Archive for the ‘conservatism’ Category

Bong hits, Donald Fagen and maybe a little José Cuervo.

“Biscayne Bay, where the Cuban gentlemen sleep all day.”

Loved that line. Always sang out loud. Still do actually.

Maybe it’s in the blood… ya think?

Anyway.

A decade-plus old LP spinning on my decade-old Technics SL-3300 table that still sounded good, even with the pops and that one skip about a minute and fifteen seconds into “Any World (That I’m Welcome To)” . Throw throw in some friends and libations.

Any random night in 1988.

Well, all that and eventually Morton.

Morton Downey Jr. that is.

Look… I was young and stupid.

I could have TRIED talking the bong hits and tequila crowd hanging out at my place into tuning to Buckley’s “Firing Line”, it had the shit time slot on the one other TV station we could get in the apartment, but let’s be real for a minute here. What guy my age  in 1988 would own up to watching Buckley?

Old people watched that crap.

Strippers for God, white supremacists at the Apollo and Al Sharpton getting knocked on his ass. Morton was entertainment for the sans-culottes. The main course to follow the bong hits, Steely Dan and the shots of José Cuervo.

It’s hard to imagine that The Morton Downey Jr. Show only lasted two years.

Buckley’s Firing Line ran for thirty-three years. Over fifteen hundred episodes with Buckley being its only host. I watched as many as I could once I was alone, far from the madding crowd… well, madding only up until the second round of Cuervo anyway.

I have to admit that a lot of it went over my head, and some of it put me to sleep, but sometimes Buckley could make my head buzz as wildly as some of the other stuff did.

Buckley was great.

Thirty-three years of intelligent, erudite conversation and on topics of substance being batted about by people of substance equal to the complexity of the issues, yet, it was Morton Downey Jr. that changed America forever.

Morton saw us for what we were.

Morton saw the future.

 

What was scandalous about the Morton Downey, Jr. show yesterday, is standard in pretty much every show on TV and even our daily lives.

Case in point.

My wife watches a “reality” show called The Bachelor/Bachelorette. The format is very simple:

  1. You take a guy, you surround him with a bunch of single women.
  2. Add all the booze they can consume.
  3. Fly them around to exotic places in the world.
  4. He sends a woman (or two or three) who fail to please him (to one degree or another) home every week, and the party’s over for them.

He gets to hook up with all of them (to one degree or another) which is how he decides who stays and who goes, and eventually falls in love (to one degree or another) with one of them, and he may (or may not) propose matrimony to that last standing babe.

The Bachelorette is the same thing, except with one gal and twenty-five guys heading off into the sunset, looking for love, or at least hook ups.

This season, I watched The Bachelorette with my better half (happy wife, happy life!) and it was something else.

You see, this season’s Bachelorette almost immediately knew who was “it”, but she had to continue on with the show. All the flights and hotels hab been booked after all.

Now, she told Mr. “It” that he was “it” way early in the show, but seeing how the show had to go on, he had to watch her make out with twenty plus other guys that he had to room with for weeks. And as if that wasn’t bad enough, one guy decided to join the show two weeks into the process, and he KNEW our heroine from “before”. Then in a booze-drive romantic tryst, somewhere in the Irish countryside, the Bachelorette and the late arrival consummate their passion while Mr. It sits back at the hotel and talks about trusting his girl.

There is a point to all this… truet me.

Not unexpectedly, the blogosphere and social media went after our randy heroine with a passion. It was ugly.

Every day my wife would read the worst of the worst comments from fan pages and Facebook groups, and they were bad.

Then, she had to tell Mr. It, on camera, that she had slept with the Other Guy. He just sat there until he had to leave the room.

A few episodes later, he proposes to her.

Then came the “After the Show” show and when the issue of all the nastiness came up, the crowd stood and cheered for our brave Bachelorette and her brave stance in the face of all the”unfair and unjustified” attacks on her values and morals, and just like that, the trollop had her virtue (sort of) restored as she sat there fighting back tears and holding her head up, while Mr. “It” sat next to her wondering just how many more times he was going to have to hear about how the girl of his dreams had banged some guy on national TV, just a few nights before he proposed to her.

The show plays twice a year (one Bachelor and one Bachelorette) and a selected number of each of the show’s “also rans” (the ones sent home early) get to spend a few weeks at a Mexican Beach resort in Puerto Vallarta, where Jorge the bartender pours them drinks in coconuts while dishing out relationship advice. The hook ups run wild.

This, oddly enough, doesn’t play as “odd” to most people today. It’s normal.

This year, the summer hook-up-in-Mexico-for-losers show ran roughly during the same slot as another odd show.

I’m talking about “I Am Cait.”

For those of you that have been stuck in the International Space Station for the past year or sow, this show is basically a set of cameras and microphones following Bruce Jenner (the former Olympian) dressed like a woman and (among other things) shopping for one-piece bathing suit that properly hides her package, some sensible pumps in a man’s size 12, and a women that “she” may be attracted to.

This too, is part of the new normal.

Caitlyn Jenner was awarded the Arthur Ashe Award for Courage, so named for the universally admired tennis player who died in 1993 and was famous for his steely determination and sense of personal dignity.

There were others that could have been considered for the award like Lauren Hill, the 19-year-old college freshman from Mount St. Joseph University in Cincinnati who helped raise money for cancer research while waging an inspirational battle with an inoperable brain tumor that failed to stop her from achieving her dream of playing college basketball.

Lauren was apparently not as courageous as Caitlyn.

Then there was Noah Galloway, an Iraqi war veteran who lost two limbs but in spite of that continued to enter competitions, including an inspiring run on ABC’s “Dancing With the Stars.”

Noah was apparently as courageous as Caitlyn.

It’s a mad, mad, mad world.

It’s a Morton Downey, Jr. world, because Morton understood the power that one can generate by tapping into the people’s base instincts. He led the way and along the way created an entirely new genre of TV entertainment that gave life to shows like The Jerry Springer Show, the Sally Jesse Raphael Show, Maury “Who’s Your Daddy” Povich, The People’s Court,etc.

Beyond that, and equally as significant, Mort’s trend have permeated the TV talking head shows, with the likes of Chris Matthews, Glenn Beck, Al “You a Punk Faggot” Sharpton, Sean Hannity, Judge Jeanine, Rachel “Mad Cow” Maddow, Bill O’Reilly taking up the Morton Downey, Jr. standard to one degree or another.

The Morton Downey, Jr style can be heard over the airwaves and podcasts. Too many there to name.

These entertainers reign over the media. Sure, there are some remnants of the old “Firing Line” format, but no one watches them because they’re bland, boring and no one yells at anyone. And we want yelling and we want to be entertained, and to Hell with substance and erudite conversation.

But I don’t think that even Morton could have seen Trump coming.

I don’t think that even in his wildest imaginings Morton could have imagined the Trump candidacy, and his standings in the polls.

Morton, whose entire show premiered and peaked during the Reagan Presidency could have never believed that just a few decades later, he GOP’s leading contender and the conservative choice for the Presidency would be a pro-choice, pro gun control, pro taxation, pro socialized medicine billionaire who as a registered Democrat during the George W. Bush administration, and whose most recent job experience was as a host in a TV “reality” show. Conservatives who spent the entire Obama administration hammering him on his crippling inexperience have elevated three candidates to the top of the polls who “make Sarah Palin look like a wisened political veteran”.

Even Morton may be shocked.

So this is the world where those people who watched The Morton Downey, Jr. show live now live in.

A world where Target removes “Gender-Based Signs” from their aisles to avoid some manner of frustrations expressed by some of their customers over signs offering gender-specific products, while Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner shops for a one-piece bathing suit dressed as a woman and discusses a woman that “she” is going away for a weekend with.

A world were trollops are virtuous and virgins rare and even weird.

A world were trannies are courageous and police officers cowards.

A world were Donald Trump is the leading contender for the office once occupied by the likes of Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln and Reagan.

A world were people will wonder around Target lost, not knowing where to find tampons or cup protectors.

Somewhere, Morton may be thinking of suing the nation for royalties.

He should.

Our world is one never-ending Morton Downey, Jr Show every day.

Or maybe, Morton should be The Donald’s VP.

That way at least there would be one real Republican in the ticket

 

 

President Barack Obama has finally decided it was time to keep the most broken promise of his Presidency.

(The Guardian, U.K.) The White House blew the cover of the top CIA agent in Afghanistan on Sunday, when the person’s name was included on a list given to reporters during a visit to the country by President Barack Obama.

The name was then emailed by the White House press office to a distribution list of more than 6,000 recipients, mostly members of the US media.

The agent in question, listed as chief of station, would be a top manager of CIA activity in Afghanistan, including intelligence collection and a drone-warfare programme under which unmanned aerial vehicles mount cross-border attacks into Pakistan.

The name appeared on a list of attendees requested by White House officials for the president’s visit to Bagram air base to mark Memorial Day, the national day of tribute to fallen service members. The list of 15 people was drawn up by the military, written into a routine press report and sent to Washington. The Obama press office then sent the list, unredacted, to the larger group.

The mistake did not come to light until the reporter who had filed from Afghanistan, the veteran Washington Post correspondent Scott Wilson, looked more closely at what he had sent and noticed the name and title.

“I drew it to their attention before they had noticed what had happened,” Wilson said on Monday, hours after returning from the 33-hour trip overseas.

We finally have transparency from the White House.

I’m half-suspecting that faced with an increasingly hostile White House Pres Corp pressing for answers as to why the President would allow such a thing to happen, Jay Carney will stick to his go-to play, answering that President Obama learned about the issue from the news, and has promised ‘not to rest until he gets to the bottom of the issue.”

In Obamaspeak that means “don’t bother me, I have fund raising to tend to.”

There’s an emerging image of this administration as being one so completely out of their league on the world stage, that it is reverting to the smaller field of local fund raising, college and late-night TV show speaking gigs, and impersonal social media pushes.

Obama at this stage reminds me of an aging rock band that could once sell out arenas, but are now lucky to fill Civic Auditoriums sharing billing with other aging rockers in “Remember When” festivals.

Bill Clinton, as close to an ultimate political beast as the US has seen in decades called it, according to Edward Klein’s “The Amateur”, as he urged Hillary to challenge Obama for the 2012 nomination while having cocktails with close friends in their Chappaqua homestead.

“I’ve heard more from Bush, asking for my advice, than I’ve heard from Obama,” my sources quoted Clinton as saying. “I have no relationship with the president — none whatsoever. Obama doesn’t know how to be president. He doesn’t know how the world works. He’s incompetent. He’s an amateur!”

An amateur in charge of the United States armed forces, led by amateurs and ideologues who have absolutely zero concern over anything other than politics is a frightening thing to ponder.

obama-fiddled

The Economist on Obama’s White House.

BARACK OBAMA has been portrayed as everything from post-racial political saviour to underground socialist. In Ron Suskind’s telling, Mr Obama is reduced to a hapless rookie manager presiding over insubordinate, quarrelling aides and aggrieved women. It is not news that Mr Obama and his aides were often at odds on issues ranging from the size of the fiscal stimulus, whether to bail out Chrysler and when to proceed with health-care reform. Mr Suskind, an American writer and journalist, provides a more detailed picture, with the help of lengthy interviews with former officials.

The presence of an amateur in the White House could actually pose a bigger threat to our national security than having a Socialist ideologue there. We can fix things internally in his wake, but the damage done to the U.S.  on the international stage will take long to repair, if it can ever be repaired at all.

(Beijing) THERE had been plenty of time to negotiate a deal—more than a decade, in fact. What Russia and China needed was the right amount of pressure to seal it. That came in the form of Western sanctions on Russia over Ukraine. Eager to show America and Europe that he has other friends to turn to, Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, on May 21st in Shanghai, secured a long-term agreement for Gazprom, a state-owned Russian firm, to sell natural gas to CNPC, a state-owned Chinese one. The final details of pricing—the main sticking point—were not released but the deal is thought to be worth about $400 billion over 30 years. It gives Mr Putin a much-needed strategic boost as he confronts those sanctions and suffers increasing isolation from the West.

China had reasons of its own to strike a deal. It needs as many energy sources as it can find, especially clean energy, so that the Communist Party can show its people that it is dealing with air pollution across the country, much of it caused by a reliance on coal. China’s prime minister, Li Keqiang, said earlier this year that the government had “declared war” on air pollution.

So both sides wanted to emerge from Mr Putin’s visit with an agreement, and to put a friendly stamp on their meeting. China’s president, Xi Jinping, praised the partnership between their two countries. Mr Putin told Chinese journalists that the relationship was at “the highest level in all its centuries-long history”. The two countries signed economic agreements, held military exercises offshore, and agreed on a joint statement of “concern” about Ukraine, which by implication might seem to absolve Mr Putin of his role in stirring unrest there.

So, as the Obama administration moves to defend yet one more show of ineptitude, this picture should bring a shiver to anyone who follows the politics of power.

putin Xi

 

Maybe it’s time for the opposition to unite, circle the wagons and agree to disagree on any issue other than getting someone in charge who knows how to run a nation.

Working out our differences while holding the reins of power is far more satisfying than bitterly arguing who on the right would be more right, as we watch the left tear everything down around us.

It’s time to get on the bus, and there can be no one hanging on to the door or half out the windows when it leaves the station, if we expect a chance of ever setting things right again.

And that’s the last wire for Monday, May 26th 2014.

What was news before this moment, is now history.

Good night.

The Book

Vladimir Nabokov’s “Lolita” is a stunningly beautiful example of prose at its very best. An absolute pleasure to read and to immerse oneself in the writer’s delicately crafted imagery, Lolita, as seen through the eyes of Humbert Humbert is the epitome of one who “walks in beauty like the night.”

 “Oh, what a dreamy pet! She walked up to the open suitcase as if stalking it from afar, at a kind of slow-motion walk, peering at that distant treasure box on the luggage support. (Was there something wrong, I wondered, with those great gray eyes of hers, or were we both plunged in the same enchanted mist?) 

The deftness of the prose is incredible. In your mind’s eye you can “see” exactly what the writer wants you to see moving at the exact pace that he intends for you to move at.

“She stepped up to it, lifting her rather high-heeled feet rather high and bending her beautiful boy-knees while she walked through dilating space with the lentor of one walking under water or in a flight dream. Then she raised by the armlets a  copper-colored, charming and quite expensive vest, very slowly stretching it between her silent hands as if she were a bemused bird-hunter holding his breath over the incredible bird he spreads out by the tips of its flaming wings.”

Just then, you feel a tinge of something wrong.

You begin to sense the vulgar aesthetic of it all, and you come to grips with the realization that you’re enjoying beauty through the eyes of a pedophile, and the book is never the same again. You struggle with Humbert’s morally repugnant behavior even as you recognize the greatness of the writing.

Lolita herself is nothing like what Humbert describes her as being. She is a rather ordinary twelve year-old, and her exotic beauty resides solely in Humbert’s mind. The nymphet described in the book exists because he exists.

That’s classic solipsism.

The theory or view that the self is the only reality. An extreme form of skepticism which denies the possibility of any knowledge other than of one’s own existence. Applied to political ideology, it is the belief that one specific set of beliefs is the only acceptable set of beliefs which defines that political ideology, to the exclusion of all others.

The modern day Social Conservative movement is Humbert Humbert to the Taxed Enough Already coalition’s Lolita.

Humbert Humbert

The origins of today’s Social Conservatives can be traced directly to Jerry Falwell’s “Moral Majority”.  Formed in 1976, Falwell’s decision to forego traditional Baptist principles separating religion and politics soon blossomed into a Southern Baptist political machine that was arguably instrumental in Ronald Reagan’s victories in the 80’s.

Falwell’s vision was to create a Southern Christian Right coalition to push back against the nation’s moral decay by bringing together conservative Christian PAC’s under one umbrella, with the goal of promoting candidates who campaigned on the “right side” of issues they perceived were central to maintaining their Christian conception of society at large.

The Moral Majority’s primary goals were basic, yet wide ranged in nature:

  • Censorship of media outlets that promoted an “anti-family” agenda
  • Enforcement of a traditional vision of family life
  • Opposition to state recognition and acceptance of homosexuality and homosexual acts.
  • Outlawing abortion.

In effect, Falwell injected religion into American politics to a greater degree than it had ever been done.

By the end of Reagan’s tenure, Falwell’s group was coming apart at the seams, as was the case for other Christian Right groups. Falwell resigned his position as the head of the Moral Majority in 1987, with the coalition formally disbanding in 1989.

Announcing the disbandment of the Moral Majority in 1989 in Las Vegas, Falwell declared, “Our goal has been achieved…The religious right is solidly in place and…religious conservatives in America are now in for the duration.” (*)

That ends Humbert Humbert’s portion.

Having lost his beloved Annabel Leigh, Humbert is left to mourn his love and seek a new one to fill the empty space in his life.

Lolita

What was the T.E.A. Party?

As one can surmise from the expanded acronym (Taxed Enough Already), the T.E.A. Party was (originally) a grass-roots movement protesting excessive taxation and Federal fiscal irresponsibility.

Some sources credit the simultaneous yet independent actions of two individuals for the birth of the movement:

  • Keli Carender – A Seattle at-home mom, Carender (using the online identity “Liberty Belle”) was using her blog to organize and promote the “Porkulus Protest” a populist rally organized to protest President Obama’s proposed $750 billion stimulus package. About 100 people attended her mid-February event.
  • Rick Santelli – On February 19, 2009 while broadcasting live from the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange Santelli delivered a spontaneous rant, harshly critical of the Obama administration’s proposal to allow homeowners facing foreclosure to refinance their homes. The video went viral, and Santelli’s idea of organizing a “Tea Party” where “capitalists” would dump derivative securities into Lake Michigan in July that year resonated a chord with people of all walks of life and all political affiliations across the nation.

Both Carender’s “Porkulus Project” and Santelli’s “Tea Party” inspired similar events across the nation. Rallies protesting the idea of out-of-control tax and spend government were quickly organized in places like Denver, Mesa (AZ), and Tampa (FL). The first coordinated national T.E.A. Party event took place on February 27 that same year, with rallies of various sizes occurring in 40 US cities.

The impetus created by the “Porkulus Protest”, the Chicago “Tea Party” and the myriad of organized rallies across the nation culminated in the Tax Day event of 2009.

Depending on who you ask, there were somewhere between 200 and 750 rallies that took place across the country on that day, with between 250,000 and 500,000 people in attendance. Several thousands gathered in Atlanta (GA), and the protest outside the White House was broken up by police when a protester threw a box of tea over the fence.Throughout that summer, people claiming to be members of the T.E.A. Party disrupted hometown meetings held by members of Congress with demands of fiscal accountability, charging elected politicians with malfeasance and even treason.

So there’s the Lolita part of this analogy.

A young, boy-kneed political movement, alone and unattended (Lolita was an orphan) needs direction and leadership, and politics, like nature, abhors a vacuum.

Solipsism

Falwell’s exit from the political stage and the dissolution of his Moral Majority left a membership in disarray, and the troops figuratively wandering the political desert.

The vacuum created by Falwell’s and the Christian Right’s loss of cohesiveness began to be quickly filled by activism in an emerging medium. Electronic bulletin boards and Usenet groups sprang up and Falwell’s troops assembled once again, this time in in virtual communities. The homeless, orphaned children of Falwell’s former political machine pseudo coalesced into a gelatinous, unmolded voting block of vaguely like-minded individuals that, for lack of a better name, became known as Social Conservatives (SoCons).

Somewhere along the way, and as a direct result of Falwell’s influence in the 80’s, the definition of what constitutes conservatism began to change dramatically. Where conservative icons such as Russell Kirk and Edmund Burke had understood that morality was a a deeply-held personal set of values necessary for a free society’s survival, Social Conservatives worked toward implementing moral values via support of candidates who would outwardly pledge to enact legislation that would secure in place those things that (reminiscent of Falwell’s Moral Majority) they perceived as being central to maintaining their Christian conception of society at large.

Thomas Jefferson’s warning on the dangers of mixing religion and public service were forgotten:

“… (O)ur civil rights have no dependence on our religious opinions, more than our opinions in physics or geometry; that, therefore, the proscribing any citizen as unworthy the public confidence by laying upon him an incapacity of being called to the offices of trust and emolument, unless he profess or renounce this or that religious opinion, is depriving him injuriously of those privileges and advantages to which in common with his fellow citizens he has a natural right; that it tends also to corrupt the principles of that very religion it is meant to encourage, by bribing, with a monopoly of worldly honors and emoluments, those who will externally profess and conform to it.” – The Virginia Act for Establishing Religious Freedom (1786)

As were Madison’s warnings ignored.

Nothwithstanding the general progress made within the two last centuries in favour of this branch of liberty, & the full establishment of it, in some parts of our Country, there remains in others a strong bias towards the old error, that without some sort of alliance or coalition between Gov’ & Religion neither can be duly supported: Such indeed is the tendency to such a coalition, and such its corrupting influence on both the parties, that the danger cannot be too carefully guarded agst.. And in a Gov’ of opinion, like ours, the only effectual guard must be found in the soundness and stability of the general opinion on the subject. Every new & successful example therefore of a perfect separation between ecclesiastical and civil matters, is of importance. And I have no doubt that every new example, will succeed, as every past one has done, in shewing that religion & Gov will both exist in greater purity, the less they are mixed together; [James Madison, Letter to Edward Livingston, July 10, 1822, The Writings of James Madison, Gaillard Hunt]

Eventually, conservatism was defined as ONLY that ideology which supported social policies reminiscent of Falwell’s Moral Majority, and any other right-wing set of values which did not adhere to a Christian Right ideological base was not considered to be “true” conservatism.

Fiscal conservatives with liberal social values became libertarians, and moderate right wingers became liberals in the eyes of the SoCons. Conservatism had been successfully co-opted.

When the T.E.A. Party emerged as a cohesive national coalition, SoCons claimed title to the movement, and a grass roots uprising against taxation and Federal fiscal irresponsibility which included Democrats and persons of various (or no) religious affiliations, was literally hijacked.

SoCons have recreated the movement into their own image of what should constitute a grass roots movement, and what is today called the Tea Party not only barely resembles that original movement, but sounds exactly like every single other SoCon/Christian Right PAC that’s ever existed.

From the Tea Party (notice that the acronym has been dropped) website’s “About Us” page:

The Tea Party includes those who possess a strong belief in the foundational Judeo-Christian values embedded in our great founding documents. We believe the responsibility of our beloved nation is etched upon the hearts of true American Patriots from every race, religion, national origin, and walk of life sharing a common belief in the values which made and keep our beloved nation great. This belief led to the creation of the modern-day Tea Party.

The only thing that created the modern-day T.E.A. Party was anger at out-of-control government taxation and spending. There was nothing fundationally Judeo-Christian about Keli Carender’s and Rick Santelli’s rallies.

Listed on that “About Page” of TeaParty.org (next to the pictures of Sarah Palin, Ted Cruz, and Rand Paul) are the organization’s “15 Non-negotiable core beliefs” which include things like #1. Illegal aliens are here illegally, #2. Pro domestic employment is indispensable. #5. Gun ownership is sacred. #12. Political offices must be available to average citizens (What exactly does THAT mean? When haven’t they been?) #14. English as our core value is required and #15. Traditional family values are encouraged.

Great values all to be sure, but values that have nothing to do with the original purpose of those rallies back in 2009.

Balancing the budget, ending bailouts and reducing income taxes are #s 7, 8, and 10 respectively. Quite a demotion. Almost an afterthought.

Here’s something to ponder.

Sarah Palin, Ted Cruz and Rand Paul are members of the establishment. You don’t get to be a vice -presidential candidate, or a Senator and avoid being part of the establishment, so it’s hard to perceive a group that counts such luminaries among its leadership as being anti-establishment.

Social Conservatives have now successfully solipsized the T.E.A. Party. The movement has lost any semblance of its own identity, existing only as a creation of the minds of SoCons. The boy-kneed, wild child that disrupted Congressmen at town hall meetings and threw boxes of tea over the White House fence, has been replaced by the SoCons image of a nymphet in politics, but it’s not the same. It was never what people like TeaParty.org claim that it was.

Today’s Tea Party is a fabricated image of what SoCons want a grass roots movement to look like, but it is becoming increasingly difficult to identify grass roots activism with star-studded celebrities like Palin and Cruz as the face of the movement.

Nowhere. Absolutely nowhere in that “About Us” page will you find Keli Carender’s or Rick Santelli’s name.

“Lolita has been safely solipsized.”

And that’s the last wire for Tuesday, May 20th 2014.

What was news before this moment, is now history.