Friday, August 15, 2008

Time to redirect all that gasbaggery, phony seriousness and incredible hypcrisy

Mo Do then (14 February, 1999) on the Starr hearings to impeach President Clinton:

What a relief. All the gasbaggery and phony seriousness and incredible hypocrisy that had gone into this farce could now be applied to other issues.

Other issues such as the sight of Liddy Dole having to answer questions about her married sex life, viagra, erectile dysfunction, Washington D.C. restuarants and Prince Al Gore, who would order room service from hotel kitchens of DC -- from 17 Feb, 1999

Picture Liddy Dole being pestered with questions about her spouse being undersexed -- and then becoming a Viagra guinea pig and spokesman to cure ''erectile dysfunction'' in ads featuring 1-800 numbers -- even as Hillary is pestered with questions about her spouse being oversexed.

''Let's forget the primaries,'' jokes Howard Fineman of Newsweek. ''Let's make it who can get the best table at the Washington restaurant of their choice.''

... Bob Dole's idea of triangulation was to travel from the Watergate to Congress to the ''Meet the Press'' studio. He would appear on the Sunday talk show -- ''the Church of Russert,'' Mr. Fineman calls it -- while Elizabeth went to the Presbyterian church next door.

As the son of Senator Al Gore Sr. of Tennessee, Prince Albert grew up as the capital's version of Eloise at the Plaza, ensconced in a three-bedroom apartment in the elegant Fairfax Hotel on Embassy Row. Sometimes, when his parents went out, the future Vice President would order room service from the hotel kitchen, now transformed into the pricey Jockey Club restaurant.

So, really, the race would be ... between the Jockey Club, which offers rack of lamb with cracked black pepper, basil and jus for $29.50, and the Watergate's Aquarelle, which offers rack of lamb encrusted in a spicy lamb sausage with rosemary and garlic essences for $32.

Such as "the triumph of the cleavage culture", the obsession with sex of cable news and talk shows (Mo Do, of course, having no such obsessions) and advertising rates for BawBawWa WaWa's interview with some chick sufficiently famous that the reader would know her by her first name only, and the unsexy democratic candidates - Al Gore and Bill Bradley: Feb 28, 1999:

The February cover of ''Esquire'' is indistinguishable from ''Playboy,'' with Pamela Anderson embodying ''The Triumph of Cleavage Culture.'' The magazine ponders whether breasts might be ''a symbol of the new culture of falseness that pervades the corridors of power.''


Cable news and talk shows, of course, are obsessed with sex. They tried to wedge in Jon Benet Ramsey during a post-impeachment lull that saw ratings plummet, but they were clearly thrilled to see Jane Doe No. 5 wash up. The Washington Post says advertising rates for Barbara Walters's Monica interview were quadrupled to $800,000 for a 30-second spot.

When everyone is trying to be sexy, the only way to make a splash is not to be sexy. Which brings us to Al Gore and Bill Bradley.

On Thursday night, while excited teen-agers hooted in the balcony at ''Cruel Intentions,'' Democrats gathered at the home of Barry Diller for a reception for Mr. Bradley, co-hosted by Disney chief Michael Eisner.

Most other Hollywood big shots are pushing the Vice President. As much as they love Bill Clinton, they say they they are looking forward to a White House that would be more ''Pleasantville'' than ''Peyton Place.''

''With Gore you get the best of Clinton without the distractions,'' said one top director.

When Hollywood urges Washington to be less entertaining and sexy, you know things have gone seriously awry.

Such as a whole column devoted to "Prince Al" and the insufferable inevitability of the Oscar award for best picture for Saving Private Ryan, which must some how conflates with Gore's own sense of inevitability - even though Gore is not sexy, not flashy; while Gore "bulldozed endorsements" and "scooped up money from Wall Street to Hollywood".

A "weird" inevitability kicking in, as the VP "hugs his mantle of inevitability" (perhaps not unlike a self-centered baby-boomer) -- plus Al Gore the liar, liar, pants on fire -- the actor, always playing a part, never comfortable with any of them -- unable to integrate the dualilty of his nature. Well, pretty much no different from George W. Bush - both dauphins with father issues. Thus spaketh Mo Do, in her March 24, 1999 column entitled:

Liberties; Saving Private Gore

Al Gore could do worse than to take a lesson from the Oscars.

Inevitability can be insufferable.

The Vice President could turn out to be the ''Saving Private Ryan'' of Presidential candidates. Last summer, Steven Spielberg's World War II movie was proclaimed all but certain to win best picture. It was worthy. It was good. It was dutiful. There was nothing flashy or sexy about it. It was, in short, Al Gore.

But after months of hearing about the front-runner's invincibility, Academy voters couldn't wait to overturn it -- preferring to make love, not war -- and give the statuette to a sassy Elizabethan upstart with a biting political campaign and a clever message.

Prince Al might do well to nudge aside his Dreamworks team and lend an ear to Harvey Weinstein, the Miramax big shot who toppled ''Ryan'' with his ''Shakespeare in Love.''

Mr. Gore has all the classic trappings of the front-runner. He has bulldozed endorsements from the Democratic chieftains, Dick Gephardt and Tom Daschle, and scooped up money from Wall Street to Hollywood. He recycles small, poll-tested policies and bite-sized issues, like creating a special telephone number for commuters in traffic jams.

His itsy-bitsy ''livability'' issues echo Dick Morris, who brought President Clinton back from the brink of political extinction by having him cater to the worries of self-centered boomers. But some Gore supporters wonder if it's wise to repeat the trick.

There's a weird syndrome kicking in. The more the Vice President hugs his mantle of inevitability -- the closer he moves to the prize he has wanted his whole life -- the more skittish he gets about taking chances.

His Hollywood gurus want to rush in with some speech coaching. His old friends see the pressure building and tell him to loosen up.

The more afraid he is to make mistakes, the more mistakes he makes. The more the coast looks clear, the more Mr. Gore throws impediments in his own way.

Even though he has the background and accomplishments to be President, he takes no Clintonesque joy in campaigning and seems insecure, giving curiously flat and airless speeches and needlessly inflating his feats and his history.

Recently the Vice President has repeated the mistake he made with ''Love Story'' and drawn ridicule by boasting that he was the father of the Internet and a master at cleaning hog waste and plowing farmland with a team of mules.

''He's so afraid to make mistakes,'' said one Democrat who has worked with him and likes him. ''You hold everything in and hold everything in and hold everything in and then all of a sudden, stuff pops out.''

He first played the Good Son to his father, the legendary Tennessee Senator and populist stemwinder. He then played the Good Brother to the wayward and sweet-talking Bill Clinton, in a sort of West Wing version of ''East of Eden.'' Now he seems tongue-tied and timid.

The closer he gets to the crown, the less Prince Albert is able to integrate the two sides of his personality. He shows the more appealing side to reporters and friends in private. But get him on a podium and he coils and clinches, reading even the simplest greeting or expression of gratitude in a dead-zone voice. At a Gore 2000 fund-raiser at a Washington hotel, one prominent Democratic supporter derided Mr. Gore's freeze-dried remarks with a sardonic aside, saying, ''Gee, he should think about bottling that.'' Tipper Gore didn't help the sizzle factor by introducing her husband as ''an outstanding fellow.''

Bill Clinton doesn't even bother to recover from mistakes. He just keeps going. Al Gore spends a week plotting a strategy to fix his mistake and finally comes up with a self-deprecating joke at just the moment everyone has started forgetting the original gaffe.

So far, the 2000 race is between two dauphins born at third base. Al and George are the sons of famous politicians named Al and George. While they both may suffer from famous-father syndrome, they are reacting against their dads in different ways. Mr. Gore's supporters worry that he is too controlled and zombie-like. Mr. Bush's supporters fear he isn't controlled enough and in the heat of a campaign may become hotheaded.

One has yet to articulate in a fetching way. One has yet to articulate at all. It won't be long before we look back nostalgically to the days when politics was entertainment.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

How to limit the damage of the mostly medicore and callow

Chris Hedges writes in Truthdig of many troubling affairs of "the media" who focus on a tabloid driven view of the sexual scandals which embroil some politicians all the while down playing or ignoring the real world violence towards, abuse of, and indifference to thousands upon untold thousands of innocent human beings.

I do not trust or believe most politicians. I have covered too many. The question is not how we can get good people to govern. The question is how we can limit the damage of mostly mediocre, callow men and women, who comprise the majority of those who yearn for power, from doing the most harm. This comes through the rigorous checks and balances of a functioning democracy, not self-appointed political saviors. But we always prefer saviors, those who make us believe they have attained moral and heroic summits that elude us.


... Campaign appearances, with the dutiful spouse as prop, are scripted mini-dramas. We live in a society so saturated in lies that we can no longer distinguish between a married couple in a sit com and on the campaign trail....

Political leaders no longer need to be competent, sincere or honest. They only need to appear to have these qualities. The most essential skill in political theater, which has no room for knowledge or debate or trust, is artifice. Those who are most able to entertain, that is, to deceive, succeed. Those who cannot play these roles, like Ralph Nader, are pushed to the sidelines.


There are worse things done by politicians than illicit sexual adventures. Ask an Iraqi. Ask an Afghan. Ask a detainee at Guantanamo. Ask an unemployed steelworker in Ohio. But in an age of images and entertainment, in an age of instant emotional gratification, we do not want honesty or even reality but the reassurance of old clichés, stereotypes and mythic narratives.... We want to feel that they like us and we want to like them. This gives us what television gives us, a simplistic narrative around which to frame our lives. This narrative defies the messiness and disorder of the real world. If politicians adhere to this ridiculous narrative of personal happiness and fidelity, designed to reassure us that the world is ordered and neat and constant, they can commit egregious war crimes and strip us of our power. If they do not we will find better actors.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

A way to make a buck circa 1977

With all the subprime mortgage meltdowns going on now (the next tier of meltdown to follow I suspect -- with even high end residences going into foreclosures), it's interesting to note that Elmore Leonard knew enough about the business that one of the protagonists from his 1977 crime story The Hunted had made a lot of money selling bundled mortgages to banks for a fee.

"I'm no longer president of my fucking company. That's what he tells me. They voted me out, these clucks on board, guys I brought in. Let 'em buy a piece of the business. Mel says after three years of carrying me, they voted me a final payment, the two hundred grand and that's it, for my stock, everything. I can't bring suit because I'm not there. Two hundred grand, the fucking company's writing a hundred million dollars worth of home mortgages a year. . . ."

"That's what you're in, the mortgage business?"

"Mortgage broker," Rosen said. "We secure government-approved mortgages, usually on low-cost housing around Detroit, and sell them to out-of-state banks at one, one and a quarter percent."

"I don't understand anything about that," Davis said. "I never owned a home."

"It's paperwork. You hire bookkeppers and lawyers like Mel, the sonofabitch. He's gonna tell them--the guys you were shooting at--that he contacted me, yes, to tell me I'm out of the business, that's all. So he doesn't have anything more to do with me."

Arming for foes that exist only in the Star Trek franchise

From the sword-like pen of Jeff Huber comes the following assessment of the present political leadership of the U.S.A.

I'm starting to think America is the only country left whose leaders are dumb enough to think that toppling a regime and replacing it with a sock surrogate is a good idea. Look how things have gone in Iraq and Afghanistan and Pakistan, and the Bush yahooligans are still raving about "regime change" in Iran.


The Russians, like the Chinese, spend around a tenth as much as we do on defense at most, and they aren't looking for a rematch of the first Cold War's arms race. They're perfectly content (and wise enough) to sit on the sidelines and watch us spend ourselves into insolvency arming for wars with foes that only exist in the Star Trek franchise.

an insensitive individual without human depth

While a prisoner of war, John McCain was interviewed by Dr. Fernando Barral, a Spanish psychiatrist residing in Cuba, on 24 January, 1970. A transcript of a translation of that interview has been declassified and can be found on the internet. Here is Dr Barral's “opinion on the personality” of Lt Commander John McCain:

He showed himself to be intellectually alert during the interview. From a morale point of view he is not in traumatic shock. He is neither dejected nor depressed. He was able to be sarcastic, and even humorous, indicative of psychic equilibrium. From the moral and ideological point of view he showed us he is an insensitive individual without human depth, who does not show the slightest concern who does not appear to have thought about the criminal acts he committed against a population from the almost impunity of his airplane, and that nevertheless those people saved his life, fed him, and looked after his health, and he is now healthy and strong. I believe that he bombed densely populated places for sport. I noted that he was hardened, that he spoke of banal things as if he were at a cocktail party.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Not if circus, obfuscation and deflection continue to prevail

Ronald Solberg has a must read article up at Asia Times online which says that the end of the recession is NOT near at hand. His analysis is logical and compelling.

The dire condition of the banks suggests that their willingness and ability to lend will constrict further, putting even greater pressure on the economy. As the economy slows and consumers increasingly retrench on spending due to the imminent need to save, asset quality problems for banks will spread to other products, including credit card delinquencies, auto loans, home equity loans, student loans and commercial real estate.

It is also likely that there will be a substantial up-tick in delinquencies on corporate, municipal and state bonds as companies, cities and states alike find that large and growing deficits cannot be solved merely by expenditure reduction and tax hikes. We are in the midst of a profound, secular debt de-leveraging cycle for which cyclical policy adjustments will struggle to reverse.

Paulsen and Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke have clearly shown their hand: they will throw as much money as needed to support any major financial institution (or perhaps even markets themselves). However, their balance sheets are not limitless either and debt monetization may ultimately occur. This policy response would have enormous consequences, ranging from huge moral hazard risks, incipient inflation, increasing regulation, misallocation of resources and higher taxation.

The woeful American middle-class will have a steep price to pay for these largely unquestioned and autonomously imposed policies that bailout the fallout from Wall Street's greed, avarice and the gross regulatory mis-management by the Federal Reserve over the past two decades. A secular decline in the standard of living of the American middle class is a very likely prospect resulting from increased taxation, inflation and perhaps even the loss of seniorage from the diminished prospects for the US dollar as the world's reserve currency. Will anyone be held accountable? Not if circus, obfuscation and deflection continue to prevail.

Perhaps this was NOT a glitch

NBC Olympics reports this morning:

BEIJING -- The strains of the "Star-Spangled Banner" rang out over the Water Cube. President Bush, in the stands, waved his own American flag as the big one went up over the pool. And then, just as the song was getting to the part about the land of the free - the song stopped.

Atop the podium, Michael Phelps laughed.

It was the only glitch in a picture-perfect Sunday morning.

Easy visual, the commander-in-chief of the American armed forces waving an American flag, just like a good cheer leader. I wonder if former Russian President Putin will wave a Russian flag when the Russians win their first gold medal? Or if Chinese President HU Jintao will wave a Chinese flag when the Chinese win their first gold medal? Or if President Bush will wave the flag for all U.S. gold medals won?

The Chinese appreciate subtle irony. Perhaps this was NOT a glitch but a deeply profound and ironic political statement. And, if it was "just a glitch," who is to say that some great universal force was not making a deeply profound and ironic political statement?

Social Commentary from Elmore Leonard - part 1

The following excerpts come from Split Images, a fictional crime novel by one of my favorite authors, Elmore Leonard, a master or the genre. In the two passages below (excerpted from pages 55-56 and pages 195-196) one of the story's protagonists, a free-lance writer, offers her assessment of rich people -- clearly Republicans. The book was first published in 1981. These passages conjured up images of Rush Limbaugh, Phil Gramm, Prescott Bush and George W. Bush.

"Rich people don't think. They assume things. They assume everyone thinks the way they do."

"You just said they don't think."

"Don't pick. You know what I mean," Angela said. "Then, when I'd finally get him to sit down and talk, he'd want to play around."

"Make the moves on you."

"No, not like that. The only time--when I met him the first thing he said to me. . . . I'm standing there, I've told him who I am, acting very legitimate and proper . . . he says, 'You know what I'd like to do, Angie?' And that's one thing I can't stand, I don't know why, being called Angie. He says, very straight, 'I'd like to tie you up and fuck your socks off.' "

Bryan said, "No hugs and kisses first, huh?"

"He was being cute. He says things with a straight face, then grins to show he's kidding. You're supposed to think he's a little off the wall but basically cute."


They backtracked, crossed Southern Boulevard on the beach road and Angela pointed to the Bath and Tennis Club. "From here up to Worth Avenue, about a mile or so, is the very in section, between the Bath and Tennis Club and the Everglades Club. If you know how much money you have you don't belong here.... The architecture is all either pseudo-Spanish or Mediterranean Mausoleum."

"I don't think you should write the book on rich people," Bryan said.

"Why, because I have a point of view?"

Bryan nodded toward a colossal, ornate structure with a slim minaret pointing to heaven. "What's that?"

"It's somebody's house," Angela said. "Shelter."

Bryan said, "I'd hate to have to vacuum and dust the place."


"You could be a tour guide."

"Yeah, stop the bus and everybody gets out and throws tomatoes."

Bryan said, "You don't sound upset, but you really are. I don't get it."

"I can point out a few hotbeds of fascism too," Angela said. "They're not all fascists, but when Jack Kennedy was shot some of the Old Guard actually threw parties."

"Who told you that"?

"A very reliable guy I know here. He writes for the local paper, the Post."

"Well, that was a while ago."

"Nixon was here last month, greeted like a savior . . . That's Worth Avenue, where all the expensive stores are."

"Where the rich people shop?"

"No, where the tourists shop. Rich people don't spend their money, they invest it in real estate. That's the in thing to talk about at the clubs, real estate."

Bryan said, "Why do rich people make you mad?"

"They don't," Angela said. "I just feel that the way they live, their entire life-style, is irrelevant, it has nothing to do with reality."

"Because they have money and you don't?"

"No. Because their whole goddamn life is based on real estate. Owning things."

"You said that's all your dad talks about. Real estate. Is he rich?"

"No, he wears a string tie and a cowboy hat with his gold-frame glasses, drives a Cadillac, lives in Country Club Estates with a guard, a guard, Bryan, at the entrance and tries hard to sound rich. But he doesn't know how. That's what's wrong with them," Angela said, with her cool edge. "The rich people make their life look so goddamn good we all bust our ass trying to get the same thing."

Bryan said, "If the poor people suddenly became rich would they do it any different?"

"Probably not."

"Are rich people fun to watch?"

"Not especially."

"Fun to talk to? Interview?"

"Not at all. They don't say anything. They don't know anything that's going on outside their own walled-in life. They're complete out of touch with reality."