC. "She's always blubbering about something or other," observes Rashawn. "I bet she ripped up her own sign just to get attention. A few lines of coke ought to shut her up. Back when she was dancing at the Baby Doll, she always had a frosted-donut mustache, if you know what I mean."

My cabby is no more believable than Miller's, but he's far, far more interesting.

SPEAKING OF FRAUDS. Daniel Henninger goes to Pennsylvania's Lehigh Valley:
At the seniors center in Allentown, I met a fellow who said he'd lived all his life in New York City, when one day his wife said she wanted to move out west. They made it 30 miles into Pennsylvania, stopped and stayed. He's a Bush man, supports the war and the way Mr. Bush has handled it.

Standing next to him was a fellow named Francisco Figueroa. Mr. Figueroa was wearing a red U.S. Marine Corps cap pinned with a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star. A big-city journalist too familiar with stereotypes blurted: "Guess we know where you stand." Mr. Figueroa said, "What do you mean?"

Mr. Figueroa got his medals in Vietnam, where he did advance scouting on village conditions, one of which was My Lai. He's been shot at, a lot. He is voting for John Kerry. Why? Because John Kerry was over there, in the middle of it. The other guy never was....
Then Henninger sees some flags, a Marshmallow Peeps factory, and a car race. "Lasting impression," decides Henninger, "The Bush voters sounded solid. The Kerry votes came over as soft; everyone seems aware of the flip-flop label. Timid prediction: The Lehigh Valley goes Bush."

I understand Gallup uses similar methods.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

You've never seen me sing the praises of George W. Bush the way that, say, Andrew Sullivan was doing at one point.
The Ole Perfesser is never less convincing than on those occasions when he rambles at length between quick link/heh jobs, and his latest cracker-barrel blather is perhaps the worst in his whole ignoble history. The comparison to the crimson-prosed Sullivan is telling; no one seems more grandiloquent than Sully in the throes of passion, whereas the Perfesser's schtick has ever been a pomo pretense of loftiness.

I don't need to link evidence -- go to his archive and look at any one or two pages: The guy's a straight-up Bush operative. Just the other day he blew the doors off his erstwhile pretense of support for gay marriage just to preserve style points for his beloved Bush. How long before he goes that way on drug law reform? About as long as it takes for the next wave of draconian legislation to spew forth from a reenergized Republican Congress. Then the Prof will tell us, as he did with the gay thing, how everyone should just stop fussing and wait for a "generational" shift to save us.

Maybe this conservatarian dodge baffles the unformed minds in his classroom, but why do some adults fall for it? Call Roger L. Simon's disease: a disassociative condition occuring in formerly cool guys when they look in the mirror one day and see Dick Armey staring back at them.

HA FUCKING HA. Jonah Goldberg has Marion Barry laffs, resuscitating one of his old gags about how Barry's base is well-stocked with felons. If one didn't know Goldberg's history, one might be surprised that he thought it worthy of repetition.

YOU GOTTA FIGHT TO STAY INDEPENDENT/I GOT MY PRIDE AND I'M GONNA DEFEND IT. Another Ramone done gone, this time Johnny, age 55, of prostate cancer in Los Angeles. In End of the Century, he was asked why he hadn't reached out to his old partner Joey when he was on his way out in 2001. He said that he wouldn't have wanted the shoe on the other foot: somebody he wasn't speaking to calling him up when he was dying to say how sorry he was. Knowing what we know about Johnny, the quintessential hardass, that's understandable.

Look who was with him at the end:
Along with his wife, Linda Cummings, Johnny Ramone was surrounded at his death by friends Eddie and Jill Vedder, Rob and Sherrie Zombie and others. Other friends who gathered at his Los Angeles home included Lisa Marie Presley, Pete Yorn, Vincent Gallo and Talia Shire.
Vincent Gallo and Talia Shire! I have no doubt they were really his friends, but the combination is still funny -- like Allan Arkush and Stephen King, y'know. Like a Ramones song.

R.I.P., tough guy. Thanks for putting a damper on all those wanking solos.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

DEAF FOREVER. At National Review Online, it's John J. Miller's turn to grab the crayon and write about culture. I gave him Dude points at least for choosing Iron Maiden's Powerslave as a topic, till I came to this part:
The second song is one of Iron Maiden's most familiar: "Two Minutes to Midnight." It's an anti-nuke tune whose politics aren't exactly to my liking. Although the lyrics admit that "blood is freedom's stain," they also suggest that during the Cold War, both sides were deluded. The title is a reference to the Doomsday Clock, whose main purpose is to serve as a propaganda tool of the Left. None of this means that the boys in Iron Maiden are Commie symps -— they aren't -— but a piece of me always has wished this song had been about Dunkirk or something...
I want it understood that, when I bemoan writing about the arts by conservative factota such as Miller, it's not because I believe their conservatism makes any difference, but because they invariably believe it does. Does any normal person think, "I like Whit Stillman, but I wish he had overtly praised labor unions in The Last Days of Disco," or, "I like Evelyn Waugh, but I wish he were more sensitive in matters of race and gender in Black Mischief"?

That's like saying, "I like turkey, but I wish it were pork."

These people are always bitching about how terrible it is that there are so many lefties in the arts (please, nobody tell them that musical comedy is riddled with homosexuals!), and when you read crap like Miller's it really seems as if their answer would be to nationalize culture and institute their own values by fiat and force, so that the orgasmic climax Ravel's Bolero would be interrupted by an abstinence lecture, Tom Joad in The Grapes of Wrath would wonder aloud whether it weren't selfish of him to resist dynamic capitalism just so's he and his family could have something to eat, etc.

It worked with journalism, after all. Why shouldn't it work with heavy metal?

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

GEE. THANKS. Vartan Gregorian, who was on the jury of the WTC Memorial Competition, uses that event as a springboard for a panegyric to New York City at OpinionJournal. It is hard to know why it is there, for while OJ's national politics are well-known, its journalistic politics are less comprehensible, at least to me. Gregorian was once President of the New York Public Library and seems like a decent, intelligent fellow. The Bushies like him, too, but nobody's wrong about everything.

Gregorian's comments, however, are less interesting than the OJ readers' responses to them. Some are gracious ("May New York City continue to reflect the glowing lamp of Lady Liberty"); others take a more combative tone. A couple of New Yorkers complain about the WTC plan Gregorian helped to affect. Russell Seitz of Cambridge, MA tweaks the former nabob of NYPL for closure of the Library's smoking rooms, which Seitz feels amounts "to a denial of public accommodation for the life of the mind."

A few, though, are really spooky-weird in a way that will be familiar to any who have heard conservatives discuss the City for any length of time. From Pensacola, FL, Joseph Revell takes a Falwellian tack:
One hopes that the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob doesn't notice the "proud, self-confident city that cannot be bowed" headline that leads off this fine article. If He reads just the headline and skips the article He might decide New Yorkers need to be taught a lesson in humility. "Pray for the peace of Jerusalem"--and of New York City! We do, out here in the hinterland. New York City is our city too!
One gets the feeling Revell wants to claim New York as "our city, too" in exactly the same way abusive parents assert dominion over their children. L. Gregory of Georgetown, TX, is less threatening, but equally condescending:
New York is indeed a magical place, but it sometimes forgets its true roots are in the heart of America. One of the main reasons for its remarkable survival of 9/11 was the strength it drew from all the citizens in every corner of America. The terrorists didn't just attack New York, they attacked all of us. We all contributed to its recovery, one way or another, and New York needs to remember it didn't stand alone that day...
Hold it right there, Tex. Y'all "contributed to its recovery" how? By sliding back a small chunk of the money we daily pour into the Federal coffers? By talking a good game while cutting funding to our police and firefighters and anti-terrorism efforts? If we "forget" our "true roots in the heart of America," it may be that you have made the memory unpleasant to us.

A lot of people think New Yorkers are arrogant and standoffish. The above examples may help explain why we seem so.

Monday, September 13, 2004

SHOW UP AT SHEA. Went this evening to a Met twi-night double against the Braves, arriving in the seventh inning of game one. Attendance seemed much lower than the reported 21,476 (Shea can hold 55,601); the patrons were gathered in clusters all around the ballpark, responding only weakly to all but the most spectacular events (e.g., the firing of Pepsi T-shirts into the stands). The couple behind me did their own feeble "Let's Go Mets" hand-clap at odd intervals, as if by force of habit; in front of me a couple encouraged their three young children in coordinated cheers, which they delivered with shrill glee, unmindful of the lack of spirit amongst the grown-ups in their section. Some drunk young men were occasionally inspired to bellow ("YUH DON'T BELONG IN THE BIG LEAGUES!"); many serenaded Chipper Jones with his less all-American Christian name; all booed Jae Seo lustily in game two. He seo sucked. He let in five runs and walked the Braves' pitcher. He intentionally walked "Lar-ry" Jones and then gave up a two-run double. All this despite the frenzied thunderstick encouragement of a bunch of Koreans gathered behind a "KING OF THE MOUND" banner in the right field mezzanine.

They've lost 11 of their last 13 games. You live with the Mets long enough and you get used to it. You may complain; the ticket buys you the privilege. (In the Post, a lovely photo recently appeared of two upper deck fans, one with a bag over his head, the other holding triumphantly aloft a sign that read, YA GOTTA BELIEVE -- WE STINK!) In the last days of such seasons, Shea is a desolate and miserable place. We still show up at Shea, though, because this is our team. There are worse qualities than loyalty, and ineptitude isn't one of them. Yankee fans flash their rings; Mets fans regard the fabled '69, '73, and '86 seasons almost as defeated races regard sacred myths, as bulwarks against despair, something to keep our souls alive from September swoon to glorious April, when again anything will be possible. We're kind of Irish. We gather in this grim council flat of a ballpark, with its hideous neon ornaments and aluminum siding and concrete ramps bounded by piano wire, and despite the bloodshed unfolding before us dream that Cuchulain and Michael Collins may someday hoof the mound.

Can't anyone here play this game? Wait'll next year! Ya gotta believe.

POMO POLITICS. The Ole Perfesser lays out for his acolytes the latest conservatarian dodge on gay marriage, comprising hundreds of poorly-chosen words reducible to, "I don't really give a shit, so why should you?"

There are many thrills and chills along the way (including approving quotation of a reader who blames the failure of the gay marriage movement to -- get this -- Roe v. Wade), but the fascinatingly deformed heart of the argument is: gay marriage is the wave of the future (a "generational thing"), but the Republicans are going to run everything forever and you better be nice to them if you ever want any of these rights you've been bellyaching about, generation landslide or not:
...attacking Bush on gay marriage may solidify the Democratic base, but it probably costs swing voters, at least in the short term. Second, that sort of thing can only serve to alienate Republicans, even those who are supportive, or at least not opposed to, gay marriage. [who they? -- RE] Given that right now it seems likely that we'll see a Republican Congress, and probably a Republican White House, in the coming years, that's probably poor planning, at least if you want actual change and not just an interest-group rallying cry...

It's possible to package gay marriage as a move toward traditional values and away from 1970s style hedonism (not that there's anything wrong with that). But again, you have to make the case, not call names, if you want to win people over.
Offensive as the politics of Reynolds and his crew are, it's this postmodern approach to issues that's most disturbing. You want gay marriage? Wait for it; it'll turn up, eventually, if it was meant to be. And don't get on my case if I support its professed opponents, because that's just name-calling.

Actually post-modern is probably the wrong word for it. Reynolds' POV was popular in his neck of the woods 150 years ago, when it was applied to the manumission of slaves.

Sunday, September 12, 2004

  • Smoke from barbecue of 100,000 chickens, held in honor of Dear Leader.
  • Even Dear Leader's farts are impressive, observable from outer space!
  • Exhaust from Jajus backed up on Dear Leader Expressway during massive Dear Leader Day holiday weekend traffic jam.
  • Slave labor camp smoke-break, synchronized nationwide -- a testament to Dear Leader's organizational skills.
  • Massive cloud-sculpture representing nuclear explosion is gift to Dear Leader from the thriving downtown Pyongyang arts community.
If none of these pan out, it was nice knowing you guys.

Saturday, September 11, 2004

PINHEAD. Finally saw the Ramones doc, End of the Century. It isn't so much artful as artifactual. It owes a lot to the "oral biography" form George Plimpton invented with Edie (and bears more than a historical resemblance to the punk chronicle Please Kill Me). This technique absents the filmmakers from the responsibility of a POV; they just dump a lot of clips, interviews, and supers on the table, and leave us to savor whichever juicy bits we prefer.

There are a lot of juicy bits, though, and even the fellow among us who was more or less unacquainted with the band enjoyed it. Of course, if you love the Ramones, the juice is more bittersweet.

I already knew a lot of their history, and I knew something, too, about punk aesthetics and the rigors of rock life. But the movie added details that made that -- all of that -- a bit clearer to me.

For example, I'd heard Johnny was the taskmaster of the band, but I didn't realize how completely he was devoted to his Will to Power: how everything about his life -- from the musical discipline to his own personal behavior -- was given over to a maniacal vision of domination. (I thought they were kidding with the Nuremberg theatrics of their big shows, but now I'm not so sure -- at least in his case.) And I came to believe something I'd always known by instinct: that a band pretty much needs an asshole who's always cracking heads and barking out the master plan; otherwise, as Johnny put it, "everybody just flounders around."

It also seems that Johnny's genius (I really think that's the word) at directing his bandmates' gifts and energies into a beautiful rock machine was also a personal catastrophe for everyone involved. Legs McNeil says in the film that Joey had to become a rock star because the poor, gawky, pathologically introverted guy "would have stood out anyway." Maybe. And maybe Dee Dee was better off playing bass than sniffing Carbona and boosting cars. (He might have OD'd sooner, too.) But our gain -- their magnificent albums and shows -- sure looks like their loss in the movie.

If you've been in a band for more than a little while (five years was my longest sentence) you know what the wear and tear can be like. If you're not completely empty-headed (and a lot of people do get through on that; we are talking about musicians, after all), interpersonal relationships tend to devolve into Eugene O'Neill territory very quickly. After a few years of working in an office with a guy, you will probably have learned almost nothing real about him. But if you tour a couple of times with the same guy, you will know more about him than his mother does. Factor in the painful sensitivity of creative people, and drugs and alcohol, and women, and financial hassles, and you get the House of Atreus plus hearing loss.

So watching Dee Dee gabble was very entertaining, and Joey's presence is always sweet, and it was a pleasure to hear inside dope from Tommy and Marky and all the affiliates, but Jesus Christ, I half-think it would have been worth losing Rocket to Russia if these guys could have become sheet-metal workers and obtained houses in Queens and maybe 401Ks and raised dull children and gotten together at holiday picnics and laughed about the dreams they'd once had of forming a great band. And Rocket to Russia is one of my favorite things on earth.

Because they all seemed fucking miserable. The moment when Johnny is asked if he cared when Joey died and he stammers behind huge violet shades, "Maybe, because of some weakness in myself… Maybe, because he was part of the Ramones, and the Ramones was something I loved… if someone threw something at him, I would go after the guy…" is about as depressing as it gets.

That doesn't mean I can’t enjoy their music any more. I, too, am a pinhead. I pissed away all my chances at normalcy and it is far, far too late to get them back, and the bushels of words and music I pour into the resulting hole have their charms, but they don't come close to filling it. Nonetheless, I still have enough soul left to wish better than that for others.

Friday, September 10, 2004

OH SHUT UP PROFESSOR."Powerline notes that the Kerry campaign is playing the Creedence Clearwater song Fortunate Son, as a subtle dig at George W. Bush's National Guard service... It's a great song. But, of course, the song was written by John Fogerty, who served stateside in the Reserves... Does the Kerry Campaign think that John Fogerty betrayed his country by not serving in Vietnam?"

See, that Kerry is such a flip-flopper he plays music by guys who didn't go to Vietnam.

When they ran out of rocks to throw, they threw pebbles, and when they ran out of pebbles they threw dirt, and when they ran out of dirt -- well, they'll never run out of dirt.


Used without permission, but I think Atrios will understand. Attaturk, a newly-established typewriter expert, has more.

Can't tell where this claim that embarrassing Bush documents are forgeries will end up, but it sure is interesting how fast it got into print via the Old New Media network (John Podhoretz -- yeah, that figures), and how the story has now changed from (unsubstantiated) These are obvious forgeries if you know how to look at 'em to (substantiated) Hey, Ma, we're in the papers!

As Attaturk also pointed out, "Amazing how the Freepers are able to get this Forgery Spin into the Media in less than 24 hours, yet it took them 3 Fucking Weeks to beat down the Swift Boat Smearers with a boatload of written documentation contradicting them."

Capitalization aside, I get where he's coming from. Forget the old saw that ends with "...before Truth gets its boots on." I suspect Truth is still in bed, or in its grave, as liars run rampant, screaming and ringing hand-bells as hard as they can.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

PERSPECTIVE. I see someone's doing something about the Sudan:
A draft resolution introduced by the United States to step up pressure on Sudan over the crisis in Darfur met strong opposition at the United Nations Security Council on Thursday.

The 15-nation council was divided over the US proposal, with Pakistan, Algeria and Russia voicing objections to it and European Union countries such as Britain and Germany throwing weight behind it, council diplomats said.
One could expect that sort of opposition from our soulful-eyed sometimes-ally Russia and our erstwhile buttboys in Pakistan (they get a lot of oil from Pakistan), but support from Germany! Who'd-a thunk it? Aren't they our enemies again? I mean they backed our invasion of Afghanistan, but didn't their lack of cooperation in Iraq put them into what the great minds among us call the Axis of Weasels?

And whither their partner-in-crime France? "Chile, Benin, Romania, France and Spain made positive comments," reports Reuters. "However they said France also questioned the need for sanctions threats at this time." Close, but no Chardonnay. Never fear, another round of funny nicknames will bring them around.

For those who joined us late, the United Nations is a deliberative body prone to the same sort of Byzantine political reversals as the U.S. Congress, where members of the famously pecunious Republican Party regularly vote to balloon our deficits.

In such situations, if you don't you work with the members, they don't work with you.

If this is unimportant, why are we even in the U.N.? Swing votes? Or do we really not take this genocide very seriously? (Hint: our lead dog in the operation is the long-invisible Colin Powell.)

Bonus question: Can we afford an invasion?