Cigar Store Candidate

Been trying to avoid the RNC as much as possible, but I can’t help noticing that the Romney camp is anxious that their candidate is coming across as a bit of a stiff on the TV.  The other night I caught a clip of Mitt’s wife assuring us that one of his defining characteristics is his sense of humor.  I’m sure he’s a riot in person, but something tells me the “who would you rather have a beer with” contest has already gone to Obama.  Ol’ Mitty is the Republicans’ answer to John Kerry.

In that vein, this morning I caught some conservative talk radio host bemoaning this whole emphasis on personality.  He said (paraphrasing), “What’s it matter if Romney is wooden.  The only thing that should matter is whether he’s competent for the job.  We’ve seen what Obama’s done.  He’s destroyed America…”  This was followed by some guttural noises and gnashing of teeth, then the signal went dead.

I guess you go to “competence” when you know you have a dud on your hands, because of all the meaningless ideas crapped out during these ridiculous campaigns, the notion that we’re looking for a “competent leader” or “the most qualified candidate” has got to be the worst.  The president’s job is to do things like sign the checks when Wall Street comes asking for a bailout and order the troops to invade or bomb whatever country is next on the foreign policy establishment’s list of intolerable threats to freedom.  He doesn’t need to be competent.  He just has to be compliant.


Looney Tunes Media

If PJ Media didn’t exist, you’d have to invent it.  Then again, you probably wouldn’t want to.

Here are a couple of gems, one lamenting the “the great silence that envelops the sacrifice of the best Americans of this generation”—the “silence” referring to ordinary Americans’ apparent lack of interest in the never-ending war on whatever—and suggesting that if we were serious about this war, which we should be, we’d be thinking about how and when to attack Iran, which is evil incarnate because it declared war on us in 1979 for no particular reason at all.

The other is a tribute to Tony Scott, whose movies laudably extolled the virtues of tough guys and righteous violence.  And anyone who might laugh at such one-dimensional depictions of manhood are just fools who “are kept so safe by (mostly) macho men with guns in the military and our various police forces that they can feel free to pretend they are somehow better and more civilized, doncha know, than their protectors.”

No wonder they always caricature their political opponents as ineffectual “leftists” clinging to “discredited” beliefs.  It’s a lot easier to defend a cartoonish worldview if your opponent is also a cartoon.

Bicycles and Killing Machines

Good line from a post at Mimi’s Musing:

I looked it up, discovered that the Air Show–the penultimate thrill of bullies and fascists–is scheduled from 10:00 until 3:30, so advised him his friends should have no particular problem going south.

It reminds me of being in Ocean City, New Jersey during an air show two years ago.  We were down there for the weekend at the place my mother-in-law rents for a week every September, and a bunch of us had rented bikes and rode down to the boardwalk.  While we were there, the air show started up.  It consisted of a succession of vintage planes doing the usual assortment of stunt dives and loops out over the beach and ocean, moving, if I recall, from older and slower to newer and more powerful aircraft.  Then, for the big finale, modern fighter jets came screaming in from out beyond the bay.

We were on our way back when the war planes came in.  The rest of the group had rode on ahead, leaving me and my daughter, who was six at the time (and a much slower rider than her older cousins), behind.  People stood all along the boardwalk, and on the decks of the houses facing the ocean, watching these planes rip across the sky with what I took to be a mixture of awe and civic pride.  When we reached the end of the boardwalk and descended to the street, the town itself was pretty much deserted.  Down amongst the houses and other buildings, the noise from the jets was deafening, and by about the third or fourth pass my daughter had had enough.  “I hate these stupid planes,” she yelled, wobbling on her bike and hunching her shoulders as if attempting to ward off the sound.

It didn’t take much effort to imagine that this is what it must feel like to be on the receiving end of U.S. military “aid,” except that instead of dodging bombs we were just having our eardrums blown out.  Maybe next time, in the interest of putting on a more realistic show, they could work in some live explosives—not close enough to kill anybody, of course, just close enough to send a few hundred patriotic fools scurrying for the nearest sand dune.

See No Evil

I’m not usually inclined to quibble (too much) with anything that exposes the pile of horseshit upon which any of US Inc.’s so-called wars, past and present, are built.  But still, this notion (see the block quote from “Davis’s unclassified paper” a little past the halfway point of the article) that congress only continued to go along (for ten years) with the occupation of Afghanistan because it was deceived by the military into believing that things were going much better than they actually were is just too much.  Congress knows exactly as much as congress wants to know—which, granted, isn’t much, considering all of the various contracts on the line and the kickbacks your local representative can expect for being a reliable yes-vote whenever it comes time to decide whether to keep the money flowing into the war services industry.

Eugene Lucifer Gore Vidal

Nothing unifies people on opposite sides of our hairline fracture of a political divide quite like a public figure who openly ridicules their shared sacred cows.  Here we have a conservative and an apparent progressive reviling the prince of darkness himself, Gore Vidal, for more or less the exact same reasons.  You might think the man was a cannibal or something, but no—his real sins were sympathizing with terrorists, having the gall to believe that a U.S. president might have been involved in a conspiracy to drag the country into war, and, of course, anti-Semitism, that catch-all smear for anyone who opposes America’s pro-Israel foreign policy or, worse, suggests that Israel might actually be involved in a land-grab rather than defending its poor innocent self against those bloodthirsty Palestinians.

Not surprisingly, the Slate piece was the more humorless of the two, adding racism and elitism (i.e., conservatism) to the list of crimes.  You see, apparently there was a split in the progressive movement around the time of WWI, with the Woodrow Wilson and Teddy R. strain, the true progressives, bringing us the New Deal, and the other strain, embodied by Vidal’s grandfather and presumably Vidal himself, morphing into “Heartland conservatives” who hated immigrants and European cosmopolitanism, and who were isolationists (which, in case you didn’t know, also means anti-Semite).  A couple of nice ironies here.  First of all, I don’t think you could find a better example of a European cosmopolitan than Gore Vidal, who lived in Rome and had a villa on the Amalfi Coast and who relentlessly ridiculed the cultural backwardness of bible-thumping Americans (and who proclaimed that all people were naturally bi-sexual).  And second, Woodrow Wilson, exemplar of the right and true progressive path?  He may be the closest the U.S. has had to a Klansman-in-chief.

It’s true that Vidal was an elitist.  Just the other day I heard an excerpt from an old radio interview in which he said that all social change comes from the people at the top, not the bottom.  I guess that explains his inability to completely shake his affinity for the Democratic Party, and his belief that Hillary Clinton would have been something other than just another typical president.  To my mind, these are surer signs of malign influence than any sympathy he had for the victims at Ruby Ridge.

Quibbles with his politics aside, though, his essays (haven’t read any of his fiction) are a pure pleasure to read.  He was a master of deadpan mockery and the elegant put-down, and watching him (in print or on TV) destroy the self-appointed guardians of the political status quo, like the two clowns linked to above, is about as enjoyable a spectator sport as there is.