Thursday, March 31, 2005

Law and Order Republicans

So Terri Schiavo is dead. May she rest in peace, and may everyone who tried to profit off her suffering be disemboweled by a pack of rabid sewer rats.

The most interesting thing to come out of the Terri Schiavo case, which was ignored by just about everyone, was a quote published in Monday’s (March 28) USA Today from Randall Terry, identified as one of the protest organizers: “If Gov. bush wants to be the man that his brother is, he needs to step up to the plate like President Bush did when the United Nations told him not to go into Iraq…Be a man. Put Politics aside.”

Well, out of the mouths of crybabes…….

This is a beautiful statement on so many levels! The pure balls of it. The asinine naiveté. This is a conservative, one of those rabid Ed Meese types, always screaming about law and order, and now he wants the governor to break the law! The fact that he equates obeying the law with politics has a Marxist ring to it, and of course the whole thing smacks of Henry David Thoreau.

And why not? He’s absolutely right. The President of the United States violated all sorts of international law when he invaded Iraq: the Nuremburg Principals, crimes against peace, crimes against humanity, war crimes, the whole shebang, and he did it with a smile on his face and proclaimed it “The right thing to do.” We’ve got it from on hi now, from the President himself: if you don’t like the law, ignore the law. Wrap yourself in righteousness and commit the crime. The law is all politics anyway.

As if “right to life” isn’t.

I want to stress this: President Bush has now taught a whole generation of Americans that the law doesn’t matter: be a man, break the law, so long as you’re sure that God is on your side.

Wait a minute! Where have we heard that before? Could it be from the men who flew two airplanes into my favorite lunch spot and killed 3,000 of my fellow New Yorkers? They thought God was on their side too, and felt entirely justified in breaking the law. What’s the real difference? Kidnappings, unilateralism, torture, they claim not to use it themselves, and then, with a wink and a nod, send “contractors” to Abu Graihb, throw unconvicted suspects into their private dungeons at Guantanamo, and send people they want seriously tortured off to Saudi Arabia or Syria (our supposed foe—how does that one work exactly?) so they can torture them. And we justify it all by saying “well, this is a different kind of war.” Isn’t that what America was being told in the months leading up to the My Lai Massacre? This is law and order in Bush Country.

Las and order indeed! The pigs have been exposed. They should have kept their mouths shut on this Schiavo thing, because now their hypocrisies have been laid bare for all to see. Randall Terry is right. What is the difference between breaking the law to save Teri Schiavo and breaking the law to invade Iraq? A matter of scale is all. There was really no logical reason for Jeb Bush not to send in the Florida National Guard (unless they all happened to be over in Iraq, but then he’s got bigger problems). His brother’s example should have given him the justification—unless he really didn’t believe in Terri Schiavo’s right to life, and he was only shedding crocodile tears to score political points! Otherwise he should have acted. His brother did. Or is there something to this law thing after all?

No, that little swine, and his brother too, have come up against a logical road block. With his brother’s example Governor Bush should have gone in with guns blazing. But no: not only was the law against him but public opinion was against him too. Maybe it is all political: Terry Schiavo, Iraq, Everything. Maybe George Bush knew, Like Regan knew when he withdrew from the World Court (the day I swore I’d never vote for a Republican for president), that a little piracy on the high seas or international law breaking is good politics, and Jeb Bush knew that breaking domestic law was bad politics. But more then that. They both knew in a cold, calculating fashion that they could gain political points in fighting a battle over Teri Schiavo that they never intended to win, knew they could not win, but were able to pose an posture and look sensitive before bending us over and buggering us over social security. Jeb Bush could look like a compassionate conservative who none the less upheld the law, and thus lay the groundwork for his presidential run in 2008.

Meet the new boss………

Reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated

It has become fashionable of late to report on the death of the democratic party. Both sides of the aisle spent much of the last five months trying to explain not only how the democrats lost the election but how dead the party is. The democrats wring their hands and talk about having the wrong “narrative” (hint: when you start using words like narrative to explain how you got your ass kicked, you’re looking in the wrong place). The conservatives laugh and kick them a few more times for good measure. At least the conservatives are more self aware. They know they’re a bunch of slathering goons. They revel in it. They’re like Tommy and Jimmy and Henry Hill, sitting around the bar with the rest of the goodfellas alternately exploding in a terrifying frenzy of violence and then joking about it. Yes, life is pretty good on that side of the aisle.

On the other side you have democrats cowering in the corner saying “please, don’t hit me” whenever the Republicans get up on an issue. They don’t dare go after them on Terri Schiavo because they’ll look insensitive and cruel. They’ll roll over on the bankruptcy bill because they have to pick their fights carefully. Only on social security have they shown any spine, but it is the spine of a wounded animal backed into a corner by a pack of ravening wolves. They are fighting because social security is the cornerstone of the New Deal. It is their heart and soul. They are fighting for their lives. Impending extinction will bring even the most craven of cowards to life once in awhile. A few people, like Bill Bradley--check out his op-ed piece in yesterday's (March 30) New York Times--have some good ideas, but mostly they just run around like scraming five year olds in a school yard who have just had their collective lunch money stolen.

Which brings me back to the republicans, gloating over their new found power. The conservatives have managed to convince not only centrist republicans but also democrats that 20% of voters using “moral issues” as a reason to vote somehow gives them a mandate for wholesale social change after an election that was decided by one percentage point. The Christians feel the end times are finally near. The Hawks are jumping up and down and preparing to carpet bomb Syria and invade Iran with their newfound support for war. And, of course, the real soul of the Republican party, laissez faire big business, has done the real work of the party, going after bankruptcy protections, social security, and next medicare, in an effort to completely undo the new deal and promote their so-called “ownership society,” in which the poor are once again owned by the rich.

The elephants are quick to point out that nobody agrees with the democrats anymore, that they’ve lost seven of t he last nine presidential elections--without noting that the republicans themselves had lost eight of the twelve before that. They are gleefully declaring the total demise of the Democratic Party and the rise of a new wave of conservativism, the final culmination of the Regan Revolution. It reminds me of that scene in Angels in America when Joe Pitt is sitting in a bar with Roy Cohn and some nameless Regan staffer, being told “Washington is the place to be: We’ve got the Whitehouse locked up for the next twelve years.” Meanwhile, conservative talking heads portray the Democrats as sitting against the wall in a shocked stupor waiting for Hilary Clinton to come riding over the hill on a white horse and wearing a white Armani pants suit to rescue the party.

Well, maybe, and maybe not. Truth of the matter is that the democrats don’t have to do too much to win the next presidential election except find a net percentage point gain of 1.1%. They nearly unseated an incumbent president during a war. Americans never do that. When you look at it that way they have a lot going for them. They play well among immigrants, particularly Latinos, who are the fastest growing segment of the population. And it is entirely possible that, in the short term at least, the tide has turned for the republicans. Between their failure so far at convincing people to gut their safety net, and the backlash against their cynical, manipulative ploys in the Terri Schiavo case, it is the GOP may well have pissed off enough moderates now to swing the vote.

Of course, once we invade Iran, all bets are off.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

A Confederacy of Whores

A lot of people on the right like to complain that the media is biased toward the left, but I am here to tell you right now that the media are part of a confederacy of whores. This confederacy also includes the republican leadership in congress, with whom the Media has been in bed for at least the past three weeks. They are whoring themselves to the right, a bunch of whores themselves.

Three weeks ago the big story in every newspaper was the President’s plan to privatize social security. It had little support in the electorate and that was slipping. AARP was being called “the most powerful liberal lobby in America” in a crass attempt to discredit the major organization opposing the overhaul—one that backfired in their faces, as it was seen as an attack on old people. Most people were actively opposing the centerpiece of George W. Bush’s domestic agenda. Something had to be done. Enter the media.

Over the last three weeks a stunning change has taken place, as first the congressional hearings on steroids in baseball, and then the Michael Jackson trial, and finally the Terri Schiavo case, knocked the social security story, along with various insurgent attacks in Iraq and the bankruptcy bill, out of the news cycle. It has been a good three weeks for the Republicans. And don’t think it wasn’t intentional.

Steroids, for God’s sake! Congress has the power to investigate the Enron scandal, why Haliburton was granted the contract to supply all American military units throughout the Middle East just a few months after President Bush and Vice President Cheney took office—and a few months before we went to war in the Middle East. They could re-examine 527 political groups, or Worldcom, or the insurance scandals, or anything. No. We get steroids! I’ve got a hint for them: ATHLETES USE STEROIDS!!!!! Pass a law and get on with governing.

The news media eats it up. Mark Maguire gets up in front of congress, takes the fifth, and breaks into tears. Congressmen and women act morally superior and make stern pronouncements. The people see their heroes dragged through the mud, weep, feel betrayed, and swear they won’t ever trust another athlete again, and forget that their retirements are at risk. Meanwhile the right gets some great press, and score major points with the law and order, anti-drug crowd.

Congress didn’t have anything to do with the Michael Jackson trial, but they loved the distraction. The world’s biggest pop star, a walking circus act, goes on trial for molestation, shows up late to court in his pajamas, and, like the baseball stars, gets torn down by the spectacle and by his own hubris. The falls of both Maguire and Jackson are sophoclean in their magnitude: pitiful, frightening, tragic (Hell, it was so effective that hardly anybody noticed when Robert Blake got acquitted).

But these were just warm-ups to the Schiavo case. Look up “manipulator” in the dictionary and there will be a picture of Bill Frist. Look, I don’t know if Terri Schiavo should die. I don’t know if she expressed a wish to die. I do know that the Florida courts after years of examination decided that she did. But don’t tell that to the right, to the whores in congress or their accomplices, the whores in the media. All of the Republicans, from the president on down, can shore up their support among conservative Christians, get a whole lot of press that makes them look great trying to fight the evil nasty judge and the evil nasty husband in a hopeless effort to save a dying woman’s life, and at the same time distract the country from the President’s social security bill. It is the ultimate Red Herring! And it is disgusting! The sleazy attacks the right is making on both the Judge in this case and on Michael Schiavo are the lowest form of political invective. They’ve been called scumbags, murderers, and Nazis. And, unfortunately, people watching cable news networks eat it up. Attacks ad hominem (that is to say, mudslinging) are always effective because people would rather hear dirt on somebody then think about the issues, but to anyone actually looking at and contemplating the issues, like, oh, just about every judge in the Florida and Federal judiciaries by now, no that mudslinging is not argument. It is fallacious, and it is engaged in by people who don’t actually have reason, logic, evidence or any other kind of real argument on their side. The only people who are not whores in this are Terri, her parents, and her husband—none of whose pain we can fathom, whose business the federal government has no place butting into.

And, by the way, how did a bunch of states rights republicans take it upon themselves to try to undermine the sovereignty of the state of Florida with special legislation designed to overturn a Florida case. Talk about the heights of hypocrisy!

But who cares! Everybody gets what they want! The media get a series of soap operas, each one of which puts Desperate Housewives to shame. Their ratings go through the roof. The talking heads get to scream at and about people. Republicans get to look good to the fundamentalists. The fundamentalists get act morally superior, pray on television, and spread their message of love, understanding, compassion and mercy. The Republicans whore themselves out to the fundamentalists, the media whores themselves out to the Republicans, while simultaneously whoring themselves out to the advertisers, and we are all whores for watching.

In the meantime, nobody’s talking about the bankruptcy bill, nobody knows what’s going on in Iraq, social security is being plundered—and the baseball players are still millionaires, Michael Jackson is still on trial, and Terri Schiavo is still going to die.

Whores, every one!

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Cock of the Walk

I briefly turned on President Bush’s press conference this morning. I turned it off quickly. He was boring me to tears. He always seems plaintive—whiny even—when he feels he has to convince people of something (SNL has been savaging him on this since this first debate with Senator Kerry last year). This has not been his normal mode since the last election. In fact, he’s been uncharacteristically cocky. Have you seen the way he sits? He looks like Al Bundy

Ok, he hasn’t got his hand down his pants, but otherwise, look at him lately. Ever since he won the election he has relaxed and kicked back. Most of the time, or at least when he forgets that there is a camera on him, he leans back, slouches in his chair, and spreads his legs wide, as if to show the whole world his crotch (look at me, the most powerful man in the world!). It is so Freudian it is funny, the way he shows his penis to the world. Remember how Stanley Kubrick riffed on the phallic nature of missiles in Dr. Strangelove? Think about that the next time you see the president sitting in the background at an event.

All he needs is an open Pabst and a picture in picture flat screen TV and he’s ready for some football. If he ditched the suit for gym shorts and flip flops he’d be the typical American male on a weekend in front of the tube—which is exactly how he wants to present himself to his constituency. And that leads me to wonder about something. Everything in his political life has been calculated to make him look like an every day normal guy. The “aw, shucks,” manner of delivery, the Texas accent, even his malapropisms, have all been calculated to make him seem more normal, more folksy, to give him that un-educated outsider look. Remember, this is not some West Texas dirt farmer who clawed and scratched his way up the ladder of success, starting from nothing and through dedication and hard work, by championing the cause of every day Americans, rose to become leader of the free world. That’s what Bush wants people to see, but that’s not him. That’s LBJ. That’s Bill Clinton. That’s not him. This guy is a privileged New England preppie, born in New England into an old, rich, blue blood family, whose father was president of the United States, whose grandfather sold guns and ammo to the Nazis, who went to Yale, who was head cheerleader at his exclusive New England prep-school. He is the living portrait of the privileged New England upper class elite. He’s Judge Smaels. He’s Greg Marmalard. He’s Stan Gable. If you look at his early speeches, back in the days when he was helping his father run for president, the accent, the folksy charm, none of it’s there. That all came later, after he hooked up with Carl Rove and found his persona.

So I got to ask myself, when he kicks back and shows the world his crotch like he’s been doing lately, is that him really him relaxing, or is he just working on the persona a little bit more?

Keeping on this riff, it also demonstrates the persona elements that I hate about Bush. It ties in well with his cocky arrogance, his anti-intellectual elitism, and his image as a bully. This is the guy who used to shove new kids into garbage cans on the school quad, who went to noon-time keggers with the slacker kids, showed up for math class late and drunk, bullied the smart kids for being nerds, and still got elected class president because he was popular with the in crowd. The only time he had use for the smart kids was when he bullied them into doing his homework for him. He wasn’t one of the jocks, because he didn’t have the discipline to excel at sports. He wasn’t one of the “most likely to succeed” bunch, because he didn’t have the dedication. And he wasn’t one of those bullies whom you knew were headed for Pelican Bay, because he didn’t have the balls for real street crime. He was the kid voted most likely to throw a good graduation party, but who was despised by all the kids whose lunch money he stole, or whose faces he pushed into dog shit on the athletic field lawn, just because they were weak and nerdish and he could push them around. This is the persona he projects to me.

Ok, shades of my own tortured junior-high school life are being projected onto our commander and chief, but tell me how far off I am, I dare you.

And also tell this: me when did we accept the dumbing down of the presidency, the idea that any slob could do this job? If Clinton, Kerry and especially Al Gore (I mean, look at him) represented The Revenge of the Nerds, then Bush is the backlash. Mind you, I don’t think Bush is stupid. Look at how much he’s accomplished and tell me he’s stupid. He’s smart as a whip. He just pretends to be stupid because it plays better on TV.

And what does that say about us as a nation?

Friday, March 11, 2005

Read This book!

I haven't blogged in a few days. It's not that the Martha blog is taking all my attention. It's more that the dissertation is taking all my attention. That and the fact that I accidentally paused on Scarborough country again the other night and, after throwing things at my television set for five minutes, decided I was tired of politics and better back off for awhile. Oh: and I've been reading. I just finished reading a book called NoBrow by John Seabrook. On its surface it was about Tina Brown’s tenure at The New Yorker, when Si Newhouse decided that the only thing that could save the temple of good taste was to put the woman who had run Vanity Fair in charge. But that’s not really what it was about.

NoBrow is the best book I’ve ever read about postmodern theory, and the interesting thing is that Seabrook doesn’t mention the word postmodern once. I just spent six month buried in postmodern theory, and this book is better then anything Frederick Jamison ever wrote. Subtitled “The Culture of Marketing, the Marketing of Culture,” Nobrow chronicles how the old master narratives of art and commerce—taste, culture, high-brow—were replaced by the nineties with a postmodern relativism that only left one measure of quality: sales. The old distinctions of high and low culture, popular and elite, good and bad converged through the process of marketing, until all that was left was spin and buzz and sales, and the Metropolitan Opera was really no better, no more prestigious, no more special CBGBs except in terms of its popularity and its sales. Anybody who wants to understand mass media, marketing, art and culture in a postmodern society needs to read Seabrook’s book. It is brilliant.

Friday, March 04, 2005

Martha Haters Unite!!!


Martha Stewart was released from prison just after midnight this morning. Martha Stewart is the Queen of All Media. We cannot do her justice her on these humble pages, so we have decided to create a whole new blog dedicated to her, but it's not just to her, it is also a guide for living in the most manly, anti-Martha way possible. We call it "Mike's Guide to Manly Living," but it can also be called The He-man Martha Haters Club. Check it out at

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

What's wrong with this picture

As I suspected he would, Jon Stewart has shown more integrity then just about any of the "real" news anchors recently. His fake news has long been the most reliable program on the air, but now it is also the most honest. After the success of the Iraqi elections Stewart, one of President Bush's most vocal critics, asked "What if we were all painfully wrong about him?" Last night, covering the so called "Cedar Revolution" in Lebanon, he went farther, saying it looked as though President Bush was right after all, and that democracy was coming to the Middle East. With Stewart being the first, I will be the second to say that Bush's policies seem to be working. There have been elections in Iraq, Lebanon is taking to the streets and the Syrians are leaving, Israel and the Palestinians are cooperating, and Egypt is opening its elections to opposition parties. Even in Saudi Arabia there have been a few nods toward democracy with municipal elections.

What interests me is how this story is being covered. All the major anchors are nodding approvingly toward the democratic changes in Iraq and Lebanon, but so far as I can tell, Stewart is the only one who hs stood up and said "Bush did this." Last night he lamented that his kids were going to go to a school named after this guy.

Now, I'm still not in Bush's camp. I don't like being lied to, I don't think Iraq was a threat, I believe in international law, I believe in the constitution, and don't get me started on his domestic policies. But give the devil his due: it is working so far. Now, Lawrence showed us that an occupying army can't win in the Middle East, and that is still true, but if the people back democracy then it may well succeed. So far so good for GW.

Which brings us to Machiavelli. In order to get us to war in Iraq (which I still believe was done primarily so his cronies at Halliburton could make more money), Bush lied to us, broke international law, violated the UN treaty and the Nuremburg principals, and in the course of the war imprisoned hundreds of people without due process, and tortured several of them. It all adds up to crimes against humanity, crimes against peace, and quite possibly war crimes as well. So why hasn't Machiavelli entered this debate? I'd like to see one talking head pose the question in simple Machiavellian terms: did the end, in this case, justify the means?

A lot of Americans would say absolutely yes.