Monthly Archives: April 2015

Headline Of The Day: Josh Marshall Edition

The Louisiana lege is in session, desperately trying to divert attention from the destruction it and Gov PBJ hath wrought in the last 7 years. (Contemplating the wreckage makes me feel all Old Testamenty hence the hath.)And what do GOPers do when they’re in such a fix? Find a social issue hot button to mash down on via legislative resolution. Ain’t no hotter button right now than marriage equality, and while you’re at it, demand the two Jewish  female Supremes recuse themselves.

Here’s Josh Marshall’s headline on a post linking to the TPM story linked to above about the whole mishigas:

I decided to use Kevin’s tweet because it had such a pretty picture of the headline about the ugliness coming out of the Louisiana lege this week. They should be trying to keep our flagship public university from sinking instead of pulling meaningless stunts like this. As for Governor PBJ: fuck you and piss off back to Iowa.

 

 

Lazy (Media) Days

I’m never surprised when the national MSM media falls back on cliches and platitudes but it still bugs the living shit out of me. At a time when research has been made easier by the interwebs, they prefer spewing out the received knowledge of the conventional wisdom rather than doing any actual reporting.

The political punditocracy are usually the laziest media cats, but some of the “reporting” out of Baltimore and the Supreme Court beat has been lazier than Oscar and Della on a hot August afternoon.

I turned on MSNBC a few hours ago and they had two of the players from The Wire on as talking heads: the guy who played Bodie and the chick who played Snoop. I know that they’re actual Baltimoreans (as opposed to the Baltimorons who run the Orioles) but having the folks from The Wire on the news blurs the line between fact and fiction a bit too much for my taste. And I say that as someone who was into the show before it became a trendy hipster fetish object. However realistic some of it is, it’s a bloody teevee show and watching it doesn’t make one an expert on West Baltimore or the BPD. Here’s what some dude on Twitter had to say:

It’s a momentous week at the United States Supreme Court as the Justices took up the Obergefell vs. Hodges case, which will, more likely than not, result in legalizing same sex marriage from sea to shining sea. The MSM remains obsessed with characterizing Justice Kennedy as the “one to watch” or the “swing vote.” Kennedy is that BUT ON OTHER CASES, you maroons. His historical legacy is clear: he’s the gay rights judge. You know, he’s the author of all the groundbreaking gay rights cases of the last decade. There are obviously 5 votes for some method of legalizing marriage equality, the question is not IF but HOW. The MSM prefers the manufactured drama of “what will the swing judge do” to counting votes. They’re a lot like Congressional teabaggers in that regard: they can’t count votes either.

The other aspect of the MSM Supreme Court coverage that drives me batty is the incessant tealeaf reading as to what the Justices comments mean or what their body language means during oral arguments. Time for more self quotation:

Oral arguments at the Supreme Court used to be much less flamboyant in the pre-Scalia era. There were many very distinguished Justices who rarely spoke during them. Why? Because the briefs and negotiations over opinions are what really matter. The former is undramatic and the latter is conducted in private, which is why the MSM is disinterested in both. If it doesn’t bleed, it don’t lead or some such shit.

Btw, I don’t use the acronym SCOTUS because it looks too much like scrotum. And while that may work for Scalito and Thomas, I prefer to show the other Justices more respect than that. Not that that ever stopped me from calling Felix Frankfurter, the Hot Dog Man…

After those groaners, I’ll attempt to restore a measure of decorum to the proceedings by giving 10cc the last word:

 

 

 

So, Did Anyone Else Watch The Daily Show Yesterday?

From Album 5

It wasn’t exactly funny: Judith Miller, in all her smug, unctuous glory, hawking a book I won’t read and copping an attitude I’ll never understand. The same attitude Rumsfeld has in the Errol Morris movie — not the slightest remorse, and even a bit of arrogance over, if not having pulled it off, having paid no price

Nauseating.

If you can stand the extended interview…you’re a stronger person than me.

Pulp Fiction Thursday: The Lady Is A Lush

Most artists from the heyday of pulp fiction were relatively anonymous. That’s why I’m always interested in learning something, anything about any of them. The ode to day drinking below was designed and executed by Ron Lesser.

The Lady Is a Lush.2

I’m not “fresh from alcoholic frenzies” but writing this post did give me an earworm:

The Fog Of History: Last Days In Vietnam

Last night we watched the American Experience documentary Last Days In Vietnam. It’s quite simply an amazing film, and one doesn’t have to have supported that war to be moved by the tales of heroism by Americans and Vietnamese alike. It all happened 40 years ago, but director Rory Kennedy and some of the most interesting talking heads I’ve ever seen in a documentary make it come alive as if it happened the other day.

There were vast swaths of the film that played like a thriller; the stories of individual bravery and moral courage. We all know the big picture: the North Vietnamese invaded in March and the corrupt and feeble South Vietnamese government folded like a poker player with a pair of deuces. The US Congress, quite rightly, refused to throw good money after bad and didn’t grant the Ford-Kissinger request for more funds to be stolen by Generals Thieu, Ky and their cronies. The worst talking head is, unsurprisingly, Henry Kissinger who recycles the same lies that he’s been peddling for the last 40 years: Nixon good, liberals bad. So it goes.

One of the most compelling American talking heads is Richard Armitage. Yes, *that* Richard Armitage of Colin Powell and Valerie Plame fame. He was a bona fide hero of the evacuation, choosing to disregard orders in favor of saving the lives of Vietnamese who might have faced death at the hands of the Communists. As I listened to Armitage’s tales of derring-do, I couldn’t help thinking of his role in W’s Iraq War. Both Armitage and his close friend and associate General Powell were opposed to the war and convinced it would lead to disaster. They were right but lacked the individual bravery and moral courage Armitage showed in 1975 and did not resign.

I wish we had more of a tradition of public officials resigning over matters of principle and policy. The Johnson administration was honeycombed with senior officials opposed to the Vietnam War. None of them resigned and went public with their criticism. Hell, even President Johnson had serious doubts about his war policy but he stumbled ahead out of fear of being called weak. Truman was accused of “losing China” and LBJ didn’t want to be the first President to lose a war. Instead, he lost the American people and damaged his place in history. The war itself was lost in 1975. So much for Nixonian “peace with honor.”

Sipping a Maker’s Mark on the rocks later in the evening, I contemplated our two great recent foreign policy disasters and what they did to the country. Vietnam had a more searing impact on the national psyche because *everyone* alive at the time knew someone who served in Vietnam. Presidents had always lied but LBJ and Tricky Dick were exposed telling some major whoppers and people haven’t trusted the government ever since. Their mendacity gave a boost to the Reaganite credo “guvmint isn’t the solution, it’s the problem.”

Bush, Cheney, and Rummy’s Iraq fiasco is turning out to be a bigger geopolitical disaster than Vietnam. The Obama presidency has been, in part, devoted to cleaning up their mess but the rampant instability and violence in the Middle East is Bush’s gift to a war weary nation. The Bushies also lied their way into war, but after Vietnam it was assumed that governments did that so the stench has slowly worn off in many quarters.

The general public is more isolated from the personal side of the Iraq-Afghanistan War experiences: most Americans do not know people who served. They “support the troops” but they’ve never met them. That makes it easier to support the next conflict. I’m not going to advocate restoring the draft since I’m old enough to have contemplated it and to have been relieved when it was ended by my old pal Tricky Dick. There is something to be said for a Citizen army though.

Back to Last Days In Vietnam. It got me thinking of a Vietnamese gentleman I got to know when I was a college student. He had been a Colonel in the Vietnamese Army and was running a liquor store when we met. I was fascinated by his stories of the War and how he and his family fled the country in the nick of time. This fine documentary is full of similar stories, which makes it must-see teevee. It’s also a cautionary tale about the folly of going to war in a country whose culture and history one is unfamiliar with. Unfortunately, we made many of the same mistakes in Iraq. Here’s hoping we can avoid them in the future but history has a nasty habit of repeating.

So Much For Outreach To Black Voters

Brogressive no more:

Railing against what he repeatedly called “thuggery and thievery” in the streets of Baltimore, Paul told Ingraham that talking about “root causes” was not appropriate in the middle of a riot.

“The police have to do what they have to do, and I am very sympathetic to the plight of the police in this,” he said.

As for root causes, Paul listed some ideas of his own.

“There are so many things we can talk about,” the senator said, “the breakdown of the family structure, the lack of fathers, the lack of a moral code in our society.”

He added that “this isn’t just a racial thing.”

The MSM has spent a lot of time convincing itself that Senator Aqua Buddha is a different kind of Republican, dedicated to wooing minority voters. Then an event like the West Baltimore uprising comes around and Paul falls back on backlash era dog whistling and tired cliches. So much for fresh thinking, so much for outreach to black voters.

Album Cover Art Wednesday: Swingin’ Down Yonder

I’m still feeling a bit rat packy after they used a Dean Martin song at the end of Mad Men on Sunday.Or is that ratty and packy? I’m not sure which it is, y’all.

Swingin’ Down Yonder was released in 1954 and was Dino’s first full length 33 1/3 LP. It’s essentially a songs of the South concept album. It employed some trad jazz (a term I prefer to Dixieland) themes and musicians. On the cover, Martin looks as if he’s eager to board that riverboat and steam on down to New Orleans without that annoying brat Jerry Lewis in tow.

9072448896_c78458b2ba_z

I’d never heard this album before yesterday but it’s pretty darn good. Btw, the song list on the cover is not the running order of the LP. Bad, record company, bad:

 

Mad Men Thread: Everything Must Go

mad-men-episode-711-don-hamm-935

This week’s recap is late because it was like a bloody Carpenters song in New Orleans yesterday. John Phillips was obviously right: Monday, Monday can’t trust that day. If I recall correctly, the color of Roger’s jacket was a hue unknown to nature, electric blue. I had the electric blues yesterday: power flickers and internet wonkiness so I threw in the towel and decided to write this today. Too much information? Perhaps, but what’s a bit of oversharing among friends?

As much as I hate to agree with the conventional wisdom on anything, in this case I do: Time & Life was by far and away the best episode of the Season 7 rump of Mad Men. Glad I don’t have to give it a rump roast. There were plot twists aplenty, and it evoked some of the best past episodes of the series including this image of Pete Campbell in a wee punch-up at a fancy school in Greenwich, CT:

mad-men-episode-711-pete-kartheiser-935

Remember in Season-5 when dweeby Brit Lane Pryce kicked Pete’s equally dweeby preppie ass? Jared Harris who played Lane directed this episode and I think he gave Vincent Kartheiser some pugilistic pointers. More random and discursive comments after the break or is that round? I promise to answer the bell.

Continue reading

We Deplore the Violence

On the reflexive need to lament violence, to condemn, to use the word peace as a passive one: 

Non-violent resistance requires a kind of implicit reason on both sides. It requires that both sides see an end to matters, that they acknowledge, even tacitly, that there is a level of violent repression that is unsupportable in a civil society. But how does one reason in the face of brutalized futility? How does one reason in the face of repeated injustices, of unacknowledged crimes, and of injuries blamed not on the perpetrators, but on the victims? The logic of non-violent resistance breaks down in the face of that, when official violence fails to acknowledge any limits at all, when it does not recognize any possible point at which official violence becomes intolerable to the public at large.

I’m not sure “official violence” is the right term, but it comes close to what I was trying to talk about last night, which is the way riots happen slowly and quietly, with refusing to fill a pothole or forgetting to shovel snow. The pushback against broken windows policing forgets that broken windows do in fact need fixing, and landlords need watching, and streets need patrolling not by tanks but by human beings, and none of that has happened in poor black city neighborhoods for the past 40 years at least.

Those in charge — of the city, of its press, of the ballot box and bank vault and boardroom — walled themselves off from parts of the world they wanted to forget, and together they made sure nobody else remembered. (Thus we can be surprised, every time it happens.) They created poverty, with methods formal and informal, and then they created ignorance of that poverty, shock at its results, and punishment for its manifestations.

Low test scores? Close the schools, they’re “underperforming.” Crime? Lock people up for petty offenses. Children born out of wedlock, addicted to drugs, hobbled by a mother’s disease or abuse? Pile jail time and fines upon parents, and then stand in front of crosses, at podiums, and call their mothers whores.

Over and over again, for years. Stoke and stoke and stoke the fires, and blame the ashes.  This is violence. It’s always violence. Economics is violence. Politics is violence. Anything that chips away at the stone of the world, forcing it into a new shape, does so with violence. The state murders more in a day than rioters would in a year, and ’twas ever thus, that those who speak up are always deplored as ruining everything for everyone else.

Today has seen the usual depressing tally of which commentators — Sharpton, Scarborough, the #tcot crowd with their sad little tweets — have deplored the violence in Baltimore. There is of course no excuse for looting — check that box. People should be more like Dr. King — check that one, too. Before we talk about anything, with any force or meaning, let’s make it clear we are talking about nothing at all.

By deploring the violence in Baltimore.

Some of the violence, anyway.

A.

Into the War

Attacks on the press, within and without, matter: 

 More and more news organizations began pulling their staff out of Syria, but they were still desperate for content from what would become one of the deadliest and geopolitically sensitive wars in history. Some organizations tried to hire local stringers to send photos and video footage, and others turned to a different alternative: freelance journalists. I was one of them.

At that time, interviews with local, average Syrians, many of whom were trying to avoid aerial bombardments and to, more or less, survive, were lacking in the global media sphere. That was my goal in reporting in Syria: to tell stories that people could connect with. I wanted to report on war without focusing on who was winning or who had acquired more weapons.

A.

‘You Call 911 and Nobody Answers’

Baltimore is burning.

About five stores in the 600 block of Eutaw Street had busted windows and were looted after rioters came through about 4 p.m. Joe Lewis, 41, of Cherry Hill, said he and his brother tried to stop the rioters and urged them to move on.

“If [police] don’t stop what they’re doing, I wouldn’t care if they called Jesus or the law down here,” he said. “They’re going to see a side of them they wish they never brought out.”

Boubacar Sall said looters destroyed his sister’s store, Benita’s. They stole hair extensions, a television set and boxes of hair products.

Rishan George, who lives on the block, said, “you call 911 and nobody answers.”

This is how today is like every other day. The world is on fire. And we notice today, because we’ve decided to notice, today. When we forget again tomorrow, it won’t be because we can no longer smell the smoke.

People called for help, and nobody answered. For years. They did this for years, and years, and years, while the streets crumbled beneath them. The factories closed, and the schools shut down, and the swingsets rusted in the parks while the weeds grew tall. Those with the power to help drove fast through those neighborhoods, called them rough, asked why the people there just didn’t move.

Talked about personal responsibility, about bootstraps, about pulling up pants and not listening to angry loud music and wearing the right kinds of shirts to the right kinds of protests with the right kinds of people. Those with the power to change things demanded change from the powerless.

Tomorrow many, many people will ask why, and somebody will keep track of who condemned what, and when, and how loudly. People are calling for help, and nobody is answering:

Two city recreation centers in West Baltimore, the Robert C. Marshall Recreation Center in Upton and Lillian Jones Recreation Center in Sandtown-Winchester, closed early. All Pratt Library branches closed early.

A.

Today on Tommy T’s obsession with the Freeperati – Dave’s not here edition

Hi all – Barbara and I are enjoying Playa Del Carmen, where the smartest thing anybody has ever done occurred – they restricted all buildings to three stories or less.

If I wanted to go to a 24-story glass-and-steel monstrosity and have drunk college kids throw up down my back, I’d go to the Doubletree during Texas-OU weekend.

See you guys in a week or so! I’ll enjoy waking up to the sounds of the howler monkeys that live in the rain forest center of the resort.

They’ll probably make more sense than the Freeperati, and certainly throw their feces less.

495_0283

.

495_0250

.

495_0279

Tagged ,

No One: Game of Thrones Thread

 

arya-stark-image

Who is this girl?

She’s no one.

Continue reading

The Weight of Every Lie

Yet again, we are poised to implement consequences for Brian Williams we are unwilling to impose upon anyone who made decisions to go to war: 

A report tonight on the ongoing saga of Brian Williams reveals that NBC News discovered yet another embellishment of his, in the midst of its internal investigation into the many embellishments Williams made publicly.

According to The New York Times, the NBC inquiry found Williams exaggerated his experience covering events in Tahrir Square during the Arab Spring in Egypt four years ago.

The Times does not have much detail on what NBC learned, but recounts how Williams told Jon Stewart, in the days after he covered the protests, he was right in Tahrir Square and “actually made eye contact with the man on the lead horse.” He told Stewart he witnessed the pro-government forces on horseback whipping and beating people.

Again, this isn’t nothing. Brian Williams had a very big chair with a very big microphone in front of it. But the stories we’ve heard about aren’t exaggerations on the facts of the story as they related to the story or anyone in it. They’re exaggerations on how fucking cool and badass Brian Williams is, and about all the crazy shit he’s seen, man. They’re basically a guy in a bar, telling war stories, only he’s on TV.

(How did this happen? Like did he forget he was on TV, like how people forget that everyone can see their Twitter feeds or get seduced into thinking Facebook or Tumblr is their diary?)

That’s not okay, but it’s not the UVA rape story. It’s not Judith Miller’s Iraq reporting. Nobody died. And more attention is being paid to these fabrications than the ones that did lead to deaths. To wars.

So we are arguing about who fucked up the color of the bunting on the runaway train. Yeah, let’s fire that guy, because he screwed up. But let’s also find out why the brakes failed and the cargo’s flying off and oh, up ahead, is that a hole? A big one? Well, shit. Guess we’re going straight in.

All lies are lies and all lies on this scale are wrong and should be rooted out. But not all lies lead to the same place.

A.

SMV: Degenerate Art- The Nazis vs. Expressionism

I love the German Expressionists as much as I hate Nazism. This 1993 documentary does an excellent job of describing this epic dispute that even destroyed the one National Socialist expressionist, Emile Nolde:

112 People Covering People Who Should Be Covering Other People: The White House Correspondents Dinner

There’s no money for journalism anymore: 

National Journal White House correspondent George Condon told me that, “If I could wave a wand, I’d eliminate the red carpet. I find the red carpet embarrassing.”

Whiston says the red carpet is a big pain for her as well.

“The hardest part of the dinner is handling the red carpet,” said Whiston. “It gets larger and larger. … There were 112 people covering the red carpet this year. That’s a lot of people.”

Yes. Yes it is, at a time when we talk so easily about how hard it is to find the resources to do real journalistic work, it is a lot of people. Who are covering people. Who are supposed to be covering people. Jesus tits, put the drink down and go do a job. You ought to be ashamed of yourself.

One hundred and 12 people. As we lament the decline of pure storytelling and blither about the Internet, there are 112 people who want to watch other reporters walk into a party, and call it a job. That’s where the money’s going while we fight about whether millennials are too attached to their iPhones to read anymore.

A.

Odds & Sods: Drive-In Saturday Edition

the-who odds--sods

It’s been a long week in New Orleans. I have two friends who were touched by tragedy. Sorry, y’all.

In a lesser disaster, the New Orleans Pelicans blew a 20 point lead in their first home playoff game in 4 years by ignoring one of the best players in the NBA, Anthony Davis, for the last 9 minutes of the game. I spent most of the game on Twitter ragging on Pelicans head coach Monty Williams who bears an eerie resemblance to  former Mayor C Ray Nagin. In his case, I only want him him fired, not incarcerated.

It’s the first weekend of Jazzfest, and I’m not feeling it. It used to be an event thrown by locals to which the world was invited. In the post-K world, it’s just another way to lure tourists and it’s priced for them. The Who are playing tomorrow and I’m not interested since I saw them in their prime and the worst Who set I ever saw was outdoors. While we’re on the subject of classic rock, here’s this week’s theme song:

Enough kvetching. I have some reading assignments after the break. There will be no pop quiz, not even about Aladdin Sane, the Bowie album from whence our theme song comes.

Continue reading

In response to anti-gay bullying awareness, teens enact anti-gay bullying

Bill Maher once noted of young conservatives that it’s totally understandable that they’re assholes at the age of 14: They’re too young for sex and too old to carry a blankie around everywhere, so it’s a very stressful time.

If that’s the case, I’m calling for the school administrators at McGuffey High School in Claysville, Pennsylvania to start giving out Woobies or hookers in the next two days.

News reports have more than 100 students at the school taking part in a protest against the Gay-Straight Alliance club’s Day of Silence by hosting an “Anti-Gay Day.” The anti-gay crew drew crosses on their hands along with the word “anti-gay.” They also all wore flannel shirts, an irony among ironies if ever there was one.

The students also resorted to pushing gay students around and posting anti-gay posters on the lockers of LGBTQ students.

Because nothing says “We don’t need a day to draw attention to anti-gay bullying” like committing anti-gay bullying in the wake of the awareness day.

At least one parent came forward to support the anti-gay group, doing the traditional, “We have nothing against THOSE PEOPLE and we’re the ones really being persecuted by not being allowed to be majority-whoring ass-kickers” thing.

I think one of the dominant reasons these kinds of culture clashes occur in high schools (other than the Maher theory) is that Days of Silence and GSA-based events are different from every other form of event at a school. Every other event is about participation and becoming part of a collective:

Football pep rally? Be a cheering supporter for “our team.”

Spanish club? Learn to speak the language, embrace the culture and eat the food.

Forensics? Spend your Saturdays freaking out adult judges with your self-composed “I want to have sex with a tombstone” poetry or solo-serious acting piece titled, “Daddy, why are you touching me there?”

In other words, they’re all about recruitment and participation in that identity. The GSA club is EXACTLY NOT THAT. I’ve been to a meeting or two, I know kids involved in LGBTQ groups and I have yet to have ANYONE say, “Hey, thanks for coming. Wanna try blowing a guy? It’s fun!”

GSA members want to show support for one another as they live their lives the way they feel they must. That’s true of all members of that group, both gay and straight.

And yet adults in the conservative sphere have long told the tale that the only way gays can strengthen their ranks is to recruit. Like they’re a cult or a mega-church. Thus, gay kids gather in unsuspecting schools like they’re members of the Jedi Council and work on improving their grasp of The Force in hope of swaying weak and impressionable minds to come over to the Dick Side.

And this rhetoric against gay students works for one good reason: Kids at this age don’t necessarily fear “gay.” They fear being different or even being accused of being different.

Fear is why they react with violent anger and wicked backlash against anything that might put them at odds with their peers. They all play the same sports, date the same kinds of people, value the same things and act the same ways just so that they won’t be ostracized.

I would think that of all people, teens would get how hard it is when others mock them for being different. To that end, I would think that supporting people who are different should come naturally.

But that would totally make you a fag… Heh, heh… Hey look! Joey’s a fag! He’s hanging out with the gay kids. Hey, Joey, what did you eat for breakfast this morning, Queer-i-os? Heh, heh….

So instead they hide their own insecurities in hateful rhetoric and groupthink. And yet if you think about this, you really have to laugh.

I mean, could there be anything more “gay looking” to an outside observer than a group of boys who coordinated their outfits the day before and then got together, arm in arm, and took pictures of themselves in the school hallways?

images

Friday Catblogging: Undercover Kitty

It’s hard being Oscar. Sometimes he has to close those huge cartoon cat eyes and catch 40 or 50 winks:

Undercover Kitty

 

Friday Claireblogging

I haz whiskers!

20150421_134648

It’s shedding season, officially kicked off Tuesday by my brushing enough fur off this tiny critter to knit a cozy blanket for Kick. Her winter coat was exceptionally fluffy so now she is exceptionally mangy-looking while the summer coat grows in.

A.