Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Merit Badge of the WeeK

I'm off to Europe on an incredibly dangerous top-secret mission for the Ministry of Elegance, and teaming up with The Lobbyist so as to look like just another tourist. I must admit that I'm happy to bid America goodbye for a little while. What a deal of shitheads we have raised in this country.

Yesterday I was flipping through the channels in the elegant Beantown hotel where I'm currently holed up on expense account, and there was Jack Cafferty ginning up outrage, not just at the idea that we might someday give immigrants free health care (in the unlikely event that we ever join the rest of the developed world in that regard) but rather at the fact that illegal immigrants in America can go to the emergency room and be treated without paying. Imagine that! He invited his viewers to think about all the costs that were thus incurred. I suppose we should also refrain from sending firemen to immigant's buring houses, refrain from prosecuting their rapists et cetera, until such time as their papers are in order.

People who think like that are a disease on the planet. If justice were served they would be ground up and fed to farmed catfish.

On the good news side: Bob Novak died! Jesse Helms, Tony Snow, Bill Buckley, Timmeh, so many graves, so little piss.

Also good: Barney Frank tells a sanctimonious asshole where to get off.

The image above has nothing to do with anything; I just liked it. Although, now that I think about it-- it does seem relevant to Barney's interlocutor and her ilk.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Michael Gerson: crypto-Nazi

Perhaps if, responding to Gore Vidal’s calling him a “crypto-Nazi”, William Buckley had said, “If you call me a Nazi again I will tattoo, gas and cremate you,” then perhaps Michael Gerson would understand just how little Buckley’s response exonerates him of the charge. Instead, in today’s Post Gerson seems to plump with admiration for the Buckley’s comeback, which he quotes as, “Stop calling me a crypto-Nazi, or I'll sock you in the goddamn face and you'll stay plastered.” Of course Gerson elides the Buckley’s bigoted preface to this threat, “Now listen you queer…,” and he seems to have forgotten the unflappable, even bitchily gleeful derision with which Vidal responds to the pundit’s rather prissy threat, “Oh Bill.”

The actual footage is quite worth looking at, and even eerily representative of the discourse today. The situation is this: Vidal argues against our involvement in Vietnam, and Buckley says essentially ‘you want our troops to die’. Vidal, granting that his opinion is unpopular in places, adds, “I assume that the point of American democracy is that you can express any point of view you want.” Whereupon Buckley begins trying to shout him down with some basically incoherent and off-point crap about how some of those treacherous anti-war Europeans were also once pro-Nazi – which begets Vidal’s crack about crypto-Nazis. He’s essentially charging Buckley with projection.

Vidal’s courage in the face of Buckley barbarism doesn’t alter the fact the fascistic nature of Buckley’s tactic here; he’s saying precisely this: stop expressing that opinion or I’ll shut you up with force. One might even say that Buckley’s response is the kind of guilty-as-charged testimony one only gets on Perry Mason.

Of course, you can’t really expect Michael Gerson to show a nuanced understanding of Nazism, projection, or civilized discourse. This is, after all, the man who authored the phrase “axis of evil” in order to help sell elective warfare to the American people. Now, however he’s clutching his pearls over the nastiness in the health-car debate, the “town hells” et cetera. Not surprisingly he finds fault on both sides. He well recalls how the Lefties drew rude analogies between President Bush and Hitler, just because both had a penchant for warmongering, race-baiting, torture, and the Big Lie. Almost as wrong is the fact that a “few protestor,” a prominent Senator and a the world richest radio personality compare Obama’s hope for health care reform to the Hitler’s plan for the Jews. This vice, inherent to the bad actors of both parties in his view, he wants badly to rechristen the "Vidal tactic", going back forty some years for his paradigm case, and of course going way out of his way to avoid mention of Jonah Goldberg’s Liberal Fascism.

In fact, neither Buckley nor Gerson seems to have much understanding of Nazism, or rather they have diametrically wrongheaded notion of the phenomenon. Gerson reverently invokes Buckley’s deeply self-serving and inadvertently self-disclosing defense of his threat to Vidal:

"Can such men understand the causes of anger in others? Understand the special reverence we need to feel for that which is hateful? I do not believe that anyone thought me a Nazi because Vidal called me one, but I do believe that everyone who heard him call me one without a sense of shock, without experiencing anger, thinks more tolerantly about Nazism than once he did, than even now he should."

In essence, Buckley bleats, all those who are not shocked by Vidal’s attack show themselves insufficiently hateful of the hateful. “Such men” clearly deserver a sock in the face, because they don’t recognize the negative exceptionalism of the Nazis.

For Buckley, Gerson and many other misguided souls, the Nazis represent something very special, something for which we need to feel “special reverence.” This is total bunk. The crimes of the Nazis and their fellow fascists were just the ever present “banality of evil” manifest on an industrial scale. Gerson is right when he say, “For the survivors of Nazism, memory is a kind of sacred duty.” But he himself is forgetting the real lesson. The banality of evil is in all of us, and to the degree that forget this and succumb to bigotry and xenophobia, we traffic in the same errors, the same neurosis, the same psychopathology that created the Holocaust. The more blithely we assume that we are niot as evil as Nazis, the greater risk that we will act just like them.

Gerson is also, it is worth noting, forgetting just how reprehensible Buckley’s record was. Buckley wrote a whole book in praise of Joseph McCarthy, an American fascist if ever there was one. And William Buckley, has a rich history of racism. At the time when potential for civil unrest of civil right was highest he was quite sympathetic to the idea that the superior White Race might have to resort to violence to thwart desegregation. He wrote:

The central question that emerges--and it is not a parliamentary question or a question that is answered by merely consulting a catalog of the rights of American citizens, born Equal--is whether the White community in the South is entitled to take such measures as are necessary to prevail, politically and culturally, in areas in which it does not predominate numerically? The sobering answer is Yes--the White community is so entitled because, for the time being, it is the advanced race. It is not easy, and it is unpleasant, to adduce statistics evidencing the median cultural superiority of White over Negro: but it is fact that obtrudes, one that cannot be hidden by ever-so-busy egalitarians and anthropologists. The question, as far as the White community is concerned, is whether the claims of civilization supersede those of universal suffrage. The British believe they do, and acted accordingly, in Kenya, where the choice was dramatically one between civilization and barbarism, and elsewhere; the South, where the conflict is by no means dramatic, as in Kenya, nevertheless perceives important qualitative differences between its culture and the Negroes', and intends to assert its own.

National Review believes that the South's premises are correct. If the majority wills what is socially atavistic, then to thwart the majority may be, though undemocratic, enlightened. It is more important for any community, anywhere in the world, to affirm and live by civilized standards, than to bow to the demands of the numerical majority. Sometimes it becomes impossible to assert the will of a minority, in which case it must give way, and the society will regress; sometimes the numerical minority cannot prevail except by violence: then it must determine whether the prevalence of its will is worth the terrible price of violence.

So perhaps Gore Vidal should be forgiven for finding such faith in a Master Race “crypto-Nazi” and saying so. Perhaps too Vidal was moved to the charge by the fact that
William Buckley was frankly enamored of Spain’s fascist dictator. Again, Buckley wrote:

General Franco is an authentic national hero. It is generally conceded that he above others had the combination of talents, the perseverance, and the sense of righteousness of his cause, that were required to wrest Spain from the hands of the visionaries, ideologues, Marxists and nihlistis that were imposing on her, in the thirties, a regime so grotesque as to do violence to the Spanish soul, to deny, even Spain's historical identity.

Buckley later came to disavow some of his more pernicious positions, but at the time of his debate with Gore Vidal, the idea that Buckley was sympathetic to some Nazi principles was a matter of public record, indisputable. And Buckley's willingness to shout the charge down, while pinning a pink triangle to Vidal on national TV betokens the fact perfectly.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Nothing A Liberal Wants

This morning, as I was steaming my eyes open with French Roast, flipping through the channels to see if I needed a bumbershoot, a quintessential outrage presented itself. It seems that yesterday, somewhere in sunny Iowa, Chuck Grassley was having a town hall, playing to the troglodyte crowd by telling them the Negro President wants to kill their Nannas, when he got upstaged by soemone even more toxically stupid:

Vicki Crawford of Granger drew repeated bursts of applause as she lectured Grassley for over three and a half minutes.

"I have heard your recent rhetoric about how we all want the same thing as Obama -- health care reform. I disagree on every level," Crawford said. "There is nothing a liberal wants that I would agree to and we have to stop giving ground."

Crawford told Grassley she liked him, but she accused him of being an appeaser.
"This is no less than liberty versus tyranny, good versus evil and there is no middle ground," she told Grassley, asking: "With whom will you choose to stand?"

One could hardly wish for a purer expression of bigotry than the above: "There is nothing a liberal wants that I would agree to...." Let's just think about that. Most of the liberals I know probably want clean air and water, safe food and drink, a secure present and hopeful future for their children, freedom of speech and religion, the pursuit of happiness, peace love and understanding. Yet this woman is so blind in her bigot's hatred for a whole class of people that she would agree to none of it. Now if we caught her in a reflective moment we could probably get Vicki to agree that she and liberals share some hopes and values, but we go to war on slogans, "Liberty versus tyranny, good versus evil!" It's only afterwards, in the smoldering ruins of inconceivable folly that the reflective moments occur to a few survivors. Bursts of applause indeed.
It's funny, I used to live in the Flyover, and the Iowans I knew, even the farmers and the farmers' kids, were a surprisingly smart and sensible bunch.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009


It's truly weird. A few years ago, when the American people were being sold on the idea of sending troops halfway around the world to bomb, shell, invade (et cetera) people who had done nothing to us and presented no real threat, well, many Americans were calmly cool with that. Now that Iraq has proved undeniably to be one of history's biggest frauds, and a trillion-dollar boondoggle besides, these same people are still not at all incensed to see it go on, and on, and on -- and even expand into an even bigger boondoggle in Afgahanistan. So, to review: bullets, shells, bombs raining down on innocent strangers at a cost of $100, 000-a- second and deepening hatred of America around the world -- we're still cool with that. But, the mere idea of providing government health care to the poor and the unemployed, that's fomenting outrage, putting armed resistance in the street. You just gotta love this country.

The passion over this issue makes no logical sense. That's because the outrage here is rooted in pure dumb hatred of Obama, hatred that consists in a tendency to reflexively credit the worst about about a person or people, no matter how projective or ridiculous. If a white man, say George Bush, were proposing subsidized health care for poor folks and unemployed workers, the "fiscal conservatives" might grumble a bit, but they sure wouldn't see it as the Apocalypse. Nor would they go so bat shit crazy as to equate the effort with Nazism. No -- it's basic racism, reflexive hatred of the Other, that's spilling over into this debate, reviving passions not flourished in public since Bull Connor's Massive Resistance. Some brown bounder is presuming upon the medical privilges of the American Master Race, and the pasty-faced Aryans stand stand the very thought. It brings out the Nazi in themselves, though they're too caught up in the neckite party spirit to recognizze this. In another context Bill O'Reilly says:

The zealots, I mean these are zealots, are Nazis. And that's exactly what the Nazis did. They disrupted rallies; they came to shout people down; they intimidated; they smeared; they did all of this.

Sounds like a perfect description of Glen Beck's minions, yet O'Reilly has said nothing about their Nazism.

Once again, as Rene Girard might say, it's texbook mimesis: the sort of radical projection and mutual demonization that occasions total war. Not surprisingly, the call is already going up for Civil War II. Something in me agrees with them. I don't quite see how these assholes can be integrated into a sane society again. It sometimes seems only ruin and death will separate them from their folly. Alas, that would entail ruin and death for many innocents besides.

Saturday, August 08, 2009


Sometimes it's amazing what you learn by surfing the web's wormholes. It's a fine summer Saturday morning in here Satan City and already I've learned a dynamite new German word:

Backpfeifengesicht, a face in need of a slap. I really like the little forum (in the comments) on the term's etymology:

One small point of clarification: According to Duden Etymologie, a “Backpfeife” is probably called what it is because the blow whistles (pfeifen) when it hits the cheek (die Backe). In any event, Bill Kristol does indeed have a Backpfeifengesicht.
Posted by

Precisely right: Bill Kristol, smug, unimagainative, sociopathic little rich fuck that he is, is one of those people who puts even the most serene in touch with their inner Hell's Angel (click for wish-fulfilling video).
As antidote to all that, here's another discovery: a guitar goddess smoking some Hendrix and Beatles.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Welcome to the Big House

Obama's mistake, as becomes more clear day by day, was to think the White House was somehow different from any other "big house." Given the brute fact that under Bush the GOP completed its metamorphosis from reactionary political party to actual criminal enterprise, BO should have expected the welcome he is getting. Instead he tried to get all Gentleman Jim with the thugs he was up against. And he got rolled, and will continue to do so.

The conventional wisdom is: when you go up, kick the ass of the first guy who gives you even trivial shit, no matter how suicidal that seems, because thus you announce that you'll stand up for yourself, that you're not to be messed with lightly. But Obama, when he went up, basically announced that he had no stomach for a fight over even the highest matters of principle (torture, war crimes, perversion of the Justice Department, etc). So the GOP thugs realized quickly that he was just new meat.

So now they're in full KKK mode. They're an insurgency now, as Jeff Sessions would say -- like the Taliban. They're in the enviable position of not having to do anything except sabotage and obstruct. Sine they're basically adolescent contrarians, reflexive "againsters," this perfectly suits their natures anyway. They can be against whatever Obama tries to do, fuck it up to the max by insisting on self-destructiev compromises in all the programs, broadcast all kinds of vague directives and provocations to their devolving but well-armed fan base, and then sit back and say "See, government can't accomplish anything."

Under Clinton Newt Gingrich managed to shut down the bureaucracy for few days, in fit of pique, now that the Corporatists have nearly complete control of the media the GOP can do a lot better, as the Town Hells demonstrate. They can shut down democracy itself.

Would this be different if Obama had shown the balls to fight for principle? I like to think so anyway. In any case, it's going to be really hard to turn it around now.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

The Town Hall Putsch

The fascists have really made a lot of progress towards the orgasmic Götterdämmerung they so desperately lust for (in the blind way the salmon yearn to drop their loads in the sand upriver). What with deciding that the superrich cannot possibly do with a little less (the Bush tax cuts) and that we should fight two elective wars without raising taxes, they have pretty much succeeded in bankrupting the national government. This is useful to them in that it promotes the Liferaft Mentality that gets normally decent or at least complacent people looking wildly to throw others over the side.

Now they're demonstrating a diabolical, time-honored principle: when you can excite a people's perceived self-interest, and blend it with their reptilian revulsion for the Other, and make them believe the resultant discontent is a higher calling, a reverence for an abstract good (say, "states' rights," or "fiscal responsbility" or "racial purity") then you get an explosion of passion you can exploit in any number of ways. This is precisely what American fascists are doing with the town hall shouting over the health care debate.

At the risk of sounding elititist, I note that the shouters (many of whom are, hypocritically enough, obviously on Medicare, and many of the younger others, being very doughy Fox fans, will doubtless absorb a disproportionate share of health-care dollars before their beer guts finally kill them) are almost universally pasty-faced and dressed in Walmart disposable prole-wear. The modulation of the their voices, the contortions of their faces, has been looking eerily familiar to me, and last evening, as I ran past the Tuesday seranade in the National Cathedral belltower, it came to me: they are possessed by the same demons that were loose in the streets fifty years ago in Little Rock, New Orleans, Richmond. You can see it in the old news footage, see it in the faces above.

Just as the white trash didn't want real public schooling for black folks, they don't want public health for the black and brown either, even if their own kin have to suffer to prevent the preventitive benefits of such socialized elightenment. (It's not at all coincidence that the plan is regarded as Obama's.) The Foxagandists have managed to make the "public option" an egregious dipping into the public trough (rather than a lifting of all boats). As a result, Real Americans, of the Palin-fan variety, regard that public trough as their own personal foodbowl, and they will snarl and bite and fight like starving dogs to keep Others away from it.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

It All Falls Apart

Talk about the worst filled with passionate intensity: the Tea Putschers are it -- a perfect replay of the cost-free Brooks Brother's Riot which helped the GOP steal the Florida election for Bush. The cost of our failure to prosecute Republican crimes is this: the failure of American democracy. I have no doubt that the corporate media will so inflate and universalize the myth (and self-fulfilling prophecy) of grass-roots rage at the prospect of public health care, as to kill of any possibility of getting same by frightening the wits out of the Vichycrats at their Town Halls. In the process they'll tighten the facists' hold on the American system.

Interesting that when millions took to the streets to peacefully protest the impending Iraq Fiasco the networks all but blacksed that out. Now, when a handful of assholes are deliberately disrupting the democratic process they are afforded star treatment.

Virtually all of these wankers, you can be absolutely certain, applaud Sgt. Cowley for arresting Prof. Gates, in his own home, disrupting nothing, for disorderly conduct. But imagine the howls if these people, whose purpose, as stated in their marching orders, is to disprupt a crucial public process, were consistent with disorderly conduct statutes, to be arrested for same.

Democratic politicians should demand massive police presence to keep order, and those who would disrupt it should be draged out immediately, if non-violently -- just as all anti-Bush screamers were.

Or perhaps the Democrats should put the call out to the Teamsters, the UAW, UMW, et ceterA: "We've supported you -- now lend your presences, your voices, your cojones, to defense of the process, defense of free speech."