Friday, June 29, 2007

The Garbage of Bill O'Reilly

I've written at length about the early deaths of professional wrestlers, so I wasn't going to comment on Chris Benoit's death. But Bill O'Reilly and Geraldo Riviera were on last night, turning tragedy into scandal in the usual tabloid way (and, by the way, this qualifies as a tragedy), and it got me mad. Geraldo had latched onto the now well known wikipedia post and implied that it indicated that Chris's death might not be a murder suicide, that Chris and his wife and child may have been murdered as part of some nefarious plot to cover up rampant steroid use in pro wrestling.

First of all, nobody *wants* to cover up the rampant steroid use in pro wrestling. Wrestlers juice and everybody knows it. If everybody knows it, what's to cover up?

But more importantly there is no evidence that this was anything other than familicide and suicide, at least as far as any of us know. Chris Benoit flies into a rage and kills his family and himself is a tragic, pathetic story that will last two days. A vast conspiracy in the ranks of the WWE leading to the triple murder of his a wrestler and his family that's, well, it's a plot worthy of Vince McMahon himself, and it's one that will sell papers for weeks to come (and take attention from the war in Iraq and President Bush's humiliating failure to pass immigration reform). The scandal sheets are called scandal sheets for a reason, and Fox News is the biggest and the worst. The sinister implication is that McMahon, who as a character in his own show has plotted the demise and even deaths of some of his wrestlers, is capable of doing that for real. With reality and fiction continuing to blur in our postmodern society (and why shouldn't District Attorney Branch run for president anyway?) that shouldn't come as a surprise

Look, I don't know the truth. Maybe Vince McMahon did have Chris Benoit and his family killed. And maybe monkeys will fly out of my butt. But there's no real evidence. It is the worst kind of speculation. It certainly isn't journalism. Any time Geraldo Riviera or Bill O'Reilly open their mouths sewage and filth spill forth, and the world would be a much better place if they and thier ilk would just shut up.

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Thursday, June 28, 2007

A Court of One

Really, this whole thing about a Supreme Court is a smokescreen. There is no supreme court. At least, there are not nine justices who sit and decide cases brought before the supreme court. There is only one justice, and his name is Anthony Kennedy. He is a court of one, and his is the only opinion that truly matters. Kennedy is the swing vote on a divided court. He is the only justice who has been in the majority on every decision this year. Think about that. His vote is the vote. He is, quite simply, the guy.

Today's decisions are cases in point. The first two were predictable in their outcome: the court voted to subvert Brown vs the Board of Education and the Sherman Anti Trust Act, overturning lots of previous court precedent in the process (Stare what?) a the bidding of the administration and the usual crowd of Chicago school economists. The majority was the usual one: Kennedy, Roberts, Thomas, Scalia, and Alito. In the third case however, Kennedy sided with the more liberal wing of the court in upholding the appeal of a death row inmate who was diagnosed schizophrenic at the time of his crimes.

Some might argue that this just means that Kennedy is the only thoughtful jurist on the panel--but then those people won't have read the eloquent and well reasoned opinions of seven of the other eight justices on the panel (Thomas is a blithering idiot and his writing shows it). No, what Kennedy is in fact is the guy in the middle being courted/pulled in both directions by the agendas of the eight people he works with. Some people wouldn't envy him, but I do. He, not President Bush, is the most powerful man in the world. We may live in a democracy, we may have a legislature and a president, but Kennedy's is the only vote that counts, and he has veto power even over the president.

Friday, June 22, 2007

The View from the Capital of the World

Well, my cunning plan is working. Guiliani is leading the GOP race, Hillary is leading the Donkey Derby, and Bloomberg has quit the Republican Party. If he actually joins the race we could have three candidates from New York in the general election for president. Even the Times has taken notice. Of course there is a downside to my plan. Bloomberg’s entry would likely guarantee a Rudi victory. And I lived through much of Rudi’s term as Mayor, and I fully believe he would be worse than GWB. I’m not making this up. I’m not kidding. He is even more of a fascist than Bush.

Monday, June 18, 2007

A Word about Words

I’ve been following the Duke Lacrosse rape case fairly steadily. I find things like this reveal a great deal about the character people, especially in how people are treated by the media and how we interpret the images we view. The Duke Lacrosse case was interesting because it dealt with racial tensions and class tensions and good old southern politics.

One thing it shows is the danger of having district attorneys as elected positions. Of course, having district attorneys be appointed positions would have other dangers, but when the DA also has to be a politician, has to pander to the public for votes, then in sensation cases such as this one he has to take the public’s viewpoint and public anger into account. Who really stands a chance with this DA? The woman who represents an angry and occasionally oppressed ethnic group who make up a large portion of the voting population in Raleigh Durham, or three pampered and privileged white kids from out of state who are part of a social group that none of the locals particularly like anyway. It’s a constant problem with elite schools: the locals love the tax base brought in by students but hate the school and the students themselves. Who remembers the classic film “Breaking Away” and what exactly is meant by the word “cutters?”

The public was out for blood and Nifong knew it. He also knew that he could score points with the African American community if went after these white sons of privilege. The Media whipped the public, both in Durham and across the nation. Nobody likes these spoiled rich kids anyway. The New York tabloids, as always, went crazy, and soon, as regular as clockwork, Al Sharpton was heading down to Durham to level accusations of racism at the Duke community. Nifong was also up for reelection that year, and if he appeared soft on the Duke players he didn’t stand a chance. Of course, in the end, the players were exonerated and Nifong has now been disgraced, disbarred, and faces a very painful future. If he’s found hanging in his bedroom closet one day soon I won’t be a bit surprised.

But the case is only on of many, after all. A nearly identical thing happened to Kobe Bryant only, in Kobe’s case, the DA turned over the exculpatory evidence (eerily similar, you’ve got to admit: DNA material in the woman’s underpants and on her body not of the accused) and the case was eventually withdrawn. The zeal with which the Queens County DA went after the police who shot Sean Bell on his wedding night was obviously fueled by the continuing outrage in the African American community. The DA who went after Michael Jackson, though he might have been sincere in his belief that Jackson was guilty, nonetheless also knew that the publicity a conviction might bring would be like gaining tenure—he’d be set for life, and his elections would be merely a formality. Hell, it goes all the way back to Fatty Arbuckle.

But the role of the media in all of this can’t be overstated. The media feeds America’s schadenfreude. We love the suffering of others, and we especially love to see the high and uppity brought down. Paris Hilton being a case in point. The higher up you are the further you have to fall and the more the American Public will enjoy watching you plummet to your doom. Nobody knew this like William Randolph Hearst back in the day, nor like Rupert Murdoch now. Scandal sells papers. If you actually study the Roxy Hart murder trial, on which “Chicago” is based, you’ll see that the movie isn’t that far off in its depiction of the media feeding frenzy surrounding every new scandal du jour in 1920s Chicago, and nothing’s changed. And the story doesn’t have to be true for the publisher to sell newspapers or for the DA to score votes. As Dashiel Hammett said of the Fatty Arbuckle case (which he had worked as a Pinkerton detective), "The whole thing was a frame-up, arranged by some of the corrupt local newspaper boys. Arbuckle was good copy, so they set him up for a fall." Chief among these local boys being Hearst, who later told Arbuckle that it hadn’t been personal, it was all just to sell papers.

So when a feeding frenzy like this erupts, when the public is calling for blood, when the DA needs votes, when the accused is rich, privileged and famous, and therefore hated and reviled; who cares about the truth? Is justice even possible in a case like that?

But that’s not why I sat down to write this article. I’ve said all that before. I sat down to write this article because of words. One word in particular. A word I love to harp on because nobody uses it correctly. In all the discussion of Mike Nifong’s prosecutorial misconduct, never once has the word “tragedy” been used. Yes this started out as a melodrama, with Nifong as the hero DA going after the evil rich kids. It became a different melodrama, as Nifong became the villains and the wrongly accused payers the victims. America loves a good melodrama the way we do a scandal. But the whole thing is really a tragedy. A bus full of doe-eyed urchins plunging over a cliff to their deaths isn’t technically a tragedy, but if ever there was a case of a great man being brought down by his own hubris, this is it. I could see the whole thing on stage, with a chorus of judges or townspeople and Nifong in a weepy tragedy mask. Sophocles would have him tear his eyes out now that the last act is over.

But nobody cares about words anymore.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Racism in the Golf

And this is not about black players not being admitted to private clubs. That has mostly been dealt with by the PGA. This is about the imigration debate and the U.S. Open. When Angel Cabrera became the first Argentinean player to win the U.S. Open this evening he had to use a translator for the trophy deremony interview. I can't wait to hear the anti imigrant forces and their English Only allies squeel like stuck pigs in the Blogosphere. I'm willing to bet there have already been 1000 posts about how aweful and embarrassing it is to hear Spanish being spoken at the United States golf championship. I could be wrong, but check, and if I'm right remember what I've said all along: this whole imigration debate isn't about imigration it's about racism--it's about keeping the Mexicans and everybody who lives south of them out of our country.

I could, of course, talk about the illegal Irish imigrants I run into every week tending bar around New York City. Nobody seems to resent them. But they are lilly white, speak English, and are usually pretty cute.

But this is about Golf, a Scottish, and now Argentinean, game.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

The Yankees of NASCAR

I've always suspected that the moment Dale Ernhardt Junior decided to actually leave DEI was the moment he climbed behind the wheel of Kyle Bush's car and took it for a spin. I can just imagine what he must have thought to himself: "Man!" he probably said "This car can move!" And that was all it took. Getting to drive a car from the best team in NASCAR must have felt like heaven to Junior. And a few weeks later he made it official that he and his step-mother would part ways. But from the moment he got behind the wheel of the number five car it was a done deal.

Now it looks as though I was right. This morning word came that Junior will be driving for Hendrick Motorsports next year, the team that already has his arch-rival (and good friend) Jeff Gordon and the reigning cup champion Jimmie Johnson. It means either Kyle Bush is out the door. Sponsorship is up in the air. Will the number 5 car break off its long association with Kellogs? Will Budweiser come on board? And what will be Dale's number (I doubt it will be 4.9)?

Regardless, Team Hendrick has now become the Yankees of NASCAR. With six champions, the winningest active driver and current points leader in Gordon, the reigning champion in Johnson, and now the Red Army behind them, Hendrick is the true juggernaut, a position occupied by Roush only a couple years ago--and how significant is it that Jack Roush merged his opperation with the Voston Red Sox over the winter? Can you say rivalry?

Monday, June 11, 2007

What The F***

Like everybody else last night, I thought the cable had gone out for a second, at the worst moment in the history of such moments. We rewound (We've got DVR) just to see if we'd missed something. Then the realization hit. Nothing. Not a thing.

Te best TV Show ever ended with the best ending ever on television. The idiots screaming this morning that they deserved "closure" after eight years of loyal viewership (to paraphrase George Patton), don't know anything more about real drama than they do about fornicating.

Do you remember the tedious two hour ending to M*A*S*H*? (Or was it three hours), still the most watched finale in history? At least with The West Wing there was a logical place to end, but it still went on. And that's the point. Tony Soprao went on. I've been complaining for a few months now that HBO hasn't been edning their series. Sith both Carnivale and Deadwood, they simply didnt' renew it for another season. Carnivale ended in a cliffhanger and I was left feeling jilted. But here it was calculated. We were manipulated. We were played like fifty-million fiddles. And it was beautiful. It was one of the most effective, most artistic moments I've ever seen on television.

I mean seriously? What could he do? How could he end it? In the end he didn't, which was such a bold and visionary choice it still gives me shivers. I woke up gigling all night long last night.

Like evryone else my girlfriend and I had spent the last few weeks trying to predict what would happen. And especially last night. Would Tony cooperate witht he FBI? Would Phil whack him? Would Paulie whack him? Would he go to prison? Would Sil run the family? Janice? Meadow? As the tension in the final scene built it was excrusiating. "Here it comes," I said when the mysterious stranger walked in in front of AJ. Then again when he went to the bathroom. When meadow had trouble parking I was sure she'd walk in just in time to see her whole family murdered. Then when she ran accross the street it was "Oh no! She's going to get hit." And when Tony looked up, was it meadow coming through the door, or something more sinister?

Who knows. All of us had made up our own endings to the series. No matter what happened it would be a letdown. David Chase picked the only ending that made sense. He refused to end it. He refused to give us what we wanted. Somewhere in writer heaven, George Bernard Shaw and Henrik Ibsen are laughing their butts off, rewinding that scene again and again to pick it apart.

Brilliant. Totally fucking brilliant.