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The gift that keeps on giving…

[ 31 ] September 20, 2012 |

Holy shit, can this presidential campaign please go on forever? Please don’t ever stop, Mitt. Please.

Meantime, Willard should take Bing Crosby’s lead and prove he’s really an heir to the Party of Lincoln.


Oh, God.

[ 67 ] September 5, 2012 |

Paul Ryan, among many others, is evidently dismayed that the 2012 Democratic Party platform has performed a third-trimester abortion on Baby Jesus, whereas the GOP platform has been cleverly inscribed on a tortilla miraculously bearing the toasted image of the Virgin Mary.

For shits, I devoted a needlessly long chunk of time this morning reviewing the archive of party platforms available through the invaluable American Presidency Project, and — well — here you go:

A few observations:

  1. The 2012 GOP platform is a total outlier, presumably designed to intimidate the Saracen hordes biding their time for Obama’s re-election.
  2. Judging entirely by the text of its platforms — for by their words, or works, or whatever, ye shall know them — the party clearly had no use for God from its founding through the 1960s. By my sophisticated calculations, the godlessness of the Republicans from 1856-1956 likely accounts for the successful passage of 93 percent of Progressive Era legislation and 97 percent of the New Deal.
  3. I have new-found, albeit limited, appreciation for the Nixon-era GOP.
  4. How did Reagan manage to win in 1980 with 66 percent less Jeebus than 1976?
  5. How did Bush manage to win in 2000 with 75 percent less Jeebus than 1996?
  6. I don’t know what that weird green dash is to the right of the graph, but fuck it! I made a graph!


UPDATE: Here’s another meaningless graph:

“So, professor: Would you say it’s time for everyone to panic?”

[ 8 ] July 24, 2012 |

Yes I would, Kent.

When the rat-muscled cyborg jellyfish rise up and devour your loved ones, you can thank me for at least trying to sound the alarm.

“I pity the poor in bondage that have none to help them: that is why I am here”

[ 79 ] July 13, 2012 |

I was sitting in a Juneau bar last night when Loomis messaged me about this absurdity by Arthur Herman, who currently appears to be packing away the silver cutlery in anticipation of the nation’s “Coming Civil War,” an irrepressible conflict to be staged between the “Makers” and Mudsills “Takers.” (And you, dear reader, are probably a Taker.) Herman’s article is for the most part a boneyard of conservative grievances about unions, welfare, and the mistreatment of the job creators, whose staggering wealth just barely compensates for the love and appreciation we cruelly withhold from them. He also goes to the predictable trouble of goofing up his numbers, insisting that 48 percent of Americans “are now on some form of government handout” when in fact the data actually show that half of all households have one or more individuals receiving cash payments, food stamps, Medicaid, Medicare or Social Security.

But so far as the Civil War analogies go, Herman really distinguishes himself from the field of contemporary Republican lamentations. He’s no Paul LePage, but he does conclude, after wise and patient study of 20th and 21st century economic and sociological data, that “we’re a house divided again and another civil war is coming, with the 2012 election as its Gettysburg.” Which apparently means that while the war is “coming” — as in “not yet started” — we’re about to wage one of its decisive battles. So if I follow him properly, either the Makers or the Takers are about to invade (probably figuratively) the other’s territory, organize a poorly-conceived (and also likely figurative) charge up a vital hill, and get mowed down enormously before they’re allowed to withdraw and continue the fight for another two years. (That last part is probably literal. People really want their food stamps and subsidized student loans.)

Since I can’t imagine that Herman envisions the Makers losing or abandoning the struggle — and since he approvingly quotes (and misquotes) Abraham Lincoln — I’m supposing he sees the Makers carrying on the spirit of the Union. You know, like raising income taxes on the wealthy, subsidizing massive railroad and other public works projects, and essentially giving away hundreds of millions of acres to ranchers, miners, farmers, and . . . well, just read the Ryan Budget, and you’ll see that it’s pretty much the same thing. And since Republicans are constantly accusing liberals of keeping (blah) people enslaved rather than setting them loose into the splendor of the Northern textile mills, stockyards and iron foundries, we’re obviously wearing Confederate grey in this scenario, destined to lose the war of attrition the 53 Percenters have in store for us. (Don’t despair, though. In fifty years, the history books will be telling our side of the story. Long march through the institutions, motherfuckers!)

And yet Herman also wants the Makers to identify with the terror endured, circa 1859, by the Southern master class in the face of dangerous liberty fanatics and their Big Government abettors. “Like John Brown’s raid on Harper’s Ferry,” Herman warns, “Obamacare has been a wakeup call to what’s at stake — just as the turbulent events in Wisconsin showed how far Democrats are willing to go to win.” Indeed. If you can’t spy the similarities between (a) early 1990s Republican health care policy suggestions, (b) perfectly legal, if rare, procedures to unseat elected officials, and (c) messianic plots to foment servile insurrection and carry out a protracted Appalachian guerrilla war, then you’re clearly not paying attention to the signs of the times. Much as Jefferson Davis decried the Brown escapade as “the invasion of a state by a murderous gang of abolitionists bent on inciting slaves to murder helpless women and children,” Republican governors like Jindal, Perry and Scott are answering the call of history and making sure helpless women and children aren’t violated by preventive checkups, tuberculosis vaccinations, or prenatal testing. Or maybe it’s more like George Wallace a century later, only with primary care clinics instead of Foster Auditorium. I don’t know. History is hard.

Nevertheless, Herman assures us that the “angels of our better nature [sic]” might yet prevail. “We’re not Greece yet — or on the brink of Bull Run.” (Um. Aren’t we about to fight Gettysburg?) But we can apparently “make a house divided whole once more” by electing the States’ Rights guy instead of the Free Stuff guy. What a relief.

Not likely as bad as Bill O’Reilly’s book, but still…

[ 140 ] July 10, 2012 |

this novel by Stephen L. Carter sounds horrendous.

. . . Carter, now a best-selling novelist, nonfiction author and professor at Yale Law School, has his own shelf of [Lincoln] books (including the [Carl] Sandburg tome, which remains a favorite) about Lincoln, whom he still regards as America’s greatest president. This week, that shelf will get a new addition: “The Impeachment of Abraham Lincoln,” an alternate-history legal thriller in which the president survives the attack at Ford’s Theatre only to face reprisals in Congress for what his political enemies describe as high crimes in his handling of the war: suspending habeas corpus (the principle that someone under arrest can’t be held for long without being brought before a judge), shutting down opposition newspapers and, most ominous of all, conspiring to establish a military government in the District of Columbia.

Perhaps I’m just not a fan of counter-factual historical fiction, but if you’re going to do it, you might as well start with a premise that’s even remotely plausible. I don’t know who exactly Carter has numbered among Lincoln’s “political enemies,” but it was almost universally the case that no one except Confederates and Northern Copperheads groaned for more than a moment about the extra-constitutionality of Lincoln’s policies; whether or not the limited, temporary suspension of habeas rights was a good idea, the fact remains that Congress later gave Lincoln precisely the authority he had sought at the war’s outset. And that Congress — which approved the Habeas Corpus Suspension Act by overwhelming majorities in 1863 — would be succeeded by an even more predominantly Republican assembly following the elections of 1864. This, Carter seems to want his readers to believe, would have been the Congress to initiate impeachment proceedings against a President recuperating from a pistol shot to the head. Weird.

It sounds as if at least a few of Carter’s villains are also drawn from the radical wing of Lincoln’s own party — folks like Benjamin Wade and Henry Davis, whose reconstruction bill Lincoln had pocket-vetoed in the summer of 1864 and who supported the third-party candidacy of John Frémont because they believed Lincoln was insufficiently aggressive along a variety of fronts — but that would make even less sense. About all Lincoln needed to do to bring the dissenters around was to boot Montgomery Blair from the Post Office in September 1864. Though it’s certainly true that many fellow Republicans viewed his preliminary thoughts on Reconstruction to be overly gentle toward the South, it’s also pretty clear that Lincoln was, at the time of his death, well to the left of the party median on crucial issues like black civil rights (including suffrage). The fantasy that Lincoln, had he lived, would have been “generous” and “friendly” toward the South eventually became a staple of Confederate and New South mythology before seeping into the mainstream of Lincoln memory, where it continues to reside. Given the trajectory of his philosophy and policy toward slavery and racial justice, I think it’s more likely that Lincoln would have followed a course similar to Ulysses S. Grant, whose rather quickly gave up his naive faith that Southern whites would acquiesce to the postwar order. By 1870, he was using the newly-created Department of Justice to chase down the Klan in South Carolina, and I’m sure Lincoln would have been cheering him along. (It sounds as if Carter in fact understands this about Lincoln, but it also doesn’t sound like this keeps him from imagining that the radicals would have hated him anyway.)

Likewise, the image of Lincoln as a solitary figure, a voice of nobility and unappreciated bipartisan reason surrounded by idiots, purchased men and conspirators, is also boring and absurd. Lincoln was an ingenious politician who had been a devoted Whig and a devoted Republican, and he valued unity enough that I can’t imagine a scenario in which he’d lose influence over the various factions within his own party. But for some reason, Americans have always loved Sad Lincoln, eating a sandwich on a lonely park bench, abandoned by everyone but a grateful posterity. Carter’s novel seems to be animated by this same narrative, which (like Gentle Lincoln) also has its roots in early-20th century reconciliationist bullshit, which had everything to do with pretending that the war had nothing to do with emancipating black people and redrafting the terms of citizenship in a world without slaves. By surrounding Lincoln with enemies of every party affiliation and every ideological orientation, Americans allowed themselves to pretend that everyone but Lincoln — and certainly not the slave-holding and slavery-supporting South alone — shared blame for the war. Perversely enough, Lincoln memory eventually became an alibi for national amnesia about the war’s origins, costs and consequences.

Now, I obviously have no idea whether Carter’s portrayal of Lincoln is as bad as I’m imagining it is. (I recently finished an essay on Lincoln in the imagination of Southern white supremacists like Thomas Dixon, so I’m certain that I’ve read worse.) But he seems to be relying on some pretty obvious, durable cliches about Lincoln, which makes me think the book doesn’t deserve the attention it’s receiving this week. Then again, since Lincoln in literature is apparently my thing now, I suppose I’ll have to read it and find out. If I’m wrong, you’ll hear back from me in, like, six months. Or whatever.

So the goblins came

[ 26 ] May 8, 2012 |

If you were looking for a reason to crawl inside a dark hole today, Maurice Sendak’s death should do nicely. And if that doesn’t work, read or listen to his interview with Terry Gross last December. You’re welcome.

Beyond Where the Wild Things Are, I don’t believe I encountered much of his work as a child — apparently, I preferred motivational pablum like The Little Engine That Could — but parenthood has given me the chance to spend a lot of time in Sendak’s world, and if I’m grateful to my kids for nothing else, it’s that. Outside Over There — inspired partly by the kidnapping and murder of Charles Lindbergh, Jr. — has become my favorite of his books, and not by a thin margin. Without giving away too much, the story is essentially about an young girl named Ida who is charged with rescuing her baby sister from a pack of goblins who’ve carted her away for some nefarious matrimonial purpose. With her father off at sea and her mother stricken with immobilizing grief, Ida is entirely responsible for her sister’s fate. In an odd way, I love this book for some of the same reasons I love Cormac McCarthy’s The Road (two books that I’m not sure have ever been mentioned in the same sentence): As a parent, I want desperately to know that my kids will be OK when I’m not there, either for the moment or forever. The horror of it all is that I’ll never really know, but Sendak helped reassure me that it will all somehow work out.

Meantime, Dick Cheney’s stolen heart continues to serve its dark, illegitimate master. RIP.

Klosterman at his upmost Klostermaniest

[ 167 ] April 24, 2012 |

This is more Scott’s beat than mine, but evidently Chuck Klosterman — the nitwit who couldn’t spend 30 minutes or so actually listening to a tUnE-yArDs album (“wow, their lyrics are hard to decipher, and Merrill Garbus was a puppeteer once, and she looks androgynous, and that makes me feel funny in my tummy”) — is now willing to engage in an entire evening of urban anthropology to discern the mystery of Creed and Nickelback. It’s not quite Slate-level cultural contrarianism, but there’s a root ancestor there somewhere.

The day before the New York show, Kroeger appeared on a Philadelphia radio station4 and was asked (of course) why people hate Nickelback so vehemently. “Because we’re not hipsters,” he replied. It’s a reasonable answer, but not really accurate — the only thing hipsters unilaterally loathe is other hipsters, so Nickelback’s shorthaired unhipness should theoretically play to their advantage. A better answer as to why people dislike Nickelback is tautological: They hate them because they hate them. Sometimes it’s fun to hate things arbitrarily, and Nickelback has become an acceptable thing to hate. They’re technically rich and technically famous, so they just have to absorb the denigration and insist they don’t care. They have good songs and they have bad songs, and the bad songs are bad enough to build an anti-Nickelback argument, assuming you feel like that’s important. But it’s never required. It’s not like anyone is going to contradict your thesis. There’s no risk in hating Nickelback, and hating something always feels better than feeling nothing at all.

Oh, sweet suckling Jesus, do fuck off now.

Giving organ donation a bad name

[ 59 ] March 24, 2012 |

What a waste of usable muscle. Condolences to the donor’s family, and to the vast majority of humankind. If I thought there were a remote chance my vital organs might wind up sustaining the life of an enfeebled war criminal, I’d gleefully ram a weed-eater through my own sternum.

Great Moments in Cocaine

[ 33 ] March 21, 2012 |

For no particular reason, I give you the Palm Beach Post, 16 April 1962:

At least one of the five Cubans seized here recently with a record supply of cocaine may have been a Castro agent sent here to spread addiction among local exiles and thus discredit them in the eyes of the United States, official sources said last night . . . .

Charles Siragusa, deputy head of the U.S. Narcotics Bureau, said the sudden influx of the hideous drug into this country has a threefold purpose:

  • To damage U.S. morale by circulating a drug that incites its users to crimes of wild abandon.
  • To accelerate the crime rate particularly among local Cubans so that the goodwill so hard won by refugee families will be broken and the exile population in general will be discredited.
  • [No third purpose was actually listed]

Cocaine orgies already have been held here . . . . Wherever its use becomes widespread, cocaine parties are inevitable.

Cocaine users lose all sense of propriety and morality, and the gravest of crimes becomes a joke. It takes only a few minutes to feel its effects. One deep sniff of the sugary powder and the party is on.

Goddamn, I miss the Cold War.

Not as bad as Cheney; still clearly worse than Ed Gein

[ 31 ] March 13, 2012 |

Now and then, responsible bloggers revisit old viewpoints and test them against a fresh stable of facts. This was an especially useful exercise, for example, after the war in Iraq had muddled on for half a decade; in this presidential election year, perhaps we’ll have a similar chance to revisit the campaign of 2008 and measure the strengths and weaknesses of our ancient predictions and preliminary evaluations of Barack Obama. On the internet, we must first be accountable — and unsparingly so — to ourselves.

About five years ago, I demonstrated through unimpeachable, crystalline internet science that Jewel Kilcher could easily be numbered among the worst human beings our nation has ever pinched through its sod-packed colon. This was long before the Whitney Houston Obituary Wars, but long-time LGM readers may remember the discomfort this important (if objectively uncontroversial) truth caused some of our transient commenters, who denounced me for squashing the dreams of young people who wanted nothing more than to scribble shite poetry like their heroine, or for adopting a grossly undeserved tone of disdain toward someone who’d enlivened the souls of millions with her irony-free acoustical earnestness.* And ever since, various japesters in my life have made certain that I’m never wanting for updates on Jewel’s personal life and inspiring professional accomplishments. (Did you know that she got hit by a fire truck last year? Well, you would if you were me!)

So today’s mostly-non-Jewel-related e-mail barrage included this from the Huffington Post, wherein we learn that Jewel, unlike any other artist in human history, used to not have a lot of stuff. We also learn that because “she has not forgotten what it’s like to be hungry,” she’s partnered up with ConAgra to defeat food insecurity — a goal the company will surely achieve once it’s finished blowing up its workers, gouging the Palin family, or making sure Americans are getting enough nutritious Salmonella in their diets. Even worse, I have come to learn via Google Books that ConAgra was once — and perhaps still is — “almost entirely run by homosexuals and pedophiles” and that ConAgra executives have long been central actors in a gruesome, freemasonic Nebraskan underworld that uses children as drug couriers and ass candy.

Don’t be fooled, people.


* After LGM migrated from Blogger and we said our final, tearful fuck yous to JS-Kit, we lost that thread among many others — or so we thought. Fortunately, the Jewel Wars produced a few moments of such high comedy that we occasionally linked back to the original discussion, which I stumbled across this morning almost by accident. Behold.

The Reagan Myth moves to white dwarf status

[ 41 ] March 7, 2012 |

I’m a bit late with this, but for the love of the Angel Moroni, the eventual Republican presidential nominee is talking some dubious shit:

Beginning Nov. 4, 1979, dozens of U.S. diplomats were held hostage by Iranian Islamic revolutionaries for 444 days while America’s feckless president, Jimmy Carter, fretted in the White House. Running for the presidency against Carter the next year, Ronald Reagan made it crystal clear that the Iranians would pay a very stiff price for continuing their criminal behavior. On Jan. 20, 1981, in the hour that Reagan was sworn into office, Iran released the hostages. The Iranians well understood that Reagan was serious about turning words into action in a way that Jimmy Carter never was.

Wow, that Ronald Reagan fellow must have been one terrifying fellow. I’ll bet his acceptance speech at the 1980 Republican National Convention was brimming with fury, warning of the severe consequences for Iran if–sorry, say what now? He didn’t actually mention Iran at all? That seems weird. But OK, fine. Maybe he didn’t want to harsh the celebratory mood. Surely, though, his late October debate with Carter was filled with the species of aggressive, demonstrative rhetoric that alerted the revolutionary leadership to his resolve and showed the humiliated American public that a vote for Reagan was a vote against the weak and . . . um, wait a minute.

First of all, I would be fearful that I might say something that was presently under way or in negotiations, and thus expose it and endanger the hostages. And sometimes, I think some of my ideas might involve quiet diplomacy, where you don’t say, in advance or say to anyone what it is you’re thinking of doing.

Your question is difficult to answer, because, in the situation right now, no one wants to say anything that would inadvertently delay, in any way, the return of those hostages if there is a chance of their coming home soon, or that might cause them harm. What I do think should be done, once they are safely here with their families and that tragedy is over — and we’ve endured this humiliation for just lacking 1 week of a year now — then, I think, it is time for us to have a complete investigation as to the diplomatic efforts that were made in the beginning, why they have been there so long, and when they come home, what did we have to do in order to bring that about, what arrangements were made? And I would suggest that Congress should hold such an investigation.

In the meantime, I’m going to continue praying that they’ll come home.

Well now I’m just confused. I expected to hear the clanking of gigantic, novelty-sized brass balls, but this sounds like a load of pantywaisted hippie nonsense to me.

No matter. Once Reagan was elected, the Iranians must have been positively soiling themselves with fear, scrambling to reach a deal as word leaked out that the time for shit-taking had well-nigh reached an end. By January 8 — a mere twelve days before the Serious Turning of Words into Action so elegantly and briefly described by Mittens Romney — the forces of manly Republicanism would have been wiggling in their seats as the anticipation mounted and OH MERCY ME WHERE’S THE BONER JUICE?

None of the actions being considered at the highest Reagan levels contemplate military action against Iran. Not yet, at least. Reagan planning shows a fastidious caution about the use, or even the threat, of military force. The reason, as explained by one key actor in the unfolding hostage drama: “We will suggest nothing in the way of military action that we are not absolutely certain we cannot carry out.”

Because Romney is in fact an empty vessel willing to say anything that sounds like something Republicans might endorse, it’s not surprising that Reagan — the chap who denounced Carter for releasing billions of dollars in frozen Iranian assets to get the embassy hostages back, then approved illegal arms sales to Iran in exchange for hostages in Lebanon who were never in fact released — receives undeserved credit for being tough on Iran. What’s remarkable, however, is that the guy whose relationship to Iran eventually led him to break the Constitution winds up sounding completely reasonable and cautious by comparison with the people who now claim him as their totem.

Empty stadiums, then and now

[ 27 ] February 25, 2012 |

On June 21, 1948, Life magazine ran a gleeful series of photos ridiculing Harry Truman’s famous don’t-call-it-a-campaign-trip campaign trip through the West — a tour that was widely mocked by his adversaries but which actually had the effect of reviving his fortunes at a time when many within his party were scouting about for a replacement candidate. Henry Luce was a first-rate Truman hater, believing him to be insufficiently hostile toward the Soviet Union and insufficiently supportive of the Chinese nationalists, so when a publicity gaffe led Truman to deliver a speech to a nearly-empty Ak-Sar-Ben coliseum in Omaha, his magazine provided ample space for this:

Life conveniently overlooked the fact that Truman had drawn 160,000 Omahans to a parade earlier in the day, just as they had almost nothing to say about the substance of Truman’s speech, which endorsed still-popular New Deal policies including agricultural price supports, soil conservation efforts, federal support for farm cooperatives, measures to alleviate food insecurity and malnutrition, electrification programs as well as improvements to rural health services. Though Truman would eventually lose Nebraska by a margin of 54-46 percent, it’s perhaps worth pointing out that FDR had lost the state by 15 and 17 points in 1940 and 1944. So while the Republican media made strong efforts to depict Truman’s speaking tour as the work of a bumbling dope, the reality was that the more Truman spoke — sparse crowds or no — the more popular he became with voters.

Not so with Mittens, whose dishonest speech to an empty stadium in Detroit offered — as Ezra Klein points out — a horrifying call for Americans to address a debt non-emergency by hacking away at programs that serve the poorest citizens. No wonder, then, that the more Willard Romney speaks, the more everyone dislikes him.

Sometimes the empty stadium is an anomaly, and sometimes you’ve really earned it.

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