Big Smoke

'cause it's hard to see from where I'm standin'

Sanity

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It’s not going to be a fun two years coming up.

To be fair, Jon Stewart’s rally was great, but even as he pointed out, “it’s not how many people attend, it’s how many people the media says attended.” And, as if on cue, the NYTimes et al barred mention of the rally from the front page, relegating it to two op-ed pieces and a short article that failed to mention any of the pointed criticism Jon Stewart held the rally for in the first place.

But that’s not nearly as insane as the insinuation that, what with Obama declaring himself “humbled” by the political winds changing (and here I was two years ago predicting the end of the Republican party – I may yet not be far off) pundits are claiming that – finally – there may be bipartisanship in Washington. Because, as we all know, Republicans were all simply waiting for the right opportunity to collaborate with their comrades across the aisle.

It’s not a terrible stretch of the imagination to point out that, to a great swath of the political system, all politics is merely campaigning and reality is subservient to the goals, however amorphous as they may be, dictated by the Republican party. In that stead, this election isn’t a mandate for Republican policies – for there are none – but instead a grossly misdirected referendum on Democratic inability.

And while Jon Stewart has attempted to take the moral high ground by having us and them (mostly them) tone down the hyperbole and acidic rhetoric, we may not see the fruits of that for at least another generation to come. Simply put, too many of the American people are too ill-educated, too easily distracted, and too cynically apathetic to allow proper function of this here republic, and education takes at least a generation to fix itself… and we’ve yet to begin to overhaul it.

In a sense, the corrupting of the executive and upper congressional branches – invented largely to temper the hoy polloy through the closest system a representative government can get to an oligarchy – has finally spread to the only direct representation the people have through the House, such that direct representation of a people who have no idea what it is they want is largely useless.

And until they figure that out, our economy will contract, our influence on the world will diminish, and we will become yet another failed empire.

More Muppets

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To speak of token Black shills for the evil empire, Ken Blackwell went on The Daily Show to make the basic statement, “I wrote a book calling Obama an anti-democratic tyrant… to start a debate. I like liberty,” which is, of course, more of the same disingenuous slander that Fox News, the propaganda arm of the GOP, peddles. Of course, this is on the Daily Show, where Jon Stewart has basically made a name for himself gleefully hacking such dreck to bits.

This is exactly what he did with Blackwell. But disingenuous media ploys aside, could Blackwell really believe that Obama’s “FDR-like” power plays are disastrous for the country? FDR, the architect of some of the most popular public programs and policies this country has ever seen?

There’s a reason the GOP was never able to get rid of Social Security: People like it too much. And while it certainly takes a very big government to enforce minimum wage laws and bank regulation, look what happens when it’s not there.

Of course, what should I expect from a man who claims that Obama is subverting the will of the people when he, himself – Blackwell – along with Diebold CEO Patrick O’Dell, colluded to deliver Ohio to Bush in the 2004 presidential election through systematic voter fraud?

Hypocrisy,

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thy name is Marc Thiessen.

The Daily Show aired interview basically went like this: Thiessen raved on a McCarthyite tirade for three quarters of the airtime, venting how legal defense of criminals in a court of law is treason so long as the Feds declare said criminals “enemy combatants” first, and wanted the names of such public defenders released publicly so that they could be hunted down in this all-encompassing witch hunt. John Adams? Fuck John Adams. Our terrorists were freedom fighters. Their freedom fighters are terrorists. Even when they’ve never actually done any fighting.

That was the substantive portion of the rant. The methodology was equally awe-inspiring: He spoke over Jon Stewart most of the time – just straight through him – in a rage that quickened his words, raised his voice and had him literally shaking by the end of the interview in sheer will that he be able to dominate the debate by sheer volume of words, and the brief moments he wasn’t talking he was berating Jon Stewart for not letting him talk. It was as if he had expected all viewers to have suddenly lost the capacity to tell time - where the laws of physics would bend to his worldview.

It’s at times like this, coupled with on-air chink in Glenn Beck’s conspiracy theories during his ill-researched interview with Eric Massa, that I wonder whether people are watching the same hypocritical bullshit I am – that the terms “conspiracy theorist,” “faux-populist,” “extremist nutjob” aren’t strong enough to describe the barefaced hypocrisy prominent in the kinds of people allowed to be on the air. Reporting isn’t dying. Reporting is dead, and The Daily Show has been a ten year eulogy on its corpse.

Truman, War Criminal

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Jon Stewart apologized for calling Truman a war criminal in a debate about the United States’ legacy towards torture and other heinous acts, but contemporary Air Force General Curtis LeMay is quoted at the time as having said,

“If we’d lost the war, we’d all have been prosecuted as war criminals.”

Said quote was repeated by Robert McNamara, who worked with LeMay and went on to become Secretary of Defense. So I think Stewart’s heated exclamation was still apt.

By the way, Curtis May? Your argument, “Hey, if you define waterboarding as torture, where do you stop? Sleep deprivation? Confinement? Let’s open all prisons!” surprised me. I didn’t think they let such stupid fucks spout such disingenuous, misleading bullshit on television, but then again, I don’t watch network news.

Bleeding Hearts

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When I read this revulsion towards US interdiction of pirates by, shocking enough, Salon, I was reminded of the scene in Monty Python’s Life of Brian where the People’s Front of Judea got together and tried to hammer out a message of dissent against the Romans; one that got more ridiculous as the debate went on:

“All right, but apart from the sanitation, the medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, a fresh water system, and public health, what have the Romans ever done for us?”

“Brought peace?”

“Shut up!”

The People’s Front of Judea (and its dopplegangers, the Judean People’s Front, the Judean Popular People’s Front, the Popular Front of Judea, the Campaign for a Free Galilee…) was a dig on the Balkanized (practically atomized) infighting of left wing parties in the ’70s in the UK. Certainly anybody who’s watched the US Democratic Party repeatedly implode and fail to stay on message for the past 30 years can attest to the validity of such an observation, and the comments board for this Salon article certainly illustrates the point.

Now, I’m probably guilty of similar as I’m about to lambast both the article’s writers and its readers, but damn, people: Mao, Mussolini and Monroe probably wouldn’t agree on much, but one of the universal constants for any empire – nay, the very heart of authoritarian justification – is law and order. We hate the Romans for their slave trade and religious hegemony but love that they can patrol the roads. We hate the Mongols for their wartime brutality but love the trade that happens within their borders.

Both the US and China right now shoot pirates on sight, no matter how different their official views on Human Rights may be. Hell, even Jon Stewart, with the help of John Oliver, played the difference between interdiction of terrorism and interception of pirates. There is a universal constant – through time and space – that justifies governance, and that constant is in the suppression of banditry and piracy. Practically everything else can be (and often is) bullshitted with bread and circuses, slogans and propaganda, but damnit our roads and sea lanes must be clear or the government is bunk.

Now, for the “this article makes me ashamed to be a liberal” readers, suck it up and put your foot down. Bitchslap the writer and affirm your rational, thoughtful position by having done so. There are things so unequivocal that to not do them really does lay into question the point of the country. Our loftier goals of a more perfect union are predicated on the simple ability to be a prosperous and powerful country despite assiduously keeping to those goals, and this is one of those areas that proves our power.

Court Jesters

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It’s only the court jester who’s allowed to be honest.

It remains to be see whether Jim Cramer’s capricious behavior will be curbed in a surprisingly amenable acceptance to be held at a higher journalistic standard, or if he’ll go like Tucker Carlson of Crossfire infamy after such a thorough grilling by Jon Stewart, but either way it was a breath of fresh air to see such honesty poured over the airwaves.

I don’t regularly watch TV (hell, I’ve been following Stewart’s ministrations online) but from what little I see I’d say there’s a little intelligence shining through all the usual marketing bullshit. Carlson was a fool; Cramer was still shown to be an intelligent and thoughtful person – at least capable of change – even after that drumming. An uplifting piece after all.

It’s nice to have a temporary reprieve of lucidity amidst the bile, invective and outright drive for destruction currently blasting on all channels. Cramer himself made some very salient points: In the beginning of the interview, he answered to Rick Santelli’s rant on CNBC by saying, “he must have come from a different economic background than me.” Now that was pointing out a 500lb gorilla in the room, in an interview that was all about prescience.

That said, that the NYTimes deemed this spat worthy of the ‘front page’ of its online edition and NBC’s playing up the division (even to the point of having Martha Stewart interview Cramer, opening a whole new can of worms when it comes to hypocrisy) speaks to Jon Stewart’s point about the dissolution of journalistic integrity. After all, the heart of the issue is that Jon Stewart is on a channel devoted to comedy on basic cable. Jim Cramer is on a news network. The New York Times is a newspaper. Why is Jon Stewart the one making the news?

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