Sunday, August 31, 2008

Old Jokes Are New Again

Here's a Democratic TV ad from the 1968 election. It mocks the VP choice of that year's GOP candidate, a man who was despised by liberals and seen as a political washout, someone who had no chance of defeating the Dem ticket of Humphrey/Muskie. The VP was a little known Governor who had served just over a year, and was picked ahead of another Governor named Romney. The whole thing was treated by Dems as a bad joke.

Who won that election again?

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Savage Moose






I'm beginning to like John McCain's avant garde move. Time will tell whether Sarah Palin is Spiro Agnew/Dan Quayle, or if she's simply William Miller, Barry Goldwater's 1964 running mate who gave us his daughter Stephanie, the wacky kooky lib radio host. I stopped listening to Miller's show months ago, but I'm certain that she, along with libloggers and their legion of dittoheads, is alternating mocking McCain's choice and acting offended, given the august nature of the presidential sweepstakes.

It's the latter reaction that I find most amusing and typical. Why, many liberals thunder, Palin's inexperience is an insult to our grand political institution! Should McCain be elected then die in office, this neophyte will be in charge! President Palin! Outrageous! Inexcusable! Irresponsible! Something like this could damage the presidency and the country! The horror!

If a President Palin would truly reduce our empire to a laughingstock and further blunt its effectiveness, then slap that bumpersticker on my Fusion. The MILF-In-Chief drags America down the fucking toilet, firing a Colt 6933 M4 Commando in the air, wearing her Miss Alaska Runner Up sash, her soft lips forming a crazed pageant smile. Hoo boy! Bet you didn't see that ending coming! I think McCain knows exactly what he's doing. The old gook killer pulls one last lunatic stunt before he becomes fertilizer. Only in America.

As much as I would enjoy seeing that, I seriously doubt that McCain/Palin will win. No my friends, we will be saddled with competent imperialism, a smooth managerial form of mass murder and exploitation as liberals applaud and salute the flag, finally free to show their superior patriotism. The cheers and tears at INVESCO Field as Obama promised more war was only the first stanza. Since then, at various liberal sites, numerous commenters rehearse their pro-war tunes, preparing to assume their role as Obama's obedient chorus. Eight years of bottled rage is pouring out, blood is in the air, and the Savage Mules file their teeth into enamel stilettos.

Happy times.

Friday, August 29, 2008

O, Bomb It On The Mountain




The chief and most annoying feature about Obama's nomination is how white liberals can't stop congratulating themselves for supporting an African-American for president. Even my pal Jon Schwarz got sucked in. "Good job, America!" Yeesh. That's your brain on an Ivy League education.

The other prominent, disgusting aspect about last night's event was CNN continually reminding us that Obama was accepting the Dem nomination 45 years to the day of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I Have A Dream" speech. Other than skin color, I really can't see much resemblance between the two. Obama the community activist is long dead. The guy is one step away from managing an aggressive empire. Not quite what King had in mind, I'm guessing.

"I have a dream, that one day, a man of African heritage will rise up from humble beginnings, and take the reins of imperial power, bombing and starving poor people he's never met in order appease those affluent few who made his ascent possible. I have a dream today!"

And don't think that Obama won't bomb poor people. Afghanistan is only the first target. Senator Change openly promised more aggression as liberals cheered his line about preparing for "future conflicts." I saw one bearded youth sporting a peace sign applauding Obama's martial rhetoric. What have I told you about liberals getting a whiff of blood?

"We're a better country than this," Obama assures us. Really? What movie has he been watching? All I saw last night was collective mania and delusion. The fact that a black man may lead the next phase of empire is genius, a beautiful cover. How long the con will last is anyone's guess. Obama still needs to get past McCain and a lot of suppressed white racism and fear before we'll find out.

Those who believe I get an erection from writing such "cynical" thoughts either don't know me or haven't seriously read my work. I'm saddened by all this bullshit. There's a younger man in me who wants to believe, but can't, not when the truth stares us right in the face. As I watched Obama majestically riff, sitting with my 12-year-old son, a part of me wanted to be proud, to share this historic moment with a boy who hasn't seen the kind of open racism that was casually expressed when I was his age. It would be so easy to do. Look at those faces in last night's crowd. They crave change so much, desire a different reality, that they simply gave themselves to Obama, gazing upon him as The One who will make it all better. The symbolism was powerful, no doubt about it. Then the camera would cut to Joe Biden, breaking the spell. I don't care how good Obama is on the stump, Biden's still a savage pig. God, what a dreadful human being.

I've repeatedly said that I want Obama to be elected so that liberals can show their true colors, and we can dispense with their supposed "antiwar" personas. That still holds. A McCain presidency will only delay what needs to opened and dealt with, to the degree that it can be dealt with. But watching Obama last night gave me another thought, that of driving American reactionaries even crazier, which will happen should the president be of color and have that last name. Obama in the White House will seriously fuck with their fat heads. Good. I can definitely live with that. Then I thought of my grandmother, Mickey Cannaday, about whom I wrote after she died a year ago this week:

"I last saw her just a few weeks ago, when I was in Indy for my father's wife's birthday bash. Not only was Mickey mentally alert, she went off on Bush, the war, how much she supported Barack Obama's campaign, and related topics. She was a New Deal Democrat, remained true to the faith, which rankled plenty of people on my mother's side, the majority of whom are pretty right wing. Mickey didn't care, and seemed to take great pleasure in reminding them how awful and criminally idiotic the Bush administration is. My grandmother and I didn't agree about everything, but I did respect her political passion, though I didn't have the heart to tell her that my next book is an attack (laff-filled!) on the Dems as a war party. Yet, somehow, I don't think she'd mind. Mickey was secure in her beliefs, and a brash little tome by her grandson would do little to shake her up."

I know Mickey would've beamed had she lived to see last night. That takes some of the sting away. Thanks, Grandma.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Mule Notes 3

Longtime Barry Crimmins friend, and new pal of mine, John A. Joslin is a union electrician in Detroit. He's also a really funny, perceptive writer, as those who've received his hilariously detailed emails already know. Recently at Barry's joint, John explained why Caroline Kennedy was so taken with Joe Biden during Obama's VP search. I reprint it here, in case you haven't seen it.

"Barry, I think we can forgive Caroline Kennedy . . . even though we probably shouldn't. Let's take the high road on this one. Caroline Kennedy was like a little kid trying to pin the tail on the donkey for Christ's sakes. She was used by these inane strategy bastards. They blindfolded her & set her stumbling off down the breakdown lane of the Beltway w/ instructions to find a good, honest man who can help us heal this country.

"Next thing you know, she comes back with 'plastic Joe' in tow, the guy who's been helping the credit card industry steal this country. She basically drags in the equivalent of 100 feet of human anchor chain to wrap around the ankles of the Obama campaign. She couldn't help it, Barry, in my opinion.

"She was raised to give a hand to the less fortunate, and a sad sack old bagman w/ his hourglass running out of sand fits the description. The nautical thing was a factor, too. You know what I'm talking about: Hyannis Port, spinnakers, don't go swimming until two hours after eating a bushel of fried clams, tying bowlines with one hand, tilting decks, spar varnish, starfish, and salt water spray in your hair. It all adds up. She was spawned by water people and she knows a genuine NON-boat rocker when she sees one.

"The Kennedys were always big on acts of charity. She probably figures it would be good for Joe to spend his declining years in the company of a halfway decent human being like Obama.

"Plus, in case Obama LOSES . . . Joe B. will be the perfect guy, right up front beaming for the cameras just like nothing happened -- 'We fought the good fight. Tonight, we have heard the voice of the American people from the tiny hamlets and the busy crossroads, from the small towns, the farming communities, and from the great urban centers of this nation. I might have wanted it to go the other way, but let me be the first to congratulate my good friend and maniacal counterpart . . .' blah, blah.

"We can't blame Caroline Kennedy."

Wonderfully put, though if Obama were indeed a "halfway decent human being," he wouldn't be running for president. Can't blame Caroline Kennedy for that, either.

I've mentioned the DNC's use of bad American pop songs to juice the proceedings, and give the delegates something to dance to other than lies and promises of more war. I don't know what they have planned for Obama's coronation tonight, but when Biden joins him on stage, I sincerely hope that the speakers blast this classic duet, with Obama and Biden recreating every move and expression, shades included.

Demver -- Day Four




Mercifully, I slept through Bill Clinton's speech. I'd been burning for nearly 18 hours and simply collapsed. But sleep didn't take, and I awoke just in time see Joe Biden stumble through the usual boilerplate, like a hungover tent preacher using every trick he knows to complete his sermon before hitting the bottle again. American liberals are adept at personal spin, turning the false into shimmering truth, so they had their hands full with Biden. From the online reactions I read this morning, they've handled the challenge fairly well. They need to believe that Biden is on the side of working people, a progressive force, a man whose crimes they can excuse or openly champion if necessary, depending on conditions or urgency.

Mission accomplished. Whatever liberal misgivings existed when Obama made his pick have now evaporated. Joe Biden has joined the Liberal Pantheon.

Well, we all knew that was going happen, so it's not too much of a shock. One of the Senate's biggest corporate whores can rail against corporate influence, inside the Pepsi Center, next door to INVESCO Field, at a convention drowning in corporate money where Party bigwigs are feted by telecoms like AT&T, and liberals obediently applaud and wave their Biden placards. That's the power of positive thinking. What, you know of a better political system? Then shut the fuck up and clap along.

This is going to be one beautiful election season.

I did enjoy Biden's promise of expanded war in Afghanistan, possible action against Pakistan, and the requisite Russia bashing on behalf of plucky Georgia. The Iraq occupation will of course continue under Obama/Biden, only it will have a different name, and will be repainted in bright mule colors. Support for Israeli aggression and the Colombian narco-war is so automatic and complete that any mention is superfluous. Indeed, most of the major Dem speakers have openly expressed their imperial desires and designs, primarily through soaring rhetoric like "restor[ing] American leadership in the world," as President Bill put it, whose speech I eventually watched. As I said yesterday, Bubba Mule has lost none of his golden touch. He could talk the straightest man into sucking his dick while humming Fleetwood Mac's "Don't Stop." Hell, plenty of liberal wonks would line up to eagerly do the honors. You can't teach that kind charisma.

The other highlight that had me laughing like a rural lunatic was Beau Biden's anecdote about how his Pop stared down Slobodan Milosevic and called the Balkan butcher a "war criminal." Slobo's not around to confirm or deny this, but if true, I imagine the late Serbian master villain must have had as big a laugh as me. Being called a war criminal by a senior US Senator with extensive Pentagon ties, who at that very moment supported state violence and ethnic cleansing inside NATO itself, would be hard to take with a straight face, no matter how many bodies were in your crawlspace. Milosevic was a murderous thug, but a rank amateur when compared to Biden's Party and its friends. And I was pleased to hear the delegates cheer the mention of Clinton's air war on Serbia. Nice to know that liberals still love that imperial pounding. It sets up Obama/Biden for whatever violence they plan to unleash or intensify.

And if that wasn't enough entertainment for one night, out strolled Obama for a cameo, reminiscent of Bob Hope crashing "The Tonight Show" set to plug the latest special he was taping across the hall. Is it me, or does it seem like Obama doesn't really care for Biden? Senator Change looked tense when embracing his running mate, a forced smile and stern expression on his otherwise beaming face. Who knows or fucking cares. What I do know is that Obama, when inviting everyone to his outdoor coronation tonight, called INVESCO Field "Mile High Stadium." I half expected John Elway and Floyd Little to appear in retro-Bronco gear. Given all the corporate hose Obama's gobbled so far, I don't understand why he wouldn't call the stadium by its advertised name. No point in hiding behind generic titles at this late date, unless you're being deceptive. But that can't be, can it?

More mule notes later, when/if I get a second wind.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Demver -- Day Three




Hillary Clinton makes my skin crawl. So does her husband, for that matter. In fact, their entire political existence has been and remains one big creep show. The phony smiles and warm anecdotes masking deep authoritarian features and a willingness to murder those without power. Little wonder why so many liberals still love the Clintons -- they make killing and theft seem like a public service, almost cool. A feel-good snuff party you can share with your children. Few do it better than those two.

Hillary's speech was the standard bullshit parade. I don't know where she got the rep as an excellent public speaker. She sounds as if she's reading a huggy ducky book to first graders, which, given the weepy, open-mouthed expressions seen in the No Coke-Pepsi Center last night, probably isn't that far from the truth. In a country where real political and financial power resides at the top, the multitudes are left with fantasies and the "hope" that their rulers will treat them kindly, or sadder still, care what they think. So long as people empower the likes of Hillary Clinton, this abusive, exploitative relationship will flourish. But as I've observed many times, a lot of liberals like to be abused by their betters. They really seem to get off on it. If such a twisted arrangement didn't hit my wallet or invade my political space, I wouldn't care. I'm quite libertarian when it comes to master/slave scenarios.

Another notable Hillary trait is her shamelessness. Here's a person who enthusiastically authorized the invasion of Iraq, blood splattering her pantsuit, and remained pro-war until the wind shifted enough for her to step back from the terror and misery, using a wounded Iraq combat vet to make her look like a caring humanitarian. I'm mildly surprised that Hillary didn't have a legless vet sitting next to Bill, giving her the thumbs up while Bill stood and applauded. A missed opportunity. Still, I loved Bill's emoting on cue. The sexy war criminal is older, but he hasn't lost his dramatic touch. The teary eyes. The proud smile. The bitten lip. The slow nod. Bill's so good that he can roll out the emotional arsenal while thinking about sex spas in Thailand, or a hot, peroxide blonde in denim cut-offs sitting on a trailer porch, or fucking another rich man's wife in an Aspen condo as snow pelts the window. Dude's a pro.

All this aside, I think it was a mistake for Obama not to put Hillary on the ticket. Tactically speaking, Obama/Clinton would be a powerhouse, steamrolling a huffing, puffing McCain. Hillary received some 18 million votes, while Joe Biden was near Kucinich/Gravel territory. She and Bill know all the electoral tricks, and their devoted, fanatical base would be hyper-energized. If Hillary were a man with the same numbers, there'd be no debate. But clearly, Obama wants to appear independent and free of the Clintonian baggage.

Liberal friends of mine are making peace with Biden, forcing their enthusiasm, rehearsing their lines. "Fightin' Joe really is a progressive. He cares about working people. Yes, that's what I believe." Hey, when you're dating a whore, you've got to pretend that he's faithful to you, despite the strange smells and shifting alibis. At least with the Clintons, everyone knows their roles. Adjusting to Biden will be a bit tougher, but it will happen. Watch the lib reaction after he speaks tonight. The lube will officially be out of the jar.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Mule Notes 2




Joel Achenbach, blogging at the Washington Post, said yesterday that Joe Biden is the "UnCheney."

"There are not two more different characters -- stylistically -- in American politics," insists Achenbach. "Biden is voluble, passionate, self-aggrandizing, funny. Cheney is calculating, secretive, cold. Biden likes the spotlight; Cheney likes his cave."

I'm with Achenbach on this one. When it comes to war criminals, I prefer mine to be loud, garrulous, in your face, juggling severed heads while walking a tightrope. A bloodletter you can arm wrestle for laughs, then share a few rounds of domestic brew. That's certainly not Cheney. Who knows -- maybe Biden will help bring about change after all.

It's official: Kos has accepted Joe Biden as Obama's VP. It took him a few days, presumably because Biden's politics make Kos "chafe," but from what I understand, Kos was having his tongue bleached in preparation for this embrace. Keep it simple, Kos. The line stretches around the Pepsi Center.

Among the many libloggers in Demver to groove to the Party's selection of bad pop music ("Still the One" by Orleans?), the beloved Digby wrote of her time on a media panel -- Corporate Hosebags Meet Online Parasites, or something along those lines. When the topic of torture arose, Digby apparently felt there was no time for her to quiz Newsweek's Jonathan Alter about his earlier defense of "court-sanctioned psychological interrogation."

"I would hope that he has thought some about that since then," sez Digs, "considering that torture has now been thoroughly mainstreamed. If I see him around this week, I'll ask him."

Now, I've been on countless panels covering a variety of subjects and concerns, and there's always been time to ask a fellow panelist a question, or several questions. You're on the fucking panel. You're part of the show. All you need do is lean into your mike and say, "Excuse me. While we're on this topic, I'd like to ask Mr. Alter a question about journalism and torture." That's it. Game on. If the crowd is lucky, there's verbal fireworks. So I don't buy this "had there been time" line from Digby. My guess is that she simply didn't want to confront Alter, who can be a sniveling prick (I know from experience). But if Digby does see Alter around and decides to finally face him, I hope someone tapes it. There's been precious little entertainment from the convention.

Demver -- Day Two




Demver is dullsville so far. I had hoped to write more yesterday, but there wasn't anything hefty to grab onto. Just infomercial lighting, empty journo-chatter, Pepsi Center delegates going through the robotic motions.

The fucking Pepsi Center. Is there a better frame for the corporate stranglehold on the Dems and the nation? And after the Dem faithful have had their fill of Pepsi, they'll be herded over to INVESCO Field for Obama's outdoor coronation, with AT&T hopefully tracking their cell and BlackBerry usage, just to keep everything in check. You think Obama can save the country without corporate sponsorship?

James Carville physically resembles an "X-Files" creature, his marble-mouth syntax harder than ever to decipher. Plus, he looks like he really doesn't give a shit about the convention. He's a Clinton crony, so he can't be happy about how the convention is shaking down, despite tonight being Hillary's big show. But overall, he just appears bored, phoning in his standard routines. David Brooks acts like a balding, nearsighted hyena, baring his blunt fangs while making predictable, pre-chewed points. Jim Lehrer looks nearly dead, and no amount of pancake can make Mark Shields appear as if he's 98.6. Probably the freezer he's kept in between segments.

Of course, those who matter, or wish they did, are extolling Michelle Obama's daytime talk show speech. The infantilization of American politics continues, as those looking to manage us on behalf of their corporate backers and contributors talk to the public in simple, patronizing tones. I'm happy that Michelle Obama found success in her life and loves her family, but why the fuck should I care? Her husband presumes to exert state control over me and mine, spending my tax dollars for expanded war in Afghanistan, continuing misery for the Palestinians, narco-war and repression in Colombia, among other wonderful projects, and I'm supposed to melt because his wife can read hackneyed, Hallmark copy from a teleprompter?

And that's the god-awful convention reality: diversion, euphemism, cheap patriotism, and ceaseless bullshit. You wouldn't know how dangerous and dreadful things are at the moment, and the lack of dissent within the soda building not only shows how willing delegates are to play their scripted, passive roles, but how well Democratic elites control the means of expression. That "Recreate '68" march the other day, where a Fox News mouthpiece was verbally kicked around, was as pathetic a display as could be imagined. In a sense, those protesters were playing their roles as well, ineffectual dissidents kept far from the action by legions of cops and paramilitary squads, and used by a right wing network for propaganda purposes, further emphasizing their uselessness. Recreate 1968? How about a little tear gas first?

I'll confess a soft spot for Ted Kennedy's speech. This has more to do with nostalgia than anything Kennedy said (the American flag is still on the moon? Color me proud). I supported Kennedy's challenge to Jimmy Carter's incumbency in 1980, my first presidential election. While certainly not perfect, Kennedy was easily preferable to Carter, and might have given Reagan more of a contest had he grabbed the nomination. His pseudo-concession speech at the '80 convention was powerful, a real up-your-ass to our underrated imperialist, whose hand Kennedy refused to shake. You don't see that kind of spirit anymore, whatever the political reality.

The reaction shots of Joe Biden during Kennedy's brief bit only highlighted the difference between the two. Kennedy's time is over, as is the political age he helped to define. Biden is old enough to remember those days, but too avaricious to care about their demise. He hustled his way onto Obama's ticket, more than ready to embrace today's savage rules. Compared to Biden, Ted Kennedy was a socialist. Maybe that's why felt I sad watching Kennedy last night. Say goodbye to all that, liberals.

More mule notes later.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Mule Notes

Christian Avard, who interviewed me at Huff Post, is blogging from Demver, and among his first impressions is the militarization of the area:

"Denver's definitely clamped down to the max. Police are in riot gear all over the city. Helicopters are flying overhead."

Of course. One half of the imperial corporate state is nominating its managerial team. Naturally, they must be protected from the people they claim to represent and supposedly wish to help. Part of the program in a land under permanent surveillance, brimming with SWAT and Delta teams. I mean, who's funding this shindig anyway?

AT&T is a major backer, and for good reason. Many Dems, led by Obama, granted the telecoms retroactive immunity for their warrantless spying. So why not throw a party to say, thanks mules! Glenn Greenwald, along with a few notable libloggers (a tight tribe, they), attempted to crash last night's AT&T bash, and were told that it was a private event, despite Glenn and company's press badges and concern for constitutional democracy. Still, the libloggers tried to ask questions of those strolling in, and as Glenn put it:

"Amazingly, not a single one of the 25-30 people we tried to interview would speak to us about who they were, how they got invited, what the party's purpose was, why they were attending, etc."

I trust that Glenn's being sarcastic here. He should be, given what's right in front of his face. But then, liberal hope is elastic -- it can stretch around the largest corporate gathering, provided that mule symbols are numerous and prominent. I think it's safe to say that there'll be plenty of hope stretching over the next few days.

There will also be pointed reminders to those who may refer to reality, and thus call the whole gathering into question. This morning, C-SPAN covered a "convention conversation" at the Denver Athletic Club, featuring several prominent African-American politicians and commentators.

I came in when Prof. Cornel West was in mid-sermon. I wasn't quite sure what West was talking about, as he has a tendency to free associate. But he did mention the "American empire" that covers the globe through various means. Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr. cut West off to remind him that there was a huge audience watching at that very moment, and that the Prof. should reconsider his language, lest "independents" or even Republicans who might be leaning toward Obama be offended. West shot back that Jackson knew what he was saying was true, and while Jackson quickly agreed, he reiterated that this was "Barack Obama's platform," and talk about an American empire was potentially alienating. This was followed by former Virginia Governor Douglas Wilder's claim that the planet looks to the US for guidance, and that an Obama presidency would reassert American power and influence abroad.

Empire? Where?

Demver -- Day One




The beauty of watching the Dem fest from home is that I can remain steadily cranked while surfing through the sights and sounds. And given what awaits we Americans this week, all the promises of recaptured glory, all the partisan howling, all the delusional and selective views of our present condition, a ready stash of whatever filters the madness is necessary. Plus, there's the added bonus of not pressing all that liberal flesh. After a few hours of direct exposure, gazing at the collective gleam in those mule eyes and listening to the endless praise of The Ticket, you want to start swinging wildly, or perhaps fake some kind of fit, just to create breathing space if nothing else. Large crowds always make me crazy. Watching them on screen is close enough for me.

I've mentioned my time at the 1992 Dem convention in New York, when the Clinton/Gore-bots occupied Madison Square Garden. I was with Hitchens, and thus lubricated, but warmly so, nothing too jagged or extreme. I remember wandering around the convention floor, staring up at the giant podium, walking past all the delegations, watching Sen. Fritz Hollings from South Carolina, a tall, lanky man, telling amusing stories to two middle-aged women who were practically swooning. Ol' Fritz was playing up the sexy Southern pol vibe that defined that convention, what with Arkansas and Tennessee making up the ticket. There was plenty of pussy for any smooth Dem with a rural accent -- Big Bill C. saw to that. I don't know if Hollings scored with those women, but from the looks on their faces, it was there for the asking.

I, on the other hand, was busy passing out the special convention issue of New York Perspectives, the Manhattan weekly I then edited. The cover yelled, "Welcome Suckers!" showing an overinflated Bill Clinton floating above the throng. Inside was all manner of attacks on the Dems, mostly from the left, but one from the right, as I had a former Dartmouth Review editor and occasional National Review contributor write his prediction of how the country would fare under a Clinton presidency. He tried to be funny, yet there was a seriousness to his paranoia, none of which I shared, but published in the spirit of open debate. I think he predicted the use of federal troops to squelch dissent. I laughed at that one. But then, this was several months before Waco, so I suppose the joke was on me.

Predictably, most of the delegates took one glance at our paper's cover, then either threw it to the ground or back in my face. I don't know what I was thinking back then. Yes, I was younger and less experienced in these matters, but the idea of baiting such a large, partisan mob was half-baked at best. I suppose I was into sensation, the immediacy of political wrath. Who the fuck knows.

A Buffalo-area editor recently suggested that I accompany him to Demver where we would distribute one hundred or so copies of "Savage Mules" that he'd purchase. It was tempting, especially with a camera there to catch the reactions and perhaps spark some discussions. But the whole thing fell apart, which is just as well. After all, I wouldn't want to disturb the evolving warm embrace of Joe Biden by the mule faithful. By the end of this week, Biden will be a progressive warrior, Obama's pit bull sent to clamp down on John McCain's withered balls. For many, the Biden pods have already opened, their glazed grins a sign of total acceptance. My pal Glenn Greenwald must have opened his pod on the plane to Demver. After going on for paragraphs about how awful Biden is on so many fronts, Glenn writes:

"None of this is to say that Biden is a bad pick. Given the other likely choices that had been bandied about, there were far worse possibilities, and few better ones. It's much more difficult to predict the political effect of these sorts of things than the always-omniscient political pundits like to pretend, but there are certainly many good reasons for thinking that the choice of Biden is politically shrewd."

And despite the copious amounts of blood coating Biden's hands, Glenn believes that he doesn't have as much as McCain or Joe Lieberman. I seriously doubt this is so. McCain maybe, only because he bombed Vietnamese people. But as long-time Senators, McCain, Lieberman, and Biden have helped finance and defend all manner of mass murder. To split the difference in order to make the Dem ticket look less menacing is a stretch, but that's Glenn all over. He knows what time it is, but pretends that there's no clock on the wall. We all cope in our varied ways.

I will try to keep a running commentary on the Demver gathering from my little hidey-hole in the fat middle. Check back every few hours. I can't promise that my observations will make sense, or even be grammatically sound. But as the author of "Savage Mules," I feel it's my responsibility to you, the American voter. Now, where's the Absolut . . .

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Feelin' Changy



Obama/Bayh has a more lyrical ring; and had Barry picked Hillary, the base would've collectively creamed, and next week's convention would be a four-day Nuremberg rally. But Senator Change stayed deep inside the Beltway and chose Joe Biden. Hell, it was probably the old plagiarist's turn. Stick around the action long enough and your number will get called. How do you think Lewis Black became a comedy celeb?

Early indications show a general lib resignation with the ticket. This will turn into forced enthusiasm over the next week, then will swiftly become an emblem of liberal pride once McCain aims both barrels at the Dems and the polls remain tight. Liberals are creative when rebranding their leaders. The Nation's John Nichols is off to a fast start, looking for positive traits amid Biden's pro-war, pro-corporate positions.

"So Obama was left with Biden. And that made for an acceptable, perhaps even satisfying conclusion to the great veep search.

"For all of Biden's imperfections -- a charge of political plagiarism twenty years ago, a reputation for verbosity, a record of gaffes and a wrong vote to authorize President Bush to attack Iraq -- the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee gives Obama what he needs.

"And there is the added bonus that Biden loves politics. He enjoys the sport of it. He's good on the stump. He's good in the debates -- indeed, when he was competing for the nomination, Biden won several of the debates. And he's comfortable campaigning in industrial cities and rural regions . . .

"Biden may not have been the perfect choice.

"He may not even have been the preferred choice.

"But he was, at least to Obama's view, the necessary choice."

Nichols is performing his institutional role -- whip up lib excitement and foster allegiance to The Ticket. There will be more of this very soon.

As I said recently, I seriously considered traveling to Demver for the party gathering, but will remain at home instead. Looks as though all the major libloggers will be there, picking up Nichols' lead and adding their own spin. And I will be here, watching the proceedings, offering my humble observations as the mules try to make the rest of our lives as happy as theirs.

PASS THE LADLE: Al Giordano's already set up his People's Temple outlet, serving generous cups of Dem Flavor Aid to scores of willing believers (helped by an old photo of a much younger Biden, trying hard to be Pierce Brosnan). As the Rev. Al put it, "And my working class soul is actually looking forward to the populist campaign that will come out of the unlikely alliance of two guys from humble beginnings against the owners of this coal mine called America." Keep a straight line, kids!

Friday, August 22, 2008

When Glenn Met Den

The long-awaited Greenwald/Perrin chat is now up at Salon, though I'm sharing today's radio billing with something called the ACLU. In any case, enjoy, and don't be shy about commenting there. I look forward to the reactions.

Also, I appeared on "Insights with Brian Oxman and Kathryn Milofsky," a radio show in Anaheim, CA. They cut my karaoke bit about public-financed elections, but most of the material got on. Happy listening.

Super Snuff Me

True scene.

The other day, while at a stop light at a fairly busy intersection, blasting Boston's "Peace of Mind," the guy next to me is bouncing in his seat. I doubt that he's grooving to my retro-arena freakout, as I have my windows closed. No, he seems agitated, nervous. He's heavy-set, balding, wearing a teal shirt and loosened dark tie. His big hairy hands are pounding the wheel. He's looking back and forth, as if seeking an opening. The light remains red. Finally, he can't take it anymore, hits the gas and runs the light. A couple of cars stop and honk, but the guy flies past them. Maybe he's having a heart attack, I thought, or has to use the can. A minute or so after this, the light is green, and I push ahead, Zeppelin's "Rock and Roll" shaking my dash. I must have been going faster than I thought, for suddenly the guy's car is just ahead of me. He slows, flips his left turn signal, then pulls into a McDonald's drive-through.

Dude ran a light to gorge on grease. I haven't eaten at McDonald's in ages. Are they now lacing their burgers with meth?

Apart from a few near-collisions, I have no problem with such need and desire. We all have our poisons, our distractions, our obsessions. What are you gonna do instead -- raise a people's army and seize control of the state? With the midterms only two years away? Misplaced energy. Tactically dumb.

I used have utter contempt for those who not only eat fast food, but choose to feed in those plastic-seated social atrocities. This included extreme self-hatred whenever I deigned to dine there as well. I secretly hoped that I would choke to death or have a heart seizure -- something that would lay me out amid the stained wrappers and spent ketchup packets, a dying example of American piggery. But this pretentious, idiotic conceit was never realized, nor was the anticipation of a lone gunman shooting up the place before smoking himself. (This was during a particularly insane stretch of my life, when I wouldn't touch door handles without tissues, and was convinced that all my drinks were laced with bad hallucinogens.) It was just me and my fellow consumers, collectively cramming shit down our throats before the actual taste registered in our sugar-jazzed brains. Given American reality overall, there are worse escapes. Not many, but a few.

Fast food joints are brightly-lit opium dens -- funhouse mausoleums juiced by deforestation and massive animal suffering. We'd be much better off without them, but the national addiction runs too deep, and too many lobbies stay rich from the fat. Sometimes it takes harsh intervention to break the cycle, if only for a day.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

When Kisses Went Astray




My inbox fills with liberal "alerts" and related wailing about the pro-McCain media, how unfairly Obama's being treated, and yappity yap yap yap. Jesus, I swear on what little honor I possess that I honestly want Obama to win the election. Hell, I may actually break down and vote for him if the polls look tight. Not that I have any serious belief in Obama the Change Genie. Too many hands rubbing that lamp as it is. No, I simply cannot stomach another four years of liberal self-pity. Plus, I'm anxious to see liberals supporting imperial war and making excuses for the state.

Some believe that a President Obama will disillusion his liberal supporters. I think the opposite will happen -- that libs will embrace a warmongering mule prez. I remember when New York Dem Liz Holtzman defended Bill Clinton's bombing of Serbia on some cable chatfest, calling critics of that "humanitarian" exercise un-patriotic, insisting that the president must be fully supported during a time of war, etc. It was delicious to see. I want more of that in the next four years. The reactionaries have had their fun. Let liberals swim in the blood for awhile.

And to those who've asked me when I'll appear at Glenn Greenwald's site -- I'm scheduled for Friday. Must I write a blog post here if my rhetoric is featured at Salon? There are a handful of new "Fridays" sketches I've been saving . . .

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Writers Are Assholes

Me included.

There are few hells more tormenting than hanging with other writers. We are an insecure, egocentric, petty, envious breed who enjoy spreading pain, hoping to maximize it for ourselves. At least that's how I see it, based on my experience. There are exceptions, of course, and I've known and know them as well. But overall, the ability to arrange words and construct sentences in a coherent fashion is tough enough for most, and this maddens and fills them with raw grief. To do so at a poetic, even artistic level requires an intensity and devotion to destruction that few writers possess or want to own. Thus, many scribblers and tappers are content to bottom-feed. There's plenty to eat in the mud, and it generally matches their level of thinking.

First-rate talents bottom-feed as well, but this is usually by choice, a means to bulk up for rougher climes or competing mindsets. And if there's one constant among American writers, it's the endless need to compare and compete. Norman Mailer and Gore Vidal were masters of the comparative drive-by, Mailer taking rhetorical and physical point-blank aim, Vidal a penthouse sniper, dry smile accenting each squeezed off round. But Mailer and Vidal were the fading echoes of a now-dead age, when writers actually mattered in the culture and were given the room to create distinctive, public personas. That's all gone. Today, the stage is littered with caption writers for celebrity/fashion mags and websites. The idea of sustained narrative, much less wit, intelligence, and style, is toxic when not indecipherable to the owners and their various demographics. And bloggers? Pleh. Don't get me fucking started . . .

What drove me to this little tangent? My constant malaise is usually enough, a spark under the leaking fuel tank. But in this case it was two brief videos, each featuring James Ellroy and Bruce Wagner. Ellroy you know, the celebrated LA crime novelist propelled by his mother's murder into America's dark addiction to celebrity, hypocrisy, and death. Wagner is much less known, at least outside of LA. His Details comic "Wild Palms" was an ABC mini-series ages ago, and he's written several books about Hollywood's underside, "I'm Losing You" perhaps his most celebrated (later turned into an execrable film directed by Wagner himself). Of the two, Ellroy's the superior talent -- his nervous intelligence and appreciation for human corruption unmatched not only in his own genre, but in much of what passes for literature itself. His lean, staccato prose lends his work haiku precision, but these are not delicate sentences or thoughts. They jab and stab relentlessly, the icepick as painter's brush.

That said, Ellroy is scarcely humble about his gifts. He routinely proclaims his importance, brags about his celebrity, his wealth, has a sick appreciation for police state measures which naturally feeds his right wing political views. He's doubtlessly playing to the cameras somewhat, especially those from Europe; but I truly believe that Ellroy means what he says. You can't say that about a lot of writers.

Here, Ellroy gives a taste of his reactionary positions, joined by Wagner, who bails when Ellroy starts Clinton-bashing (more than fine with me), and for some reason Rose McGowan, whose attempt to discuss politics quickly crumbles into pro-McCain surrender.



Obama looks like a lemur? Clearly, Bruce is pulling out the A-material. Know any big ear jokes?

That got me warmed up. But when Ellroy and Wagner trashed Charles Bukowski, I lost it.



Ellroy has more authority to dismiss Bukowski than does Wagner, but calling Bukowski a "misogynistic, alcoholic, sack of shit"? I don't recall the old poet denying that and other unflattering labels. He openly wrote about his sorry condition. It was part of his public persona and personal torment. It nourished his work. Ellroy, a recovering boozer who is twice divorced, may despise the man, but he's wrong if he thinks Bukowski wasn't a serious, lasting talent.

Wagner's simply out of his depth on this. For him to say that Bukowski possessed "minor gifts" takes a set of tinsel balls, especially when you assess the output of each. No comparison. None. Wagner's spitting at the sky, seemingly to impress Ellroy, but a sorry display all the same. Wagner's style of writing was better realized by Bret Easton Ellis, who was more brutal and much funnier than Wagner would ever dare to be. That he tries to bury Bukowski is the ultimate bad joke. Indeed, it's probably the funniest thing Wagner's done in memory.

Still, this is asshole me speaking. Allow Bukowski to show how the meat gets cut.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Yester-Fear




The endless anti-Russian ranting really takes me back. I figured we were locked into at least two generations of Arab bashing and demonization, when suddenly the old reliable bear blows some shit up and rolls those monster tanks that once were intended for Anytown, USA, when the commie takeover was complete, and we'd be marched at bayonet-point to the local propaganda office for ID and instructions or be shot in the head for bourgeois resistance. Comforting times. An enemy you could seriously fear, if you were paranoid enough, that is. Beyond unleashing its nuclear weapons, there wasn't any real threat from the Soviets, as we now know. But back then -- booga! booga! Fluoridation was the opening salvo . . .

Our Drill Sergeants fanned this fear during Boot Camp. This was a few months before the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, and about a year or so before the threats to Poland's Solidarnosc, the one labor union that both American reactionaries and the corporate media could warmly embrace. So the atmosphere was thick with anti-Soviet dread; and man, did our DS' really drive it home.

"Your Russian infantryman is one tough motherfucker," SSG Arrandwind would say, a large, sun-baked Southerner with two combat tours of Vietnam under his expansive belt. "The Germans killed 20 million Russians in the Second World War, and the krauts still got their asses handed to them. The Red Army played for keeps, and shot any German surrendering. They have no mercy, and once they get going, it's you or them."

This conditioning spread to the firing range, where some of the targets were draped in what appeared to be Soviet fatigue tops, a large red star on each chest. This gave us young fucks added inspiration to kill commies, our sworn enemy, an enemy we were taught to respect and not underestimate. Why, as another DS darkly hinted, there were probably Soviet agents infiltrating our base at that very moment. Maybe he was a KGB operative, for all we knew. The Soviets were everywhere and nowhere. They could speak Brooklyn English or affect a thick Texas drawl with little effort. Study hard and learn the signs. The communists were boring from within. Relaxation in the defense of liberty was a potentially fatal vice. And so on.

I doubt that today's Russophobes can ever reach such rhetorical heights, primarily because the present Russian state is capitalist. It's not about competing ideologies anymore, but a competition for resources, geopolitical positioning, and economic advantage. Still, some old habits remain, and the fact that the US, via NATO, is encircling Russia with military bases and client regimes is not lost on former apparatchiks like Vladimir Putin. Communism may have killed 100 million people, but capitalism has slaughtered and starved even more, a brutal fact reinforced to this day. I'm sure that Putin has no problem adding to the dollar-driven body count; the only trouble is, that's our racket. The Soviets dissolved and re-emerged as cutthroat capitalists. That's where the profitable action is. My Drill Sergeants were right. Those bastards are indeed clever.

While this Russian threat talk gives me a nice retro-buzz, it also reinforces my love for cultural rip-offs. "Fridays," the American Football League, the American Basketball Association, the World Football League, the World Hockey Association, Wes Anderson films (Hal Ashby homages), among numerous others, have long inspired me. Sure, it's great to be original or break new ground. But that can only be done once. Everything afterwards is derivative in some way, and the real test is whether one can make the imitation as good as the original, or through innovation and risk, better. Sometimes this happens, as the AFL and ABA modernized and opened-up their respective sports. But most times, the imitation falls short.

I wouldn't compare The Monkees to The Beatles, simply because the two bands were so unequal in musical achievement and aesthetic approach. Well, mostly, anyway. The Monkees never pretended to be on The Beatles' level, which lent them a certain freedom once their "Hard Day's Night" TV romps began to bore them, and they sought to destroy their manufactured image through self-parody and inside critiques, culminating in their 1968 masterpiece, "Head."

This is perhaps the only time The Monkees outdid The Beatles. "Head" was a trippy act of conceptual suicide, while "Magical Mystery Tour" was a tedious mess, boasting some great songs and a few fine scenes (John Lennon as a grinning waiter literally shoveling food onto a customer's plate), but nothing approaching what The Monkees pulled off. "Head" also had political content, mostly images from the slaughter in Vietnam, which for a plastic pop band with young female fans was rather startling. (Makes sense, given that producer Bert Schneider would later win an Academy Award for his anti-Vietnam war film, "Hearts and Minds.") In one of the opening scenes, where multiple screens show various bits from later in the movie, the final image is the infamous execution of a "Vietcong" suspect by Colonel Nguyen Ngoc Loan, a single pistol shot to the head, after which we hear a girl screaming. But she's not reacting to the murder; she's screaming for The Monkees, who are about to perform on stage.

The implication is that some American youth were more interested in distractions like The Monkees than with free-fire zones in Vietnam. If Schneider and director Bob Rafelson really wanted to sharpen this point, they might've presented The Monkees with a back-up band, as was the case in their first performances together in early-1966. That would strengthen "The money's in/We're made of tin/We're here to give you more" premise. But by this time, The Monkees were a tight band who could play without outside help. The monster, as Micky Dolenz put it, had come to life. The actors who played a rock group became an actual rock group, just in time for their destruction. Here's a vivid example of this -- Mike Nesmith's "Circle Sky," from a concert given in Salt Lake City in May 1968. Dolenz's drumming had advanced to such a degree that Frank Zappa offered him a spot in the Mothers Of Invention, which Dolenz turned down. Too bad. That would've been an interesting hybrid.

This performance is among The Monkees' rawest, and as with much of "Head," is interwoven with Vietnam, including the execution mentioned above. It's as if Miley Cyrus, in the middle of a Hannah Montana movie, had one of her songs intercut with savage scenes from Afghanistan and Iraq. Given her music, such imagery could only improve the sound.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Giggity




With the prez sweepstakes about to kick fully on, serious promotion for "Savage Mules" begins -- at least, that's how it looks on paper. I was supposed to appear on the Armed Forces Radio Network earlier this week, where my musings would be heard in Afghanistan and Iraq, among other tourist traps. I was genuinely geeked for this gig, delivered a smooth pre-interview with the show's producer, then awaited the call from the studio. Instead, I received an email from said producer who confessed that the host, whom I won't name, felt intimidated by me, canceling at the last minute. Apparently, this has happened before, and I was assured that it was nothing personal. Whatever. It's just a fucking book interview. Dude must be deeply insecure.

Hopefully, the same won't happen next week as I'm scheduled to appear on Salon Radio with Glenn Greenwald. That should be fun, and I fully expect Glenn to make the mule case with prosecutorial zeal. Either that, or perhaps an audio love-in. Or maybe a bit of both. We'll see. Glenn's read my book and has yet to tell me what he thinks, so he's clearly saving that for the interview. In any case, I'm grateful for his invitation. And I look forward to the reaction from Glenn's many commentators. Entertainment for the masses is my motto.

One of my guilty pleasures, pro football, is also about to start, and apparently this year the NFL is looking to crack down on drunk, abusive fans. Good luck with that. Courting alcohol poisoning is a Sunday morning ritual for countless fans, and I don't see how the league can adequately enforce its new rules. USA Today had a reasonable if quaint take on the issue, citing China's polite Olympic crowds as a possible model for American fans. Sure. And maybe stadium vendors can sell bowls of steamed rice instead of hot dogs. That would go over equally as well. Fact is, most of those who get publicly lubricated, from Oakland to Philly to the Meadowlands, would be arrested and probably beaten by Chinese police were they to act in Beijing as they do at home. It's a form of state violence I could get comfortable with.

As a few of you may know, long ago I wrote and published a book about this very subject -- "Tiananmen Tailgater: Clubbed, Maced, and Jailed Before Kick-Off." Wait. I'm sorry. I meant "American Fan: Sports Mania and the Culture That Feeds It." That was a curious book, with an interesting back story and an ignominious end. "Fan" received mostly good reviews, from the Boston Globe, USA Today, and the Sunday New York Times, where Robert Lipsyte, pondering whether or not he should care about corruption in sports, said:

"Ask Dennis Perrin, who is my new role model as a funny, smart and mean-spirited fan. His new book, 'American Fan: Sports Mania and the Culture That Feeds It' (Spike/Avon), is hilariously vicious at the expense of Spike Lee, George Will, sportswriters, Michael Jordan, Nike and Jack Tatum. ('Were Tatum really great he would have crippled some fans as well.') Every fan should read it for moral support."

I even got a nice email from Bob Costas, who also enjoyed "Fan." So given all this, why did the book totally tank?

I touched on this over a year ago at Red State Doofus:

"When 'American Fan' was in the pipeline, waiting to be released, Avon/William Morrow was bought by Rupert Murdoch's HarperCollins. My book would still come out as planned, but my editor soon disappeared in the Murdochian bowels, plugging into the Borg and assuming his anonymous place. We rarely spoke; and after HarperCollins torpedoed 'Fan,' a book they despised, my old editor ceased returning my calls and emails. I haven't heard from him since."

The reason why HarperCollins hated "Fan" was simple: I attacked the corporate sports machine, of which Fox Sports, a mega-profitable Murdoch division, is a major part. The HC lawyers had me remove a few negative comments about Murdoch himself, and tried to tone down as much of the manuscript as they could. They then rushed the book into production, without correcting several of the mistakes and misspellings I'd caught, and after roughly six weeks on the shelves, HC dumped "Fan" altogether, despite the many good reviews the book garnered. They had no interest in making what was, and remains, a timely critique into a reasonable bestseller. There's certainly an audience for such a take, even though I'd now lose some of the jokes and drop many of the drug references. Who knows? Maybe a new version of "American Fan" is in my future.

I recently came across this review of "Fan" by William Berlind in the New York Observer. I'd only read it once, about a year after the book was flushed, and haven't seen it again until last week. It's a mixed assessment, which is fine (I have mixed feelings about "Fan" myself), but I like this part:

"In one early section, Mr. Perrin drifts from a riff on Dennis Rodman's bad behavior to Mormon fans to Phil Jackson to Buddhism to the Champions for Christ to homosexuality -- all this strung together by the loosest of narrative threads."

I think Berlind meant this as a putdown, but it pleases me, for that's exactly what I attempted, and apparently pulled off. The major conceit behind "Fan" was that I would discuss contemporary sports as would a typical sports nut -- jumping from one topic to the next without an apparent segue. It's something I didn't maintain throughout the narrative, one of the problems I would fix with a rewrite.

Berlind didn't get or find funny some of my other material. Eh, that's showbiz. But I wonder why he said "Mr. Mike" was a "largely uncritical work," when there's plenty of criticism in that biography. I think I know the reason. In the book's opening, I admitted that O'Donoghue was "a personal god" to me. Many reviewers latched onto that confession and it colored their overall view of my in-depth study. Rookie error on my part. Undaunted, I dedicated "American Fan" to "God Shammgod: A Personal God." A few radio hosts who interviewed me took this literally, and I didn't correct them. If my book was going down in flames, why not pray to a journeyman hoopster who helped lead the Providence Friars to the NCAA Elite Eight in 1997? Kali, like my editor, wasn't answering my calls.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Opposed Until They're Not




For many online libs, Wesley Clark would be a welcome, inspiring, winning running mate for Obama, as opposed to Evan Bayh, who not only supported the Iraq invasion, he backed the Iraq Liberation Act of 1998, which laid the groundwork for Bush's war. And since libloggers sincerely believe that Obama's inner-circle cares about what they think, they're openly against giving Bayh the VP slot, calling on "100,000 Strong" to send the message.

As the Facebook page puts it:

"Obama's judgment about the war was the central tenet of one of the two best arguments for his earning the Democratic nomination. His offering a break from Old Washington was the other.

"Choosing Evan Bayh, a career legacy politician who fell hook, line, and sinker for the administration's case for a disastrous war and dragged much of our party with him, would undermine both."

Gee, I don't recall this kind of liberal concern about John Kerry in '04, who voted the same as Bayh, and made the same insipid excuse that he was "duped" into backing the US invasion. No matter. That was then, and today is now, and five can get you fifty if you mark the cards right. This is why I support an Obama/Bayh ticket. Not only would it help erase the liberal fiction about Obama's "break from Old Washington," it would force these concerned Dems to back the ticket without dissent, which they will in a heartbeat. Indeed, no matter who Obama picks, libs will proudly slap that bumpersticker on every available surface, suddenly finding the Dem ticket to be the best ever -- until the next best ticket ever, and so on.

What's also funny about all this is how liberals overlook Wesley Clark's early support for the Iraq war, whatever his tactical differences were before the invasion, and his open belief that Saddam sat upon stockpiles of WMD. (I won't linger on Clark's killing of a couple thousand Serbians, as many libs support that type of bloodshed.) Then there's the Clinton/Gore support for the Iraq Liberation Act, which Clinton signed in 1998. Somehow, that doesn't tarnish their reputations as it has Bayh's. Oh, and did you know that Bayh worked closely with Joe Lieberman? Yes, the very Lieberman who liberals overwhelmingly desired as their Vice President in 2000, and who, if libs had their way, would be second-in-command this very moment.

Again -- who are the real cynics here?

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Masking Reality




"The longer term effect of this war will be to sharpen the struggle for energy resources and to increase America's determination to somehow rein in the local power. Russia will almost certainly throw its weight around a lot more in the Caucasus and Central Asia, probably arming and subsidizing local proxies. America and those who support it globally will flood regional allies with weapons and money, build up the 'lily-pads', support any potentially secessionist current within Russia, anything that might be destabilising and drain resources, try to lure the country into a war it can't win, and so on. In short, as I've said, we've just watched the world become more dangerous. Those who thought it would improve stability if US power was 'balanced' by two, three, many imperialisms were mistaken. Watch the arms race resume, see that new generation of nuclear weapons proliferate, observe as the mini-conflicts and conflagrations sponsored by different players leave thousands dead, and witness the deadly escalation in global tensions . . . and then you'll see what I mean."

So says Richard "Lenin" Seymour. I agree, especially now that the US looks to assist its Georgian client. The world's getting more dangerous, if that's even possible. Thus the joy heard from neocon and lib hawk circles this past week, as they sink their yellowed claws into fresh carnage, their damaged minds flashing future wars, eyes dilating, mouths glistening. And this is based on what I've seen online. I don't have the stomach to watch the cable news nets. I'm sure that carrion's flying all over the studios, flecking the cameras, smudging the lenses, accompanied by strange guttural sounds. I'd sooner watch UFC fans howling on cue than tune into Fox and CNN. At least their insanity comes honestly.

No matter who wins the White House this November, we're in for some rough riding. A shit economy pushing millions off the grid coupled with widening resource wars abroad -- reserve your spot today! With President Obama, the horror will sound sweeter, hopeful, promising, until reality smashes his face a few times. Then maybe we'll see the Obama under the mask. I suspect he'll appear mantis-like as imagined by Cronenberg. But that's more a wish than actual reasoning, as well as a tiny product placement for "Savage Mules" (if you've read it, you know what I'm talking about).

Speaking of masks, there's been some lefty carping about "The Dark Knight," which just went over the $800 trillion box office mark, or something like that. This was inevitable, given the cultural impact of the film and its widespread popularity. Brother Lenin was among those calling "TDK" reactionary, fascistic Hollywood gruel, and I have no real problem with that. Hell, Frank Miller has played with Batman's authoritarian side for some twenty years now, his latest pitting Bruce Wayne against al-Qaida, or whoever the Arab/Persian subhuman happens to be at the moment. So Batman as a Nazi is nothing new.

As to whether "TDK" is a hollow-hearted piece of shit, well, that's a matter of taste. I enjoyed it immensely, but then, I have a soft spot for superhero stories going back to my earliest memories of George Reeves' Superman and Bruce Lee's Kato. This softness sharpened in my early teens, when I routinely had the shit kicked out of me by jocks and rednecks, money stolen, cherished sports-related attire ripped apart. I've previously written about studying Tae Kwon Do and other forms to counter this onslaught, but I never got into the weird, alter-ego aspect of it. All that superhero absorption fractured a bit of my developing mind, not only giving me a sense of right-and-wrong that Catholic school failed to impart, but stirring in me a sick sense of vengeance. I didn't want to merely pay back my tormentors, I wanted to hurt them, humiliate them, make them brutally understand that they chose the wrong psyche to fuck with. Above all, I wanted to do it while wearing a mask.

I desired nothing fancy -- a bandit mask as worn by Robin, Green Arrow, or Captain America's sidekick Bucky would be fine. But instead I designed a bright yellow mask out of elastic material that stretched from the tip of my nose to the middle of my forehead. A little like Kid Flash, yet without the superfluous side wings. I trained in this thing, getting used to the limited vision the mask afforded me while kicking and punching. I would sneak out of my bedroom window in the middle of the night while masked, running through suburban neighborhoods, crouching near the houses where those bullies lived, fantasizing about invading their bedrooms and beating them quickly before escaping. It was an insane rush. What if I got caught looking like this? How would that shake down? The mere thought of it excited me.

In the end, I never exacted revenge while wearing a mask. I did return a few violent favors, but during the day, sans any crazy, theatrical look. Did my plan reflect fascist thinking? Perhaps in a raw, undefined form. But that had more to do with my white-knuckled rage than what I wore across my face. You'd think that given this twisted background, I would be at one with the present madness. The sorry thing is, I am. I understand it all too fucking well.

Today, a mask doesn't hide your true identity, it simply brings you in line with torturer and tortured alike. Some complain that superhero narratives are too dark. Given reality, they're not dark enough.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Another Chokehold Routine




If it wasn't for the thousands of dead, and the tens of thousands running for their lives, the American pundit-politico reaction to Russia's pummeling of Georgia would be a dark laugh riot. Okay, it is a dark laugh riot, with blood and broken bone spewing out of cynical American mouths. What a nasty, predictable sight: US elites condemning "Russian aggression" from the heart of Murder Central, which gave Mikheil Saakashvili what he thought was imperial-backed carte blanche. McCain, of course, is feasting on as many bodies as his aging frame will allow, bellowing between bites about "international law." Obama, naturally, is going the pragmatic route, calling for UN intervention, a review of Russia's global status, and most telling of all, "deepening relations between Georgia and transatlantic institutions, including a Membership Action Plan for NATO."

The President-In-Waiting clearly understands what his upcoming gig demands. NATO expansion is but one of many tasks on the docket. The only "change" we can believe in is how Obama will polish the same old bullshit using fresh, uplifting rhetoric. Yet I suspect in the short-run, when shoved and slimed by a desperate McCain, Obama may very well dispense with the niceties that have endeared him to so many hopeful consumers, and show that he too can growl and promise sadistic punishment for our many enemies. Not that his liberal followers will mind all that much. A few may wince and wish it weren't so, but they will be kicked into place by heartier mules and angrily reminded that winning is the only thing that matters.

One cannot assume state power without proving you can and will kill. To McCain, such a demonstration will come easily and with a wicked grin. Obama's version will be no less deadly, only painted in cooler colors. Unlike their hippie predecessors, Obama Youth will remove daisies from the rifle barrels, their strawberry fields forever aflame. You won't need to play Obama's speeches backwards to discover what that means.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Burning Thoughts



Among the words unheard during my time at the lake was "Ossetia." I doubt it was a hot word in most other areas, but in a small tourist town set against a bright red lighthouse and squabbling gulls, the chaos and destruction in Ossetia and Georgia simply didn't exist. People on the main drag yelled into their cells about shopping options while teens sulked in groups, a few good ol' boys in pick-ups blasted contemporary country dreck, and numerous hefty pedestrians slogged along, cramming ice cream and hot dogs into their mouths. That's the beauty of living inside an imperial war state that faces no risk of foreign invasion or occupation (our owners and their employees need no help in tightening domestic control): you can be as oblivious and clueless as your mind will allow. This is not only encouraged, it's practically mandatory for decent citizenship.

In olden times, conflicts like the one in the Caucasus region would be difficult to follow, given the slow, ancient means of information flow. But with the Web, reams of historical backdrop, military analysis, and geopolitical reporting are in immediate grasp, that is, should one desire to know what the fuck's going on. I've been reading various sources, but my main stop in moments like this remains Chris Floyd, who is all over the present madness. What a shock to discover that the "good guy," Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, is an ethnic-cleansing buddy of Bush, citing everything from the Soviet invasions of Hungary and Afghanistan (even though the latter incursion was aimed at crushing the precursors of those the US is currently bombing) to the Martian assault from "The War of the Worlds" in a frenzied effort to get direct Western military assistance to help stem the Russian attack. But it appears that such help is not forthcoming.

Why? As Chris points out, and as anyone who follows this kind of shit understands, the US has no stomach to directly engage a nuclear-armed military state like Russia. We prefer to assault those who cannot defend themselves, and even then, there can be problems, as the Iraqi insurgency and Afghan counter-attacks have shown. And if poor people in slums and the mountains can give the American military fits, imagine what the Russian armored machine would do.

While it's a good and sane thing that the US will not (at least so far) fight Saakashvili's war for him, the larger geopolitical battle goes on. NATO is looking to diminish if not eliminate Russia's influence in the region, of which Saakashvili is a piece, however reckless his recent actions; and then there's the endless war over energy resources, primarily oil, which is global. Of the two candidates for imperial manager, it's McCain who's making the craziest noises over all this. But don't dismiss Obama just yet. While the President-In-Waiting is not prone to immediate, loud hyperbole, he's a master adaptor, and is sliding toward McCain's position which, with his smooth touch, Obama can make his own. Just what we need -- and deserve.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Cold Water Fun




You can turn your back on the horrorshow, but the bloody beat goes on, as Sammy Davis, Jr. used to say. Or was it Stalin? The memory, she is fading . . .

Reconnecting to our wonderful world late Saturday, after several days of serene ignorance, made me want to dash back to Lake Michigan and swim out beyond the safety markers. Russia pounding Georgia, with the US looking to intervene. Beautiful. Bush yapping about human rights and freedom from China while Bin Laden's driver is convicted of war crimes. Glorious. Liberals moaning about the "tabloid" coverage of John Edwards' infidelity and off-the-books fatherhood, though were Edwards a Repub, they wouldn't get enough of it. Typical. Bernie Mac dead at 50. Fucking brutal.

I was never crazy about Mac's stand-up, but did like his sitcom. He was a gifted comic actor, and his knowledge of and respect for previous generations of comedians like Red Skelton and Jackie Gleason showed how seriously Mac took his craft. You wouldn't believe how little many contemporary comics and comedy writers know about those who preceded them, if they know anything at all. Jon Schwarz has a funny SNL-related anecdote that crystallizes this sorry fact, but I'll let him tell it, if he's not too busy with his rooftop sprout farm and shaving mirror solar panels.

Getting away, while briefly invigorating, only deepened my sadness. At a time when people should be ultra-politicized, or at least conscious of the political nets thrown over them, it appears that more and more want nothing to do with what's right in their faces. Putting Obama '08 bumperstickers on their cars is about as politicized as they'll get, a sign that they desire "change," but will do nothing save voting for Obama to realize it. And liberals call me cynical. The only other political symbol I saw over the last few days was this:




It was everywhere. On t-shirts, on flagpoles, hanging from front porches -- an ongoing parade of Vietnam-era self-pity. The nerve of those Viet-Nazi bastards, defending themselves from imperial assault. Why, if the roles were reversed, and Vietnamese pilots were carpet-bombing large sections of the American Midwest, killing millions, we would never dream of shooting down their planes, much less putting surviving pilots in prison or beating them to death. Our collective mindset after the 9/11 attacks is proof of that. Solzhenitsyn was right: we Americans are much too weak, which only emboldens sadists like Vietnamese prison guards. Ask John McCain or Jon Voight. They'll no doubt concur.

Diving into the waves and body surfing with my son softened some of this surrounding noise, the boy's laughter a comforting antidote. But now it's back to work, talking about war, deceit, political corruption, and the ceaseless hypocrisy that lubricates it all. Hey, a guy's gotta sell books.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Deep Bruised Sky




August is a dead, depressing month for me, a toxic combo of deep memory, brain chemical collision, dread, boredom, another step toward the ash urn, and various bullshit in between. And this being a presidential election years makes it even darker. I toyed with the idea of going to Denver with some younger, anarchic writers and videoheads, just to see point blank the Dem bacchanalia around Obama's launch. But homeowner realities and other financial limitations make this unwise to do, so, like most of y'all, I'll be watching the festivities from a safe, sterile distance.

As for the GOP gathering, who cares? I suspect it'll have the zip of a medical alert bracelet ad. Besides, the Repubs will never top their '92 convention -- all that paranoia, racism, and militarist posturing, all wasted on George H.W. Bush. The old skull boner didn't know what to do with that kind of material. But had they nominated Pat Buchanan instead, the contradictions would have been theatrically heightened, sending Bill Clinton and Ross Perot into cannibalistic seizures while the National Guard prepped for a general clampdown. We'll never get those days back, alas.

I'm about to hit the road for a few days -- a little R&R near a major lake, no TV, no Web, just a minor attempt to relax and recharge, especially with "Savage Mules" promotion and appearances on the near horizon. (I believe there are a few haunted areas nearby, one of Michigan's better features.) If the hate mail I've already received is any indication, I should be in for some serious fun once the Obama Experience begins its Fall Tour. We'll see. Just know that very soon, I'm going to make my arguments at a site that may surprise many of you. Deep in righteous mule territory, setting the stage for related follow-ups. Or so it looks at the moment. Nothing exists until it happens, and even then it's a firefly's dream. You will be the first to know.

Before I head out, a couple of items. First, avoid at all costs "Chapter 27," a slow, dreary look at Mark David Chapman's descent into Beatle killing. Jared Leto, whom I generally like, swings for the fences in this thing, trying to blend the loner psychosis of "Taxi Driver" with the Method weight gain of "Raging Bull." It simply doesn't work. In the end, we get the impression that John Lennon was murdered by boring, blank slate of a schlub who lacked the criminal edge of a Manson, a Gacy, a Son of Sam. I'm sure Leto pumped up his Chapman so he would read on film. If that's the case, then the real Chapman must have been an utter zero. Not what we Americans expect from our celebrity assassins.

Now, on the other hand, do see "Molière," which I caught by accident yesterday afternoon. It's witty, funny, laced with a certain sadness, but a splendid diversion all the same. I'm a sucker for period, costume pieces, but "Molière" delivers more than that. Makes "Shakespeare In Love" look like "The Bowery Boys Meet A Stuttering Gorilla."



That's it from me until the weekend. If you need fresh takes, there's always IOZ, Jon Schwarz, and an assortment of others. Go to Barry Crimmins' joint and kick his hammock a few times. He's been loafing long enough.

Monday, August 4, 2008

That's The Ticket



In order to show that they, too, are comfortable with slaughtering foreigners, many liberals are pushing Wesley Clark to be Obama's running mate. This makes political and historical sense. After all, Clark oversaw Bill Clinton's air war on Serbia in 1999, killing some 2,000 civilians with cluster bombs and depleted uranium munitions, targeting numerous civilian targets, petrochemical plants and the like. With Radovan Karadzic now in the "humanitarian" dock, a Clark tie-in is perfectly timed. Not only can American libs celebrate, yet again, Clinton's aggression, they can brand themselves as "responsible" war-makers, so unlike the reckless Repubs, who've undermined our national security while besmirching our once-great name, etc.

Having Clark on the ticket puts further pressure on McCain, who couldn't even bomb Vietnamese without getting shot down, the clumsy dope. Compared to him, Wesley Clark is a progressive Übermensch who knows how to kill with stylish efficiency and a winning smile, and will do so to liberal applause.

Pro-Clark libs are also looking to disprove the perception that Democrats are jelly-spined, traitorous fags who shriek at the mere mention of violence. As I argue in "Savage Mules," this really isn't necessary, given the Party's blood-soaked history. Why, just over the weekend, another reminder of Dem carnage resurfaced, as South Korea's Truth and Reconciliation Commission pointed to US air strikes on Korean refugees in 1950-51. Not only was napalm liberally dropped on civilians, those trying to flee the attacks were strafed by American pilots. Reading the reports lends the impression that southern Korea was a free-fire zone where civilians were routinely targeted.

That certainly was the case in the North, where US aircraft firebombed countless villages and towns, incinerating untold numbers of people, which was fine, since those Koreans were part of a global conspiracy to enslave the Earth, and so had to be mercilessly exterminated. Massacres in the South were a bit more difficult to justify, but Americans are pretty inventive when excusing or denying war crimes, with liberals usually leading the way. Slap a "humanitarian" label on a mass grave, or if pressed, offer a few posthumous apologies, and all's well until the next military campaign.

While Wesley Clark cannot match Harry Truman's grisly body count, he is well within the murderous liberal tradition. Pairing him with Obama should not be seen as a defensive measure, but as a proud acknowledgement of Dem bloodletting. Stop whining, mules! Embrace your heritage!

Friday, August 1, 2008

Going Through The Motions




Did you know that John McCain is a bumbling racist oaf? A twisted old Scrooge who never saw the light? A bitter, constipated Mr. Magoo minus the comic charm? Probably just about the evilest fuckwit alive who, if elected, will destroy much of human existence as we know it?

My fellow Americans, the choice is clear. A vote for McCain is a vote for the Klan. You want that on your conscience?

As I've said before, it's hard to believe that at one time, McCain was perhaps the liberals' favorite Republican -- certainly during the Clinton years. I don't know how much McCain has changed since then; he seems like the same opportunistic, pandering pol he always was, only now he has the temerity to run against History. And as they did with Joe Lieberman, liberals have dropped McCain and are shitting on him every chance they get. He doubtless deserves it, but where was all this McCain hate back in the day? It couldn't be that most Dems operate according to partisan whims, and not on principle, could it?

John McCain must possess the worst timing and luck in American politics. He finally snags the GOP nomination, only to face a man whose momentum and place in electoral history will seemingly crush all challengers. It's like a slow white ball player trying to tag out Jackie Robinson or Larry Dobie, or some small white linebacker being dragged along by Marion Motley as the big man rumbles for another score. McCain appears totally fucked, and no matter what he tries, he sinks even deeper in the shit-scented muck. If there remains any doubt that the Republican Party despises McCain, all you need to remember is that they handed him their worthless nomination. Bob Dole's '96 run appears golden in comparison.

Many observers are amazed that McCain would use race this early in the campaign. But really, what choice does he have? McCain's only shot at winning the White House is to stir up as much racial anxiety and fear among American whites as he can. He cannot compete with Obama as a speaker, as a perceived agent of "change," and certainly not as an inspiring symbol. Obama has youth, verve, sexiness, and global appeal. McCain is still bitching about gooks. And yet, that may be his saving grace. It's a vile approach, but it could work. Never underestimate the power of personal racism. A lot of whites might not be crazy about McCain as a man or a candidate, but at least he's not black with a foreign name. You work with what you got.

As for Obama, these are very heady days indeed. In essence, he is the President-In-Waiting. This status has been thrust upon him, and Obama's embraced it without breaking stride. If this scenario not only endures, but gains in speed and strength, Obama's election will be a mere formality. This of course further proves how utterly fixed our political system remains, but if it puts a Dem in the Oval Office, most liberals won't care. Again, liberals don't oppose the system, they simply want to run it -- or at least pretend that they have any say in the matter. Once Obama's officially president, he'll have his own agenda and set of elite pressures to deal with. He won't have to cater to liberal fantasies again until 2011. This won't stop the libs on the ground from clicking their heels and crossing their fingers -- that is, when they're not slandering and sliming those who dare criticize their Father Leader. That phase is already in full swing. It will only get louder and nastier.