Tuesday, August 28, 2007

wango tango

As a musician and child of the late-70s/early 80s, it is depressing to watch Ted Nugent's complete descent into insanity. Not because Ted was ever the most innovative guitarist, or the biggest star, or even a particular generational touchstone. He was, however, a reliable purveyor of goofy cock-rock anthems. His biggest contribution to my life was the realization that high amplification could really screw up your hearing. Maybe that's the Nuge's excuse--dimed Fender Twins will reduce your brain to mush.

Combined with Jeff Baxter, another guitarist turned wingnut (it's worth noting that Baxter has no academic credentials. His sole qualification is a paper that gave wingnut's wingnut Dana Rohrabacher a boner), Nugent is really making me think my parents were right. That music will rot your brain.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

throwin' stuff at the wall

Glenn Greenwald and David Rivkin were on C-SPAN this morning. They were debating the latest evisceration of the fourth amendment.

My senators voted for this travesty. I'm not surprised that Kit Bond did so. If George Bush ever hurtles over a cliff, the powerful suction his buttocks exert on Bond's face will drag the Kitster over as well. But Claire McCaskill? Claire, I voted for you just so you could vote against this sort of thing. I knew Jim Talent had no spine, but what happened to you, Claire?

Anyway, it occurred to me as I watched the exchange that very few people ever ask why this administration needs or wants these powers. I think it's because they don't have any other idea.

These are people who have botched everything they've touched. From the president who ran two oil companies into bankruptcy to the veep who drove down his company's stock price like a 28 oz. hammer smacking a #10 nail, to the graduates of a fourth-tier law school who profess to hate government, yet who are apparently only fit to serve as apparatchiks, this is an administration filled with people who have no idea what they are doing. John Ashcroft was my governor for two terms. I am no fan of many of Ashcroft's positions, but no one could accuse him of the sort of rank bumbling that characterizes our present federal system. These people are so fumbling, so lost, that they can't even make the simple linguistic and epistimelogical distinction between "terrorism" and "terror."

To put it plainly, they have no idea how to stop terrorism. They have no idea what the first steps would be to actually identify and apprehend terrorists. One reason they decry the law enforcement approach (the only approach that has paid any dividends so far, I might add) to fighting terrorism is that it requires too much dedication and thought. They come from a corporate background, where the answer to every question is "more money and power to the CEO."

That's why they want broad powers. They don't have any ideas or plans. Their best thought is "Hey, if we grab everything, then surely we'll be able to figure out what's bad!!! Right?" And if they also find out stuff about people who oppose them, well, surely that's just gravy.

Friday, July 27, 2007

the time for impeachment is long past...

...if this is true. If the Bush administration obstructed the investigation into Pat Tillman's death (which they did) to cover up a homicide (we shall see), then the surviving Tillmans should be allowed to don chain-mail gloves and publicly cock-punch George Bush on live TV. They should then re-enact the "E.L. gets a handjob" scene from Road Trip on Dick Cheney. Then people should start getting mean.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

faith v. works

Once again, I highly recommend Mahablog's musings on faith as it pertains to our political life. The entire series has been outstanding, but she touches briefly on one aspect that especially troubles me as a Christian.

The Ten Commandments.

Specifically. the mania some people have for putting the Ten Commandments in public places.

We used to have the Ten Commandments (the TC) visible in many locations. You know where the TC used to be found? Courthouses. In the South. Where white men who claimed to live by those words were found "not guilty" of lynching and rape that everyone knew they had committed. Sometimes they were found "not guilty" because everyone knew what they had done. The entire TC foofraw can be summed up by Stephen Colbert's segment with Rep. Lynn Westmoreland. You've seen it, haven't you? When Rep. Westmoreland, who apparently believes that a faux-stone copy of the TC in every foyer will cure our country of its ills, could not name even three of them.

The Ten Commandments are not a fetish. They are actually too important to be reduced to the status of trinket and charm. They are commandments, directions on how to actually live your life, you know, act better and stuff. Want to see what will happen if the Ten Commandments crowd has their way? Go find your Bible. I'll wait. Now, turn to 1 Samuel 4:1-10. You can read it here if you don't have a Bible handy.

When the Israelites treated God's law like it was a lucky charm, they got their asses kicked. It's tempting to think that we can come up with a simple solution to our personal problems. Otherwise, we have to admit that fixing ourselves will be hard work. It's the same with society. Sure, we have things that are broken that need to be made right, but it won't be done by a waving a magic wand, and the current campaign to install the Ten Commandments is exactly that, a magic wand. It's demeaning to treat God's revelation to man like that. You think the TC are important? Good on ya. Now stop trying to hang them in everyone's bathroom. Go out and live them.

Saturday, July 21, 2007


Please read this outstanding series over at the Mahablog. It's fantastic.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

michael wolff may be the stupidest man alive

Vanity Fair's Michael Wolff was on Hardball tonight. He was on panel with Michael Erik Dyson and a woman whose name I did not catch (I will update ASAP and try to link to video as it becomes available). Wolff made one of the most absolutely out-of-touch brain-dead assertions I have ever heard in my life. He said that Oprah Winfrey was not that influential, she is "a television performer", and the possessor of "a bully pulpit among many bully pulpits."

I'm not the biggest fan of Oprah. I think she is an exemplar and perpetrator of our crippling cult of celebrity. I will not claim that she is without influence.

I worked at a bookstore about, oh, ten years ago. Oprah had just started publishing O (I always hoped she would start a spin-off called The Big O). A woman entered our store. She was well-dressed, expensively coiffed, and finely shod. She approached me.

"Do you have O magazine?" she asked.

"We're sold out," I replied.

I swear, her lips trembled and she began to cry. Huge tears rolled down her cheeks. I assured her that we would have more available later in the week.

"But I need it now," she fairly wailed. Note the expression: I need it now!

Is there a better capsule description for the MSM/SCLM's out-of-touch status than Wolff's assertion that Oprah is "just a television performer"?

Monday, June 04, 2007

book update

I'm into Chris Hedges' American Fascists. Fuller thoughts when I'm done, but for now I offer one observation.

Dominionist theology will do to the evangelical church what liberation theology did to the Roman Catholic church.

i do not think that word means what you think it means

Is Katie Couric struggling in the ratings because she's a woman?


Katie Couric is struggling in the ratings because her newscast is unwatchable. Instead of blaming the sexism of the great unwashed American public (although that's usually a good go-to position), perhaps news producers should look in the mirror. Who took all the hard news out of the news? Who decided that Paris Hilton was a worthy subject for a feature on a "news" show? Who chose to "investigate" issues by putting up a shouting head from either side of a debate, regardless of the merits of their positions? Who then gives those shouting fools ninety seconds of air time before declaring the issue at hand "explored?"

Look at Brian Williams on NBC. His ratings are dropping like a stone down a well. Why?

I have a theory. Whenever Williams is on The Daily Show he comes across as a smart, funny, acerbic fellow with a quick, sarcastic sense of humor. He's more than capable of laughing at himself and he often makes interesting points with Jon Stewart.

Now watch Williams on The NBC Nightly News. What do you see? A stiff, smug prick. Why? Because someone, somewhere, decided that Williams' personality (the one you see on TDS) might drive away potential viewers. With no thought for how an anchor with some real personality might attract viewers, Williams has fallen into "serious anchor" mode. Stripped of his intelligence and excellent free-lance verbal skills, he becomes stiffer than Liberace watching Stone Phillips. The prevailing assumption, that bland is the way to go, that viewers want only the most tepid, vanilla-wafer presentation of the news, actually drives away the very folks most likely to become faithful news viewers.

And Katie Couric is sinking in the ratings because, like Brian Williams, she looks at people who are thirsty and decides that what they really want to drink is a bucket of warm piss.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

all's well that's falwell

Jerry Falwell has shuffled off this mortal coil. Many people are bleating and bloviating about what this means. Let them. To me, he is a symbol of almost everything that is wrong with the public face of Christianity in the last half of the 20th century.

Falwell loved to lard his sermons with the phrase "the Bible alone." That phrase was a lie. Every time I heard him speak (and I heard him on TV a lot and even saw him live one time. The memory still produces faint nausea) he left the Bible in the dust. I mean, show me where the Bible says we should have a strong national defense. In truth, God forbade the Israel of antiquity from keeping a standing army. The Mosaic law demanded that land owners leave part of their fields unharvested so that the poor could eat (sounds more like commanizm than capitalism to me). Like many who claim to believe "every word in the Bible", Falwell really used that phrase as a club, a simple way to intimidate those who might disagree with him. The technique was a forerunner of the Bush administration's attempts to define any disagreement as "hating America."

The Wittenburg Door is a very interesting magazine of religious satire that runs serious interviews (it was kinda The Onion before there was an Onion). Probably fifteen years ago Falwell's name came up. For the life of me I can't remember who the interviewee was and I can't take the time to find my bound copy of Door interviews, but I will never forget what was said.

"Jerry Falwell has only one fault. He doesn't take sin very seriously." The interviewer sort of choked on this and asked for exposition. The reply was illuminating and it was basically this.

Falwell didn't appreciate the depths of human depravity and deceitfulness. He only thought of sin as behavior to be altered. He did not understand that it went deeper than that, that it could warp even our best intentions. That's why he was blind to his own arrogance.

As much as Falwell railed against sin, he basically saw America as God's country (another interviewee said that Falwell was an idolator, that what he really worshipped was the vision of America in his mind). America is never wrong; it's just a place that needs a little fixin'. His view of sin was that it was the stuff that bothered and annoyed him. In effect, sin was other people ruining his party, not an intractable condition of the heart.

That stayed with me. I come from a Protestant tradition that believes in original sin. We humans are flawed. Our best efforts will be compromised and fall short. Does that mean we don't try? No. It means that we never trust in our own goodness. We question ourselves and our motives every day. We never assume that we are above fault. It's why we establish governments and authority structures. It's why we try to fight racism and sexism, because those things are expressions of the fallen nature of man.

Falwell preached original sin, but he didn't believe in it. He didn't believe in his own sinfulness. That's why his faith never produced questions, only self-certainty. That was the source of his smugness. For all his protestations of being a sinner saved by grace, Jerry Falwell really believed that he and God were a partnership, a pretty equal partnership.

And that's why his death means so little to me. Demagogues like him are a dime a dozen. When Tony Campolo dies, then I'll mourn.

Monday, May 14, 2007

proof that racism has been conquered in america...

Blond-headed little kid at my elementary school wore a Kansas City Chiefs jersey to school. Number 27, the number of Larry Johnson. An aide asked him if he was a fan of LJ.

"I'm gonna be LJ," he responded proudly and went on his way.

The aide laughed and turned to a teacher. "That's funny. You know what Larry Johnson is, don't you?"

Larry Johnson, in case you didn't know or are completely blind to foreshadowing, is African-American. The aide is a graduate of a major state university. Her degree is in, I shit you not, sociology.

I don't know whether to laugh, cry, or hit myself in the nuts with a ball-peen hammer.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

in which kathleen parker cares more for a horse than for her fellow humans

Kathleen Parker is at it again. There are many wingnuts who can annoy, but for some reason Parker really crawls up my ass. While I feel for an animal that must be destroyed (I was raised rural and it brings it home), the idea that Barbaro was some sort of national symbol is just poppycock. He won one, that's one big race. He might have won more, but he broke down. A stallion with a gimpy back leg can't mount a mare. People who both loved him and stood to profit from him labored to save his life. They couldn't. That's sad, but final. Then KP has to try her hand at modern mythmaking.

"It was a catastrophic injury that would have resulted in most horses being euthanized on the spot. But Barbaro was special, not least in his ability to inspire humans." Well, in 1872, it would have resulted in most horses being euthanized on the spot, but equine medical treatment has made a few strides in the intervening decades. It's also worth pointing out that Barbaro's owners anticipated millions in stud fees, so they probably weren't going to walk out onto the track with a single-action revolver and put him down right then and there.

"How is it that in a time of terror and war, so many could become so emotionally invested in a horse? Maybe the better question is, how could they not?" Now, this is a woman who thought that Fallujah should be glassed over with a nuclear weapon after three mercernaries were killed and their bodies burned and hung on a bridge. Therefore, a better question might be, "How could someone so eager for death and suffering ever become emotionally invested in any creature?" I'm surprised she didn't Tivo the footage of Barbaro breaking down and watch it over and over, just for grins and giggles. What sort of twisted individual can view millions of people who never did a thing to her as targets and then not only get weepy over a horse, but somehow link the destruction of said horse to her own childhood disappointment? "I didn't get my pony either."


For her piece de resistance Parker tries to link Barbaro to Jane Fonda and John Kerry. She calls Barbaro "an utterly neutral reservoir of hope, beauty and determination." Yeah, and you know why we could project ourselves onto him like that, Kathleen? Because he was a frackin' horse! I swear, if Freud was still alive, this column would make him spooge in his drawers.