Wednesday, November 23, 2005

What's going on here?

Let's look carefully about what we know of Bob Woodward and the CIA leak story:

Woodward claimed all along it was a tempest in a teapot. We now know he was speaking with first hand knowledge.

Woodward went on TV, notably Larry King Live, to say so.

Woodward did not tell his editor that he had been told Vallerie Plame's name months before it became common knowledge.

Woodward was protecting his source.

Woodward was also protecting a book he was writing about the push to go to war.

The supposed conflict lies in his duty as a journalist at the Washington Post vs. his duty as an author to his publisher. In both cases he is acting a journalist, but he is doing so in different media and for different masters. He was also a journalist when he was being interviewed by Larry King, but there it is a bit more sticky. Journalists are supposed to conduct interviews, not be the subject of them.

Woodward's many hats--newspaper reporter, newspaper editor, author, and Washington insider, all mesh together. But those multiple roles have now made woodward part of the biggest story in Washington right now. Absolutely he cannot cover the story anymore. He has noreasonable claim to objectivity, no journalistic authority, at this point. More then that, after months of criticizing Patrick Fitzgerald for trying to force reporters to name their sources, he is now going to be subject to the special prosecutor's intimidation himself.

Woodward made his fame out of steadfastly, for more then thiry years, protecting the identity of the most famous annonymous source in Washinton history. Of coruse he's going to stick to his principles now. And with Woodward it is a matter of principle.

What we've really learned in this investigation is that much of what passes for news in Washington is really just gossip. Woodward heard from somebody who heard from somebody who heard back stage at Meet the Press that the President is having fish for dinner and might be thinking of bombing Liechtenstein. But this whitehouse has made an art out of using rumor and inuendo to sway public opinion and destroy careers, so why should we be surprised? And, at the foundation of it all, is Woodward himself, who along with Carl Bernsteina nd Deep Throat created the culture of Washington journalism, wherein the most reliable sources are always annonymous, the reporters are alwasy digging for that secret scoop and the pols know this and manipulate them through the use of carefully planned leaks. So Woodward has only himself to blame for his current predicament.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Random Thoughts

Dreams might--just might--come true.

I've always been a die hard Rose Bowl fan. National championships mean very little to me. For me, New Years day was the Tournament of Roses Parade, football on the beach (we alwyas rented a house in Cyucos), and the Rose Bowl. Pac Ten vs. Big Ten. That's my game. I'm still mad that the Rose Bowl joined the BCS.

But now Penn State has moved up to number 3 in the BCS rankings, and if USC wins out and Texas loses, it will be Penn State vs. USC, in the Rose Bowl, for the national championship. I've been waiting my whole life for this. All we need is for Texas to loose.

Ok. Fat chance of that. But wouldn't it be great!?

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Eddie Guerrero is dead

I may stop watching pro-wrestling for awhile. I’m doing this because Eddie Guerrero is dead. It might also be because Miss Elizabeth is dead, and because Crash Holly is dead, and because the Big Boss Man is dead, and because Chris Candido is dead, but mostly it is because it’s because Eddie Guerrero is dead. They say that fisherman is the most dangerous job in America, but professional wrestler can’t be far behind. They drop like flies. There’s no real link between them, and the other dead wrestlers, except that they were wrestlers. Congress is all worried about steroids in Baseball, but some pro-wrestlers shoot up like heroine junkies. That and amphetamines and pain killers. Lots of pain killers. It’s a rough life. They’re on the road for most of the year. The pay sucks. They abuse their bodies like no other performers. And they die. They die often.

And we watch them die. They abuse themselves like this because it enables them to perform for us. Mick Foley, one of the greatest wrestlers of all time, once said “The more we hurt each other worse, the more people like it, the more money we make, and the better friends we become.” We love them to be gladiators. Big and strong and cut from stone. We all know Eddie Guerrero had had drug problems. We know that Miss Elizabeth did drugs. Crash Holly drank. But look at the number of them. A website called has a “Dead Wrestler Tribute.” It lists twenty-seven…TWENTY-SEVEN…wrestlers who have died since 2000. With the exception of five of them—Classie Freddie Blassie, Stu hart, Lou Thesz, The Sheik and Wahoo McDaniel—they were all under sixty years old. Most were in their thirties. A few of them were listed as “natural causes,” a few as “heart attack,” a lot were ascribed to drugs. The conclusion is inescapable. Wrestling kills.

And we keep watching.

I watched Raw Monday night. It was very strange. Raw is a show that thrives on over the top melodrama. To see wrestlers sit before the camera in their obviously heart felt tributes to Eddie was surreal. We are used to seeing them fake emotions. How are we supposed to react when they cry on screen for real? It was strange.

Eddie had become one of my favorite wrestlers. He was great. He had charm, he had skill, he had it all. He was great. And now he’s dead. Since the Rock, Mick Foley and Stone Cold Steve Austin went into semi-retirement, Eddie became the guy I most loved to watch. I didn’t like what they’d done with his character recently, but I still loved him as a fan. He was funny and exciting and, well, raw.

Fan is short for “fanatic,” a person with an extreme, uncritical zeal. We identify with these guys. We love these guys. They are our heroes. As with other celebrities, even though we’ve probably never spoken to them, we feel we know them. We come to care about them, and we feel their loss as though they were family. And when they die it hurts. I never met Eddie Guerrero. I have no real reason to feel a deep sense of lass at his death, but I do. And I’m not sure I can watch anymore.

Of course, I’ll give in.

Friday, November 11, 2005


I've added a links section (on left) to this blog. I've included Lynn's website, Suzie's and, for good measure, the Golden Boy's as well. More will follow. Check them out.

Inteligent Design

Pat Robertson is in the news today for saingy that the town of Dover, Pennsylvania, has turned its back on God by voting out of office a school board that tried to instill Inteligent Design into the curriculum (therre was also a problem with rampant spending, but that's not very sexy). He says that if a disaster happens ion Dover that the residents shouldn't look to God. He won't be there.

I'm sorry, but I was always told by my grandmother that God was everywhere, and if you called on him in a time of trouble he would never forsake you. And grandmothers are the greatest authorities on such thing.

A few months ago Robertson called for the assassination of the president of Venezuella, a leftist and President Bush's biggest critic in this hemisphere. Now he tells voters that God is going to ignore their pleas because of how they voted.

Robertson is not just a minister: he is the founder and head or the Christian Broadcasting Network and the 700 Club. He is a major media mogul, and he uses his media (a lot more blatently then the so called "liberal media" do) to try to influence politics. Trouble is, like a lot of conservatives since last years elections, he now appears to be crazy. Their victory and control of all branches of government, culminating in these recent Supreme Court appointments, is making them drunk with power, and they are going on a feeding frenzy. It started with Teri Schiavo and it won't end until next november when they are kicked out of congress. This guy Robertson, though, he's one of the worst.

By the way, intelegent design makes sense to me. I remember in Highschool watching an incredibly hot girl in one of the plays we were doing, and the Golden Boy said to me "Makes you believe in God: no random collection of genes could have produced that." Made sense to me and it still does.

Speaking of high-school plays, another of those incredibly hot chicks from the same play, Suzie Rose (Benson), is selling CDs on her website She's donating procedes to huricane relief. While you're at it, her sister Lynn (the girl every guy was in love with) has a good website at They say you can't go back to highschool, but as long as your friends are on the web, you never really have to leave. ;-).

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

The New Kurt Cobain

I may have posted this before: or perhaps I only intended to.

I assigned my students to read NoBrow by John Seabrook, the best book I've found on postmodernism (even though he never mentions postmodernism). We were discussing the chapter titled "The Next Kurt Cobain," about a teenage boy who was so good at pretending to be a r ock star that he got a record contract, and I came up with an epiphany. I'd rather be the next Tom Jones then the next Kurt Cobain. Tom Jones is 65 years old. He's been married to the same woman for almost fifty years. He's one of the most successful and popular entertainers of all time. He's handsome, tallented, and rich. And Kurt Cobain is dead.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

No Hip-Hop in the NBA!

I’m really glad that Tim Duncan called the NBA’s new dress code “retarded” and that a white player has come out and said that it’s racist. It shows both how misguided the dress code was to begin with, and also how in a postmodern world uniformity no longer works.

Seabrook writes about it in NoBrow. In a chapter titled “My Father’s Closet” he writes about how dress (like everything else) is no longer hierarchical. His father was an elegant dresser, with hundreds of well tailored, tasteful suits, who would never wear even a polo player on his chest, and was mortified when he saw his son wearing labels on his clothes. He couldn’t grasp that in this postmodern world “taste” and “class” no longer exist, and that a hip hop jersey or a Von Dutch t-shirt could actually be signs of status—which had once been the sole sartorial province of Brooks Brothers. The structures that once maintained the social hierarchy have broken down and been replaced with a tribal leveling. A Sevile Row suit might give you prestige in the country club set, but in the hip hop crowd it has far less cachet. The pyramid of culture in all things, including dress, has bee flattened in favor of taste groups, in which you signify your identity by showing that you belong, primarily through your dress and the music you listen to. So when David Stern says “you can’t wear throwback jerseys and chains and doo-rags,” what he’s actually saying is “you can’t be who you are.” And if who you are just happens to be black, that is racist.

From a post-colonialist perspective this is a no-brainer. The culture of powerful white men has often felt threatened by symbols of black masculinity. Whether it’s Huey Newton in a black turtle-neck and beret or Alan Iverson in a throwback jersey and a doo-rag, clothes that express a defiant black identity and black masculinity are shunned by the white guys in suits. This dress code is racist. It is only one step removed from not permitting black athletes to compete in baseball. Before Jackie Robinson it was “we can’t have black athletes competing with white athletes,” because black masculinity was a threat, and if a black athlete actually beat a white athlete it would call white superiority into question. Now it’s “black athletes can compete with white athletes, they just can’t be black. They cannot wear the symbols of black culture or express their black identity.” Those—mostly older—black pundits and commentators in the Bill Cosby crowd who have come out in support of the NBA dress code, have no cachet with the hip hop crowd and therefore little to add. People who have been co-opted, who have assumed the symbols of white power by adopting a country-club sartorial style—really have nothing to say to people who dress in a hip-hop style. They have been assimilated. They have abandoned their blackness in a way, and have no business telling others how to be black. Or so the post-colonialists would say. So of course the dress code is racist. It specifically targets symbols of black culture. It forces black men to conform to David Stern’s country-club, WASPish sense of style. Anytime you say to a black man “you don’t get to be black” you are being racist. That it is happening on the same week that Rosa Parks is lying in state in the capital rotunda is simply ironic.

By the way, I’m not saying Stern intended to be racist with this dress code. I learned a long time ago (the hard way) that an act can be sexist or homophobic or racist even if you didn’t intend it to be so. In a very real way racism is in the eye of the beholder. When studying the reaction of white culture to black culture throughout the twentieth century you can’t help but be struck by how often white people just didn’t get it—how often they did things thinking it was no big deal that were horribly racist and offensive to black people. The feminist movement has long said “if you’re a straight white man in America of course you think the system is fair, because it works and is fair for *you*.” Racism sometimes works the same way. In our fragmented society, where there is no one hierarchical “truth,” one person’s fairness is another person’s racism. Racism is paradigmatic. It is the nature of contemporary American democracy that we have to work out between us, either through compromise or through laws, whose paradigm is going to prevail. Usually it is the David Sterns of the world because they control the purse strings. But one of the foundations of postmodernism is that those who were formally silenced now have voice enough to say “to hell with you: my culture is as valid as yours, and I refuse to conform to your cultural ideals.” Hip-hop is the culture of black urban youth and it refuses to be silenced. Any attempt to silence it is an attempt to push black people—in this case black men—back into a second class, subservient role. Whether you intended that to be racist or not, it is.

Or perhaps I should say that is the nature of contemporary American marketing. It is, after all, all about identity and style in a post-modern world. The suit has long been a symbol of power for western culture and many people of other cultures have adopted it in an effort to gain power and prestige themselves. But contemporary culture is marketing and marketing today is all about niche, identity, sub-culture, tribe. A person wearing a throwback jersey is part of one tribe. A person wearing a biker jacket and engineers boots is another. A person wearing cowboy boots and a cowboy hat is a third. A person wearing a well tailored suit or a polo shirt and slacks is a fourth. They are separate cultures because corporations have discovered that there is more money to be made in niche marketing then in mass marketing. Identity is created by branding. Strip somebody of their branding and you strip them of their culture, of their tribe, of their identity. The Marines understand this. This is why they strip everyone of their identity and replace it with a uniquely military uniformity. It could be argued that this is racist too (the uniform is also a symbol of Western power, and a very potent one), but the identity that is being created through uniformity is one based less on race or ethnicity then on military culture. It is a far cry from saying what Sterns was saying, which was basically “no hip-hop.” And, I say again, hip-hop being the most potent expression of African American identity and culture, to target hip-hop is nothing if not racist.

And stupid. The NBA’s popularity is sagging. Their most potent market has long been urban youth, and it is urban youth they are in danger of alienating with this new dress code. From a marketing standpoint it seems like a disaster. I guess Stern wants to raise Basketball’s appeal in the suburbs, where NASCAR and football rule, but he is throwing the baby out with the bathwater in doing so.

All this is kind of strange, since I tend to support dress codes, and I'm not too sure that wearing a suit is a bad thing. I guess I'm conflicted.

OIn the end this dress code thing is just another example of how in George Bush’s America conservative, mostly white, mostly men are trying to suppress non-conformist expressions of identity, whether militant black or gay or feminist or hippie (all cultures that the conservative, mostly white, mostly male marketing machine nurtures and fosters as identifiable markets). Back in the day I used to have a motto: the freedom to conform has a name, and that name is oppression.