Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Power of Pen and Paper

There isn't much left to say about the candidates themselves. This disconnect between the sort of person even many thoughtful people believed John McCain to be and the lying shitweasel he clearly is, and probably always has been, is rather interesting. It raises some psychological and ethical questions like: is it possible for a basically good person to curdle into a total monster given the right temptations or conditions? If so, what do we do with that person once those conditions have been removed?

Personally, I think McCain has A. always been a complete asshole, and B. in any case has now gone so far into reckless narcissism, into heedless hatemongering that he should be expunged from public life forever -- except when his memory is invoked as cautionary tale or negative example. The Mark of McCain!

As for the rest of the GOP, an outfit which at least since Nixon has been the moral equivalent of the Klan, as with Bush, you can pretty much tell what they are up to by what they accuse you of -- in this case trying to steal elections. The Obama candidacy presents a fairly unique case, in that the GOP knows exactly what votes to suppress in order to win. And suppress they will. Why wouldn't they? It's worked perfectly in the past and they've paid no penalty, not even in the coin of PR, thanks to our supine media and the Vichycrat assholes of Capitol Hill. Again, why wouldn't they? They stand to lose everything, their Uber Alles dreams, their careers, their fortunes, possibly even their freedom, should an actual Justice Department spring up in this country. The sellers of the ACORN canard are , as they say, highly motivated. (Everyone should watch this pithy pushback from ACORN on all this.)

I have two suggestions for the Obama campaign:

1. They should do everything they can to put people on notice that the GOP will use cops and/or other gun toting or uniformed goons to intimidate people at the election place, and to warn cops who are tempted to go along that this may constitute "color of authority" federal crime.

2. Barack should tell people to bring a little pocket notebook or some index cards, dictacorder, or whatever, to the polling place, and record the particulars (take names for instance) of anything weird that to them happens in the polling place or polling booth. And they should carefully preserve those notes for comparison with others. He should hold up a 59 cent notepad and tell open and tell them about the power of pen and paper, "Get the details. Nothing is so impotent as a vague complaint." These two things might disembolden the Brownshirts a bit, and perhaps spare the Senatorial Vichycrats the burden of certifying another bogus election, as they did in the debacle of 2000 (and that has worked out so wonderfully).

A last question though, assuming McCain's cronies do suppress enough of the vote to fake a comeback, will the Democrats swallow this lie? Will the inner cities burn if they do? If not, why not?

Sunday, October 19, 2008

What Just Happened

Went to see What Just Happened last night, because I needed some escape I had read a bit of the book it was based on and the cast is interesting and having been a denizen of Hollywood for some years I figured it would be enjoyable in an Entourage sort of way. And it was. It really just went over territory already covered by Alman's The Player, in a much broader, more slapsticky way -- so it's not exactly a classic but it does have some excellent bits, including a few really big laughs and many minor ones. One of the best funerals in all of cinema. Plus,De Niro is excellent in the lead role as woebegone Hollywood producer, not least because, despite his admirably restrained performance, he brings his trademark "coiled menace" to the role. The character, and comedy is richened by the vague expectation that the producer might go postal at almost any time.

I recommend, if only as complete escape from our hideous political devolution.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Krauthammer Derangement Syndrome

Back in 2003, when the geniuses of TV were hymning the greatness of Churchillian George W. Bush, Charles Krauthammer thought it would be clever and witty to piss on the rest of us from his lofty medical perch. Quoth Prince Charles:

It has been 25 years since I discovered a psychiatric syndrome (for the record: ``Secondary Mania,'' Archives of General Psychiatry, November 1978), and in the interim I haven't been looking for new ones. But it's time to don the white coat again. A plague is abroad in the land.

Bush Derangement Syndrome: the acute onset of paranoia in otherwise normal people in reaction to the policies, the presidency -- nay -- the very existence of George W. Bush.

I thought back then that perhaps the A.M.A. ought to look into the medical ethics of Krauthammer using his M.D. to call his political opponents mentally ill (as is his habit) while in the same column soliciting contributions for his political favorites. It might remind one of an old KGB tactic, something like “depriving of civil rights under color of authority,” which, if the uniform is police blue rather than lab coat white, is not merely unethical, but a crime in this country.

This notwithstanding, long before Krauthammer perpetrated his bit of journalistic malpractice, many very sane and sensible people had taken to loathing George W Bush. Some disliked and distrusted Dubya on good information, such as Joe Conason’s February 2000 Harper’s article which, long before the disgraceful Bush v. Gore ruling made him Decider, detailed W’s long history of criminal incompetence and incompetent criminality. Other people just hated Bush on instinct – their gut reaction to his phony folksiness and his ignorant-yet-superior smirk was deeply aversive. Still others realized that the deer-in-the-headlights look on W’s face, as he sat in that classroom with the Pet Goat book in his lap, was rich evidence of the man’s real fitness for and likely performance in the Presidency. Now, as we (let us hope it is we, and not again Scalia et al) are about to choose another President, we should perhaps think back on Dubya’s innumerable dubious achievements and wonder which of us were well served by their instincts, and which were delusional – especially since Charles Krauthammer still feels qualified to pontificate on the character of our would-be leaders. Recently he wrote:

Convicted felon Tony Rezko. Unrepentant terrorist Bill Ayers. And the race-baiting Rev. Jeremiah Wright. It is hard to think of any presidential candidate before Barack Obama sporting associations with three more execrable characters. Yet let the McCain campaign raise the issue, and the mainstream media begin fulminating about dirty campaigning tinged with racism and McCarthyite guilt by association.

But associations are important. They provide a significant insight into character. They are particularly relevant in relation to a potential president as new, unknown, opaque and self-contained as Obama.

As usual, one hardly knows where to begin answering Krauthammer. But first of all – Rezko, Ayers, and Jeremiah Wright – none of these people defrauded thousands of people of their life savings as John McCain’s porn-fighting buddy Charles Keating did – with McCain’s active support. Now that’s an “execrable character. “ Or two.

To the best of my knowledge, none of Obama’s associates have claimed that his opponent fathered a mixed-race love-child in order to appeal to racists, nor have any counterfeited a causus belli resulting in an utterly needless and counterproductive trillion-dollar war, costing hundreds of thousands of lives, and America’s priceless good name. Nor has any of Obama’s associates ordered torture and other war crimes, dispensed with habeas corpus, criminally politicized the Justice Department and in general made a mockery of the laws they were sworn to uphold. Talk about execrable characters! Yet John McCain has clapped those characters to himself as tightly as he could. Perhaps this says something about McCain’s “cynicism and ruthlessness” – to use Dr. Krauthammer’s words.

But actually there’s no point in trying to refute Krauthammer’s mess here. Factually and logically, it is, as usual “not even wrong.” Krauthammer is just doing his duty, echoing the Party’s racist canard the idea that Obama is “unknown, opaque and self-contained.” It's the moral equivalent of the internet smears about Obama’s secret Muslim faith. This mission appeals to Krauthammer, who is in fact a projective racist loon, because it lets him pretend again to superior analytical powers (providing “a significant insight into character”) and pretend also to both moral superiority and kinship with the all-wise Average American. He asks us “Would you attend a church whose pastor was spreading racial animosity from the pulpit?” and he answers, “Most American would not, out of sheer decency.”

With respect to Charles Krauthammer’s sheer racial tolerance and sheer decency, all his readers should be aware of a bit of history from M.J Rosenberg. A few years ago at a local synagogue (Ohr Kodesh Congregation in Chevy Chase, Maryland to be precise), Tsvi Marx, a visiting Israeli rabbi gave the High Holiday sermon, Tsvi Marx. As Rosenberg recalls:

The rabbi had offered some timid endorsement of peace — peace essentially on Israel's terms — but peace anyway. Krauthammer went nuts. He actually started bellowing at the rabbi, from his wheel chair in the aisle. People tried to "shush" him. It was, after all, the holiest day of the year. But Krauthammer kept howling until the rabbi apologized. The man is as arrogant as he is thuggish. Who screams at the rabbi at services? For advocating peace?

Krauthammer the Omniscient, Krauthammer the Arbiter of Sanity, presumes to shout down a rabbi who actually lives in Israel, who thus might have more factual and moral insight about the situation than one gains in the Fox TV studio. Apparently the idea of peace with the Arabs he so hates was insupportable to the good doctor; his “decency” demanded he make a scene.

And yet Krauthammer feels entitled to conclude, “Obama is a first-class intellect and a first class temperament. But his character remains highly suspect. There is a difference between temperament and character. Equanimity is a virtue. Tolerance of the obscene is not.”

This should make us all wonder two things: Why does Krauthammer, insightful inventor of Bush Derangement Syndrome, presume to be a judge of first class intellect? And why does the Orh Kodesh Congregation tolerate his obscenity?

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Back to the Future, Boy

So Lee County Florida's thug sheriff, Mike Scott, thought it'd be a great idea to warm up Sarah Palin's lynch mob with a clever invocation of Hussein, Barrack Obama's middle name, but being essentially a criminal in uniform, he didn't bother to check the law about lending the authority of that uniform to a particular political party. Of course, nothing is likely to happen to him, because, like William ("my God is bigger") Boykin, he's a Republican -- and Republican's can't break the law. The concept just doesn't apply

You can be 100% certain that Mike Scott is the kind of repugnant asshole who routinely resorts to racial sexist and homophobic epithets, brutalizes suspects, and has made a career out of testilying to get convictions. He is the quintessence of what is wrong with the macho-cultists of the American Right with their bottomless, yet impotent libido for punishment. Give a little man a little power and right away he thinks he's powerful. And nothing is so banally corruptive as that delusion.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Crosstika on the Capitol Lawn

This thing has apparently been up all weekend and nobody has seen fit to complain. I did. We'll see what happens.
We'll see if the McCainiacs light it up one of these evenings.
Upon Hearing Scripture Bullhorned from the Capitol Lawn

God judgeth the righteous; and is angry every day.
Psalms: 10:11

A prayer in public’s like a curse in church,
the context toxifies the words.
The Truth’s enacted though an inward search,
it’s prostituted if it is coerced.
I suspect the Devil loves faith worn on sleeves,
showing whose refusal he need not believe.
The spawn is always pain, death, hate,
when gods and government miscegenate.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

The Hollow Man

In Faith of Our Fathers John McCain wrote (or at least "approved") this passage, apropos his flip-flop on the Confederate Flag Issue:

"I had not just been dishonest. I had been a coward, and I had severed my own interests from my country's. That was what made the lie unforgivable. All my heroes, fictional and real, would have been ashamed of me. "

He has said some other pretty harsh, and sincere-sounding things about himself and the "mistakes" he's made, like getting into bed with arch-criminal Charles Keating. But it occurs to me now that, like most incorrigibles, McCain has mastered the rhetoric of contrition, indeed it's a deeply ingrained part of his MO, like the tearful remorse of the wife beater, like the soul-searching the convict does in "group". But this kind of talk has little or nothing to do with his actual behavior in the future, no predictive value whatsoever. At some point people who are taken in by it, have only themselves to blame.

Everybody should read this fine debunking piece in Rolling Stone about Petulant Princeling II.

The Duchess and I

The Lobbyist and I went to see The Duchess partly because I've been studying stuff quite pertinent to the time and place of its setting (London mostly, roughly 1774 -- 1790), and in fact had been across the pond researching when it was being filmed and so, one day at the brilliant suggestion of The Lobbysist, we used my Ministry of Elegance carte blanche to enter the Courtauld and there, for half an hour, we watched Keira Knightley being received, across the vast courtyeard, as the Dss of Devonshire at Somerset House as cameras rolled. So of course we had to see how it came out despite that fact that the film has perhaps the Worst Trailer of All Time -- except perhaps for that of An American Carol. Also, in the interest of full disclosure, I admit that I am, in a very hetereosexual way, a lover of costume drama, especially when the story promises to, in climactic moments, rip off some bodices and corsets and improvers and panniers and whatnot.

I thought the film was quite entertaining, and got a bit of a charge early on, when as the Duchess is marching up between the ranks of liveried footmen to the palatial new home where shortly she'll be unwrapped by the Duke for the first time, the camera takes in the back of the Courtauld, and there, in the upper left quadrant of the frame, are very tiny versions of myself and the Lobbyist gawking out a window at the proceedings. So we're actually in The Duchess -- just uncredited.

It must be admitted that the filmmakers did the most melodramatic, Hollywoodized oversimplification possible of Georgiana's story. They went with the idea that the Duchess finally was able to break free of the cold unfeeling Duke, for whom she was just a brood-mare, there for making heirs, and found true love and orgasms in the arms of boy toy Charles Grey -- a sort of How the Duchess Got Her Groove Back. There is a little political gesturing on Keira's part, some mention of her designing clothes, but no mention of her verse and novel writing, no mention of her deep friendship with both the British Crown Prince and the French Queen, the rather cinematic herself Marie Antoinette, no mention of Georgiana's insane gambling and decadent partying. Basically the only suspense arises from the implied question: Will the pooor thing find some good lovin'? And also, will she throw all else away for love? Anybody who has read Amanda Foreman's Georgiana knows how all that turns out, and much more about the Duchess than the movie suggests.

In sum, I thought the filmers took a rather dimwitted, distinctly counterfeminst and reactionary view of it all. The economy of their whole world is all false -- none of the principal characters ever does a lick of work or worries, it seems, about anything except getting properly laid. There were wars and revolutions and world-changing scientific discoveries and duels and bankrupcies, an insane King and a beheaded one, women striking out on their own in a really meaningful way, the first flights of balloons (some of which the Dss sponsored) and the first experiments with electricity, the birth of modern ballet and opera, et cetera et cetera. Georgiana was totally stoked about it all, whenever she wasn't terrifyingly close to the center of the maelstrom. To reduce her to a lovesick clothes-horse seems a bit unjust. This said, Keira looked pretty great in the feathers.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Sarah Palin: History’s InflataDate

Professional breeders know how little it takes to get a warm-blooded male excited; often the merest abstract outline of the proper object of desire will do it. Sarah Palin, hollow as a hologram, is proof positive that the macho-cultists of the GOP don’t really require much more than, say, a stallion, bull, ram, imprisoned skinhead or drunken frat boy – the merest mimicry or burlesque of competence is enough to "energize the base". The Governor has amply demonstrated that she can imitate an executive; indeed, a good performer, she can impersonate a sentient, committed, adult politician deftly, even inviting us in on the joke of her faux folksiness, (much as George Bush has done for lo these countless years). But as several people have pointed out after the fateful Katy Couric interviews, when Sarah is truly being Sarah – that is, not having her lines fed to her by teleprompter, embedded earpiece or the First Dude – she is blank as Alberto Gonzales’ recollections. She cannot tell you what she reads, or what the Supreme Court has done, what regulations her running mate supported, who she tried to fire or why, et cetera. Investigation, reflection, introspection, confession: she has no use for any of these things. Sarah is a skater on the surfaces of existence, rather in the mode of fellow Northwesterner Tonya Harding.

Many excellent performers are themselves similarly null at the center of their beings; it may even be that many performers take to the stage in overcompensation for their sense of nullity (or for the horrifically abused/degraded sense of self which that nullity may mask). Being nobody exactly, the performer may feel a deeper than normal need to be a Somebody, and also to try on many different roles in a lifelong quest to become who he or she “is”. They become "personalities" in the broadcast sense, without ever becoming authentic individuals -- which would require a certain arduous or at least conscientious inwardness, of which the performer often is incapable. So there is often a fair bit of the psychopath, or sociopath about performers – there’s just not enough being at the core to anchor strong feelings, convictions, loyalties, conscience or sense of responsibility. Except to those in the star/narcissist’s immediate circle, this doesn’t matter much in the case of the stage prima donna, but it matters awfully when the mummer finds his or her outlet on the religious or political stage. Then the performer’s bottomless need for self-validation synergizes with the dogmatist’s dislike of nuance, ambiguity and self-reflection and, in the worst case, with a high-strung tendency to project their own phoniness, duplicity and amorality onto scapegoats (devils, witches, Jews, Communists, queers, dopers, welfare queens, libruls, terrorists, et cetera) and to use their sociopath’s shapeshifting charisma to sell these projections to the lynch-mob cult of their artfully fashioned “personality”. Then do they become truly malignant forces.

I suspect strongly that a real account of Sarah Palin’s life would be, like those of George Bush or John McCain, a tabloid document (the Inquirer sounds so plausible here) of self-blind vacillations, indulgences, manipulations, betrayals, of paranoiac suspicions and vendettas, within which the one consistency is an obsessive drive to be a bigger and bigger Somebody. All of this has suited Sarah Palin perfectly for the GOPAC Insta-Candidate Program which, like a somewhat louche rep company, has nurtured her all these years. If she’d been left to her own devices, Sarah’s story might have resembled that of moron/Machiavel “Suzanne Stone” (the Nicole Kidman character in To Die For) or the aforementioned Tonya Harding. Under the ministrations of the GOP however, she could instead end up like Peter O’Toole’s Lord Gurney in The Ruling Class, converted from a harmless loon to a reactionary political force, whose view of humanity as rotting corpses is the prophetic projection of a dead soul.