Saturday, November 24, 2007

An Annoying Literary Post

This literary tangent by Matthew Yglesias has me thinking. Six or so years ago, in the midst of enjoying Peter Jackson's film adaptation of The Lord of the Rings, I re-read John Gardner's Grendel, a re-writing of the epic poem Beowulf, which has recently become a highly-praised film. My father taught Grendel every year in his regents English class; my senior year Gardner had accepted an invitation my father extended year after year to come and speak to our class. Unfortunately, just weeks before, Gardner was killed in a motorcycle accident, so I never got the chance to hear him speak.

My parents belong to a Book Club, and around the time that I was reading Grendel, my father told me how he was going to approach his review - as a piece of counter-cultural political criticism. I used that as a jumping off point for an entirely political hermeneutic of the novel, which allowed me to bring in Nietzsche, and Richard Nixon (not very strange bed-fellows, really), and the whore-madonna complex. I also spent part writing on a comparison of Grendel with Lord of the Rings. While I do love the books, and Jackson's adaptations are among the finest films ever made. For all that, though, the perspectives of two scholars of Anglo-Saxon could not be more different, and those differences were reflected in their respective popular novels.

In the final instance, the differences between Gardner and Tolkien were linked not just to one being and American and another being British; one being a devout Roman Catholic and the other being an atheist; and one writing twenty years after the other. Context might not be everything, but it certainly account for many of the differences. The men were very different people, and their respective political opinions most certainly could not be more different.

In the video appendices to the films, a Tolkien scholar argues the novels have a multi-cultural point of view; he also argues that there is an environmental theme to the books. I argued that, in fact, Tolkien's view was hardly multi-cultural in the sense most contemporary scholars use the term. His approach to nature was far more in keeping with a certain pagan view, animistic and occult, with overtones of almost Luddite disdain for human industry. This reactionary, one might almost call it (after Ernst Bloch's discussion of Jung in The Principle of Hope) fascist attempt to recapture a prehistory that not only never was but never could be, is as far from the kind of responsible environmental concern we know today. It is a mix of acquiescence before the multitude of natural mysteries that surround us and a reverence for those mysteries bordering on worship.

I suppose, as a further aside, I should toss in Michael Crichton's Eaters of the Dead, which was a too-clever-by-half attempt to retell, again, Beowulf, this time through the eyes of an Arab chronicler. It, too, was turned in to a movie, The 13th Warrior that, while entertaining, ends up, like Crichton's work, too-clever-by-half.

Saturday Rock Show

To many fans of the larger genre, the Canterbury music scene is often linked with British Progressive Rock. There are far too many differences, however, between them for me to make any such link. The Canterbury scene was, for the most part, much freer, much jazzier, far more influenced by American free jazz and fusion than by classical style and structure. The only band that really linked the two, because it refused to consider itself a part of any movement, was King Crimson, who are too often called "prog", but were a hybrid of jazz, heavy metal, and English beer hall that sought to force the muse to serve them, rather than vice-versa.

The quintessential Canterbury band was Soft Machine. Here they are from a 1970 French television appearance, and you will see what I mean.

Some of Soft Machine's back catalog has been remastered and released on CD, which I found yesterday.

Robert Wyatt was Soft Machine's leader, and he left the band to form another even more eclectic group called Matching Mole. If anyone stumbles across this post and knows where I can find CD copies of Matching Mole, please let me know.

The End Of The Church Calendar Year

Tomorrow is Christ the King Sunday, the last feast day of the liturgical calendar (among Protestants; every day is still a saint day among Catholics, I suppose). It is fitting, I think, that the liturgical calendar comes full circle, beginning with Advent, then ending with Christ the King before we move . . . back to Advent again. Most people associate Advent (if they think of it at all) as a time of preparation for Christmas; other than "Come Thous Long Expected Jesus" and "O Come, O Come Emmanuel", we usually hop right on the Christmas gravy train, because it's "what we've always done". I use to struggle with this because, let's face it, there aren't too many hymns everyone sings with gusto like "Joy to the World" or "O Come All Ye Faithful". I no longer struggle because (a) Advent is as important in its own way as Lent as a time of preparation; and (b) by moving without any reflection from "ordinary time" to "Christmas" we are doing in Church what our society and culture does far too easily, trying to "get to Christmas" as quickly as possible.

Before we get to Christmas, though, we have to move through Advent. Before we move through Advent, however, we have Christ the King Sunday. For many American Christians, and even more for American non-Christians, the use of the royal title is not just problematic, but downright offensive. A while back (when I was in seminary in the early '90's), some tried to sneak around it by inserting talk of "the reign and realm of God" rather than "the Kingdom of God". They would talk about the "Reign of Christ" rather than "Christ the King". I am of two minds about all this. The latter is less an re-imagining of outworn metaphors than it is rhetorical fancy footwork. We need to be honest and admit that (a) the Bible uses royal imagery to describe Divine Rule; and (b) we cannot get around these images and metaphors simply because we do not like them.

I don't like them. I don't talk much about "the Kingdom of God", but I also don't talk much about "the Reign and Realm of God", either. The former is just . . . too undemocratic for me, and the latter is an attempt to be clever that ends up just being weaselly. Yet, Christ the King Sunday says in shorthand what the whole liturgical calendar, the entire cycle of feasts and remembrances, and the Biblical narrative moves toward. The Church and its faith is not about getting ourselves into heaven. The Church and its faith is not about hating gays, or getting our doctrine right, or outlawing abortion. The Church and its faith are about surrendering everything we have and are to God. Our time, our talent, our money, our devotion to family and friends - all of it is to fall away as we remember that, at the end of all things, the only thing the Jesus asks of us is our lives.

The eschatological dimension of the faith is always a difficult topic, made worse by all the blather about "the Rapture" and "the Second Coming" which pervades the issue. For myself, at least (and I really only speak for me), this is the end toward which, not just Advent, but the entire liturgical cycle and the Christian life moves - the final surrender of all we have to God. We do not need to go much further in to all the unanswerable questions and odd theories of "the final things" to insist that the proclamation of Jesus Christ as King is nothing more and nothing less than the laying down of all our petty, human attempts at power ("casting our crowns at his feet") and submitting to the powerlessness of the crucified Jesus.

On The One Hand . . . On The Other Hand

My sister-in-law and her husband got me Raisisng Sand for my birthday the other day. It is without a doubt a great album.

On the other hand, I got thinking about the odd duo of Robert Plant and Allison Kraus, and I wondered who else T Bone Burnette might get to pair doing what kind of music, so here is a partial list to help him out:

- Marilyn Manson and Jessye Norman sing Rogers and Hammerstein

- Maynard James Keenan (Tool) and Dolly Parton sing Puccinni arias

- Brian Johnson (AC-DC) and Jessica Simpson do the hymns of Charles Wesley

- Shania Twain and Tom Arraya (Slayer) sing the best of Yes

. . . and finally. . .

- Lemmy (Motorhead) and Deborah Harry do a Christmas album.

Friday, November 23, 2007

In Shopping We Trust

Today is the biggest retail shopping day of the year. Some stores opened at midnight, others opened several hours earlier than normal, and are staying open later than usual, to accommodate the throngs of people who, plastic in hand, will come and buy so much useless gee-gaws in order to have an extra wrapped item under the tree this year. Usually, I take little note of the nonsense, other than the fluff pieces in the news (and why do news producers think that this kind of stuff deserves to be in their programs?).

Yet, there is something sad about the whole thing. I remember well, when I was in college, spending Thanksgiving with my then-girlfriend and her family. The day after enjoying a wonderful meal with some relatives of her mother in the mob enclave of Long Beach (we drove through the remnants of the "toll booths" which were the scene of James Caan's death scene in The Godfather), we went to the Smithtown Mall. I learned several valuable lessons that day, the first and most important being - do not go shopping the day after Thanksgiving. The tizzy and tension were almost visible. Spending half an hour driving around until someone close to the mall pulled out so we could sneak in to their spot, rather than just park in the first available spot and walk; elbows, knees, and hands flying; walking so fast I was panting to keep up - the entire thing was an object lesson in how to drive me insane.

About nine or ten years ago, Lisa and I decided that we would no longer use any credit or store charge when shopping for Christmas. If we couldn't afford to pay cash, forget it. We both are aware that there is little that we really want, absolutely nothing that we need, and much prefer ensuring our children have a good day rather than opening a bunch of junk for ourselves.

There just seems something, not just unseemly but almost dirty about the whole thing. I realize that speaking against consumerism is on the same level with spitting on the cross and burning the flag, but I do believe we would all be better off if we gave the holiday a holiday this year. Except for the most desperately poor among us, there are few who lack even the most fringe extras our superabundant lifestyle demands we have in order to be fulfilled. Much of the stuff sitting on store shelves is so much junk, destined for the junk pile inside of a year as it is. Why piss down that rat hole?

We are a people addicted to stuff. We have closets and basements and attics and garages full of it. Even I, I must confess, have far more than any sane adult should have. The sad fact is, other than the food I eat, the roof over my head, and a fresh set of clean drawers every day - everything else I have is just a bunch of future landfill. My only real struggle is the fact that my libraries of books and CDs enrich my life aesthetically, and make my days and nights a bit easier, and so I find it difficult to dispense with either of them. I do wish I could - I have no desire to let any transient object hold my attention or interest as much as these do. At least I recognize that they have little intrinsic value in and of themselves.

This ranting ramble, or rambling rant is leading towards this radical thought. Instead of Buy Nothing Day, how about a Buy Nothing Christmas Season?

Wednesday, November 21, 2007


There are a plethora of issues out there to grab my attention and send my thoughts a-whirling. I have decided, however, that I shall close up shop until Friday.

Besides the normal platitudes about eating well, enjoying the Detroit Lions losing to whomever they will lose to this year, and staying safe, please make sure that, regardless of your circumstances, you give thanks. It doesn't have to be to God. Or Adonai. Or Allah, the All-Knowing, the All-Merciful. Indeed, you can be thankful to those around you. I am thankful for my wife and children. I am thankful for all the privileges I have being a member of this society. I am thankful that I have found friends and fellow-bloggers to laugh with, argue with, and share a few profound moments with every now and then.

So - eat well, be safe, enjoy the game, and remember to thank those around you.

Maybe Some People Really Are Born Dumb

With a gracious hat tip to Tbogg, I have found evidence that conclusively proves what I have always believed to be the case: You can take a person to college, stick them in all sorts of classes, give them all sorts of information and facts and even the tools for critical thinking, and in the end, all you have is a moron with a diploma. A student, Ryan Haecker, at the University of Texas, has written a piece for the student newspaper, The Daily Texan, entitled "Who Wears the Pants?" What follows is a sample of Haecker's typing exercise:
Dresses epitomize womanhood in the Western world. Such has been the case since the western man adopted pants to replace the tunic in the sixth century (an aspect of the West's Germanic barbarian heritage). Dresses allow us to differentiate between the silhouettes of men and women on restroom signs. Dresses are the indelible image of womanhood because of the symbolic nature of pants and dresses. If all fashions are symbolic, dresses in particular symbolize womanhood by more fully embodying the ideal of a true lady, the objective understanding of what men find attractive in the fairer sex: passivity, domesticity, childrearing, coital love, piety and fertility. These defining aspects of womanhood are immutable. We all tacitly reaffirm these attributes in our attempts to find a partner. Flirtation and courtship are reaffirmations of what it means to be masculine and feminine because it is only by fulfilling the obligation of our form that we can attract the opposite sex.

You might say these things were once true but times have changed. Not so. The nature of sexual attractiveness in women is objective, immutable and incontrovertible because it is directly related to the constant and unchanging physiology of men and women. What men find attractive in women is fixed because the physiology of humanity has been relatively unchanged. In this way, the ideal form of femininity is also unchangeable and without regard for cultural context or time period. What men find attractive in women - the form of a true lady - is objectively identifiable, just as it was in the time of Nebuchadnezzar. In short, femininity is sexy, and sexy is timeless and universal.

What's not sexy is feminism (not to be confused with femininity), which is directly responsible for the disappearance of our beloved dresses and the adoption of pants by the "new woman." Like all fashions, pants are symbolic of something - in this case masculinity - through their allowance of physical activity. Dresses, the antithesis of pants, symbolize femininity through grace and elegance. Men find elegance in women to be attractive, and dresses are a physical manifestation of femininity. The wearing of pants by women represents the masculinization of the fairer sex, which is not at all attractive.


The androgynous masculinization of the modern woman, through the donning of pants, suits, uncovered shoulders and unveiled hair, has in a sense led to the slow whorification of ladyhood. In discarding feminine dress, women seem to have symbolically discarded femininity and modesty (the virtues of women) in favor of sexual virility, promiscuity and immodesty (the vices of men). The ideal form of a true lady is a constant, immutable aspect of humanity, and this strange new development can only represent a bizarre aberration of a perverse and ignoble culture. Dresses are an essential part of any true lady's attire, and they should be worn.

Tbogg also points readers to the comments thread, and Mr. Haecker shows up. He continues his one-man example of an educated idiot until, pulling a move I have seen before, overwhelmed by the fact that no one seems to take what he has written seriously, or engaged his arguments in a thoughtful manner, he writes:
I'm not planning on replying to any more responses as it's getting a bit rediculous [sic]. Thanks for all the comments/criticism. Some folks really tore my silly argument about a serious issue, apart(GJ). Relax, and have a good Thanksgiving.

In other words, "WAH!"

The nice thing about something like this is that, there is both an abundance of objectively false "facts" presented, and the underlying ideas and suppositions, which include such things as "immutability" and "incontrovertible" and "ideal", are the wishful thinking of a small brain stuffed with just enough information to allow the person to make a fool of himself. There is no reason to "argue" with this, because this isn't an "argument" but baiting, pure and simple. The young man is goading people through provocation. The best way to deal with this kind of thing is to do two things: (1) Laugh at it; (2) Then move on, as if it never was.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

A Faith That Should Convict Us All

ER has managed to do it again, in a good way. He posts on a passage from Phillip Yancey, and in so doing, has managed, as I wrote in comments to both convict and encourage me. I do not want to steal his thunder, so I shall insist you click the link and read the passage he has pulled out for our consideration.

Recently, I confessed to my wife that I am going through a spiritual struggle. We talked about it. Reading this piece, though, I think my "spiritual struggle" is a bunch of self-regarding bushwah. Only someone reared in a society as obsessed with "success" and as well-off as I am could possibly believe that my complaints were legitimate. Rather, they were the whines of one of the privileged who feels his entitlement has not been fulfilled. I am in full repentance mode right now.

At the same time, I am encouraged by this piece, because the kind of simplicity and courage on display here is "evidence of things not seen". There are true Christians in the world, and they aren't syndicated columnists or media moguls or even former politicians who parade their faith for all the world to see. This woman's life is a judgment not just upon my own selfishness, but upon all those who demand to have their faith taken seriously, rather than just living it out.

As we move towards Thanksgiving, perhaps we should give thanks for this woman whose faith in the midst of a horrible, disfiguring disease has served a reminder to all of us who are far too self-centered to imagine crawling on elbows and knees across the ground in order to sing "Jesus Love Me" to someone.

May the angels wing her safely home.

Holding A Mirror Up To Moynihan

Digby's column at Commonsense is a wonderful piece that needs to be read in full, with a concentration on the details. By taking a factual and rhetorical cudgel to Daniel Patrick Moynihan's "Defining Deviancy Downward" thesis originally published in American Scholar in 1993 -
I proffer the thesis that, over the past generation, . . . the amount of deviant behavior in American society has increased beyond the levels the community can "afford to recognize" and that, accordingly, we have been re-defining deviancy so as to exempt much conduct previously stigmatized, and also quietly raising the "normal" level in categories where behavior is now abnormal by any earlier standard.

- she shows us that, rather than the result of liberal politics and the trepidations of the depraved masked as social policy, the real culprits of our social malaise are corporations who, in pursuit of ever-higher profits, screw people, and the politicians who enable them. The best of the worst examples of the latter are the ill-conceived and misnamed "Tort Reform" bill and "Bankruptcy Reform" bills the Republican-controlled Congress passed a few years back.

Digby writes in closing:
So, here we find ourselves more than 40 years after the conservatives began decrying the moral depravity of the left and 15 years after Patrick Moynihan told us that our liberal culture was defining deviancy down and we find that they were right all along. They just got one little detail wrong. It wasn't the liberal left who were morally depraved. It was them.

While the culture at large was adjusting to the idea that families don't all look the same and that private sexual morality was not the business of the state, the decadent economic elite and right wing ideologues had systematically defined deviancy down to the point where Moynihan's deviant "altruism" can be illustrated as giving bonuses to workers who denied cancer patients their medicine; his deviant "opportunism" is seen as giving hundreds of millions of dollars to failed business leaders who lost their companies billions; and his deviant "normalizing" can be observed as society tossing aside its taboo against government-sanctioned torture.

If those are the "old" standards the culture warriors of the right have been trying to defend, they're killing us. Literally.

I applaud the last line, precisely because it is correct.

There is, however, a problem with this. By holding a mirror up to Moynihan's thesis about "deviance", she forgets that by doing so, she is still buying in to the central idea Moynihan presented, viz., that there was once a time when certain behaviors were verboten, not just as a question of generally accepted values and principles, but even, perhaps as matters of law. In fact, the kinds of corporate crime and political aiding and abetting she describes has been a constant of the United States, with two possible exceptions - Andrew Jackson's fight against the Bank of the US, and FDR's struggle to install corporate and market-exchange oversight and regulation in the wake of capitalism's collapse in the early 1930's.

I would much rather toss the entire thing out on its ear, precisely because the thesis is fundamentally flawed, whether in its original version or its mirror image. The kinds of behaviors of which Moynihan spoke in his original piece are not "deviant" in some absolute moral sense (because no such thing exists), but are various species of either bigotry or narrow-minded social repression masked as moral opprobrium. As far as digby's mirror is concerned, corporations have been screwing people left and right, even killing them on more than several occasions, for doing nothing more than demanding better working conditions, better pay, and more sane work schedules. As for cutting corners in production that endanger consumers (or dropping policy holders if the occasion arises), Americans seem OK with that as long as the products they buy - manufactured for the most part by slave labor or very nearly that in places like China, Vietnam, Guatemala, and Thailand - are still inexpensive. It might be patriotic to scream "Buy American", but everyone knows those pesky unions will drive up prices and we can't have that.

Rather than discuss something nonsensical like "deviance", we should be discussing the very real fraying of the various strands of the social web and infrastructure in the US. Since most Americans (three-quarters in the latest such poll) believe the US is "headed in the wrong direction", it seems this is the best place to start. What can we do in order to be moving in the right direction? I do not believe that harping on "cultural" issues (which is nothing more than attempts to legislate narrow, contingent moral codes held by relatively few people) will be a winner any more for the right. Whether it's bashing GLBT's, or Brown Folks, or lecturing us on our declining values - this argument is over and done with. The American people are pretty clear what they want - health care, a responsible and responsive government that does not spend our military treasure in illegal and pointless wars, a return to a real sense of shared national community. It isn't about "deviance". It's about restoring the United States' social and political and legal infrastructure.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Watch - Some Images, And Words, May Be Disturbing

Trent Reznor provides the soundtrack. America provides the images. If you aren't angry now, you might be after you see this:

Music Monday

Listening to Billie Holliday creates a mood. I close my eyes, and I am in a smoky club on 57th Street in the late-1940's, a martini sweating on the table, and a handsome, rather than beautiful, woman takes the stage, with Oscar Peterson sitting down at the piano, a white gardenia is in her hair, and she smiles demurely, thanking the crowd. She then begins to sing, and everything this woman has ever experienced, good and bad, comes through each note, each phrase, even in the tonality and timbre of her voice. There are times I wish I owned a double-breasted suit and a fedora.

In 1957, CBS TV put on one of the most amazing TV specials ever, assembling the greatest musicians America has ever produced and showcasing the most powerful music America has ever come up with. Among the highlights of that night was a reunion of sorts. Lady Day had spent many years close to Lester "Prez" Young, but had grown distant. In an all-star combo (including Gerry Mulligan) on Holliday's own "Fine And Mellow", Prez stood for a solo, and you can watch her face as she smiles and nods.

The most famous song Holliday ever did was one written especially for her. An anti-lynching song written by a Marxist New York public school teacher, "Strange Fruit" is the kind of song that shocks, yet Holliday's voice, with all its limits, and all the vulnerability she would not display when not singing, managed to capture the song perfectly.

Finally, here she is doing "Lover Man", sweetened with strings, yet with her unique phrasing that cannot be buried in the saccharine of the arrangement.

Forgiveness Begins At Home

The Washington Post on-line religion forum, "On Faith", discusses forgiveness today, assembling an interesting array of voices to discuss the topic.

Pamela Taylor, co-founder of Muslims for Progressive Values writes:
Forgiveness is not an easy thing. But it is a necessary thing. It heals the wounds between communities and individuals, but more importantly, it allows us to move on with our lives in productive ways. Without it, we can come to dwell upon the injustices that we have suffered, building outrage and hatred, until retribution becomes the focus of our lives. With it, we can either turn to other matters, enjoying life fully, or we can focus on restoring justice in equitable and humane ways.

Mark Sisk, Epicopal Bishop of New York, writes:
Forgiveness is the path to freedom. If ever we are to live as free persons we must find the way to forgive even when our enemy is unrepentant, even when our enemy is actively pursuing what we find to be their evil intentions. To fail to forgive the repentant, as well as the unrepentant, enemy is to remain their prisoners. Hatred and fear isolate; and isolation diminishes a person.
The journey to forgiveness is not an easy one. Along that way one must stop to recognize the humanity of the enemy. Of equal importance is coming to grips with one’s own faults and failures. If ever a person is to truly and deeply forgive, they must know themselves to have been forgiven. I know of no short-cut on this journey. From within my own Christian tradition the only way that I know to grow in forgiveness is by taking the time to reflect on the deep reality of the other person’s fundamental humanity, to examine oneself, and to hold both, and all, before God in prayer.

One final point: the enormous power of forgiveness to free oneself from the deadly entanglements of anger and hate is a power reserved to the injured party. Forgiveness is not easy – but it is essential to freedom.

The best, and most succinct, statement, however, comes from Martin Marty (which should come as no surprise).
It is hard to measure degrees of atrociousness: all war wounds on the innocents are atrocities, so we have committed many when we bomb cities, yet we do not repent and ask for forgiveness. Yet a nation can shows signs of regard for others made in the image of
God and can seek to restore the enemy to a positive place in world society.

For the Christian, this question is most intense, since in the gospels and the New Testament letters, disciples and others are constantly asked to forgive - and not to claim innocence.

While all the perspectives are notable, Marty's ending is the best because it echoes a Biblical perspective that is often lost in an era when the tossing about of grievance and counter-grievance can create a bulwark of self-righteousness and indignation that blocks any opportunity not just for forgiveness, but real reconciliation.

I wrote a while back, while reflecting of parts of Miroslav Volf's Exclusion and Embrace that no one is innocent. This caused consternation among some but those criticisms reflected less a serious position than a species of self-righteous self-justification that is quite common among those who perceive themselves as aggrieved in some way.

Forgiveness begins with oneself. Forgiveness begins with recognizing one's own lack of innocence, one's own complicity in evil, and seeking forgiveness from those one has aggrieved. This can never be done completely, and should be seen more as a process than an event. Once we have embraced our own lack of purity, and done the difficult, but necessary, self-reflection, forgiveness of others becomes much easier to do, even with those who are unrepentant.

One point of disagreement I have is with some of the comments of Bishop Sisk. The Bible tells us that when God forgives, he removes our sin as far as the east is from the west. In other places (particularly the Psalms), it says that when God forgives, the sin is no longer recalled by the God of grace and forgiveness. Bishop Sisk writes:
[T]o forgive does not mean pretending that some evil did not happen. Nor does it mean explaining away the culprit’s responsibility. It does not mean coming to like that former enemy, though that sometimes happens. And certainly, forgiving does not mean coming to trust that enemy. It is entirely possible, for example, for one person to genuinely forgive another while at the same time believing that he or she should spend life in prison.

To my mind, forgiveness actually does mean all those things. That is the radical nature of forgiveness, the revolutionary character of forgiveness. By restoring the humanity of the perpetrator of evil, we are participating in the radical grace of Christ.

In Which I Take Out My Tin Foil Hat And Ask Some Questions That Need Asking

Oliver Willis asks, "What Gives?"
Barack Obama, within 72 hours, has taken the words of CIA agent outer Robert Novak as gospel while echoing debunked stories about the Clintons.

In order to give some perspective here, let us back up, looking to digby for both context and wisdom. Yesterday she put in perspective Bob Novak's rumor-mongering-masquerading-as-journalism. Digby did the difficult thing by reminding us of another moment in history when, during a supposedly "healthy" Democratic primary season (Muskie was the clear front-runner, polling well-ahead of then-President Richard Nixon; George McGovern was a single-issue candidate, getting out of Vietnam, and correctly perceived as a weak candidate, although that often translated in to calling him personally cowardly) Democrats used faulty media narratives to destroy the candidacy of the best possible alternative to a sitting Republican President (and, until the current reign of error, the most corrupt and criminal). She brings up David Broder's musings on his own role, in retrospect, and they are startlingly revealing of the mindset of the one called "Dean" by some, and "Wanker" by others.
So, when Muskie got angry on the steps that day, Broder and the rest of the press corps described him as having a sort of breakdown. But when Broder thought about it later in 1987, he realized he couldn't actually be sure that what he saw was crying.
And it was certainly the "crying" that did Muskie in. (Much as the press characterizing certain behaviors as "screaming" and "sighing" have done-in others.)

Broder writes, "as far as I can recall, there was no internal questioning of the accuracy of the story then, or later, at the Post. Still, it nags at me as few other stories I have written."
it would be nice to think the mainstream media have learned from the past and will ensure that things like this are adequately examined within the context of history and not just the heat of the moment. But that's clearly too much to hope for.

Robert Novak was once a real journalist but after the events of the past few years, it's safe to say that he no longer can be considered anything but a Republican operative, specifically a Rove acolyte who basically works for him. He has more than proven his loyalty. This rumor, especially coming from him, should never have seen the light of day. MSNBC is running with the story like it's 9/11. It remains to be seen if it has any legs among the rest of the mainstream press. But I think it's fair to say that they will, at the very least, "store such incidents in [their] minds and then use them to interpret major incidents when they occur."

We don't know exactly what happened here,of course, but Democratic campaigns should know better that to ever use Robert Novak to try to score points either way. His item, (just like Rove's from earlier in the week) was a twofer, virtually designed to make both candidates look bad --- and, frankly, both of their responses only reaffirmed that impression.

So, Rove quits the White House a few months back, and everyone wonders why, and what he's doing. Now, he's showing up on television pimping rumors printed by a former journalist. This former journalist has proven himself to be a good vehicle for putting out Rovian leaks in the past, so one wonders at the source of the leak. . . .

So, while some people support a "tough primary season" as an abstract good, in the real world where nefarious critters like Rove and Novak live and breathe, like fungi on the body politic, Clinton and Obama are wasting time beating each other up over . . . a rumor. Willis' title of his post, linked above, is aptly named: "Taking the Bait".

In a world where pretty much every despicable thing ever dreamed up in politics has been surpassed by the actual doings and workings of the Republican Party since 1972, one wonders why any benefit of the doubt is given to them. One also wonders why supposedly serious candidates are arguing over a rumor aired in public by a now-discredited fake journalist who has been for years a wholly-owned subsidiary of some of the most reactionary elements in the Republican Party. Finally, it is all well and good to desire a good, strong primary season - provided the primary season deals with real substantive differences between the candidates. In the past few weeks, however, the Democratic Primary has devolved in to the kinds of attacks that show those doing them to be both desperate and playing defense (for a good rundown, see TPM here, here, and here). This is, on the whole, and in the present context and atmosphere, not a good thing.

Pushing back against the front-runner is one thing. Descending in to the Novak/Rove constructed maelstrom of rumors and lies, however, does not bode well, and shows both campaigns to be less intelligent and savvy than one might have hoped.

Let's hope none of them break down and cry in public. Lord knows, David Broder won't care whether it really happened or not.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Taking Their Eye Off The Ball . . . In Iran

Jesus please us. Matthew Yglesias informs the world that war-monger Fred Kagan and war booster Michael O'Hanlon want the US to deploy troops to another Muslim country. Not Saudi Arabia, which provided the bulk of the terrorists on 9/11. Not Yemen, which not only provided a national or two, but was also the site of the attack on the USS Cole in 2000. Not Algeria, which has had serial problems with Muslim extremists and military dictatorships. No, Kagan and O'Hanlon, who have pretty much been wrong about everything, now want US forces to occupy Pakistan.

It isn't bad enough we have the on-going tragedy of Iraq, or the Taliban gaining strength in Afghanistan, all the while psychopaths like Bill Kristol and Norman Podhoretz want the United States to attack Iran. Now, with our military at the breaking point, these clowns want troops to be sent to what is, perhaps, the most volatile Muslim country in the world.

This is a "let-me-count-the-ways" moment. One cannot even begin to describe how wrong this is.

The only thing that makes this worse is - these men have no constituency, no accountability, and are tossing around ideas about how to make the United States even more hated, despised, and even more a target of Muslim extremists than before, all the while wasting our money, our military, and who knows how many lives in a mission that has less chance of success than finding Saddam's hidden cache of nuclear weapons.

Maybe I'm going about this all wrong. If I were stupid and wrote insane things for a living, I could get paid a whole lot of money and get my mug on television.

Virtual Tin Cup

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