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Hullabaloo


Wednesday, May 14, 2003

 
Dmitriiiii



As anyone who reads this blog knows, Operation Strangelove is an every night event here at Hullabaloo. But, tonight was a very special night in which the Artists Network held a screening of the Greatest Movie Ever Made in Battery Park overlooking Ground Zero, followed by "The Art of Dissent: Satire and Protest" Panel immediately afterwards featuring:
Janeane Garafolo (recent target of blacklist threats)
Art Spiegelman ("Maus", The New Yorker)
Jeremy Pikser (screenwriter, "Bullworth", "Reds")
David Rees ("Get Your War On")
Gene Seymour (Newsday film and Jazz critic)
representative from the Guerrilla Girls (who make their anonymous appearances in gorilla masks)
Moderator: critic John Leonard (CBS Sunday Morning, New York Magazine, Harper's, The Nation)
Nile Southern, son of screenwriter Terry Southern, and September 11 Families for Peaceful Tomorrows will introduce.

Wish I could have been there. But, the hearts of Stanley Kubrick and Peter Sellars and little old me beat here tonight on Santa Monica beach right along with them. Terry Southern, the "hippest guy on the planet" is sharing a laugh with all of us too -- stunned as we all are that fiction has sprung to vibrant life, resulting in dialog that, until recently, could only have been called satire:

"I'm not into nuance"

"And, does that mean you couldn't go in there and take a television camera or get a still photographer and take a picture of something that was imperfect, untidy? I could do that in any city in America. Think what's happened in our cities when we've had riots, and problems, and looting. Stuff happens! But in terms of what's going on in that country, it is a fundamental misunderstanding to see those images over, and over, and over again of some boy walking out with a vase and say, "Oh, my goodness, you didn't have a plan." That's nonsense. They know what they're doing, and they're doing a terrific job. And it's untidy, and freedom's untidy, and free people are free to make mistakes and commit crimes and do bad things. They're also free to live their lives and do wonderful things, and that's what's going to happen here."

"This is still a dangerous world. It's a world of madmen and uncertainty and potential mental losses."

"There's an old poster out West, as I recall, that said, 'Wanted: Dead or Alive. All I'm doing is remembering. When I was a kid I remember that they used to put out there in the Old West a wanted poster. It said, 'Wanted: Dead or Alive."

Even Terry couldn't have made this shit up.

Reality is Art and Art is Reality and don't ever forget it. If they can shut you down, they will. They always do.

Many thanks to the great Uggabugga, king of the graphic thunderbolt, for the tip.







Tuesday, May 13, 2003

 
The Hips vs The Straights

I would like to applaud TAPPED (a great blog, in any case) for correcting a common misapprehension about Bill Clinton and the Democratic Party. They cite Joe Klein's egregiously mistaken assertion in Time in which he says, "One could argue that the only winning strategy for Democrats in the past nine presidential campaigns has been camouflage."

TAPPED responds:

Bill Clinton wasn't a camouflaged liberal. He was a genuine centrist, who combined liberal views on some issues with moderate, even conservative, views on others. So was Jimmy Carter, more or less. The most successful act of campaign-trail camoflage during the past couple of elections has been that of George W. Bush, a hard conservative who ran as a center-right candidate. Yes, the Democrats have a weak field. But during the last few years it's been Republicans, not Democrats, who have had to hide their true beliefs on most issues to build a political majority.


Thank You.

Like most purveyors of DC conventional wisdom, Klein persists in seeing Clinton and Bush through his own psychological prism. The reporting about both Presidents says much more about the establishment political press than it does about either men. It’s not about politics. It’s about them.

Back in ’92, Klein and all the others were just giddy with excitement when they realized that the first baby-boomer (like them!) was going to be president. Instead of Guy Lombardo we had Fleetwood Mac, man! It was like being in college again. All night bull sessions, solidarity with the brothas, takin’ down tha man. It was finally happening. A liberal JFK kinda guy was coming to power and it felt good. (Of course, Clinton didn’t run as a liberal, but that picture shaking hands with Jack said it all, right?)

Then they woke up with a morning-after hangover to turn to the face on the pillow next to them and saw that, like them, he was actually a paunchy professional whose adolescent idealism had long ago been subsumed by compromising practical concerns and failed marriage and bloated ambitions and mid-life insecurities. He was a damned politician. They had projected their younger, better selves onto Bill Clinton and saw their older cynical selves reflected back. He was them and they hated him for it.

Klein says Bush, on the other hand, is “bold, decisive, uncomplicated, a man of real convictions who has not been afraid to take unpopular positions.”

This is how Klein sees himself today, cleansed of Clintonian complexity, filled with manly courage and moral clarity. The description bears little resemblance to Bush, however. TAPPED asks,

“Can Klein name a single issue on which Bush has taken a clear position that was deeply unpopular? On the most controversial issues, like therapeutic cloning, Bush has taken muddled, carefully-calibrated stands designed by Karl Rove. Where Bush has pursued a very conservative agenda, he has mostly been forced to adopt moderate rhetoric to shade over hard-right views.”


Klein is being purposefully blind and to such a degree that you can only conclude that he is unable to see Bush in a realistic light. To him, Bush is the anti-Clinton, the modern boomer – a playa, an operator, a winner. Like Klein. He has “a clever team.” (Like Ken Lay.) He’s a man. Like your Dad was a man. A 50’s style man.

Neither of Klein's CW characterizations bear any relationship with reality. Clinton had never been much of an idealist and Bush is not a man of real conviction. The first was always an ambitious politician driven to power and the latter is the glad-handing celebrity front man for a very powerful political operation. They are both products of their age, but not in the way the media perceive them.

This is another chapter in the long ongoing saga of the baby boomers and it isn’t going to end until the last one of us dies. It will forever be the hips vs the straights even though very, very few of us have consistently been one or the other. I figure the last one of us to be president will probably be 2012 or 2016. I don’t think the country would survive much more.




 
Stand By Your Man

I’m with Atrios on this:

Great, just what we need - non-stop nitpicking of the candidates by "even the liberal" TNR. Look, I'm not against constructive criticism but this kind of carping isn't exactly helpful. Besides, I thought that was EVERYONE ELSE IN THE MEDIA's role.

So, the Dems will get stepped on from the left over at the Nation, smacked into submission from the center by The American Prospect, and bludgeoned from the right by the New Republican - and that's the liberal media for god's sake.


I’ve also noticed this self-destructive impulse on the part of the SCLM, even the great Buzzflash, which finds it necessary to slam Tom Daschle every single day on something. Today the screaming headline is “Graham Blames Bush Iraq Strategy for Saudi Blasts. Daschle, As Usual, Waffles.”

C’mon. Daschle is a Democrat and a good human being and he's being savaged every day by the Republicans. Is this really necessary?

Josh Marshall wrote inThe Hill last week about the thuggish intimidation tactics that the national GOP and the Wurlitzer are employing on him in South Dakota, which should make decent people cut the guy some slack. The machine is using everything it’s got against him. They literally compare him to Saddam Hussein and then have the temerity to cry ”Unpatriotic!” when he does far less than these same people did when Clinton was in office. Trent Lott said “I can support the troops without supporting the President” but these Republican PoMo relativist hucksters simply turn around and say, “and your point is….?”

We know by now that it doesn’t matter what a Democrat actually says or does, he will be attacked via the Mighty Wurlitzer, if it is deemed useful to the cause and according to whatever script has been written for them. And we also know that appeasement doesn’t work and we want the Democrats to fight back. But, what we are failing to understand is that unless the Democratic Party from the grassroots to the elected representatives support politicians who do fight back, they cannot survive. Democrats win with collective power.

Via Salon magazine last month, look what happened when Tom Daschle came out blasting:

As the war abroad continued to escalate last week, the nation's leading Democrat requested help for someone else under attack: himself. In response to Republican criticism, Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle's reelection committee sent out an e-mail last Thursday to union presidents and other supporters asking for them to "take the time to defend Senator Daschle from his critics."

The e-mail, obtained by Salon, noted that after Daschle "criticized the Administration's diplomatic efforts, the conservative attack machine went into full swing."

[…]

The Daschle e-mail goes on to complain that the Republican National Committee, House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, former Rep. John Thune, R-S.D., and their allies "put out scathing attacks on Senator Daschle -- going so far as to even question his patriotism." These criticisms, the e-mail stated, are being used by conservatives to "flood their rhetoric on talk radio and in news rooms across the state and country." It implored recipients to defend Daschle, who served with Air Force Intelligence during the Vietnam War, "as a veteran, a patriot, and the best friend South Dakota veterans ever had."

"Please speak out," the e-mail pleads. "This is important." Attached to the e-mail is a March 22 column by Beltway pundit Mark Shields defending Daschle.


Remember what it was that Daschle said?

"I am saddened, saddened, that this president failed so miserably at diplomacy that we're now forced to go to war. Saddened that we have to give up one life because this president couldn't create the kind of diplomatic effort that was so critical for our country."

It’s perfectly ok for Newtie to say such things. He is, after all, a member of the Republican cabal that now rules the world. But, a Democrat is mercilessly worked over if he says…well, anything except praise for His Majesty, George W. Bush.

So, what happened when Daschle appealed to his supporters to speak out on his behalf?

Zippo. They left him hanging out to dry. He stood alone while everybody criticized his statement as well as his request for support.

One Democratic strategist saw the e-mail as indicative of a larger partywide problem. While Daschle's e-mail "might be kind of pathetic," the strategist said, "what's more pathetic is that his party doesn't stand behind him more." Daschle has decided to take on a more aggressive posture, "and is to be applauded for that, but the problem is that there's no supporting choir for him. At the DNC, the structure is not there, and the Senate is not known as a place of grand alliances -- especially when you have six guys running for president."

[…]

Frist spokesman Stevenson asked whether the "conservative attack machine" also includes a number of Democrats who, when asked for their views on Daschle's comments, begged off considerably, like Rep. Dick Gephardt, D-Mo., who on the day of the remarks said "there is plenty of time later to point fingers and to figure out what went wrong with what. But tonight is a night for us to unite our country and have our thoughts and prayers for our young people out there in the Gulf." Sen. Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., said in response that "you have got to say that the blame for the war is Saddam Hussein's," as did former Sen. Tim Wirth, D-Colo., who said in response that "the failure is Saddam Hussein's."

Daschle's home state newspapers were harsher, Stevenson notes. In fact, the Sioux Falls Argus-Leader editorialized that "Tom Daschle was out of line" and "went far beyond what was needed"; the Yankton Daily Press & Dakotan condemned Daschle's "fierce partisan rhetoric" and called for him "to elevate himself from that garbage at once."

Daschle consultant Dunn says that those taking issue with the timing of the Daschle missive need to address their reservations elsewhere. "In terms of timing," Dunn said, "this letter came following a period" when Daschle was attacked by Hastert, DeLay, Frist, Santorum, chair of the GOP House Conference Deborah Pryce, R-Ohio, Sen. Norm Coleman, R-Minn., Racicot and Fleischer.
"Many of our supporters were saying, 'We want to hear from you, all these Republicans are attacking,'" Dunn said.

One Daschle advisor alleged that the attack originated at the White House and was done so for purely political reasons -- so President Bush could more easily pass his legislative agenda. "Clearly they recognize that since January of 2001, when the Senate was 50-50, that Senator Daschle as the leader of the Senate Democrats was in a position to heavily influence what happens to the White House agenda and they've made him their No. 1 target."

The Daschle brouhaha came toward the end of the filibuster against the federal appeals court nomination of Miguel Estrada, and just as the Senate was about to defeat the Bush initiative to permit drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. It also occurred "right before Senator Daschle defeated a huge part of their tax policy," the Daschle strategist says, referring to last week's move by the Senate to cut Bush's proposed $726 billion tax cut to a mere $350 billion.

The Senate "is the only place in Washington they cannot just roll people." The Daschle strategist hadn't "a doubt" that this was a White House-coordinated effort.


The problem is not Daschle’s lack of courage. It’s the Democrats’ failure to stand together even though they know full well that the whole thing is bullshit and that Rove is playing politics. This non-stop criticism and derision of Democratic politicians’ character is only helping the GOP, and they are quite adept at assassinating the characters of Democrats without our help.



Addendum: On an unrelated note, this same Salon article quotes a Republican strategist who ran a campaign against Bush in the primaries (can you say Mike Murphy?) saying that the way to get to the Bushies is to “belittle them.” He offers nothing to back that up, but I think there may be something to that. Bush himself is thin skinned and the wing-nut pundits turn into hysterical old women when anybody successfully makes fun of President Codpiece. On the other hand, I can’t argue with Chris over at Interesting Times when he says “Never NEVER EVER take political advice from the opposition. In fact, pay attention to what they say you shouldn't be doing because that probably means they are afraid what you are doing might actually work.” So, take it with a grain of salt.

I see Kevin at Calpundit has weighed in this as well.






 
Working Class Hero

An irony impaired fellow in the comments section to this post, criticized The Farmer, one of the very best blog commenters around, for his assumed "Connecticut" liberal elitism in writing a humorous mash note to GW Codpiece stalker, "Jessica."

I had planned to respond to this fellow's post by prosaically stating that my only complaint about The Farmer was that he didn't post here enough.

I'm glad I didn't because The Farmer himself wrote a stunning autobiographical tone poem in response. Here is a taste. I urge you to read the whole thing:



[...]

Do you know anything about old timey drugs Mike? You will need to know some things about old timey drugs and guns and time clocks and crippling parasitic poverty to play spin the bottle with some of this crowd Mike. What do ya think Mike? Are you up for a wild ride on the frayed ragged edges of the rusty American dream? I can deliver you up a road trip through the American wheat field that will take the wrinkles out of you JC Penny Dockers, Mike. Take my word for it. Take my word for it again. I have been down the road and back. I have fucked the homecoming queen Mike. Have you ever fucked the homecoming queen?

And I have even sat myself down for dinner with members of the Bush family in a pretty tropical cafe on a pretty tropical island with twinkle lights dancing like stars in a canopy of sea grapes too...and I have read the collected writings of Robert Motherwell and Alvaro Muti and climbed to the top of the Washington monument and thrown sticks to a black dog in the surf at Muir beach. I have burned my own dining room furniture in a woodstove, for warmth following an unusual freak nor-easter, and bailed friends out of jail and sat in hospital waiting rooms as children were born. And watched the lights in the sky being sucked into a hole in the clouds from a Castilian style balcony overlooking a small town. Have you ever had to burn your dining room furniture for warmth in the cul-de sac, Mike?

Mike. I now buy my chickens from a rural Christian homstead family who lived in a tepee for an entire winter while they built their own home from scatch. (And an ugly contraption it is) But, who cares, they did it themselves and because they raise their animals humanely..I don't care what their fantasitical religious views are, and they don't bother me with em. Good for them and me. Oh Mike....you have no idea what is going on out here in the outback. Not a clue. Trailer parks..hahahahaha.. oh yeah, Mike, trailer parks across America are blooming with satellite dish enlightenment, Mike. Sure they are. When was the last time you were anywhere near one?

I once sat in a small boat on a lake on the Western Range of the Colorado Rockies, in the middle of what they like to call no-where, gliding on a lake as calm as melted glass and watched as tens of thousands of bats emerged from caves and descended onto that lake like starlings from an autumn sky only to clatter and flit by me completely unimpressed. While I watched dumbstruck. Tens of thousands of living things keyed, by God, or perhaps not, to go wherever they had to go....and to do what they had to do.

Anne Dillard once wrote this:

"There is a way a wave rises above the ocean horizon, a triangular wedge against the sky. If you stand where the ocean breaks on a shallow beach, you see the raised water in a wave is translucent, shot with lights. One late afternoon at low tide a hundred big sharks passed the beach near the mouth of a tidal river in a feeding fenzy. As each green wave rose from the churning water, it illuminated within itself the six - or eight-foot-long bodies of twisting sharks. The sharks disappeared as each wave rolled toward me; then a new wave would swell above the horizon, containing in it, like scorpions in amber, sharks that roiled and heaved. The sight held awesome wonders: power and beauty, grace tangled in a rapture with violence."

Think about that Mike. Anne Dillard is onto something there.

I am an American Mike.....I am like one of those sharks, roiling and heaving... forgotten America, Mike. I am working America, Mike....a scorpion in a watery amber glass. A tangle of life twisting in an illuminated wave rolling onto the beach of a new century. Tangled in some forgotten power and grace and horrible unrealized violence. So batten down your so called beloved trailer park hatches Mike. There may be a storm a comin. I'll leave it up to you to save us from oursleves.




Monday, May 12, 2003

 
Codpiece Redux

Seems I missed a couple of very pertinent details on the "Hottie" issue.

First, per Tim Noah, I find that the author of the WSJ piece, Lisa Schiffren, also wrote that famous speech scolding the fictional character Murphy brown, for having a child out of wedlock. She is a big believer in traditional values. As she wrote then (on behalf of pin-up boy Dan Quayle):

When we were young, it was fashionable to
declare war against traditional values. Indulgence and self-
gratification seemed to have no consequences. Many of our
generation glamorized casual sex and drug use, evaded
responsibility, and trashed authority. Today the "Boomers" are
middle-aged and middle-class. The responsibility of having
families has helped many recover traditional values.

Ultimately, however, marriage is a moral issue that requires
cultural consensus and the use of social sanctions.

[…]

It's time to talk again about family, hard work, integrity, and
personal responsibility.

[…]

I know it is not fashionable to talk about moral values, but we
need to do it. Even though our cultural leaders in Hollywood,
network TV, the national newspapers routinely jeer at them, I think
that most of us in this room know that some things are good, and
other things are wrong. Now it's time to make the discussion
public.


A panting “public discussion” about lusting after another woman’s husband is apparently one of those “good things.”

However, it would be wrong to categorize her statements about how “hot”, virile”, “powerful” and “sexy” she finds the POTUS as hypocritical because she didn’t specifically say that you shouldn’t call President George W. Bush “hot”, “virile”, “powerful” and “sexy” on the pages of the Wall Street Journal. Obviously, anyone who would construe from her statements about a fictional television show sending “wrong” messages about morality that making lascivious comments in a national newspaper about a married politician would be similarly wrong, are just trying to play “gotcha.” She never said anything about that. Publicly expressing your libidinous desire to schtupp the President of the United States is completely different than a fictional character setting a bad example. Completely.

And as to the codpiece itself, it has come to my attention from various sources, including Buzzflash, that the Flyboy in Chief didn’t release his parachute harness as any pilot would automatically know to do if he wanted to preserve his Top Gun.

Which makes me ask a question that has occurred to me numerous times in the last couple of years. How often have you ever heard of someone who qualified to fly fighter jets never flying a plane again? It’s a very special club. Yet, it seems that Junior never even flew a piper cub in the 30+ after he went AWOL. Odd.

It makes me wonder if he ever really checked out on jets. It takes a modicum of brains to do it and there is little evidence elsewhere in his life that he has them.





Sunday, May 11, 2003

 
Santorum Whistling Dixie

I took a leisurely stroll around downtown Blogovia this morning and came across a number of interesting discussions. David Niewert, as always, has tons of good stuff on Orcinus, but I was very intrigued by his post on the Santorum flap and a succeeding one in which he responds to Richard Einhorn’s comments about how the gay rights issue is going to play in the election.

Calpundit, who has previously asserted his belief that this is a good social/cultural issue for the Dems, cites a Harris poll that shows a vast majority of Americans are supportive of gay rights in general. Niewert also demonstrates this in his examination of the voting patterns on various gay rights issues over the past decade. Using my personal rule of thumb, the free market of popular culture, it seems clear that gayness is no longer marginalized, particularly among the young, but also among middle class women and upper middle class people of both sexes. (You get this by observing television commercials on programs that treat gay issues positively or feature gay characters– marketers do a lot of research on demographics.) So, it’s obvious that there has been a sea change in attitudes.

Niewert posits the idea that the Trent Lott affair and the hesitancy in supporting Santorum’s actual beliefs, means Rove has made the calculation that he has to appear to have deep-sixed his bigot base in favor of more socially liberal suburban moms in order to win. (Einhorn agrees, also suggesting that this “wink-wink” strategy with respect to both black and gays is pretense, but may also be designed to appeal to Hispanic voters.)

This leads me to a very interesting post on the subject by the prolific J/Mac Diva on Silver Rights in which she challenges this conventional wisdom by examining various comments by those you would expect to agree but instead are sure that because of their stands on race and gay rights, the Democrats are the likely losers.

So, what’s really going on?

Back when Atrios was all over Trent Lott I did a bunch of research on the neo-confederates. Here we have a movement that claims it is all about their "southern heritage” and denies any accusation of racism. Their web-sites don’t use the “n” word and they try (and fail) to contain their hatred of African-Americans by bleating unconvincingly about history and ancestors and birthright, blah,blah,blah.

They hammer about affirmative action and highlight crime statistics and discuss the horror of a breakdown of American values and all the other unsubtle appeals to racism that we see throughout the Southern wing of the mainstream GOP. But, what you don’t see (and I’m not talking about full-on white supremacy neo-Nazi garbage) in the neo-confederate movement is no holds barred racist language. They have learned to use code words because even stone racists realize that it is no longer ok to spew their unadorned hatred in public. So, they go on and on about the illustrious history of the antebellum south and how special it all is.

But, strangely, I found that they also spend a vast amount of time spewing the most vile commentary about gays and lesbians. Who knew this was such a huge part of America’s Southern heritage? These confederate historical associations are so obsessed with the “gay rights” agenda that you can only conclude that the “threat” of homosexuality was the most hotly debated issue in the pre-1860 south. Why else would these benign heritage societies spend such an inordinate amount of time and energy detailing the dangers of the “gay lifestyle?”

Unless, of course, discussing gays and lesbians as if they are less than human is a convenient way of signaling your bigot credentials in all things. Then, it makes sense for these historical organizations to take a bizarre stand against gays, while proclaiming their mission is a simple desire to celebrate their heritage. Trent Lott broke the rules. Santorum didn't.

None of this negates Niewert’s central argument, which is that Rove is trying to woo two constituencies with completely opposing values, but it exposes Rove’s dilemma. Certainly, the anti-gay agenda is popular with the Christian right (many of whom are also neo-confederates.) But, he knows he cannot win without also placating all of his bigoted base and appealing to a fair number of suburban swing women. Therefore, the Democrats must hammer that wedge by associating the heinous racism of the neo-confederates with hatred of gays and lesbians – something that shouldn’t be too hard, because it is absolutely true. In fact, it is a conscious, Atwateresque tactic, but one which has outlived its usefulness in a closely divided electorate.

Democrats simply have to stop talking about “programs” all the time and speak in bigger terms. In this case, they must reach those suburban women who are their natural constituency on these social issues by using language of family, psychology and community. They need to say that "traditional American values" means the freedom to be who you are (a huge majority of Americans do NOT believe that they have the right to pass judgments on other people’s personal lives.) They need to say "Lott/Santorum" like it’s one word, over and over again. They need to remind audiences that every gay person has a mom and a dad and siblings and friends and co-workers, just like they do.

This is Oprah’s audience and they need to make an explicit appeal to them based upon their values and they need to speak in that Oprah language.

Karl Rove knows that his biggest problem is that his party’s philosophy is completely incoherent. If he can keep people focused on Bush’s codpiece and fear (or fear of Bush’s codpiece), he can eke out a victory. The Democrats have to attack along all of his fault lines. This is one of them.





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