Monday, June 30, 2008

Liberal Enemies




There are plenty of reasons to oppose John McCain's candidacy, as well as slamming the man himself. By all accounts, McCain is a potential national nightmare, though not that long ago he was perhaps the most popular Republican among Clinton/Gore liberals.

Times and tastes change.

Ask Joe Lieberman who, if many liberals had their wish, would be completing his second term as vice-president, even while he is despised by leading libloggers.

Today, liberals paint McCain in freakish colors, portraying him as a mentally unstable warmonger who, if elected, will essentially be Bush/Cheney's third term. This could very well be so, but these fears alone will not suffice. Certain libs are going further, employing the right wing tactic of questioning McCain's "patriotism."

John Aravosis of Americablog recently wrote, "A lot of people don't know, however, that McCain made a propaganda video for the enemy while he was in captivity. Putting that bit of disloyalty aside, what exactly is McCain's military experience that prepares him for being commander in chief? . . . Getting shot down, tortured, and then doing propaganda for the enemy is not command experience."

Disloyalty. The Enemy. Boy, do some liberals love using those words. Wave Old Glory to show who the "real" patriots are. A rancid, inevitable display, though in this case it's even more distasteful. You wouldn't know from Aravosis's post that McCain was in captivity because he was part of a criminal assault on Vietnam in which the US and its subordinates slaughtered millions.

Plus, given the inconvenient fact that the US never formally declared war on Vietnam, those resisting the murderous attacks could not be accurately described as "the enemy," unless one feels, as apparently does Aravosis, that anyone whom the US bombs and herds into camps immediately becomes "the enemy," regardless of the actual circumstances.

Normally, I'd chalk this up to a blind Dem desire to win the White House at any cost, using any and all tactics to make this a reality. While this is certainly true with Aravosis, one cannot overlook the historical lib love of war, Vietnam being a bloody case in point.

The idea that the Democratic Party is structurally antiwar is of course ridiculous, considering the easily-researched history to the contrary. Apart from all that, however, Aravosis's line, "Getting shot down, tortured, and then doing propaganda for the enemy is not command experience," reveals much about his mindset.

First, would he say the same about a Dem candidate who behaved exactly as did McCain? Please. More importantly, what would constitute serious "command experience"? Flying numerous bombing runs on Vietnamese civilian targets, not getting shot down, then receiving the Medal of Honor for distinguished service to the homeland?

You can bet that if this was on Obama's resume, liberals like Aravosis would never shut up about it, citing such barbarism as a genuinely American foundation for "leadership." Sadly enough, they would be right.

I don't know about you, but I can't wait to see what's on tap for July. John McCain: Soviet stooge?

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Hot Damn!

As of this morning, "Savage Mules" is Number 8** on Amazon's best selling books about political parties, up there with Ann Coulter, Glenn Greenwald, Arianna Huffington and David Frum. (I belong in such company, you say?) And this only a few days after the book was in stock. The thing's not even in stores yet, so this is just the beginning.

If you have yet to buy "Mules," click on the Amazon link to the right, or simply click here. Let's keep the heat on, and carry "Mules" into the fall campaign, where the Real Fun starts . . .

**"Mules" keeps jumping around. It's a livin' thing, as ELO might say.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Cezanne Sings The Monkees

My son and I have the house to ourselves this weekend, so we're gonna do the quality time thang. Besides, I need a break from the site for a few days, but will be back with fresh cries of anguish come Monday, unless some uncontrollable urge hits before then. So set your decoder rings accordingly.

A few readers say they cannot see the right side of my blog on their screens, and thus do not have the direct Amazon link I've posted. If you are one of those readers, and have yet to purchase "Savage Mules," you may do so here. It's cheaper than a night at the movies, and contains so much sex, comedy, action, and intrigue that Angelina Jolie would be left gasping. Plus, the surprise ending will blow your ever-lovin' minds. You may never read in the shower again.

Here's a comic musical number from "A Wild Woman" (1933), featuring Bert Wheeler and the sadly-forgotten Marjorie White. It's the kind of movie I used to see at the old Thalia on the Upper West Side, sitting among 12 people, serenely baked, with nothing to do but watch double features from the 30s and 40s on a rainy Tuesday afternoon. A happy time.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Perfect For Family Squabbles




Man oh man, am I enjoying the liberal pain over Obama's embrace of the FISA "compromise," and his timely support for beheading rapists of kids, pets, inflatable sex dolls, gas turbine engines, and anything else that'll show the rubes that Obama Means Business. Of course, there are some libs trying to make lemonade out of spilled blood, but then, there always are. Hey, someone must have the spine to prove that Dems can spy on and kill countless undesirables, which of course they can, and have since their inception.

But many of you already knew that, especially now that "Savage Mules" is readily available. I've received some nice reviews from readers so far, but this is only the beginning. In the next couple of weeks, "Mules" will be stocked in various book stores across the US and Canada (parts of England, too), just in time to provide the necessary background music to Obama's March to Victory.

A few of you have asked whether or not it's vital that "Mules" be read along to Joy Division's "Closer." Of course not. You may read it to the music of your choice or to nothing at all. However, I did listen to a lot of Joy Division while writing and editing it, as well as to Public Image Ltd. and X. But that's me. Mix and match to your heart's delight. I simply hope you enjoy it.

Again, if the majority of those who read me buy the book, it's a bestseller, or at the very least something that can't be ignored. Aren't you tired of Dem-clinging liberals cluttering the national discourse? Click on the Amazon link to the right, purchase "Mules" for the low, low price of $10.17, and put me in the fray. We might as well have some laughs before the imperial clock strikes midnight.

Yeeee Haw!

The Supreme Court, 5-4, finally recognized that this is a heavily-armed nation, backed by a ballistic God, and if you enter my yard to argue otherwise, the Law says I can cap your Islamocommie ass.

Sweet, sweet Freedom! I can't wait to try out my new armor piercing bullets!

As I'm sure Justices Scalia, Thomas, Roberts, Alito, and Kennedy already know, the 5.56 AP round penetrates 12 mm armor plate of 300 HB at 100 m, while the 7.62 AP round penetrates 15 mm armor plate at 300m. It can also penetrate Plexiglass helicopter protection and is highly effective on brick and concrete walls and causes no barrel wear, which is good when firing from a rooftop bunker.

Gotta be ready for the Final Meltdown. Which side will YOU be on, friend?

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The Limits Of Purity




Yesterday saw a special treat over at IOZ's joint. Salon's own Glenn Greenwald made a cameo appearance in this post's comment thread, strolling from his well-lit corporate digs to IOZ's public access studio, looking to set matters straight regarding the Dems and the big job of saving our glorious republic. Dispensing with formalities, GG got right to the point, asking IOZ:

"Is there some reason you need to convince yourself that you're the only one with access to a particular insight in order to make it worth expressing? . . . 'Democrats' aren't monolithic -- some believe in the Surveillance State; some don't care one way or the other and just want to stay in office; others oppose it. But the Party leadership itself is plainly devoted to its perpetuation and nothing I've ever said is to the contrary. Your readers will still read if even if you quit pretending that you're unveiling some deep, secret Truths that nobody else sees."

One wonders why GG, who has the libsphere at his feet, would bother engaging someone blowing raspberries from the cheap seats. If you're rubbing shoulders with professional liberals and those Dems who endlessly spin them, ignoring fringe elements is a breeze. Or should be. But clearly, IOZ got under GG's hide, causing some discomfort, which GG sought to spread around.

"The difference is between those who want to try to bring pressure and change to alter this behavior and those who can't get enough of impressing themselves with how sophisticated and jaded they are by smugly announcing every day that Nothing Can Be Done."

There's nothing quite like a hurt liberal. Since, by self-definition, they are on the humane wing of politics, seeking justice and goodness and other nice and wonderful things, they shouldn't be criticized by those ostensibly on their side, or at least in the general vicinity. Those who do are obviously smug, jaded losers who live in a purist fantasyland. Not GG. He's out there every day, bringing the pressure, pushing for change. 'Cause, like, if you sign enough petitions and make a lot of phone calls, those in power will take notice and second-guess their crooked ways. I mean, this is a representative democracy, right? A stern letter to the editor weighs more or less equally with money from corporate telecoms, no? Didn't Frank Capra make a movie about that? Or was it Rob Reiner?

I keed. I keed. Honestly, I have nothing against GG. I'm happy that he's upset with the FISA bill, opposes torture, is against the war. Direct exposure to the horrorshow of American politics has had a definite effect on him, and he's better than most libloggers on the major issues. And yet, and yet . . . there remains this need, this desire, to believe that the Democrats, some of them anyway, might care, if sufficiently pushed, what powerless people think. They might care what GG thinks, given his media perch and large audience, but that falls under image management and general PR. When the veins are opened and blood spills across the tile, GG's opinion is meaningless. If the executive imperial class decides to make the owners richer and even more powerful, nothing can really stop them. I'm sure GG understands this, which explains his defensive ranting at IOZ's.

The standard routine by wounded liberals is to insist that they are the gritty realists while those making systemic critiques are distant and aloof. "Enlighten us conventional and stunt thinkers," GG chided. "What is The Solution? IOZ says nothing -- just watch it all collapse. What's your outside-the-box plan?"

I've run into this query countless times. And there's no answer to it -- none that will satisfy the person asking it, which is why it's always trotted out. One can speak of various alternatives, from grassroots organizing to self-education to politicizing the despised and forgotten, and if your suggestions don't end with voting for Better Democrats, most liberals will dismiss you as unserious. It must always come back to the mule team, regardless of what the Dems actually do or inevitably stand for. As I've said before, the vast majority of libs, especially those who blog, cannot and do not want to see a future where the Dems cease to exist. Hence their bottomless masochism, and their insistence that you join in.

Still, GG claims to see some light, employing selected history to justify his position. "How do you explain changes of the past then?" he prodded IOZ. "Black people being de-slaved, women being able to vote, etc." That's simple. Those social changes came from mass movements that operated outside of the major parties. There are contemporary libs who seem to think that Democrats were always pro-civil rights, pro-feminist, pro-name your favorite cause. Not so. In fact, much of the early civil rights movement was supported by communists and other radicals, while the early feminist arguments were made by anarchists like Emma Goldman. In these cases, the Dems, who were very slow to embrace either concept, were pressured by highly energized and politicized segments of the population. These activists didn't sit at computers, blogging about their personal concerns, hoping that the powers-that-be would be swayed by their posts and links; they organized, educated, marched, got clubbed, gassed, and arrested. They had decades of agitation behind them. They had independent political groups supporting them. They had spokespeople who made the case forcefully and eloquently.

Think Martin Luther King was a Democrat? The Dems of the time didn't think so, which is why they feared and spied on him (with J. Edgar Hoover's help, of course). And when King turned against the Vietnam War and questioned the morality of capitalism, many major Dems denounced him. Fortunately for imperialist liberals, King's assassination cut short what might have been a very embarrassing period for their war party. It was one thing to let colored people sit at lunch counters; it was entirely something else when the geopolitical project was criticized by an influential and globally-recognized African-American activist. James Earl Ray, or whoever pulled the trigger, performed a valuable service to the Democrats, who continued to slaughter Vietnamese with bipartisan support. So if I were GG, I wouldn't get too misty eyed about the ghosts of Dems past.

I was impressed with this reference, though. "No less an establishment critic than Noam Chomsky frequently points out that even minor differences in large power systems like the American polity can translate into enormous differences in people's lives." GG reads Chomsky? There is hope after all. Yet, while Chomsky's observation about minor differences having large effects has been true in certain cases, it's becoming less and less so. How has electing Dems made life better for the Gazans? The Iraqis? The Colombian poor? Hell, the American poor? If and when an attack on Iran commences, how many Dems will clog the machine in order to stop it? What's the "realist" take on that?

For all of his talk about who's pragmatic and who's not, GG let slip a little fantasy of his own:

"Would Al Gore's election instead of George Bush have fundamentally altered the imperial character of America? Of course not. But would it have averted the attack on Iraq? It's certainly possible. Is a million dead people and a couple million more displaced worth thinking that even incremental changes might matter?"

First of all, Gore never ruled out attacking Iraq; he simply opposed Bush's strategy to do so, as did many in the American power elite. Gore's "dissent" was tactical, and there's no real evidence, other than liberal faith, that he wouldn't have invaded as president. Indeed, the evidence is stronger that Gore would've attacked Iraq, not only given his support for the Iraq Liberation Act of 1998, but also the minor fact that the Clinton administration, of which Gore was a part, routinely bombed Iraq while strangling that country through a murderous embargo. Up to a million Iraqis died during Clinton/Gore, so where exactly did "incremental change" matter here?

None of this is to say that Glenn Greenwald is wrong in trying to pressure Beltway fixtures into acting against their political and financial interests. What does he have to lose, save his mind? But considering some of the arguments he makes on behalf of "pragmatism," he may want to rethink who he derides as out of touch.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Sinical




Like Barack Obama, George Carlin is a slate on whom anyone can project whatever they need to be true. In Obama's case, he's secretly a progressive who must pretend to be centrist in order to be elected. In Carlin's case, at least based on what I've read in the past 24 hours, he was really a liberal, or in John Nichols' mind, a radical. Some commenters at a bizarro reactionary site, which I won't name as my in-box gets enough crazy mail, appear to think that Carlin endorsed torture and in his better moments, hated liberals. After nearly 50 years in the business, and covering the vast amount of ground he did, it's no wonder that Carlin was numerous things to countless people.

To my friend Mike Gerber, Carlin was a cynical has-been who, like the aging Rolling Stones, milked his career far past its expiration date.

Now, critical interpretations of comedy are usually impossible to reconcile, simply because humor tends to be subjective. But I must take issue with Mike, who posted his dissent at Jon Schwarz's place, and who has one of the better analytical minds I've encountered in recent years. Yet with Carlin, I believe that Mike totally misses the mark.

"A good rule of thumb is a comedian's impact, lethality, acuity, or what-have-you is roughly inverse to his/her access to the mainstream. (See Pryor, Bruce, Hicks, Mort Sahl)," writes Mike. "Carlin produced a couple of great routines--'Seven Dirty Words' and 'Baseball/Football'--but after 1975, he'd said all he had to say."

Really? I don't think that's true at all. It may be that the type of Carlin comedy that Mike enjoyed ended after 1975, but the man kept pushing past all those earlier, more lovable routines.

There was a stretch where Carlin withdrew from most social commentary, and focused on minutiae like "A Place For My Stuff." And even then he made fun of this turn. As with "SNL," Carlin was the first celebrity host of "Fridays," reuniting with his old partner, Jack Burns, who was the show's head writer and main inspiration. In a short film by Tom Kramer, Carlin mocked himself, making observations about the color of a butane flame, among other pointless bits. (He also appeared as a disc jockey in a sketch about a PLO radio station: "It's ten o'clock. Do you know where your country is?") Far from phoning it in, Carlin explored other areas of comedic interest, while noting that not all of his fans approved. I certainly didn't. To me, it seemed that Carlin had surrendered. Turned out that he was prepping, whether consciously or not, for his next artistic phase (spurred on by Bill Hicks' example, among others). If he truly wanted to play it safe for the money, he would've stuck with the "Stuff" routines, as they appealed to a much wider audience and were commercially friendly. But he didn't.

Mike continues: "For my entire professional life I've found it's easy to 'get large audiences to laugh at some very bleak and unwelcome messages.' They are conditioned to equate cynicism with humor. It's much harder to sell an audience on comic viewpoints that have space for positive characteristics."

Again, I don't know what audiences Mike is referring to here, but in my experience, very small segments of any comedy audience embrace bleak and unwelcome routines. Most people simply want to laugh, and not think about why they are laughing. As Jay Leno discovered long ago, the key to winning over an audience is to make them feel in on the joke, and that rarely happens if a comic lambastes Americans for being greedy, fat, violent dolts who'll believe anything so long as it's wrapped in pretty colors. Indeed, I can't think of any serious comic in the past decade other than Carlin who dared to say such shit. If a 22-year-old, unknown comedian delivered Carlin's later bits verbatim, either in a club or on a late night show, he or she would be booed off the stage. Decent people don't want to be preached to! How dare that young cynic describe Americans that way! Oh man, I can hear it from here.

So how did Carlin get away with it? Familiarity played a large role. Whether or not they agreed with him, many people felt that Carlin earned the right to denounce American stupidity and gluttony. The great comedy writer George Meyer once observed, "If people think you’re coming from a place of smugness or viciousness, it won’t be as funny to them . . . George Carlin gets away with murder in his stand-up, because people sense that he’s honestly hurt that the world isn’t a saner place."

Exactly. Not only that, Carlin served as an acceptable conduit for the darker impulses that, beneath the pretty wrapping, numerous Americans know exist, but wish not to engage. Carlin said what people fear is true, and even then, not all accepted his message. This is why so many people spoke critically of Carlin's "bitter" later years. As reality worsened, Carlin's routines kept pace, and not everyone could or desired to do the same. Far from the hooting, clapping seals that Mike imagines Carlin's audience to have been, there was plenty of ambivalence among those crowds. You could hear the uncertainty in some of their responses. Still, Carlin didn't let them off the hook.

If this is "mainstream" comedy, as Mike suggests, then we're living in a golden, satirical age. But it's not, and the "satire" that Mike believes America is drowning in is largely toothless and ineffectual. Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert are sharp guys with smart writing staffs; yet if anyone is cynical, it's those two, winking at the audience, letting them know that it's all a joke, and won't you please consider buying the products that appear between the political put-ons? Your laughter and money are most appreciated.

For all of their "satirical" assaults, Stewart and Colbert believe in the American political system, and push their audiences to participate in it. Carlin was the exact opposite. He trashed not only the system, but the people who keep it alive, which includes all of us. Mike calls this "the comedy of capitulation" which is "precisely observed and exquisitely crafted, and tries to convince the audience that the world sucks, people are assholes, and 'what can you do but laugh...and watch my special on HBO.' Its message is one of helplessness and hopelessness and anger, but most of all passivity -- which is why its so compatible with corporate comedy."

Again, this better describes Stewart and Colbert, and to a degree Bill Maher, than it does Carlin. Far from preaching "passivity," Carlin wanted people to reject the fixed state of American politics, reminding them that under the present conditions, there is no chance for serious change, much less reform, since the owners of the country have the place pretty much locked down. That's not "capitulation": that's recognizing reality. Granted, it's a tough thing to process, as there is no ready blueprint for a Better Tomorrow. That can only come if enough fed-up people unplug from this savage game, and begin to explore alternative ways to express themselves politically. That won't be easy or comfortable. Hell, it may be utterly impossible, given what we're up against, both externally and internally, where fear and insecurity keep so many of us chained to what's known, however awful it is.

George Carlin essentially told us to wake the fuck up and take control of our lives. That he doubted this could be done did not soften his message; it made it more pressing. And now he's gone. Even the most hardened "cynic" should shed a tear for that.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Sympathetic Contempt




Another angry prophet is gone. Perhaps the last one, as far as my generation goes, anyway. Not that I'm as old as George Carlin -- don't rush me. But when I became comedically aware in my early teens, Carlin was laying it down, sporting long hair, beard, t-shirt and jeans, spreading the word in straight venues like "The Mike Douglas Show," seemingly relaxed yet deadly and precise. Carlin was a master of language and form. In my view, only Richard Pryor reached the same comedic heights. Lenny Bruce showed the way; Mort Sahl, while smart, was too reserved; Bill Hicks, as Barry Crimmins -- a first-rate satirist himself -- keeps reminding me, was just turning the same corner as Carlin and Pryor before cancer killed him. Chris Rock flirts with the vibe, but is too enmeshed in corporate showbiz to fully explore it. Maybe in time, whatever time's left.

I once publicly embarrassed myself while defending Carlin. Marty Ingels, dying for some kind of exposure, decided to wage a press release jihad on Carlin's comedy, saying that it was too dark, too obscene, and wasn't family friendly. When the producer of a radio talk show in New York couldn't convince Carlin to engage Ingels, he asked me to do the honors, which I did rather aggressively. I ripped into Ingels, called him a washed-up comic who couldn't tie Carlin's shoes, and said that as far as I was concerned, Carlin was only warming up, that he would probably plunge deeper into the madness. Ingels flipped out, called me a miserable asshole, hung up, and then was coaxed back on where he and I traded jibes for the better part of an hour. It was a waste of time, and in a sense dishonored Carlin's genius. When Page Six of the New York Post mentioned our sparring, I felt even more ridiculous.

Still, it came from a good place. My respect for Carlin never wavered, and he's the only comic I've ever seen who could tell Americans how full of shit we are without joking it up. By the end, he simply expressed the truth, no frills attached. As Carlin himself put it:

"Don't confuse me with those who cling to hope. I enjoy describing things the way they are, I have no interest in how they 'ought to be.' And I certainly have no interest in fixing them. I sincerely believe that if you think there's a solution, you're part of the problem. My motto: Fuck Hope!

"I am a personal optimist but a skeptic about all else. What may sound to some like anger is really nothing more than sympathetic contempt. I view my species with a combination of wonder and pity, and I root for its destruction. And please don't confuse my point of view with cynicism; the real cynics are the ones who tell you everything's gonna be all right."

I can think of no better mindset for the Summer of Obama. You were one of the true greats, George. Farewell.

MUG SHOT: The above is from 1972, after Carlin was arrested in Milwaukee for obscenity. Back when certain "class clowns" were taken very seriously.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Submission


The current liberal clatter over yet another Dem "capitulation" (i.e. acting in their political/financial interests) is most amusing to witness. Truly, there are no bigger masochists in America than those who pledge allegiance to the mule. You can beat them, kick them, piss and shit all over them, and they'll come crawling back for more, hopeful gleam on their soiled faces. Why they don't break out the leather hoods, slapper whips, and ball gags and fetishize their surrender is a mystery, but then, libs are often the biggest teases. Maybe they're saving that for election night.

Any conscious person over the age of 25 who is surprised by major Dem support for the FISA Amendments Act of 2008 is either deluded, desperate, or so whacked out on yagé that the mere formation of cogent thought is a minor miracle. Then again, I like the idea of countless liberals taking yagé trips. If nothing else, it keeps them occupied with inner-space, and who knows, they might make some conceptual/political breakthroughs before returning to this plasma plane. A long shot admittedly, especially when they see the savage mule's tail rise up and they slide beneath the beast to get crapped on. But one must remain optimistic, even as the shit piles rise. What ya gonna do, vote Green?

Touring the lib sites for cheap laughs yielded some pleasant discoveries, namely, a growing number of liberals who have had it with the system. Like Neo in "The Matrix," many are opening their eyes for the first time, seeing the Real World for what it actually is. They are not happy, however; many expressed sadness and depression. To be expected and part of the process. It's not easy to realize that you've invested in a fantasy and were played for a fool. I've been there and understand completely. And it doesn't get any easier, as people like us are decidedly in the minority. But it's the first, necessary step to freeing ourselves, for without that, there truly is no hope.

Yet, the major libloggers and their followers will have none of that. If you are left of center, you belong to the Democrats. End of story. One beloved blogger made some nasty noises about those daring to dump the mules, tapping out a little screed that would gladden any Stalinist. No matter how much blood the Dems drag this blogger through, loyalty will be maintained and insisted upon. This is seen by many as a courageous stand. Like I said, we have a long way to go.

The main problem for liberals like this is that they cannot see a world without Democrats. More, they don't want to live in a world where the mule party's extinct. Oh, they'll bitch and grumble and sputter here and there, but in the end, they are ruled by fear. This works beautifully for those with political and social control. It's always helpful when the veal calves cage themselves, for the cage provides the illusion of safety, despite what's waiting down the corridor. The very idea of escape horrifies them, much less the demolition of the entire edifice. So there they remain, passive, trusting, not completely content with the arrangement, but too frightened to make any significant break. Besides, if they moo sincerely enough, perhaps their keepers will alter the institutional structure that keeps them in place. It hasn't worked yet, but tomorrow's always another day.

Many liberals consider me cynical and unrealistic -- or worse, not "pragmatic." But I reject those categories. Despite my darkest prose, I still believe that humans are born to be free. Granted, it's getting harder to embrace this mindset, yet I do, regardless of the daily insanity I read about and personally witness. Of course, there's always the chance that I'm the one who's deluded, and I accept that as a real possibility. Anything's probable in this relativist madhouse. Still, I've seen and experienced enough transcendence to know that there's another way to live, but it's not going to be handed to us. And those of us who fight for it will encounter true hatred and spite, primarily from our liberal cousins, but from reactionaries as well. Too many people have deep vested interests in domination and control. As friend IOZ says, unplugging from them is the only way out. After that, the real work of honest, meaningful solidarity begins.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Savage Summer Reading



I'm sure many of you have already read David Swanson's review of "Savage Mules." While I disagree with Dave on several fronts, I really can't complain too much. Dave's take is much nicer than what I expect down the road. But you never know, given all the lib love in the air.

James Wolcott, with whom I had a delightful lunch last week, thinks that the new Progressive Book Club will not embrace "Mules." On the surface, I agree with Jim, but I also believe in the power of redemption; and if enough of us politely suggest that the PBC promote "Mules," I'm certain someone over there will give it a go. After all, it's not one of those long-ass, liberal dissertations about a "better" foreign policy. It's a fast read, more Ramones than Styx. Actually, you can read most of "Mules" in time to Joy Division's "Closer." It may not sync up quite like "Dark Side of the Moon" does with "The Wizard of Oz," but it comes close, or closer, if you will.

Beneath my profile on the right is the "Savage Mules" Amazon link. You get a lot of funny, insane polemic for $10.17. My readership alone could make "Mules" a bestseller. And if that happens, I get to spread the savage word to venues far and wide. So let's juice up the Dems' summer party.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Balloons In The Fog




In order to prove that he's no pussy, and to counter McCain's martial assaults, Barack Obama has formed a "Senior Working Group on National Security." Among the gang are Madeleine Albright, David Boren, Lee Hamilton, Warren Christopher, Anthony Lake, and of course Sam Nunn, without whom no Dem nominee can be regarded seriously. While many libs are spinning about, anticipating emancipation from the Bush era, their shining star steadily recruits known war criminals, Pentagon hustlers, and Beltway insiders, looking to hit the blood-soaked ground running come January. As Albright needled Colin Powell, "What's the point in having this superb military you are always talking about if we can't use it?"

Contrary to rightist mania and liberal fantasy, Obama clearly plans to use it. The only question is, how?

Some libs and related Obama-boosters inform my purist ass that their leader must make militarist noises to win over nervous patriots. It's pragmatic and necessary. I more or less agree. In fact, I'd be pleasantly stunned if Obama went in the opposite direction. But he won't and can't. The difference between me and most libs is that I don't romanticize what Obama must do as a matter of political reality. The word "pragmatic" assures self-described progressives that while Obama needs to look tough, there lies beneath the Patton pose a rational, decent core. Unlike McCain, who has fallen from liberal favor to become the craziest person ever to seek higher office, Obama will count to ten before unleashing cluster bombs and white phosphorus on civilians. While I do not look forward to Obama's first imperial steps, it will be interesting to see how "antiwar" libs react to Dem bloodletting. If the Clinton years are any reasonable indication, I think we already know how that'll turn out.

As I put it in the very soon-to-be-released "Savage Mules," Democrats and liberals should embrace their war-waging heritage. After all, McCain bombed Vietnamese in a Dem-sponsored war, so who is he to paint the mule team as pansies? Have the Republicans ever nuked anyone? Fuck no. That was a Dem special -- two for one surrender. This part of the campaign practically writes itself.

Finally received my copies of "Christopher Hitchens and His Critics: Terror, Iraq, and the Left." It features this old thing, parts of which have yellowed and flaked over time, but at least it's now between covers, for whatever that's worth. At book's end, Hitch responds to his critics, in my case a quick dismissal: "Dennis Perrin continues to franchise his brief acquaintance with me into a career path, in which I wish him all the luck in the world." I'll let the reader decide whether or not I've turned my experiences with Hitch into a careerist franchise, but the "brief acquaintance" crack is of course a lie, as Christopher well knows. Seems he's adopted the Sid Blumenthal tactic of pretending that you barely knew the person who later turned against you; and since Hitch cannot honestly deny what I wrote in that essay, he must act as if I wandered in from the street, briefly crossing his path before dashing off to exploit our chance encounter. Makes sense. I'm too young to be called senile, and not important enough to slag for political/financial gain. "Dennis who?" is just about right.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Broken Pavement Relic



Stole into New York City for a long weekend, something I'm planning to do on a regular basis, as that town's vibe recharges me like nothing else. I enjoyed it, of course -- I always do. Yet with each visit, the city I knew and loved fades further and further away. It's not enough that Manhattan became an island for the rich and dumb long ago. Now, as if to cement this social fact, numerous glass towers are rising throughout the city, non-descript mirrored monoliths announcing the dawn of the next architectural age, a little taste of what most of Manhattan will look like come 2065, assuming the bio-nuclear-germ wars haven't spread stateside.

Ah, fuck. It's probably inevitable. Giuliani swept the city clean of undesirables, setting the stage for Bloomberg, under whom the mallification of the borough steadily grows. It's not a city for starving artists anymore. Those days are gone. If you are young and ambitious, you move to Manhattan strictly to make money and connections, otherwise there's no place for you. The pigs have resoundingly won. Makes the go-go yuppie 80s seem like a hippie haven by comparison.

One night I was in a wine bar between Avenues B and C, once an area that only the bravest souls dared enter after dark. Now, parts of it resemble the Upper West Side, which is no bad thing in itself, yet a certain blandness exists. I remember going to see experimental theater and music gigs in that neighborhood, where someone's studio apartment served as a stage and the audience either sat on the floor or stood against cracked walls. Today, you take a corporate client or expensive date to any of the upscale restaurants there. I told the bartender, who was easily twenty years younger than me, of the Tompkins Square Park riots of 1988, when cops and anti-gentrification activists clashed in the East Village, random beatings, blood, broken glass, screams and sirens on the corners and down the dark streets, including the one we were presently visiting.

I remember that moment well. I was writing for the neighborhood weekly Downtown, and two of my colleagues, Sarah Ferguson and Dean Kuipers, were swept up in the chaos and police violence, the aftermath of which I walked through, a silent energy still in the air. Some of the local activists declared victory as the cops took a PR hit in the NY media. But that was a momentary rush, false hope fed by street fighting adrenaline and the hazy idea that developers would avoid such a trouble spot, keeping their money uptown where it belonged.

I glanced at the wine bar's menu prices, then at the polished wood decor, and said to the bartender, "Well, you can guess who won that battle."

Decidedly. Besides, who wants to live in an affordable, culturally-mixed, creative neighborhood? Where would the glass towers go?

But all this moaning comes from an aging ex-Manhattanite, whose views of the city are meaningless in the face of relentless change. I suppose whatever melancholy I feel has more to do with the slow death of my earliest dream and desire, where raggedness and danger played major roles, and one felt fully alive despite having nothing. Yet this is private mourning, since many of the young faces I saw last weekend seemed quite happy with the city's current state. Not all of the New York I knew is gone, but it's getting close. I'll keep going back until I recognize nothing, a gray ghost floating through glossy future time.

Monday, June 16, 2008

No Moment Of Silence



Been away from computers for days, so I haven't had a chance to share my thoughts about the passing of Tim Russert. Friends Barry Crimmins, Jon Schwarz, and Marc Cooper (yes, Marc and I have reconciled, as part of my ongoing peace offensive) already teed-off on Russert and the insane blanket coverage his death inspired, so at the risk of overkill myself, here are a few humble observations.

First, the spectacle of the cable nets, led by NBC, gorging on Russert's corpse was disgusting to witness, each mourner sobbing as they tore into the meat. Hyenas have more respect for the dead. Still, it was a prime example of how insulated the corporate media remains, their mutual self-regard forever polluting the ether. And this was only Russert. Imagine the collective stench we'll have to endure when Cronkite, Brokaw, and Koppel hit the slab. At least Barbara Walters had the good taste to reanimate herself after she died, postponing the cannibal feast for at least another decade, or until her private stash of Tana leaves runs out.

Of course, many liberals were saddened by Russert's sudden exit, focusing on his personality instead of his systemic function. Like most Americans, liberals prefer being lied to by amiable figures like Russert, for when the state goes on a murderous spree, you want its mouthpieces to smile and assure you that the mass graves are in everybody's better interests. That some people seriously believe that Russert spoke truth to power merely heightens the grim absurdity, especially when it's the powerful who insist their feet were singed by Russert's "tough" queries. If these tributes emanated from prison cells or work release programs, then perhaps Russert would deserve a measure of respect. Instead, those elites fond of Russert remain unafflicted and comfortable, remembering the man as they would a favorite pet.

However personally nice or charming Tim Russert was in life is really beside the point. That's for his family and true friends to embrace. For the rest of us, or at least the minority who bothered watching "Meet The Press" with any regularity, Russert was yet another corporate gatekeeper, helping to frame permissible boundaries of debate, keeping true critics of the system far away from his glittering stage. He will be missed, not only by those swayed by his smile and Everyman persona, but especially by those seeking fresh ways to fool news consumers into thinking that a "free" exchange of ideas is taking place. There may not be another Russert waiting in the wings, but he'll be replaced easily enough, and the dominant narrative will continue unbroken, incessant chatter amid the burning bodies.

NICE DODGE: Here's another friend of mine who once regularly pestered politicians and media personalities via open phones, exposing Russert's love of hefty paychecks in exchange for friendly jostling of powerful figures. Note that Russert doesn't deny the pay off, he simply ignores the point. The mark of a true pro.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Achy Breaky

Burnt out, friends and lurkers. I rarely concede to such weakness, being the cast-iron life-hating cynic I am, but the flesh and mind can take only so much, especially now that my fingers and keyboard have merged into a squishy, plasma whole, a la David Cronenberg. So it's best that I unplug for a few days, lest some cyber-assassin (played by Jude Law or Jennifer Jason Leigh, or God help me, both) appear and riddle me with ballistic molars, screaming about saving reality.

Well, beats being killed by a reckless redneck in a van.

I'll return mostly likely Monday, hopeful rested, the seizures under control.

Nice piece in today's NY Times about the No Wave scene on the old Lower East Side. So here's Teenage Jesus and the Jerks, featuring the alluring Lydia Lunch:



A smattering of DNA, backing up Jean-Michel Basquiat's graffiti art, from "Downtown 81":



And finally The Contortions, featuring James Chance. I can identify.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Lining The Cage




There's a growing sense among libloggers, and the libs who love them, that things are about to get better. Not perfect, perhaps (though I don't know what a "perfect" liberal world would look like, and frankly don't want to know), but certainly an improvement on the Bush/Cheney era, the darkest, most evilest period in our glorious homeland's history.

I suppose it depends on what "better" means. No domestic spying? No corporate consolidation and theft? No predatory subprime lenders? No privatized medicine? An end to imperial war and geopolitical bullying? To me, that would be better -- not perfect (you don't want to know what my perfect world would look like), but a decided step away from the bloody status quo.

But none of that is going happen, even with a President Obama, who for many libs is already Commander-In-Chief, but is awaiting the formality of trouncing the addled John McCain to seize the Oval Office seat that is rightfully his. Oh sure, Obama is making noises about further taxing oil companies, but it's only June, and there's a lifetime left for Our Savior to "re-examine" the issue, especially if his campaign takes on water after getting torpedoed by "concerned" private interests. For now, however, there is room to dream about political overhaul, and project on Obama all the beautiful things we know he personally endorses and embraces.

The other day, Jon Schwarz and I had a fairly long phone chat about these and other matters, and naturally, Jon is ever upbeat about the future, convinced that American political reality is primed to undergo some kind of serious shift. At least he hopes so. Jon has repeatedly told me that he wouldn't want to live in any other time than right now, what with the Interwomb and all the democratic magic that flows from it. While I, too, appreciate this form of communication, it remains in private, corporate hands, and is thus subject to the whims of the marketplace. There is no constitutional right to online access, any more than there's a constitutional right to owning a Blu-ray player. We who fill these blog pages must pay private companies a monthly fee to remain connected. It's a bit like charging hamsters for exercise wheel access, but what can you buy with soiled wood chips? Thankfully, we humans have evolved to more enlightened forms of financial exchange.

The wonderful world Jon claims to see remains far from my burning eyes. The Web is good for many things, but creating and sustaining serious social and political change is not one of them. And even if a blog or two could make a modicum of difference, where's the social movement that can carry said change into the human meat world? I read plenty of blather at lib sites about "effecting" change, but seriously, how many libloggers actually try to make this happen at the grassroots level? Do Kos, Atrios, Firedoglake, Digby, Yglesias, Ackerman, E. Klein, and Perlstein physically leave their keyboards to knock on doors? Work directly with poverty groups in a bid to politicize the disenfranchised and forgotten? Counsel high school kids about military service? Or do they watch the cable chat shows, read the major news outlets when not reading and linking to each other, and primarily browbeat their readers into voting for Dems?

I've been politically active and aware for roughly 25 years, give or take those months when I licked my wounds in private, or pounded my head against padded walls. I've seen my share of grassroots action, some of it direct, some of it implausible, some of it counterproductive, and yes, some of it inspiring. Yet over that time, our rulers adapted to public challenges to their privilege, their counterattack beginning in the mid-1970s and still in play today. Only now, there's no real people's movement to frighten, much less challenge them. We've been beaten, scattered, crammed into demographic cages where we can chant and wave signs, but the Real Action is miles and miles away from our shouting.

I agree with Chomsky that political dissidence reaches many more people than it did 40 years ago, but so what? Today, dissidence is just another brand, hawking t-shirts, coffee mugs, and bumperstickers expressing "rebellion." The owners have done an effective, perhaps lasting job on us, which is why so many "progressives" cling to the Dems and pray before Obama. It's the only area where their squeals might be heard, and even then, they are subjected to test-marketing and demographic research to gauge just how much the Party should listen.

Can this be turned around? Of course. Anything's possible. But we're not going to blog our way out of our cages, no matter how much time we put on the exercise wheel.

Monday, June 9, 2008

History Dickery Dock




It's one thing to be told that you're living in historic times. It's another to be told that not only must you happily appreciate this, you should enthusiastically applaud the fact, regardless of personal doubts or criticisms.

Since Obama secured the Dem nomination, we've been buried in applause lines and self-congratulation. Imagine, a country that once considered people of African descent as property, then as third-class citizens, might actually elect a black man as president. Aren't we special? Aren't we so open-minded and unique? Why, only 40 years ago, Obama might well have been beaten by racist cops and attacked by racist dogs for wanting only to cast his vote. Now, we can vote for Obama and undo that nasty history which is more or less over, and even if there are places where black voters are disenfranchised, well, no nation's perfect, but America comes pretty darn close. So, get on your feet, all of you. Get on your feet and applaud and cheer our collective evolution. We deserve it.

Hey, beats thinking about the real world.

But then, in a depoliticized, hyper-stimulated society like ours, such behavior is to be expected. Presidential campaigns long ago ceased having anything to do with actual politics, and emphasize personalities instead. This has been the case for some time, but until now, the personalities were middle aged or old white men. George W. Bush versus John Kerry was particularly tough to glamorize, as there was only so much that glittering paint could mask.

Obama and Hillary changed all that. The imperial manager selection process received a much-needed jolt of fresh energy, and whether you liked or loathed the leading Dem candidates, you couldn't ignore their presence, their verve. After eight years of Texas oil magnate rule, the system desperately required rebranding, and millions of consumers wanted to believe that the system still worked. Obama and Hillary served both functions and more. Not only are countless Americans filled with PR-enhanced pride, the country's owners are probably breathing a sigh of relief. The rubes are back in the star spangled tent, tossing flowers, smiling, dancing.

You see this pretty much everywhere at the moment, and I'm sure the celebrations will intensify as the summer drags on. What else is there to do? But I was somewhat thrown by Katha Pollitt's take in the recent Nation, though I really shouldn't have been. She too is feeling all historical and stuff, telling her readers regarding Hillary:

"Because she normalized the concept of a woman running for President, she made it easier for women to run for every office, including the White House. That is one reason women and men of every party and candidate preference, and every ethnicity too, owe Hillary Clinton a standing ovation, even if they can't stand her."

Not just applause, but a fucking standing ovation. Actual politics, or even the philosophy and ideology that may animate politics, is a secondary concern, if it's a concern at all. Hillary showed that a woman could seriously run for high office. What she would do if elected isn't all that important, at least when compared to the symbolism of her candidacy. This is why Pollitt urges those "of every party" (the Sparts, too?) to leap up and cheer Hillary. Personality trumps politics every time, that is, if you want to be taken seriously as a political commentator.

That Hillary encountered some truly misogynistic behavior on the trail does not beautify her squalid politics, which in this campaign included conscious race-baiting of Obama. Yet if you take Pollitt's hand, Hillary's ugly views soften in focus, but cannot be erased completely. Pollitt acknowledges this, mentioning Iraq and the probable racism of a portion of Hillary's supporters. Pollitt's not even sure that she can trust Hillary to get behind Obama, but in the end, these doubts fade as Pollitt advises Hillary to throw some history mojo at Obama, since, once elected, he'll "pursue policies to benefit all women -- on labor, healthcare, sexual violence and many other issues." I bet the Concerned Women for America can't wait.

It's instructive to contrast Pollitt's fantasies and projections about Hillary and Obama against her slagging of Nicholson Baker's excellent, horrifying book, "Human Smoke." Over 474 pages, Baker slowly, carefully describes the inevitable march to the Second World War, demystifying official heroes and myths, showing the similarities between democracies and tyrannies when it comes to nationalism and total war, and amid the madness, Baker elevates the period's pacifists as the true champions of freedom and human rights. This enraged Pollitt: "By the time I finished the book I felt something I had never felt before: fury at pacifists."

Now, taken alone, that's not necessarily a terrible statement. Depends on your view of violence, state-backed or otherwise. When I finished "Human Smoke," I didn't share Pollitt's fury; I merely felt sadness, not only for those whose prescription for humanity had absolutely no chance at that time (or probably any time), but for the human race overall. I don't believe that WWII was a "good war," but it was an inescapable one, given the geopolitical realities of the period. Still, it seems a bit odd to be furious with long-dead people who opposed the mass slaughter from the beginning, and who had zero influence over those waging war. For these people, Pollitt has contempt. For Hillary Clinton, who is dripping with Iraqi blood, who spoke about obliterating Iran while backing Israeli violence against Lebanon and Gaza, Pollitt has admiration, and insists that we share it and express it, despite what we really think about the woman. I only hope that Pollitt didn't wear her good shoes when standing to applaud her hero.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Hazards Of Worship

Now, this makes me smile.

"Last June, Matthew Lincoln was attending an evening service at his nondenominational Tennessee church when he approached the altar where a visiting minister was offering individual prayers for parishioners. Assigned 'catchers' were present on the altar in case congregants fainted, fell, or otherwise lost control. When the minister, Robert Lavala, slightly touched his forehead, the Knoxville-area man 'received the spirit and fell backwards.' Except nobody was there to catch him, Lincoln charges in a $2.5 million lawsuit filed yesterday against Lakewind Church and its pastors. Lincoln, 58, claims that he fell backwards, striking his head against the 'carpet-covered cement floor,' according to the Circuit Court complaint, which was first reported by Courthouse News Service."

Let's hope that the Dems hire plenty of catchers for the Denver convention. A mile high is a long way to fall, even for Obama.

Buy Or Die




Judging from some recent mail, a number of you seem confused about what it is I do here. Most times, I haven't the faintest idea myself, so how you could possibly know is beyond me, but all interpretations are welcome. Fuck, you may be closer to the mark than me.

Excitement brews on the lib-left side of the tablet, as Obama preps for the Fall Classic, bathed in history, driven by destiny, set to punish feeble John McCain, a token obstacle to the promised land. But there's anxiety, too, and genuine fear. What if McCain's not so feeble? What if the war-crazy bastard actually wins? The libs don't want to give that thought any serious currency, dodging, dismissing, and pissing on it every time it bobs up. As the months peel away, and crunch time comes, I suspect that lib lunacy will reach feverish peaks, mutating into new mad shapes, darkening the sky, fouling the air. And then there's the GOP approach to consider, as they attempt to appear de-nazified while polishing their boots.

But, I'm a cynic. I hate everything. We're all doomed no matter what. Or so some of you say.

Maybe we're fucked, maybe we're not. That's not my call, as I have zero influence over current events. I'm not trying to be a pundit, a commentator, much less a political mouthpiece or ideological example. I simply write what I see, what I feel, what I fear, and yes, what I love and enjoy. There are plenty of people who pledge allegiance to and have bottomless faith in the American political system, so if that's what you need as we stagger to yet another most important election ever forever, you know where to click. I understand the need to clutch onto Obama for dear life, because frankly, there's no other serious option, is there? So one must place one's dire hopes on a man surrounded by Secret Service agents, financed by private interests, and openly intent on keeping the imperial machine running, once he's made a few minor adjustments to repair the damage of the Bush era.

And, really, that's pretty much all Obama is -- a system saver. His skin tone is both a bonus and possible detriment, depending on the consumer's mindset. But effective rebranding must take some creative chances if new customers are to be moved to buy the product. As Keith Reinhard, chairman emeritus of DDB Worldwide, recently put it: "Barack Obama is three things you want in a brand. New, different, and attractive. That's as good as it gets."

Purchase or perish. You can't get much freer than that.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

An Early Stage Of Dementia

Been watching the first season of "Heroes" with my son, and without doubt our mutually favorite character is Peter Petrelli, who can adopt the powers of any Hero he comes in contact with. Still, I have tremendous sentiment for Hiro Nakamura, who can bend, stop, and travel in time. At one point, his future and present (past?) selves meet, and naturally, the older Hiro has some stern words for his earlier person (which are necessary and vital). I'm not sure if one's future and past selves could occupy the same plane without damaging the space-time continuum, but it's an entertaining thought, though the past self would be at a decided disadvantage against his/her future version, at least in theory. Depends on the person.

I just ran across the sound of my earlier person, from 1989, to be exact, thanks to my friends at Hitchens Watch. I attended a debate about capitalism versus socialism between Dinesh D'Souza and Hitchens at Georgetown University. I sat with Hitch's wife, Carol Blue, through the entire event, then felt it necessary to be the first questioner from the audience. I haven't heard me utter these words since that time, and man, do I sound stuffy and ultra-serious. I was then with FAIR, and so made our standard argument against D'Souza, who didn't seem to get where I was coming from, but that's okay. I was young, raw, and prone to droning on in public.

What's that? Some things never change? You may be right.

Part of me wishes I could travel back to just before the debate, and provide my kid self with some seasoned council, a la Hiro. If nothing else, I would give that Perrin a glimpse of what's to come, and tell him that it was not too late to return to LA and write for TV. I would also advise him to lose the Chuck Taylor camo high tops, which I wore at this event.

The whole debate's worth listening to, but if you're impatient, jump to the 53:20 mark and listen to the Red State Boy tell it to The Man.

And How Was Your Morning?




Your humble correspondent is happy to be tapping this at his cluttered desk, rather than texting it in from the emergency room. Earlier this morning, while driving the fine Michigan streets that are the envy of Ozark gravel road riders, I nearly bought it. Sitting at a red light, blasting Rob Zombie's "Dragula," enjoying my caffeine high, I felt some contentment. I do most mornings, before the day's shit wind whips up and blows its fecal horror in my face. That usually doesn't occur until afternoon, after I've run errands and mixed with some of the local population. I'm a people-person, as you know.

But today the shit wind arrived early.

When the light flashed green, I began my left turn onto the road home, when I suddenly saw a big red rusting van speeding to my left, running the red light and barreling right on top of me. I tried to pull around quickly, but this fucking moron steered in the same direction, so I was stuck. I slammed my brakes and waited for the collision. The van driver, now noticing that my car was right in front of her, slammed her brakes as well, skidding to a halt maybe two to three feet from my door. There was a brief pause. The woman's slack jaw dropped, astonishment on her face. Her rather fat male traveling companion stared at me with glazed confusion. Since our windows were down, and we were right next to each other, I calmly asked her, "WHAT THE FUCK?!!" She shrugged her shoulders while her partner pushed a fast food breakfast sandwich into his gaping hole. Then she drove off.

Had that asshole not stopped, her van would've plowed right through my driver's side door, and who knows what shape I'd be in, or even if I'd be alive.

God, I hate Michigan.

Yes, there are bad drivers everywhere, but as I've written in the past, Michigan drivers are the fucking worst I've ever seen. And with the state economy at the bottom of the broken toilet, a lot of locals are angry, bitter, mean, their fuses increasingly short, their manners nonexistent. Michiganders aren't the friendliest people to begin with; take away their jobs, gouge them at the pump, make their SUVs and Hummers essentially useless, and their de-evolution accelerates. The Red Wings winning the Stanley Cup will ease some of their pain for a few days, but it won't last. Still, I try to remain optimistic, especially with Obama ready to re-make America into a shining beacon of (fill-in-your-fantasy-blank). Maybe I'll live to see it.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

The Clouds Part




Perhaps it was when he began floating above the podium that I fully appreciated the historic moment. Imagine, I thought to myself, a man who can levitate, who can shoot pure light from his palms and eyes, who can calm the rowdiest crowd with a nod of his angelic head, the nominee of a major American party. I smiled, then took another deep hit from my Lincoln skull bong.

Finally, the Big Show begins. How long has it taken to get here -- two, maybe 10 years? I can't quite remember. American political campaigns never end, they just go into debt. And given all the hoopla, all the shouts, tears, curses, slanders, threats, promises of savage retribution; all of the delirium and tossed off hosannas, only a small sliver of the American electorate has participated so far, with a marginal uptick come this November. The majority of American adults have not and will not move their hands anywhere near this election, another perk in the Land of the Free, and probably just as well. Who wants the overfed rabble to possibly derail the mighty history train? Keep it among the True Believers and those momentarily conned into believing, and everything should go according to plan.

I know -- I should be on the floor, blubbering about the awesome specialness of this moment, but my trick knee won't let me. It was inevitable that someone other than a middle-age or elderly white man would snag a corporate party nomination; and that Obama spreads it smooth like Sam Cooke laying it down for the ages definitely helps polish the process. You couldn't cast it better. Roaming around the libsphere, I see the predictable gushing, weeping, looking to heaven with beatific gleams. CHANGE is coming, we're breathlessly told. Big CHANGE -- CHANGE that'll burn away your clothes and leave you standing naked in the New Dawn, ready for rebirth. Feh. What can you do? Once the snake waving starts and the tongues channel Babylonian gibberish, all one can do is step outside the tent, take a few belts from a large flask, and hope that the worshippers don't get too excited and descend upon the town, torches raised, hyper-mad expressions on their faces.

Some libs are already mapping out Obama's first 100 days. I wouldn't do that if I were them. Bad karma. There's a lot of time between now and November. Plenty of room for slime, lies, and gawd knows what else. Hillary's campaign only gave us a taste. The ownership of the country may feel that a black man can be entrusted to manage their property, but numerous white people will beg to differ, some in the foulest ways. Think racism is dead in America? Evoke Dr. King all you like, but prepare for a little sociological reminder about white pride, fear, and hatred. To quote Garrett Morris, all white people are crazy.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Samsara Petalspoke




Dreams of death come regularly, a constant unconscious effort to understand and prepare. At least that's how it has long felt. It pretty much began after my sister Laura died of Reye's syndrome. We shared a bedroom and now I was alone, confused by her absence, too young to really make sense of it all. She appeared to me at least twice, hovering above my bed, smiling, soothing my mind before disappearing into the ceiling. I knew nothing about spirits or visitations at the time, and to this day cannot with any certainty say that it actually happened. Perhaps a movie my brain screened for my benefit. If so, it was a compelling production, especially for a kid my age.

For the longest time, maybe a decade or more, the chief recurring death dream saw me repeatedly shot in a broken elevator in some abandoned building, trash everywhere, insane graffiti covering the cracked walls. I could feel the bullets rip through me, sharp burning stabs of pain that began to ebb as life slipped away, floating just outside my bleeding frame, pleased that it was all finally over. I long thought that this was a premonition, that this was how I would end, which is why whenever I walked past a really shitty building in lower Manhattan, I felt a warm peace. But I eventually moved from the city before that could happen.

Mind you, the above scenario took place during my most godless, atheistic period, when I firmly believed that this is a cold, uncaring universe, and that death is complete annihilation, no post-mortem consciousness on the dance card. (Hell, there's a significant part of me that still thinks -- fears? -- this is the case.) Yet I couldn't shake that spiritual feeling, no matter how much I tried to strangle it. On paper, non-existence is preferable to whatever afterlife one can conceive, simply because pain, misery, and dread are over. With prolonged awareness, who knows what one will feel or encounter? In many cases, it would seem like extended torture, no chance to simply close your fading eyes and drift into nothingness.

Through it all, I've experienced several dreams or dream-like states where I spoke to the dead, or they me, and unlike most dreams which fuzz into each other, nonlinear images jumping across the unconscious stage, these were brightly-lit, up-close, and intimate. I described at the end of "Mr. Mike" my discussions with O'Donoghue's spirit whenever I hit a snag in my research, his advice and tips actually leading me to a portion of his files I didn't know existed, which, to put it mildly, blew my fucking mind. (Some of his friends were convinced that these were visitations, since O'D didn't want me to screw up his story.)

Just after my Uncle Don died, I remained very sad, for he and I were quite close. Then, one morning just before waking, Don appeared to me, standing in his kitchen, which was striking since he spent most of his adulthood in a wheelchair. "I have my legs back!" he exclaimed, the light surrounding him intense but not blinding. I asked him where he was; he said that he couldn't explain it in a way I would understand, but that I shouldn't be sad, for he was surrounded by beauty. He informed me that in time, it would become clear to me, then disappeared. I haven't seen him since.

Maybe it's all hallucination. I'm certainly willing to believe that, and I know a fair number of you reading this already do. But a few years ago, I experienced something that I'm still reluctant to write about, at least until that memoir-ish project fully leaves the ground. I've only confided in a small group of people, and even that's too much, since I still wrestle with the meaning of that tear-soaked morning, when I was on my knees completely drained yet filled with weird energy, unlike anything I've felt before or since. It may well have been a nervous breakdown, or some kind of psychotic episode -- I can't honestly say. But it revealed emotions and thoughts that were completely new to me, and were not tied to any reading or viewing or discussions from that time. A burst from the blue, so to speak. It did inspire this little vaudeville, which I wrote exclusively for Arianna's slave ship, but never posted here until today. For what it's worth.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Obedience Is Job One




A salient feature of the Scott McClellan media spasm is how, after being shown yet another corrupt aspect of the political system, liberals cling even more firmly to this very system. The concept of breaking away and attacking this corruption from an independent, or dare I say it, radical angle, does not appeal to them in the slightest. So when corporate media figures like Katie Couric admit that they were in the tank for Bush's invasion of Iraq, the liberal reply is, "You weren't doing your job!"

Not. Doing. Their. Job. This touching faith in powerful institutions ceased being cute long ago, and now merely adds superfluous layers of delusion and deceit to our fully-caked propaganda system. And of course it lets the propagandists off the hook, since all they need to do is apologize and Do Their Jobs, which will reverse the flood of lies and wash us all in refreshing truths.

The thing is, during the run-up to the Iraq invasion, the corporate media did do its job, and did so beautifully and effectively. Under the American corporate system, the chief task of the propaganda wing, amusingly called "journalism," is to sell whatever the state and the elites who run it are pushing -- in this case, invading Iraq -- and demonizing and marginalizing anyone who openly dissents, like Scott Ritter, for example. That is the American media's job; and had Bush's invasion gone smoother, eliminating resistance while consolidating control, we wouldn't be having this discussion. The corporate press would be congratulating itself for getting the big issue right, with the Dems and their supporters looking to share in the general celebration. Hillary's pro-war vote would be highlighted every hour, while Obama would scramble to explain his tactical opposition, saying that since he was not yet in the Senate, his unfortunate skepticism had no serious, negative effect. But as president, he wouldn't hesitate to use force if . . . you know the script.

Yes, yes -- there are good journalists who strive to find hidden truths beneath the bullshit. But they are not in the majority, nor do they reach a mass audience. And if they dig a little too deeply, as did Gary Webb with the contra/cocaine connection, they will be sold out and destroyed should their reporting call the system itself into serious question. Mistakes, errors, reckless optimism, being misled or even intimidated -- all of this is fine, indeed encouraged, as we currently see with McClellan. Systemic criminality? The natural extension of imperial design?

Will someone call security?

Back in my media crit youth, I too shared this mindset, as did many others at FAIR. Well, to be honest, we expressed this mindset publicly, since our stated purpose was to encourage democratic journalism and the separation of press and state. But privately, we usually harbored more radical thoughts about the media, yet were verboten from making these arguments public. Part of this was cover, since we didn't want to be perceived as whacked-out commies; and part of this was to make working journalists more comfortable with our approach. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn't. Depended on the national political mood or the given topic. But more often than not, FAIR played to the stereotype of Journalists Not Doing Their Jobs, thus joining the dominant media chorus, instead of exposing how deceptive this tired old tune has become. Looking at FAIR's recent statement about McClellan's revelations, it's clear that my old colleagues are still tapping their toes to the beat:

"Reporters are supposed to treat [a press secretary's] talking points with skepticism, as one would any official government source. The fact that some reporters seem confused by this is a significant concern -- evidence that this White House, or any other, will have little trouble misleading the corporate press. Above all, exercising a vigilant form of skepticism in the run-up to the Iraq War should have been the obvious position for the media to take -- whatever one made of the supposed intelligence on Iraq's weapons."

Will someone call the retirement home?