Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The wrongest generation

What’s up, Tom Brokaw? I used to love listening to you even if your Ls do kinda lie there on your tongue like dead clams.

A couple of weeks ago, I called you out for some comments you made during the Republican Convention, after the Republicans showed their hateful little “if you don’t elect us, we’ll take our 9/11 and go home” video:

Tom Brokaw, on the other hand, revered mother superior of NBC, could have responded to the Republican’s little video by pointing out that it was an odd message for a party whose president had been in office for over 7 months when 9/11 occurred, or that the Republican’s president had been warned that the attack was coming and yet failed to act to prevent it, focusing instead on more desirable oil-producing targets.

He didn’t. Instead he responded by delivering a mild discourse on how Barack Obama would have to prove his “defend America” mettle during the debates and the remainder of the campaign. As if it were Obama’s task to disprove their lies.

Now, isn’t Brokaw’s reaction politically biased? Doesn’t it, as mild and yet authoritative as it sounds, still betray Brokaw’s personal point of view, which is that the Democrats, against all evidence to the contrary, have to prove themselves when it comes to national defense?

Earlier this year you went to the network and pressured them to pull Olbermann (and Chris Matthews) from the anchor seats during debate coverage, relegating them to commentator status instead.

Why? Because they are, in your opinion, too biased. You said this:

“Keith is an articulate guy who writes well and doesn’t make his arguments in a ‘So’s your old mother’ kind of way,” Mr. Brokaw said. “The mistake was to think he could fill both roles. The other mistake was to think he wouldn’t be tempted to use the anchor position to engage in commentary. That’s who he is.”

Commentary? Do you mean commentary like when, at the end of a debate, the debate moderator pulls a non-existent poll from his ass in order to spin the ending to favor one candidate over another?

Because you did that. Remember? It was just two days ago, when Obama spokesman David Axelrod was sparring with McCain spokesman Steve Schmidt on your show:

AXELROD: What has happened is, as Sen. Obama predicted from the beginning, that we got distracted in Iraq and now Osama bin Laden, who is the person who attacked the United States, killed 3,000 American citizens is now resurgent. He is stronger and that is the result of the misbegotten decisions of John McCain and he stubbornly wants to continue, even as the Iraqis won’t take responsibility, sitting on $79 billion of their own surplus, while we spend $10 billion a month. It doesn’t make sense. We can’t take more of the same, Steve.

BROKAW: In fairness to everybody here, I’m just going to end on one note and that is that we continue to poll on who is best equipped to be Commander in Chief, John McCain continues to lead in that category, despite the criticism from Barack Obama by a factor of 53 to 42 percent in our latest NBC/WSJ poll.

I mean, wha?

I could understand if you wanted to give the McCain shill the last word, and then not correct his lies, since that was your M.O. up until then, but it really is quite remarkable that you went so far as to actually adopt Schmidt’s roll as McCain cheerleader.

And p.s., Tom, I find it a little hard to swallow that you didn’t know that the latest NBC/WSJ poll didn’t even cover the question of “who’s best equipped to be Commander in Chief.” Nor do I buy that you are unaware that McCain does not continue to lead in the polls on that issue. And neither do I believe that it was an accident that the poll you were citing was taken weeks ago, right after the Republican convention, and is as obsolete as McCain’s $500 Ferragamo moccasins.

And p.p.s., Tom, you might want to rethink your modest assumption, as you described in loving detail in the NY Times, that the McCain camp wants you moderate the NBC debate because you are the most “fair.”

Oh, and sorry, but…p.p.p.s., Tom, all the really great newsmen said what they thought was the truth and didn’t give a damn what the campaigns for either party thought. So, do you want to be one of the great ones, or do you want to retire to Arizona in 2009 and be John McCain’s golfing buddy?

Monday, September 29, 2008

Bells On Recommends: The Verdict

I was never very impressed by Paul Newman when I was growing up. I thought he was a pretty boy actor with insufficient chops. That all changed in 1982, when I saw The Verdict, moodily directed by Sidney Lumet and with a great screenplay by David Mamet. The movie takes place in Boston, and settings range from the sleek offices of wealth and power to the crummiest blue-collar bars & crackerboxes. Newman’s character’s run-down office is so perfect that it almost makes you cry. And Mamet absolutely nails everyone’s speech patterns and language. You can listen to the movie with your eyes closed and know exactly how much money every character makes just by listening to the way they talk. It’s fucking brilliant.

And Newman is nothing less than heartbreaking in it. Somehow, in the decade since he’d done Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid and The Sting, he had acquired some lines on his face and a profound weariness. It’s like he didn’t care what the world thought of him anymore. He had done a pretty good job in the previous year’s Absence of Malice, but his co-star in that movie, Sally Field, was just out of her depth and I found that very distracting. But in The Verdict, Newman as alcoholic, down-on-his-luck ambulance chaser attorney Frank Galvan, owns the whole movie, and when you’re up against Jack Warden, James Mason, and Charlotte Rampling, that’s no mean feat.

So what better way to honor the passing of one of this country’s greatest actors than by watching him at the top of his game? This is a movie that will slowly warm you from the inside out, like a tumbler full of whiskey.

(Please to ignore foreign subtitles. This is the only vid of this scene I could find.)

Friends with talent

Be sure to watch my friends The Watson Twins on Conan tonight. Or TiVo it, and watch it tomorrow. But you really should watch it tonight, if you want to, you know, be cool.

Speaking of cool, Leigh and Chandra are about to kick off an east coast tour with, um, Billy Bragg is all. Freakin Billy Bragg. They're very excited.

Here's the video of the single off their new album Fire Songs. It's called How Am I to Be.

Watch it, but be warned that you cannot resist the power of the twins:

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

I can teach you, but I have to charge

I have a suggestion regarding the current Wall Street investment crisis. And that is, that whenever the taxpayers are forced by politicians such as John “I was for deregulation before I was against it” McCain to bail out large companies whose collapse could threaten the American economy (an economy that was, if memory serves, “fundamentally sound” only last week), those same taxpayers should receive in return a vital and profitable company. So yeah, sure, we’ll take AIG off your hands, but we want Microsoft. Fine, give us Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, but we’ll be requiring ExxonMobil and Standard Oil in the bargain.

Although at this point, I’m ready to have government just take over the U.S. oil industry, Hugo Chavez-style. Because all those fucking companies pay crazy low rents on government land, harvest oil and natural gas, and then pay a royalty to us landlords that, while comprising a significant portion of our federal budget, might still be classified as, um, criminally inadequate. That is, when they pay us at all.

In other words, readers, U.S. oil companies drink our milkshake.

They drink it up.

Ditto their corporate brethren in the financial sector, who while insisting on their government cheese with one hand, are using the other to slap the wrists of homeowners who “were greedy” and “made bad decisions” regarding their mortgages. It seems that only the Fortune 500 is allowed to takes risks in the hope of a payoff. American homeowners are most definitely NOT allowed to buy on spec or aspire to turn around an asset in order to make a profit, because then they are irresponsible and ruining the economy. I mean, how dare they assume that mortgage companies, and the companies that buy mortgage-backed securities, would act in a fiscally responsible manner? Greedy fucking house-buying bastards.

What’s an honest, tax-paying American to do? It’s getting so bad up in this US of A mug, that I would move to Russia if I weren’t afraid that Sarah Palin would spy on me from her house.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Things I learned at the fair

First of all, if you don’t eat deep-fried food really at all, and then in one day you ingest roughly 8 pounds of it, you will be sorry. Very sorry. And so will everyone who has to be in the same room with you for the next 18 hours.

Secondly, if someone rams her SUV-sized wagon/baby stroller with the covered cab and the Big-Gulp-sized DRINK HOLDERS into your leg, and then you turn to look at her and she’s wearing fake boobs and a McCain/Palin button, she should realize that she’s lucky that you didn’t rip off her Ooompa Loompa-orange face, deep-fry it, sprinkle it with cinnamon and sell it to the Pachucos from El Monte. She should also recognize that the only thing that saved her was your realization that the laws of the LA County Fair means that you would have had to take her crew-cutted brats and raise them as your own. And readers, there isn’t enough Xanax in the world.

But, on the bright side, I learned that locally-brewed Lug Nut Lager is good for what ails ya.

Ditto pig racing.

Also, there’s not much wrong with bunnies, skinny-ass roosters with crazy feathered feet, Hampshire lambs, goats of any size or shape, and beautiful fawn-colored gentle Jersey cows.

And if they want to charge you $5.00 to slide down the 3-story monster slide on a hunk of burlap, it is well worth the price, readers. Well worth the price.

Because Angelinos don’t scare easily. If we did, blah blah blah insert joke about the 405 Freeway. Seriously, if we did, we’d still be locked in our houses. And perhaps this has something to do with the fact that we are overwhelmingly Democratic. Yes, finally scientific, or at the very least, pseudo-scientific research has discovered that contrary to popular belief (but right in line with mine), conservatives are, fundamentally, big ole’ scaredy pants.

But I knew this. And readers, make no mistake, so do the Republicans. Something the Republicans have always realized and exploited is their hunch that about 90% of the decisions that the voting public makes happen at the lizard brain level, and that voters then use their intellect, such as it may be, to justify that choice.

How else do you explain Hillary supporters voting for McCain/Palin? Given the chance to vote for a candidate whose positions are, for all practical purposes, identical to Hillary’s, they instead make vague noises about “not trusting” Obama and pledge their support to a duo that negates Hillary’s entire platform. Frankly, it’s hard to imagine a scenario in which their dislike of Obama can be described as anything other than skin deep.

But this is to be expected in a world where roughly half of us advocate the status quo, no matter how screechingly awful it may be, where half of us believe that a machine hack with a talent for sucking at the government teat is a “reformer,” and where a deregulation groupie, former Keating 5 influence peddler, and lobbyist lover can remake himself as someone who’s going to get tough on Wall Street and change the way government works.

There may be a sucker born every minute, but that sucker ain’t me. When the sign on the fake fa├žade says that the giant steer is “alive”…

I know better. That big boy is long gone, my friends. He may have walked the earth long ago, but his body’s been stuffed full of saw dust, and his feet have been nailed to the plywood floor, and anyone who lays down a buck because they want to believe that he really does exist, deserves to kiss their moola goodbye.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Why feminists feel beleaguered by the Wall Street Journal

Last night, I was at Room 5 to see Populuxe, probably the best unsigned band ever,* and I had one of those things where all I could think about was how happy I was right at that specific point in time. I don’t believe that art can be perfect, but I do believe that some art is perfect for some people, and to me, Populuxe is perfect. For the duration of their set, they made me happy, and the friendly & intimate club that is Room 5 made me happy, and my companions made me happy. And I thought that after the show was over, I would go home with Spooney and sit by the pond with a nightcap and a smoke and think about how goddamn fucking lucky I have been in my life.

And I try to feel fortunate that I can experience such contentment ever, and not sad that those feelings are ephemeral, and as easily dissipated as the flicking on of the television dissipates the quiet, or the opening of the Wall Street Journal Online dissipates my self-composure.

Or, to the point, I hate being told why I hate someone, especially by the Wall Street Journal.

Look, you know, WSJ, I appreciate that your grasp of feminism is tenuous at best, but I just don’t think that you should take these kind of wild stabs at the issue of why feminists have a problem with Sarah Palin. It makes you look like some kind of New York elitist publication whose only real interest is in making sure that people with money become people with more money, which I’m sure is not your intent at all.

Still, a lot can be learned about a society by looking at the faces that it chooses to present.

When motion pictures first started to appear in theatres all across this country, blacks had to content themselves with film representations that portrayed them as servile, stupid, fearful, lazy, and corrupt. I imagine that while it must have been thrilling for a black moviegoer to see the rare black actor on the screen in their local theatre, that thrill would’ve likely been tempered by a great deal of bitterness at the unfairness of that representation.

Similarly, until gay characters appeared openly in film, which is a very recent occurrence indeed, gays would’ve had to learn to embrace the bigoted portrayals of their closeted selves, and also the cinematic plots that more than likely made gay characters the victims of degradation, violence, and suicide.

Richard Pryor once challenged the black community for lamenting that then-heavyweight champion Leon Spinks, mentally and dentally challenged as he was, was not a suitable representation of black America. He said, “Be glad for any nigger doing any thing.”

But times have changed. A lone black sports figure no longer has to shoulder the entire mantle of black citizenship. And women no longer have to settle for an Uncle Tom in lipstick.

This is a point lost on Cathy Young of the Wall Street Journal, however. She begins her article by denouncing “left-wing feminists,” but then immediately abandons the phrase in favor of, simply, “feminists,” which frankly, says more about her than I could ever manage to summon here, long-winded though I be.

She also manages to conjure a sexist stereotype of feminists in record time, contending by only the second sentence that Palin’s candidacy has left us “unhinged.”

Oh, if only I were merely “unhinged.” What I am, bitch, is fucking pissed.

What she hasn’t considered, perhaps, is that it’s not Palin herself who has invoked such a strong reaction among feminists, it’s the absolutely dumbfounding event of Republicans 1) suddenly deciding that sexism exists, and 2) accusing the Democrats of being the primary culprits of its perpetuation!


And in a similarly stunning turn of events, Ms. Young places the blame for sexism in the 2008 election squarely at the feet of…feminists. I’m not kidding:

You'd think that, whether or not they agree with her politics, feminists would at least applaud Mrs. Palin as a living example of one of their core principles: a woman's right to have a career and a family. Yet some feminists unabashedly suggest that her decision to seek the vice presidency makes her a bad and selfish mother. Others argue that she is bad for working mothers because she's just too good at having it all.

Oh, is it feminists who suggest that she’s a bad mother for having a career? Are you sure about that, Ms. Young?

And do feminists say she’s bad for working mothers not because her policies don’t support working mothers, but because “she’s just too good at having it all”?

Is Young saying that feminists are jealous of Palin? If not, then what the hell IS she saying?

Well, don’t look for the next paragraph to make her thesis any more credible:

Mrs. Palin's marriage actually makes her a terrific role model. One of the best choices a woman can make if she wants a career and a family is to pick a partner who will be able to take on equal or primary responsibility for child-rearing. Our culture still harbors a lingering perception that such men are less than manly -- and who better to smash that stereotype than "First Dude" Todd Palin?

Oh my god, I love that 2nd sentence. It’s so awesomely intellectually retarded in, mmm, just so many ways. Because where women are going wrong, apparently, is not making good enough “choices” when it comes to their partners. See, if I had just picked a dude like Todd Palin, I also could have five kids and a political career! So, choose better, bitches!

Ms. Young then takes issue with an opposing viewpoint from Katherine Marsh of the New Republic. It’s at this point that her rhetoric becomes so antiquated that I begin to wonder how much the WSJ could get for her on Antiques Roadshow:

[Not to] Ms. Marsh, who insists that feminism must demand support for women from the government.

Um, the last time I looked, the government was the one making the laws.

In this worldview, advocating more federal subsidies for institutional day care is pro-woman; advocating tax breaks or regulatory reform that would help home-based care providers -- preferred by most working parents -- is not. Trying to legislate away the gender gap in earnings (which no self-respecting economist today blames primarily on discrimination) is feminist. Expanding opportunities for part-time and flexible jobs is "the Republican Party line."

I disagree with Sarah Palin on a number of issues, including abortion rights. But when the feminist establishment treats not only pro-life feminism but small-government, individualist feminism as heresy, it writes off multitudes of women.

Oh, my lord. I’ve got to start making lists now.

1. Look at the first sentence above. Young is asserting that federal subsidies are big government, but tax breaks and regulatory reform are small government. Can anyone please explain this to me? Oh, and by the way, feminists don’t oppose tax breaks and regulatory reform.

2. No self-respecting economist blames the gender gap primarily on discrimination? Well, it all depends on what the meaning of discrimination is, don’t it? Is discrimination limited to cases where two people doing the same job are paid unequally, or does is also mean that a woman never even gets a chance to do that job? Because I guarantee you that both instances are alive and well in this country, no thanks to John McCain, by the way, who opposed equal pay legislation named after the woman for whom the gap could most definitely have been legislated away. I guess self-respecting economists forgot to speak to her.

3. And again, who are these feminists, who are opposing part-time and flexible jobs? I think they must exist only in this writer’s imagination. Maybe she’s becoming unhinged.

4. See how quickly she breezes right by “abortion rights”? It’s just “abortion rights,” that’s all. It’s just that they don’t want women to have abortions. Such a little thing, when you think about it. Just no abortions - it isn’t that much to ask, really. Especially when there’s no rape involved. Although if there is, just to be clear…still no abortions. Okay? That’s all. Stop talking about the circumstances of your life, because you seem to not understand that they have no bearing on the issue. Just no abortions, and carrying every child conceived inside your body to term, no matter what your physical or mental circumstances, or whether your life is endangered, or whether it’s the child of a man who raped you, or was your father, or both. Just no abortions, okay? Are we all on board yet?

And lastly, Young warns feminists that by rejecting Palin, we are writing off multitudes of pro-life and small-government women. That is such an understatement! There are so many other groups we are writing off as well! Groups such as:

-Mothers for Shotgun Weddings

-The First Church of the Earth is 6000 Years Old and Dinosaurs and Man Lived Side by Side

-The Russia-adjacent Neighborhood Council

-Earmark Lovers of America

-Abortion Clinic Protesters Anonymous

-The Ladies Auxiliary Reichstag for Book Banning, and their sister group Librarian Harassers Local 31

-The Fraternal Order of Gay Haters

-Kappa Kappa Kreationism

And the list can only grow from here, readers.

*Except my boyfriend’s band, of course.

Friday, September 12, 2008

The MILF and that other Oedipus complex

I guess everyone has had that experience of being called upon in school when you didn’t really know the answer. And instead of owning up to it, you try to fake your way through it, except that it is of course painfully obvious to everyone that you’re essentially trying to surf on a wave of bullshit. For instance, my undergraduate theatre history class at Penn State was infamous for being tough. Due to the fantastic amount of detail we were expected to know, it was a difficult class to stay on top of, and once the professor caught me unprepared on the subject of an obscure Roman playwright named Pomponius. It went something like this:

Prof: Vikkitikkitavi, please explain the significance of Pomponius.

Me: Well, Pomponius was a playwright in ancient Rome, and as a Roman, he wrote about themes that were popular with the Romans, using characters that ancient Romans would have been familiar with. So he was quite a significant playwright.

Prof: What themes would those be?

Me: Uh, love, and…um, life. And of course death.

Prof: And what was his contribution to Stoicism?

Me: Oh, he was definitely a member of the movement of Stoicism, and he wrote his plays using the principals of Stoic literature. His heroes were, um, Stoic as well in that they adhered to Stoic ideals.

Prof: It sounds as if you believe that this rather minor comic playwright is one of the pillars of classical Stoicism.

Me: Oh. I…um… I wouldn’t say that.

Prof: What would you say, then?

Me: Well, um, that being a minor comic playwright, of course, his take on Stoicism…is different than what, you know, a major tragic playwright’s take would be. But still an important take, you know, just different. Because he’s a comic playwright, I mean, a minor one, but still.

I bring up this rather painful and humiliating memory because it reminds me of watching Sarah Palin in her first television interview since being named the Republican VP candidate. Watching Charlie Gibson prod her through some fairly cringe-inducing lapses, it struck me that she resembled nothing so much as a student trying to bullshit her way through an oral exam. Witness this exchange:

GIBSON: Do you agree with the Bush doctrine?

PALIN: In what respect, Charlie?

GIBSON: The Bush -- well, what do you -- what do you interpret it to be?

PALIN: His world view.

GIBSON: No, the Bush doctrine, enunciated September 2002, before the Iraq war.

PALIN: I believe that what President Bush has attempted to do is rid this world of Islamic extremism, terrorists who are hell bent on destroying our nation. There have been blunders along the way, though. There have been mistakes made. And with new leadership, and that's the beauty of American elections, of course, and democracy, is with new leadership comes opportunity to do things better.

GIBSON: The Bush doctrine, as I understand it, is that we have the right of anticipatory self-defense, that we have the right to a preemptive strike against any other country that we think is going to attack us. Do you agree with that?

PALIN: I agree that a president's job, when they swear in their oath to uphold our Constitution, their top priority is to defend the United States of America. I know that John McCain will do that and I, as his vice president, families we are blessed with that vote of the American people and are elected to serve and are sworn in on January 20, that will be our top priority is to defend the American people.

GIBSON: Do we have a right to anticipatory self-defense? Do we have a right to make a preemptive strike again another country if we feel that country might strike us?

PALIN: Charlie, if there is legitimate and enough intelligence that tells us that a strike is imminent against American people, we have every right to defend our country. In fact, the president has the obligation, the duty to defend.

Here’s another classroom tactic on display as she tries to defend her suggestion that Iran’s nuclear ambitions can be controlled with – surprise! – sanctions:

GIBSON: But, Governor, we've threatened greater sanctions against Iran for a long time. It hasn't done any good. It hasn't stemmed their nuclear program.

PALIN: We need to pursue those and we need to implement those. We cannot back off. We cannot just concede that, oh, gee, maybe they're going to have nuclear weapons, what can we do about it. No way, not Americans. We do not have to stand for that.

GIBSON: What if Israel decided it felt threatened and needed to take out the Iranian nuclear facilities?

PALIN: Well, first, we are friends with Israel and I don't think that we should second guess the measures that Israel has to take to defend themselves and for their security.

GIBSON: So if we wouldn't second guess it and they decided they needed to do it because Iran was an existential threat, we would cooperative or agree with that.

PALIN: I don't think we can second guess what Israel has to do to secure its nation.

GIBSON: So if it felt necessary, if it felt the need to defend itself by taking out Iranian nuclear facilities, that would be all right.

PALIN: We cannot second guess the steps that Israel has to take to defend itself.

Yeah, when you only have one thing to say, just keep repeating it. If you emphasize different words each time, no one will even notice.

Also, I noticed that the Governor has resorted to the Bush affectation of pronouncing the word “nuclear” as “nuke-ular.” No doubt the campaign is not anxious to invoke any Bush/Palin foreign policy parallels, which might explain why, during the Republican convention, the word “nuclear” was spelled out for her phonetically on the teleprompter as “new-clear” in each place where it occurred. True.

Some other notable events of the interview, in which Palin:

-reversed her opinion that the jury was out on whether humans contribute to global climate change…so now they definitely “could be”

-decided that maybe she is not privy to God’s day planner after all

-advocated defending Georgia, even if it means war with Russia, which apparently invaded Georgia without provocation, although didn’t mention that this opinion might have been influenced by a lobbyist for the government of Georgia now working for the McCain campaign

-believes that proximity to Russia imparts to her, apparently through osmosis, foreign policy experience – which is great news for me, because it means that proximity to my broken sink now means that I am a plumber

-definitely does not know what the word “hubris” means

And readers, as anyone who has studied their classical playwrights knows, it’s that last one that gets ya.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Did we learn nothing from Pee-Wee Herman?

Readers, you know I don't usually go for the quirky little news items, but in this case, I felt it was my duty to alert y'all to this one.

David Albert Lemus, who worked as a clown for children's birthday parties, and who was arrested for child molestation in 2005, has just been sentenced to 12 years in prison. At least three girls were victimized by him prior to his arrest, apparently he committed the crimes while he was in costume.

Holy fucking shit. As if it's not unpleasant enough to encounter a clown, with his Scope-over-Early Times breath and his yellow-ass teeth and his hasn't-been-dry-cleaned-since-'92 costume and his general aesthetic unpleasantness. Can you imagine what it's like for those girls, having the added burden of actual genuine psychological trauma triggered for the rest of their lives whenever they see one of those greasepainted vermin?

But readers, that is not the worst part. Oh, no.

The worst part, is that Lemus's "clown name," was Trim-Trim.

One small word of advice to all parents of clown-susceptible children out there: if the clown you're thinking of hiring for your child's birthday party is named after a slang word for genitalia, maybe you should just get a pony instead.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Which side are you on, boys?

So, Keith and Chris got fired from anchoring political coverage for not being sufficiently deferential to the Republicans.

Whew! I am so glad that is not in my job description.

I watched every hour I could force down of both conventions, and I watched it all on MSNBC, so I can tell you that yes, the coverage of the Republican convention, at least as far as Olbermann & Mathews were concerned, was much more cynical than the coverage of the Democratic convention. But you know, it’s funny to me when people get worked up about Olbermann being chosen, as if it were a choice based on anything other than his ratings. Olbermann is the biggest star MSNBC has; who the fuck else are they going to get to boost the viewership of those week-long U! S! A! flag orgies, Al Roker? It’s all about the $$$ for the network, which is a concept you’d think Republicans would understand. Or aren’t they so hot on capitalism anymore?

Perhaps MSNBC does have an obligation to have a more neutral anchor, but I’ll be damned if I can think of one. Every anchor has his or her own political bent – it’s really all in how you look at it.

For example, let’s look at that fairly inflammatory piece of Republican video rhetoric that features footage from 9/11. I believe the message of that video could fairly be summed up to be “Democrats = another 9/11.” Olbermann responded by rebuking his network for showing it, saying that for him and many others, the footage used was a reminder of deeply personal loss, and he felt it was offensive to many viewers to see it used in such a fashion.

Yeah, no matter what you think of Olbermann, you have to admit that he gives good tv.

Tom Brokaw, on the other hand, revered mother superior of NBC, could have responded to the Republican’s little video by pointing out that it was an odd message for a party whose president had been in office for over 7 months when 9/11 occurred, or that the Republican’s president had been warned that the attack was coming and yet failed to act to prevent it, focusing instead on more desirable oil-producing targets.

He didn’t. Instead he responded by delivering a mild discourse on how Barack Obama would have to prove his “defend America” mettle during the debates and the remainder of the campaign. As if it were Obama’s task to disprove their lies.

Now, isn’t Brokaw’s reaction politically biased? Doesn’t it, as mild and yet authoritative as it sounds, still betray Brokaw’s personal point of view, which is that the Democrats, against all evidence to the contrary, have to prove themselves when it comes to national defense?

Why wasn’t Brokaw called out? Because although Olbermann made the fuss while Brokaw played it cool, wasn’t Olbermann the one closer to fulfilling the roll that we have relegated to the press, which is to call bullshit when politicians lie?

Or, in other words, what is the value of neutrality when one side dissembles and the other reaches toward truth? The Swiss have been neutral for almost two hundred years, and what is their big contribution to society? Instant cocoa and cuckoo clocks. What is the point of the press standing in the middle and saying to the American public “There! We provided you with both points of view!” when one of the points of view is morally arid?

I reject the notion that there is value on both sides. I understand the Republican point of view. Hey, I like to keep my money too. But when it comes to making sure that human beings move toward making this a better world, I think that most of the time, the Democrats are right, and the Republicans are wrong.

And I think it’s a shame when the intelligent members of our press corps pretend otherwise for the sake of this charade they’ve married themselves to, that their mission is to be unbiased, instead of to be right, and to be good.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Off limits

Yikes, readers, I’ve been more or less watching the train wreck (it’s so old time-y that you can’t really call it a car wreck) in St. Paul for the last few days, and you know who I feel really really bad for?

Not Bristol Farms Palin, although lord knows between her horrendous moniker and her upcoming shotgun wedding, there is quite a bit to prod my sympathy there. To say nothing of the incomprehensible selfishness of her parents, who have, if their so-called “moral” stances are not political lies, denied her knowledge and access to birth control, and with predictable results. Christ, I wish all “social conservative” parents everywhere would wake up and realize that to subject another human being to potentially harmful consequences in order to bolster a world view that by its very nature must has been manufactured out of their own personal whole cloth, is the height of self-centered arrogance, and is the very opposite of loving parenting. Yes, there, I said it. Parents who don’t teach their children about birth control are bad parents.

But back to my point. Who I really, really feel sorry for is Bridget McCain.

Can you imagine, first of all, that you belong to this family?

They’re all sunny-looking and blue-eyed and thin.

You’re not.

You have braces. Serious braces.

Your mother apparently allows you to appear in public in horrible tiered skirts that do nothing for your figure.

You’re vaguely aware that being referred to as “black” by Karl Rove operatives was a factor in your adopted father’s loss in the South Carolina primary (stay classy, South Carolina!) in 2000.

And now, the story of your adoption by the rich white lady from Mother Theresa’s orphanage in Bangladesh is being repeated by Republican campaign staffers every damn day.

You attend your daddy’s convention. And your adoption is mentioned in a movie about your mom’s life. The circumstances of your inclusion into the family are supposed to make people think that your parents are benevolent, and that you were needy.

Then your mother speaks, and she too recounts the story of your rescue and adoption.

In front of the whole world, she says this:

“But then I visited an orphanage begun by Mother Teresa, and two very sick little girls captured my heart. There was something I could do. I could take them home. And so I did.”

And she pauses for applause.

She pauses for the applause that she knows will come from the people that wish to show the rich white lady that they approve of her benevolence.

And then she says “Today both of those girls are healthy and happy. And one of them you just met: our beautiful daughter, Bridget.”

And then all the directors of all the news shows cut to you. Your picture fills the television screens in millions of homes around the world.

You. The recipient of this lady’s largess.

You. Poor Bangladeshi baby with the cleft palate so badly in need in surgery.

You. The McCain family charity case, being trotted out for political purposes.


How does it feel, Bridget, being constantly reminded that you are the adopted one, the one they took in out of the goodness of their hearts?

I imagine it feels, if you are honest with yourself, pretty shitty.

Let me just say to you, Bridget, and you might not believe this now, but you are the attractive one in your family. The McCain children are all so bland and predictably pretty! But you, you are interesting looking, and that is so much more valuable. You’ll see. You will grow into a breathtaking dark-eyed beauty, while they will never be better looking than they were in their teens.

Try not to let the Republicans get you down, sweetie. And when you’re older, feel free to look me up, because I bet you’ll also be the only really interesting kid in the family, too.

Oh, and bring one of your mother’s credit cards. We’ll go shopping.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

P.S. that color does nothing for you

Palin’s speech was about exactly what I’d thought it would be: full of platitudes and conservative codewords, and short on any honest criticism of the Democrats, or ideas for a meaningful governance. She soon got to the part where she took snarky digs at Obama:

I guess a small-town mayor is sort of like a "community organizer," except that you have actual responsibilities.

Yes, you are correct in that unlike Obama, you were actually paid, and paid quite well in comparison to your peers, to live up to your responsibilities as mayor of a town that was then about 5000 people. And you did, as you promised during the campaign, cut your mayoral salary. You cut it from $68K to $64K.


I bet that put you into a lower tax bracket and everything.

Ah, but then you also created a new position, City Administrator, reducing your workload but adding a whole new salary to the budget.

I would suggest the same kind of maverick reforming to my own boss where I work, if I weren’t afraid of being laughed at for not knowing how math works.

Back to Palin:

I might add that in small towns, we don't quite know what to make of a candidate who lavishes praise on working people when they are listening, and then talks about how bitterly they cling to their religion and guns when those people aren't listening. We tend to prefer candidates who don't talk about us one way in Scranton and another way in San Francisco.

Oh, I think you’re being a little bit disingenuous there, Governor Palin. I think you and your "small-town" ilk know exactly what to think of candidate Obama. You think he’s not a Christian, and you think he’s going to take your guns away. But please, go right on insisting that what he said is an unfair characterization. I expect nothing less.

I'm not a member of the permanent political establishment.

From what I hear, you’re not assured of being a member of the permanent 2008 Republican presidential ticket either, but let’s let that go for now. Yes, I’d say that to become a member of the “permanent political establishment” in Washington, you’d need to have spent a good, oh, 24 – 26 years in the US Congress, or something like that.

I pledge to all Americans that I will carry myself in this spirit as vice president of the United States. This was the spirit that brought me to the governor's office, when I took on the old politics as usual in Juneau ... when I stood up to the special interests, the lobbyists, big oil companies, and the good ol' boys network.

Yes, you did stand up to them. You stood up to them and said “I’m so happy to see you! Won’t you take my chair?”

Sudden and relentless reform never sits well with entrenched interests and power brokers. That's why true reform is so hard to achieve...

Yes, but fake reform, consisting mostly of false boasts and empty promises is obviously something at which you excel.

I came to office promising to control spending — by request if possible and by veto if necessary. Senator McCain also promises to use the power of veto in defense of the public interest — and as a chief executive, I can assure you it works.

Hear that? She’s a CHIEF EXECUTIVE. She’s got a BRIEFCASE and a DESK, too.

You know, you’d think that with Senator McCain on the top of the ticket, the Republicans wouldn’t harp on that tired old line about Senators not being ready to govern in the same way that a CHIEF EXECUTIVE, a.k.a. the governor of a state with a population smaller than Forth Worth, Texas, can. But apparently they somehow, inexplicably still think that it’s a valid point.

Our state budget is under control. We have a surplus. And I have protected the taxpayers by vetoing wasteful spending: nearly half a billion dollars in vetoes. I suspended the state fuel tax, and championed reform to end the abuses of earmark spending by Congress. I told the Congress "thanks, but no thanks," for that Bridge to Nowhere.

Yeah, exactly how did you say “no thanks”? Because although you rejected the “earmark” part of the “earmark funds,” you kept the “funds” part! Yeah, you kept the cash, all 223 million of it, you just said you wouldn’t use it to build the bridge. And you also kept a different earmark of 38 million for the approach to the bridge, which is – get this – currently under construction! Yeah, you kept all the money, even though Alaska has a budget surplus, and in fact has so much money from oil revenues (thanks to the high price per barrel that we’re all forced to pay) that last year the Alaska Permanent Fund sent $1654.00 to each and every citizen of Alaska. Holy cripes, no wonder the residents overwhelmingly want to drill in ANWAR! I’d say fuck the polar bears too, if I knew the state of Alaska would be making my next mortgage payment.

And in spite of this prosperity, a rather unique condition in these United States for the past 8 years, Alaska receives 10 times more federal money via earmarks per capita than the average state. In fact, after hiring Wasilla’s first Washington lobbyist, Mayor Palin achieved for her little town of five thousand people a per capita earmark of $1000.00 in federal funds for each and every resident.

Yes, my federal tax dollars went to Wasilla, Alaska, to buy that bitch’s town a youth shelter, sewer repairs, a rail project and a “transportation hub," whatever the fuck that is. And why couldn’t the town pay for these projects themselves? Because they were too busy having their taxes raised to pay for a new 15 million dollar sports complex.

Hey, you can’t have hockey moms without a nice new taxpayer-financed place to play hockey, right?

Meanwhile, the neighborhood in which I live, in a city home to 4 million people, can’t pave the fucking roads, let alone build public transit systems, put enough cops on the street, or give poor kids a decent education. But I’m glad y’all are playing hockey in style.

And so, exactly how has Palin “championed reform” in Congress? By breaking the fucking bank?

Oh, but I tire of pointing out the stupefying hypocrisy of Palin casting herself as a “reformer.” Let’s look instead at the hypocrisy of their criticisms of Obama:

This is a man who can give an entire speech about the wars America is fighting, and never use the word "victory" except when he's talking about his own campaign.

Oh, he “can” do that, huh? Does that depend upon what the meaning of “can” is?

But when the cloud of rhetoric has passed ... when the roar of the crowd fades away ... when the stadium lights go out, and those Styrofoam Greek columns are hauled back to some studio lot - what exactly is our opponent's plan?

The columns didn’t come from a studio lot. They came from the Alaska State House, bitch.

What does he actually seek to accomplish, after he's done turning back the waters and healing the planet?

Isn’t that funny? See, she’s making fun of Obama because he wants to make sure the planet stays hospitable for human life. I mean, who the hell does he think he is, anyway? Fucking elitist planet-hugger.

The answer is to make government bigger ... take more of your money ... give you more orders from Washington ... and to reduce the strength of America in a dangerous world.

Excuse me, Ms. Palin, but I think you have your speech clock set to 1980. The Clinton administration happened, remember?

America needs more energy ... our opponent is against producing it.

Well, he’s certainly against continuing to increase our reliance on the kind of energy that your friends produce. Oh, and also your husband, who works for an oil company as well. Look, if the past eight years has taught us nothing, haven’t we at least learned to keep the oil men out of the White House?

Victory in Iraq is finally in sight ... he wants to forfeit.

Oh, Sarah. Sarah, Sarah, Sarah. You know, I thought your decision not to teach your daughter about birth control was ill-advised, but clearly there are depths to your bad judgment that we have yet to plumb.

Terrorist states are seeking nuclear weapons without delay ... he wants to meet them without preconditions...

What preconditions? He wants to speak to Iran without first making sure we get 10% off our next set of negotiations? You know, if you stopped Palin mid-speech, and asked her to explain exactly what she meant by that last sentence, I guarantee you she would’ve drawn a blank. The Republicans have taken this small-town rube, who learned how to work the backwater money machine, and thrust her onto the highest platform they have. No wonder they’re keeping the press away from her. It’s like she’s learned how to speak conservative idiospeak phonetically, but she has no idea yet what she’s really saying.

Taxes are too high ... he wants to raise them. His tax increases are the fine print in his economic plan, and let me be specific. The Democratic nominee for president supports plans to raise income taxes ... raise payroll taxes ... raise investment income taxes ... raise the death tax ... raise business taxes ... and increase the tax burden on the American people by hundreds of billions of dollars. My sister Heather and her husband have just built a service station that's now opened for business — like millions of others who run small businesses. How are they going to be any better off if taxes go up? Or maybe you're trying to keep your job at a plant in Michigan or Ohio ... or create jobs with clean coal from Pennsylvania or West Virginia ... or keep a small farm in the family right here in Minnesota. How are you going to be better off if our opponent adds a massive tax burden to the American economy?

Well, she started out saying she was going to be “specific” about how Obama is going to raise taxes, but then, she really never got to the “specific” part, did she? That’s because Obama plans to raise taxes on business, not on individuals. See, when she’s talking about the “American people” who will have their tax burden increased, she’s talking about the people who own the two-thirds of American corporations who pay nothing every year in Federal income taxes.

Yes, she’s really that disingenuous. Where I’m from, we call it lying, but hey, I don’t want to be accused of sexism here.

Let’s listen to her sell McCain:

Our nominee doesn't run with the Washington herd. He's a man who's there to serve his country, and not just his party. A leader who's not looking for a fight, but is not afraid of one either. Harry Reid, the Majority Leader of the current do-nothing Senate, not long ago summed up his feelings about our nominee. He said, quote, "I can't stand John McCain." Ladies and gentlemen, perhaps no accolade we hear this week is better proof that we've chosen the right man. Clearly what the Majority Leader was driving at is that he can't stand up to John McCain.

I don’t know, maybe what Reid was driving at was that he can’t stand a man who calls his wife a cunt. Or he can’t stand a guy who keeps talking about what a maverick he is, even though he’s been on his knees to BushCo for the last 8 years. Or maybe he meant that he can’t stand senators who author legislation restricting special interest groups, and then populate their senate and campaign offices with lobbyists. Or maybe he’s talking about how he can’t stand a military man who allows his supporters to use his status as a war hero as an excuse to avoid being subject to the same criticisms and examinations to which every candidate must subject themselves. Maybe he meant that by reminding the American public over and over again, as Palin does for the remainder of her speech, that McCain’s time as a resident of the Hanoi Hilton means that he is above reproach, even by that same American public, that McCain has become a mockery of what he might have become, that he has become a vain, hypocritical shadow of that POW, and a blowhard and a temperamental baby to boot.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Jesus, did they vet this chick at ALL?

Hey, guys, just thought I pop in and tell you to check out a comment left under this article by a resident of Wasillia, the town where McCain veep pick Palin was mayor. Here's the excerpt of the comment that Andrew Sullivan posted:

Her experience is as mayor of a city with a population of about 5,000 (at the time), and less than 2 years as governor of a state with about 670,000 residents. During her mayoral administration most of the actual work of running this small city was turned over to an administrator. She had been pushed to hire this administrator by party power-brokers after she had gotten herself into some trouble over precipitous firings which had given rise to a recall campaign. Sarah campaigned in Wasilla as a “fiscal conservative”. During her 6 years as Mayor, she increased general government expenditures by over 33%. During those same 6 years the amount of taxes collected by the City increased by 38%.

This was during a period of low inflation (1996-2002). She reduced progressive property taxes and increased a regressive sales tax which taxed even food. The tax cuts that she promoted benefited large corporate property owners way more than they benefited residents. The huge increases in tax revenues during her mayoral administration weren’t enough to fund everything on her wish list though, borrowed money was needed, too. She inherited a city with zero debt, but left it with indebtedness of over $22 million. What did Mayor Palin encourage the voters to borrow money for? Was it the infrastructure that she said she supported? The sewage treatment plant that the city lacked? or a new library? No. $1m for a park. $15m-plus for construction of a multi-use sports complex which she rushed through to build on a piece of property that the City didn’t even have clear title to, that was still in litigation 7 yrs later--to the delight of the lawyers involved! The sports complex itself is a nice addition to the community but a huge money pit, not the profit-generator she claimed it would be. She also supported bonds for $5.5m for road projects that could have been done in 5-7 yrs without any borrowing. While Mayor, City Hall was extensively remodeled and her office redecorated more than once. These are small numbers, but Wasilla is a very small city.

As an oil producer, the high price of oil has created a budget surplus in Alaska. Rather than invest this surplus in technology that will make us energy independent and increase efficiency, as Governor she proposed distribution of this surplus to every individual in the state. In this time of record state revenues and budget surpluses, she recommended that the state borrow/bond for road projects, even while she proposed distribution of surplus state revenues: spend today's surplus, borrow for needs. She’s not very tolerant of divergent opinions or open to outside ideas or compromise. As Mayor, she fought ideas that weren’t generated by her or her staff. Ideas weren’t evaluated on their merits, but on the basis of who proposed them.

While Sarah was Mayor of Wasilla she tried to fire our highly respected City Librarian because the Librarian refused to consider removing from the library some books that Sarah wanted removed. City residents rallied to the defense of the City Librarian and against Palin's attempt at out-and-out censorship, so Palin backed down and withdrew her termination letter. People who fought her attempt to oust the Librarian are on her enemies list to this day. Sarah complained about the “old boy’s club” when she first ran for Mayor, so what did she bring Wasilla? A new set of "old boys". Palin fired most of the experienced staff she inherited. At the City and as Governor she hired or elevated new, inexperienced, obscure people, creating a staff totally dependent on her for their jobs and eternally grateful and fiercely loyal--loyal to the point of abusing their power to further her personal agenda, as she has acknowledged happened in the case of pressuring the State’s top cop (see below).

As Mayor, Sarah fired Wasilla’s Police Chief because he “intimidated” her, she told the press. As Governor, her recent firing of Alaska's top cop has the ring of familiarity about it. He served at her pleasure and she had every legal right to fire him, but it's pretty clear that an important factor in her decision to fire him was because he wouldn't fire her sister's ex-husband, a State Trooper. Under investigation for abuse of power, she has had to admit that more than 2 dozen contacts were made between her staff and family to the person that she later fired, pressuring him to fire her ex-brother-in-law. She tried to replace the man she fired with a man who she knew had been reprimanded for sexual harassment; when this caused a public furor, she withdrew her support.

She has bitten the hand of every person who extended theirs to her in help. The City Council person who personally escorted her around town introducing her to voters when she first ran for Wasilla City Council became one of her first targets when she was later elected Mayor. She abruptly fired her loyal City Administrator; even people who didn’t like the guy were stunned by this ruthlessness. Fear of retribution has kept all of these people from saying anything publicly about her.

When then-Governor Murkowski was handing out political plums, Sarah got the best, Chair of the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission: one of the few jobs not in Juneau and one of the best paid. She had no background in oil & gas issues. Within months of scoring this great job which paid $122,400/yr, she was complaining in the press about the high salary. I was told that she hated that job: the commute, the structured hours, the work. Sarah became aware that a member of this Commission (who was also the State Chair of the Republican Party) engaged in unethical behavior on the job. In a gutsy move which some undoubtedly cautioned her could be political suicide, Sarah solved all her problems in one fell swoop: got out of the job she hated and garnered gobs of media attention as the patron saint of ethics and as a gutsy fighter against the “old boys’ club” when she dramatically quit, exposing this man’s ethics violations (for which he was fined).

As Mayor, she had her hand stuck out as far as anyone for pork from Senator Ted Stevens. Lately, she has castigated his pork-barrel politics and publicly humiliated him. She only opposed the “bridge to nowhere” after it became clear that it would be unwise not to. As Governor, she gave the Legislature no direction and budget guidelines, then made a big grandstand display of line-item vetoing projects, calling them pork. Public outcry and further legislative action restored most of these projects--which had been vetoed simply because she was not aware of their importance--but with the unobservant she had gained a reputation as “anti-pork”. She is solidly Republican: no political maverick. The State party leaders hate her because she has bit them in the back and humiliated them. Other members of the party object to her self-description as a fiscal conservative.

Around Wasilla there are people who went to high school with Sarah. They call her “Sarah Barracuda” because of her unbridled ambition and predatory ruthlessness. When Sarah's mother-in-law, a highly respected member of the community and experienced manager, ran for Mayor, Sarah refused to endorse her. As Governor, she stepped outside of the box and put together of package of legislation known as “AGIA” that forced the oil companies to march to the beat of her drum.

Like most Alaskans, she favors drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. She has questioned if the loss of sea ice is linked to global warming. She campaigned “as a private citizen” against a state initiaitive that would have either a) protected salmon streams from pollution from mines, or b) tied up in the courts all mining in the state (depending on who you listen to). She has pushed the State’s lawsuit against the Dept. of the Interior’s decision to list polar bears as threatened species. McCain is the oldest person to ever run for President; Sarah will be a heartbeat away from being President. There has to be literally millions of Americans who are more knowledgeable and experienced than she. However, there’s a lot of people who have underestimated her and are regretting it.

Readers, if what McCain wanted was a partner and a viable female Republican candidate, he could've had one. Hello! Olympia Snow, Kay Bailey Hutchinson, Elizabeth Dole! All extremely competent females with great backgrounds, integrity, and moderate to conservative records!

But he wasn't interested in a competent choice, he was interested in a poster child for the religious right. Well, be careful what you wish for, you sad old man.