Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Stiff Upper Libs

You gotta love white liberals. They really are a special bunch. Just ask them -- they'll be more than happy to confirm the fact.

Their squirming and hand-wringing over Jeremiah Wright's recent performances (running from softly-stated analysis to celebrity impressions and regional accents) has been quite a sight to see, and quite predictable as well, since white liberals find it hard to damn the nation state they believe is, under the countless mass graves, morally driven, if imperfect. Touring the various liblogs yesterday and this morning, I found much of this baby talk in evidence, proving yet again that if the Dems capture the White House, nothing will really change, save for the soaring rhetoric.

Of the various manias on display, Digby's fantasy musings took the rancid cake. The beloved liblogger slipped on her space goggles and typed "Reverend Wright called into question the entire premise of Obama's campaign, a campaign built on changing the very nature of politics, when he said, 'he did what politicians do.'" How dare Wright point to plain reality while the most important election ever since the last most important election ever hangs in the balance! Obama caters to mainstream political mythology in order to win votes? That's lunacy! Any sane person knows that Obama's "changing the very nature of politics," right before our eyes. If you doubt this, move to Gaza and await the new dawn. It should arrive no later than, say, August of next year.

Digs wasn't the only lib throwing spitballs at Wright; nor was she alone in denouncing Wright's "egomania" and "self-aggrandizement" (some added that Wright "envies" Obama's success, and thus wants to tear him down, because, you know how certain brothers get when another begins to rise). These epithets are swiftly employed when liberals sense that their worldview is being challenged. Ralph Nader was and remains a selfish egomaniac, while Al Gore just wanted to serve his country. Jeremiah Wright borders on the sociopathic, while Obama and Hillary are merely exploring ways to save this great nation. And of course, there's nothing egomaniacal about liberal bloggers and commentators sliming Wright while telling Obama what he must do and when he needs to do it. They're simply humble patriots, heads held high under fluttering flags, doing their bit for the US of A.

Another popular liberal tactic of late has been to equate Wright with the likes of John Hagee and Pat Robertson. Why won't the Democratic-hating media grill John McCain for his ties to outspoken religious cranks! they squeal, pale fists banging their laptops. I can't speak for the MSM, but the last time I looked, Wright denounces American terror and imperialism, while Hagee and Robertson excuse and defend the same. Indeed, for all of his theatrical flourishes, Wright attacks what is actually going on, while cataloguing what actually happened. Hagee and Robertson spin the violence and bigotry into something they consider beautiful and holy. On this front, American liberals are much closer to Hagee and Robertson's view of America than they are to Wright's, which explains much of their frenzied assaults on the man. When pushed, liberals sing the National Anthem faster and with more gusto than their reactionary cousins. Don't ever question their patriotism!

Listening to black talk radio yesterday was like entering a parallel universe. Rev. Wright's comments were not controversial, nor were any of the hosts and callers surprised by white people's reactions. Some actually pitied whites for being so deluded about the country they dominate. And nearly everyone predicted that Obama would denounce and distance himself from Wright, as that was the only political choice he could make. They weren't happy about that, but they accepted it as part of the American deal, and nearly all whom I heard intend to vote for Obama in the general election (assuming Hillary finally sinks). I don't know if Wright's concept of white brains versus black brains has any scientific merit, but the difference was sparkling clear to me yesterday. Then again, I'm extremely solipsistic.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Another White Lib Burden

"Reverend Wright -- may I call you J-Wry?"

"If you wish. But why that?"

"It's looser, more casual. Puts people at ease."

"I see."

"And trust me, J, you of all people must put others at ease."

"Like who?"

"You know, those Senator Obama needs to win the presidency."

"Ah. I'm beginning to grasp your tone, as it were."

"Good! Awesome! Because frankly, J-Wry, this public speaking thing, it's not helping our cause."

"Really. And what cause would that be?"

"Hello? President Obama? Retaking America? Healing divisions? Putting the Democrats back in power? Sound familiar?"

"Look, son, I have a right to speak my mind."

"Of course you do! Wouldn't have it any other way! It's just that -- I mean, the whole AIDS conspiracy thing. You don't seriously believe that our government would invent or unleash such a devastating disease on the African-American community, do you?"

"I believe our government is capable of anything."

"I feel ya, J. I do. Fight the power and all that. Still, saying the government had something to do with AIDS . . . I dunno. Sounds crazy."

"Crazier than when the government allowed hundreds of black sharecroppers to suffer and die from syphilis, lying to their faces, using them as lab rats?"

"Ancient history, Rev. Gotta be more 2008. We're talking youth vote here."

"Well, then -- crazier than when Jerry Falwell said that God sent AIDS to punish America?"

"Whoa! That's totally different. A lot of Americans believe that God would do something like that. And maybe the big guy would, for all I know. But God isn't running for president. Your friend is, and to say that the government he'll lead would commit such a horrendous act, well, it makes us look bad for backing him."

"Us? You mean, white liberals?"

"If you wanna get racial, yes."

"So you and yours find me an embarrassment? A hindrance to brother Barack's campaign?"

"It's nothing personal. We simply have enough trouble proving our patriotism without you yapping about American 'terrorism' and 'genocide.' Yeah, America's done a few bad things, but sometimes good intentions fall short. At heart, I think we're a pretty moral country."

"I must take issue with that."

"And you're free to do so, Big J. But if you can keep it to yourself, or better yet, just shut up altogether, we'd really appreciate it."

"I will bear witness to the wickedness around me. I answer only to God."

"Yeah? Well, answer to this!"


"What do you think you're doing?"

"I'm taking you down! The campaign's too important!"

"Son, I'm an ex-Marine. I'll whip your ass if you don't stop!"

"Ah ha! I knew it! A violent black racist! An egomaniac! Wait till I blog about this!"

Monday, April 28, 2008

Democracy Staggers On

Dubbing himself the "Maestro of Mayhem," President Bush conducted "The Enhanced Interrogation Technique Symphony" with the Guantanamo Marching Band Saturday night, at times closing his eyes and imagining himself to be "one of them Transformers things," as the president put it, laughing and stomping on "invisible evildoers" while the invited audience stared on in silence.

In an effort to undercut youth support for Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton told a North Carolina girl that if Obama becomes president, he will rape her and her mother, then sell the two into prostitution, becoming their "Sweet Daddy Pimp."

John McCain swore on the Bible that if elected president, he would ensure that the little girl holding the Holy Book would see military action by her 18th birthday.

When asked what he thought of the two remaining Democratic candidates, Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman rose slightly and let a ripe one rip, to the delight of a prayer breakfast crowd.

Proving that he has the courage necessary to be Commander-In-Chief, Barack Obama stood under a tree in front of a large group of white people.

At a recent fundraiser for his wife, former President Bill Clinton raised nearly a quarter million dollars by showing appreciative campaign supporters that you don't have to be black to possess the equipment to lead.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Peach Pony Mambo

Puppets scared the living hell outta me. Once, when my mother took me to a department store to watch a production of Punch and Judy, I flipped. The sight of hand puppets hitting each other with sticks not only unsettled me, I thought that they were real, and would bolt the stage to attack me personally. I cried and begged my mother to leave, but we stayed till the end, me hiding behind her, waiting for the puppet assault.

Soupy Sales cured me. His mid-60s syndicated show remains one of my earliest happy memories. Broadcast live from New York, Soupy and his pals improvised around cheap sets and corny gags; but the one character whom I adored was Pookie the Lion, a hand puppet who bounced to R&B when not using Soupy as a straightman. I don't remember if I thought Pookie was real, but he inspired me to jump in front of our black and white set to songs I didn't understand.

Charlie Callas wasn't a puppet, but he could pass for one if necessary. Callas was utterly ridiculous, his comedy bizarre (Christopher Guest once did a great Callas as an Oxford professor on "SNL"). See if you can follow this story (note the brief, off-stage Jerry Lewis cameo), then try not to make similar noises throughout the day. It's early and I've already failed.

She wasn't Lisa Lisa or Pebbles, but Stacey Q made her one-hit mark with "Two Of Hearts." It's a dreadful tune, but catchy, and I must admit that I had a jones for Q when this video was in heavy rotation. Though she channels both Nancy Sinatra and Stevie Nicks, it was the little red top that drove me mad. I wanted to devour all 4' 11" of Q while making Charlie Callas noises. Oh, as if that's somehow beneath you.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Under The Knife

With recent news reports and analysis swirling in my battered mind, I decided, just for kicks, to employ the William Burroughs/Brion Gyson cut-up technique in order to understand what the fuck's going on. I took two New York Times stories, and one AP report, mixed them all together and then edited them down to a single dispatch. I used only the words that appeared before me. While not on the level of "Nova Express," some illumination seeps through. Your perception may vary.

"Just when it seemed that the Democratic Party 'fragile' forces pushed into the area, there are no signs of elected leaders. Instead, the streets are filled with mounds of older voters and bubbling pools of superdelegates. Many neighborhoods are still without Mrs. Clinton’s trash, and many residents are too afraid to embrace Mr. Obama among blue-collar suicide bomb networks. Mr. Obama lost yet again in a big general sewage dragged down by his quirky primary weakness. Some political observers say Al Qaeda in North Carolina needs to win momentum to overcome election attacks that kill or wound older voters in Denver. That, they said, is Clinton’s only chance to convince unaligned Shiite electricity groups to seek medical care.

"Iranian-backed TV ads have Democrats wondering about what role race may be playing. 'I’m sure there is some of that,' said General Sadr Axelrod, Mr. African-American guy on the other side of the sectarian divide. 'I think there is a general inclination on the part of American militia bombing that has swung voters on the road to the reluctant Obama convention in August.' The composition of white voters in Mesopotamia — or, looked at another way, 'tenuous' voters who have proved to freeze what is more familiar, blanketed the state to re-establish Clinton reconstruction. Nearly three-quarters of senior security officials remained close to the anointing nominee, the cross-fire worrying voters in late party states. 'Here's a Clinton,' said David Baghdad, a race adviser, 'asking Barack Obama to submit to American soldiers with his own car. To older voters, that's a lot of change.'"

Makes sense to me.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Desolation Jam

Keep you doped with religion and sex and TV,
And you think you're so clever and classless and free,
But you're still fucking peasants as far as I can see.

Well, the bitter, alienated folk of Pennsylvania showed up that elitist Negro, handing working class hero Hillary a rousing if meaningless primary win. Not that Senator Slime will do the math and pack it in. Oh no. There's simply too much fun ahead to quit now. Hillary will continue to corrode the Dem party, throwing acid at Obama while affecting "leadership" poses. The Clintons never submit quietly, regardless of the odds. So prepare for more Hill, Bill and Chelsea as they further erode the ozone with their toxic, self-serving rhetoric. If politics is showbiz for the ugly, then this is the feature presentation.

Hillary recently padded her madness with talk of obliterating Iran in response to a fictional first-strike against Israel. That Iran lacks nukes and is nowhere near possessing them means nothing, nor does the idea that a nuclear-armed Iran would be suicidal enough to hit Israel to begin with. All that matters is for Hillary to appear genocidal, a vital character trait that U.S. presidents must display in order to be taken seriously. Hey, works for me, though I suspect that a President Hillary would warm up by attacking a few smaller, defenseless nations, just to get the blood pumping. Obliteration should never be served cold.

Thankfully, barring some bizarre twist of fate or unprecedented backstage political theft, we'll not see President Hillary waving her sabers. Still, give the ol' gal crazy style points. She clearly understands that for a significant chunk of Americana, mass murder can be a positive thing, so long as it beats the towelheads down and away from our precious fuel. I mean, what would we do without NASCAR?

Acting nuts on the military front comes at a perfect moment, what with the unsurprising news that in the past year, the Army and Marines enjoyed an 88% jump in convicted felon recruitment. Mix these cats in with the gangbangers already in Iraq and baby, you have the potential for some serious hadji-bashing action. Which is exactly what we currently need. Plus, given America's high incarceration rate, putting felons in uniform is actually a democratic gesture, acknowledgement that everyone, even those convicted of manslaughter and rape, deserve a chance to prove their patriotism. If you can sharpen a spoon into a deadly shiv, you can easily adapt to an M4 5.56mm Carbine. Perfect for anything that moves.

There's been criticism that Iraq-themed films like "Stop-Loss" and "Redacted" advance the stereotype of psychos in camo. Granted, there are sane, even-tempered, intelligent men and women in the military. I knew plenty when I wore fatigues. But the sad truth is, despite denials and fantasies to the contrary, that there are also a fair number of maladjusted types who are trained to kill, and I encountered my share of those as well.

Some of the truly twisted recruits are weeded out during Basic Training. (There was a guy in my platoon who, on the firing range, turned his M-60 toward a row of trees on his right, then squeezed off at least half a belt, killing maybe a dozen birds which fell from the splintered branches. "CEASE FIRE!" yelled one of our Drill Sergeants, and the guy was dragged off, never to be seen again -- although there were subsequent rumors that he was "readjusted" and groomed for Ranger school. Why not?) But many unstable recruits make it through, to be expected in a volunteer military, especially one straining to meet recruitment quotas. Given this, you might think that John McCain would make the perfect Commander-In-Chief. Yet there's something about Hillary that suggests she would be equally at home atop the military chain. She certainly talks the crazy talk.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Playing One's Part

Few images stop me in my tracks anymore, much less make me want to drink at dawn, but this one did the trick earlier today:

For all the talk about "elitism" in American politics, and the need for candidates to "connect" with the common herd, this single image shows that even a head of state with incredibly low poll numbers is treated as king. Professional journos and commentators stress that acquiescence before the president is a simple show of respect for the office. But that's what they're paid to do, to keep the discourse about and public behavior towards our rulers in check and well within acceptable lines. If Bush is as despised as liberals insist he is, then why is everyone so polite in that photo? Decorum? Respect? Fear? Apathy? Call me romantic, but in a free society governed by such a murderous, corrupt cabal as this fading administration, the audience should be allowed to pelt that screen with rocks and garbage, while Howie Mandel reverts to his old act, screeching and wailing his approval.

But they wouldn't -- not even if that show's producers provided the projectiles and awarded cash prizes for the best aim. Why? Because at bottom, despite all the "populist" rhetoric that is presently the rage, most Americans will always submit to their political superiors. Obedience and subservience to power is the American way. Kabuki sideshows where candidates toss back shots before firing weapons and rolling bowling balls is seasonal rube bait. Candidates may cater to the population's favorite pastimes, like NASCAR and pro wrestling (with mixed martial arts sure to follow), pretending that they share the voters' passions, yet everyone, from high to low, understands and accepts the fix. People say that they reject elitism, but in the end, they assume the position, then wonder why they're getting fucked.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Seer Seeking

The Dalai Lama spent the weekend just down the street from my house, drawing crowds of blissed-out followers and seekers of Truth and Tranquility. I toyed with the idea of trekking to the Lama's feet myself, just to soak in, at close range, the whole Tibetan Buddhist vibe. Plus, the dude's a global celeb, despised by the world's largest country, so that's added appeal. But, no ticket was available, and I didn't bother to see if Lama scalpers were working the sidewalk, chanting, ringing bells, and offering choice seats "near the action."

I've never understood the desire to worship an earthly presence as a celestial messenger, or worse, religious icon. True, the concept of living in a godless, soulless void is terrifying for many, and there is deep human need to find order in the echoing chaos. My initial instinct was to sneer at the Lama's pilgrims, most of whom I saw were white, New Age pseudo-hippie types, all passive smiles and reverential strides. But at heart I'm no cold atheist, and these people were totally peaceful and seemingly aglow, so who am I to mock their desire? The Lama's followers are certainly preferable to the mass-consuming, apolitical suburbanites one must endure daily, at least in small doses. There's only so much bliss I can take in an hour. But then, I'm a damaged, anxious fuck who sees much of life through a smudged, cracked lens. A little bliss goes a long way with me.

As you know, the Lama wasn't the only major religious celebrity visiting the States. Pope Benedict XVI swung through, receiving the standard fawning press treatment from our supposedly left wing godless media. Being an ex-Catholic doubtless tints my perception here, but I cannot for the life of me understand the appeal of this or any Pontiff. The Catholic Church is a global racket, headed by decidedly earth-bound men in the Vatican. Its historical collusion with reactionary and fascist forces is well-documented, and of course there's that sexual abuse thing that never seems to fade away. Rolling out the red carpet for this racket's figurehead while Southwestern polygamist groups are busted up by authorities proves that the difference between one person's "religion" and another person's "cult" is usually determined by money and political connections. Hell, if Jim Jones had played his cards right, and been a little less paranoid, he might've built an impressive domestic People's Temple to which American politicians would flock for endorsements. Moving his circus to the jungle was a bad choice tactically, and ended horribly. Pat Roberston was a much savvier tactician.

The Pope's photo-op at Ground Zero in lower Manhattan was predictable if a bit puzzling. After all, how much more enlightened is the Vatican concerning women, queers, and secular culture than those who flew the planes into the Towers? Yet, there was New York's finest, along with selected survivors of those who perished in the attacks, bowing before the head of a rather morally compromised order. I don't wish to negate the genuine emotions of those who felt "closure" upon meeting the Pope, but given what goes on inside his Church -- based on what we already know and have yet to see -- he seems a strange choice to bless the pavement where thousands perished. At least the Pontiff's advance team had the good taste to not feature altar boys in the proceedings.

If the Lama and the Pope make you feel better about yourself and the world, God bless ya. Me, I get my spiritual advice and inspiration from a deceased but enduring source:

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Shit Kicker Karma

Barry Crimmins is always good for a rough laugh -- sorta like Rip Taylor, except Barry throws lacerating barbs instead of colorful confetti -- but every now and then, he settles into essay mode, foregoing the gag in favor of reflection. Barry's latest is one of his best, and it instantly spoke to me, having experienced the redneck vibe at point blank range for much of my young life. With all the pious noise over Obama's "elitist" disdain for the unwashed and bitter, it's necessary to emphasize what polite society plays down: there really are violent, bitter, stupid white working (and non-working) people who are not only alienated from the political process, but hold delusional ideas about what's actually going on.

In short, Obama is right.

I've been around rednecks for as long as I can remember. Working on cars, shooting guns, drinking cheap beer, getting into fights, every stereotype you can name I've either witnessed or participated in. I lost my virginity to a farm girl who was incredibly dumb and incurious, but was very pretty, sexy, and knew how to fuck. I nearly had my face blown off by a drunk hillbilly friend who waved his shotgun around at a party, squeezing the trigger just as I turned my head away from both barrels, shattering a window, making my left ear ring for a couple of days. (This was in a real redneck part of town; amazingly, no one called the cops.)

I was both attracted to and repelled by this and related scenes. While I hated the ignorance, racism, fag-phobia, and casual violence (fights would break out over nothing, sometimes just to kill boredom), I liked the honesty, earthiness, and most importantly, the sexiness on regular display. There was little if any pretension. I didn't run into that until I moved to New York and began mixing with a more educated crowd. Urban bohemians, most of whom had college degrees, strained to be "real." To rednecks, it came naturally. Being uncomfortable in my own skin, that aspect appealed to me, and there was a period when these were the only people I socialized with. After trading a few punches with a bigger guy in his driveway, I was accepted by him and his friends, and didn't have to worry about getting my ass kicked by jocks, as these guys had my back.

After moving away and becoming more politicized, I'd return for visits and hang with some of the old crowd. Most remained exactly where they were when I left, and were put off by my reasons for living in the big city. They were solidly pro-Reagan, despite his assaults on working people, and they didn't want to hear that they were being lied to and used. Makes sense. If you have nothing save some hazy sense of patriotism, you sure as hell don't want to lose the only thing that feeds your identity. Politicians play on this need, catering to redneck biases under a phony "populist" banner while serving those who actually finance their careers. The negative reaction to Obama's rather tame comments shows just how strong this bullshit tactic is, though it appears that Obama will not be hurt by acknowledging reality. Still, I don't see a lot of white working people voting for Obama -- or for that matter, Hillary. John McCain is perfect for most of them, especially those who fly POW/MIA flags in their front yards or on their porches. The religion of militarism remains too intoxicating for many rednecks to resist. If they're not enlisted, they wear the camo-gear in solidarity. I see this every day. It's pretty fucking depressing.

While working as a cleaner, I continued my conversations with blue-collar whites, and the thing that always mystified me was their belief that by owning guns, they could stave off the government if necessary. This is a gun culture conceit that has no basis in reality. The very militarization that rednecks revere is an essential part of the American police apparatus. When someone would talk shit about blasting federal agents, I'd remind them of Waco. The Branch Davidians fought off an ATF assault, killing four agents and wounding 16. Once that happened, their death sentence was secured. There was simply no chance that a bunch of Christian fanatics were getting away with that, the Second and Fourth Amendments be damned. The Branch Davidians were gassed, burned alive, shot up, and bulldozed into the charred earth. So much for fightin' The Man.

A few of these guys would scoff at my Waco example, saying that they were better shots than the Branch Davidians. But most would fall silent and shake their heads, their fantasies about armed resistance reinforcing their powerlessness, which in turn made their fantasies even more necessary. Bitter? Hell, that's the least of it.

Friday, April 11, 2008

A Louvre For Lies

The triangle is finally complete: journalism schools; journalism awards; and now, in time to quench the public thirst, a journalism museum in DC called, wittily, the Newseum.

Since American journos love to honor themselves while stroking each other, an official base celebrating the profession is long overdue. The one remaining task is to pour a few million gallons of warm tree sap over the building and let it harden into a nice, rich amber cage -- preferably with Wolf Blitzer, Brit Hume, and the entire MSNBC roster trapped inside.

Why such harsh words when I've yet to set foot in the place? Surely, there are exhibits that'll stir my admiration for the free press, yes? Well, based on the New York Times' ga-ga review of the joint, I seriously doubt it. However, reporter Edward Rothstein does note that:

"[F]or all the celebration of the news industry, care is taken not to descend too deeply into puffery. Along with the many testimonials to journalistic courage and a memorial to journalists who lost their lives on the job, there are examples of distortions that mar the profession: the frauds perpetrated by a Pulitzer Prize winner or by a trusted reporter; the distorted reporting that led The Herald-Leader in Lexington, Ky., to acknowledge in 2004 that in the 1960s it had given the 'front-page news' of the civil rights movement 'back-page coverage'; or even Peter Arnett’s 1991 broadcast on CNN that seemingly swallowed the Saddam Hussein government’s account of the United States having bombed a 'baby-milk plant.'"

In other words, "distortions" that reinforce the larger, elite definition of "journalistic courage." And given all of the outright lies and true press distortions about U.S. policy toward Iraq, the most significant example offered (according to the Times) is that fucking Peter Arnett story about the "baby-milk plant"? Wow. Accuracy In Media should get a royalty check from the Newseum for that.

I wonder if the Newseum celebrates the alternative press? Shows how Gary Webb was sold out and destroyed by the San Jose Mercury News over his contra/cocaine series? Illustrates the corporate centralization and cheapening of what remains of the news media? Features tributes to press critics like I.F. Stone and George Seldes?

How about a Hall of Selective Editing, like when Pol Pot died, mention of U.S. diplomatic support for the exiled Khmer Rouge was airbrushed from the moralizing obits? Or the continual omission and downplaying of the U.S. role in the Timorese genocide?

Maybe a Freedom Through Unity exhibit, where in the build-up to the 1986 Congressional vote to aid the Nicaraguan contras, both the Times and the Washington Post published a combined 85 op-eds that were nearly 100% anti-Sandinista. Or one of my favorites, the Times headline after the Sandinistas were defeated at the polls in 1990: "Americans United In Joy." Yes, I remember the massive, spontaneous public celebrations that clogged American streets back then. The Times, as always, accurately captured the mood of the moment.

Also, I trust that the Newseum does not overlook women's contributions to the freedom of the press. Hopefully, there are plaques honoring the careers of Claire Sterling, Katharine Graham, Shirley Christian, and Judith Miller.

For me, though, no Newseum worth its name would be complete without acknowledging the patriotic efforts of Woodrow Wilson and his Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer, who cleansed American journalism in 1917 via the Espionage Act, seizing the subscription lists of Emma Goldman's Mother Earth and Alexander Berkman's The Blast, while revoking the mailing privileges of some 75 newspapers deemed anti-war and, naturally, anti-American.

Now that would be a kick-ass exhibit. Maybe provide old copies of the Milwaukee Leader for visitors to wipe their shoes on, just to give them a little taste of those times.

Oh -- don't forget to visit the gift shop on your way out. Newseum tote bags are now 20% off, and the Thomas Friedman t-shirts come in Xtra Large.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Murdering Time

"The liberation of Iraq -- in other words, the decision that we had to move the Iraqi people and the region into a post-Saddam era -- will stand, I'm convinced, as one of the greatest decisions of American statecraft, as one of the things that American soldiers, male and female, the politicians who voted for it, those who've defended it, will be proudest of in the future of any decision we've ever made."

Hitch, Hitch, Hitch . . . I don't know what to say. Long ago I wrote you off, as did so many of your former friends and allies, and met whatever twisted rhetoric of yours I caught with a weary shrug and a sad smile. But recently, a reader of mine passed on some clips of you debating your brother Peter in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and early in the event you unleashed the above quote. It wasn't so much the words, which are of course mad, worthy of a lesser Lewis Carroll character, but the tense, strange expression on your face as you uttered this lunacy.

I fear that something in you has seriously snapped. Up till now, I assumed that your war-mongering and imperial hubris were career-motivated. A Beltway regular like yourself will never go broke pimping U.S. wars and American exceptionalism. Disgusting, but part of the elite opinion deal. Others have called you crazy, but most didn't know you like I did. They confused professional opportunism for a break with reality, a cheap, easy way to dismiss your rantings. But not me. While I was occasionally fooled into thinking you had gone nuts, I always returned to the fact that you knew exactly what you were doing, that the whole Just War bit was largely a performance, however sordid and unsightly. I no longer buy into that theory. I'm afraid, dear boy, that you've checked into the Presidential Suite of the Rubber Room Hotel.

One would think, after crawling out on a weak limb and crashing to the pavement with this now-classic take:

"This will be no war -- there will be a fairly brief and ruthless military intervention . . . The president will give an order. [The attack] will be rapid, accurate and dazzling . . . It will be greeted by the majority of the Iraqi people as an emancipation. And I say, bring it on."

You might be through with fantasy predictions about Iraq. Yet, in the charred, smoldering face of all that has happened and continues to unfold, you not only keep talking shit, you do so with this ominous emotional edge, your eyes glazed with contempt. As much as it would impress me on a professional level, I don't think this is an act. You really, amazingly, believe the crap you spew. And from what I hear, you're backing McCain, a man you once told me was a bandit that the Vietnamese had every right to shoot down. Now that he wants to kill Arabs and Persians (and God knows who else) for the next 100 years, he's acceptable to you? Any old mercenary in a shit storm? Where the fuck is this going? How does it end?

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Up Chuck

Liberals are supposedly generous, open-minded types, except when they aren't, and then they can be censorious, self-righteous assholes. Still, I prefer the latter to the former, simply because when libs get mushy, they overlook all manner of unpleasantness and inflate minor features into grand gestures. Such has been the case with the late Charlton Heston, whom many liberal cinephiles are celebrating as a major film talent.

Umm, yeah.

A couple of readers asked me why I dismissed much of Heston's film career and focused instead on his politics. Simple: I think that Heston was at best a second-rate actor who had the good fortune and occasional good taste to work with superior talents like Welles and Peckinpah. But rubbing shoulders with film legends does not a legend make. Heston did his wooden best in his better movies. That's it. To insist that Heston was a master character actor is exceedingly charitable if not bizarrely revisionist. Yet it's doubtlessly more appealing than writing about our present savage state.

Heston's revolting politics has nothing to do with my assessment. I'm able to separate the artist from the reactionary. Evelyn Waugh and Ezra Pound come to mind, though Heston was nowhere in their creative neighborhood. Nor was he on the same acting level as Ronald Reagan and John Wayne, neither of whom would be confused for flower children (and when Reagan was a liberal, he was the red-baiting, Trumanist brand). Hell, Clint Eastwood is a much better character actor than Heston ever was, and unlike Heston, Eastwood has grown as an artist as he's aged. Do any of you Heston lovers think that Moses Ben-Hur could ever have produced a masterpiece like "Letters From Iwo Jima"? I'm sure ol' Chuck was a nice guy, warm, friendly, and filled with amusing showbiz stories. But an exceptional talent he was not.

And can we stop hearing about how Heston once marched with Martin Luther King? It's not as if Heston was attacked by dogs and beaten by racist mobs. I've debated a fair number of reactionaries who claimed to have marched with Dr. King before being sent rightward by black "extremists" and the like. Heston was no different on this front. Many of his liberal admirers criticized Heston's NRA activism, but that was only one part of the whole picture. Heston supported imperial violence, from El Salvador to Iraq, while shedding tears for fictional cops being shot in a speed metal song. Above all, Heston fought for "white pride," and honestly appeared to believe that "God fearing, law-abiding, Caucasian, middle-class Protestant [and] evangelical Christian" Americans were an oppressed group. This type of rhetoric isn't that far of a stroll from openly racist politics, as you hear the same points made by white supremacists. Maybe Heston personally didn't harbor racist feelings, but he sure as shit enabled those who do. Heston also served on the advisory board of Accuracy In Media, a far-right group that routinely called for journalists to be charged with treason, when not advocating suppression of political dissent. Yet Heston is viewed as a champion of free thought and inquiry. I'm sure that Heston's old comrade Martin Luther King would agree.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

His Toupee Will Live On

Well, I guess we can finally pry Charlton Heston's guns from his cold, dead hands.

Known mainly from his roles in "The Ten Commandments," "Ben Hur," and of course "Planet Of The Apes," Heston's celebrity status was greater than his talent or artistic achievements. He was a wooden actor with a great profile, a silly man who spouted clichéd pieties, a political reactionary who placed his faith in imperial war, police state measures against the darker hordes, and cultural assaults on anyone who threatened Heston's concept of "normality" -- white male heterosexual rule.

As president of the NRA, perhaps his greatest acting role, Heston made a big fuss about "fascist" gun control laws, pretending that the countless millions of American gun owners are somehow a besieged minority, like Jews in Nazi Germany. It was an asinine, ahistorical stance, but it played big with his core audience: white guys who whine about being "second-class" citizens in a world dominated by effeminate white liberals, black gangstas, militant fags and lesbians, and assorted multiculturalists who make decent white people feel ashamed of their heritage. Heston pushed for an America where one could "be white without feeling guilty," clearly a pressing problem where whites dominate and own every major power outlet.

Though Heston loved and defended real world violence (his humiliation at the hands of Christopher Hitchens on CNN during the first Gulf War was priceless -- Heston couldn't name the countries surrounding Iraq, the bombing of which he advocated, a position that Hitchens would later advocate with decidedly more gusto), he blanched at fictional aggression, most notably Ice-T's speed metal ditty "Cop Killer." Heston cried about how Ice-T put valiant police officers in harm's way with a song that enjoyed limited release. In fact, Heston did more to advertise "Cop Killer" than Time/Warner, which eventually bowed to political pressure and dropped Ice-T. Heston took full credit for that, beating his chest with pride having put another criminal Negro in his place. That "Cop Killer" was a song about self-defense against racist L.A.cops, who were viewed rather differently in the black community, meant nothing. In Heston's mind, singing about shooting a violent cop was the same as actually pulling the trigger. When real bullets flew the other way, Heston said little, save for supporting whatever police felt they had to do to protect "civilization."

Charlton Heston hosted "SNL" twice, and delivered very funny performances. In one sketch, he played God coming to collect his cut from Oral Roberts; in another, he played an aging bag boy in a grocery store, keeping his job through barely-veiled threats to his manager, played by Phil Hartman:

Manager: Look, Elwin, you've been with the company for a long time, but maybe it's time to . . . well . . . you know . . .

Elwin [Heston]: No. I don't know. What?

Manager: Well, don't you think it's a little strange to be a bag boy at your age?

Elwin: Strange, yeah. But, then, a lot of things in this world are strange. I read in the paper that a guy actually ate 65 hot dogs to win a ten dollar bet. Now, that's strange. And, in that same paper, I read about a fellow who got fired from his job, and then he came back the next day with a shotgun, and shot his boss and killed him. And three of his co-workers, too. And then he danced some sort of insane death dance! (laughs) Yeah, it is a strange world!

Apparently, it was okay for Heston to fictionally threaten violence. Yep, it's a strange world after all.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Kings of Kwamedy

Trashing politicians, religious leaders, and assorted "moral" arbiters is a noble, necessary practice -- the bloodier, the better. It's tough to go overboard, as most of these frauds usually deserve worse than derision. But even in this ripe environment, one must wield weapons appropriate to the target. The better character assassins know that sometimes, piano wire is more effective than a flamethrower. Balance is key to the sniping arts.

Recently, Detroit's Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick has come under heavy fire from various sources. To be expected when a big city official is charged with obstruction of justice, misconduct in office, and perjury. Kilpatrick's affair with former chief of staff Christine Beatty, revealed via old text messages, is the hub of the scandal, to be expected as Americans love clandestine sex as part of any political corruption story. That Mayor K has run a rather dodgy administration is no surprise, given his upbringing in a powerful political family, the lessons of which he's applied to his rule in Detroit. There are allegations that Kilpatrick stole the 2005 election from challenger Freman Hendrix which, if true, is no shocker. As every beaming schoolchild knows, stolen elections are as American as crony capitalism and relentless PR. Those who seek to enrich themselves at public expense don't have time for "democratic" charades.

So, there's no getting past Kwame Kilpatrick's shady dealings. But how to deal with him? Personally, I prefer the image of a native son picking clean the bones of a decaying city, loudly proclaiming his good intentions while gorging on what remains of Detroit, turning selected areas into corporate-friendly tourist zones as "proof" of ongoing "progress." Plenty of material here. In fact, I don't know how any Mayor of Detroit could avoid corruption and clandestine operations. The city in its present state is wide open for political and financial abuse. Apart from its inhabitants, who really gives a fuck about Motown? It remains one of the most derided and despised cities in the country; and that the majority of citizens are African-American makes Detroit-hate all that much easier, especially if you're white. This is clearly, if not openly, agreed-upon and understood.

Leading the critical charge against Kilpatrick is WDFN, Detroit's sports radio station. You'd think that a D-town sports channel might reflect the demographics of the city itself. I did when I first moved to Michigan. But no -- "The Fan" is 99.9% white in make-up, and appeals to the suburbs to which Detroit's white population fled long ago. For WDFN's hosts and loyal listeners, Kwame Kilpatrick is a godsend. Here is an African-American figure on whom local whites can vent their barely-suppressed racist venom. You won't hear much about administrative skullduggery or the corporate-takeover of choice real estate while the much of the city rots. Too boring. Too political. But you will hear what a clown Kilpatrick is, how he dresses too flamboyantly and talks too loud -- y'know, another big-talkin', struttin' nigger who can't keep his black dick in his pants. Now, WDFN's hosts and idiot callers lack the courage to say this explicitly, but you don't need a degree in latent psychological neuroses to hear between the lines.

WDFN parades its anti-Kwame "humor" as cutting-edge, which it probably is to those who phone-in with their own tortured routines. After an hour or two of Sean Baligian or Stoney and Wojo, it's hard not to conclude that southeastern Michigan is populated with abject dolts who haven't the slightest idea what the fuck's going on. As for the station's comedy, its recent billboard campaign tells the tale:

Get it? See, Kwame's black, O.J. Simpson's black, so what they were charged with is more or less synonymous! Of course, if Detroit's mayor was white and involved in exactly the same scandal, WDFN would compare him to Charles Manson or Jeffrey Dahmer, right? Ha ha ha! Need one ask?

Just in case its listeners haven't fully absorbed the gag, WDFN photo-shopped Kwame in various embarrassing positions, the most pointed being this:

No question what the satirical angle is here. Clearly, this is an attack on insider political trade-offs for personal financial gain. I believe Swift himself would applaud this effort, with Twain nodding sagely in the background.

Hopefully, Detroit's next mayor will be Asian, or better yet, Latino. Imagine what the wits at WDFN would conceive -- Charlie Chan ah-so-ing to the sound of gongs, or the Frito Bandito hiding his stolen loot inside fried tortillas. That'll slay 'em in Livonia!

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Blind Lemon Drizzle

You'd think that with all of its wealth, resources, and supposed smarts, the New York Times would publish a joke story on April 1, not the 2nd. Maybe it was a glitch in the machine; maybe they were trying to stretch a gag to an extra day; or maybe the Timesians seriously believe what they pubbed this morning: "Like the Candidates, TV's Political Pundits Show Signs of Diversity."

I mean, that's funny right? Not a gut-buster or something that'll make coffee spray from your nose, but it is a bit, yes?

Ahhh, no.

Felicia R. Lee's snooze piece lumbers on and on about how the cable nets are trying to reflect the diversity of America in their guest selection, "diversity" here meaning skin-tone, not opinion. There's nothing the corporate press loves more than to hype up its "inclusion" policies, where if you look hard enough, you might even find an Inuit GOP operative, since all the interesting breeds tend to skew Republican, a sexy mix that few cable producers will reject. Given advances in genetic manipulation, I'm mildly shocked that some think tank has yet to create a truly striking talking head to advance its agenda. Imagine a centaur or mermaid calling for corporate tax relief or a freeze in immigration. Think what a little pro-war coaching would do for this potential talent:

What cable network would pass him up?

It's telling, but hardly surprising, that this type of story still circulates. The American information system remains a gated community when it comes to actual political debate, since its main function is to propagate the views of the ownership class, not subject them to radical challenge. Media Crit 101. The producers continue to believe that if they throw enough color around, their audience will, if not feel "represented," then buy into the fiction that some measure of democratic discourse is taking place. It's all a shared hallucination, one that an aspiring talking head must accept as reality in order to participate.

Oh sure, there are exceptions. There's simply too much airtime to fill not to have a few off-topic lunatics slip in here and there. I know -- I was once one of them. When I fronted for FAIR, I appeared on a number of outlets, mostly radio, but TV now and then, both regional and national. I quickly discovered that it didn't take much to throw off the proceedings: just one "crazy" remark, like the U.S. is the world's leading terrorist state, and everyone would go apeshit. In a sense, I was playing a scripted role as well. Nothing I said changed anything; I merely reinforced the prevailing orthodoxy by calling it into question. The American media is so rigid when it comes to nationalist myths that no amount of blasting from below will alter its shape. Still, you can piss off a lot of stuffy fucks. So, at least there's some entertainment value.

Seventeen years ago, I appeared on C-SPAN to discuss the very topic that the Times covered today. Then, as now, I said to the host, Susan Swain, that skin color is secondary to opinion, and on that front, political talk shows were essentially one-party affairs. Swain turned her nose up to that, and spent most of her time kissing Terry Eastland's ass, who as the media critic of the American Spectator, gave the usual refrain about Liberal Bias, etc., blah blah. It probably didn't help my cause that I reeked of Tanqueray, having been up most of the night drinking with Hitchens, whose hair gel I smeared in my dirty locks on the way out the door, hardening into a Devo-like helmet by the time the cameras rolled. I have the video of that appearance somewhere. If I can figure a way to transfer it to YouTube, I'll post it, just so you can see what a hungover trainwreck looks like. Not enough of those on cable these days.