Thursday, September 30, 2010

Patriot Games

Paranoid, delusional, and heavily armed -- I can't think of a more frightening combination.

From the most recent issue of Time magazine:

"'I don't know who the redcoats are,' says Brian Vandersall, 37, who designed the exercise and tried to tamp down talk of politics among the men. 'It could be U.N. troops. It could be federal troops. It could be Blackwater, which was used in Katrina. It could be Mexican troops who are crossing the border.' Or it could be, as it was for this year's exercise, an Islamic army marauding unchecked because a hypothetical pro-Muslim President has ordered U.S. forces to leave them alone. But as the drill played out, the designated opponents bore little resemblance to terrorists. The scenario described them as a platoon-size unit, in uniform, with 'military-grade hardware, communications, encryption capability and vehicle support.' The militia was training for combat against the spitting image of a tactical force from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), FBI or National Guard. 'Whoever they are,' Vandersall says, 'we have to be ready.'

In a reversal of casting, the armed antigovernment movement describes itself as heir to the founders. As they see it, the union that the founders created is now a foreign tyrant. 'It's like waking up behind enemy lines," says Terrell. He says he smelled a setup when the FBI arrested nine members of Michigan's Hutaree militia in March and charged them with plotting to kill police. (Their trial is set to begin in February.) Terrell and other leaders put their forces on alert, anticipating a roundup. 'There was a lot of citizens out there in the bushes, locked and loaded,' he says. 'It's only due to miracles I do not understand that civil war did not break out right there.'"

Do yourself a favor and read the cover story a whole lot of people are going to be talking about. It's a near-flawless snapshot of the farthest and most dangerous edges of the lunatic fringe in the age of Obama.

Time: The Secret World of Extreme Militias/9.30.10

And because it seems appropriate, here are just two of the times over the past year that I've written about the rise of the new "Patriot Militia" movement in America -- the first dealing with the Hutaree arrest referenced in the quote above.

"The Enemy Within" (Originally Published, 3.30.10)

Remember back in July of 2007 when a U.S. Attorney, the FBI and the NYPD trumpeted the capture of four men they claimed had been trying to engineer "one of the most chilling plots imaginable" in New York City: the detonation of fuel lines under JFK airport? Chances are you do, the same way you likely remember every other self-congratulatory press conference held over the past several years in which the government announced with supposedly appropriate bombast that it had thwarted an imminent terrorist attack on U.S. soil. Thing is, though, quite a few of these plots -- to say nothing of the more than a dozen times that the terror alert level was raised based on nebulous information and with politically suspicious timing -- turned out to be a lot of horseshit. It's not that the actions of some truly dangerous people weren't uncovered; it's that there were more than a few times that the would-be terrorists hyped as being directly related to al-Qaeda turned out to be more like the Keystone Kops, their plans for mass destruction nothing more than the product of a lot of bravado and maybe a little too much to drink.

The point, though, is that you always heard about it -- shouted far and wide across the media landscape -- when the United States had supposedly foiled a terrorist attack from outsiders. We're always eager as hell to call someone not from this country who desires to attack us and spread fear and chaos a terrorist -- as well we should. What we're not as eager to do is call someone from within this country -- like, say, a far-right, white Christian militia member who believes the government is evil -- a terrorist even if he or she hopes to accomplish the same goal.

Yesterday, Attorney General Eric Holder announced that nine members of an ultra-right Christian militia group known as Hutaree had been arrested across the Midwest on charges of seditious conspiracy and the attempted use of weapons of mass destruction. Investigators claim the group was planning to wage war against the U.S. government -- a war that would begin with the murder of a Michigan cop, followed by a coordinated attack on that officer's funeral procession. The hope, supposedly, was that the strike would inspire a bloody, Turner Diaries-style uprising against the government. Needless to say, relatives of those arrested deny that the group is dangerous, one of them going so far as to make the not-very-reassuring statement that if the good people in Hutaree were going to kill somebody they would've done it already. It's a bit of a dubious claim, regardless, considering that a quick scan of the material posted on the internet by the group and its leader, David Brian Stone, reveals them to be every bit the standard paranoid white-guy gun fetishists with delusions of militaristic grandeur who've occupied a tiny portion of the cultural imagination for decades.

Back in late 2008, right around (surprise, surprise) the election of Barack Obama, one member of Hutaree, a guy who menacingly called himself "Pale Horse," posted a video on YouTube which showed him armed with a Kalashnikov and spouting all kinds of extreme-right bromides about how the U.S. was in peril and it was time for freedom-loving people to arm themselves, etc. etc. Whether or not he was ever truly on the verge of trying to turn his revolutionary fantasies into cold-blooded reality is anybody's guess. But that's not really the point; the point is that even after, say, the Murrah Federal Building bombing in Oklahoma City or the Austin IRS building plane crash -- Timothy McVeigh and Joe Stack's proven actions -- many in this country are still reluctant to label an American citizen a terrorist. Maybe it's because to do so would cause all kinds of cognitive dissonance, since it would put that person on the same level as the foreign insurgents raging against their own governments overseas whom we're more than happy to call terrorists but who refer to themselves as merely freedom-fighters (a lack of distinction, ironically, that militia members here at home have accepted for years).

What's really ironic, however -- and more than a little frightening -- is that not only will yesterday's announcement be unlikely to stick in the minds of many Americans or in the media's collective consciousness; it'll actually go a long way in fueling anti-government sentiment. In the absence of widespread outrage that it's entirely possible a burgeoning new anti-government movement bent on redneck revolution may be out there plotting murder and mayhem, the movement itself can only flourish under the weight of a federal law enforcement crackdown, since such action just proves the point of those who believe the government is comprised of jack-booted thugs who aim to trample free, decent, heavily armed Americans. In the cataractous eyes of guys like "Pale Horse," the fact that the feds are willing to arrest the Hutaree group only shows how much Hutaree is necessary to fight off the feds.

Remember, Oklahoma City was considered a direct response to both Ruby Ridge and Waco. And while each of those incidents may have indeed involved gross federal overreaction, it doesn't change the fact that until we admit that there are potential domestic terrorists among us -- not patriots, terrorists -- and refuse to let that be deflected by the contrived indignation it may incite from one group or another, we'll continue to be at their mercy.

We need to stop hedging and call those Americans who want to wage war against our nation or simply kill other Americans in the name of a political end what they are. Because there are far, far fewer of them than there are of us.

"Protecting America From Whatever" (Originally Published, 10.21.09)

It never ceases to amaze me just how absolutely fucking crazy it's gotten out there. You'd think that by now -- after Tea Baggers, Birthers, "death panels," Glenn Beck's warnings of the encroaching commie threat to our precious bodily fluids, etc. -- that I'd be used to whatever shameless absurdity the apoplectic right sees fit to conjure out of thin air these days. But, no, they just keep turning up the burner of weird-and-dangerous so far past the boiling point that all the water's evaporated and the pot itself is just about on fire.

The latest example: The Oath Keepers.

Not to be confused with Pop Christianity's gift to snarky assholes everywhere, the "Promise Keepers," the Oath Keepers are a group of military vets and ex-law enforcement officers who've banded together to once again rise up and defend the supposedly core values of our beloved country during this time of great crisis. These values, as set forth by our now officially invoked-to-death forefathers, are the standard-issue litany of paranoid white guy t-shirt slogans: an almost sexual obsession with guns, state sovereignty, fear and suspicion of the federal government, watering the tree of liberty with blood every so often -- the kind of overarching, largely irrational belief system adhered to by just about anyone who subscribes to Soldier of Fortune magazine. As for the crisis currently afflicting the country that was once America, do I really even need to bother spelling it out at this point? Is there anyone out there not keenly aware of the ever-growing stable of ridiculous boogeymen created and perpetuated by the pants-wetting right these days?

So just what oaths are the Oath Keepers taking an oath to keep?

Try these on for size -- from the group's website:

"1. We will NOT obey orders to disarm the American people.

2. We will NOT obey orders to conduct warrantless searches of the American people.

3. We will NOT obey orders to detain American citizens as 'unlawful enemy combatants' or to subject them to military tribunal.

4. We will NOT obey orders to impose martial law or a 'state of emergency' on a state.

5. We will NOT obey orders to invade and subjugate any state that asserts its sovereignty.

6. We will NOT obey any order to blockade American cities, thus turning them into giant concentration camps.

7. We will NOT obey any order to force American citizens into any form of detention camps under any pretext.

8. We will NOT obey orders to assist or support the use of any foreign troops on U.S. soil against the American people to 'keep the peace' or to 'maintain control.'

9. We will NOT obey any orders to confiscate the property of the American people, including food and other essential supplies.

10.We will NOT obey any orders which infringe on the right of the people to free speech, to peaceably assemble, and to petition their government for a redress of grievances."

All I can say is, thank God for the Oath Keepers -- otherwise we'd all be disarmed and in U.N.-controlled concentration camps right now.

Jesus freakin' Christ -- these clowns may as well be saying, "We will NOT aid the Majestic Consortium in its plan to deliver an extraterrestrial virus to the American population through Africanized bees, leading to the spontaneous colonization of the planet." That's how likely any of the paranoid whack-job conspiracy theories the Oath Keepers espouse is to ever actually come true. Once again, thank God these ex-law enforcement specialists are on the case to defend us from absolutely fucking nothing.

Now before you go thinking that I just trolled the fringes of the internet looking for a band of crazies this crazy, and that the Oath Keepers wouldn't cross the mind of anyone with an IQ larger than a fruit salad's, MSNBC's own Grandpa Caligula -- Pat Buchanan -- wrote an entire column for yesterday praising the group's efforts. Sure, Buchanan's a fucking racist reactionary (the subtle, not-at-all-inflammatory title of his Worldnet piece is "Traditional Americans are Losing Their Nation") but he's also, inexplicably, a member of the supposedly mainstream media -- or at the very least their invited guest. And so, with a couple of keystrokes from a skeletal hand, the Oath Keepers go from being extremist basement-dwellers to genuine players -- stepping up to a seat at the big kids' table with the likes of all the other conspiracist lunatics whose opinions have somehow been lent undue credence by a conflict-addicted media and a right wing that's completely lost its mind after losing the White House.

I've said it many times before but it bears repeating over and over again: Where will all of this end? Not when, since I'm not sure it will on its own -- where?

All this unfocused rage, completely immune to logic and reason, has to go somewhere -- and where it sometimes seems to be headed just scares the hell out of me.

Picture of the Week

The witchcraft, the lack of willingness to have sex, the uncanny ability to still function without so much as a brain cell in her head -- suddenly it all makes sense.

And no, that's not photoshopped; that really is Christine O'Donnell and Ozzy, side by side, circa 2002.

Picture Perfect

Damn this man was cool -- as evidenced by this scene from one of my favorite movies pretty much ever: The Great Race, starring Jack Lemmon, Natalie Wood and, of course, Tony Curtis.

So long, Tony.

CBS News: Tony Curtis: 1925-2010

Quote of the Day

"Traditional media, in its ever-increasing last-chick-standing-at-the-bar-at-TGI-Fridays desperation, certainly can't be blamed for grasping at whatever might look like a sure thing. Whether it's book publishers or movie studios or television networks, the words "built-in audience" are even sweeter to them than "will work on spec" ... But as crazy it seems to be saying this, more than 15 years into this whole Web thing, what works on the Net isn't necessarily meant for three cameras and a laugh track. And there's something arrogantly lazy about the vision of a pack of network executives sitting around asking, 'What are the kids into?'"

-- Mary Elizabeth Williams on CBS's plan to turn another Twitter sensation into a television show

Along the same lines, I said this way back in late 2006:

"Believe me when I tell you that there's nothing more sadly hilarious than sitting in a conference room with a guy who's never had a thought in his head that wasn't put there by a consultant, while he babbles with giddy hysteria about how the internet is the 'wave of the future' and we have to figure out a way to capitalize on it. It is, quite literally, like watching a Catskills comedian doing his best bits. 'This internet thing. It's BIG with the kids, I tell ya.'"

By the way, the best thing about Williams's piece is her implication that it might only be a matter of time before we see a TV version of Drunk Hulk.

Listening Post

This just warms my heart in all kinds of ways. Two of the greatest entertainers to ever grace the American stage -- Ella Fitzgerald and Sammy Davis Jr. -- performing together on The Ed Sullivan Show.

Here's the Gershwin classic, S'Wonderful.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Crying Shame

The best comics are the ones whose humor is spun from their own pain -- who create laughter as a way of desperately trying to say "fuck you" to the most tortured places inside them.

This is why Dane Cook is painfully unfunny. It's also why he'll live to be 96 while a guy like Greg Giraldo dies of an overdose at the age of 44.

You Like Me, You Really Like Me

Just a housekeeping note from Malcontent Central: I've added the now ubiquitous Facebook "like" button to the bottom of each of the posts that appear on this site.

This means that from here on out you'll have the ability to make literally the least possible effort to let all your Facebook pretend friends know that there's some arbitrary thing on the internet you found entertaining.

Remember, every time you "like" me, God masturbates on a kitten.

A Lesson She'll Never Forget

I'm not generally the type to play the misogyny card, and not simply because I happen to be a man; I believe that there are far fewer true misogynists in this world -- men who really do seethe at the notion of a woman in a position of authority and feel that it's their job to put those who are in their rightful place -- than there are accusations of misogyny.

With that in mind, though, I can't find one thing to argue about in the piece now posted at HuffPo by Alex Leo which paints James O'Keefe as a flat out hater of women. Not one damn thing. O'Keefe has always been the worst kind of arrogant frat boy cliché; someone whom you could totally imagine laughing his ass off as he heaves a can of Coke out the window of his BMW at a black guy begging for change at a stop light or bragging about how he was at the front of the train the brothers ran on that passed-out girl at the house last night. All of his little pranks have been aimed at those he considers beneath him: freeloading minorities who mooch off the taxes of white people instead of getting jobs of their own and, now, that insolent bitch who dares to think she can ask him questions or hold him accountable for his actions.

I'd go further with this, but trust me, Alex says it better and with more justified indignation than I ever could.

The Huffington Post: James O'Keefe, the "CNN Caper" and Men Who Hate Women/9.29.10


(Update: For those of you who don't know, when Bob Cesca isn't busy being one of the most insightful guys in the world of new media political punditry, he's an animator. Turns out he produced and directed this.)

Quote of the Day

"My name is James, I work in video activism and journalism. I've been approached by CNN for an interview where I know what their angle is: they want to portray me and my friends as crazies, as non-journalists, as unprofessional and likely as homophobes, racists or bigots of some sort… Instead, I've decided to have a little fun. Instead of giving her a serious interview, I'm going to punk CNN. Abbie has been trying to seduce me to use me, in order to spin a lie about me. So, I'm going to seduce her, on camera, to use her for a video. This bubble-headed-bleach-blonde who comes on at five will get a taste of her own medicine, she'll get seduced on camera and you'll get to see the awkwardness and the aftermath. Please sit back and enjoy the show."

-- Breitbart buttboy and perennial captain of the Failboat James O'Keefe, in a script he'd planned to read on camera after he "punk'd" CNN reporter Abbie Boudreau by inviting her onto a boat and attempting to seduce her with champagne and sex toys

Needless to say, like every other scam James has pulled, this one, while relatively amusing on paper, ended in disaster. Really, you need to read this from start to finish to believe it.

CNN: James O'Keefe Tries To "Punk" CNN by Seducing Reporter on Boat/9.29.10

(Update: Cord Jefferson at The Root puts this whole thing in perspective.)

Listening Post

Not sure whether I should love this band or hate it for extending the inexplicable career of John Norris another ten seconds, but his appearance is kind of a wonderful thing in the context of this video and song -- both of which really do shoot you through a time-warp right back to 1994.

Here's Wavves -- Post Acid.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Quote of the Day

"A hall full of elderly white people in Medicare-paid scooters, railing against government spending and imagining themselves revolutionaries as they cheer on the vice-presidential puppet hand-picked by the GOP establishment. If there exists a better snapshot of everything the Tea Party represents, I can't imagine it... Vast forests have already been sacrificed to the public debate about the Tea Party: what it is, what it means, where it's going. But after lengthy study of the phenomenon, I've concluded that the whole miserable narrative boils down to one stark fact: They're full of shit. All of them. At the voter level, the Tea Party is a movement that purports to be furious about government spending — only the reality is that the vast majority of its members are former Bush supporters who yawned through two terms of record deficits and spent the past two electoral cycles frothing not about spending but about John Kerry's medals and Barack Obama's Sixties associations. The average Tea Partier is sincerely against government spending — with the exception of the money spent on them. In fact, their lack of embarrassment when it comes to collecting government largesse is key to understanding what this movement is all about."

-- Matt Taibbi, in an absolutely brilliant and hilarious piece dissecting the tea bagger phenomenon in the latest issue of Rolling Stone

Tuesday Is Recycling Day

Quick, which mega-selling pop star consistently has the most drama in his or her life? Kanye? Britney? Eminem? Try Susan Boyle. You can Google her name just about any time and you'll always be sure to turn up a treasure trove of mind-bogglingly weird news items. When she's not suffering from exhaustion or having a full-on mental breakdown, she's being stalked to the point where her brother fears she'll end up like John Lennon or being saved from choking on a pineapple by a complete stranger. I get that Boyle never set out to be the supernova she's become, and that there's ample evidence of her being an entirely exploited and victimized Patient Zero in the world's current obsession with viral phenomena, but at some point she'll need to buck up and deal with the fame that's been foisted upon her. Once you willingly perform for the Pope, you've pretty much embraced your new standing in the world. Regardless, Boyle's next album is due out in November and, word has it, it will likely own the holiday season, thanks largely to her mammoth, big box discount store fan base -- which makes this as good a time as any to bring back this little piece from late last year. Lord, the hostile reaction I got to this sucker when it was first posted over at HuffPo. For the record, this piece was never really about Susan Boyle -- it was about hypocrisy.

"The Ugly Truth" (Originally Published, 11.13.09)

I'll try hard to make this quick for two reasons: One, because I've done my best to avoid writing about either of these people for a long time and so far have been mercifully successful, and two, I kind of feel like the point I'll make is so obvious it almost goes without saying.

The whole Controversy™ over Sharon Osbourne calling Susan Boyle a "hairy arsehole" who looks like she's been beaten with an "ugly stick" is completely fucking ridiculous.

Yesterday, in a move that had been predestined since about three seconds after the offending comment, Osbourne apologized to Boyle -- and by proxy everyone else on the planet, all of whom had taken it upon themselves to demand repentance -- for being so callous and insensitive during an appearance on Opie and Anthony (a radio show that's raised callous-and-insensitive to an art form). In the week since Osbourne made the on-air crack, you honestly would've thought that she'd driven her Bentley to Susan Boyle's house and taken a crap on her front lawn; the amount of contrived outrage from both the slavish celebrity media and the lifeless dolts who eat that kind of nonsense up has been hilariously deafening.

It really should go without saying, first and foremost, that Opie and Anthony do a comedy show; if you've never listened to it, trust me when I tell you that somebody calling somebody else a hairy asshole is probably the least offensive thing you'll hear on that show on any given day. The fact that people can't take a joke, a rude one, sure, but still a joke -- and most poignantly, one that wasn't really aimed at their tender ears in the first place and was only brought to their attention by a mass media machine that makes its living off of those who are constantly on the lookout for something to be outraged over -- is a hell of a lot more offensive in my mind than the joke itself.

But beyond that, the outpouring of indignation -- the shock and anger over a comment from a woman who's not exactly known for being classy or tactful, directed at a supposedly defenseless wallflower -- isn't just absurd, it's disingenuous. The reality is that Susan Boyle is unattractive. She's really unattractive. And guess what? The event that catapulted her to stardom in the first place capitalized on the fact that just about anyone who sees her believes this. When Susan Boyle stepped out onto the stage on Britain's Got Talent, you were supposed to think that she was an ugly, overweight frump who was doomed to embarrass herself in spectacular fashion the minute she opened her mouth. For God's sake, they practically played the Baby Elephant Walk from Hatari as her intro music. That moment, which became a cultural phenomenon, was all about the juxtaposition of her very impressive voice with her anything-but-impressive looks; the show's producers engineered it to shame the audience they knew would make an instant assumption: that somebody who looked like that couldn't possibly be talented -- not somebody that ugly.

People don't respond well to being forced to face the rottenest parts of their character -- like, say, the part that snickered when it first saw dowdy, awkward Susan Boyle and heard that she had dreams of being a successful singer -- and they usually respond by overcompensating in the opposite direction. Hence, you get thousands of people commenting on celebrity news websites or penning impassioned diatribes calling Sharon Osbourne "the one who's TRULY ugly" and making the obligatory knee-jerk demand that she be fired (from what exactly? Britain's Got Talent? America's Got Talent? Her job as Ozzy's manager?). Or how about this -- to really prove to themselves that they're good people, enlightened beings above petty prejudices, 68% percent of those who took part in a poll earlier this week by Access Hollywood engaged in the pop culture equivalent of voting for the handicapped kid for prom king: They proudly declared that when compared with Sharon Osbourne, Susan Boyle had more "sex appeal."

Think about that for a minute.

68% of those who watch Access Hollywood -- a show hosted by a couple of living Barbie and Ken dolls with hardly a brain cell between them, a show that traffics in gossip about the lives of the most gorgeous people in the world -- believe that Susan Boyle has more sex appeal than Sharon Osbourne.


What does that poll really tell us? It tells us that it's not even that so many in this country can't take a goddamned joke, it's that so many would rather lie, even to themselves, than admit that they're nowhere near as evolved as they pretend to be. That although she may have been crude about it, Sharon Osbourne wasn't saying anything the rest of us weren't already thinking.

Killing an Arab-American

What I'm about to say won't exactly firm up my street cred with the liberal side of the blogosphere, but it's not like I've let myself dwell on that kind of thing in the past.

There's a whole lot of righteous indignation being voiced at the moment -- just about all of it coming from the left -- over a standing capture or kill order the military has issued against American-born Yemeni cleric Anwar al-Aulaqi. For those who haven't been following along, al-Aulaqi has risen quickly through the ranks of al-Qaeda to become one of its strongest voices in the Arabian peninsula and around the world, the latter due to his willingness to embrace the internet as a promotional and recruiting tool. He's been linked to several terrorist plots inside the United States, including the Fort Hood shootings (he had been in direct contact with gunman Nidal Hasan) and the failed "underwear bombing" of Northwest Airlines Flight 253 into Detroit last Christmas (al-Aulaqi admits to training the bomber). All in all, an impressive set of anti-Western credentials for a guy who was born in Las Cruces, New Mexico.

For months now, U.S. troops have been told that they're to capture or kill al-Aulaqi on sight -- but only over the past few days has the angry reaction to this standing order really ramped up. That's because al-Aulaqi's father recently enlisted the help of the ACLU and the Center for Constitutional Rights and filed a lawsuit demanding to see the evidence the government has against his son -- the reason it would ostensibly want to see him dead. The Department of Justice's response to this was admittedly sure to raise a few eyebrows: over the weekend, it invoked the "state secrets" privilege, arguing that the courts should disregard the lawsuit because the U.S. government has every right during a time of war to engage in operations against terrorists without publicly disclosing the details of those operations.

There are a two diametrically opposed ways of looking at what the government is essentially doing. One is that the U.S. is exercising its authority to hunt down individuals who attempt to kill American citizens and will simply refuse to release information that might damage those missions before they're completed; the other is that the White House has taken out a hit on an American citizen and is invoking presidential privilege to keep anyone from knowing exactly why.

Should I even bother telling you which one of these Salon's Glenn Greenwald has latched onto with both hands?

A couple of days ago, Greenwald wrote a piece on this subject that was painfully histrionic in its Obama-bashing, even by the writer's impressive standards. It began as follows: "At this point, I didn't believe it was possible, but the Obama administration has just reached an all-new low in its abysmal civil liberties record."

That one line pretty much summed up not only what the rest of the piece was going to read like but, obviously, the antagonistic perspective Greenwald approaches the White House from in general these days -- and come to think of it, has for months now, ever since he realized that Obama wasn't going to deliver the Great Progressive Utopia he'd dreamed about, all in a big pretty bow, directly to his doorstep. For the record, I like and respect Greenwald overall and believe that he regularly makes some excellent points, but the petulant tantrums he throws over Obama's unwillingness to fall lockstep in line with the liberal fantasy presidency he and so many on the left fooled themselves into believing was coming are just exhausting by now. One more time for the cheap seats: Obama was a Democratic centrist from day one. He never promised to be anything else. He's been incredibly progressive on some issues; he's been relatively conservative, even very conservative, on others. What he's not is Kim Jong Il or Fidel Castro, which means that any statement about his supposed "abysmal civil liberties record" makes the person saying it look like nothing more than a drama queen.

I'm the first to acknowledge that there's a slippery slope when you're talking about the invocation of executive powers, particularly ones that don't allow themselves to be exposed to the light of day or the inside of a courtroom. But I do believe -- and for the record I did believe, even when George W. Bush was in office -- that the military has to have the ability to undertake secret missions for the good of the country, even controversial ones, without constantly having to reveal the details of those operations. There's no doubt that we've grown distrustful of our government lately, and with good reason. However, I find it hard, after all the independent reporting I've seen over the past several months, to peg Anwar al-Aulaqi as anything other than a very serious threat to our national security -- regardless of whether he's an American, an American living abroad, an American who's renounced his country and its people, whatever. Maybe when strict logic is applied -- and I try to do that as best I can -- there's no excuse for hunting down a U.S. citizen without due process, but no matter how hard I try I simply can't work up that much sympathy and outrage for al-Aulaqi.

Plus there's something else to consider: A lot of polemical hay has been made over the notion of a government sanctioned "hit squad" tracking down al-Aulaqi -- or anyone else really -- and engaging in a form of extremely prejudicial military action that seems utterly nefarious and underhanded at face value. It's true that assassination has a disturbing ring to it no matter which way you couch it, but maybe this is one of those times that our new transparent media panopticon has rendered the unpleasant realities of war almost intolerable. People die during war. In all sorts of horrible ways. They're blown to pieces along with those around them, some of whom just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time; they're shot through the head in the dead of night; they go down fighting or drop before they even know what's hit them. This is why sending young men and women into battle is never under any circumstances a decision that should be taken lightly or be the product of caprice. The reality has always been brutal and hideous; the only difference is that now it's much easier to see this fact for ourselves.

But if you believe that war is occasionally necessary -- and I'm not saying that our fight in Afghanistan is, only making a generalization -- then what's a more humane way to kill an enemy? Is it to drop a bomb on him and likely slaughter innocents in the process -- or is it to take out him and him alone? Once again, the latter, strangely, sounds more corrupt -- but the truth is that, simply as a matter of numbers, it's not. Far from it.

I don't know all the details regarding the Anwar al-Aulaqi case. But I also don't automatically believe that I'm entitled to know. And I'm sorry, but I also won't lose a whole lot of sleep if I wake up one morning to learn he's not with us anymore.

Listening Post

Sure, it's all kinds of hipster cool to say you love Journey these days. But were you willing to loudly proclaim that in 1994, when Seattle ruled the rock and roll landscape? I didn't think so, dammit.

Here's Chain Reaction.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Headline of the Week

To make a slight adjustment to a pretty good line from Dodgeball: It's too bad Hallmark doesn't make a "Sorry You Just Plummeted To Your Death in Irony River" card.

The Huffington Post: Jimi Hesdelen, Owner of Segway Inc., Dies in Tragic Segway Accident/9.27.10

The Cable Guy

This isn't a surprise in the least -- although to be honest I was kind of pulling for Jack Donaghy.

The Huffington Post: Comcast CEO To Take Over for Zucker at NBC/9.26.10

Quote of the Day

"Without any hint of awareness of the unintended irony Klein asserted, 'The CNN I’m leaving today is demonstrably stronger than the one I inherited almost six years ago – both editorially and financially.' That’s at least half right.

-- Former CNN Pentagon Correspondent Jamie McIntyre, in a mildly scathing but absolutely dead-on piece about Jon Klein's "ass, meet sidewalk" exit from CNN

(via Jacki Schechner, who was once the victim of one of Klein's Tommy DeVito-style office meetings)

Listening Post

I'll probably catch a certain amount of crap for posting a song like this, but so be it.

Back in the 90s, cute-as-a-button Swedish singer Robyn had a hit single with Show Me Love, which was pretty much the best song Britney Spears never recorded. She vanished from the world's radar for quite some time after that, seemingly content to become just another one-hit wonder. But a couple of years back, she emerged on the scene again -- this time having re-invented herself as a kind of thunderous techno-dance queen. The result was at the very least interesting; her cool-as-hell cover of the Teddybears' Cobrastyle alone was worth the price of admission.

Well, her new album is called Body Talk Pt 2, and while she's not exactly breaking new ground, what she does she does very, very well. The sonic boom bass drum-line on this song, by itself, is enough to at least make you sit up and take notice.

Here's Robyn's Include Me Out.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Listening Post

Sorry, kiddies, but you're gonna have to get used to my fanboy excitement building right up until November 22nd -- excitement which I'll, of course, be passing along to you, whether you like it or not.

Here it is, the full version of the first single from My Chemical Romance's new album, Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys -- and it's more of a fucking full-throttle blast than I even imagined it could be. This is Na Na Na.

Saturday Morning Cartoons

From 1952, it's Sylvester and Bennie in Hoppy Go-Lucky.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Assistant To the Quote of the Day

"We don't hate rich people, but have a little humility about how you got it and stop complaining. Maybe the worst whiner of all: Stephen Schwarzman, #69 on Forbes' list of richest Americans, compared Obama's tax hike to 'when Hitler invaded Poland in 1939.' Wow. If Obama were Hitler, Mr. Schwarzman, I think your tax rate would be the least of your worries."

-- Bill Maher, in a must-read piece in the Huffington Post

Quote of the Day

"So if you were wondering, yes, Ashton Kutcher is a moron. To make people forget about his rumored affair, he stood at a podium with the word CLINTON in huge letters right next to his head."

-- Brendon at What Would Tyler Durden Do?, on Ashton Kutcher's recent appearance with his wife, Demi Moore, at a Clinton Global Initiative event, despite allegations he's been cheating on her

End of an Error 2: The Zucker Years

Same drill as with Klein, only this time I'm reposting only one piece -- one which I think sums up my position on Zucker and what he did to NBC.

"My City of Ruins" (Originally Published, 1.12.10)

Maybe it's time I made something clear.

Back when I was a cocky 23-year-old producer at WSVN in Miami, I was heavily courted by a guy named Don Browne who at the time was the general manager of NBC's owned and operated station in Miami, WTVJ. He badly wanted me to jump ship and become his 11pm producer and he was willing to blow big, billowing clouds of smoke up my ass to make it happen; among the compliments he lavished on me during one particular power lunch between the two of us was a claim that he saw in me the next Jeff Zucker. Now in 1993, Zucker was considered NBC's new boy wonder -- named executive producer of the Today Show at just 26-years-old. So even though I had basically stumbled into TV and had yet to take the entire industry the least bit seriously, I understood that a big-gun at NBC -- and Browne was a Jedi Master in the ways of the Peacock, having been the executive VP of news for NBC at one point -- mentioning me in the same breath as Zucker wasn't the kind of flattery you simply shrugged off. And I didn't -- even though I made the choice to stay at WSVN briefly before heading to Los Angeles to work for KCBS.

I say that I didn't shrug it off because I always kept Browne's praise in the back of my mind and in late 1997 when it became clear that I had allowed myself to become little more than comfortable in my discomfort at KCBS, I put out feelers to Don Browne -- who had expressed a genuine desire to keep in touch with me and promised to always take my call if I felt like I wanted to talk about my career, the business, whatever -- and sure enough, he welcomed the idea of making room for me at WTVJ. As it turned out, the station was going through a regime change, with another NBC wunderkind, 28-year-old Ramon Escobar, having just taken the reins as news director. Browne flew me to Miami, had me meet with everyone and made me an offer I honestly couldn't refuse -- which kind of befit his status as an intimidating Godfather within the NBC power structure.

I'll always be glad I made the decision to go to WTVJ, as it remains one of the best work experiences of my career -- the people there more like family than coworkers. The thing to keep in mind, though, is that one of Don Browne's major selling points during his attempt to draft me was that I wouldn't be working for just anyone -- I'd be working for NBC. To hammer that reality home, he even flew me to New York City to visit 30 Rock; sit in on the Today Show; make it crystal clear that I was going to be a part of something extraordinary. The entire experience was exhilarating -- and it marked the first time that I truly appreciated the career that I had stepped in by accident, the abilities that I had largely taken for granted up to that point.

Bottom line: I was proud to work at NBC. So proud in fact that I continued to work for the company when I moved back out to L.A. with the wife that I had met at WTVJ. So proud that I couldn't have been more thrilled that my shot at personal and professional rebirth and redemption in the wake of 9/11 came from MSNBC and my former news director, Ramon Escobar.

I can occasionally be a bit of a feisty pain in the ass as an employee -- I believe that most decent newspeople are -- but that doesn't mean that I didn't spend years thinking of NBC as my home. It was, to me at least, a shining beacon of terrific programming and rock solid journalism, and one that I felt honored to be a part of.

I bring this up because it should be obvious by now that I pick on NBC quite a bit in the stuff that I write here and at the Huffington Post. Many regular readers have noticed and even confronted me on the seemingly curious fact that I take aim at NBC Universal far more than I even do Fox News Channel.

So I guess I felt like it was time to explain myself: Call it tough love -- borne mostly out of sadness, frustration and, occasionally, outright anger.

Over the past few years, I've watched NBC go from being the network I believed was consistently devoted to excellence above every other consideration -- committed to the notion that, as Don Browne used to say, "First be best, then be first" -- to one that will sacrifice not just quality but any and all ethical considerations in a relentless pursuit of profit. Don't get me wrong, as a company NBC is in the business of making money and there's nothing at all wrong with that -- it just used to achieve that end by offering audiences the best programming and news coverage on television. It was best, which is why it was first, which is why it made money. But somewhere along the line network executives -- particularly and ironically Jeff Zucker, who was named CEO of NBC TV in 2005 and then CEO of the NBC Universal empire in 2007 -- decided that cash would be the only consideration, that it could be amassed without even earning it by means of great shows and a consistently above-the-board news operation at the highest levels of management, and that the rise of cable and non-traditional media provided the perfect excuse for making this kind of major paradigm shift. The shareholders likely thought Zucker was brilliant for expanding NBC's properties across several platforms then turning each into a giant promotional machine for the others until "NBC product placement" was all any NBC show or network was good for; for hiring a worthless, self-obsessed hack like Ben Silverman to dumb down prime time; for bringing in bags of money while slashing costs, culminating in the cynical for-profit-only ploy that put Jay Leno in prime time five nights a week. Unfortunately, while get-rich-quick schemes tend to work well in the short-term, they can be devastating long-term -- and Zucker's not so myopic that he shouldn't have realized this about the business model he'd adopted. There was no meat in the tasty-looking sandwich he was serving day after day, and with the collapse of the Leno show, the impending unceremonious exit of Conan O'Brien and the P.R. cataclysm both have caused for the network, almost everyone, maybe even the mighty shareholders looking down from Olympus, can now see that.

What's happened at NBC -- already a perennially anemic network -- over the past week has been, quite simply, one of the most shameful fiascoes in the history of modern broadcast television. We're talking one for the ages. Pushing out Leno to keep Conan O'Brien was questionable enough a move; giving Leno a prime time slot despite the threat of rebellion from the affiliates whose revenue stream you'd be damming up, just because it'd be a corporate cash cow, was worse; pulling the plug to save a giant deal with Comcast Cable was worse still. Now this: taking back the show that was given to Conan to keep him from jumping ship all to keep Leno from jumping ship -- forcing Conan to gracefully and humbly bow out because he refuses to tarnish the good name of a legendary NBC brand, one that NBC itself apparently has no compunction about making radioactive. It's breathtaking, sociopathic incompetence. It doesn't even make good business sense because, once again, the short-term fears of the twitchiest suits might be salved -- Leno's deadly show at 10pm is six feet under and Conan's underperforming stint on The Tonight Show is cut short -- but the chilling effect that this will have not only on audiences but on any young talent from which you might hope to cultivate loyalty is utterly decimated. Why should anyone trust anything an NBC executive says from here on out?

This is the problem NBC Entertainment Chief Jeff Gaspin is facing right now as he tries to clean up the mess and duck the fire caused by the spectacular implosion of NBC's 10pm and late night lineup (to say nothing of what was left of the network's tattered reputation) and the exit of one of its marquee talents -- the disaster that "boy wonder" Jeff Zucker essentially created. And where is Zucker while all this is going on -- while Gaspin's head is in the crosshairs? Who knows. He hasn't made a public appearance or granted an interview since the crap started rolling downhill last week; I'd like to think that he's in a bunker somewhere honorably falling on his sword, but given that his contract was just bafflingly renewed for another three years, that seems an unlikely scenario. Make no mistake, though -- that's exactly what needs to happen.

I'm willing to concede that Jeff Zucker's meteoric rise was made possible only by his seemingly bottomless reservoir of creative short-term fixes for whatever problems he was confronting at any particular moment, and that the shareholders had demanded that he cut costs and increase profits. But a willingness to take potentially profitable gambles, while admirable, comes with an inherent risk: Somebody needs to pay when a poorly thought-out experiment -- a shockingly obvious "quick fix" -- fails to the tune of millions of dollars, the loss of a bankable star, and a public relations nightmare that has the potential to threaten a proposed mega-merger. And there's no doubt that the person who should pay for this instantly legendary clusterfuck is the man at the top who instigated the whole thing: Jeff Zucker.

That likely won't happen, of course. In fact, if you believe what David Carr of the New York Times posted on Twitter yesterday, behind the scenes Zucker is walking around blaming Conan for letting him down by delivering a low-rated show. If this is true, it's astonishing while, strangely, not the least bit surprising -- and it makes Zucker the personification of all that's wrong with corporate America these days. No one takes responsibility; everyone passes the buck; it's always the fault of the victim; and when everything falls apart and the whole thing goes to shit while you're in charge, you get to keep your high-paying job and arrogantly pretend like nothing ever happened.

Here's how it should work: You roll the dice and lose -- you pay up and leave. It feels like anything but a coincidence, though, that neither the guy who created this disaster -- Zucker -- nor the guy who will immediately benefit from it on the air -- Leno -- has the good sense to put humility above ego and step aside. Neither, apparently, will accept the consequences of his actions or an unlucky turn of the cards.

For Leno it's really no surprise: He's a good guy but he's been coasting on ironically aimless ambition, unable to tell you why he wants what he wants only that he wants it, for years. But Zucker shouldn't be able to delude himself; the wreckage piled around him is simply too deep to ignore. NBC is now in ruins, and it happened under his watch and because of his actions.

I never did turn out to be Jeff Zucker, obviously. I was never as focused, didn't have the Harvard education and generally didn't care as much about the business of television as he did. True, I unfortunately didn't get to be a CEO and make ten million a year. But I also won't go down in history as the man who destroyed NBC.

All I'll do is be heartbroken that it happened.

30 Shock

Apparently the gods of good TV are cleaning house today.

The New York Times: Jeff Zucker Announces Departure from NBC/9.24.10

All I need now is to learn that Oprah keeled over dead after choking on a cheeseburger and my day will be complete.

End of an Error

Now that Jon Klein's finally been beamed out of CNN via hologram, let's take a quick look back at just a couple of his greatest hits. Jon, we'll miss you. Journalistic integrity, on the other hand, won't.

"Miles To Go" (Originally Published, 12.4.08)

You'd be hard-pressed to find anyone who's been screwed as thoroughly and with as much sheer audacity by CNN over the past few years as Miles O'Brien.

Yesterday it was announced that after 16 years with the network, Miles is being given the chance to "pursue other opportunities" along with six producers in a move that effectively dissolves CNN's Science and Technology unit.

For Miles, it marks a somewhat anemic end to an impressive tenure at CNN -- sort of like putting down a former champion horse that you yourself are responsible for running into the ground. Miles was once the proud owner of a very nice, largely secure gig as the co-anchor of a daytime show based out of Atlanta alongside Kyra Phillips. But that was before mercurial CNN President Jon Klein decided to inexplicably pull the affable Bill Hemmer off the anchor desk on American Morning and "experiment" with the team of O'Brien (Miles) and O'Brien (Soledad).

The experiment, apparently, wasn't a success. Less than two years later, Klein had another one of his arbitrary "Eureka!" moments, spun the Wheel-of-Anchors and replaced both Miles and Soledad with the current team of John Roberts and Kiran Chetry.

Miles returned not to the anchor desk in Atlanta, but to reporting duties and the occasional fill-in host slot. (He anchored The Situation Room as recently as last Wednesday, during the Mumbai terrorist attacks.)

In other words, Jon Klein offered Miles O'Brien a major promotion -- the chance to helm a flagship show in New York -- if he'd leave behind his stable situation in Atlanta; he uprooted Miles and disrupted the lives of his family only to then turn around 22 months later and say that it just wasn't working out.

That's not "strictly business" -- the nature of the beast.

That's fucking sociopathic.

It's an unwillingness to accept or a complete disregard for the fact that you're capriciously toying with people's lives.

What makes these lay-offs particularly conspicuous, though -- maybe even reprehensible -- is that they come less than two weeks after an article in the New York Observer detailing CNN's lavish spending during its election coverage: the celeb-studded parties, the new show launches, the pricey A-list pundits and, of course, that stupid pretend "hologram." In the piece, Jon Klein boasted to writer Felix Gillette:

"We can afford more people on our air and off our air. So, goddamn it, we’re going to have more people."

Except that, obviously, they can't -- and they're not.

Which makes him entirely full of crap.

Although it's almost superhumanly ironic that Klein is willing to pay for the silly technology but not for the technology unit, it shouldn't really surprise anyone at this point. He's proven time and time again where his priorities lie -- and they're nowhere near the maintenance of true journalistic excellence. It would be amusing if it weren't so sad that Klein's pride in the ability to create a phony, "holographic" image of a human being now serves as a kind of metaphor for his entire way of thinking. He's become the George Lucas of the TV news universe: tinkering like a mad scientist to create a soulless, graphically enhanced feast for the eyes -- minus the actual people required to breathe life into it -- just because he can.

I'm not worried about Miles O'Brien; he's smart and talented and he'll likely find new work quickly -- even in this economy. After all he's been through over the past few years, he may even see this as a godsend.

What concerns me is the future of the rest of the excellent and now unemployed tech staff -- people like Peter Dykstra, who's been with CNN pretty much since the dawn of time. Or Alex Walker, who typically does most of the work while receiving none of the glory.

These are the ones who will really suffer.

Well, they, and you -- the audience.

But hey, at least you'll still have the pretty holograms.

"First Class All the Way" (Originally Published, 11.19.08)

"We can afford more people on our air and off our air. So, goddamn it, we’re going to have more people."

-- CNN US President Jon Klein

There's an article in the latest edition of the New York Observer that's really worth taking a look at.

It deals with CNN -- specifically the "Nothing Succeeds Like Excess" mentality the network adopted with respect to its election coverage and the amount of money it had to spend to make it a reality.

Observer columnist Felix Gillette (who, in the interest of full disclosure, wrote a profile on me back in February of this year) chronicles the inordinate number of sponsored debates, the celeb-graced parties, the mobile control rooms, the expensive A-list pundits, the SkyCams, the real-time focus group meters, the risky new show launches and, of course, the pretend holograms -- all of which cost CNN a small fortune.

Gillette talked to network president Jon Klein, who I have no doubt was doing his best used-car-salesman-on-crank routine at the time. Gillette writes:

"'When you have the wind at your back in the form of a very profitable streak, then you’ve got the wherewithal to try things, to embrace innovation, to not cringe,' Mr. Klein told The Observer on Monday morning.

If it had taken place, say, 20 years ago, the spectacle of CNN’s 2008 shopping spree might have blended into the cacophonous jangle of a city awash in media companies awash in cash. But these days, everywhere you turn, the once reliable bon vivant institutions of New York journalism look tired, anxious and ready for bed. ABC News recently relegated its executives to 'B-level' hotels. This year, for the first time since the dawn of the printed word, Condé Nast is forgoing its holiday party at the Four Seasons. Cash bars are in.

All of which makes CNN’s current swagger, from its battery of technology to its cornucopia of talking heads, seem that much more freakish—the aberrance of opulence in the leanest of times."

What's interesting about all this though -- about Klein's bravado in the face of harsh economic times -- is what's not in article.

Last week I got an e-mail from a close friend of mine, one of my former co-workers at CNN, informing me that he was among a group of CNN employees who'd just been laid off -- reportedly, eight people on the American Morning staff. The official word is that the layoffs are the result of restructuring and not a product of budget cuts -- but that's tough not to question when standard operating procedure at CNN is to find new positions within the company for employees to move to should their old ones become obsolete.

A new baby boy, a treacherous job market, the holiday season looming, and now this: out of a job. It's not as if my former co-worker fell into the bottom performance percentile among his peers at CNN, either. On the contrary, he was quite good at what he did. Still, he now joins the growing list of people cut loose from jobs in the media over the past couple of months. Almost a dozen personal friends of mine have been let go from one media position or another and are now looking for work.

Meanwhile Jon Klein's throwing parties and tossing around money like he's Diddy.

In this unsettling economic climate, somebody will have to either pay outright for CNN's magical regenerating checkbook or simply hedge the network's bet. Either way, it obviously won't be Klein.

As we all know by now, it's rarely the people at the top who suffer.

The New York Observer: "The Corpulent News Network" by Felix Gillette/11.18.08

(Incidentally, when you click the link to read the article, make sure to check the address bar at the top of the screen. No idea whether that was an accident, the working title of the piece, or just a really subversive little joke -- regardless it's hilarious.)

It's worth mentioning that even though Klein is out, his replacement, at least temporarily, is Ken Jautz. He's the current chief of HLN, the network which, while entertaining overall, has given us such blights on the landscape of cable television as Showbiz Tonight and -- wait for it -- Nancy Grace. In other words, who knows -- the worst may be yet to come.

Broken News

It's damn well about time.

The New York Times: Jon Klein Out at CNN/9.24.10

Listening Post

New Kings of Leon. Here's Radioactive.

Happy Friday, kids.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

I Am Douchebag, Hear Me Roar

So just one week out from the release of The Social Network -- a movie that reportedly goes a long way toward cementing for all eternity Mark Zuckerberg's reputation as an insufferable and conniving little prick -- and Facebook mysteriously goes down. Add to that the fact that tomorrow, Zuckerberg will appear on Oprah where he'll officially donate a hundred million dollars to Newark, New Jersey's troubled public school system and a picture starts to emerge.

Zuckerberg is Zeus, reminding all us mortals through various object lessons just how vengeful or compassionate a god he can be.

(Likely Fake) Quote of the Day

"I feel like the Kurt Cobain of my generation, but people just don't understand me."

-- Justin Bieber

This little gem has been circulating all over the place today, but no one seems to be able to authenticate it. I tend to think it's phony, seeing as how I can't imagine Justin Bieber having any idea who Kurt Cobain is.

That said, on the off chance that I'm wrong -- Beeb, I got a shotgun I'm happy to lend you if you want to really be like Cobain.


Just throwing this out there: Am I the only one who's sick of OK Go's contrived and gimmicky music videos?

At the rate they're going, in a couple of years the only way they'll be able to outdo themselves is by amputating their own limbs one by one without a cutaway.

EW: OK Go's New White Kunckles Video Delights/9.20.10

The Lying, the Rich, and the Wardrobe

I'm not one to deny that political theater is called that for a reason; everyone knows that politics is largely show, and what you say isn't half as important as how you say it.

Hence, the interesting and by-no-means accidental location and fashion choices for today's big GOP "Pledge to America" announcement. The fact that the Republican elite chose to hold their event at a small lumber business in Sterling, Virginia -- Patton Oswalt's hometown, by the way -- isn't a surprise given that they're trying to project an image that takes the whole "elite" thing out of the equation. But that they went so far as to all dress in conspicuously humble, understated Gap and J. Crew wear -- oxford shirts with no ties, khaki pants, Dress Barn-style blouses, as if to say that the hurricane of change coming from the tea bagger uprising literally blew the $2,500 dollar suits off their backs -- was really worth a good chuckle.

It honestly screamed, "See, we're just like you and nothing like that pretentious coastal asshole in the White House."

It also screamed, "We're sorry!"

Quote of the Day

"We are learning more about Christine O'Donnell... than anybody even bothered to ask about Barack Hussein Obama."

-- Sarah Palin, last night on Fox News (of course)

There's really no reason to bother getting angry about something like this, since anyone with a brain -- a distinction which obviously excludes Palin herself -- has come to expect a relentless avalanche of inflammatory horseshit to come from the insurrectionist right by now. The noteworthy thing about this, though -- even more noteworthy than Palin going, as Cesca put it, "full birther" -- is that later today the increasingly obsolete Grand Old arm of the Grand Old Party will wheelchair out its "Pledge to America," which will largely embrace the ethics that have been forced on it by the tea baggers.

And thus the circle of hell will be complete and the far-right fringe of the Republican party will essentially be indistinguishable from the supposedly sane majority within the party. The inmates will have officially taken over the asylum of GOP politics.

In other words, Sarah Palin -- this blithering idiot; this narcissistic, conspiracy-theory-spouting Reality TV star -- will basically now speak for all Republicans.

I Can Haz TV News Job?

Man, Mattel is so far behind the curve on this one -- this "product" has existed for years.

Boing Boing: Mattel Introduces New "Journalism Barbie"/9.22.10

Job at every single television news outlet in America sold separately.

Listening Post

I once wrote this about Big Audio Dynamite:

"BAD... remain one of the most underappreciated acts in rock history. I say this not because they didn't sell records or garner critical accolades, but because these days they're not often hailed as the light-years-ahead-of-their-time bridge between punk rock and the dozens of splinter movements that would come after it, which they should be. BAD fused a truckload of eclectic, disparate styles into one hallucinatory mish-mash that was just plain beyond description. Fronted by Clash guitarist Mick Jones and DJ Don Letts, BAD was the first band to truly combine elements of punk, funk, reggae, the emerging sound of turntable hip-hop, a liberal amount of sampling and, hell, even Tarantino-esque spaghetti western influences, into an entirely new culture-jammed kind of sound. The first time you heard BAD, you immediately thought, 'What the hell is that?' And to this day, there's never been anyone quite like them."

Here's Medicine Show.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Assistant Quote of the Day

"Dark and Dramatic. Gothic and Eerie. Inspired by love and tragedy. Watch my latest video. Its a Justin Bieber cover."

-- A regular YouTube video poster who goes by the screen-name "GabyMusicTV"

You know, at this point I think I might actually back a Hitler-like leader who rallied this nation toward a holocaust directed at everyone between the ages of, say, 12 and 17.

*Yeah, yeah, I know. As always feel free to direct your complaints here.

Quote of the Day

“All faggots must die.”

-- Comment left on the Joe. My God. blog, which is dedicated to gay and lesbian issues

The fact that somebody said something like this on a gay website isn't surprising. The fact that the comment was traced back to the office of Republican U.S. Senator from Georgia Saxby Chambliss is. Chambliss's spokesperson confirms it.

Actually, I take it back. It's not that surprising either way.

Chambliss says his people are working to weed out the loudmouthed asshole who's terrified of gays -- which means this could take a while. Get ready for the -- if you'll pardon the bad pun -- stonewall.

John Cole over at Balloon Juice brings up another great point -- that obviously the comment didn't come from Chambliss himself since at the time it was sent he was busy in D.C., engaging in the state-sanctioned homophobia of voting against the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell.

Listening Post

It's always a good day when you wake up and feel like hearing the Ramones.

Above it's Sheena Is a Punk Rocker.

Below, She's the One.

And just for the hell of it, here's Yeah Yeah Yeahs covering Sheena.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Quote of the Day

"I'd like to hear Barack Obama come out and renounce Lucifer. I don't recall hearing him do it."

-- Serial liar and all-around crazy old coot Jerome Corsi at this past weekend's World Net Daily (wait for it) "Taking Back America" conference

Of course. Because as you know it's a legal requirement that the President of the United States have A) a valid birth certificate, and B) publicly rejected the dark lord Satan.

Meanwhile, In a related item, there's this.

Tuesday Is Recycling Day

You know, how the hell was I not aware that Oprah's cable network is called "OWN?" Holy hell, what a flawless double entendre of mind-boggling narcissism. How does this woman do it? I've had my moments of arrogant prickness, but I can't even imagine being that self-obsessed.

With that in mind, let's delve deep into the archives today.

"There's No 'I' in Oprah" (Originally Published, 10.25.06)


From the Law Offices of Jeremy, Jameson, North and Hartley

Beverly Hills, California

Wednesday, October 25th, 2006

RE: Oprah Winfrey/Harpo Inc. Copyright and Trademark Rulings

We are pleased to report that as of 9:00am PDT this morning, the proposed copyright and trademark implementation initiated on behalf of our client has been ruled official and legally binding (O. Winfrey Petition, Case #0598672, CA Superior Court/Part 53). As discussed, being that a favorable designation from the client (or authorized association with the client) carries with it certain benefits -- both social and financial -- and said designation lends the recipient an unparalleled level of legitimacy with a vast market which would otherwise be untapped by the recipient, from this point forward the following is true: said recipients of this "hallowed blessing" (the official term to be used forthwith) will be considered the intellectual and industrial property of the client and a wholly-owned subsidiary of Harpo Inc.

The current breakdown -- which can and will be adjusted for time, favored status and general rises to and falls from grace -- is as follows:

Oprah's Friend Gayle(c)(tm) // Gayle King, who for some time has been familiar to the general public strictly by the designation "Oprah's Friend Gayle" will now be known by that name and only that name, both professionally and personally. This will replace any previous moniker which may have been applied to her -- including but not limited to: "Oprah's Girlfriend Gayle," "Oprah's Lesbian Lover Gayle," "That Bitch Who Looks Like Whitney Houston Fresh Out of Rehab," "The Sycophant," and "Who?"

Note: if at any time the client chooses to admit the truth about her sexuality, Oprah's Friend Gayle's(c)(tm) name will immediately and legally become "Gayle, the Woman Who Makes it Okay for You to Admit that You're a Lesbian and Leave Behind Your Family and Constricting Life in Suburbia, Girlfriend(c)(tm)."

Oprah's Favorite Chef(c)(tm) // Henceforth, this copyrighted and trademarked label will be applied to the woman formerly known as Rachael Ray and will be exclusively used by her in all professional and personal interactions. It has been brought to this firm and its client's attention that the beneficiary of this hallowed blessing recently began taping a talk show which bears her erstwhile moniker. As a concession, the client will allow the name of the show to be changed to "The Rachael Ray Show, Which Owes its Entire Existence to the Good Nature of Oprah and the Fact that Miss Ray is, in Fact, Oprah's Favorite Chef." It is also the client's wish that Oprah's Favorite Chef(c)(tm) be reminded by this firm that her contract remains legally binding and that the client is under no obligation to return her soul.

Oprah's Designer(c)(tm) // From this point forward -- as a matter of simplification -- the designer who most recently has been known to the general public as "Nate Berkus, Oprah's Designer" will relinquish the proper-name portion of that title, as it barely matters anyway. Oprah's Designer(c)(tm) will also agree to be addressed simply as "Girlfriend" by the client for the remainder of his existence or until the client tires of his bold use of Feng Shui, whichever comes first.

Barack Obama, Oprah's Candidate(c)(tm) // The client acknowledges the unfortunate necessity for the future presidential contender currently known as Barack Obama, the Junior Senator from Illinois, to retain his proper name. However, the client wishes for this firm to remind the Senator -- upon his inevitable election -- to whom he owes his political fortunes. The client expects an appointment to a cabinet post in the Obama administration befitting her role in his incredible appeal to middle-class soccer moms across the country; it is her wish that she be granted the post of Secretary of State or higher, as this rise to power will be necessary to facilitate the coming of the Christ-Child and the client's eventual war with the Nazarene.

He Who Has No Name // Henceforth, the author and blasphemer formerly known as James Frey shall cease to exist in a figurative sense and shall be banished from public consciousness.

Tom Cruise // It is the client's prudent decision that her name in no way be associated with Tom Cruise. This decision is legal and binding.

Dr. Phil, the Ingrate(c)(tm) // The client acknowledges a lapse in oversight which has allowed the one-time recipient of the hallowed blessing to succeed despite having no continued attachment to her. She will not make the same mistake again, and wishes for the firm to take measures to ensure that Dr. Phil, the Ingrate(c)(tm), his wife and son are all "dealt with" at the firm's earliest convenience.

Caveats and Codicils

The client officially lays copyrighted and trademarked legal claim to the following:

* The term "Girlfriend," and all sassy uses of it.

* Weight-loss of any kind.

* The entire depth of human experience, as the client insists that she is not only understanding of any and all interpersonal situations, but is in fact the progenitor of said situations and can provide unequalled validation to those who experience them subsequently.

Any unauthorized use or application of the preceding will result in immediate legal action, which this firm is empowered to take on behalf of the client. Punishment will be swift and without mercy.

Meat Puppet

Yesterday, Lady GaGa mystifyingly injected herself into the debate over the American military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy.

It's always enjoyable when an entertainer, particularly a pop singer, reaches that special level of self-obsession where he or she honestly thinks people should give a shit about his or her opinion on important issues.

I'd elaborate on this, but Patrice O'Neal hit it on the head perfectly a month or so ago on Opie and Anthony.

By the way, how ridiculous is that entire image of Lady GaGa, looking like a Muppet with Down Syndrome, fighting the power in front of a big-ass American flag?