Counting Presents, Pt. 4
Moving on through 2005 now. Curiously there's only one short post on Hurricane Katrina, and that one is mostly a "what he said" about comments by the late, great Steve Gilliard. A combination of burnout and depression and shock (plus the fact that many people were saying what I could've said, better) kept me from much online opining about that particular disaster.
I think the general timeframe in his head was pretty much worked out. A combination of increasing aches and pains due to advanced age, coupled with a belief (likely well-founded, looking at it with cold objectivity) that he had said everything worth saying about George W. Bush, Richard M. Nixon, professional sports and a hundred other subjects dear to his heart. I think he believed that his reason for living rested in the freak power of passion plus aesthetic, and when human limitations started threatening that magic equation, he reasoned that it was time to go.
Note to self: Son values peace, freedom and new technology. Wants full education without having to go to school. Enjoys idea of schools being demolished. Probably not alone in this.
The saga of George W. Bush is very much in line with the eternal shit sandwich that the elites feed the rabble -- century upon century of the corrupt leading the clueless.
What FDR and the Warren Court accomplished for the common man were historical anomalies. The Average Joe was emboldened by the geopolitical fluke of two world wars glorifying his "sacrifice for freedom," coupled with the "boy in the bubble" fluke of US economic dominance.
As Bush told his Harvard Business School prof in 1973, "the poor are that way because they're lazy." And as he told a GOP congressman in 2003 who said he'd come to Washington to cut entitlements, "So did I, pal."
Prescott Bush hated FDR, and his loyal heirs have acted on that hatred ever since.
The modern world has reacted to new technologies and population explosion pretty much with the combined wisdom of a barrel of monkeys. The masses freak out at the complications & vulgarities & alienation, and resort to dangerous games of denial and manipulation.
We are fucked. But the corporate overlords might yet grant us some temporary relief. They know that any Final Solution of economic feudalism must come in long-term steps, steps that will likely include periods of throwing bones to the masses, lest the so-called "Hate Left" tendency start to mess with the bottom line. Next bone thrown might well be Hillary '08.
I'm afraid that what is often really meant by "Support Our Troops" is "unleash the eager young studs so they can conquer the infidel race on our behalf."
It's dehumanization at its most vulgar. The troops are seen as programmed killers who aren't "supported" unless they're allowed to do what they are programmed to do. And if Central Casting sends us a really juicy set of bad guys, exploiting our basest fears and prejudices, then all the more reason to allow our "attack dogs" to do the dirty work of "preserving freedom." Restraint is for pussies.
Bush purposely stroked America's collective reptile brain with visions of manly Empire conquest against an evil infidel race, and as a result many let his transgressions slide. Clinton carelessly stoked a still-powerful repulsion toward sexual deviancy in the public arena, and therefore many continue to hold his transgressions as the epitome of corruption.
Mass mental illness was revealed in both cases, but Bush the ruthless politician wins (for now) the PR battle over Clinton by having been purposeful in his corruption rather than careless.
In short: Clinton exposing his penis = bad. Bush exposing his "penis" = good.
The religious/conservative zealots are asserting that as long as Terri Schiavo has any kind of life, God in his magnificent wonderfulness could always defy all science and bring her back from the brink.
That's their stand. With God, all things are possible. Let Terri die without doing everything to keep her from total flatline, and you're not giving God every chance to do His magic.
It reflects a deep resentment toward modern science's lack of need for a God figure. And it reflects a deep psychological craving to make sense out of a confusing world by resorting to vain and defensive rationalizations.
Before I could vent and bond on the internets, before I found a new family to enjoy and be responsible for; before I (finally) settled into a job situation that was reasonably sound, before I finished climbing the treacherous mountain that was college, there was a lot of pain and struggle and alienation, and somehow the dark lyrics of Morrissey and the jangly guitars of Johnny Marr were just the tonic.
"Ask" is actually one of the relatively upbeat Smiths tunes, although it does ominously warn that we've got one choice to bring us all together: either love or the bomb.
"Let both sides have their say (sorta) and leave it at that."
"Make sure the packaging is state-of-the-art and acceptable on a corporate level."
"I fought hard for my comfy place in the mediawhore universe, and I'm not going to let any donut-eating blogger geek from San Jose steal my thunder."
As C.S. Lewis wrote in Mere Christianity, the Christian faith is ideally a fighting religion that creates useful distinctions between good and evil, and to me that is something very much in tune with how the human psyche, for better and worse, actually exists in the world.
In my view, humans just aren't easily and generally programmed to be accepting of "evil" as part of a universal order -- even though in cold stark reality, a Creator's acceptance of evil (or indifference to it) could well be closer to the truth than anything the Apostle Paul came up with. Hence, the psychological usefulness of belief systems that provide prudent lines in the sand between what we love and what we despise.
Each SCTV actor fascinates me in their own way. Even people from the syndicated, pre-NBC years of the show, like Robin Duke and Tony Rosato and a young Harold Ramis, have moments of advanced comic flair you don't often see in TV land.
Had Bush really taken in McCullough's work, he might've been inspired by Adams' strong commitments to integrity, intellect, and the noblest aims of humankind. He might've been touched by the sincere and time-tested love between Adams and his wife Abigail (by the standards of the day practically a feminist), and between the Adamses and their children. He might even have found Adams' New England-style passion for work and purpose and public service inspiring, in a John Kerry sorta way.
But apparently Bush digested the book only enough to get that his family and the Adams family share one important historical feature: they both feature a father and son who reached the highest office in the land. They are the only two families in American history who can say such a thing, and with Bush's dry-drunk passion for vainglory this fact must've appealed to him greatly.
I think it's clear that these faith-based fellows are, at the least, thinking "impure thoughts" on a regular basis. They're so in love with power built on macho fantasies, so emotionally involved with the mostly male posses who enable their power -- and so tempted to cross over to the "dark side" once in awhile, just because they can -- that any latent bisexual or homosexual tendencies are bound to show up in their speech and gestures, if not their bedrooms.
Mike Malloy was pondering on his show this week, only half-jokingly, over whether we have our first homosexual president in office right now. He didn't mention Abe Lincoln or the other possibles, but he didn't have to.
I don't think conserva-pundits like Krugman's colleague at the New York Times, David Brooks, have much skill anymore (if they ever did) in forwarding logical argument. What they do, what their brethren in the GOP propaganda machine do, is state what has the best chance of being believed by the most demographically advantageous of voters/consumers.
Color the bullshit upbeat, angry, professoral, moralistic...it all plays like market-tested opiates for the gullible. Corporations do the same thing with their advertising campaigns, and is it any wonder most corporations feel such a kinship with the master BS artists that the post-Reagan Repugs have become?
When you think GOP apologist, think of someone not unlike Philip Morris, which got away with decade after decade of selling to young people a known and proven killer.
For about the first two weeks of the trip, which lasted through our visits to Boston and Philly and NYC and D.C., it was pretty much magical. Great weather, and a remarkable list of places seen: Niagra Falls (again), Freedom Hall, the Gettysburg battlefield, the Liberty Bell monument, the Lake Placid arena where the U.S. won the 1980 Olympic hockey gold medal, the Pro Basketball Hall of Fame, the Smithsonian museums, the Boardwalk in Atlantic City, Plymouth Rock, the Capitol Building, Arlington National Cemetery (JFK and RFK and the Tomb of The Unknown Soldier), the Lincoln Memorial, The White House (just the outside), the World Trade Center (I stood on the observation deck, enjoying a magnificent view of the Manhattan skyline), the Empire State Building, Central Park, Times Square, and the Statue of Liberty (back when you could still climb the inside steps to the top.) At the Boston-area RV park we stayed in Foxboro, near the old Patriots football stadium, we showed off our sample of Mount St. Helens ash, while people near our RV came round to take a look.
Bottom line is, O.J. Simpson is one lucky SOB to not be in a jail cell right now. His celebrity and his zip code, as much as his skin color, allowed him to get away with murder. Darden, like Toobin before him, effectively debunks the notion that Fuhrman or any other cop could've planted the infamous "bloody glove" that Simpson tried on at trial. It would've had to involve a huge premediated conspiracy, one the defense presented not one iota of solid evidence for. Darden also makes a good case that when Simpson tried on the glove found at the murder scene, that the glove seemed not to fit was likely a combination of shrinkage caused by moisture and blood, and Simpson's acting skills -- he had been coached by the defense team on how to "present" to the jury his trying on the glove.
A vast majority of Republicans (89 percent in one recent poll) still approve of Bush's performance. Inexplicable? Hardly. The Al Davis "Just win, baby" attitude exists in even many of the supposed moderates. They've bought into the "Republicans are victims of liberal elites" meme every bit as much as the wingiest wingnuts. And they've been programmed not just to hate Democrats, but to fear for their very lives when Dems are in power. So in this context, they'll always cut a "winner" like Bush an ungodly amount of slack.
By 1985, the media I grew up with had lost any pretension of being anything other than a brainwashing tool, designed to promote and support arrogant, utterly corporatized attitudes & desires. For someone who indulged on '60s and '70s media and remembered some credence (however lame) still given to concepts like spontaniety & egalitarianism & gentlemanly conduct, this quasi-fascistic new order of ultra-slick spin doctoring and Social Darwinist hero mythology shook me to the bone. The message was clear: Get with the program, or else.
We're 20 years into the new order now, and it's safe to say there'll be no going back, at least not while an infrastructure dependent on plentiful gas, electricity and water still stands. (They sold us a chimp, didn't they? Twice. That's power.)
For the most part, Bush has masterfully ridden the wave of wartime media propaganda -- he is truly the world's first fully-formed Orwellian leader. There's really no precedent: Hitler and Mussolini lived during the mass media's infancy; Reagan still had the remnants of pre-Reagan "liberal (read: milquetoast centrist) media" to deal with, not to mention the opposition of Tip O'Neill. The closest historical parallels to Bush As Big Brother would be Stalin and Mao...but they were isolated powers, lacking the influence Bush has on the world stage.
Our backyard is on the edge of a small town, next to a large field, so it's nice and quiet, and ideal for contemplating the vastness and mystery of a summer night sky. When I look at stars, I often think of something I heard Carl Sagan say on his Cosmos TV series. He was talking about Einstein's views on space and time, and he said that when one looks out into space, one is essentially looking out into time.
I note with wonder that the starlight I'm seeing is many millions of years old, and that any distant creature who might see the light from our sun won't see it until long after we're gone. It brings to mind a passage from Tom Wolfe's book The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, where one of Ken Kesey's Merry Pranksters was trying in vain to apprehend, via a drug experience, a pure and unfiltered perception of the world, separate from the distance between object and perception that time creates. He couldn't do it and neither can I, for all perception has an element of illusion built in.
1996-97: Andrew was at that age, between one and two, where children can talk but they haven't quite mastered sentence structure yet. So it was unexpected when we were hanging out, he and I, and all of a sudden he grabs my head and pulls his face next to mine and starts singing me a song: Pretty...today. Pretty...today. Perhaps you had to be there, but his sudden command of expressive songwriting just blew me away, like where did that come from?
2005: Just this month, in fact. I got into one of my depressive funks, where I go away and lay on the floor in the dark somewhere, because I can't handle being with anyone. Andrew came into where I was laying down, and with a great combo of warmth, tact and intelligence talked me through it so I could get up and hang out with the family again. I don't think there's anyone I know who could've done it better. Again, perhaps you had to be there, but I was impressed. If the artist thing doesn't work out, perhaps a career in therapy might work for him.
I wouldn't bet Bush will suffer a dramatic Nixonian fall from power, however. His life dynamic is largely about avoiding the hard edge of accountability, and in that regard, his presidency is no different a situation than his past failures, when he was always rescued by family and friends. Someone will cover for his ass, always.
Bush will get less of a smackdown than he deserves...but those around him won't avoid smelling the stench of his failure, as that is a big part of his life dynamic as well. Arrogance and sloth will define him to the end.
CRUSH: Dude! Vivacious Vicktoria! Nice to meet you. What's your question?
VICKTORIA: What's the meaning of life?
Crush's eyes widen. He looks a bit surprised and spooked by the question. He pauses for a few seconds, and some giggles rise from the audience.
CRUSH: Whoaaa. Duuude. That's totally deep, okay?
Well, I don't know, it might be a little different with you humans, but I can speak for the turtle.
Dude, meaning of life...is live every day like it's your last. You know I'm sayin', dude? Carpe Diem, okay? Seize the day. I've been around for 150 years for a reason, dude. Cha. Not a bitter bone in my body. Excellent.