The Chimes at Midnight
Friday, May 30, 2003
A coworker who probably meant well trotted out that obnoxious comparison, Bush=Hitler in conversation today.
This is a dastardly canard IMHO....flinging it about always sounds foolish and overwrought. Yes, Bush has a contempt for due process and he is a callow power worshipping son of a bitch...but that doesn't make him a potential dictator by any means.
And besides, in a weird an unpleasant way it unconsciously reinforces the otherwise delusional conservative claim to strength by comparing their President to a genocidal world class dictator.
Moreover the Bush=Hitler thang is rhetoric straight out of the neocon playbook. Serious post-Trotsky neoconservatives are always equating all sorts of dubious phenomena to the Holocaust. From the Berlin Wall to trade policy these guys have been tracking it all back to the Nazi hakenkreuz one way or another for years.
I stand athwart the swastika and cry "ENOUGH"!
I for one do not wish to live in a republic where the words "Holocaust" or "Nazi" have become debased Orwellian terms that do naught but reinforce the speaker or writer's partisan agenda.
Thursday, May 29, 2003
The charisma Notes (third in a soon to be abandoned series)
It's always funny to discover that ruthless people like Karl Rove are often simpleminded hero worshippers.
There Karl Rove was on the History Channel last night extolling the strenuous virtues of Teddy Roosevelt without so much as a wink at the audience.
The irony was thick in the air like incense.
It is said in hushed whispers down in DC that Rove has always idolized George Bush Jr. from the git-go. So it is none too far fetched to presume that Bush and Roosevelt are somehow happily conflated in the vasty reaches of the Rovian mind.
Of course it is hard to imagine George Bush Jr. charging up San Juan Hill bullets pinging around him...it's hard to imagine him even volunteering to charge up San Juan Hill happily or otherwise. One doubts George Bush has read as many books in his life as TR read in a single month of his cluttered Presidency.
Teddy had a vast reservoir of invective for easygoing trust fund babies like Bush Jr. he called them eunuchs, cowards, frauds, and a host of unprintable things. He held a special bitter contempt for ivy leaguers who declined to volunteer for combat duty in war-time.
But we live in debased times so it is a sad day for America when a sneaky shirker like George Bush is on the verge of being enrolled in the Presidential secular pantheon.
Bush is in the end Karl Rove's idea of a rough rider...and that speaks volumes about that malevolent vacuity of Karl's mind.
Maybe, the only charismatic spell Bush is required to weave is over Karl Rove and only Karl Rove...the whole charisma thing begins and ends there.
Think about that.
Of course, Karl embodies certain contradictions as well....he professes to idolize Senator Mark Hanna, President William B. McKinley's svengali like manager who was shoved aside forcibly when Teddy Roosevelt ascended to the Presidency.
Well...clearly reconciling harsh contradictions aren't a Rovian priority in any way. Which will make it all the sweeter when Rove gets his inevitable comeuppance. Like L. Sherman Adams and Don Regan, he WON'T see it coming.
My grey haired old mother called Channel 25 the local Fox affiliate, "a blood and guts station".
This was a pretty safe observation given the fact that the 10pm News was blathering on about a stabbing somewhere...
I told her to call up their 1-800 snitchline and in her best little-old-lady voice report the detonation of a five kiloton nuclear device in Lexington's Depot Square.
I then made her a ten dollar bet that the Fox 25 operator would ask if there were any witnesses while simultaneously dispatching a reporter and news van-just in case.
All heavy handed kidding aside, Channel 25's local news operation is a model of gruesome prurience...when it isn't a stabbing, a shooting or better yet a nice bloody explosion it's unselfconscious puffery on behalf of some Fox entertainment program.
Prurience is said to be the advance guard of illiberalism.
Fair enough, but it also promotes an anti-rational superstitious agenda wherein the universe is divided between a constantly changing pantheon celebrity godheads and the prospect of sudden graphic violence.
Thus we are supposed to be impressed that Jennifer Lopez visited Ben Affleck's ancestral duplex even as vacation houses spontaneously detonate in New Hampshire and rip tides drown toddlers in Connecticut.
Channel 25's news room just can't wait for an asteroid to collide with the earth...no doubt they've already got the garish graphics stored on their hard drives and a list of local astrologers and gossip columnists to consult when we enter the annihilation orbit.
Wednesday, May 28, 2003
The Charisma Notes: (Second in a soon to be abandoned series)
Democracies cannot make effective propaganda. True propaganda
requires total control of all sources of information. Therefore according to
Jacques Ellul's famous dictum when a democracy does make effective propaganda,
it ceases to be a democracy.
Now the core of my argument is, that "we" (broadly defined as them whut
didn't vote for Bush) are still living in a democratic state no matter
how tattered the democratic spirit may be lately.
So if you are a preening, greedy, arrogant class warrior and
notorious nabob like G.W. Bush, how do you make yourself popular and beloved?
True propaganda is impossible in America ("For the moment" smirks Dr. Rove)
so the only option left is that ephemeral quality called charisma.
Charisma is what substitutes for raw propaganda in a functional
Charisma is a fleeting ineffable quality for the most part...some
personalities have it others have to smear it all over themselves like
ointment. It's powerful stuff though short lived especially in today's multi-mediaverse.
It is also no prophylactic against the peculiar vagaries of
history....everyone should remember that.
As I've said before, charisma is thought to be a commodity at least in
America circa 2003. Others will argue that charisma is a particular
quality that cannot be measured or replicated.
But let's face it, Karl Rove and a host of political handlers are
preparing election 2004 on the notion that charisma can be manufactured to
Like most commodities though, charisma is subject to the whims of
supply and demand, mostly though it's price goes up over time like rents or
mortgages. This is entirely understandable, the price of television time alone
spikes sharply in an election year as cash hungry networks gouge parties and
candidates for all the market will bear.
Charisma costs money.
Which brings us to an interesting and heretofore little commented upon
quote in Time Magazine from a few weeks back: A "Senior Administration
Official" was openly chortling that the GOP would have "More money than God" in
Overlooking the nauseating pagan idolatry inherent in that quote...we
can guess that the President and his handlers are reasonably certain to
have MORE than a quarter of a billion dollars on hand for the campaign.
And that is in "hard money" never mind the soft money donations to the
RNC and it's shadowy ideological puppets. Some of you may be plainly
horrified at this prospect-I'm not, I've openly predicted that within a decade
presidential campaigns will cost a billion dollars up front.
No...this two hundred and fifty million dollars plus is a kind of
perverse signifier, it costs that much money to make a saintly strong decisive
statesman like leader out of such gruesome clay as George W. Bush.
You can take it also as a sign of just how scared they are despite all
the truculent talk of fifty state sweeps and historic galaxy wide
So look for more daring flights to aircraft carriers and odd pictures lining up George Bush's noggin as the fifth head on Mount Rushmore...because truth be told the President has only two speaking styles, bored and incoherent. So whatever Bush's campaign may be, it won't be built on his scintillating speaking style.
It's always been this way though, even for the guys with natural ease at the podium and every prospect of a walk in the park. Look at the Great Senescence himself the Imperial Reagan, he needed every penny he could raise in 1984 to stave off a minuscule challenge from...Walter Mondale.
Time have changed little since then, idealogical warfare has become even rougher and pricier...but the commodification of charisma proceeds apace.
Friday, May 23, 2003
Moon over Menotomy
My local democratic committee hosted a event last night headlined by none other than former Labor Secretary Robert Reich. A host of locals showed up which was gratifying given the fact that it was a rainy night in a suburb so notoriously sleepy that you can't get a mortgage without a doctor's note proving you have narcolepsy.
The truth is, events like this though necessary , are always an iffy proposition after losing an election...everyone is dispirited and the local party committee has little on offer to attract an audience.
But what the hell, Reich played his part like a trouper and rallied the audience with skill.
It helps though having many admirers in town though, liberals just lu-uv Robert in this neck of the woods.
And why not? He is an impressive guy, an economist, magazine publisher (the American Prospect, which all should read) and a former Cabinet officer.
What is not to like?
Reich is well informed, funny even charismatic person in his own right, I wasn't with him in the gubernatorial primary, but lets give the man his due...he can talk some sh*t.
No doubt he has not abandoned his dreams of elective office in this state...so from his perspective it's all good.
However Reich is so confident and even charming in his own way I wonder what kind of a radio talk show host he'd make for our side.
Like all good politicians he fields questions with aplomb which is no small skill for a talk show...it's a shame that he has only an anemic bimonthly radio gig on NPR.
I don't agree with Reich 100% but he is both smart and funny, we need to get him on the radio.
It's not enough to have Robert Reich on our side, we've got to create a situation where he inflicts the maximum political damage on our opponents.
Think about that...
Thursday, May 22, 2003
Time's Arrow, or Ghod save us from our Friends...
I've been meaning to comment (or more appropriately lay the smackdown) on Joe Klein's well meaning "advice to democrats" feature in Time Magazine dated may 19 2003.
I read on the all the kewler sites that Messr. Klein is not a typical DC media whore...that he is capable to enunciating certain liberal principles.
And who knows maybe he is, but this feature article is useful only as a compendium of Capitol Hill cliches' and cherished dish about democrats and democracy in general.
His main thrust is the democrats must "reform" the way they run for President if they wish to win.
He goes on to suggest the current democratic presidential aspirants must come across as more patriotic, must project affability, and "kill the consultants".
No offense Joe but my nine year old niece could come up with suggestions just as banal and she'd throw some pretty crayon renderings of flowers and horses free of charge.
The tone of the article seems to be, smile, wave the flag more and shoot Bob Shrum and somehow magically the democrats will get fair treatment from the mighty media monolith.
Quote the olde misanthrope "what rubbish!"
This is truly hilarious because Klein's advice is little more than the sort of boilerplate hogwash that would be served up by any Junior grade image consultant.
Never mind the fact that the incumbent President is the complete captive of a svengali-like superconsultant...and you can forget about flag waving and smiling a lot...both fruitless activities if the democrats don't have a chance at decent news coverage.
The political parties have never been less relevant, they hang on as fund-raising flags of convenience and are in danger of becoming quaint and inane like the Ohio State Navy or American Broadcasting Company. It's the news media that sets the terms of debate and calculates the score cards today, the dems are at a disadvantage in this environment simply because they lack strident champions.
Quite frankly, it's not the democratic party that needs reform it's the news media. A few more outlets willing to give us a break and little less advice from naive' well meaning insiders like Joe Klein is what we really need.
It's hopelessly fatuous articles like this that make me long in spite of my better judgement for a liberal network, radio show something anything!
I need to be pandered too...I hear it feels great!
Wednesday, May 21, 2003
Rest in GOPeace....
So Christie Todd Whitman is out at the E.P.A. huh?
Well it's a miracle she lasted as long as she did.
Now she joins the tattered ranks of promising republican pols who were worked to death and then run off the Arbusto Family Plantation.
Yup...birdbrained Christie could've been Vice President of the U.S.A. at one point, but like a host of other main chance GOP politicos she hooked up wit the Bush juggernaut thinking she could negotiate from a position of strength.
On paper this strategy looks good...She was a successful northeast Republican Governor from a state the party needed...telegenic accomplished blah blah blah.
Alas with the Bush Family NOBODY is ever considered an equal, it's either indentured servitude or exile to the Phantom Zone.
In Whitman's case, she had the bad fortune to get the E.P.A. portfolio. This is an agency that is guaranteed to be held in contempt by the regime based on their cartoonish middle school notions of governance.
She bore up under 18 months of humiliation until her credibility lay in ruins all over the district......there is nothing left to do but enter the fabled 12 step dignity recovery program and hope for the best.
It is an eclectic crew in there with giddy Paul O'Neill in the center seat...soon enough they'll be joined by Colin Powell and the wreckage of his presidential ambitions.
What a Bush Administration is always good for is the relentless destruction of GOP cadres and personalities with potential....GWB and his family's insane anti-governance sentiments extends even to members of their own party.
Either that or Bush is simply crude and selfless.
Tuesday, May 20, 2003
There is nothing quite like listening to an apex mediawhore wax self righteously pontifical about the sins of Jayson Blair the New York Times' acknowledged fabulist.
Now on the surface Howard Fineman (today's name guest on the Imus show) was doing nothing more than hyping the current Newsweek with a lavish cover story about the Blair Affair....and after all said magazine IS one of his two major sources of income...a reporter has to eat and eat lavishly don'cha know.
And Imus' program is simulcast on MSNBC which is Howard's other big weekly paycheck - so right away the synergy potential is endless.
However after a few minutes, it was clear this was no simple case of press puffery.
Oh no, Fineman enacted the classic media whore cliche' of raising "new, troubling, and unanswered questions" about Howell Raines' tenure as Managing Editor of the New York Times. Howard claimed to be anonymously quoting various Timesvolk who lamented Raines' love of pushy hype artists like Jayson Blair.
A lovely insinuation BTW, Fineman mentions no specifics of any kind, yet still manages to imply there were other Jayson Blair types still working for the Times and that moral has plummeted in the newsroom.
When it comes to clever harassment like this, Fineman is a Jedi Master.
So right away you can see who is the real target, it's an ongoing mission among serious conservatives to subject the top swank at the New York Times to as much rhetorical intimidation as the laws of the Republic will allow. This current situation is therefore a huge opportunity to beat the Great Grey Lady to the curb with impunity.
Now, it's pretty clear that Fineman is a media whore, that I will not dispute.
But why do these guys act the way they do?
Now Mediawhores on line has a fairly comprehensive explanation, most of these wankers are conducting covert ideological warfare under the pose of authentic journalism as a means to riches and advancement.
In the current vertically integrated corporate it simply pays better to be a biased reporter than an honest one.
Media whores are to be distinguished from outright conservative editorialists/propagandists by their tattered pretense to reliable objectivity.
Therefore, Tim Russert is a media whore (he is always tougher on democrats than he is on republicans when they appear on Meet the Press) but George Will is not...(because his ideological preferences are hanging out for all to see).
The MWO version is a mixture of status seeking and bias...you mix in the thirty year long conservative ascendency and there is our current crisis in all it's glory.
I have a slightly different view...MWO sees conservatism as universal and triumphant, I say it is a dying ideology in America. The endless corrupt bargains DC republicans made in an effort to illegally depose Bill Clinton and the abject capitulation the movement made to La Famiglia Arbusto, have put conservatism as we know it on the high road to an ugly annihilation.
Now, mind you this doesn't mean liberals are gonna inherit the earth or anything. No I suspect something worse than conservatism will sweep the field, unless of course we start getting our act together.
The reason the Russerts and Finemans are smearing and sneering so frantically is that they know a storm is coming and they are trying to make their money now before the deluge.
That and the fact that they all have a ingrained snitch mentality that goes deeper than any mere ideological bias.
Snitchery has a long and unhallowed history in this country, it's traditionally the only form of power available to the feeble and angry. Everyone should listen closely to the Imus show in the morning, you can almost feel Fineman's nasty snarky exultation as he lays down some vile dish about the Clintons. Fineman is a low rent snitch in many ways, he doesn't do it for the money, although that is a nice by product of the process. No Howard would drop a dime on anyone even if he was homeless, for someone with his vengeful disposition it provides a necessary feeling of power and triumph-passive nuclear aggression as it were.
Such is the
Kingdom of Heaven
On the Congressionally Licensed Airwaves
Friday, May 16, 2003
Crude and rampant....
So let me get this straight...Tom Delay tried to sic the Department of Homeland Security on the wandering democrats of the Texas State Legislature?
The Texas Department of Safety (the "staties" in Bay State Patois) called up DHS and tried to claim that an aircraft with some legislators on board went "missing"?
And not for nothing, but isn't it a felony to try and scam a serious law enforcement organization like that?
Is anyone else appalled at the thought that put two heartbeats stand between Tom Delay and the Presidency?
Okay so colorless spineless Denny Hastert is technically third in line the line of succession. However, as my one of my DC sources alleges, The Speaker has to raise his hand and ask his nominal subordinate Tom Delay for permission to use the privy.
Delay is looking more and more like Allen Drury's malevolent U.S. Senator Fred Van Ackerman every day...in "Come Nineveh, Come Tyre" Fred finally becomes the Secret Police Chief of the U.S. and starts throwing his opponents in jail with gusto. Similarly somebody thwarts Tom Delay's scheme to gerrymander the Texas congressional delegation, and the tyrannical House Majority Leader can't wait to unleash the federales on his political opponents.
and soon to be
Der Fuhrer's Facelift....
A good friend of mine once said "every generation gets the Hitler they deserve"...
Now by that he did not refer to real-life genocidal dictators, rather he was mocking the ongoing passion for dramatically evoking Hitler in television and the movies.
Now CBS has "Fully Monty" star Robert Carlyle as a Führer on the make in "Hitler: the Rise of Evil".
The top Nazi of all time has always been big box office though. As far back in 1940 Morris Horowitz (aka Moe Howard) depicted one "Hailstone the Dictator" as a loud violent parvenue surrounded by homicidal morons.
Charlie Chaplin's "The Great Dictator" went the subtle route and saw the Führer as a needy fussbudget with a yen for conquest.
Anyone out there remember a short American character actor named Bob Watson? For five glorious years he was Hollywood's in house all purpose Hitler impersonator, he made a few low budget comedies and did specialized cameos as Adolf in top line features.
That is him playing Hitler in Preston Sturges' "The Miracle of Morgan's Creek".
Damn there was good money in playing Hitler back in the day!
Well...the world spun around a few times and when allied tanks rolled into the death camps suddenly Hitler wasn't so funny anymore.
Not that any of this stopped the global cinematropolis...everyone just switched over to serious type Hitler portrayals and soon we got brooding Richard Basehart as Adolf ("Hitler" 1962) and in due course the tallest dramatic Hitler on record Sir Alec Guinness ("Hitler: The Last Ten Days" 1973).
And in truth we've gotten comfortable with a film reinforced notion of Adolf Hitler as a kind of extra-historical slightly cartoonish supervillain, unique, monstrous and never to be seen again.
Well I don't know....identifying Hitler as the Apex Predator in the historic evil foodchain tends to obscure his prosaic origins as an extremist and a ruthless opportunist.
This is not to obscure he demonic skills as a orator and organizer....but his political milieu has it's importance in the story.
We should recall that Weimar Germany was a dying democracy in 1932. The decline in effective opposition political parties plays a role in Hitler's seizure of power. The Social Democrats, the unions, and all other liberty loving liberals were impotent after a ten year long beat down in the street and halls of Government through out Germany.
Muller, the last Social Democrat Chancellor was forced to resign in March of 1930 after failing to secure a funding compromise for unemployment insurance. Thereafter an increasingly inane collection of reactionary circle jerks would run the government.
Inept Mainstream conservatives like Otto Bruning and Franz von Papen pursued a ruinous deflationary economic policy whilst millions were jobless and without benefits in Germany.
AND THEN the damn fools actually called a parliamentary election, well the result was the extremist parties increased their representation in the Reichstag, with the Nazis now the second largest legislative faction.
Thereafter, all of Hitler's dealings in the lead up to his seizure of power were with hapless conservative hacks with a perfect record of economic catastrophe.
It's trendy today to blame the Nazis apotheosis on chronic liberal impotence, Leo Strauss is greatly hung up on this formulation. However this overlooks the German respectable right's victorious ideological warfare against the mainstream left that only made Germany easy prey for Hitler and fascism.
Hitler came to power in part because raw reaction had won a great triumph over social democracy in 1931, and then something worse came along to replace old fashioned conservatism.
George Washington Plunkett once said words to the effect that without political parties there would be hell to play in any large scale democracy.
It's the willful destruction of political parties and movements in Germany that gave Hitler the room he needed to maneuver himself into supreme power.
Thursday, May 15, 2003
You have to believe me when I write that Schwarzeneggar's name was deliberately misspelled in the title to my last post.
Y'see it was supposed to read "Schwarzen
However for some reason the (SP) signifier didn't come through when I posted the sumb*tch...which is only what I get for trying to be subtle for once in my loud hectoring life!
No doubt this very post is adding fuel to the Humble John's-syntax-and-grammar-lie-in-ruins-all-over-the-internet fire.
After a long period of slumber California politics is about to awaken to a restless mesomorph's candidacy for governor in 2006.
Or so the rumors go...yup yew guessed it, falling box office grosses are pushing Arnold Schwarzeneggar out of tinseltown and into California politics.
On the surface this is a perplexing idea, Arnold is at best a cartoonish candidate for governor.
However let us not forget that California is a notoriously cartoonish electorate that loves to alternate certified clowns like Ronald Reagan or Jerry Brown with stultifying technocrats like George Deukmejian.
So it looks like thing have gotten sufficiently decadent for the inevitable political clown cycle to begin anew.
And in truth, Arnold is as good a bet as any, of course the bar is always set lower for Republics than it is for Democrats. Ambitious Dems (owing to the party's chronic cash shortfalls) are obliged to demonstrate a specimen of their abilities at a lower level before bidding on statewide office.
Not so with crude hungry GOP aspirants like Schwarzeneggar, money, name recognition and the ability to stay on message to the point of delirium are the only qualifications for high office.
Here Arnold has an advantage, most GOP sound bytes sound almost exactly like the sort of brutish threats he's been mumbling in the movies for nigh on thirty years now.
And whenever some lout with a short resume' runs for an office they hardly understand, the GOP's amen section all over America start bleating the absurd mantra "it's about the candidates IDEAS-not their experience!"
So it's not like Schwarzeneggar won't have help....no doubt George Will has a chirpy mincing gloating column extolling the bodybuilder's simpleminded virtues lying in wait on his hard drive even as I write this.
If you add that priceless and menacing Teutonic accent to the standard conservative-populist nonsense and you've got a formula for the Big Sure Win.
Politics is such a debased fragmented business these days, Schwarzeneggar can't help but win.
No doubt in due course Karl Rove will regret Arnold's naturalized citizenship....under the current rules the actor can't run for President....unless fixing that little constitutional bug is one of Karl's current projects.
Who can tell?
Hell we'd be the last to know...
Word on the street in Tinseltown is that Ayn Rand's libertarian megascreed "Atlas Shrugged" has been optioned yet again for film adaptation.
So apparently the New Class needs it's own version of "Triumph of the Will".
And why not? They have total victory abroad and their program to delete liberals from governance and the very political debate at home proceeds at a gallop.
The new governing alliance of imbedded propagandists/apologists, reactionary intellectuals, big money, and feckless pols are no doubt in a chesty mood these days.
So a little self congratulation is in order and what better way than what with will no doubt be a long lugubrious adaptation of a long lugubrious book?
By way of full disclosure I should point out that I haven't yet read "Atlas Shrugged". Someday I will....movement reactionaries what read this benighted blog are advised however to think twice about opening up on me. Humble John HAS read Allen Drury's entire "Advise and Consent" series so I'm hardly a naif' when it comes to big time conservative fictioneering.
Reading said series also maxed me out for turgid comic book dialogue, so don't look for me reading Atlas Shrugged any time soon...but trust me I will...
Wednesday, May 14, 2003
A Greeting Card from the Al Queda Network....
Eric Alterman has mentioned in the past a pervasive feeling of omnipotence that is derived from serious blogging.
Humble John has no idea what he is talking about.
If anything blogging is naught but neat pencil'd musings on the wall of some dungeon.
Here is something that HAS to have occurred to someone else....preferably someone with power and a sense of urgency.
Al Queda stages one of it's trademark coordinated suicide attacks in Saudi Arabia this week killing some thirty four people, eight of them Americans.
So what does that tell us, that Osama Bin-Laden's group is in Saudi Arabia in number sufficient to conduct a sizable terrorist attack.
IS ANYONE ELSE on this breathing earth worried that the Al Queda has reared it's homicidal head next door to Iraq wherein FOUR nuclear sites were looted during the U.S. invasion?
The current U.S. Administration is allegedly worried sick about "dirty bombs" designed to throw fatal radiation far and wide...and as yet there has been no accounting for what was looted out of the Al Tuwaitha nuclear site.
bin-Laden's gang do have a history of making bombs out of unlikely materials, and a dirty bomb would be a coup for them.
How much you wanna bet that Al Queda is dickering in the desert for Ghod's knows what kind of radioactive material?
Now...just maybe this is the reason why Jay Garner lost his job as Viceroy this week....or maybe Rumsfeld found out the former General backed McCain in the New Hampshire primary...who the hell knows with these clowns!
Tuesday, May 13, 2003
And another Thing....
did anyone catch Meet the Press host Tim Russert's appearance on Imus today?
Initially it was raw anesthesia broadcast on the FM band...Tim was hyping Iraq's secret mobile germ warfare labs...a tired gimmick when T.H.R.U.S.H tried it on the Man from U.N.C.L.E back in 1967.
And what the hell, Saddam might be dumb enough to lift material from over the hill spy shows you never know.
Imus however was in a dazed funk and didn't even try to ignite Tim's notorious nucleaphobic hysterics....which is a sure fire path to a classic Russert appearance.
Almost by accident, Tim and Don stumbled over the dismissal of accused plagiarist-fictioneer Jayson Blair from the New York Times.
The air became thick with self righteousness as both men denounced such affirmative action as would elevate a facile prevaricator to the rank of New York Times Journalist.
Tim of course tried to be judicious but his meaning was clear.
Not for nothing though, but the Imus in the Morning does make a point of indulging known fantasist and reputed journalist Mike Barnicle on a regular basis!
Hell Mike is a featured radio talk show host on Imus' Boston affiliate WTKK 96.9 FM!
Mike regularly contributes a prerecorded two minute editorial to the Imus program...so clearly some plagiarists are more equal than others on the Imus program.
Mike dedicated Chimes at Midnight fans might recall was fired from his cushy columnist position at the Boston Globe for fabricating persons and quotes of an embarrassingly sentimental nature.
According to "Newsweek" a New York Times staff asserts Blair is "currently in a hospital setting dealing with personal problems".
That is ironic, Mike Barnicle pulled the same stunt and he is currently living the good life in green fields of Concord Ma, raking in the big bucks.
I'm so old
can remember when the F.C.C. used to actually act in the public interest sometimes.
I can remember when the F.C.C. could serve the public interest just by doing nothing....
But those days have gone the way of ABBA and now the nexus of media, the public, and commerce is guarded by F.C.C. Chairmediocrity Michael Powell...son of the incumbent Secretary of State.
Powell is a barrister, and a perfectly disposable one at that....which means in the roiling fertile political stew that is Washington he's got to make his bones now so that he can live off the necessary contacts and sweetheart later.
In a normal Republic a preposterous pompous fraud like Michael would be righting divorce court briefs and clipping coupons in Silver Spring.
But the Brave New Class of professional conservative bureaucrats (conservacrats) is ever in need of men, men with the courage to sell out this nation for chump change once their public tenure ends.
These are the mini-Cheney's of DC, there to make the inevitable auction of public assets goes as smoothly as possible sans fuss or bother.
Now, I don't wanna call Michael a corruptard or anything so crude, he HAS pondered at length decided that the public interest demands more corporate ownership of multiple local media outlets.
Apparently your local newspapers and radio and TV news are not trite, violent, biased, profit-driven and joyless enough....And if you like Fox style reportage , just wait til it's the only thing you can get on the 11pm news.
A decision like this is worth billions to dollars to serial acquisition maniacs like Rupert Murdoch and Mel Karmazin who are now free to buy up newspapers and TV stations in the same market without regard to socialistic notions as free competition and freedom of choice.
And if, five or eight years from now Former F.C.C. Chair Powell is found on the board of News Corp or Infinity Broadcasting....well remember you read it here first.
No doubt he'll be deep in that poisonous swamp where fundraising, lobbying and policy mix up a rancid brew....no doubt it'll be a bigger and more profitable swamp by then.
Friday, May 09, 2003
Here is a question worth...
turning over in your mind...
Is the American punditariat simply tired of democracy?
I mean when was the last time Frank Rich or Bill Safire had a new idea to share with us?
Granted I have the limited view of the whole process (chiefly the Imus program and certain newspapers)....and no doubt everyone is tired calling into Imus in the early morning hours but...I do detect a certain civilization ending element of weariness among our "public intellectuals".
They've been wrong and adamantly so about so many things, from balancing the budget, Clinton's impeachment. to Gore's alleged personality flaws up to and including George Bush version 2.0.
Normally anyone else who amasses a record of failure like that is headed for an early retirement...but not our chattering classes failure not only is an option, it's no impediment to success.
But it's a volume heavy repetitive job though, the same opinions all the time ad nauseum.
After a while regurgitating the same old arguments and giggling at the inevitable cutting remarks has to take it's toll.
It's perishingly hard work being the public's only reality filter for democratic politics....if you interpret events long enough I think they all start to look alike....a level of familiarity that must breed contempt for democracy.
Of course, the punditariat's compulsive Bush worship doesn't help matters any....the Matthews, Imus', Barnicles or Russerts of this world have marked out so hard for Bush they are de facto accomplices of the Admin by now.
So not only are they contemptuous of democracy (if only subconsciously) they are locked in with GWB for the duration.
My own suspicion is most of these guys would be happy to live in a dictatorship as long as they belonged to the dictating class. Most of what they do now is little more than propaganda on a daily basis.
It wasn't always like this, in the so called good old days mass political parties interpreted events, organized voting blocks and controlled nominations. The parties weren't wholly democratic but they couldn't afford to ignore common sense and public sentiment either. The punditariat had comparatively little influence over the process....nowadays television and television commentators make or break candidates.
The parties are little more than fund raising mechanisms that must go on bended knee with baskets of cash to the TV networks...in such a situation the power of the punditariat becomes near absolute.
And clearly sheer exhaustion has set in among our opinion makers.
So what happens when the chattering class decides democracy is a joke?
You tell me?
Love me, love me, love me...I'm a critic...
It's not often that Humble John gets the opportunity to administer reproof to the hoar and mighty New Yorker.
In the current issue dated 5-12-03 writer Adam Gopnik reviews the book "Seriously Funny" by Gerald Nachman and blithely attributes the satiric song "Love, love love me, I'm a liberal" to Cambridge's own Tom Lehrer.
To quote the old misanthrope, what rubbish!
Gopnik doesn't even get the song title right, but he is obviously thinking of "Love me I'm a liberal" which was written and recorded by the late great Phil Ochs.
Tom Lehrer was a mathematician with a joyous morbid streak, Phil was a staunch "singing social democrat"....they are as alike as apples and oranges.
Don't get me wrong, I love them both but a hopeless faux paus like that belongs in the Umass Amherst Collegian and not in a prestige style national magazine.
Thursday, May 08, 2003
Shooting craps with virtue:
Last week it was revealed that William Bennett, pompous bloviating virtue lobbyist and a perennial conservative welfare recipient, had a serious gambling addiction to the tune of losses in the eight million dollar range.
His apologists (and they are legion) bleat that "he did nothing wrong"...and indeed legally this is true.
Bennett certainly managed to wager on a spectacular series of wrong horses, numbers, and slot machines down through the years...keep that in mind.
I'd always wondered what impelled Bill to start up these endless non-profit pressure groups in DC? Now it all seems obvious, he needs the paycheck!
Bill and I go way back, I remember with the simplest nostalgia his stint as Ronald Reagan's Education Secretary. I was in college back then, and rooming in a gothic attic off campus...$35.00 a week-oh nostalgia!
In those days the Reagan Cabinet was the cushiest gig in America. In exchange for a willingness to implement huge budget cuts one could safely drowse away a lengthy appointment in safety. Bennett though, felt honor bound to minimize the impact of his budget cuts by snidely asserting that a certain amount of "divestiture" on the part of students receiving assistance would necessary. "Stereo divestiture, automobile divestiture....vacation in Fort Lauderdale divestiture" were the examples the mighty pedagogue offered up.
The implication was, in Reagan's America ungrateful college students would have to curb their appetite for luxury items.
I never forgot that bit of graceless gratuitous snarkiness, and ever after Bill has been the poster boy for a new class of conservative, scholar-polemicist-politicians who are frantically enriching themselves at the expense of the survival of democracy in America.
Rampant personalities are entirely welcome in this new overclass, as long as they know how to spin personal embarrassment with skill.
And what the hell, Bennett has enough in his poke to blow away eight million on the slots..so clearly this new class thing has it's compensations
His wife now assures us, Bill's gambling days are over...one has happy images of a 1940's housewife scowling and tapping a rolling pin into her palm.
But ah the hallmark of this new class is their utter shamelessness, so no doubt Karl Rove or Grover Norquist wrote her a good talking points memo prior to her press release.
Cause' eight million buys a lot of rolling pins boys.
Vice President for Life
(a short all too familiar portrait)
currently inhabiting to the Office of Vice President of the U.S. and the unpaid agent of Halliburton Corp with plenipotentiary powers to scare up new government contracts.
He told some vile rag down in Texas that he was on the ticket come 2004 which mean undetained future historians will be able to graph over eight years the billions of public dollars Cheney will be diverting to Halliburton.
Granted Dick isn't paid to do any of this, but assuming his heart holds out he can expect to be seamlessly reinserted into the Halliburton politburo once Bush's term ends...if indeed it ever does.
No doubt he will receive a huge bonus for special services and go on working his considerably fattened rolodex.
The funny thing about it all is, you just know Dick didn't score that cushy private sector sinecure on the basis of his business acumen. Nope, it was the long list of fatcat contacts he'd rolled up as a Congressman and Secretary of Defense...left to his own devices Dick Cheney couldn't run a child's lemonade stand without off book pay offs from lobbyists and U.S. Navy valets...who is he kidding?
But in DC's hyper profitable "iron triangle" of lobbyists, mid level bureaucrats and relevant congressmen, he is the King Swank Extremis.
The inestimable Joshua Micah Marshall characterizes the veep as the Admin's in house master of disaster...Cheney has been behind such embarrassments as the petrocrat heavy national energy commission, the phantom terrorism policy review that stagnated beautifully right up til 9-11, and lets not forget it was Dick's idea to make blabbermouth doofus Paul O'Neill Treasury Secretary.
In all a disheartening collection of gaffes and follies.
But none of that matters to Cheney, governance may fall to ruins due to ineptitude and callowness as long as the right giant private sector entities are insulated and enriched via government fiat.
Therefore, Dick is less a Vice President and more an ambassador plenipotentiary from the expanding world of monarchical corporatism.
Meanwhile we are stuck with this snarling cur as our Vice President...his smile suggests a torturer's apprentice on good day, and his governing ability, charisma, agenda are all as dust in the wind, it's the big money he can scare up from the vantage point of the Vice Presidency that matters.
This goes beyond corruption, mere venality no matter how grand is assumed to be the exception to the rule. No Dick Cheney is the prototype of a new purer breed of politician...the assumption of theft is built into the system now, we don't even question how Halliburton got the contract to snuff out Iraq's oil fires....we don't even question the inevitable flow of public dollars into a future compensation package for Cheney...it's like a new system of reverse taxation, the Admin's corporate sponsors have to get their cut of the budget and THEN the government gets to work with what is left over.
Tuesday, May 06, 2003
The Charisma Notes
(first in a soon to be abandoned series)
I'm proceeding from the assumption that George Bush Jr. wants to be a charismatic leader....that is pretty big assumption and who knows? the idea may not cut it with him. However charismatic leadership is the acknowledged gold standard in politics...it trumps money organization even ruthlessness-all of which Bush has in abundance.
So it may be that simple greed (and there is a lot of raw greed in Bush's persona quit frankly) for a tighter hold over people animates his quest to become a heroic nigh worshipped leader.
Max Weber (yuh, I know, him again) notes that charismatic leaders like to embody certain sturdy national myths, if these myths are heroic, violent and self justifying so much the better. President Bush and his team have been flailing around a bit since seizing office in the search for a big ticket mythology to forcibly appropriate.
They've trotted out, "The cowboy".....alas Bush is far too urban, horse averse, and shrimpy to pull this off. Nonetheless they still refer to his home in Crawford Texas as "The Ranch" and pictures of the President looking forlorn and haggard in a Stetson hat regularly circulate. Ultimately the whole cowpoke image is fatally undermined by Bush's dislike of horseback riding...this is in stark contrast to Reagan who'd a started World War Three in the saddle at Santa Barbara if he could've gotten away with it.
The charisma machine has noodled around with Bush as a kind of muscular christian pietist. This confers several benefits, it aligns him with a powerful voting block, his cockamammie tale of redemption from drink through Jesus invokes potent christian themes, plus resisting sin, even the most minuscule temptation is considered a sign of omnipotence by contemporary Xian divines.
However lets face it, there is something insufferable and egotistical about the average roaring Xian proselyte.
Alas for Bush, the nation's most recognizable Jesus apologist is the hapless and spineless Ned Flanders from "The Simpsons".
Moreover the President's muscular Christianity doesn't really play well to a religiously diverse electorate. The only people who "get it" are the very one's who'd vote for Bush if he was a Zulu who was squishy on the biblical injunction against cannibalism.
But after many unsuccessful myth-grafts, last week, Karl Rove managed to dream up a very successful iconography for the President to inhabit. Oh it was a dandy myth, forceful, reinforced by Hollywood (the only reflection of the American zeitgeist with staying power) and best of all photogenic and relevant.
They gave us...George Bush the FIGHTER JOCK!
Yup, Top Gun with the Right Stuff...his gratuitous flight to the carrier Abraham Lincoln was sodden with all that military symbolism.
And oh the coverage was LAVISH in it's veneration, you'd a thought he'd walked on water to hear Imus and Mike Barnicle tell about it.
Well the war is going well (As of 12:37pm EST) so presenting oneself as a casual comfortable fighter pilot familiar with aerial single combat is a no brainer.
Using the carrier and it's crew as a live backdrop also insulates the President from the accusation of raw photo opportunism...no doubt if anyone dares to question his use of a Aircraft Carrier as a political prop they whole crew's honor will be dragged into the discussion in a half-a-second.
Such is the state of debate with the la Famiglia Arbusto...
So as tactics it's a home run.
But give it time, Bush in his flight suit looks heroic now, but may also stir memories of his bumpy Viet Nam era service as an Air National Guardsman. What looks heroic today can look weird and needy in six months time.
However credit where credit is due, Karl Rove has given his boy an thick gooey mythic veneer, let's see if he can maintain it.
And did anyone else see that picture of Condi Rice in the naval flight helmet? She was grinning like a mongoloid and looked like she'd just ditched the tour group.
Friday, May 02, 2003
Blair-ing the truth...
Well tomorrow the Orwell centenary goes down at Wellesley College, embossed by a few high maintenance and decidedly third rate public intellectuals.
Eric Blair, that former policeman, bookstore clerk, soldier and man of letters would be chagrined if he knew the reptilian likes of Andy Sullivan and Chris Hitchens were set to keynote at a conference celebrating the late writer's life.
Orwell the conservative icon's anti-stalinism will get big play, as well has his cultural writings....
No doubt Eric Blair's flinty socialism will be passed over in silence. As late as 1947 the writer was still wondering why Clement Atlee and the labor party hadn't abolished the monarchy in Britain?
Blair thought little of such enduring neo-con fetishes as Winston Churchill, he was bitterly critical of the conservative torpor that helped set off World War II.
He'd been sold out by both left and right in Spain and lived to tell the tale...that liberates a man's soul I think.
In all Eric Blair the writer stood for the working man, clear concise writing, and rigorous criticism.
And what the hell he tried to be sensible...things that'll get you denounced and suspended in Andy Sullivan's America.
Let me leave you with one paraphrasal of Eric Blair's enduring dictum:
Let the meaning choose the word, and not the other way around....once words start undermining meaning, then we are all in deep kimshe.
Lay over Mike
Mike Barnicle never ever fails me....just when I think that he has maxed out his capacity for shrill Bush hagiography, he digs down deep to display new heretofore unknown depths of servility.
This does raise the exciting possibility that Mike may never ever exhaust the wellsprings of his embarrassing sycophancy....and thank Ghod too, without Mike this blog would be a wane wasted thing.
Yeah he was on Imus today, and give Barnicle credit....he reached a new career high in gruesome Presidential toadying...and this is Mike "I love the guy for who he is" Barnicle we are talking about!
He was fairly writhing with raw ecstasy about Bush's flight to the Aircraft Carrier Abraham Lincoln yesterday calling it a "cool thing to do" and cooing "he looked at home on that flight deck".
Mike exulted that Bush wasn't "faking it like Clinton"....here Barnicle betrays how far behind the current political zeitgeist he is...the quest for "authenticity" is very much the hot punditariat buzz word of 1999...these days we are supposedly all hung up on security.
But it's Bush's fabled authenticity that still causes Mike's knees to weaken and tremble....
Of course Bush could be faking this vague camaraderie with our soldiers that so impressed the Daily News columnist, I mean how would Mike know?
Bush may be simply better at the pretense of ease than other politicians.
Barnicle has always displayed a laughable amount of raw credulity when it comes to the President and somehow that credulity trebled in size when GWB's plane touched down on the carrier.
Frankly Bush has two accomplishments to his name prior to seizing the U.S. Presidency. One is he allegedly quit drinking (on this I have my doubts, but what the hey) and the other is he dodged the draft by using his family's influence to get him a safe billet in the Air National Guard.
You would think that glaring little factoid might condition some of Mike's loud atonal truckling, but no....takes one to know one though after all, Barnicle somehow managed himself to avoid combat duty overseas back in the 1960's.
The problem with Mike and his hero George Bush is, they both come from out a particularly loud and shameless generation that was not noted for it's capacity for self awareness. Therefore screeching the praises of a draft dodger who looked like "Mr. Freedom" in that flight suit ensemble never comes off as hypocritical or even the slightest bit ironic.
This when they whole crew (Mike, Imus and the I-man's deadbeat on-air posse) wasn't dicking on Bill Clinton snickering like a bunch of teenaged girls at the how foolish the former president would look in a nice navy flight suit.
It may be that these poor hammerheads need to make that facile comparison because they comprehend even on an unconscious level the pathetic neediness and silliness of this elaborate photo op.
But again who knows....the green flight suit and oxygen mask seems to have really overawed them all on some repressed unpleasant level. No doubt if Bush had shown up in a second empire Marshal's uniforms Barnicle and the gang might've fallen over in a swoon.
Harry Truman and Dwight Eisenhower didn't need to go parading around in uniform to impress the yokels...they'd a guffawed long and loud at the preening spectacle Bush made of himself yesterday.
Oh wait...Ike and Harry both heard shots fired in anger....I forget these things.
Nope...Mike's voice merely goes up a full octave as he hyperventilated with helpless worship at the manly figure Bush allegedly cut on that flight deck. By this point Barnicle was sounding like the screechiest of "N-Sync" fans....a disturbing adolescent tone crept into his monologue. It started sounding decidedly unmasculine despite all the fulsome bombast.
Well you know what they say, self pleasure is the most reliable of all....
At that point, I smelled something new, something that seemingly wafted from out my car radio's speakers. It was the unmistakable odor of Mike's shriveled and dwarfed dignity roasting merrily on the fires of his victory celebration.
Now never let it be said that Mike Barnicle wasn't willing to strip down to a loincloth, don war paint and feathered bonnet and whooping around the Imus campfire yelping like an Apache...
it's been a tough long war for the blue collar sage of Acton Ma. too y' know.
He needs to cut loose...
Such is the Kingdom of Heaven
On the Congressionally Licensed Public Airwaves
Anno Domini 5-2-03
Thursday, May 01, 2003
What I'm working on:
I keep asking myself a question "Is President Bush a classically charismatic leader?".
Max Weber would say no, as in his estimation charismatic leadership is rooted in the masses belief that the Leader has exceptional even semi divine qualities. As such the mantle of charisma is imposed from without and is conditioned by the masses experience of a crisis situation.
There was none of this "summoned to power aspect" to Bush's initial leadership prior to 9-11. Although his apologists composed reams of servile praise after 9-11, thankful that Bush had somehow "won" instead of Gore whose heroic qualities were now retroactively suspect. Ann Ruth Willner asserts that true charismatic leadership has to exist as part of leader's appeal prior to his or her entry into power.
Other than his overly doting mother I can divine no sign that Bush impressed any mass cohorts with his personality prior to the Supreme Courts decision in December 2000.
As a orator Bush must rank near the bottom in raw presidential sincerity and persuasiveness..he has on many occasion dispelled a disturbing unfamiliarity with the text of his own speech. To compensate for this, Bush tries to remain "on message" as much as possible, which is a highfalutin' way of saying he's painfully repetitive.
As a consequence of being deficient in persuasion Bush tends to dissemble, promising a good outcome when his means and goals are guaranteed to do just the opposite.
For example he is constantly hawking his tax cuts as a means to create jobs and increase federal revenue when there is no evidence that supports his thesis. The conclusion is inescapable that he thinks said tax cut will accomplish contrary ends he simply lacks the means to persuade anyone of the worthiness of those results.
On the other hand it's clear a growing cottage industry has arisen in Washington D.C. dedicated to making palatable Bush's leadership style. Columnists sing his praises and tellingly insist on the basis of no evidence that Bush is a solitary virtuous warrior in the fight against taxes, the bureaucracy or whatever.
Bush's recently reneged upon decision to fly off to a Aircraft Carrier today in a fighter jet can in this light be seen as buffoonery or part of some ongoing and deliberate heroic posturing.
Is it possible to talk of a "technology" of charisma?
A costly series of techniques designed to either impose a kind of pseudo-charisma on the leader or to induce in the electorate Willner's "charismatic oriented responses". Seen in this light charisma is less and ineffable quality and more a commodity to be dispensed on a cost effective basis.
The late Phillip K. Dick thought along similar lines when he described a Richard Nixon-like character whose stultifying personality was concealed by elaborate, omnipresent and expensive political stagecraft.
In the Dickian sense charisma is merely the artful concealment of banality.
Well all this is comforting for liberals in search of a malign explanation but I'm got my doubts....still it's question worth exploring in my opinion.