Thursday, May 22, 2003

Disoriented Norman Mailer Struggles for Relevance

Washed-up former tough-guy establishment-challenger Norman Mailer boldly defends the entrenched status-quo anti-American perspective, this time in Old Europe’s Der Speigel magazine. His displeasure with everything from religious freedom to the liberation of Iraq pivots on his blind visceral dislike of President Bush.

“There's something crude about Bush, and that's a surprise. He's vulgar. In view of his dignified, interesting and vital parents, his own vulgarity is a choice he made. He's cynical, enjoys manipulating people. To put it another way, that's how a dry alcoholic manages to control a situation, because he needs the satisfaction of leading a highly active and dynamic life. He knows how to manipulate half of America by constantly waving the Star-Spangled Banner."

Let’s briefly recall who Norman Mailer is. Way back in the 1950s, this quintessential white guy was considered avant-garde . . . a hard drinkin’, two-fisted, angry young man.

Today, he’s just an angry old man . . . one of millions.

But enough about old Norman.

What fascinates me is the obsession so many otherwise intelligent people have with George Bush.

George Bush: The Source of All Evil?

At first he was a puppet controlled by Cheney. Now he’s the skillful manipulator of the masses. He was supposed to be ignorant of all things foreign. Now he’s the executor of a secret plan to reorder the world.

He chooses strange words, he makes expressions with his face, he mentions religion, he’s from Texas, he’s not from Texas, he doesn’t drink, he eats hot dogs, he’s declared war on every black, white, latino, and asian man, woman and child in the United States . . . the whole swirling shifting tornado of offenses touches down unpredictably in Iraq, in the Supreme Court, in France, in the Alaska National Tundra Wasteland . . . er . . . Wildlife Refuge.

What is it about Bush that drive them nuts?

Privileged – Certainly being the son of a former president has its advantages as Chip Carter and Steve Ford know all too well. But then only someone as privileged as Al Gore could have neutralized the silver spoon campaign issue.

Loser – Although this would seem to contradict the privilege complaint, Bush’s years on the lower rungs of the oil exploration and sports entertainment industries is a reliable source of BushScorn®

Religious – If Bush is a religious fanatic what does that make Jimmy Carter? Or Rev. Martin Luther King? Or the Dalai Lama? I find it illuminating that the same people who call Bush a religious fundamentalist can’t name what religion he belongs to. When asked why Bill Clinton’s ostentatious piety was palatable they’ll say something like “well, everyone knows Clinton didn’t mean it." Interesting.

A Puppet – It used to be said that Bush was merely the front man for a cartel of shadowy corporate interests. Cheney must surly be pulling the strings . . . for god sakes, he’s bald! Whoever heard of a bald politician? Cheney must be the brains. Although it doesn’t seem very smart to want to be Vice President.

A Puppeteer – Now it’s more fashionable to accuse Bush of being the sinister ring leader of a cartel of shadowy corporate interests. How else to explain the big contracts to Halliburton . . . aside from the fact that its Brown & Root subsidiary has since the LBJ years been the private sector pilot fish to the Pentagon’s humpback whale and has considerably more experience repairing oil infrastructure destroyed in armed combat than say, Body Shops or Maggie’s Organic Clothing or any other remotely possible contractor. Of course, why someone interested solely in accumulating wealth would step foot in the public sector is never explained.

A Provincial – Bush is supposedly a backwoods yokel from the middle of Texas yet at the same time a deeply embedded establishment scion with a meal ticket punched by Yale, Harvard, Skull & Bones, the CIA, Brown, Brothers Harriman, and the Indian Harbor Yacht Club in Greenwich. How he can be so sheltered yet so connected is also never explained.

An Idiot – Well, aside from the Harvard MBA, the greater earned income than his father’s, the unexpected victory over Gov. Ann Richards in Texas, his unexpected victory over Al Gore in Tennessee, his unexpected victory over the Taliban in Afghanistan, his unexpected victory over the Democratic Party in the mid-term elections, his unexpected cakewalk over Saddam Hussein, aside from all that, yes, he’s got to be an idiot.

In the world weary wisdom of a defeated Richard Nixon, when you let hate consume you it’s you who is ultimately destroyed.

This is surely the lesson of the Clinton years . . . the “vast right wing conspiracy” only made Clinton more popular. Now that he is out of office and inconsequential, his accumulated personal shortcomings have done more damage to his reputation than anything Kenneth Starr could ever pin on him.

The Left is now repeating the mistakes of the Right. Every time they work up a lather about George Bush, regular people give him more slack. The difference this time is that the Bush Administration appears to understand that this is hidden strength that diminishes their opponents by making them look like extremist lunatics.

Of course, it doesn't hurt if they actually ARE extremist lunatics.

Wednesday, May 21, 2003

What Makes Clinton Great

Interesting anecdote from Sidney Blumenthal who is on the media circuit hawking his new book about the disgraced former president Bill Clinton. This is from an interview on CNN this morning:

HEMMER: How can you respect a man and work for a man as president who lies to your face and you come out and defend him more?

BLUMENTHAL: Well, he was in a state of denial about something that was private, and he was in a state of denial to the whole country.

But let me tell you why I respected Bill Clinton and why I think he was a very good president for the American people, and I'm going to tell you just an anecdote. A small group of us, about six, top aides, came into his office one day to brief him on a very important policy issue. We gave him all of the options, policy and politics. And when we finished, the president paused and he said, I just want you to know that you're the dumbest bunch of black guys who have ever come into the Oval White House.

HEMMER: Why did he say that?

BLUMENTHAL: It's a very good question. We didn't know. He said, don't ever come in here without Caucasians as part of your group again. That's why I respect Bill Clinton.

Gee . . . isn't that sorta, I don't know, racist?

Oh, wait . . . I mixed it up. He said "white guys" not "black guys" and "minorities and women" not "Caucasians."

There. I feel better now.
JIHAD IS OVER (if you want it)

Finally a story about real Palestinians resisting oppression. AP is reporting a rare and spontaneous uprising that hopefully signals that the silent majority of ordinary Palestinians are finally fed up with the radical death cult that claims to represent their interests.

About about 600 residents of the Gaza town of Beit Hanoun blocked a main thoroughfare today with trash cans, rocks and burning tires to show their anger at the militants and Palestinian Authority officials whose use of violence to achieve their parochial political goals has doomed the Palestinians to a half century of grinding poverty and barbaric cruelty.

"They (the militants) claim they are heroes," said Mohammed Zaaneen, 30, a farmer, as he carried rocks into the street. "They brought us only destruction and made us homeless. They used our farms, our houses and our children ... to hide."

Hmmm . . . sounds like there are some Palestinians who are no longer reading from the script.

Perhaps, just perhaps, there is a core of Palestinians who would rather raise their children in peace and rejoin rest of the world before the 21st century passes them by like the 20th did. And maybe that’s more important to them than some abstract concept of pan-Arab nationalism predicated on the ethnic cleansing of Israel.

I certainly hope so. People like the ones in Beit Hanoun have been paying a pretty high price for the ambitions of few would-be dictators and their martyr brigades.

Arafat & Co. should start asking themselves . . . “why do they hate us so?”

Saturday, May 17, 2003

Germany Awakens?

Forty Years of Protecting the Stupid

By Rainer Hank
Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

Germany celebrates 40 years of consumer protection. But not everything deserves praise just because it has an anniversary. The roots of consumer protection lie in the paternalistic state: Those who are dumb need protection. A consumer protection minister oversees these issues. And citizens put up with the fact that their taxes pay for this loss of personal sovereignty.
Yet what's labeled consumer protection is often actually producer protection. Professional certificates, import restrictions on agricultural products - all those measures also make products dearer.
What really helps consumers are open markets where competition ensures that privileged providers lose their power. The media can also help because they provide consumers with more information and transparency than consumer protection regulations.

One thing is for sure, though: There's no need for the government to get involved.

Friday, May 16, 2003

Came Alot

The Daily News tracked down one of President Kennedy’s concubines who verifies – in the most proper and grandmotherly way -- the story that appears in Robert Dallek’s contribution to the field of JFKology.

Dallek picked up the story from several pages of a transcribed 1964 oral history interview with Barbara Gamarekian, a former White House press aide.

The pages had been sealed or blacked out or something but now appear to be unsealed and unblacked out.

Of course, the most interesting insight from these pages, helpfully made available on The Smoking Gun, has until now been totally overlooked.

I refer to page 16 of the transcript in which Gamarekian relays a story told to her by a Paris Match reporter who was given a backstage tour of the White House by Mrs. Kennedy-O, the First Lady.

Upon encountering one of JFK’s harem outside the Oval Office, Jackie said to the reporter (in French), “This is the girl who’s supposedly sleeping with my husband.”

The best part, aside from the intern/sex/Democrat/Francophonic wife/Massachusetts senator axis of circumstance is that the Frenchman was apparently stunned to hear that Kennedy was an adulterer.

How simpliste. How not well brought up. N’est pas?

Tuesday, May 13, 2003

Bill Clinton on the Youth of America

One of the privileges of being a former head of state is that you can comment authoritatively about the state of the world without ever having to doing anything about it. The presumption is that you had the opportunity to do something and, by God, you rose to the challenge.

And then there is Bill Clinton.

Former president Clinton appeared in full lip-biting glory before the graduating class at Syracuse University this past weekend. Clinton boldly told the graduates that the United States must “make a safer world by cooperating with others.”

So much for thinking outside of the box.

Later in his address Clinton reminds us of one personal flaw that seems overshadowed by his more colorful foibles . . . by which I mean his inability to render a clear judgment on even the most inconsequential of issues.

Recall the evening when he undermined his entire economic program by telling an audience of high-net worth individuals that he thought he had raised their taxes too much? How about his position on the Gulf War which he described as leaning against it unless the vote was close.

Now you can relive those exciting days by listening to Bill explain how the bombing of Pan Am flight 103 turned a page in history:
"It marked the beginning of America's clear vulnerability to global terror, although we had lost people in the 70's and early 80's, too," he said.

Oh, and there were some in the late 60s too, as well as some isolated incidents in the mid 1950s, and umm there was a guy killed in the late 40s I believe.

It’s remarkable the way Clinton manages to leave the impression that everything he says comes with an unspoken addendum of small print disclaimers and caveats.
"The world of 1999 and the world of 2003 are not so very different. In 1999, we had the dangers of terror and weapons of mass destruction — it's just that they weren't in the headlines because they hadn't happened here. But we were working hard to deal with them."

Add bitter punch line here.
A Fine Whine for Mother’s Day

Just when you figure the activism-as-therapy fringe of the political spectrum seems to be settling down to seriousness and belated maturity another of their merry band steps up to the plate to publicly humiliate themselves and, by association, everyone like them.

Case in point -- Lucinda Marshall of the Feminist Peace Network who deftly manages to discredit both feminism and pacifism simply by opening her mouth:

”Forgive my cynicism about Mother's Day. After all, what kind of ungrateful mother wouldn't want to be honored with pesticide-laced flowers, chocolate that depends on children in slavery for its production and cards that deplete our forests and litter Mother Earth? Truly, it is the ultimate insult to honor life-giving with such toxic offerings.”

As my perspicacious big sister told me when she alerted me to this tripe,

“Didn't realize those presents were actually the ultimate insult. I'll have to throw them back in my children's faces, the pigs!”

Ms Marshall drones on about all that is wrong with the world like someone who hasn’t had a new idea in 30 years.

We have signed off on a value system that funds smart bombs but not schools . . . We have money to destroy homes, but not to shelter the homeless . . .

Seldom has the annoying pseudo-phrase “yadda, yadda” been more appropriate than as abbreviation for this mindbilge.

As mothers, we have the awesome right and responsibility to firmly say no to the life-destroying ethos that has hijacked our future and to demand that nurturing become a national and global priority.

As usual, the ecstatic outrage of the youthquake generation ends with a stirring call to . . . well, to do nothing in particular.

Nothing except nurture the rage for some world-changing political movement yet to come.

Oh, to be young at heart and even younger of mind.

Monday, May 05, 2003

More Crushing of Dissent

The free speech rights of Eddie Vedder, an outspoken leader of the dwindling Grunge-American community were brutally trampled by New Yorkers in Uniondale who paid $60 to hear dated music about alienation but instead were forced to listen to the millionaire entertainer’s fringe political opinions about President Bush.

In response to the inane anti-Bush ditty, “Bushleaguer”, the fans attempted to overpower Vedder’s First Amendment rights with their own, according to the New York Times:

A number of formerly enthusiastic fans responded by making long, low noises that sounded a lot like "boo," and they weren't placated by the remarks that followed. "I don't understand," Mr. Vedder said. "Maybe you like him 'cause he's going to give you a tax cut." A number of people then chanted: "U.S.A.! U.S.A.!"

Finding himself outside the mainstream of even his flannel-shirted fan cohort Vedder attempted to reach a consensus with the audience through gentle, non-threatening diplomatic means using the universal language of peace . . . music.

A few people threw things, and the band played two more songs, ending with a cover of Neil Young's "Rockin' in the Free World." As the song faded out, Mr. Vedder reprised the crowd's chant — "U.S.A.! U.S.A.!" — sounding more defiant than conciliatory. Then he threw down the microphone and walked off.

You can order a recording of the show here. I prefer to wait for it to appear on KaZaA.