Thursday, March 30, 2006

Reading Makes a Cuntry Grate

In their effort to epitomize "spin," I love that the current Thank You for Smoking ads feature the quintessential Orwellian Correlative moment when Der Leader declares: "I just want you to know that, when we talk about war, we're really talking about peace. "

If only they also featured Bush the Less Awful looking the country right inthe CBS eye and swearing, "I was out of the loop...," by which he meant, "Up to my neck...." in the treasons of Iran-Contra.

GOP: The F-Yourself Party

Antonin Scalia, tireless Defender of the Faith, shows once again that Christianity isn't so much a religion, from which spring a set of ethics and sensitivities, rather it's a team one is on. You're either on it or against it, as the Chimperor might say. And if you're not on it, well,

“The judge paused for a second, then looked directly into my lens and said, ‘To my critics, I say, ‘Vaffanculo,’ ” punctuating the comment by flicking his right hand out from under his chin, Smith said. The Italian phrase means “(expletive) you.”

Later, of course, Scalia would lie about what he had expressed, on camera, in church. Because that's what Jesus would do.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Journo: like porno, minus the documentary aspect

So according to the New York Times, Prince Bunnypants is having reporters in to the White House for some informal chats. He's issuing them kneepads and nicknames and doing the other little things that will keep them good and subservient. Naturally, whatever they're talking about is off the record. This asshole thinks it's peachy:

"David Bohrman, the Washington bureau chief for CNN, one of whose reporters attended a session, said they were a good idea.

"'Most of the time, the environments that our reporters deal with the president in are very structured, very managed, and they rarely get to just kick back and have a conversation,' he said. 'I think there's a lot of value in it for both sides.' "

Dave must've gotten a really cute nickname. The value in it for the reporters is mostly that sort of thing, and maybe photo ops and dinner-party chat for later. "When I was at the White House the other day...."

You can be absolutely certain that not one of Ms. Huffington's 20 tough questions were asked, alluded to, thought about, and certainly not answered, during these Royal Audiences. I would bet the national debt that the Downing Street Memo didn't come up. How can we know this? Because, according to Dave, "Mr. Bush does better in such informal sessions than in formal presentations."

As Goethe said: The journalists do not speak the language, and in journalese you cannot tell them so.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

"Conservative" Conscience II

Now it will come as a surprise to anyone who has read this blog, but I have deep affinity with true conservatives, having been raised by a pair of them, that is to say people with very traditional values and ethics, people with a powerful belief in education on the boarding school and Oxbridge or Ivy League models. My father, from whom I received many of the the better aspects of my character, has served this country for over sixty years in many capacities, engineer, soldier and physician, was proud to have been commisioned "an officer and gentleman" by Congress. He once abstrated his ambition for myself in the hope that I would turn out "a cultured gentleman." Toward that end I have associated myself with some of the world's most conservative cultural institutions, so as to acquire some culture, even if the gentleman part is pretty much out the window.

Still, in light of the recent Domenech affair and its associated controversies I think we might fairly wonder: Are today's self-described "conservatives" more dishonest than people who describe themselves differently?

I'm going to query some social scientists on this score, but I suspect strongly that the answer is: yes. For one thing the self-description itself seems quite misleading. A conservative is, according to the Oxford English dictionary, "one characterized by caution, moderation, reluctance to make change." According to Oxford American Dictionary, conservative means "holding to traditional attitudes and values, cautious about making change or innovation." Conservatism according to Merriam-Webster: "disposition in politics to preserve what is established b : a political philosophy based on tradition and social stability, stressing established institutions, and preferring gradual development to abrupt change3 : the tendency to prefer an existing or traditional situation to change."

None of these things is congruent with the practices, policies and beliefs dearest to people who now proudly call themselves conservatives. How is the ongoing trillion-dollar experiment in pre-emptive war and enforced democracy conservative? Likewise, how conservative is the suspension of citizens' rights and awarding a callow, talentless rich boy dictatorial powers? How conservative is cutting taxes and raising expenditures? How conservative is the idea that "free markets" will solve all our problems, essentially providing something for nothing? All of these things seem like lunatic departures from caution, moderation, stability, tradition, et cetera and so completely at odds with conservastism per se. Of course, even some certified Conservatives have begun to notice this. But many more have not.

It's telling, perhaps predictive that the Dittohead has no idea that the things he favors are antithetical to the term he chooses for himself. He's unconcerned with the real meanings of terms (-- though nothing is more conservative than concern with fixed, definite meanings rooted in traditional usuages) because his language is Newspeak, Spinsprecht, Advertese. Truth is neither mood nor voice in this lingo which does not really assert, it simply sells. In the massive gravitation lensing of the One Party, we can see the full 360 degrees, so a thing can be apprehended quite comfortably as both itself and its opposite (War is peace! Arbeit Macht Frei!), thus ludicrous nation-building-with-bomber projects are seen as conservative. In a discourse where words can suddenly mean whatever Humpty Dumpty chooses, "honesty" is perhaps less meaningful than almost anything else. So, an unscientific prediction: the Dittohead "conservatives", unconcerned with truth, will be less honest than most.

In the second place: there is the "conservative's" fondness for governmental regulation of private moral issues, their unseemly concern with other peoples' peccadilloes. This can only be hypercompensating projection, of the precisely the sort which links virulent homophobia to the conscience troubled by homoerotic ideation. This leads me to suspect that the so called "social conservative," so very worried about who is having sex with whom, about abortion, about gambling and who is catchign a buzz on what, is quite often the troubled conscience. Exhibit A: that darling of the conservatives, former drug-czar and now morals maven: William Bennett, former four-pack-a-day smoker and compulsive gambler. Exhibit B: W. David Hager, adviser to the President on sexual ethics and rapist. Exhibit C, Junior League: Ben Domenech

Now just how would one test my hypothesis: self-described conservatives are more likely liars?

Saturday, March 25, 2006

The "Conservative" Conscience

Serial plagiarist Ben Domenech takes a page right out of W's playbook and heads for the end zone, Bush/Rove Rule 1: When caught in a lie, issue another lie immediately to cover it.

It seems Ben's self-defense on his Red State blog is riddled with what Judge Brinkema might call "bald-faced lies." He blames his plagiarisms on midnight insertions by his editors (Libel anyone?); he makes a false and legally ridiculous claim that a writer gave him oral permission, at a party, to publish that writer's piece under his own byline; and, typical of his ilk, playing the martyr, he claims to have been victimized and harrassed for at William and Mary for his conservative writings, until "...the Honor Council completely cleared my name and the article as the truth."

This last is a very dubious assertion, since the article he links to as the cause of his spurious persecution contains some really bizarre historical fiction. It asserts, among other things, that W&M students rioted in 1622 and killed 347 people. One would think that the giant "1693" that flies atop his alma mater's oldest building and best known landmark would have suggested to him that the college wasn't extant in 1622. English culture was still starving and floundering in the swamps of Jamestown then. So, apparently ethics wasn't the only thing young Ben didn't learn before he dropped out.

It's one thing to note, as Josh Marshall does, that teenagers do bad and stupid things and perhaps we should cut them a break, but then again Ben isn't a teenager now. And Ben's libelous, buck-passing bullshit suggest that Josh errs on the side of charity when he says, "And everyone, or just about everyone, is better and more complex than their public caricature at their lowest moment." The sort of thing Ben was and is clearly in the habit of doing, coupled with his lying defense, suggests that he's something of a sociopath, much like the people he so admires, Rove and Bush. Public caricature must be drawn by real genius to encompass the atrocious reality of this type. I nominate this genius -- George Eliot: "If the cunning which calculates on the meanest feelings in men could be called intellect, he had his share, for under the blurting rallying tone in which he spoke, there was an evident selection of statements, as if they had been so many moves at chess."

Friday, March 24, 2006

The Peter Principle

Nothing the Repuritans like better than a smug, young, hypocritical dogmatist. Especially if he's been home-schooled then dropped out of a good college to take a nepotist job with Dad's Party. If you can get 'em young enough, say about 24, you can send them off on all sorts of crazy missions that a more experienced felon would just laugh at. As in, "Say what? Fuck that, Kemosabe. I don't care how much unaudited cash there is floating around Iraq, you got to be alive to kick it back to the Party. Besides, I don't know dick about oil infrastructure."

But the Green Zone might be a really good career move for one Ben Domenech, formerly of William and Mary's Flat Hat, and now (Today Only!) of Washington Post online. Despite being half-Latino, it seems Box Turtle Ben is a racist. This doesn't disqualify him from work at the Post, of course. It seems he was hired to provide some reich-wing balance for people like George Will, Bob Novak, and Charles Krauthammer, who, being a little left of Goebbels, are not reich enough for the national jingosphere -- which of course makes up so much of the the Post's subscription base, so much of the market for their advertisers. Who knew that within the Beltway there is our own little demographic Idaho? The Post apparently needed somedboy who would eulogize Corretta Scott King by calling her a Communist. They needed someone who would joke about the extermination of black folk.

The problem for Ben is that he doesn't really do much of his own writing. It seems at the Flat Hat and at National Review Online, he pretty much always cut and pasted from other sources and passed the wordsmithing off as his own. He's a compulsive plagiarist. And he's even written his own diatribe against plagiarism! Chutzpah like that makes him perfect for Karl Rove's Party. But it also seems that he made the mistake of plagiarizing from the Washington Post itself. That can't sit well with the other staffers.

So long Ben. Don't forget to (snort! snerk!) ...write!

Update: Oops. Looks like Ben has caught the bus. But don't get all happy, folks; if current trends persist, his replacement will be much scummier.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

The Butchiness of W

I recall being in a small hair-cuttery down in the Ole South, two summers ago when they were holding hearings about Abu Grahib. Somebody on TV was maundering on about how maybe, just maybe, some ever-so-slight portion of the blame might be properly assigned to members of the High Command and one of the redneckette hairdressers was deeply stung. "Why won't they let my Georgie alone?" she lamented for the general benefit, in a tone that suggested both mother-love and schoolgirl infatuation.

It seems to me now that the 33% that still approves of George W and the Heckuva Job he's doing must be similarly smitten. And I most emphatically dn't just mean the women. I don't really think that many of the male Freepers and Dittoheads consciously want to suck W's cock but the level of denial that they manifest about the man can only be generated in the mystico-erotic lobe. And indeed, no prom princess was ever so blind about her date rapist, as the Bush fan is about W.

Indeed, the passion that marks the Cultist's devotion has to be somehow tied into the libido. I think W must somehow titillate their contrarian ganglia, in a way perhaps analogous to the androgynous appeal, in their day, of Bowie, Jagger, Lennon et cetera. It's worth at least noting, as others have, that the attack dogs of the Cult are quite often the guys who missed the Sixties, because they were too young, too chicken, or because its long-haired ambiguity and uninhibited sexuality threatened them. They couldn't really own up to their confused feelings for the superstars of the day, so they went with Dad and Mom's idea of entertainment.

But their repressed tendencies have found a focus in the boy-prince, and his "butchiness." They like his mode of dress-up, the something very "drag" about W's love of costumes (flight suits. cowboy boots, etc) and his nitwitted, transparently phony macho poses. He hangs out on his ranch, but given his cheerleader, chickenhawk, suburbanite history and predelictions, his cowboy act is as campy as that ten-gallon guy in the Village People.

It's not entirely clear what the connection is between Bush-love and homophobia is, but clearly there is one because his base really gets excited when Bush gets tough (in carefully coded "values" language) on queers. Could it be just a little bit of closet hypercompensation by people too sheltered and troubled and conflicted to deal with the fuzzy feelings Der Leader gives them?

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Bait and Switch

Though in their hearts they agree with Fred Phelps line on gays, especially the closet-cases among them, the Bush-Cultists are more than happy to exploit his demonstrations at the funerals of Iraq casualties to limit free speech. They've just passed legislation to ban any sort of protest within a thousand feet of a funeral. Not surprisingly, they have panicked most of the Minnesotta Democrats into going along with them -- the one exception in office, Becky Lourey, who has actually lost a son in Iraq.

The Twin-Cities' Star-Tribune and the ACLU point out some problems with this sort of thing. Suppose, for instance, that the grieving families themselves wanted to call attention to their natural questions like "What for?" or "How many more?" Will they be subject to arrest?

Jessica for President!

Who knew that Jessica Simpson would prove less of a whore (or at least a smarter one) than Bono? I sorta did. You go girl.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Nobody Here But Us Chickens

Here's a list of those brave Vichycrat U. S. Senators who were all for censuring Bill Clinton for lying about the blowjobs, but can't really decide if Bush has lied about anything important yet: Daniel Akaka, Max Baucus, Byron Dorgan, Dick Durbin, Dianne Feinstein, Daniel Inouye, Jim Jeffords, Ted Kennedy, John Kerry, Herb Kohl, Mary Landrieu, Carl Levin, Joe Lieberman, Blanche Lincoln Barbara Mikulski, Patty Murray, Jack Reed, Harry Reid, Jay Rockefeller, Chuck Schumer, Ron Wyden.

Perhaps it would be better to start supporting Republicans. Better to have a frank enemy than a false friend.

A Small Wager

Carla Martin, government lawyer now very likely to go to jail for criminal contempt in the Wrong-Way Moussaoui case: let's see -- it certainly appears that she's a liar, an incompetent, a punishment-freak, and shows bottomless contempt for the American justice system, which as an officer of the court she is sworn to uphold. What do you want to bet she's a staunch Republican?

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Instant Classic B Movie Alert

The Hills Have Eyes is weirdly fabulous -- a parody/homage to the slasher genre with deep psycho/political resonances -- well maybe not deep, but definite. It is one big projected neurosis, in the tradition of cold-war horror/monster flicks -- with a subtext all about how we manufacture "others" and then find "solutions" for them, about exercises in double-projection, "mirroring" I've seen it termed, hallucinations which have a nasty tendency to come true. Some truly bad baddies and truly hot hotties to whom bad things happen quite graphically. By a hotsnot French director apparently, who clearly means it all as a statement on the Amercian soul. Extremely violent, extremely funny, although my date and I seemed to be the only people in the Saturday audience who got the brilliant, mordant jokes. Up there with Verhoven's Robocop and Starship Trooper, with Carpenter's The Thing.

Shot in Morocco, by the way. Morocco for New Mexico. Excellent.

Thursday, March 09, 2006


We got this image in from a London art dealer. Maybe this is what W had in mind when he forbade human/animal cloning in the most recent State of the Union Blather. Their party affiliation certainly looks suspect.

W, January 31, 2006: "Tonight I ask you to pass legislation to prohibit the most egregious abuses of medical research: human cloning in all its forms; creating or implanting embryos for experiments; creating human-animal hybrids; and buying, selling or patenting human embryos. "

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Airship Tom Shales

Tom Shales'' review of the Oscar broadcast is the Post’s move to prove that bloviating gasbags are not just for the Op Ed page. Only in Washington could such drivel appear (all too appropriately) under the heading “Style.” Some of us liked the Oscar show a lot, more than we remember liking all others, and laughed a lot. It seemed to me that for the first time in years it actually seemed to coalesce – mostly around the Daily Show approach. There was actual pointed TV comedy, well-produced skits and bits, and not just rim-shot one-liners.

It was a bit odd, seeing that Jon Stewart’s audience in the Kodak mostly didn’t seem to get the jokes. I’m sure Stewart was a bit discomfited by the very cold room – especially after the adoration he gets on the Daily set. Maybe the bits didn’t play very well on the Kodak’s jumbotrons, or maybe the Hollywood elite includes many narcissistic, clueless dolts, or maybe this crowd was fried from Multiple Awards Season Overload. Still, Jon seemed to carry on pretty well. I hoped then he realized that he was going over better at home than in the room.
But in Shales’ bizarro-world it was all a bomb:

“It's hard to believe that professional entertainers could have put together a show less entertaining than this year's Oscars, hosted with a smug humorlessness by comic Jon Stewart, a sad and pale shadow of great hosts gone by.
The movie "Munich" was represented in one category, musical score, by a clip in which suspense built over a bomb that didn't go off. The Oscar show on ABC, televised live from Los Angeles, was a bomb that did.”

And see, Shales even worked in a “bomb” joke to show us he’s got cred as an arbiter of what’s funny. (Hey, maybe Shales should write the show!) But it’s funny: I’ve seen, or at least tried to watch, a good many Oscar broadcasts and I don’t really remember any “great hosts gone by” who put Stewart in the shade.

I suspect that Shales (and some other reviewers) didn’t really laugh out loud because they weren’t cued to by a laugh track. Or maybe they were just looking for different things out of the show. Shales was put off by all the movie clips. I always assumed that most people watched to get a glimpse of films they mightn’t have seen, but apparently not. “The audience at home does not want to look at clips. It wants to look at big-time movie stars,” Shales thunders. Yeah, that’s why we all turn off after Joan Rivers.

And what did Shales approve of? He loved the parts of the show that the less-fossilized found (as Bart Simpson says) craptacular. He goes all mushy here: “Among the more beguiling acceptance speeches was that given by Reese Witherspoon, who won for playing country singer June Carter in "Walk the Line," the story of Johnny Cash. ‘I never thought I'd be up here in my whole life,’ she said with ingenuous charm. She also quoted June Carter's succinct philosophy of life: ‘I'm just trying to matter.’”

Now Reese Witherspoon is a fine little actress, who’s done some good work (notably in Election and especially Freeway) she also does a lot of fluff and her acceptance speech made her seem mighty close to the airhead she plays in the numerous Legally Blonde vehicles. Maybe airheads and gasbags have their own doglike frequency though, and I just didn’t hear the speech’s secret ‘ingenuousness’. To me its “aw shucks” pose seemed most disingenuous, coming as it did from a veteran actress of steely ambition. Also I wasn’t much charmed by Reese’s self-congratulatory note, telling us all at the end how she now “matters.” Very beguiling indeed.

It was a bit risky and snarky, but I have to agree with Stewart’s quip that Walk the Line was just “Ray with white people.” I imagine that Shales’ reaction to this was much like that of Joachim Phoenix, who looked like he swallowed a bug. Of course Ray was just Coal Miner’s Daughter in blackface, or maybe Sweet Dreams or one of those many other movies about singers that movie stars now do to be serious and try to win Oscars.

Tom Shales must be giving himself props too for pretending to believe this: “The liveliest moment of the night was contributed by the hip-hop ensemble Three 6 Mafia performing a nominated song, ‘It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp,’ from the film ‘Hustle & Flow.’” What a load. A crap “song” (bowdlerized for the network) a crap production number, a juvenile acceptance. But Shales is down wit’ it. Who woulda thunk?

Shales advises Jon Stewart not to quit his Daily Show job. (My god what a wit! He’s wasted here in Washington.) I advise Shales, time to move on. You’ve gotten so hidebound and tone-deaf that you’re not really qualified anymore.

Sic Transit Gloria

One of the saddest lines in all of literature is in Dreiser’s baggy, creaking, awkward novel (a production that, like Bob Dylan’s voice, has nothing going for it but genius) Sister Carrie; it is, “She had learned that men can change and fail.” And indeed we all need to be reminded of this. The erstwhile hero, wit, or good-guy, can under the corruptive influence of comfort and power, or in the deranging rapture of resentment, become something else entirely. John McCain was apparently quite a man once. But it wasn’t so long ago that he was up on the podium in New York with the GOP kneepads on for Rove and Bush, the same people who punked him so badly in 2000. Profile in spinelessness. But the case in point today: Chris Matthews who, because he was a Democratic operative once, still is able to masquerade as an impartial observer. But here he is too, with the GOP kneepads on, raising the question that's one the back of all our minds, "Is Hillary a socialist," and near swooning with admiration of John Boehner's rhetorical, um...package.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

The Painted Turd

I am fortunate in my present job; I get to look at some of the most sublime images ever created by man. But I also have to sift through solicitations from the world's art dealers to buy less sublime objects. I don't mind minimalism, abstraction, spatter painting, primitivism et cetera -- as long as it's engaging. But some of the stuff we get is just plain ugly, stupid, pretentious crap. Yet dealers spend vast sums on slick brochures with lavish photo spreads and dense, jargon-filled paens to the works, the artist, the oeuvre. Never mind that the work is all too apparently crap, and its purveyors are charlatans or fools.

The verbiage projected onto these excresences comes from the same lobe that produces W's hagiography. W inspires this sort of rhetoric from the desperate (who knew how many there were, and how desperate?) precisely because there is nothing to him. He is a man without qualities, a human vanishing point. Nobody can point to anything W has accomplished, anything he excels at, any talent he has. He has been a useful idiot for Cheney, Ken Lay, the people at Halliburton, the neocons, and the snake oil peddlers of the "Christian" right; but by his own powers and lights he has done nothing -- his entire life. He is not merely wanting by statesman or presidential standards. He is one of the worst, most useless people our system has ever produced: a stupid, spoiled, mean-spirited brat, all need, ego and entitlement.

People are starting to wake up to the fact now. In the past few days there have been good pieces on this from Salon, Digby and Mark Kleiman. But I imagine it has been dismaying to millions of people for years that so many around them have been so blind. We need to issue $3 bills -- perfect for one small, latte. The only problem is do we put W's picture on it, or P. T. Barnum's?