Peter Pace Paints a Portrait of Putrid Politics

It’s enough to make you think that some guy at Joint Chiefs Chairman Peter Pace’s boot camp grabbed his ass in the shower, isn’t it?

“I believe homosexual acts between two individuals are immoral and that we should not condone immoral acts,” he said recently, and he further likened homosexuality to adultery. Nice!

There are obvious problems with the highest ranking military officer in the nation offering these observations. First: “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” isn’t supposed to exist because the brass doesn’t like Homosexual-Americans. It allegedly exists because of a fear of something called “dissension in the ranks.” This is a fancy way of saying that the U.S. military officially believes that its own enlisted men are homophobic, mouth-breathing apes.

After that little problem, the logic falls apart like the balsa wood bridge I made in my high school physics class. The numbers, culled from the Interet: Since ince 1993, the U.S. armed forces has fired more than 11,000 people for being the gaey. How many troops did we need for the “surge” again?

A DOD survey in 2000 found that 80 percent of the troops had heard derogatory anti-gay remarks and that 37 percent had witnessed or experienced targeted incidents of harassment, 9 percent reported  anti-gay threats, and 5 percent reported witnessing or experiencing anti-gay physical assaults.

That sounds like “dissension in the ranks” to me.

But Pace’s remarks and the installation of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell”–unforunately implemented during the Clinton Administration–reveal an enormous problem with the larger logic of the modern conservative movement. Because while Pace is wringing his hands about gay people in the military, there are gay people in the military. They’re not asked, and they’re not telling, but they are there and they are queer, and, as the survey I’ve cited seems to indicate, staying holed up in the closet does not seem to be helping.

Conservatives pull this kind of crap in all kinds of places. Look at the “gay marriage” issue. While this country fusses about whether or not to “allow” “gay” marriage, there are families in this very country where the heads of households are both mommies or daddies. There are children, actual children, who, because of who their parents are, do not have the same legal protection as a kid raised by a mom and a dad. It’s not some hypothetical ethical game. It exists. It is. And all because my country has been highjacked by a rabid cadre of superstitious numbsulls, we are not allowed to consider this issue with any kind of distance; even discussion of a practical solution is cast as witchcraft.

Consider abortion. In 1970, the Supreme Court issued The Compromise. It defined viability and allowed that a pregnancy that is not viable may be considered for termination under the law. This to settle an issue that had, for most of the nation’s history, not been an issue at all. This to make national a law that would not jail doctors for offering care and would offer them guidance as to how to practice and not end up in the slam. This as a law that actually deliniates situations in which a state can step in and deny the procedure. Overturning it will not stop abortions. Not really. It will simply drive the clinics underground and deny the procedure to the poor–a situation that Ralph Giulinai once spoke out on as deplorable, by the by. Modern conservatives think they can outlaw stuff and make it go away. It’s really, really weird. And, incidentally, it’s not really very conservative.

We have former Sen. Alan Simpson to thank for all the recent kerfuffle. He’s raised the issue in a recent column in the Washington Post. I don’t know if there’s any serious legislation before Congress about the issue, but if there is, it should be fairly simple to draft.

Change “don’t ask don’t tell” to “don’t ask.”  
 

Libby

In the office at my day-job, the e-mail is generally reserved for business. However, when you’re a block from K Street in Washington, D.C., some pol on your staff is bound to forward on the big ones. Thus, yesterday, a co-worker forwarded the Libby verdict news at 12:22 p.m.

Five minutes later, another shot back: And yet, nobody has even been charged with intentionally identifying Plame. Five minutes. Five freakin’ minutes of peace and quiet before some dummy in my office piped up with that little fact bender.

No, sir, nobody has been charged, specifically. Yet. Because someone was, how you say, lying, perjuring, and obstructing justice, thus the conviction on the counts of “lying, perjury, and obstruction of justice.” Look, I don’t know about you, but as an American, I’d like someone to keep sniffing around about this. Hello? All signs point to yes, the current vice-president, who specifically told voters that his crew, and not the competition, was the right choice to keep America safe from the evil-doers, led a deliberate effort to show a CIA operative to the world because her husband dared to write what he knew in a newspaper. And, by the by, don’t give me that guff about how she wasn’t no CIA operative, that she just had a desk job and just sharpened pencils and made coffee. I don’t care if she mopped the floor. You don’t write about or discuss an agent’s employment. I’ve got a federal agent in my family, should I write to the Post about it? Stupid asshat Novak. Why isn’t he breaking bricks somewhere?  

I personally think that if your curiosity about the subject shuts down at “well nobody was actually charged” regarding this issue, you should be compelled by law to retake your citizenship test. This isn’t a partisan issue and it’s not a crusted stain on a pretty blue dress. It’s yet another sign that the folks who barked the loudest about providing national security didn’t. So I hope you’re practicing cowering under your desks because duck-and-cover may just be all we’ve got left.

Incidentally, speaking of caked DNA: Liberals, arm up for the inevitable comparisons to the Bill Clinton impeachment. I know and you know that anyone who finds the two to be alike probably also scalds themselves in the shower a lot, but it always comes back with these people to “buh-buh-but Clinton!” Don’t forget: Clinton was impeached for obstruction of justice and perjury. But he was NOT convicted. He was acquitted. Which is the opposite of what Lewis Libby was.

There are many things that could and will happen next. Libby’s legal team is already planning to ask for a new trial, and, failing that, an appeal. The Wilsons are readying their civil suit. And somewhere, in an underground bunker, the current vice president is lying in a coffin and planning his next steps as well.

(“#1 Douchebag” graphic stolen shamelessly from Comedy Central’s The Daily Show.)

Hey, FNC: Don’t Quit Your Day Job

Of all the commentators on the broadcast spectrum, of all the newsmen and talk show hosts who blubbered it up afterward, it was Jon Stewart who finally got to me about September Eleventh.

“The view from my apartment was the World Trade Center. And now it’s gone. And they attacked it,” Stewart said during a weepy monlogue on The Daily Show in 2001. “This symbol of American ingenuity and strength and labor and imagination and commerce, and it is gone. But you know what the view is now? The Statue of Liberty. The view from the south of Manhattan is now the Statue of Liberty. You can’t beat that.”

I didn’t cry about September Eleventh until I saw this. His words were uncharacteristically stammered and punctuated with fidgets, poking his desktop with a pencil, that sort of thing. It was perfect and powerful, and it was what allowed me to cry. It’s no wonder someone who can move me like that over that can offer me a full-on belly laugh every night.

I’m reviewing Stewart’s monologue today to try to remember and explain why “The Daily Show” is good, because I’m trying to figure out why Fox Noise Channel’s (thanks, Keith) “Half Hour News Hour” is so frightfully bad. Disclaimer: I have only seen the Interweb clip, and that is probably all of it that I shall see. Viewing more of it might require me to seek medical attention.

The success of “The Daily Show” and its spinoff, “The Colbert Report,” was summed up nicely in a recent Rolling Stone article, a feature piece on Stewart and Colbert. Quoth: “Ben Karlin, Stewart’s thirty-five-year-old production partner who oversees both The Daily Show and The Colbert Report, says that ‘the biggest mistake people make is thinking that Jon and Stephen sit down before every show and say, ‘OK, how are we going to change the world?’ or any bullshit like that. They both really just want to get a laugh.”

Compare that point of view to that of “1/2 Hour News Hour” creator Joel Surnow, who has also given us the mind-numbing it-will-happen-here propaganda program, “24”: “One of the things that’s definitely not out there is a satirical voice that skews to the right as opposed to the left. You can turn on any comedy satire show on TV and you’re going to hear 10 Bush jokes, 10 Cheney jokes, but you’ll never hear a Hillary Clinton joke or a global-warming send-up.”

Leave it to a guy working for FNC not to even be able to get even the most basic facts correct:

  • Sept. 19, 2006, Jon Stewart puts President Bill Clinton on the “Hot Seat” and asks: “Mr. President, Hilary Clinton may be running for President. If so, what is the key to defeating her?” A Hillary Clinton joke.
  • Just this week: A piece runs by Dan Bakkedahl about how global warming affects the Coney Island Polar Bears. A global warming send-up.

Which is beside the point. It is among many reasons that the “1/2 Hour…Hour” and FNC, the beast what spawned it, are respectively  not-funny ha-ha and the not-funny strange. But it’s primarily because “The Daily Show” is produced by comic performers for a comedychannel with current events as its grist. The other is produced by propagandists for a propaganda channel that uses current events peppered with party talking points. One’s primary mission is to be funny, while the other’s is to obsfucate while wearing a funny hat. 

A Stewart quote from the 9/11 monologue shows that he has always understood his job, profoundly. He said: “A lot of folks have asked me, what are you going to do when you get back? What are you going to say? What a terrible thing. But I don’t see it as a burden. I see it as a privilege. I see it as a privilege, and everyone here does see it that way, and the show in general, we feel like is a privilege, even the idea that we can sit in the back of the country and make wisecracks, which is really what we do. We sit in the back and we throw spitballs, and never forgetting the fact that it is a luxury in this country that allows us to do that.”

Stewart understands that comedy comes from, among other places, freedom—from a drive toward it, from a lust for it, from an utter respect for it. The Fox Noise Channel’s mascot is a big bloated head constantly spitting “shut up!” at people. They don’t view Stewart’s wisecracks as a “luxury.” They think it’s a nuisance, and so they’ve hatched this pile of vomit in part of its broader effort to shout them down.

One can hope that the “Half Hour Comedy Hour” will be the Fox Noise Channel’s Last Big Mistake, that as incredibly unfunny as it is, it will expose its viewers to the truth about itself, and that they will tune out.

After all, it’s got the word “comedy” in the title. What else might they be lying to you about?

Watada, Blackwater

The developments re: Iraq become more interesting every day. Watada got a mistrial. It looks like just so much legal posturing and doesn’t mean Watada won’t face trial. I think it means the court didn’t want to recognize Watada’s assumptions. Here’s something for later reading

Also, an interesting development in the case of the Blackwater contractors killed and strung up burnt in Fallujah. It turns out that their supervisor was sounding the bells. “I have requested hard cars from the beginning and from my understanding, an order is still pending. Why, I ask?…It is my understanding that someone in Kuwait made a decision to go with Suburbans that are used…Bad idea!” Such developments are vital since the Blackwater slaughter was such a clear turning point for Americans in Iraq.

Meanwhile, in my lovely home state: An interesting point raised to me recently: The Virginia House recently passed HJ728 which expresses “profound regret for Virginia’s role in sanctioning slavery and other forms of discrimination.” The Senate’s version “acknowledges with contrition the involuntary servitude and calls for reconciliation among ALL Virginians.” This from the same state that recently sponosred and got passed a ballot issue against marriage rights for homosexuals. This is not to disparage the resolution apologizing for slavery, though it is noted that Virginia approved it kicking and screaming. But still. Hypocrisy is hypocrisy. 

 

Meatwad the Bomb Among Other Absurdities

:: This rant is for Molly Ivins, one on my short list of people I always wanted to be like when I grew up. Hell, I still do. God bless her. ::

As a sometimes fan of the Adult Swim television program called “Aqua Teen Hunger Force” and as a never ever fan of the current administration and the “war” on “terror,” I adore the recent news from Boston.

That Lite-Brite-like frames portraying Ignignokt and Err flipping the bird could lead to such absurd depths, it has many tasty levels to it. It’s like when some conservatives took Stephen Colbert seriously. It’s like when Ashcroft erected the big curtain to cover up a boobie. What it’s like is, that only a narc would discover a graphic of the Mooninite Marauders and conclude that it’s terrorism.

The only reason it isn’t as absurd on its face as it could be is that it stands in comparison next to the larger effort that spawned it, the phrase that forces me to break out the scare quotes, the “war” on “terror.”

America, I think, was too quick to swallow this monstrous absurdity. We’ve declared war on poverty, on cancer, and on drugs, but each of those declarations comes with an implied understanding that these “wars” on inantimate objects and concepts are somewhat hyperbolic. The current president has actually declared “war” on a tactic, a war that’s unwinnable on its face since you lose so long as there’s a boy and a bomb and a dream anywhere in the world and since success can only be gauged by what doesn’t happen.

Nearly the whole of what makes George W. Bush such an intriguing character is that it is close to impossible to ascertain if he is merely stupid, or if he, in the immortal words of Homer J. Simpson, “sucks like a fox.” Was it mere incompetence and stupidity that led these people to fire all the Baathists and send them unemployed and poor into the economy we’d just wrecked, or was it planned chaos, established so masked men in three-piece suits could plunder the country? Was the current president just stupid and therefore asleep at the switch when the airbuses plowed into the towers, or, as some believe, was there some nefarious design to it?

The answer is that the current president is merely stupid.

When the Supreme Court gave him the office, the current president had come that far in part due to the profound superstition that, because Bill Clinton had allowed a woman to suck his penis, Bill Clinton was a bad president. The current president said he would “restore integrity” to the White House, the most ironic thing that has ever been said in the entire history of the universe. The current president decided that the way to accomplish that was to declare it to be Opposite Day in America. He withdrew from international treaties. He disengaged from the Israel peace process. He condemned by executive order clinics overseas that even said words that rhymed with “abortion.” In the spirit of Presidential Opposite Day, the current president and his administration directly flouted direct advice from his predecessors regarding a lanky idiot called Osama Bin Laden.

Actions such as the one we saw this week in Boston and the absurd declaration of a “war” on “terror” are simply hyper-super-duper-overcompensations for a president who was asleep at the switch on and before Sept. 11, 2001, that he rolled his eyes at the August PDB, that he found Richard Clarke to be an annoying loon, that he dismissed the credibility of his predecessors’ dire and sadly accurate warnings because of a weird national superstition about a president who let a woman suck his penis. From that, we get illegal wiretaps, Abu Ghraib, the invasion and occupation of Iraq, and the swift action of those sworn to protect and serve at cartoon characters run amok.

It does roll downhill. It really does.

Air America Radio: Gnow What?

The news was mixed to good to what the hell for those of us who plug in daily to the Air America Radio network, good because the troubled little network has a backer, mixed because Al Franken is hanging up his microphone—perhaps to chase bigger and better things—and to what the hell because Franken’s departure leads to the rocket promotion of a bearded professor of a man called Thom Hartmann.

For those of you living in a cave, provided that the cave has food, heat, cable, and every other amenity besides a satellite radio receiver or a high-speed Internet connection, the announcement came down at noon today, as Franken himself announced that the Greens of New York would be purchasing the property and that he, Al Franken, would leave the microphone Feb. 14. He did not provide the two of this one-two punch and tell us if he intended to run against Norm Coleman in Minnie Soda.

It is, surely, a relief to know that the Air America Radio has a backer and that it will survive. It would have been a profound shame to have lost this, once the pluckiest presence in the genre, indeed, that which formed the genre, which previously had consisted of Hurricane Randi in the Sunshine State, Alan Colmes at the improbable Fox “News,” Big Ed, and the chronic SFX-abusing Stephanie Miller. Before the Air America, there was some scratching at the gate but no leaping over and no explosive smashing through. Say what you will of the network’s reliance on brand and big name dropping. It got them through the door, and it was Franken—whose “Rush Limbaugh Is A Big Fat Idiot” was so groundbreaking it’s difficult to remember that it was—who led the crush.

So realize how much oxygen Franken’s departure will suck out and how, once again, the Air America seems rather unprepared for the transition.

I should rush to clarify my thought because I do not mean to insult Mr. Hartmann. I am a fan of his. He is a profoundly logical populist who backs himself up with the Federalist Papers better than anyone—in fact, he might just be one of 70 in this country who’s ever read them. No, the Hartmann show is a competent choice. But will it counter the giant sucking sound?

Recently, “terrestrial” radio heard that sound loudly and clearly when Howard Stern left the air. Think what you want about Stern, but there is no question that his departure to the satellite radio not only deprived the “free” stations of content but affected the medium so profoundly that it may be figuring out for years how to redefine itself so as not to see the old Buggles song played out. Often subtraction is more influential than addition, as I think it might be, to a smaller scale, regarding Mr. Franken’s departure.

And the biggest, boldest move the Air America could create to counter it was, let’s move this show over to here. Plop.

I find it sad that this scrappy little startup got the pioneering beat out of it so early, so sad that Mr. Montvel Cohen didn’t have what he said he had and that the Air America suffered a bloody lip before it even knew how to pee straight. Back in the day they said, get me a militant rap king, a funny funny lady, and a cross-dressing lesbian, and see what happens. Go. That’s radio. And that was not guaranteed to be good or great, but it was guaranteed to be by the seat of your pants. And it spawned a star, Dr. Rachel Maddow, who is wonderful.

My wish for Air America Radio has always been to return to that spot outside the box because I’m convinced that, had it stayed there, even just a little, its successes would eclipse the astounding achievement of “finding a buyer to snatch us from the jaws of bankruptcy.” Why not offer Marc Maron, who any serious AAR-phile acknowledges was the network’s potential giant snapped off too soon at the knees, half of Franken’s salary to create a big crazy noon show to fight for the weirdly important because-it’s-when-Rush-is-on time slot? Or how about a show based in Hollywood, on the nexus of show biz and politics and music and culture? Or why not a show based in Washington, D.C., an answer to my perpetual question of AAR, an entire network concerned with public policy and you’ve not got any single solitary presence in the Nation’s Capital?  

Don’t get me wrong. Hartmann will be fine. It just seems to me that when the turtle-shell frames that got you here’s about to split, you want to be rolling out something explosive, new, and cool as hell—not a show you’ve only been excited enough about to this point to call “syndicated,” leaving it to stream and podcast.

No offense, Mr. Hartmann.