Monday, March 31, 2008

Hell Has No Exit

"Fuck the president!"

So blurts Staff Sgt. Brandon King, played by Ryan Phillippe, after learning he's being sent back to Iraq for yet another tour of madness in "Stop-Loss."

It's hard not to like a film where an Iraqi combat vet, Bronze Star and Purple Heart barely warm on his breast, insults the Commander-In-Chief in front of his commanding officer. While a line like that will thrill antiwar, Bush-loathing viewers, it does not define the overall feel of the film. Director Kimberly Peirce (who co-wrote the screenplay with Mark Richard) populates her little drama with largely apolitical characters -- Red State good ol' boys who love Toby Keith, tequila, and shotguns. Indeed, when Sgt. King returns from Iraq, he and his fellow soldiers are given a grand welcome. The war is seen as necessary and just: "We're over there killing them in Iraq so we don't have to kill them in Texas!" yells King's best friend and comrade-in-arms Steve Shriver to the cheers of the hometown, flag-waving crowd.

But once the soldiers' weekend leave gets rolling, fueled by binge drinking, problems begin to surface as these young vets wrestle with their personal demons. Shriver and another friend, Tommy, appear especially damaged by their time in Iraq. Both cling to the military myths that not only justify their actions, but are perhaps their only embraceable identities. And each look to Brandon King for guidance and solace, trusting he will serve the same function stateside as he did in Iraq.

But King, having led over 100 combat missions in Afghanistan and Iraq, is tangling with his own darkness and guilt, primarily the alleyway ambush he inadvertently exposed his men to in Tikrit, where several were killed and a few maimed and badly burned. It's a scene that keeps replaying in his head, RPGs zinging from rooftops and small doorways; chasing insurgents into tiny apartments, killing not only them, but women and children as well. King saves Shriver's life, but is unable to help Rico Rodriguez, who is blinded, severely burned, and horribly maimed in the ambush. Rodriguez lives, barely, yet King cannot shake the idea that it's all his fault, despite the supreme faith his comrades place in him after the fact.

While he remains haunted by what happened in Tikrit, King looks forward to slow, civilian life on his family's small ranch, a place where he feels most safe. When the orders come down that he's been stop-lossed and must return to Iraq within a month, King snaps, not only cursing Bush, but the war itself. He's seen too much death, is through with killing, and openly states that he doesn't even know who the U.S. is fighting over there. To him, the war is a brutal game of survival, nothing more. The 9/11 attacks which inspired King to enlist have dissolved into a distant haze, and no amount of Toby Keith is going to change his war-weary mind. That's when King decides to go AWOL, in a hopeless effort to reach a pandering Senator who offered King assistance at his homecoming.

That's about as political as "Stop-Loss" gets. Though a few pointed lines and exchanges pop up here and there, the view of the war is kept at ground level with the main characters, who know nothing of the conflict save for the immediate horror. Antiwar types may feel frustrated by this limitation, but Kimberly Peirce sets the proper tone. As with most imperial wars, the men and women fighting them usually feed on patriotism and purpose, not overarching geopolitical considerations, much less a detailed understanding of the country and culture they're attacking. When the thinnest light of reality finally hits them, many of these kids feel lost, disconnected from the bullshit and star spangled lies that helped forge their military mindsets.

Some wake up and oppose what they once backed. Others drift away, wanting only to forget whatever they witnessed or carried out. A fair number fight off negative feelings by becoming even more gung-ho, more willing to kill the enemy-of-the-moment. All of these responses drift through "Stop-Loss," but the overwhelming feeling is one of entrapment. The main characters are small town kids dragging ghosts, nightmares, anger and despair in their wake. They have no real means of escape, apart from suicide, as the cycle of Middle East war spins madly on without end. If "Stop-Loss" conveys any message, it's simply that. There'll be plenty of time for different messages. Lots and lots of time.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Sour Guts

Funny. Write about ghosts one day, feel like joining them the next.

Been on my back for the past few days, wrestling with oftentimes excruciating abdominal pain. Perhaps a bug, perhaps my chaotic diet of late is the culprit; but whatever the source, it hurt like a motherfucker. There were moments when I dreamed of death, and believe saw it through my agony. I don't know if it's brain chemicals or something ethereal, but the cliché holds true: there is peace in death. Nonexistence, an immortal light, tough to say what kind of peace awaits us all. I got a smattering of both. The final mystery, indeed.

I'm better today, not 100% but able to walk upright without doubling over. I'm due for a physical, the medical world's version of dart throwing, as one never knows what'll get missed or misdiagnosed. You've heard the horror stories, I'm sure. Still, apart from waving snakes or trying to wish or pray away maladies, what are you going to do?

I have thoughts about HBO's John Adams series, the ongoing political turmoil in Detroit and the not-so veiled racist attacks on Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick (no saint, either), among other topics. But today I must rest, and view this samsara world through tired eyes.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008


Silent comedy became cool in the garish early-70s, at least where I lived. A local pizzeria, Noble Romans, screened Keystone and Hal Roach comedies in the main dining area, sending me to a black-and-white world where frenetic clowns flew about, leaping, spilling, crashing, mugging their way through very thin storylines. Since my parents were divorced, I pleaded with each to take me to Noble Romans as often as possible, doubling my exposure to those magical, frayed films. Food was a secondary concern.

These films still have a hold on me, partly as nostalgia, but primarily because I enjoy the mechanics of early American slapstick. Yes, Chaplin, Keaton, Lloyd, and Langdon remain the lasting examples, but their best work came after the initial silent comedy rush of the mid-1910s. It's that period that I find most fascinating, where pretty much anything was attempted, and actors bruised and broke their bones stretching physical gags to the limit.

I used to think I was alone loving those one- and two-reelers, until I moved to New York in my early 20s. There I encountered a group of young film and art students who not only knew the names Ford Sterling, Chester Conklin, and Mack Swain, but owned 16 millimeter films of their more obscure efforts. Friday night screenings in a tiny apartment became a semi-regular event, just like Noble Romans, only with beer and potent weed instead of salami subs. Many of these prints were in mint condition, free of scratches and random jumps. You could really study Mabel Normand's comic expressions, Fatty Arbuckle's subtle, deft moves, Snub Pollard's compact aggression.

Here my appreciation deepened as I learned the names behind the bits -- Leo McCarey, Del Lord, Charles Parrot (later known as Charley Chase), and the prolific gag writer Al Boasberg who, when asked by an actor why a club would be hidden under his character's bed, replied, "Because the goddamned prop man put it there!" This was a time of serious comedy exposure for me, providing context and focus as I wrote jokes for stand ups, performed improv in the Village, and began mixing with actual comedy writing pros. Soon I discovered the great radio comedians, Fred Allen my favorite, with Jack Benny right behind, and through a former Letterman writer became a big fan of Jerry Lewis, who owed much to the silent period.

All this comes back to me as I'm currently reading "Keystone: The Life and Clowns of Mack Sennett" by Simon Louvish, the biographer of W.C. Fields (another legend I became acquainted with). While not as poetic as Walter Kerr's "The Silent Clowns," perhaps the most beautifully-written book about comedy I've ever read, Louvish's look at Keystone Studios has a nice, steady flow, and fills some of the biographical gaps left by Kerr, who was busy honing perfect sentences about pratfalls, delayed reactions to bonks on the head, and the differences between Chaplin's gait and Keaton's stride. Louvish reminds me of my first encounters with those mostly-forgotten performers, where I would gaze at the extras as though they were ghosts, and wonder how warm the breeze was that moved Mabel Normand's skirt. Most of these films are nearly a century old. To me, they are gateways to a place where shadows forever chase one another.

Speaking of ghosts, there are plenty to be seen in this one-reeler, "Kid Auto Races at Venice" (not "in" as the replacement title card erroneously states). Shot on location January 10, 1914, it is Chaplin's second film ever, and the first where he wears the Tramp costume. Contrary to legend, Chaplin's self-written one included, this costume was thrown together, the character improvised on the spot. As Louvish points out, "Kid Auto Races" is more a screen test than comedy, as Chaplin pretends to be a nosier member of the crowd behind him. Since Chaplin was unknown at the time, many of the bystanders assumed he was a real pest to the camera crew. Sort of like what Andy Kaufman would do much later, only not as strange nor potentially violent.

And of course I can't overlook Mabel Normand, the most alluring of the Keystone ghosts. "The Bangville Police," from March 1913.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Hidden Basics

Our wars are not going well, if you bother to read widely about Iraq and Afghanistan, which basically means anything beyond the New York Times and Washington Post. (We're not talking exotic outlets, either.) As for the cable news nets, the only tangible piece of information one can grasp is that the American propaganda system stars clueless, bellowing idiots. I've watched more cable news in the past week than I have in the past year, and frankly, I don't know how people can stand it. Well, those who bother watching, that is. Mercifully, the vast majority of consumers ignore these side shows where the loudest freaks routinely steal the fleeting spotlight. You can always tell the regulars from the tourists: they know exactly how to kill the clock, buzzwords and rhythm phrases spewed out while heads shake, eyes roll, and every frozen smile betrays the fixed "debate." Appropriate entertainment by-and-for the imperial class.

And Glenn Beck? Pelt me with rotting guavas, but I have till now largely avoided this asshole; and now that I've endured roughly 20 minutes of his shtick, I get the joke and need see nothing more. Danny Bonaduce commenting on the election while pounding a heavy bag would provide deeper insight.

This is basically why I've been absent from the site. I've had nothing really to add to the insanity echoing inside my skull. Plus, the men's NCAA hoops tournament provided much-needed distraction, though even there, some nationalist sentiment leaked through. Unavoidable but tolerable, so long as you don't take the marionette commentators too seriously. ESPN hired the recently retired Bobby Knight as an in-studio analyst, and though I cannot stand the man, he does know what the fuck he's talking about when it comes to the college game. Unlike his sideline persona, Knight is courteous and soft-spoken, cashing his check without busting brain vessels. Figures. The one place where Knight's violent side would be most welcome, throwing chairs, kicking the desk and backdrop, grabbing his colleagues by the lapels and screaming in their faces, the old boy decides to play it cool. Can ESPN get Danny Bonaduce for the Sweet 16?

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Livin' On A Chinese Rock

Paint me screaming purple, but the lack of street violence by all those yuppie hippies with "Free Tibet" stickers on their cars is a little surprising. You'd think, given recent events in that holy land, that the gray ponytail crowd would show some solidarity, some get up and go. Not much -- a brick through a Chinese restaurant window, dumping a few gallons of Tsingtao in a sewer, a public burning of La Choy products. Anything. But no, they cruise blissfully along, driving below the speed limit, riding their brakes, trying to comprehend how a four way stop works. Free Tibet? How 'bout washing your damn car?

Tibet remains a romantic notion to a fair number of older American libs. Everyone from Bill Murray to Brad Pitt have advertised its allure. Long robes, old bells, mountain monasteries, prayer wheels, shorn hair. Sorta like "Kung Fu" minus the spear dodging. Then there's the Dalai Lama, the Maharishi of NPR-land. What a run this cat has enjoyed. I doubt that a tanned, rested, rejuvenated Jesus would match the Lama's poll numbers. Too edgy. Too confrontational. Letterman to the Lama's Leno. Yet something tells me that Christ might say or do something in reaction to state repression. All we're getting from the Lama is raised eyebrows and non-committal pull quotes: "I do feel helpless. Cannot do anything. I have no such power." Of course, he cannot stop China's crackdown, but he could speak to his followers, who are on the frontlines. Maybe he wants them mowed down. Life is suffering, after all, and what quicker way to snuff the pain than to rush a phalanx of Chinese combat troops. Book of The Dead indeed.

The Lama may feel powerless, but plenty of American talking heads and news outlets are blasting China with predictable slams, so predictable that they instantly evaporate. What more can U.S. elites say about the Chinese state? Besides, it's all a choreographed dance. The U.S. relies heavily on China's economic support, and the Chinese value the American market. Barring some catastrophic event, this tidy arrangement isn't going to be rocked by routine denunciations of human rights abuses. Besides, I bet the Chinese leadership finds American "outrage" amusing. If I were in their shoes, I certainly would.

Speaking of amusing American umbrage, the New York Times recently tilted up its nose at China, exhibiting the usual disdain:

"China had a chance to shine for its Olympic coming-out party and is blowing it. Its leaders will continue to have to battle protests and unrest — and endure international approbation — until they ensure more freedom for all their citizens, including greater religious tolerance and freedom for Tibet."

Bad China! Don't you know that freedom and religious tolerance are your only real hope for social calm?

Take us for example. When the U.S. hosted the Summer Games in 1984, we weren't cracking down on Tibetan Buddhists. We were slaughtering Central American Christians, among other groupings, via our client armies and security forces. Scores of them. Rivers choked with mutilated bodies. Mass graves. The whole bloody bit. The key difference is that we were bringing them freedom and religious tolerance. This is why our Olympics went so smoothly (helped by the Soviet Bloc boycott, but hey, they were invited!). You, China, are cracking down because you hate freedom. Now, what kind of coming-out party is that gonna be?

Votes Are Where You Find Them

"The Speech! Did you hear The Speech!"

"Oh God yes! My knees are still shaking!"

"It's the greatest thing I've ever heard! I can't stop crying!"

"Reality as I've known it has changed forever!"

"My senses have been shattered, then reassembled in a fresh, mystical pattern!"

"Mine too! What I would do to that man if I had the chance!"

"I know! I would suck his sweet dick for a week!"

"Only a week! You racist!"

"Okay, a month then!"

"Christ, go burn a cross already!"

"All right -- a year!"

"What, and risk losing the midterms?!"

"For how long then?"

"As long as it takes!"

"We'd have to work in shifts!"

"Shifts?! There's no time for shifts! We need to double team him!"

"Of course! Sorry!"

"Sorry won't take you to the promised land!"

"Right! So, front and back?"

"Yes, yes -- front, back, on our knees, bent over, sprawled out, switched up, port, stern, aft, the whole fucking thing!"

"Gotcha! Watch the teeth, lube the hands, steady strokes, maintain the rhythm!"


"Ummm . . ."

"What's the problem?"

"Who are we talking about?"

"Obama! Who are you talking about?"

"Oh, no one . . . I mean, Obama."

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Land Of Chains

Amid all the righteous noise made about Rev. Jeremiah Wright, it was David Gergen on Anderson Cooper's show who made the most pertinent observation. The veteran GOP operative with bipartisan ties informed the audience that black America is having a different conversation than white America, so one cannot apply the CNN, Fox, or MSNBC framework to African-American concerns.

Gergen's insight came and went with little comment, since the Wright media spasm is largely a white creation. Who cares what those with no political power think? That it took a power broker like Gergen to make this obvious, important point further reveals how fixed our "national dialogue" remains. This of course allows all manner of patriotspeak to flow unimpeded, for there's nothing that the Liberal Media loves more than to prove its nationalist bonafides. After all, who do you think keeps the American flag lapel pin industry in the, er, black?

Jeremiah Wright's supposedly inflammatory statements about 9/11 and the ongoing specter of racism are uncontroversial to those following the real world. We live in horrific, corrupt times, and while I don't agree with everything Wright says, he's certainly not speaking fiction, primarily when it comes to American foreign policy. We are hated not so much for our freedoms, such as they are, but specifically for our mass murder, our torture, our occupations. There are other, cultural elements that are part of the overall mix, yet they are doubtless secondary to those seeking refuge from our cluster bombs and client armies. Wright's sermons about reaping what you sow is nothing new, especially in the Christian tradition. But to hear cable chatters and assorted reactionaries tell it, such time-honored concepts don't apply to the United States. The God who watches over us and guides our trigger-happy hand excuses any and all slaughter committed in His Holy Name. He wouldn't have endorsed that song about how He blesses us were the opposite the case.

I've been pretty hard on the Obama campaign, and still am; but if anything would soften my view, it's this bullshit furor over Jeremiah Wright. If you are white and don't listen to black talk radio, now would be a good time to start. Wright's opinions are not deemed crazy there, and you'll hear much stronger denunciations of imperialism and racism than you ever will on a white liberal's show. Sure, some dementia is present: this is America, after all. But contrast the opinions exchanged between African-Americans to those expressed on the corporate kabuki programs, or worse, white reactionary broadcasts. Which do you think is closer to what's actually going on?

Speaking of "extremist" black speech, here's a classic from 1964. Wonder how this man would be treated in the media world of today?

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Middle Rage

Nice to see one of my heroes from youth still bringing it. The above is from last August in NYC, taped in some green or dressing room with a moving hand-held camera. (O'Donoghue once proposed that "SNL" use nothing but hand-helds, breaking open the static three-camera form, making the show look ragged, fluid, on the verge of falling apart . . . wonder how that concept went over . . .) While John Lydon plays up his public image from time to time -- inescapable, given who he is and what he's achieved -- you can tell that he truly means what he says. As my generation settles into middle age, this type of direct expression steadily fades, as it's not fitting for this phase of our lives.

Well, fuck that.

Like Lydon, I too bemoan the lack of fire, spirit, rebellion, and risk in the younger generations. Though there are always exceptions, the general tone is depressingly quiescent. Corporate culture has raped and strangled pretty much everything in sight, despite what that dipshit reactionary David Mamet says. Assholes like him send the wrong message to the young, that they're already bought and sold, so close your eyes to unconscious possibilities and cash what checks you can. Still, as talented a playwright and dialogue-writer Mamet has been, he never had the cultural impact that Lydon still enjoys. So some justice prevails.

Call me a nostalgic fart, but when I see Lydon speak, it takes me back to 1978, to Second Time Around, a small, bootleg record shop in the Broad Ripple section of Indianapolis. STA was fully stocked with pirated albums and singles by Devo, Blondie, Ramones, Television, Talking Heads, Dead Boys, Buzzcocks, Elvis Costello, and of course the Sex Pistols. Indeed, there seemed to be more Pistols sides than any other band, including recordings of their chaotic American tour. It's impossible to fully explain to a young person how the Pistols came across back then. The power, rawness, and energy was like nothing else, especially having grown up listening to The Eagles, Fleetwood Mac, and Peter Frampton. It was at STA where I first heard "Never Mind The Bollocks," the lead cut "Holidays In The Sun" knocking me on my teen ass. As I've said before, "Bollocks" was my "Sgt. Pepper." Still is.

It's that spirit, along with LA bands like X and Germs (Darby Crash singing my book would be perfect for the audio version), that animates "Savage Mules." At least I hope so. Since posting the Verso page, I've been asked by several readers about the book's brevity and tone. The main idea behind "Mules" is that you can read it in one sitting -- in fact, should. "Mules" is meant to be loud, fast, crazy, unbalanced, funny, weird, libelous, angry, sincere. It ranges from three-chord polemic to fuzzbox historical demolition with reverb and mad dubs strewn about. It's not armchair reading nor a summer day's diversion. It is, as one of my biggest fans recently proclaimed, dog food for the soul. Woof.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008


Coming sooner than I expected. Verso refuses to wrap the tome in sandpaper, my small homage to Guy Debord. Nor will they cram the thing into a tight can, a la Public Image Ltd.'s "Metal Box." The least they can do is pre-soak it in kerosene.

Four Grand A Pop Follies

Eliot Spitzer? No opinion. Well, not one worth expanding on. Dude stuck his dick in a blender, got caught, will pay. Some libloggers, while acknowledging Spitzer's faux pas, can't help but see some nefarious GOP tentacles slithering in the background. Maybe. But isn't it interesting that when a mule shows his or her true colors, there are always mitigating circumstances, perhaps a clandestine plot to do them in. When a Repub does the same, it's caustic laughter, immediate presumption of guilt, celebrations about how hypocritical right wingers are.

Political tribalism. Feh.

To me it's good riddance. Spitzer is pro-war, pro-death penalty, pro-police state. Fuck him. I'll let my good friend Barry Crimmins say the rest, now that he's taken charge of New York state.

THIS JUST IN: Exclusive footage of Spitzer on a rural campaign swing.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Pleasure Of Pain

The Clintons are despicable, yet I'm happy that Hillary has extended the primary season for another few rounds of internecine fighting. And if the moon and stars align, and the pixies sprinkle us with glittering dust, the political bloodshed will spill into Denver, sending the Dem convention into some kind of controlled chaos. I doubt it'll be another '68 Chicago (we should be so lucky), but hopefully something that mucks up the corporate gears in full public view.

Of course, a side benefit to all this will be the twitching and bitching among online libs as they comically try to adapt to shifting Dem realities. Scanning the liblogs over the past week has been a delight, as a growing number of liberals, sickened by Hillary's hubris, are seeing the system for what is actually is. If their comments are genuine, then progress is being made. Still, a greater number of libs continue to believe in the system, clinging to its tattered ends while clicking their heels in space. It's a bit touching, if painful, to watch liberals trying to convince themselves that either Hillary or Obama actually care about their concerns. That beyond simple Party ratification, there exists in each a genuine desire to heal America, or at least set matters right again, whatever that might be. Back and forth they spit and scratch, Hillary-haters and Obamaphobes, locked in pointless struggle as large sections of the wider world burn and bleed. Hey, beats "America's Next Top Model."

The Saint's backers and staffers are still recovering from Hillary's recent victories and GOP-style assaults on their candidate. Clearly, they didn't see this coming. But when running against a Clinton, you must be prepared for concentrated fecal attacks. It's like entering a mixed martial arts ring and not expecting a knee to the face. I don't know what Obamaites were thinking, but a first-term Senator does not embarrass an empress like Hillary in 11 straight contests and walk away unscathed. Hillary believes that the Democratic nomination is her personal property, and no one, especially a superior communicator and crowd-pleaser like Obama, will be allowed to fuck with that. As we can see, Hillary would rather destroy the Party's chances in the general election before giving in to the Saint. Whether she actually achieves this or not remains to be seen. Me, I'm just enjoying the show.

Part of Obama's effort to counter Hillary's shit storm was to jettison Samantha Power, who had the temerity to tell the truth about Clinton. Given all the crap that Hillary's gang has thrown his way, the Saint should've simply apologized for Power's remarks, chalked it up to campaign pressure, retained Power's services and moved on. If Hillary continued to make noise about it, there's plenty of comparable quotes coming from her corner, for which to date no one of any consequence has been reprimanded or sacrificed. True, this tactic puts one in the slime with Hillary, where she enjoys a considerable advantage; but the Saint is running for imperial manager, and if he refuses to get shit or blood on his shirt, then he's not qualified to move up and send arms to the IDF or Colombian death squads. On this front, Hillary has him beat.

As for Power, well, I'm sure her career will not be seriously damaged. You'll never go broke praising the uniqueness of American violence, especially when you've cornered the "humanitarian" market. Power's not alone in playing to this demographic: Paul Berman, Michael Ignatieff, and Victor Davis Hanson also toss holy water at cruise missiles and cluster bombs, but few imperial enthusiasts find them physically alluring. That's Samantha Power's trump card, and she plays it knowingly and effectively. Witness all the liberal boys bellowing on her behalf, offering to carry her books to chemistry class, showering her with giddy praise.

In the days following Power's dismissal, numerous lib lads took up her cause, each topping the other with glowing statements about Power's "brilliance" and "dazzling" humanitarian insight. After reading several apologias, I tapped out a little vaudeville bit in response, as you by now have probably seen. There were many Power defenders to choose from, but I settled on Bob Herbert and Marc Cooper as my main examples. Now, I knew that by sending up Coop, he'd respond in his typical manner, mounting his high horse -- in his case, using a tall ladder to reach the saddle -- and disparaging me from above, being a J-School prof who understands how the game is really played, and who the real players are. Sadly, I'm not among them. As Coop told a reader who linked to my post:

"Glad u linked to Dennis Perrin’s pathetic post. I was going to but decided there was no good reason to further display this guy’s really perverse political neuroses. But you’ve gone ahead and done it.

"In the past, Perrin has rankled and irritated me. But on this one, as I said, I just find him to be pathetic, bitter and irrelevant. I find his remarks about Power to be frankly disgusting and reeking of a juvenile sexism.

"If he had half the moral depth of Samantha he’d be worth taking seriously. Instead, he becomes one more exhibit in the pathological decline of the marginal left."

Then, responding again to the same reader, Coop added (typos and strange syntax uncorrected):

"I think lots of things about Samantha but not that she’s a hypocrite. You may very well disagree with her but her writing shows an enormous compassion and humanity. You seem to have a very narrow ideological window through which your approvzl must always fit/ That’s quite a silly way to evaluate people and quite naive as well.

"I repeat: Perrin’s post reeks with petty envy, peevishness and bitterness/

"His bit about chewing on Power’s panties tells us everything we need to know about him. Pathetic.

"Would u like to compare Perrin’s boks to Power’s? Not so much apples to oranges than sirloin to dog food."

Perhaps. But my work is only the finest dog food, without a speck of cereal or artificial ingredients. Nine out of ten canines agree.

Coop didn't like the image of him wanting to chew Power's panties. You can't please everyone. But after reading his panting piece defending Power's honor, all I could see was his stubby little frame crawling up Power's legs, straining for a mouthful of heaven. Then again, I'm pathetic, bitter, jealous, neurotic and perverse. Maybe I'm the one who wants to chew on Power's undies. I've nibbled worse.

Beyond his personal gripes with me, Coop's fawning at Power's feet is what's truly hilarious. This cardboard curmudgeon who affects a no-prisoners pose dissolves to damp pulp at the mere mention of Power's name. We all have our weaknesses, and I'm certainly not immune to romantic delusion from time to time (less so over the years, I hope). But for a guy who claims to "tell it like it is," ideology be damned, Coop's glossing over Power's glaring double standards and general hypocrisy is, to borrow his word, pathetic. Yet that's what one must do in order to be "relevant" to the right people. Power understands this all too well, as does Coop, though I doubt he looks quite as fetching in a cocktail party dress. Depends on one's taste.

To get a better sense of Coop's dizzy "humanitarian" standards, one can simply compare his veneration of Power to his vilification of Amy Goodman, the host of "Democracy Now." A few years ago at his blog, Coop referred to Goodman as a "quasi-cult figure . . . St. Amy of the Oppressed Masses" who is "behind-the-scenes, a brass-knuckles, hardball, ruthless player in the demi-demi-world of alternative radio." Goodman's "also a lousy 'journalist' — as she is principally a propagandist. A lot of people like that. Good for them. A lot of people also like Billy Graham."

Now, I used to work with Amy at WBAI in New York, and while we weren't the closest of pals, we were on very friendly terms, and if she was a brass-knuckled, ruthless player, I sure as hell didn't see it. Maybe she was and I missed it, or maybe she became that way after I left. Anyone is capable of anything. But when it comes to human rights abuses and war crimes committed by the U.S. and its allies, Amy is much more direct and candid than the euphemistic, cherry-picking Samantha Power. Indeed, Power displayed this recently on Amy's show, attempting to dodge and downplay Jeremy Scahill's sharp critiques. And unlike Power, Amy Goodman has not only written at length about American complicity in the Timorese genocide, she put her life on the line (alongside partner Alan Nairn) to get the full story. Here's her chilling eyewitness account of the Dili massacre:

"Then we saw an Indonesian truck pull up with about 50 soldiers and they got out and that didn’t look very good. We were asking people, why are you here? why are you doing this? And everyone said, well, we’ll risk anything for our freedom. Just over and over they would say that. And then from the direction that the Timorese procession had come, came hundreds of Indonesian soldiers marching up, weapons in the ready possession. The weapons being U.S. M-16s. Hundreds of them marching up and full uniform, marching up about 12 to 14 abreast.

"Alan and I were standing in the middle of the crowd talking to people and when we saw that very ominous sight I took out my headphones and put them on and I held up my microphone like a flag and I took my tape recorder out. And Alan put the camera above his head. We never brought our equipment out in East Timor because of how dangerous it would be for those who we were talking to. But this time we wanted to make it very clear who we were because we thought somehow maybe we could overt an attack just by our presence by being Western journalists. We knew they had committed many massacres in the past but never in front of Western journalists . . .

"And we felt that as U.S. journalists, the Indonesians would be less likely to do something if they saw that we were there. We started to walk to the front of the crowd. There was a young man behind me named Kamahl Madhadj from New Zealand and he was working with an Australian aid organization doing some translation and we had just met briefly the day before and I said, do you want to come forward with us because I felt the greater the Western presence the better. He had a camera. But he chose to step back. So, we went to the front of the crowd. The Indonesian military were marching up. It got very, very quiet because no one could run away. People in the very back thousands back could run but right now in the front thousands of people were trapped by the high walls of the cemetery. So it got very quiet. We could just hear the beat of the boots as they walked in unison toward the people and the whispering of the kids behind us. Alan and I stood there I was holding out my mic and recording.

"The Indonesian military marched up again 12 to 14 abreast. Marched up, turned around the corner and without any warning, without any hesitation or provocation open fired on the crowd. Gunning people down from right to left. We were in front of the crowd. They went right through us. A group of them enveloped us, took me. They started to shake my mic in my face as if to say this is what we don’t want. And slammed me to the ground with their rifle butts and their boots and started to kick me. At that point Alan had gotten a photograph of them open firing on the crowd but he threw himself on top of me to protect me from further injury. And they took their U.S. M-16s like baseball bats and they slammed them against his head until they fractured his skull.

"As we were lying on the road everyone around us was being killed. About 12 of them were lined up, took the U.S. M-16s and put them to our head and they were screaming, 'politic, politic' saying we were political. Because, of course, anyone - any Westerner who was witness to something like this and any journalist to them was political. Alan was covered in blood. His whole body was in spasm, and he couldn’t protect himself anymore because he had been beaten so badly. All I could say was 'we’re from America ... we’re from America'. And as each person joined in this firing line when we said 'we were from America' to make it very clear who we were. They would say, 'Australian? Australia?' We knew what happened to the Australian journalists and we said, 'no, America.' They stripped us of everything but I still had my passport. I threw it at them and they saw we were from the U.S. They still screamed and held the guns to our heads but then eventually they decided to pull the guns away. And we think that it was because we were from the same country their weapons were from. They would have to pay a price for killing us that they had never had to pay for killing the Timorese."

Try to find that kind of passage in Power's book about America and genocide. Oh right -- you won't, since Power devoted about a half page to East Timor, stating falsely, but profitably, that the U.S. looked the other way as the Indonesian army continued its mass murder. The same goes for Vietnam, Iraq under the sanctions, and Turkish Kurdistan. If this is the type of "humanitarian" that Coop looks up to, that's his party. He certainly won't be alone, clamoring for Power's precious attention while reaching for a touch of "brillance."


Saturday, March 8, 2008

Will To Power

"Does this dress go with Darfur?"

Samantha Power throws back her beautiful head and laughs, then offers me a glass of Balkan Cabernet.

"I get this wine from my dear friends in Kosovo," she smiles, pouring me a generous portion. "I don't know where they get it, or who makes it, but I love its rich bouquet."

Power lifts the glass to her elegant nostrils, breathing in as her dazzling eyes sparkle with appreciation.

"Mmmmm. It has a NATOy nuance, don't you agree?"

Yes. Very NATOy, indeed. The intoxicating scent of human rights.

Of course, this is no surprise nor coincidence. Samantha Power is perhaps America's hottest humanitarian, the author of the highly acclaimed "Other Countries' Crimes: When America Averts Its Eyes, Bad Things Happen," and the Pulitzer Prize winning, "Why Africans Go Berserk: A White Liberal's Guide". She is touted by political heavyweights like Richard Holbrooke and Hollywood celebrities like George Clooney, but most recently, Power had the ear of a rising star by the name of Barack Obama.

I say "had," because a few days ago Power, while speaking to a Scottish newspaper, called Democratic rival Hillary Clinton a "psycho bitch with the manners of a goat." Power also compared Clinton to "Yoko Ono staging an anti-Beatles coup." This upset many people in the Clinton campaign, and while Power was supposedly speaking off the record, her statements put the Obama campaign on the defensive, forcing her to step down.

"I'm like really, really, really so very sorry I said that," Power admits, her full, pouting lips quivering with regret. "Senator Clinton is an upstanding American and one hell of a woman. I don't know what came over me." She then flashes that sizzling smile which can turn even the most hardened foreign tyrant into jelly. "Thank God I have Harvard to fall back on!"

Her longtime friend and Clinton adviser Richard Holbrooke holds no hard feelings.

"Sam got carried away, that's all. This is a heated campaign. The stakes are very high. In her heart, Sam knows that Senator Clinton shares many of her passions, like bombing official enemies. You can't take any of it personally."

Power appreciates the support, and takes the controversy in bewitching stride.

"I'll continue to help Senator Obama become the next leader of the free world in any way I can," she promises, fluttering her delicate eyelashes. "But for now, there's important work to be done."

"I'm hosting a fundraising cocktail party for the African crab spider, which is being systematically wiped out by the Bena Luluwa tribe in Zaire. It's an emergency situation, I'm afraid. Plus, I'm under a tight deadline for my next book, "Gaza Says What?: Looking Elsewhere For War Crimes.'"

She giggles brilliantly.

"It's a lighter work, but hey, I'm due for some down time, right?"

With a glass of Kosovo wine, I suspect.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Monster Mash

Samantha Power, one of the Saint's foreign policy advisers and cheerleader for humanitarian slaughter, told a Scottish newspaper that Hillary "is a monster, too — that is off the record — she is stooping to anything . . . The amount of deceit she has put forward is really unattractive." Naturally, being a Saint adviser, Power took it all back, apologizing profusely for essentially telling the truth.

But then, that's what American political discourse is all about: avoiding the truth as much as possible, especially if you're part of a major presidential campaign. Not a startling observation, I know, but it helps to have it fleshed out now and again, and Power's statement did this nicely, if all too briefly.

Fact is, Power's correct. Hillary Clinton is a monster who will stoop to anything, urged on by her equally repellent husband and her ghastly advisers. What's more, a large number of liberals not only know this, they openly accept it, and will reward Hillary with votes should she somehow wrench the nomination from Obama. So why apologize?

Now, if Power had added to her "monster" blast that the best way to deal with Hillary is to have NATO bomb her campaign for 78 days, then have her arrested and taken to the Hague for a war crimes trial, it would at least be true to form. Of course, I'm not comparing Clinton's campaign to Milosevic's Serbia, simply because the Clintons have much more blood on their hands than did the Balkan strongman. And if Milosevic deserved his fate . . .

LOOKEE HERE: Power has now resigned from the Saint's inner-circle. Tough break. Hope she does okay with that Harvard gig.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Where Have You Gone, Diane Linkletter?

Having ditched the Bircher gig, I can now enjoy most evenings at home, a Rockwellian domestic scene with Lynchian mood lighting set to an early Scorsese pace. Or maybe some deep Ashby focus with a Von Sternberg score and Sturges slapstick thrown in for laughs. Depends on the night, mood, bank balance, and mental temperature.

Last night, it was naked Dali and Buñuel, with televised faces melting and bubbling, "experts" shrieking their predictions, shouting their "analysis," emitting some of the most horrific subhuman noises outside of Gitmo. Thank Shiva that the majority of Americans don't watch the cable news nets, because if they did, I suspect daily life would be much more dangerous and unhinged. People would take numbers to shoot up fast food joints, while absinthe would enjoy a spike in popularity, consumers openly guzzling the trip syrup in midday, stumbling around strip malls and crashing their SUVs and Hummers into lightposts or driving blindly off bridges. Anything to smother the hideous sounds of what is bizarrely called The American News Media.

Makes you appreciate "reality" TV, yes?

Watching the primary returns on CNN, Fox and MSNBC, you could immediately see how dead the American political system truly is. Well, dead for the average person, not for those who own and run the machine. For those in charge, this is a sweet moment in time. They pretty much have the rest of us subdued and gagged, allowing us enough mobility to touch a screen or jot on a paper ballot -- that is, if you can find one. In Ohio, land of the lost vote, some 21 precincts were short of paper ballots, with only 10 of those kept open after the polls closed. End result: 5 extra votes were cast. Huzzah. Cue the star spangled confetti.

Of the three major channels, MSNBC has to be the worst. Chris Matthews, Keith Olbermann and Tim Russert taken all at once is too much for the sober mind to process, their pale, sagging faces morphing into a single yammering unit. Toss in Stepford Anchor Norah O'Donnell and the mummified remains of Tom Brokaw, and who needs hallucinogens? Granted, MSNBC is bad acid, cut with the cheapest crank, but you'll experience insane images and sounds not found at its competitors, especially Fox News, which looks like something they pipe into solitary cells in federal prisons.

As for Hillary remaining in the race . . . is anyone honestly surprised? Even had she lost Ohio and Texas, Hillary would've found some reason to keep her dreadful campaign rolling, as the Clintons are experts in buying time until they can kill off their political opponents. As it stands, Hillary is still a mathematical long shot to snag the Dem nomination. But never underestimate that gang around her, nor the mule elites who still support her campaign. They will pull out all the stops over the next few weeks, sliming and slandering Saint Obama using anything they can seize. With the Clintons, there is no barrel bottom. Only victory or a cozy career with lucrative speaking fees. Either way, Hill and Bill will remain in the hi-def picture, reptilian eyes cutting through their human visage.

Monday, March 3, 2008

All White People Are Crazy

Taking a few days off, dealing with the change in my personal weather. So many wonderful topics to write about, Gaza, another U.S. drive-by in Somalia, more ethnic pleasures in the Balkans, not to mention the prez sweepstakes at home. It's all so tempting, but give me another day or two soak it in. Don't want to spout off half-cocked. As if I ever do that . . .

Here's an obligatory "Fridays" piece, featuring Michael Richards as Frank Zappa, reviewing the top albums of 1981. Note the grinning, silent Rich Hall in the background. Hall was one of four comics to work for both "Fridays" and "SNL." (He also wrote for Letterman's NBC morning show in 1980.) The other three? Why Matt Neuman, Kevin Kelton, and Larry David, of course. Hall now lives in a cabin in Montana, and was appreciated more in England than he ever was in the States. However, he does nothing in this clip.

A fellow "Fridays" freek has mailed me more bootleg DVDs and rare articles about the show. Should arrive any day. This has me stoked. Such is my life.

UPDATE: The "Fridays" package just arrived. I'm a pig in shit. Thanks Wayne!