Wednesday, April 30, 2008
See that screen shot up there? That's from the Mensa members over at Fox News, the cable news network.
They were adding up their double digit IQs to cover Hillary's proposed Lincoln-Douglas style debate between her and Barack. The only problem is, that's Frederick Douglas, not Stephen Douglas.
Yes, we are a dumber people than we once were.
I got this giggle-inducing news from This Modern World. Thanks, Tom.
But today, he gets it right.
In a column titled, Dumb As We Wanna Be, he rips into Congress, the president and two of our three presidential candidates for their stupid energy policy. I urge you to read it. It should set your hair on fire.
While the last 48 hours have been all-Reverend-Wright-all-of-the-time, news like this goes hat in hand, an orphan begging for a few minutes of our attention and in America, this is like asking the president to read a book without pictures.
But that's not really fair. Because it's not just the president who is locked into a permanent, petulant childhood. It's all of us, all squalling like babies.
I don't want to pay taxes! Wah! I don't want to take the bus! Wah! I want my Deal or No Deal! I want it! I want it! I want it!
What has happened to us? How, as a nation, have we become so infantilized? How have we failed to grow into serious people willing to make sacrifices for our common good?
This society, more than ever before, exists on people who want whatever they see. It needs people who will scream like a brat in Walmart until we get whatever gee-gaw captures our limited attention span. We don't want to work for it or, God forbid, save for it. We want it now, and we're willing to go into debt to get it.
But that doesn't explain everything. I have seen the American people work and sacrifice if given the right leadership. After 9/11, we all looked to our leaders and asked, "What can I do?"
I was certainly not alone in my willingness to do just about anything. And I'm sure I'm not the only person whose first thought was, "Let's get out of this oil game. That's a start."
Now, I'm just a schmuck in North Carolina, but even I could see our continued reliance on Saudi Arabia wasn't in our best interest, particularly when most of the hijackers and their leader were Saudi. I mean, you don't have to be the president to be that stupid, do you?
No, if George Bush had taken our unified energy and spirit, and set us on a moon-landing style course, we would be well on our way to clean energy independence. I believe that.
But like an indulgent parent, Bush told us to go out and buy something. Don't worry, go shopping. Again, we were treated like children and sadly, that's exactly how we've responded.
And now we're about to do it again. Faced with rising gas prices, two of our presidential candidates are looking at what's easy, not what's right. And the one candidate not willing to buy votes at 18 cents a gallon?
He's on the ropes. All because of an angry old minister who thinks the US government hasn't always had the best interests of black people held close to its stone-cold bureaucratic heart.
Monday, April 28, 2008
But no matter what, if I get a new novel by Ray, I drop everything and read it. No More Heroes is his latest and it tells another bruising story of Cal Innes, a reluctant PI who wrestles with his own infirmities as much as he goes after the demons that live outside his own skull.
All of us in this business bounce our protagonists around a bit, but no one runs their guy through the meat grinder like Ray. And as always, there's the language. I love the way Ray makes it look so easy.
Thanks Ray, for another great read. I'm honored.
I'd rather talk about my waltz with the abusive whore on Saturday. I spent 4 hours canvassing a Durham precinct for Obama and met dozens of really terrific people. Several were excited about going to see Obama in Chapel Hill tonight, and I recruited a few more people as volunteers. Suckers.
But the thing that surprised me was how many people volunteered the information that they had been for Hillary until she went to the dark side. All women, and all their opinions were unsolicited. Hillary's campaign might want to think about this.
But for now, the drunk whore is happy. That'll change, I know. She always lulls me into thinking this makes a difference before she whips out her box cutter.
Friday, April 25, 2008
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
OK, maybe it's more like Karl Rove. Who may not be Satan, but knows the Dark Prince personally.
The politics of Rove and Atwater won in Pennsylvania last night. The politics of fear and doubt kicked optimism's ass, just as it's done for 30 years. Jesus, who knew that flag pins and the Weather Underground would play such a big part in the 2008 primary?
Which brings me to my central thesis, that loving politics is like being in a relationship with a street whore.
Since 1964, I've followed politics the way a love-struck teen follows a girl who will kiss him and rub his back at the same time, even if that girl lifts his wallet in the morning.
She's as dirty as Bourbon Street on Sunday morning and she'll steal your mother's wedding ring to buy her pimp a new hat, but you keep coming back, knowing that she'll cut you sooner or later. She angry, mean and completely amoral, but she's yours.
I wish I could quit this abusive relationship, but every time I try to walk away, she promises that things will be better, and that's she's changed, honest, and I go back, only to wake up to find my guitar gone.
Still, this Saturday you'll find me in one of Durham's precincts, canvassing Durham's Democratic voters, hoping that this time, things will be different.
There's a word for men like me, men who fall in love with the wrong women. We're called suckers.
Friday, April 18, 2008
1. Due to a drinking accident in high school, I can't drink gin without tasting Old Spice.
2. I was once lured to an Amway meeting with the promise of sex. I left disappointed on several levels.
3. I campaigned for Republican Barry Goldwater in 1964. AuH2O!
4. I slept with a girl named Bitsy. Really. That was her name. She was also disappointed on several levels, I'm sure.
5. I wrote a column for my college paper titled, "Jimmy Olsen's Notebook."
6. A cartoon I published in the late 70's attracted a fan letter from Baba Ram Dass.
7. The only thing I'm afraid of is poverty.
Now, Jeff Shelby, tag, you it.
Thursday, April 17, 2008
My fight for Free Speech, the First Amendment and the rights of home owners everywhere has attracted the attention of the media. To be specific, a local columnist for the News and Observer, Jim Wise.
He called me a few days ago and asked about the HOA's letter demanding I remove the political sign in my yard. I told him what happened and yesterday he called the head of our HOA, Vickie Jackson.
When he contacted Ms. Jackson, she assured him that she wasn't operating as the head of our HOA when she taped that letter to my door, no, she was just being a friendly neighbor, a caring neighbor, reminding me of the HOA covenant rules. She was watching out for me. Yeah, that's what it was.
She also told Jim that the covenant rule against signs was in accord with a city ordinance. Both of us are skeptical that such an ordinance exists, but Jim said he would call the City Attorney today to see.
Ms. Jackson has invited me to the next community meeting, yet to be scheduled. I've invited Jim along. I'll keep you posted.
In the meantime, if you'd like to add your thoughts, you can email Jim at JWise at nando.com.
(I put in the "at" to protect Mr. Wise from spammers.)
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
But Hillary shouldn't worry. She still has Celine Dion.
Here's the opening of Bruce's letter.
Dear Friends and Fans:
LIke most of you, I've been following the campaign and I have now seen and heard enough to know where I stand. Senator Obama, in my view, is head and shoulders above the rest.
He has the depth, the reflectiveness, and the resilience to be our next President. He speaks to the America I've envisioned in my music for the past 35 years, a generous nation with a citizenry willing to tackle nuanced and complex problems, a country that's interested in its collective destiny and in the potential of its gathered spirit. A place where "...nobody crowds you, and nobody goes it alone."
...but the bullshit just keeps piling higher and higher.
Let's start with John McCain, a guy with eight houses, a guy who's spent more time in the Senate than you've been in shoes, a guy who's been getting a government check his entire adult life. He said Obama was an elitist.
Then move on to Hillary, a women raised in an upper middle class family, went to the best schools, then into private practice as a corporate lawyer and for more than twenty years has lived in the Arkansas Governor's Mansion, the White House and a very fine little place in upstate New York. She tosses back a shot of Crown Royal, talks about bagging a duck and suddenly she's the Blue Collar Babe.
But the guy who was raised by a single mother, went to school on a scholarship, worked as a community organizer, and just recently paid off his student loans, that guy, the guy who is so advantaged because he's black, that guy in an elitist.
But the bullshit doesn't stop there. What was on the news when I left for work? A story about Cindy McCain. That's her up there. Apparently she plagiarized her "family recipes" that are on the McCain web site.
Sweet Jesus. When will all this end?
Bullshit. Bullshit. Bullshit.
Monday, April 14, 2008
Thursday, April 10, 2008
Hey kids, did you know that your Homeowners Association has more power than the Federal government? Well, neither did I until yesterday. I came home to find an envelope taped to my door, a notice from my friendly HOA. I assumed it was about my lawn, which is a disaster. No, the knee-high weeds weren't the issue. It was my lawn sign. What I had failed to notice in the HOA's covenant is that signs, even those expressing support for a political candidate, are verboten.
Not realizing I had signed away my First Amendment rights when we moved into this neighborhood, I called the woman who heads up our HOA. Her argument was, if she let people do whatever they wanted, the neighborhood would quickly devolve into a ghetto.
I suggested that putting up a candidate's sign in my yard and turning my cul-de-sac into a ghetto weren't quite in the same ballpark and reminded her that political speech was protected by the Constitution. Then she asked me when the Constitution was written. I told her 1789. Then she said, assurance of her rightness swelling her voice, "And things have changed a lot since then, haven't they, sir."
I told her I had missed the news that the Bill of Rights had been amended to keep up with the times.
After 15 minutes, I knew that debating the fine points of Consitutional law was like explaining the ferris wheel to my dog. So I assured her that I would not remove my sign and said that if she was going to have me arrested give me a few hours notice so I could call the local news media.
Then I called my lawyer and guess what? My HOA does have the power to restrict my political speech. The city can't. The state can't. Not even George Bush can make me take down my yard sign.
But my HOA can.
So I'm writing a letter to the local paper, writing to the ACLU and, well, telling you. I've also asked when the next meeting of the HOA board is so I can attend. We'll see what happens.
But as it stands, I am not giving up. Too many people were brave enough to fight for my free speech, I'm at least brave enough to use it. Fuck the HOA.
And as soon as the housing market settles down, we're moving. I hate the fucking 'burbs. Bunch of uptight little fascists.
Monday, April 07, 2008
A few years ago a tweedy professor had a surprise bestseller with his book, On Bullshit. We laughed because he was telling us something scholarly about the ordure we swim through every day.
Think of Chris Matthews swooning over the manly aftershave of Fred Thompson or the warrior swagger of the president when he landed, ala Tom Cruise, aboard the USS Lincoln. It's bullshit.
Or the sideshow of Bush 41 holding up a bag of prop crack cocaine to underline the dangers of the crack-addled zombies out to snatch your little girl off the street. It was right there on TV and we knew it was bullshit.
Obama's gutter ball and Hillary's pantsuits are stupid bullshit.
But there were three docs at this weekend's Full Frame Film Festival that showed us that bullshit, even stupid bullshit, has consequences.
The men up there are Dalton Trumbo and John Howard Lawson and they're being taken to jail. Their crime? They refused to testify about their political beliefs. Their beliefs, mind you, not their actions. It was what they thought that was a crime according to HUAC, the House UnAmerican Activities Committee.
Trumbo was the writer of Johnny Got His Gun, Spartacus and a bunch of other classics. Congress thought his ideas were dangerous. He went to jail. Others had their lives destroyed and it was all vintage bullshit.
This guy might be the King of Bullshit. He's Lee Atwater, the amoral, cold-blooded slime weasel who birthed today's politics of partisan crap. He proved that if you were willing to say anything about your opponent, you could win elections. It was all bullshit. He knew it, his clients knew it. And it didn't matter.
He ruined people's lives and reputations and was rewarded handsomely by his friends in the GOP. If you like the way American politics is muddied by innuendo, gossip, blatant untruths and despicable character assassination, thank Atwater. He was a charmer and pure-D, triple-distilled bullshit from the hair on his head to the shine on his shoes.
Today, what Atwater taught Karl Rove and George W. Bush led to this:
Tomas Young was a soldier with the First Cav. One week in Iraq and he takes a sniper's bullet to the spine and comes home seriously fucked up. His story is told in a new doc called Body of War. I urge you to check it out.
So the next time you hear someone say, "It's all bullshit," think of the consequences of shrugging it off. Bullshit may sound benign, may even be entertaining. But bullshit, when it hits you, has consequences. Ask Tomas Young.
And that's no bullshit.