Sunday, October 31, 2010

October Reprise

Just a little note from Malcontent Central to say thanks to everyone who made October a damn good month around here. Content-wise, it's the first time in quite awhile that I cleared more than a hundred posts in a single month -- which is a nice return to form -- and the stuff I did write I was generally pretty happy with and got a huge amount of circulation from.

It's good to kind of be back in the saddle.

Thanks for reading, everyone.

Why We Suck

I'll make this really quick.

I may not have made it to yesterday's Rally to Restore Sanity, but I watched just about every minute of it on TV. While I did this, I of course engaged in the post-modern news and opinion-gathering technique of monitoring the pulse of those who were either there or were watching at home by logging on to Twitter and Facebook. And quite a bit of what I saw, to be honest, left me wanting to throw my laptop through a window.

I don't mean to pick on him personally, but professional disgruntled liberal standard-bearer Peter Daou's take on the rally was typical of what was popping up across the left-leaning Twitterverse, and it was essentially that what Stewart, Colbert et al were doing was unfocused, unfunny and desperately in need of some good, old-fashioned 60s-style civil rights march muscle -- that because it wasn't overtly political or especially pointed or even "entertaining" it was a missed opportunity.

And that, in a snapshot, is everything that's wrong with the left these days. Not only is nothing that's done with its general interests in mind ever enough, it's so utterly self-obsessed with what it thinks is best that it's more about personal satisfaction -- me, me, me; keep me happy; give me what I want -- than it is about actually moving the country in the correct direction.

Let me be really blunt: Look, you petulant fucking children, you overly analytical jackasses looking down disapprovingly from Olympus, willing to sacrifice some progress in favor of none whatsoever, it's not always about you.

What Stewart and Colbert did yesterday was exactly what needed to be done right now, and it wasn't about keeping you entertained or engaged; it was about the 215,000 people who turned out to provide a show of force for the beliefs that for the most part you claim to espouse. It was a victory for what Progressive America is supposed to stand for of the highest order imaginable -- and that should never be forgotten or devalued.

The End of the Road

Today is the final day that Pontiac exists as a working brand.

Here's what I wrote about the decision to end it in April of last year:

"For whatever reason, my family's always had a thing for Pontiacs.

When I was a kid, my mother drove a Grand Prix which, in one of my earliest memories, was stolen from a mall parking lot in Miami. She's gone through several updated models of the same car since and continues to drive one to this day. When I was 17, I drove a Pontiac Fiero GT -- a long since discontinued quasi-roadster that was essentially two seats, a V6 engine and not much else. It remains probably my favorite of all the cars I've owned in my lifetime, and not simply because of the obvious nostalgia attached to it. The damn thing was just a blast to drive.

These days, with the exception of the Solstice, most Pontiacs look alike and don't offer much in the way of the visceral thrill that, say, the GTO or the Trans Am once did. Still, it's sad to see the entire brand go, maybe because there is so much American mythology behind it.

The demise of Pontiac also sends an ominous and undeniable message about the state of our economy and what it means for all of us: Not even history can trump the absolute authority of the bottom line right now."

RIP, Pontiac.

By the way, my mother bought a Mercedes a couple of months ago. Sure Pontiac's a good car -- but come on, there's just no comparison.

Listening Post: Halloweenie Edition

As is tradition around here on this day, the flat-out most disturbing music video ever made.

Aphex Twin's Come To Daddy.


Happy Halloween!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Quote of the Election Year

"If we amplify everything, we hear nothing."

-- Jon Stewart

Quote of the Day

"When the assistant opened the door, there was Charlie standing there naked with cocaine all over his face! ... He was delusional and just completely lost. Totally out of it... He was punching the walls of the hotel room and going crazy and shouting 'nigger, nigger, nigger' for no reason at all. It was absolutely bizarre."

-- Anonymous source for a story in Radar detailing the events that led to Charlie Sheen's hospitalization in New York City last Monday night

He tried to bang a porn star in a bathroom stall at Daniel, Tony Montana'ed a mound of blow and got tackled by police while naked from the waist down -- but it'll be the fact that he used the word "nigger" that ends his career.

And speaking of which, is it my imagination or has Radar become the go-to media outlet for exclusives about celebrities shouting racial epithets?

Regardless, how badly do you want to party with Charlie Sheen? He's totally bringing back the 80s.

No Redeeming Qualities

When CNN gave a contributor spot to doofus Erick Erickson, I was one of the few center-left who offered a lukewarm defense of it. Yeah, Erickson's a firebreathing turd, but he traffics in opinion and as somebody who's offered up his share of offensive commentary in the past, it's not like I could say that he somehow has less right to be inflammatory simply because he's on the opposite side of the fence from what I believe. There was of course an argument to be made that anyone -- left or right -- whose contribution to the national discourse was that uncivilized didn't deserve a seat at the big kids table, but such is the state of the established media these days.

This, however -- this is a light year beyond a bridge too far:

TPM: Andrew Breitbart To Provide "Analysis" for ABC News on Election Night/10.29.10

You're kidding, right?

It's one thing to have a very specific opinion on a subject and to demagogically slam it into someone's face with all the subtlety of a bar fight, but Brietbart isn't simply about that; the man is, as Cesca put it perfectly, a serial liar and a scam artist. Sure he's colorful because he's a raging maniac with a short fuse and a decade-long therapy session's worth of anger issues, but in his self-proclaimed and self-serving war on the "liberal media" and the institutional left -- what his legion of Twitter critics mockingly refer to as the coming "Breitbartocalypse" -- he's ignored facts, knowingly created phony scandals, willfully aided, abetted and perpetuated hoaxes engineered by irresponsible con-men like himself, and given no thought at all to the consequences of his mendacity and his flagrant defamation. He's a pompous schoolyard bully who's not to be trusted even for a second because he's proven time and time again that he has no regard for the truth if it doesn't serve his end. So knowing this, how do the media he's supposedly out to destroy respond to his bullshit? They spread their legs for him, of course.

After the disgrace heaped on him in the wake of James O'Keefe, Shirley Sherrod, etc. ABC News is willing to lend this asshole the credibility of a night in the big league press box.

Jesus, every time I think I'm desensitized to the media's cynicism and stupidity to the point where nothing they do could shock me anymore, they pull a truly inspired fuck-you out of their hats.

By the way, ABC News says that Bill Adair from Politifact will be on hand to correct Breitbart should he start spewing his special brand of crap. Here's a tip, guys: You won't need a lion tamer if you don't have a lion. Or maybe the better way to put it is that you won't need a lying tamer if you don't have a fucking liar.

Saturday Morning Cartoons

In honor of Halloween, from 1954, it's Bugs Bunny and Witch Hazel in Bewitched Bunny.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Tom Hates

Crazy Tom Tancredo is currently at the top of the Huffington Post, with a headline screaming "Could He Be Governor?" In the linked column, AP writer Steven Paulson highlights some of Tancredo's greatest moments of off-the-rails batshit, like earlier this week when he said that President Obama is a bigger threat to the United States than al Qaeda -- or the time four years ago when he called Miami a "Third World country."

I remember my only somewhat tongue-in-cheek response the latter comment.

From "Miami: Ciudad del Futuro" (Originally Published, 11.28.06)

It would appear that U.S. Representative Tom Tancredo of Colorado has found himself a cause celebre in his ongoing battle to rid America of illegal immigrants. During a recent visit to Palm Beach, he told a crowd of conservative supporters that to witness the dangers of unfettered immigration, it need only travel ninety miles to the south -- to my hometown; Miami, he said, "has become a Third World country."

Needless to say, this opinion was immediately decried as pinheaded and wrong by South Florida's own voice in congress, Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a woman who resembles a yapping chiuhuahua both in stature and intelligence. Given that she and Tancredo share a political affiliation -- and that this particular affiliation needs all the party-unity it can get right now -- there probably won't be the usual contrived indignation and dueling press conferences to resolve the matter; instead, Ros-Lehtinen has already offered an olive branch in the form of an invitation to Tancredo. "I invite my friend, Tom, to visit beautiful Miami -- my hometown -- and experience firsthand our hospitality. Miami is a world-class city where diversity is celebrated. Here, people have the opportunity to meet folks from around the globe and honor different cultures," she responded.

I'd like to avoid picking apart the good congresswoman's rosy assessment of the only banana republic on U.S. soil, except to say that if you know anything at all about the way Miami operates, there's a good chance that some form of under-the-table payment from the chamber of commerce is now well on its way to Ros-Lehtinen in return for such kind words. Unfortunately, my level of experience with the city dictates that I, at the very least, elaborate slightly on the points she made.

Yes, Miami is beautiful -- which is precisely why it's become the official ostentatious playground of every worthless but loaded hip-hop star currently tearing up the TRL countdown. It's a place that's so hospitable that several years ago -- after a series of violent attacks -- a decision was made to remove any markings which might denote a vehicle as having been rented locally, lest unwary visitors be targeted and robbed at gunpoint five minutes after leaving the airport. It's a world-class city -- if you believe that the world ends at the southern tip of South America and the eastern edge of the Caribbean. It's a place where diversity has been "celebrated" with three deadly race riots over the past twenty five years. It is indeed a place where people have the opportunity to meet "folks" from around the globe -- and be shot by them.

Believe me, I could go on and on. But what I'll do instead is just sit back on my couch and think about the image of Tom Tancredo being convinced how wrong he was about Miami by a day of salsa dancing, Cuban coffee, gator attacks, topless sunbathers, never hearing the English language spoken to him -- not once by anyone -- jailhouse visits with indicted city officials, a tour of the "Elian Museum," and a big pile of cocaine.

And that will make me smile.

(Editor's Note: Nothin' but love, Miami. Nothin' but love.)

Quote of the Day

"This is going to be terrible. In fact, future historians will probably look back at the 2010 election as a catastrophe for America, one that condemned the nation to years of political chaos and economic weakness."

-- Paul Krugman, not overstating things in the least

(via Cesca)

Screw the Messenger

I haven't turned on the TV yet this morning or scanned the newspapers, but I'm going to make an assumption that I wish weren't true but I just know damn well is: Every major news outlet in the country is running with the Christine O'Donnell one-night-stand story.

Only they're not focusing on the supposed drunken and unsuccessful sex act, since that would be beneath them; instead they're pegging their coverage off of the controversy and outrage that Gawker has spawned by posting the allegation. In other words, they're pulling an end-run and doing a story based on a specious and prurient claim -- one paid for by a media outlet with zero journalistic standards -- while piously pretending that they're simply doing a story about the story. As if somehow when they ask the question "Did Gawker Go Too Far in Smearing Christine O'Donnell?" they're not wallowing in the same pig sty Nick Denton and Co. did by running with the damn thing in the first place.

The anonymous O'Donnell sex story -- something which would never in a million years have been touched by a reputable entity like NBC, CNN or the New York Times -- will now be on NBC and CNN and in the New York Times under the guise of the necessity of covering the piece's fallout. Once again, as if you can do the story without mentioning "the story."

Remember a couple of weeks back when I linked to a terrific David Carr column dissecting what I called "ethical rendition" on the part of the mainstream media? Well I have a feeling you're about to witness it in it's purest, most repugnant form.

Listening Post

Remember what I said yesterday about the live version of Transatlanticism giving you chills?

Well, the same goes for this; the anger, passion, desperation, ferocity and, yes, hope and pride in this song have always just about knocked me flat.

Here's the mighty Living Colour -- Open Letter To a Landlord.

Happy Friday, gang.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Lust Tea Lady

To everyone who's sent this little item to me since this afternoon (and by the way, this thing may hold the record for being spread virally faster than just about anything that's ever hit the net; it was everywhere in a matter of a couple of hours): Yes, I've seen it and no I don't have too much to say about it.

Gawker: I Had a One-Night-Stand with Christine O'Donnell/10.28.10

Gawker's officially the lowest rung on the yellow internet journalism ladder after going ahead and posting such prurient, relatively unreliable crap (which Denton could care less about because he and his unholy creation are now the center of a media feeding frenzy). And who really gives a damn if it's true anyway? So Christine O'Donnell may have gotten drunk and tried unsuccessfully to get laid three years ago? Jesus, I do that every Saturday night. I couldn't care less what O'Donnell or anybody else does in his or her -- or someone else's -- bedroom. She's an attractive woman; let her slap a hand over Jesus's mouth once in awhile so he can't complain and just have a little fun. It's not like there's even any schadenfreude to be mined from this because you had to figure that someone repressed enough to decry masturbation would be a goddamned sexual time-bomb.

Look, if it didn't happen, Christine O'Donnell should just shrug off the pictures and the story because, as Hitchens says, what can be asserted without evidence can be disproved without evidence. If it did happen -- hey, good for her. Either way, so what.

Besides, who's to say the story wasn't planted by her anyway? It's the perfect ploy to simultaneously humanize, martyrize and sexualize a candidate who for the most part has been portrayed as nothing but a prudish laughingstock.

Denton and Gawker just handed her the kind of sympathy she'd normally have to contract cancer to get -- five days before election day.

I mean, hell, even I can't help liking her a little bit right now. Although it could just be the ladybug costume. I'm into that sort of thing.

Mr. Popularity

And now, a selection of commentary from the readers of the Huffington Post, in response to my column, God of War.

To truly appreciate the impact of the following, may I suggest listening to this as you read:

"I won't get in to detail here: But this invigorated screed distorting, caricaturing and demonizing Assange is predictable. It a familiar tactic in the conflicts going on in the battleground of the media. The U. S. military has been losing badly and obviously in Iraq and AfPak for nearly ten years. Now it and its mouthpieces are trying to make the farcical claim that Assange's exposures will harm its war efforts. Excuse me while I take leave to laugh at the laughable."

-- henryberry

"wonder why Huff Post is posting so much right wing nonsense lately. I just got through reading about all of Condolessa Rices's good qualities. What is happening?"

-- cheryl tobin

"What kind of person belittles revelations of mass crimes against humanity?"

-- blueskybigstar

"Who's blood exactly is on his hands? There's lots on yours, but I don't but his seem squeaky clean."

-- The Questioner

"War what is it good for? Absolutely nothing!' Endless corporate greed & endless corporate war are twin monsters devouring humanity. ANYTHING that can stop such madness, such evil, such insanity is a blessing for all of humanity!"

-- exoevolution

"I would have never redacted any documents released by WikiIeaks. Iraqi and Afghan victims have the right to know the names of their murderers and torturers."

-- fairwayhill

"The real Gods of War don't like the competition, eh? Puh-leaze! How many corpses must be tucked neatly behind the states secrets before they burst forth and cover the world in hatred and enmity?"

-- j0em0mma

"i have to disclose that i only read about half of this author's poem.. about his deep affection for authority and by extension his heartfelt responsibility to chime in on behalf of the extraordinarily powerful... when a reader encounters really tremendously bad writing or analysis or thesis or vision, etc.. why continue? we cannot read everything.. some of the outright propaganda must find its way to the 'unfinished' pile... i have read some CRAP. all the way through... but, much as with the article in question,.. if the vehicle has long since smashed through the guardrail and is plummeting plummeting plummeting so far as reason, logic, morality, self-worth, and dignity are concerned.. WHY read on as the obviously confused or threatened author plummets toward the conclusion of a VERY badly premised piece? gravity seldom reconsiders."

-- woodshoe

"More PROPAGANDA. The pentagon has killed more innocent people than Assange ever will."

-- fuzzychickens

"Your approach is right out of propaganda 101: shoot the messenger. Are you using this to put on the resume you're sending to F a u xnews?"

-- postrealitysyndrome

"'innocent soldiers' lol. what an oxymoron."

-- Danish5666

"The mentality displayed by the author of this piece is the real threat to more lives being lost and senseless wars continuing. It's people with this sort of mindset which led us into the Iraq war in the first place."

-- lonngfello

"In short, your piece is another hit job."

-- Dr. Jonathan David Farley

"'God of War'? Assange's goal is peace. If there is 'collateral damage' in the prosecution of war, then there must logically be EQUAL 'collateral damage' in the shutdown of that same war and prosecution of peace."

-- gmb007

"I bet Chez Pazienza had an apoplectic seizure after reading Greenwald's piece today. I'd love to see his little establishmentarian head explode."

-- The Baffler

"I know the first paragraph isn't really the point of the article, but thank you, Chez. It's about time someone said it."

-- Gogetter


Well, I've put this off long enough.

Despite all that poetry I wrote a few weeks ago about how I couldn't possibly miss Jon Stewart's "Rally To Restore Sanity," it looks like I'm going to have to miss it. Believe me when I tell you that if there were any possible way for me to attend on Saturday, I'd be there; unfortunately, because of both finances and logistics, there's simply no way I can get from Miami to D.C. and back in the time I'd need to travel.

Needless to say, I'm kind of heartbroken, because I still believe that what Stewart's doing is hugely important -- especially right before the mid-term elections. So, for what it's worth, which isn't much, I'll be there in spirit.

Good luck to everyone who's going.

Quotes of the Day

"This is not a time for compromise, and I can tell you that we will not compromise."

-- John Boehner

"Look, the time to go along and get along is over."

-- Mike Pence

The hilarious thing about these statements is that they imply that up until now the Republicans in Congress have been the picture of bipartisan cooperation, rather than the deranged pack of obstinate howler monkeys they've actually acted like.

The depressing thing, of course, is that these statements all but guarantee that once these children take the House, the government will grind to a crushing halt.

As Taibbi said so beautifully recently -- man, they really broke the mold when they created these assholes.

Epic Rail

Watch this -- all twenty minutes of it.

Listening Post

Back when I lived in Los Angeles during the mid-90s, my apartment was in the Hollywood Hills off Outpost Drive. This meant that during Hollywood Bowl season, I could sometimes drive up to Mulholland, park, and hike down the hill to the point where I'd be able to see the Hollywood Bowl and hear whatever band or artist happened to be playing there. There was always something kind of magical about the dry air, the electric L.A. night spread out in all directions, especially the traffic from the 101 below, and the music from the Bowl echoing off the canyon.

Suffice it to say, I'm really sorry I wasn't there for this particular show.

This could very well be my favorite Death Cab for Cutie song, the clips from every amateur fan video of it on YouTube edited together to create one really fantastic mega-bootleg. If this doesn't give you chills, we can't be friends.

Here's Transatlanticism, performed with the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

(via Cesca)

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

God of War: Addendum

I have a minor confession to make: I had actually planned on writing about Julian Assange a couple of months back, when Wikileaks released the tens of thousands of documents on the war in Afghanistan that drew so much national attention. In fact, I'd begun putting together an extended essay on Assange and was well into it when something happened that really kind of threw me for a loop because it was something I hadn't experienced since starting this little experiment of mine almost five years ago: the piece just got away from me. As I kept working on it, I realized that there was so much that I wanted to say -- so many oversized themes I wanted to touch on -- that my thoughts just started to splinter and go off in every direction. I've gotten pretty good about editing myself and reining in my superfluous ideas and unruly tangents as I write, but between the scale of what I was trying to get off my chest and the fact that a hectic work schedule was turning my brain to tapioca, I just couldn't make the whole thing coalesce.

So I gave up. I just put the piece aside and figured that maybe I could break it up over time, cherry pick bits of it for use in other, more concise posts -- which is kind of what I did when I wrote God of War a couple of nights ago.

But I want to go ahead and publish part of the original piece that I know will never see the light of day otherwise -- the sort of introductory anecdote that would've eventually wound up being the framework of the essay -- because I think it'll give you an idea of what led me to want to write about Assange and Wikileaks in the first place.

What interested me in the story from the very beginning was the fact that both Julian Assange and those in the left-leaning media who devoted reams of copy to the documents he leaked seemed to be genuinely shocked and incensed at what the U.S. military was capable of in its prosecution of the war in Afghanistan. I've always figured the Pentagon lies its ass off when doing so suits its needs; this should surprise absolutely no one, and maybe it's understandable that someone would want to make a point of pulling back the curtain on the blatant untrue statements the government has made with regard to our ongoing conflicts. But what struck me more was the venom aimed at the actions undertaken by the military that weren't lied about, they just weren't exactly shouted from the rooftops. I'm talking about special forces units being used to target and quietly take out insurgents -- what critics dramatically called "hit squads" -- and classified operations aimed at eliminating the enemy which occasionally wound up accidentally eliminating innocents. The outrage generated by this sort of thing kind of amused me because of one simple fact: Killing people is what war is all about; inadvertently killing people you don't want to see killed is an unavoidable byproduct of it.

I'm not by any means saying that taking innocent life is excusable, only that in war people die -- in fact, it's the only fucking thing you can be sure of when you go to war. This is what should ostensibly make armed conflict an absolute last resort. The only way to be indignant about an enemy being shot through the head or a wayward bomb destroying some poor innocent guy's home is to be someone who's against war altogether -- and as I said yesterday, maybe with all we now know, we have no other choice than to say that any war is unequivocally immoral. But if you don't believe that -- if you think that sometimes fighting is justified -- then you simply can't say that the "normal" horrors of war rise to the level of, say, war crimes.

And that's what really stuck in my head -- the notion that much of what Julian Assange was asserting has happened in Afghanistan qualifies as war crimes.

And that's what made me write this:

"True Blood" (Unpublished)

When I was a kid, my father would occasionally talk to me about Vietnam.

He was in the Navy during the early years of the war -- the commander of an underwater demolitions team, which meant that he was always more of a bad-ass than I could ever hope to be. Like a lot of Vietnam vets, he largely kept his "war stories" to himself, but every once in a while the mood would strike him and he'd open up about some of his experiences, his exploits, his thoughts and feelings about what it was like to trudge through the fires of hell and somehow come out the other side with all of his limbs and, seemingly, all of his faculties still intact. I never doubted that despite what I hoped was a solid upbringing under his wise tutelage, I wouldn't have survived ten fucking minutes on the ground in that place. That sentiment continues to this day. It generally takes all of a few minutes of being pinned down in a bombed out school house in Modern Warfare 2 for me to start whining about my lack of air support; actually dodging bullets in some Third World hellhole seems incomprehensible. Maybe this is part of the reason I have so much respect for the people who see fit to join our military: the luxury any of us has to be a mere civilian if he or she chooses -- to say nothing of some middle-aged, video game-playing doof -- is essentially provided and protected by them.

Of the few times my father really went into detail about the kind of combat that he believed was required to not only survive Vietnam but to ostensibly make some kind of headway toward winning the war (an admittedly laughable notion in hindsight), one particular story stands out. It was something he and his unit had heard, but which no one could verify. It involved a special forces unit that may or may not have actually existed, a high-value target, and a bunch of ten-inch-nails.

Basically, the campfire tale went something like this: A special forces team was dispatched to extract information from a Viet Cong commander which the military believed would be vital to the American war effort. The commander was encamped deep within the thick jungle and was protected 24/7 by a regularly rotating guard which patrolled the area around him in a series of concentric circles. Understanding that sheer, overwhelming terror was the most effective weapon on a mission like this -- and was certainly one of the most potent in the special forces arsenal -- the small strike team used stealth tactics to move in silently and kill one of the guards, then after doing so, they tacked him to a tree using a ten-inch-nail. Through the head.

This was the first night.

They repeated this over and over again each night, wiping out the security detail one by one while simultaneously ratcheting up the fear in those who remained -- particularly in the commander, who after a while became paranoid to the point of madness. When the time came to finally take what they'd come for -- that high-value target -- the special forces team slipped in, grabbed him, and shuttled their frightened prey to a remote location to be interrogated. And how long did it take to get the information they needed out of him? As long as it took to pull a ten-inch-nail out of a backpack and place it on the table in front of him.

Is this a true tale? Did it really happen, or was it just a ghost story told by men fighting a desperate and losing battle day after day to help them cope -- to convince themselves that they weren't the only ones being ruthlessly hunted down and picked off by an unseen enemy?

Who knows.

But a couple of recent events have caused me to ponder another question quite a bit lately: If this phantom unit did actually exist -- if it was out there right now killing enemy soldiers and combatants in Iraq or Afghanistan and staking their dead bodies to trees -- would you consider the actions of these men to rise to the level of war crimes, regardless of the rationale for such extremely prejudicial tactics?

I think it's safe to assume that Julian Assange would say yes.

Bonus Dickhead Quote of the Day

"I don't think it's that big of a deal. I would like for her to apologize to me to be honest with you."

-- Tim Profitt, the Rand Paul campaign volunteer who stomped a female protester at a Senate debate in Kentucky Monday, speaking to WKYT radio

The level of shamelessness is just fucking staggering.

How entertaining would it be for a group of self-proclaimed biker dykes to pull an Omegas on this asshole and have Babs invite him to a tiny motel in the middle of nowhere so they can beat the living shit out of him the second he walks through the door?

(via Cesca)

(Update: In the interest of fairness, Mediaite, via the always entertaining, has posted new video of the incident which doesn't by any means change or excuse what happened to Lauren Valle, but it does show that she ill-advisedly took a run at the open window of Rand Paul's motorcade as it arrived. I'm willing to concede that a person with short hair, wearing an obvious wig, trying to get at a somewhat controversial political candidate during this insanely charged election season would draw an immediate and potentially harsh reaction from both that candidate's security detail and his supporters. Once again, this doesn't even begin to justify a bunch of assholes stomping on the head of a woman who's been wrestled to the ground, nor does it excuse Profitt's reprehensibly shameless line about how he's the one who's owed an apology, certainly not now that he knows full well what he did in the heat of the moment, but it's worth making sure that every aspect of this story is out there so that no one can claim a cover-up.)

Quote of the Day

"There are a lot of liberals who need to be retired this year, but there are few I can think of more deserving than Keith Ellison. Ellison is one of the most radical members of congress. He has a ZERO rating from the American Conservative Union. He is the only Muslim member of congress."

-- Judson Phillips, founder of Tea Party Nation, which is the third largest tea bagger organization in the country, on Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota

Please, for the love of all that's holy, send these ignorant, spiteful dicks back under their rocks where they belong on November 2nd.

Oh, and of course, this idiot is wrong -- Rep. Andre Carson of Indiana is also a Muslim. These assholes can't even get their hate straight.

Listening Post

If you cover a song, and you're not an above-the-rules god like Johnny Cash, you can generally do one of three things with it -- that's if you want to cover it well and not just do a completely faithful re-recording: You can "pump it up," injecting extra power into it, along the lines of, say, Disturbed's version of Land of Confusion or the Bangles' spectacular cover of Hazy Shade of Winter; you can acousticize it, as Buckley did with his staggeringly beautiful version of Hallelujah; or you can completely reimagine it.

This last choice is a lot trickier and more dangerous, but when it pays off, the dividends are huge. Just look at Placebo's take on Kate Bush's Running Up That Hill, any of the covers ever done by the bands Greg Dulli has played in throughout the years -- or this, one of my all-time favorite covers, by Matchbox 20.

To truly appreciate the just how clever this song is, you have to listen to the original source material, from Fleetwood Mac's Rumours album. These guys took the most throwaway track on that album, a folksy little ditty, then actually combined it stylistically with a second song from the same album -- the gorgeously dark and menacing The Chain -- and the result is something very, very cool.

Here's Matchbox 20 doing Never Going Back Again.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

God of War: PostScript

A while back I mentioned that of all the pieces I've submitted to the good people at the Huffington Post, there's only been one that was flatly rejected; that would be the scathing column I wrote mocking Jenny McCarthy for her inane, arrogant and potentially dangerous advocation of celebrity pseudoscience to parents of autistic children. That little experience marked the first time I became aware of what may be the one rule of writing for HuffPo: You can't insult Arianna's friends.

Well, maybe I didn't quite learn my lesson because although a slightly altered version of my piece on Julian Assange was accepted and published at HuffPo this morning, something happened to it that's never happened to one of my columns in the two-and-a-half years that I've been contributing to the site.

It got buried. Quickly. As in it stayed at the bottom of the politics page for about a half-hour then vanished into the abyss.

I'm obviously not going to criticize anyone over at the Huffington Post; they've honestly been quite good to me over the past couple of years, particularly Roy Sekoff, who's as big a supporter of the blogging rank-and-file, and of guys like me and Bob Cesca in particular, as anyone could be. HuffPo has given me a terrific outlet and brought me loads of readers, even going so far as to publish one of my pieces in the book Arianna and the Huffington editors released back in late 2008. I also knew going into it that I was taking a swipe at a few new media icons of the left -- people with enormous fan bases at the Huffington Post and who were much higher up on the contributor totem pole that I am. People like Glenn Greenwald, Jane Hamsher and David Sirota, as much as I find them to be ideologues, and self-defeating ones at that, have an enormous amount of clout within the liberal blogosphere; you don't take a shot at them in what's ostensibly their house and expect to have it go unnoticed. So maybe I should've known that what I had to say wouldn't simply get me labeled a right-wing propagandist with a "deep affection for authority" who should be sending "(his) resume to Faux News" by the HuffPo peanut gallery, but would get my thoughts relegated to the slush pile where no one would even see them unless they went looking or happened to stumble across a link to them at the bottom of a related post.

A friend of mine told me not long ago that the best thing about me is that I hold nothing sacred and will take on anyone or anything -- and the worst thing about me is that I hold nothing sacred and will take on anyone or anything. Believe me when I tell you that it gets lonely being willing to piss off just about everybody.

The question of course becomes, does fearlessness -- or stupidity, depending on how you want to look at it -- matter if nobody can hear the tree fall in the forest anyway?

(Update: Maybe someone was listening over there, or Sekoff just sent the right kind of e-mail, because as of this morning I'm on the main media page. For the record, it was where the piece always belonged, rather than in the politics section, so we'll see what happens next.)

The Beating Generation

For those who haven't yet seen this video of Rand Paul supporters attacking a protester in Kentucky last night, it's as reprehensible as it gets -- and it provides a perfect little snapshot of just how angry, psychotic and far past the boiling point the tea bagger crowd has grown as the final days days before the election dwindle down.

Look, I'm not a huge fan of -- but a bunch of guys stomping on the head of a woman?

You're fucking kidding me, right?

God of War

I'm getting to the point where whatever Glenn Greenwald says, I feel an instinctive need to stand against it, simply on principle. It's not that he doesn't occasionally make some excellent and even necessary arguments from the left; it's that he's just so self-righteous in his outrage, so petulant in his demands, and so destructive to his overall cause by refusing to give even an inch in his quixotic quest to see the Progressive Utopian States of America come to fruition in our lifetime that it's tough to consistently take his side. All that aloof disapproval just becomes exhausting after awhile. Throw Sirota and Hamsher into the mix and you've got the intractable left's own version of the Supremes -- only more diva-ish.

With that in mind, I had to fight the urge to automatically say that Julian Assange deserves to be put up against a wall somewhere after reading Greenwald's impassioned and completely expected defense of him yesterday morning in Salon. It was always a given that Greenwald, and really much of the institutional left, would hail Assange as a hero given that the Wikileaks founder has made it his mission to be a perpetual thorn in the side of the U.S. government by exposing all of its supposed dirty little war secrets; you knew from the very beginning that parallels would be drawn between him and Daniel Ellsberg, the man who leaked the infamous Pentagon Papers which proved that the Johnson administration had essentially lied through its teeth in Vietnam. So to see the left tag anyone in the established media who dares to treat this modern day Horatius at the Bridge with anything other than respect as "Nixonian" is just the next logical step.

Now understand, I damn well get the irony of the American press suddenly choosing to grow a spine when interviewing Assange, even though it all but carried pom-poms to the White House and Pentagon briefings during the lead up to the war in Iraq. I also have no doubt that more than a few of the accusations that have been leveled at Julian Assange since Wikileaks became the epochal cultural force that it is were and are a direct effort to discredit him and his work. But that said, Assange's attitude when it comes to being asked tough questions about his motives and his methods -- and the potential unintended consequences of both -- has always been one of arrogant indifference. He's fully aware that what he's doing might get innocent people killed, but he's said flat-out that he's willing to accept responsibility for that because in the end, he believes, the greater good is served by the world understanding that it's being lied to about the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Assange isn't just some guy who's got a hard-on for the truth and who hates the notion of state secrets; he wants to expose and bring to justice the people he believes are immoral criminals, the people who started the Afghanistan and Iraq wars and who continue to prosecute them in one form or another.

Once again, there's irony -- this time in the fact that taking a few lives in the name of the supposed greater good was the justification the Bush administration used to take us to war in the first place. And before you summarily dismiss the implied comparison, think about this: Julian Assange now holds a staggering amount of power -- the ability to literally decide who lives and who may very well die, and which countries will face the kind of scandal that can potentially topple governments. It's almost too much privilege to be at the whim of one person. Which is why there's nothing wrong with attempting to hold Assange accountable, regardless of how pissy he may get about being asked to justify his actions or face an adversarial press. Anyone who refers to the unfortunate and unintended deaths that may occur as a result of those actions as "collateral damage" -- and Assange has, in those very words -- is operating on at least somewhat the same level as the governments which are often rightly criticized for making such blithe distinctions.

But there's another thing worth exploring here: The question of whether, in the internet age, the age of seemingly absolute media transparence, war can survive. Not just the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but any war. Now that it's almost impossible to hide the reality of what armed conflict is -- how brutal and devastating it is to those on both sides of the gun, how innocence and morality are often the very first casualties of it -- will there ever be such thing as a truly "just" war again? Julian Assange and those who laud his efforts and who believe he's entirely justified in indiscriminately spitting sensitive information into the ether -- not even filtering it through, say, a responsible press, as Ellsberg once did, but just putting it all out there and letting the chips fall where they may -- these people likely wish to see the entire concept of war become a relic of the past, a modern day impossibility, made so by the inability to keep anything a secret anymore. The problem with this, of course, is that sometimes war really is necessary; there will always be people or situations which leave you no other option but to fight. And those fights will always be ugly. Innocent people will die. Once moral people, their psyches turned inside out, will kill without cause. Governments and generals will make decisions that seem unspeakably ghastly. Because war truly is hell.

And as is the case with Assange, there will be nothing wrong with holding those who take us into battle and who put our men and women in the line of fire accountable. The issue then may be how much naivetĂ© is displayed by those who choose to be insurgent whistleblowers to the battlefield horrors and propagandizing at home that go hand in hand with a lengthy war. Would you really believe that innocents aren't dying? That the military isn't engaging in tactics that many might see as underhanded? That the government isn't hiding some of the facts about both? Admittedly, there's an argument to be made that people like Julian Assange exist only because the press isn't doing its job; this is as true on many levels as it is unfortunate, because, once again, Assange isn't doing what he does to satisfy some lofty commitment to the truth -- he's doing it to serve his own agenda, which asserts that war, particularly in the modern age, is inherently immoral. He wears his personal bĂȘte noire proudly and pompously on his sleeve, and engages in his own kind of war in the service of its destruction, which he finds entirely justifiable.

But as with the governments which accept a certain number of casualties as the cost of doing business, Assange excuses his actions and the authority he feels he's entitled to wield by claiming that the cause he's fighting for is just. He washes the blood off his hands with one of the strongest cleansers imaginable: intellectual rationalization.

And those who blindly support him in his crusade, simply because it happens to gel with their own anti-war beliefs, can't seem to see the ultimate irony in that.

Listening Post

There are very few perfect albums. This is one of them, a flat-out masterpiece in every sense of the word -- and one of maybe four or five records I'd want with me on that proverbial desert island.

From the great Jeff Buckley, here's the title track from Grace.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Quote of the Day


-- Jim Norton of The Opie and Anthony Show on the mugshot photo of a Long Island man arrested for allegedly molesting a dog, in which he appears to be wearing a New York Jets jersey

Various reports indicate that Mitchell Marsicano performed oral sex on the two-year-old Shiba Inu. The dog's name, by the way: Snowball.

I love it when I don't even have to try.

Listening Post

Always respect the classics.

Happy Monday, gerbils -- here's the Jam's Beat Surrender.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Picture of the Week

Voting is irrelevant.

He'll win.

He always wins.

Gleek You

I've made it pretty clear that I don't normally base what I choose to write about on what kind of angry reaction my thoughts on a specific topic might generate. In other words, I don't try to rile people up just for the sake of riling people up. That said, I fully expected the regulars in the Huffington Post peanut gallery to eviscerate me for my quickie piece on the Glee girls-GQ photo spread-- and I have to admit that I'm actually kind of disappointed they didn't, since their special brand of pious indignation is usually damn entertaining. Anyway, here are the best of the bunch:

"Why are so many Americans such hysterical prudes? So many are into fundamentalist religion, or violent sports, or support needless wars--yet are rabidly fanatical against even the suggestion of sexuality, or nudity, or affection, or 'PDA'? What a sad, sick society. I thought the 'Glee' shoot was fun and well-done. And no one in the photo shoot was in their teens. Now--how about that collapsing economy? Unemployment? Expensive and seemingly endless war? Running out of cheaply extractable oil? Racism? Ecological issues? Homophobia? The need for expanded scientific education? Aren't there any REAL issues to tackle?"

-- zenju2

"I'm curious as to whether there is any limit to the writer's beliefs that what these women do on their own time is strictly their own business. What if this was a sex tape with these outfits on? AT what point do you think the producers of this show would say...this is hurting the brand ...if there is any point? People will argue that...there is no drop in ratings....except ratings don't tell us exactly who is watching. Will it still be young girls, or will it be mature GQ men? Surely you agree it is unlikely the same show would appeal to both audiences... These girls, whether they like it or not, are in a show targetted to young teens. As public figures, they have to decide whether they have any responsibility to their audience. Lots of public figures like athletes and actors and politicians truly believe their private lives have nothing to do with their public lives. These women obviously fall into that camp. There are, however, many of us who feel that a public figure with a defined audience has a responsibility to their audience. In the photo shoot, these girls elected to wear and sexualize 'school girl outfits'. They deliberatly CHOSE to ride on their GLEE roles as school girls. I hope and expect they will be fired for sullying their professional uniforms... Oh, and by the way...'hysterical prudes' like me have, by expressing outrage, made cruelty to animals a crime, child-labor a crime. These women were used by people who did not have either their best interest, or the best interest of school girls in mind... This is a very simple arguemnt: either you believe public figures such as sports figures, politicians, actresses etc., have a responsiblilty to provide a positive leadership role to their audiences ...which alot of us believe...or you belive the public can go to hell, and these people have no responsibility (which is your belief)."

-- PM Gaffney (who seems to be obsessed with the concept of uniforms, saying that the girls' clothes are their uniforms as actresses and that they're wearing school uniforms and that all this means that they've violated some kind of sacred trust established by the wearing of a uniform and that they're contaminating our precious bodily fluids. Or something like that)

"Conservatives are doing everything in their power to make sure all our childrens understand that the human body is evil, especially the female body, which is why it needs to be regulated."

-- jsgaetano

"I'm as left wing as you get...I'm not American, and I have a problem with this photoshoot. So it's not accurate to paint this as conservative opposition. It's not the 'nakedness' that is the problem or the actresses ages. Doesn't anyone understand context??!! It's the fact that they are portraying underage highschool students, Lea Michelle is in her undies spread eagle on a school gym locker bench. It's the story the photo is telling."

-- alsm9

And my favorite comment because it's just that crazy:

"a wholly sophistic and disingenuous argument... the subtext of nudes in classical art has ALWAYS been a celebration of beauty and innocence using nudity to symbolize their uncovered radiance... the subtext of this (as with all contemporary popular culture sexploitation 'art') is to promote the mass consciousness maxim: 'Everybody Get Naked and F--K. All The Time. And That Means You Kids, Too!' ...i personally don't care what other people may want to do to desecrate their temples. they'll have to answer to the landlord when the lease comes up. i keep the sanctity of mine intact. and i do it by remembering the story of the Jewish man who, while digging his own grave and just before being shot in the head by a Nazi soldier, courageously turned to his murderer and said simply 'God is watching what you do.'"

-- planet416

If the ratings are any indication, no, God isn't watching -- because he's watching Glee.

Bonus Quote of the Day

"She likes to surprise me by jumping on top of me and fucking me when I'm not expecting it. It's a very Clouseau-Cato sexual relationship."

-- Votar

Quote of the Day

"When she says, 'This is Virginia Thomas,' reply, 'No, this is Virginia Thomas. Who's calling? Wait a minute — is that you, Anita Hill?' When she denies being Anita Hill (and she will), say, 'There you go again, with your infernal lies. This is like Clarence's confirmation hearings all over again. You disgust me, Anita Hill.' With any luck, accusing her of being Anita Hill will disorient her long enough for you to summon help."

-- Andy Borowitz on how to deal with a 7AM phone call from Clarence Thomas's wife, Virginia

Sunday Sacrilege

(via Christian Nightmares)

Men on Film

A transcript of the conversation Votar and I had on Facebook yesterday while having lunch:

Status Update: OK, so, beer and wings... and today's topic of conversation is (drum roll please): the name of the newly announced Top Gun sequel. Go!

Votar: Top Gun 2: Massive Ordnance Delivery Package

Votar: Top Gun 2: Someone Please Fight Us

Votar: Top Gun 2: Payload Specialists

Chez: Top Gun 2: Behind Enemy Lines... Or Just Behind the Enemy

Votar: Top Gun 2: Improvised Explosive Devices

Chez: Top Gun 2: Ass Sex!

Votar: Top Gun 2: The Butt Locker

Chez: Top Gun 2: Queer of Flying

Chez: Top Gun Re-load-ed

Votar: Top Gun 2: Weapons of Ass Destruction

Chez: Top Gun 2: Electric Buggerloo

Chez: Top Gun 2: Bugger Buster

Chez: Top Gun 2: Full Frontal Aggression (or in Military Lingo: FFAGG)

Chez: Top Gun 2: Wings of the White Swallow

Chez: Top Gun 2: Cum Again

Votar: Top Gun 2: Blowing Maverick

Chez: Top Gun 2: Extreme Homo Makeover

Chez: Top Gun 2: The Musical

Chez: Top Gun 2: Men in Tight

Votar: Top Gun 2: Sit in the Cockspit

Chez: Top Gun 2: Flame Out

Chez: Top Gun 2: Fire and Iceman

Chez: Top Gun 2: To Mav and Have Cock (too movie geekish?)

Votar: Top Gun 2: Goose Juice

Votar: Top Gun 2: Premature Ejection

Chez: Top Gun 2: You've Lost That Coming-on-My-Back Feeling

Chez: Top Gun 2: Butt Pilots

Votar: Top Gun 2: Hershey Highway To the Danger Zone

Votar: Top Gun 2: Timetable for Withdrawal

Chez: Top Gun 2: "That Faggoty White Uniform"

Chez: Top Gun 2: If We Stop Having Man-Sex, the Terrorists Win

Votar: Top Gun 2: InsemiNation Building

Votar: Top Gun 2: Negative Ghostrider, the Sphincter is Full

Votar: Top Gun 2: Leave the Comedy To the Professionals

Friday, October 22, 2010

Speech Impediment: Addendum

One quick thing I wanted to add about the whole Juan Williams debacle. As expected, the second Williams got the axe from NPR, Fox jumped at the opportunity to publicly piss all over its radio nemesis by opening its arms and its wallet to Williams and offering him an extension on his contract worth a cool two million. What this essentially adds up to is something I've written about before: the fragmenting of the media based solely on political affiliation. In other words, say something the liberals will suck up like Soma, you've got yourself a sweet gig on MSNBC or NPR; throw a little red meat to the conservative crowd -- welcome to your new home at Fox. In the end, the one who suffers from this kind of homogenization is you.

"Across the Great Divide" (Originally Published, 9.10.09)

Well, here's the least surprising media-centric news item ever: John Stossel is leaving ABC for Fox News Channel.

For the uninitiated, Stossel is a multi-Emmy-winning investigative reporter with an amusing Harry Reems moustache. He calls himself a libertarian -- a designation which these days, unfortunately, is almost exclusively the property of the right -- and has spent the past several years doing his best to debunk manmade global climate change, bolster the notion of the wonders of unfettered greed and the ultimate good of the free market, and assail anyone who complains about the current health care model. His slot on 20/20 has been little more than his own personal Hyde Park-style soapbox ever since his conversion from serious journalist to silly dogmatic populist.

Stossel's been a regular guest on Fox for some time now; he generally appears as an analyst (which at Fox is code for someone who has even less obligation to the truth than the correspondents in the general assignment pool). Given his tendency to egomaniacally showboat, his departure probably isn't much of a loss to ABC. But it does underscore in no uncertain terms just where the business of journalism is heading: Hume, Beck, now Stossel -- they all skew hard to the right and they've all wound up at Fox. At this point, Fox is the bright light on the porch that attracts all the insects. The problem is that what we're witnessing is the homogenization of the news media. It was admittedly inevitable. With so many choices out there, narrowcasting was always the future. But the fewer dissenting opinions at each outlet -- with Fox essentially saying, "If you're a conservative, this is where you belong" -- the viewers, readers, and people simply looking for a well-balanced vision of the world will suffer.

Then again, the battle lines are so clearly drawn these days, with people believing only what they want to believe and refusing to hear any evidence to the contrary, that it probably doesn't make any difference anyway. For God's sake, last night a congressman stood up and shouted that the president is a liar (a lie itself, at least insofar as what that congressman was protesting at the time). The damage is done, and we may never reach a point again where this country's various political factions listen to each other without prejudice, let alone treat each other with respect.

The people who like what Stossel has to say are already waiting for him at Fox.

Welcome home, John.

(By the way, one more thing worth adding: Williams is dead-on when he says that NPR CEO Vivian Schiller's insinuation that he needs to discuss his supposed issues with Muslims with "his psychiatrist" was way below the belt and entirely uncalled-for. That, incidentally, is what I was referring to when I said last night that NPR made a spectacle out of canning Williams.)

Listening Post

INXS was always one of my favorite bands growing up -- and Listen Like Thieves was probably my favorite album from them.

Here's This Time.

Happy Friday, folks.

Help Me, Carrie Fisher, You're My Only Hope

After all this time -- starting her career braless in a tennis shirt asking Warren Beatty if he wanted to fuck, Leia in the gold bikini, all the great books she's written -- I'm still completely in love with Carrie Fisher.

And here's why -- this is her bio on Twitter:

"If you don't like me please suck my big bovine tiny dancer cock."

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Speech Impediment

I'll make this quick because I feel like if you've followed this site long enough you probably know which side I'm going to take on this issue.

No, Juan Williams doesn't deserve to have lost his job at NPR. In fact, NPR management comes off as arrogant, myopic and petulant as hell, not only for firing Williams for a relatively innocuous comment he made on Fox News but for going out of its way to make a public spectacle of doing so.

I'm not really going to bother getting into whether I agree or disagree with Williams's statement to Bill O'Reilly that it's understandable to get a little nervous when someone who identifies himself as Muslim boards the plane you happen to be on. I won't argue with it one way or the other because Williams was speaking only for himself and, what's more, wasn't justifying his feelings when he's in that situation so much as admitting that they exist. In other words, he didn't say it was right -- he just said it happens and that that kind of gut reaction doesn't necessarily make him some sort of animal. No matter how evolved each of us may think he or she is, everyone is capable of involuntarily reacting in a way that the brain would find primitive were it not for the fact that it hasn't had time to actually kick into gear and add things like reason and context.

What I will say, though, is that regardless what I think of Williams's comments, he had every right to voice them and not feel like he'd lose his job over it. We've entered a really dangerous era where it seems like journalists are regularly expected to speak authoritatively on the issues they're covering -- and Lord knows they have far more time and space and a greater number of outlets from which to do it than ever before -- but they have to always be on their guard that if they say the wrong thing, they'll be thrown out on their asses. You can either have a completely open forum as a news operation, where the intelligent exchange of ideas is welcome and encouraged, or you can slam the door shut on any and all analysis and interpretation. You can't have it both ways because the people you pay for their big brains and big mouths will never know when something coming from either of them crosses that imaginary and often completely arbitrary line dividing the acceptable from the forbidden.

NPR allowed Juan Williams to moonlight as a Fox News contributor; to suddenly freak out over the fact that he has it in him to say something ever-so-mildly controversial in the service of that gig seems entirely disingenuous.

Enough is enough, already. Either let these people speak their minds or don't -- but stop with this half-assed nonsense. Keep one thing in mind, though: The media world these days is too massive, too quickly evolving and too transparent to keep anyone locked in an ivory tower anymore.

Quote of the Day: Addendum

"Oh, good. Just what this situation needed. The input from a man whose daughter is single-handedly creating an army of 11-year-old strippers."

-- The, responding to word that Billy Ray Cyrus, who happens to be on the Parents Television Council advisory board, is speaking out in support of the Glee photo shoot in GQ

Black Tea

The Onion: Tea Party Plans To Recruit More Coloreds This Fall/10.21.10

Quote of the Day

"If you are hurt or these photos make you uncomfortable, it was never our intention. And if your eight-year-old has a copy of our GQ cover in hand, again I am sorry. But I would have to ask, how on earth did it get there?"

-- Dianna Agron, responding to the entirely contrived controversy over her and two of her fellow Glee castmembers' photo shoot in GQ

I'm a straight 40-year-old male who doesn't much like Madonna and isn't still nursing psychic wounds from being profoundly tortured for his lunch money in the 9th grade -- which means that I couldn't care less about Glee.

That said, it's entertaining the level of at best concern, at worst outright indignation currently being voiced over a new GQ pictorial which features a couple of members of the Glee cast cavorting "half-naked" on a set made to look like a high school hallway. The arguments seem to be that a) showing grown women who play teenagers on TV sexing it up is creepy/sick (the straight female argument), b) it's sexist and entirely unfair that Lea Michele and Dianna Agron strip for the photos while hunky guy Cory Monteith remains predictably clothed (the gay male argument), and c) "Arrrgh!!! No!!! Sex and television characters!!! What about our children?!?" (the Parents Television Council argument).

For the life of me I'll never understand the current pop cultural obsession with Glee; it's not an awful show by any means, but it's a damn near perfect example of a phenomenon that's taken on a life of its own and which is now wildly out of proportion with the thing that spawned it. To its legion of rabid fans, Glee is critic-proof; try bringing up the show's many flaws with any self-proclaimed "Gleek" and you may as well be at a Tea Party rally trying to reason with an obese woman on a Hoveround.

But back to the photo shoot: Artists have been creating and outlets have been commissioning images of attractive and scantily clad women since just about the dawn of time. Jesus, at least Michele and Agron are actually legal, as opposed to, say, Miley Cyrus, who has no issue giving potential pedophiles real spank material by posing topless before the age of 18. And that's really what it comes down to anyway: Whatever you think of the pictures, even if you've got a problem with the fact that the photographer who took them is kind of a notorious letch, the fact remains that the two adult women -- and the man, for that matter -- willingly went along with the shoot and did it for a magazine aimed at fellow adults. If they don't have an issue with posing that way, I can't bring myself to make a stink about the fact that they did.

Plus, at least something finally made Glee, and these characters, interesting for me.

Listening Post

Say what you will about the fact that these guys were, for a pretty fair chunk of time, the biggest, most unapologetic assholes in rock and roll -- they cranked out some damn spectacular music during their run. And this song remains one of my favorites from them.

Here's the mighty Oasis -- Stop Crying Your Heart Out.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Assistant Quote of the Day

"But more to the point, the origin of these SWFs (sovereign wealth funds) is not even relevant, necessarily. What is relevant is that these funds are foreign and that thanks to a remarkable series of events in the middle part of the last decade, they rapidly became owners of big chunks of American infrastructure. This is a process of a country systematically divesting itself of bits and pieces of its own sovereignty, and it's taking place without really anyone noticing it happening — often not even the people asked to vote formally on the issue."

-- Matt Taibbi, in a must-read excerpt from his new book, Griftopia

Listening Post: Bonus "Look Alive, Sunshine" Edition

You knew this was coming eventually.

The brand new full-length video for My Chemical Romance's Na Na Na.

Quote of the Day

"I think it's worth noting that in one of the alleged photos of him, he's pleasuring himself on a bed while wearing Crocs. And if you think about it, is there any better metaphor for the sad state of America today than an over-the-hill white guy lazily masturbating in plastic shoes?"

-- Bill Maher, on Brett Favre's ill-advised decision to send pictures of his penis to a female former Jets employee and what it says about us

Listening Post

British rapper-musician Jack Allsopp is better known by his stage name: Just Jack.

Here he is taking the Disintegration-era Cure classic Lullaby and turning it into something very Faithless-like and very cool.

This is Snowflakes.

Party Poopers

With just 13 days left until November 2nd, Joan Walsh in Salon points out just the three most recent examples of hilarious-if-it-weren't-so-sad Tea Party candidate extremism, befuddlement or general ineptitude.

Salon: Three Tea Party Videos All Voters Should See/10.19.10

And she doesn't even bother to get into G.I. Joe Miller's comment that America needs to build a fence along its border because, "If East Germany could, we could."

Remember, these clowns are the new heart and soul of the Republican party -- the candidates that her highness Sarah Palin taunts the GOP about, saying that it needs to nut-up and invest more "political capital" in them, or risk having a new splinter party emerge, completely separate from the GOP that exists now.

Because Palin has a proven track record of winning national elections and isn't just a reality TV star high on fame and willing to sabotage the Republicans over and over again as long as it feeds her insatiable narcissism. She's someone sane people in the party should definitely be listening to.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Stupid Is As Stupid Votes

Tuesday Is Recycling Day

I've republished and referenced this piece more than once since it was originally posted. But as a complement to last night's post on Glenn Beck -- and in deference to the new readers currently roaming around this place -- I'm putting it up again. Honestly, it's shocking to read this and think that I wrote it more than a year ago. As I said at the time, that was just the beginning of the madness.

"Revolutionary Goad" (Originally Published, 4.7.09)

Exactly how far is too far?

Several times over the past month or so, I've dismissed Glenn Beck, the new clown prince of Fox News, as being not much more than a guy doing Kaufman-esque stand-up -- an opportunistic little turd who's playing his audience of paranoid conspiracists like a badly tuned piano in the name of making himself rich. At one point, I even admitted that Beck was basically good, clean fun -- or at least would be until some tinfoil-hatted psychopath who took his nonsense way too seriously decided to fire off a few rounds at President Obama.

But given what we're now seeing, the question has to be asked: Is it just a matter of time before something like that does in fact happen?

Over the weekend, a man in Pittsburgh gunned down three police officers who showed up to the home he shared with his mother on a domestic disturbance call. He strapped on a Kevlar vest and armed himself with an AK-47, waited for them to come through the door, then picked them off one by one. The details that have come out about the shooter since the attack are as infuriating as they are not-the-least-bit-surprising: 22-year-old Richard Poplawski is identified as a Marine Corps wash-out, a recently unemployed white supremacist who believes that the Jews control the media and that, most tellingly, the Obama Administration is planning to ban his beloved guns. In other words, he's exactly the kind of guy who, if you went on TV and told him that his worst paranoid hallucinations were coming true and that the new left-wing government was indeed poised to kick down his door and take his freedoms away, would believe every fucking word of it and act accordingly.

And if you don't think that that's exactly the message the Richard Poplawskis of this country are being inundated with from the far right these days, you're even more delusional than Poplawski himself.

Over the space of just the past couple of weeks, Glenn Beck has warned his loyal, terrified viewership of the coming socialist junta; lunatic congresswoman Michele Bachmann has claimed that the U.S. dollar is about to be replaced by foreign currency, American youths will soon be sent to "re-education camps," and patriotic citizens should be "armed and dangerous" and ready for revolution; disgraced CNBC loudmouth Jim Cramer has called the Democrats "Bolsheviks" and compared the U.S. House of Representatives to the Politburo; and Dick Morris, the no-lie smarmiest shitbag alive, spat this little pearl of wisdom into the Fox News echo chamber:

"Those crazies in Montana who say, ‘we’re going to kill ATF agents because the UN’s going to take over’ -- well, they’re beginning to have a case."

In case you missed that, let's rewind: Dick Morris says that militaristic nutjobs willing to kill government agents now have a fucking case.

Once again, exactly how far is too far?

While free speech has to be respected and the right to it protected, is there no line of rhetoric so incendiary, so dangerous, so shameless in its aim of instigating simply for the sake of ad revenue, that it can't provoke absolute outrage? If you know that there are an inordinate number of Richard Poplawskis listening to you and that they already buy thoroughly into half-baked persecution fantasies -- and then you purposely try to at best validate their fears or at worst scare the hell out of them even further -- don't you bear at least a small amount of responsibility for the outcome? Shouldn't there be accountability?

In a display of hypocrisy that's almost staggering, many on the right who once railed against the twin evils of violent video games and Marilyn Manson and decried their supposed relation to teen violence are now hiding behind the very argument they say bleeding-heart liberals used against them way back when: that you can't blame the messenger for the effect the message might have on one or two unstable individuals. To his credit, Bob Cesca has a good take on this specious comparison; he points out that the difference between, say, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold -- the Columbine killers -- and someone like Richard Poplawski is that Harris and Klebold, while certainly being budding gun fetishists, hadn't yet developed the intransigent political ideology that goes hand-in-hand with a maniacal worship of weapons in this country. Harris and Klebold, like Cho Seung Hui -- the Virginia Tech killer -- were basically impressionable kids using guns to lash out and make themselves feel powerful (the latter, a trait they indeed shared with Poplawski and one that should have precluded them from ever owning a goddamned gun in the first place). They loved guns, sure -- but they didn't yet have the distrust of a government they feared would one day come and take their precious weapons away. Poplawski was impressionable in another way in that he did think that his weapons made him part of a larger culture of True Believers, and any confirmation of an attack on the way of life espoused by he and those like him would be all it took to set him off. And it did. Poplawski likely always figured his guns could be used to level the socio-political and economic playing field, and in his twisted mind, that's exactly what happened.

But for those who would still claim that everyone is impressionable in his or her own way and that, at some level, both the creators of GTA4 and Glenn Beck need to acknowledge that their actions may have unintended consequences: You're right, to an extent. The bottom line is that while free speech and expression must be respected, there has to be a level of responsibility attached. It's reckless, dangerous and immoral to knowingly stoke the demons of a person's nature -- and what's worse, to pass off fantasy as fact and do it in the name of making a buck or a political point. It's intellectually dishonest to pretend that you're operating in a vacuum -- whether you're Marilyn Manson or Michele Bachmann -- and that nothing you say will have an impact on the crazies within your target audience.

So, I ask yet again: How far is too far?

I talked to my father a few days ago. He's an ex-cop and ex-Navy SEAL who now lives part-time in a little Florida town called Sebring -- right in the center of the state's hyper-Republican I-4 Corridor. He's had a concealed weapons permit for decades and is about the most qualified and responsible person I can imagine being allowed to carry a weapon. He mentioned to me that he had recently been to the local Wal-Mart looking for ammunition for his handgun -- the kind of thing that's typically in abundance at a Central Florida big box store. But what he found surprised him, and scared him a little.

The place was almost completely out of ammo. In fact, it turns out they can barely keep the stuff on the shelves these days.

Somebody out there is listening to the "warnings."

And I'm betting that what we've seen lately is just the beginning of the nightmare.