Sunday, November 28, 2004
Originally uploaded by jonnybutter.
Like many bloggers, I've been taking a little break lately; I had no idea how burnt-out I was until I stopped! Anyway, it's been nice to get away from it for a few days. I've got some pieces brewing and should get back to more frequent posting this week.
In the meantime...a couple fun facts about Cheney:
1.) Is everyone aware that he is only 63 years old?! (He'll be 64 at the end of January '05.) Our National Dick is not only Unsafe At Any Speed but also Old At Any Age.
2.) His name was originally pronounced 'CHEEnee'. Evidently, once he ascended/decended into the 'bigtime' people just assumed it was 'CHAY-nee', and it stuck. He mentioned all this a couple years ago, and also said he might revert to the original pronunciation. I've been derisively calling him 'CHEEnee' for years, and am delighted to have been right all along.
One other thing. A few weeks ago, I silently added a blog called 'Your Right Hand Thief' to my blogroll; I thought a seamless 'excuse' for citing one of his posts would present itself, but I guess my imagination wasn't up to it. I've been reading it for several months, and commend it to you - no excuse needed. Oyster does a good job, managing to be both informative and funny about goings on in his hometown of New Orleans and elsewhere. A recent post about vital fluids, security, and the perils of young parenthood is laugh-out-loud; also check out one about a busted New Orleans madam who is about to spill the beans on some of her High Snazz clients (the usual suspects - moral/political leaders, sports stars). Good stuff.
Monday, November 22, 2004
White Man's Burden
don't try to look behind my eyes
Originally uploaded by jonnybutter.
I'm guessing anybody who happens to read my blog also reads Josh Marshall's (if not, make a new bookmark!). He's really been on top of the recent Istook and DeLay matters, bless him. Istook's newest denial has some 'interesting' language in it:
"We have a chain of command problem over whether the subcommittee staff are ultimately accountable to the full committee staff-who represent the full committee chairman-or to the subcommittee chairman.".
Got that? It's just a 'chain of command problem'. That has a nice ring to it....
"Our committee has responsibility for the IRS budget. That includes its personnel, facilities and equipment. This language wasn't sufficiently reviewed because it was drafted by the IRS, so our staff presumed that it was okay. The IRS drafted this language at staff request, in an effort to make it clear that our oversight duties include visiting and inspecting the huge IRS processing centers-but NOT inspecting tax returns."
In other words: humina humina humina. We didn't look at it because we requested it and figured it was OK. What?! Why in the world would the IRS write language explicitly giving the right to look at tax returns to committee chairmen? Here's the actual language in question:
Hereinafter, notwithstanding any other provision of law governing the disclosure of income tax returns or return information, upon written request of the Chairman of the House or Senate Committee on Appropriations, the Commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service shall allow agents designated by such Chairman access to Internal Revenue Service facilities and any tax returns or return information contained therein.
Mr Marshall also catches what is apparently the spin du jour on Delay:
CBS's David Paul Kuhn quotes "an official involved in the investigation" as saying he thinks a DeLay indictment is unlikely and that DeLay's lawyers already know that.
Material further down in the article suggests that while DeLay was "kept aware" of illegal activities being committed on his behalf that the investigators have not been able to uncover evidence that DeLay "acted to promote" the illegal activity and they haven't been able to uncover sufficient evidence of that.
Josh wonders why, if his lawyers don't think he's going to get indicted after all, Delay would bother with the rather embarrassing House rule change. Good question. Spin is always interesting more for the details than for the 'headline' - in this case, a bit of moral/rhetorical plea bargaining: the difference between being 'kept aware' of illegal activities and 'promoting' them.
Such wonderful standards our government officials see fit to maintain! Working class-resentment-hero Richard Nixon called it 'plausable deniability', but blue-bloods like the Bushes have always known it simply as, 'If you can't be good, be careful'. Of course in Istook's case, he surely does what he does for our 'own good' whether we like it or not; he carries the awesome burden of knowing what's best for all of us.
Saturday, November 20, 2004
Texas Hold 'Em; Texas Squeeze 'Em.
tassled loafers; tousled hair; sealed lips
Originally uploaded by jonnybutter.
Although they might not particularly relate to the money-greed, Oliver North and John Poindexter would still love the sheer conceptual beauty of it. Former Tom DeLay aide/spokesman Michael Scanlon (pictured above) and his partner, lobbyist Jack Abramoff, in conjunction with the Fair-haired boy of the GOP, really did come up with one killer plan, and doesn't every red blooded American 'love it when a plan comes together'?
The Washington Post previously reported that Abramoff and Scanlon quietly worked with conservative religious activist Ralph Reed to help persuade the state of Texas to shut down the Tigua [El Paso] casino in 2002, then persuaded the tribe to pay the $4.2 million to try to get Congress to reopen it.
Wow. Light that cigar, boys.
But that's not all! Have we got a deal for you! Just $11 down and $11 dollars a month! That's right, you heard right: just $11 dollars down and $11 dollars a month! And if you don't have the $11 dollars.....we'll loan ya the $11 dollars:
Documents released yesterday show that when the Tiguas were out of money in 2003, Abramoff came up with a plan to provide term life insurance to tribal elders, who would make their beneficiary a Jewish school Abramoff founded in Wheaton. The school would pay Abramoff's lobbying fees at the firm of Greenberg Traurig, from which he was ousted earlier this year.
You see, Abramoff and Scanlon were all about helping these tribes help themselves:
The tribe also was asked to pay $50,000 for Ney [Rep. Robert W. Ney (R-Ohio)] and several others to accompany Abramoff on a golfing trip to St. Andrews, Scotland. According to testimony yesterday, however, two other tribes ultimately paid $50,000 each for that trip. Among those who accompanied Abramoff and Ney was Reed.
I'm thinking we need to establish a ''RoyCohn Memorial Hall of Fame' award. The first inductee would have to be Ralph Reed, who in recent years has moved away from the gospel music of his youth, turning instead to the earthy, sensual, secular soundscape of R&B and Soul.
Of course there are downsides to any job. These lobbyists and 'Public Relations Executives' did have to actually spend some of their precious time dealing with idiots and troglodytes:
When Scanlon complained [in an email] on March 5, 2003, about an Agua Caliente tribal member, Abramoff counseled: "I think the key thing to remember with all these clients is that they are annoying, but that the annoying losers are the only ones which have this kind of money and part with it so quickly."
Quid pro quo.
Thursday, November 18, 2004
You're the Top!
we don't windsurf; we Astroglide
Originally uploaded by jonnybutter.
When is a metaphor not a metaphor? Do some of our lower/middle class 'moral values' voters object primarily to literal buggery, as memorably described in the Texas State GOP Platform?
"The Party believes that the practice of sodomy tears at the fabric of society.."
Or do they object to figurative sphincter-screwing, too? So far, it looks like mostly the former, but we ought to, at long last, find out for sure in the coming months. As the Washington Post reveals today, the PRI...er, I mean the GOP, has some tax reform plans up their...sleeves:
The administration plans to push major amendments that would shield interest, dividends and capitals gains from taxation, expand tax breaks for business investment and take other steps intended to simplify the system and encourage economic growth, according to several people who are advising the White House or are familiar with the deliberations.
The changes are meant to be revenue-neutral. To pay for them, the administration is considering eliminating the deduction of state and local taxes on federal income tax returns and scrapping the business tax deduction for employer-provided health insurance, the advisers said.
Is this some sort of Tantric Economics - reabsorbing rather than 'spending?! IS there even any 'trickle down', so to speak?
I think Dan Conley puts it best:
So...hard working families barely getting by on $30,000 a year and who voted for Bush because he shares your moral values, welcome to his America, a place where you'll have to spend $5000 out of pocket each year to pay for your boss's dividend tax cut.
Just relax and try to enjoy it, Red America. You'll get used to it.
Wednesday, November 17, 2004
Let The 'Eagle' Soarrr!
for Mature Adults Only
Originally uploaded by jonnybutter.
Imagine how hard it must be to put out The Onion every week! I don't know how they stick to their charge of doing parody news when so much of the news itself defies parody. That they don't swing into wild clotted satire is a testiment to their nerve and resolve.
Lex A. over at Blog on the Run catches a good one from the Indiana caucus of that Exhaltation of Larks, that Pride of Lionhearts, the Cream, the Seed of Genius we know as the US House of Representitives. A Rep. Hostettler is introducing legislation to change the name of interstate I-69 to something more 'moral'. Really. Seems that teenagers snigger when he wears an 'I-69' pin (there is such a thing?). So clearly, this is an issue which needs to be put 'front and center', so to speak.
By the way, Lex's blog is a good one, and particularly notable because Lex is one of a dying breed: the reasonable, funny, sane, moderate Republican. People like him serve to remind us that it's not only people of the GOP who have valiantly carried on the real, moral work of the government - for example, introducing such concepts as oral sex at gunpoint to hapless youngsters....but, let's face it, it mostly is them. Sorry Lex. The Club For Growth calls people like you RINOs, but naturally, they're actually describing themselves, aren't they?
[UPDATE: Thanks to Ken at Heraldblog for the heads up that the 1-69 story is apparently a hoax. The perpetrator, a middle school geography teacher named Josh Whicker "just thought it would be a funny news story that some might believe was real." I guess the tip-off should've been the 'I-69 pin', an unlikely detail. The upshot is that this story was very easy to believe, unlike the horse pucky some of the PMRC ladies believed about heavy metal records (11 cycle tones, secret messages, backwards masking, etc.)]
Tuesday, November 16, 2004
The New, Real 'Realism'?
Here he is, for example, on the future of Asia vis a vis the Middle East:
Already, Asia as a whole takes the lion's share of the energy coming out of the Persian Gulf, dwarfing what this country imports from the region. Our energy requirements will rise by less than a third over the next two decades, whereas Asia's will roughly double over the same time span. In short, we can expect India, China, a united Korea, and Japan to all come militarily to the Middle East in a much bigger way than their miniscule efforts to date. They will come either to join the growing security alliances our current efforts in the region will hopefully someday beget, or they will come to salvage what security relationships they can out of the strategic disaster we have generated by our mistakes. Either way, these Asian powers will be coming, because their economic interests will eventually compel it. My point is this: nothing we should do in this realignment process should be construed by any of these states as constituting a zero-sum strategy on our part to deny them military—much less economic—access to the region. If anything, our base realignment process should not only encourage stronger military ties with all of these states, but do so in such a way as to facilitate their eventual entry into the region under the conditions most conducive to our long-range objectives of transforming states there into stable members of a larger security community that will be—by definition of both geography and economic transactions—more Asian in character than Western.
Keep your eye on the C-SPAN schedules for his return to that network around Christmas.
Thursday, November 11, 2004
Originally uploaded by jonnybutter.
There's this little piece of apocrypha floating around the 'net. You may have seen it. It's a mock Kerry concession speech (thanks NS). It's harsh, and not completely fair, but much more fact-based than the hateful, bizzare, ignorant spew coming from the 'wingers, including mainstream, elected ones. And this wasn't written by a crazed lefty. Some of you red state people have pissed off some very moderate, even conservative, blue state folks. None of us really knows yet what you've sewn, both by re-electing an incompetent, obviously poor president, and by indulging your ignorance, superstition and savage Pride - by voting for national division and personal vanity writ large. All Americans will pay for both mistakes, but you a little more. You will reap a withering scorn much greater than you imagine yourselves to be the target of now, fair or not. BTW, I see 'moral values' (strictly speaking) as less central to this election than our annoymous writer might. But that doesn't really matter. You've pissed off a lot of non-Hollywood, non-elite, non-smug, non-decadent moderates and true conservatives this time. Not marching-in-the-street pissed-off. Less obvious, but also less ephemeral than that. It will come back to you in one form and/or another. I'll feel sorry for you when you're safely marginalized, politically. You are radicals in a very conservative country, and it will be, ironically, America's true, hard-nosed, practical conservatism which will put the kabosh on you in the end.
Again, the following piece is a little over the top, but also again, it's worlds away from the frothing 'freeper' type stuff, or even some of our new US Senators' raps. And it does express a core political emotion a lot of us feel - namely, that you're dangerous and have gone too far, whether you meant to do or not. When the next Bush disasters come - whether you are slow or fast to admit to them - a lot of us will be thinking about you, politically. You choose to be 'divided'? Careful what you wish for.
I don't see anything wrong with 'publishing' stuff I would never write myself (eg this folk-explication of the religious right.) We don't have a script or talking points. We have to make our own, and the only way to start is to start. Not only the nuanced, researched, meticulously accurate political positions matter: the ferment matters, too.
Anyhow, here's how this person wishes Kerry had conceded (an exerpt):
I concede that I put too much faith in America's youth. With 8 out of 10 of Â you opposing the President, with your friends and classmates dying daily in a war you disapprove of, with your future being mortgaged to pay for rich old peoples' tax breaks, you somehow managed to sit on your asses and watch the Cartoon Network while aging homophobic hillbillies carried the day. You voted with the exact same anemic percentage that you did in 2000. You suck. Seriously, y'do. Thank you. Thank you very much.
There are some who would say that I sound bitter, that now is the time for healing, to bring the nation together. Let me tell you a little story. Last night, I watched the returns come in with some friends here in Los Angeles. As the night progressed, people began to talk half-seriously about secession, a red state / blue state split. The reasoning was this: We in blue states produce the vast majority of the wealth in this country and pay the most taxes, and you in the red states receive the majority of the money from those taxes while complaining about 'em. We in the blue states are the only ones who've been attacked by foreign terrorists, yet you in the red states are gung ho to fight a war in our name. We in the blue states produce the entertainment that you consume so greedily each day, while you in the
red states show open disdain for us and our values. Blue state civilians are the actual victims and targets of the war on terror, while red state civilians are the ones standing behind us and yelling "Oh, yeah!? Bring it on!"
More than 40% of you Bush voters still believe that Saddam Hussein had something to do with 9/11. I'm impressed by that, truly I am. Your sons and daughters who might die in this war know it's not true, the people in the urban centers where al Qaeda wants to attack know it's not true, but those of you who are at practically no risk believe this easy lie because you can. As part of my concession speech, let me say that I really envy that luxury. I concede that.
Healing? We, the people at risk from terrorists, the people who subsidize you, the people who speak in glowing and respectful terms about the heartland of America while that heartland insults and excoriates us... we wanted some healing. We spoke loud and clear. And you refused to give it to us, largely because of your high moral values. You knew better: America doesn't need its allies, doesn't need to share the burden, doesn't need to unite the world, doesn't need to provide for its future. Hell no. Not when it's got a human shield of pointy-headed, atheistic, unconfrontational breadwinners who are willing to pay the bills and play nice in the vain hope of winning a vote that we can never have. Because we're "morally inferior," I suppose, we are supposed to respect your values while you insult ours. And the big joke here is that for 20 years, we've done just that.
It's not a "ha-ha" funny joke, I realize, but it's a joke all the same.
Resentment Inc. Countering that is important. It's true that non-far-right radio doesn't 'do' anger as well. So? Don't do anger as your whole 'format'. Don't do their format, don't fight them on their terms. Do your own - more entertaining: more (gasp) informative, funnier, saner. Of course, do anger when it's called for and will be effective. We have to be a little more cool and cunning. Look what we're up against.
(I haven't heard any of the satellite radio shows. Has anybody? There's some promise there, maybe.)
The old Democratic party has a lingering sort of 'church/state' problem about 'mixing' marketing with politics, namely the quaint notion that an election is about facts and argument, and should be a time for civic rationality, not selling. Ever since Nixon in '68, the GOP has been an unabashed leader in using marketing in politics. Voila, Dubya, who's almost completely imaginary.
We have to face the fact that marketing is not always inherently good or bad in itself. It has uses other than conning people. It's really a new kind of communication. It's not going away, regardless. The way to fight the dangers of political marketing is to master the art, not shy away from it.
Easy for me to say. Just a thought.
Sunday, November 07, 2004
Some Election Thoughts
he WAS, but he 'reinvented himself'
Originally uploaded by jonnybutter.
First: I didn't speak ill of Kerry once he'd won the nomination, but I sure as hell did beforehand. He's a stiff, a bore. I attended one of his 'Real Deal' rallies during the IA caucuses: two and a half hours of mausoleumony. By the time Kerry got to the stage, you were so bored as to be a tough audience for even a good speaker. And of course, he wasn't one. The endless drone, the reflexive arm/finger jabbing...a good man - actually, a very good man - but not a good candidate, as we currently understand the concept. Versus Bush, he was - by orders of magnitude - the better choice for president. Not that THAT matters...
Let's face it, people like a 'hook', and Kerry didn't have one. Bush - who's at least as big a dork - did:
Vote for me because the rest of the world hates me. Vote for me because all them Europeans and liberal elite big time movie stars tell you you're stupid to vote for me. And the New York Times! They're callin' you stupid! You gonna let them tell Americans who to vote for? America decides. [to self: I decide, actually].
Bush values are the worst values. They are the values of self-indulgence and irresponsibility. This 'voting against the world', for instance, is a purile self-indulgence for which we will pay dearly. Like the furniture store which 'goes out of business' every few months, it's our latest 'last and final' let's-be-idiots swan song; even though we've 'lost our innocence' several hundred times, it always seems to seep back. We Americans are loath to give up what we see as our right - our entitlement - to fuck up even though we know better. I guess every over-grown adolescent goes through that. More about 'values' later.
Second: Don't blame Edwards. During the primaries, Kerry started winning using Edwards' rhetoric - often word for word. Just ripped it off. I think one reason Kerry chose Edwards was for rhetoric. You often heard Edwards-lines show up in Kerry's speeches during the general election, too (Kerry was not disciplined enough to make them work; he was not really very good on the stump ever). We need guys like Edwards and Obama, who are smart and can talk. Some have grumbled that Gephardt would've been the correct choice, because he could've won MO. Gep would've been a bad choice. Two stiffs (and both from the 'yesterday' generation) on the same ticket. And there's no guarantee he would've carried MO for Kerry. Iowa either. And you can't blame Edwards for not getting more of the rural vote, which supposedly was his 'job'. The problem is, the vice pres. nominee is a surrogate for the pres. nominee and his campaign, he's captive to that. He can't go out into the countryside and fight the Rove Master Plan alone. Edwards is a very smart guy, smarter than many people seem to think - because of the way he looks, mainly, and his role in the Kerry campaign. No backlash on Edwards, please. He allowed himself to be humiliated for the sake of the party and the country. He deserves thanks, not scorn.
Third: Americans just like their tv. They don't want to watch Kerry for four years. I think several pres. nominees have lost for this reason, partially. People joke about it, but I think some really mean it.
[UPDATE: Commenter and fine blogger Eric suggests that a preponderance of Americans vote with their hearts rather than their heads. I think that's right, but that they really want to vote with both, if possible. The good news in this election is that Kerry at least came close to winning despite offering pretty much only 'head' reasons to vote for him. The bad news is, of course, that he lost. The bad news is that the callow, arrogant prick won: "I earned capital in the campaign, political capital, and now I intend to spend it; that's my style."]
[UPDATE 2: Randy Newman's song 'Political Science' was written and recorded in the 1960s, but is just as appropriate now. The coda:
Let's drop the Big One, there'll be no one left to blame us:
BOOM goes London
More room for you 'n' more room for me
And every city
The whole world 'round
Will just be another American Town, oh
How peacefull it will be
We'll set EVERYBODY free!
You get a Japanese Kimono, baby; it's Italian shoes for me!
They all hate us anyhow.
So let's drop the Big One Now
Let's drop the Big One Now
Saturday, November 06, 2004
Without Thee I'm Nothing
is it your day to be god or mine?
Originally uploaded by jonnybutter.
The intelligent and politically savvy Dan Conley is back, and has pin-pointed the 'problem' with us Blue-staters: we don't sin enough. Clearly, without a big increase in our Hypocrisy Quotient, the very foundations of judeo-christian culture are at risk.
Thursday, November 04, 2004
I Thought Jesus Sat in a Purple Chair
Now, the comment in question, and many thanks BNMP, whoever you are:
Understanding the Religious-Right
Well, I personally think that religion is what happened on election day Nov 2. I attended my local Kerry/Edwards party on Tuesday. The problem of the religious-right came up. We all agreed that something is going to have to be done about these religious people. However, I get the impression that most Democrats don't understand the religious-right, who they are and how they break down. As a person that grow up in the Charismatic Church from age 4 to age 13, I can help with this. I am not an expert, but I can give the basics.
The top reasons for being a Republican are the following: 1)Greed, 2) Religion, 3)Fear(losing guns or terrorists), 4)Racism
The threat to the Republican are the following: 1)People of Color, 2) Regular people, 3) Poor people.
Well, the republicans targeted one of their threats through the religious-right. This threat would be the people of color. They made some successful inroads in this area. The black vote went from 9% in 2000 to 13% in 2004 nationally. The Latinos in Florida went wild for Bush this year. We should think about Texas, there are tons of people of all kinds of colors. However, there is a lot of religious-right influences in this state.
The primary threat to the Democrats is the Pat Robertson crowd of churches. These churches break-down into the following categories:1)Charismatics, 2)Pentecostals, 3)Assembly of God, 4)Church of God, )Evangelicals, 6)Evangelical Free, 7)Full Gospel, 8)Foursquare Gospel, 9)Apostolic, 10) what is called the Five-Fold ministry. Watch churches that call themselves 11)into Prophecy, 12)Faith-based ministry, 13)Non-denominational, 14)Inter-denominational
The secondary threat to the Democrats are the Jerry Falwell crowd of churches.
These churches break-down into the following categories: 1) Fundamental Baptists, 2) Independent Baptists, 3)Southern Baptists, 4) Some of the white General Baptist churches.
The above is the real threat to Democrats. Now, some of you may not know any people like this or kids. This isn't a surprise to me. Many of these types of Christians in Robertson's and Falwell's Fundamental/Independent Baptist crowd shelter their lives and children from the real world. Many of their children are home schooled or go to Christian schools. Christian school is very different from Catholic, Private or Prep schools. Christian schools are not as focused on education or technology, but religion and discipline (corporal punishment is strong in many Christian schools). Examples of Christian schools are the following: Evangelical Christian school, Christian Academy of Knoxville, Temple Baptist Academy , Knoxville Christian School. There are so many more of these schools in Knoxville and state of Tennessee and all around the country. I would not recommend them academically. My Mom put me in one and I paid for it academically until high school. I was way behind when I went to public school in 7th grade. Teachers in these schools are often hired on their religious affiliation and not their qualifications. There curriculums are all written by religious people and that is the only reason they use them not because they are the best. I can't stand the Abeka curriculum. Other curriculums are Bob Jones Press, and Saxon.
These types are Christians send their kids to colleges like the following: Oral Roberts University(OK), Bob Jones University(SC), Brigham Young University(UT), Liberty University- Falwell's University(VA), Lee University(TN), Johnson Bible College(TN), Crown College(TN), David Lipscomb University(TN) etc.. these types of universities are all around the country as well.
I think Democrats need to find away to go after the Religious-Right. A good place to learn about the Religious-Right is to watch Christian television. In my area, we have 3 stations on our basic cable of this. All of these networks are run by Charismatic/Pentecostal type of Christians These would be the following: 1) Trinity Broadcast Network (TBN), 2) Christian Television Network, 3) INSP - The Inspiration Network, 4) Sometimes you will see things on PAX, the program Worship comes on late at night between 12:00AM and 4:00AM or 5:00AM. It the kind of worship that would be common in a Pat Robertson type of church.
I can tell you what types of sermons you will hear in the Charismatic/Pentecostal Church. Their sermons tend to be based on the following: 1)Prosperity, 2) Seed Faith, 3)Tithes/Offering, 4)Supernatural Healing, 5) Self-perfection, 6)Salvation and 7)Morality.
You won't hear much about the following:1) Love thy neighbor, 2)Helping people, 3)Helping the poor and 4)Kindness. However, you may hear that the poor are cursed because they don't live for God, pay tithes or sow seed.
Fundamental Baptist preach a lot about what is wrong with other faiths and salvation.
The directory of Charismatic and Pentecostal Churches
Assembly of God Home page
Religions that are fairly new, but growing and something to watch or be concerned about:
You should also keep in mind that cults like the Jim Jones/Jonestown
and David Koresh
Both of these guys came out of the Charismatic Church. The power of many Charismatic preachers is amazing. They can suck all kinds of people up. David killed some very educated people and people of color.
Wednesday, November 03, 2004
Make Them Wear Lead Boots
Originally uploaded by jonnybutter.
I plan on being depressed for a bit.
After that, though, I'm for the resumption of the fight - harder now. These assholes (B/C) are as dangerous as they ever were, if not more. We must help them get the worst case of 'second-term-itis' in history. Scandal, indictments, fierce and focused criticism - rain them all down on these people, to the extent that they and the rest of the Republican party wish they had lost.
This post was written a couple days ago, but I didn't want to be dour and post it before. May as well now. Congratulations, America! You're a dumbass!
BTW, the only silver lining in this is that now Bush will have to deal with his own disasters. We owe it to ourselves to make him the lamest of lame duck presidents ever. Let's at least make sure that Dubya completely destroys the GOP while he's fucking up this country and other areas...(doesn't seem like a very good trade, does it?).
Now we hold not only Bush, but McCain, Giulianni and the rest of them responsible.
One of the great things about having vibrant internets is finding that there are so many smart, interesting people out there. Really. One was more used to the prevalence of knuckleheads before the advent of the internets (the inevitable 'fuck you' scrawled onto our civic bathroom wall), so I don't focus on all the stupidity - we knew about that already. It really is heartening that there are so many people who have something worthwhile to say, or to at least ask: 'non-professional' volunteers who report, ask and argue simply because they want to. But another benefit is finding a relatively obscure 'professional' you've never heard of, who's been writing for decades and is damned good. Thanks to the inner-netts you get to read them too. Thanks to reader Allmaya, I now know about Michael Ventura of the Austin Chronicle. I've read only a few back columns, but I get the impression that Allmaya is right: at his best, he's really excellent. In his latest, Welcome to the Situation, he 'outs' a truth that many of us - especially above a certain age - know in our hearts and bones:
The great days of the United States of America are over. Nothing will bring those days back. It's too late. The damage has been done. There is no possible political, military, or economic solution. The general prosperity of the Fifties and Sixties (as opposed to the one-sided prosperity of the Nineties) is irretrievable. The capacity of the U.S. to lead the world has been drained. The only question is how America will decline – gracefully, clumsily, or tragically?
I wouldn't put it quite so starkly as 'The great days of the United States of America are over'. Indeed, if we accede to Mr Ventura's council and 'grow up', we will surely have some great - in some ways, greater - days ahead. But you know what he means. Economic decline. Yes, great 'damage has been done', but it's even a little more obvious than that: no country can forever stay in the position of absolute economic dominance the US enjoyed after WW2. A decline from THAT was inevitable. As it happens, the administration of George W. Bush begs the issue of Decline, because they seem to want to just get it over with, smash it up, level down all at once - another meaning for the phrase 'race to the bottom'; what Mr Ventura calls a 'crash landing'. Will we ever know why human beings can have an inate attraction to decay, to death? I think Mr Bush's mystic political appeal is partially explained by this attraction. Something in our nature makes us intrigued in spite of ourselves. Ask Zarqawi.
Will we decline with our Constitution intact? Will our decline make us more tolerant and interesting, or meaner and more dulled? Britain declined drastically between 1914 and 1950, yet still produced great literature and a leader of the caliber of Winston Churchill. France declined just as badly, yet still had the cultural power to produce influential art and philosophy. Europe as a whole declined during the 20th century, but retained the intellectual vitality to reinvent itself for the 21st and become another kind of power. How will America decline? At this moment in history, that is the important question: How will America decline?
Indeed, that is the main question. Will we plan for the future? Will we leverage our current strengths (including our Constitution and other cultural treasures) so as to glide down as slowly as possible or will we just dive bomb?
Mr Ventura's column is well worth reading in its entirety. It's not cheerful reading, but, let's face it, sobriety can offer its own kind of deeper relief sometimes.
Tuesday, November 02, 2004
President Bush: Fuck Yeah! 2
Monday, November 01, 2004
The All-Important Hitchens Endorsement
Until recently, CH was unequivocally pro-Bush. He's now neutral, which I think is as it really should be.
Here he is today (election-eve) with his non-endorsement:
At a campus event quite late in her life, when asked in a whiny way by a member of the audience "why have you not endorsed gay lib?" [Lillian Hellman] paused briefly. Her thick and darkened spectacles were opaque. "The forms of fucking," she finally declared, "do not require my endorsement."
That would be vaguely analogous to my view of this depressing and trivial election campaign, in which I do not in any case yet have the right, let alone the inclination, to vote.
This is as close to admitting error as Hitchens gets, and notice how ultra-grouchy - surly - he is to have to get so close. Yes, Christopher, it has indeed been a trivial and depressing election campaign. (If you were eligible, would you be voting for the campaign? It's an odd sentence). Your erstwhile Standard Bearer's side has been responsible for the lion's share of the triviality and debasement. (Unfortunately for your formulation of US politics, Michael Moore is not part of the Kerry campaign, but John O'Neill is, all but technically, part of the Bush one.) Strangely, us Americans 'outside the beltway' don't think it's a trivial election at all. Pity us poor rubes who actually think it really does matter who wins it - or at the very least who loses it.
From his original non-endorsement at Slate:
I do think that Bush deserves praise for his implacability...
Yes, Mr Hitchens, that's you all over.
....and that Kerry should get his worst private nightmare and have to report for duty.
Hitchens hates Kerry for touting his service in Vietnam in this campaign. He reckons that service as nothing to be proud of, which is a defensible argument. However, he carefully elides Kerry's own later fight against that war; for all CH's righteous indignation about Vietnam, Kerry's anti-war (and then reconciliation) efforts were more consequential than anything Hitchens did or could've done at the time or since. And CH says nothing at all about the smear campaign against Kerry because of his protest of, rather than service in, the war. Oh well, 'adjustments' like that must be made when you're a person like Hitchens, and....implacable (a euphemism for 'never wrong').
Christopher Hitchens hasn't chosen to become an American citizen for a very good reason: he isn't really an American in any meaningful way; rather, he's a cosmopolitan, one whose portfolio includes the US. In no sense do I mean this as a criticism of him. He is probably more useful - and is definitely more interesting - from his perspective as a true 'citizen of the world', anyway. I also don't mean to suggest that he's 'disloyal' or that he shouldn't be welcome to become a US citizen if he chooses to do (he has American children). But as a writer and critic, he doesn't see the world through the eyes of an American. I repeat without any irony or snark: there's absolutely nothing wrong with that - the reverse, in fact.
CH writes so incredibly well about things he understands, that when he's writing about something he doesn't understand - in this case, the USA - it's glaringly obvious; check out his reviews of art or music, for instance (luckily, he admits to not understanding them very well). I think the America outside the beltway, outside the largest cities, and off the campuses, frightens and bewilders him. I don't think he has a clue about it. His characterizations of the American People are, perhaps inadvertently, condescending, hollow. His answer to our fear and anger about Bush's degradation of our government: 'there, there now children, settle down; Bush won't be president forever and it'll all be alright, so just simmer down' (a paraphrase). He couldn't care less. Perhaps he shouldn't. Fine. We shouldn't take his domestic political opinions very seriously, either, for the most part. Hitchens is fascinating and has much to teach, but his journalistic American political writing has become a kind of glittering garbage since 9/11. Embarrassingly bad. Strange phenomenon, isn't it?