October 13, 2012 - October 6, 2012
Friday, October 12, 2012
Two screens tell a story.
CONTINUE NOT PANICKING. I'm confident the eventual fallout
will be that Paul Ryan won last night's debate. Does it matter? Too
soon to say. But I have thoughts anyway, most of them centered on
the number 'two.' Maybe they're illustrative of what's going on in
our imperiled nation. Take a look-see.
Face-off of Number Twos
Vice-Presidential debates are placeholders. Just something that
happens between presidential debates -- unless there's a debacle
of some kind. Nobody really casts a vote for the second guy on the
ticket. Why it was weird that Democrats were somehow counting on
Biden to put Obama back in the game and stanch the hemhorraging in
the polls. Really? All Ryan had to do was seem knowledgeable,
smart, credible in terms of character and seriousness, and he'd
pass the litmus test for a running mate. If he doesn't scare us as
a guy a heartbeat away from the presidency, he wins. He did that.
Which might render everything after this a footnote. But I'll
Two Flavors of Contempt
Obama lost the first debate because he didn't even bother to
participate. He held his opponent in such low regard that he
didn't prepare, didn't respond to challenges, and clearly didn't
even want to be on stage interacting with Romney before the
American public. So what changed in the second? Only the tactics.
Biden was equally contemptuous of his opponent but in a much
louder and more obnoxious way. Where Obama stared at his podium,
Biden smirked, laughed, rolled his eyes, guffawed, interrupted at
will, raised his voice, talked over his opponent, and did
everything possible to sabotage the whole idea of "debate." It's
exactly the same attitude, executed differently. Does this give
any useful tip to Obama for his second debate, given that Number
One has already declared his mistake "being too polite"? No.
Remember Clinton's famous campaign dictum, "It's the economy,
stupid"? The lesson for Obama's campaign this time should be,
"It's the contempt, stupid. Cut it out."
The Democrat meme of a Republican war on women took a serious hit
last night. One of the hugely overlooked factors in this race is
that grown-up women really
really like Paul Ryan. I don't understand it, but I know
it to be so from a flood of anecdotal evidence. Women also are
painfully familiar with the patronizing and dismissive tactics
Biden used against Ryan. They've encountered them with blowhard
assholes-in-charge in every walk of life. Men may excuse Biden up to a
point on alpha male dominance behavior grounds, although I personally
think men are more sophisticated readers of character than that.
But the typical female response to what Biden did last night is
visceral, instantaneous, and hostile. The man is a bully, a jerk,
and an oaf. Ryan, in stark contrast, is polite and that rare
thing, a gentleman. I hate to break it to the Democrat Party, but
women by and large admire
gentlemen, even if they don't marry or otherwise consort with
Forget the pundits. I watched (and heard via radio) too much
of the post debate analysis. All this inside-the-beltway expertise
is getting toxic. Brit Hume, Greta van Susteren, and Laura
Ingraham (to name just a few) keep marveling at the fact that in
person Joe Biden is a truly nice guy, continuously affable,
charming, and in Hume's words, "willing to take his shirt off and
give it to you on the spot if you asked for it." They can't
comprehend why he can become so unhinged and vicious in events
like last night's debate. Bullshit. It doesn't occur to media
personalities that they are on TV and radio talking about Joe
Biden? It's not possible he has some vested interest in being nice
to them? Here's a take (via TNR's Campaign
Spot) by someone who watched him up close in his senate
David Harmer, who
ran the closest race of any California Republican House candidate
in 2010, sends along this message of his particular disdain for
Vice President Biden, and his challenge to Romney donors.
I don’t mind stupid people. It’s stupid people who think
they’re smart that aggravate me — which goes a long way toward
explaining my profound and enduring antipathy to Vice President
Joe Biden, the most vapid gasbag ever to hold the office.
Back when I was young and frisky and counsel to a subcommittee
of the Senate Judiciary Committee, I routinely had to sit just a
few feet behind and over from that insufferable blowhard. His
chairmanship of Senate Judiciary was notable for two, and only
two, things: his world-class logorrhea, and his serial character
assassination of honorable men and women whose nominations he
torpedoed for the crime of holding conservative convictions and
taking the Constitution seriously. For someone with an intellect
as shallow as Biden’s (76th out of 85 in his class at a law
school that U.S. News ranks as 96th out of 200) — and who was a
mendacious plagiarist to boot (see, e.g., Why Biden’s plagiarism shouldn’t be forgotten)
— to question the qualifications and character of jurists like
Robert Bork and Clarence Thomas required a veritable Everest of
In 2008, the mainstream media widely regarded Biden as adding
“gravitas” to the Democratic ticket. Whether that says more
about the shallowness of Barack Obama or the shallowness of his
acolytes in the press is hard to say. Either way, I’m
anticipating tonight’s debate with unseemly eagerness, indeed
relish. Unlike Biden, Paul Ryan is a gentleman, so Slow Joe
won’t get a taste of his own medicine. But next to the earnest,
informed, disciplined, and precise Ryan, Biden can’t possibly go
90 minutes without exposing himself as a five-star buffoon...
Those of us outside the Beltway get
to see Biden as he is outside the Washington preserve. We're not
similarly beguiled by his blarney and bluster. We can see him for
what he is, a half-smart, self-important, insensitive, blundering narcissist who should
never be within shouting distance of nuclear launch codes. Worse,
we can hear the thud of his entirely inappropriate attempt to
exploit the death of his wife and daughter in a purely politically
motivated effort to compare his own humanity to that of Mitt
Romney. He lowered his voice like a bad actor -- or one of the
many defendants we have seen on true crime shows who weep without
tears to sway the jury their way. Great guy? Good old Joe? That's
just not going to sell to people who have a soul.
Screw the pundits on this one. Wait a few days and see what
verdict the jury brings in.
Two Against One
I think Ryan won the debate for reasons stated above. But I do
believe it worth mentioning that the moderator was helping Biden.
She didn't stop Biden from interrupting, which he did 80 some
times, and she also interrupted Ryan herself with followups she
never seemed to have for Biden.
Debating for Two
There's been criticism of Ryan for not getting into Biden's face
as Biden got into his. Conservatives are making this case aplenty.
A stupid charge. Ryan was showing the maturity he isn't expected
to have at the tender age of (ahem) 42. He never forgot that his
mission was not to screw things up for Romney. If he were debating
Biden without that burden, I'm certain he would have uncoiled a
couple of crushing counterpunches. This is the guy, after all, who
made Obama look silly in White House meetings on ObamaCare. But he
made a cool and clever decision to let his opponent self-destruct
without risking controversy by upping the ante and courting chaos
and meltdown on national TV. He remembered that his job was to be
solid, stolid, prepared, and statesmanlike, not Rocky. He
accomplished the mission. Today he's not the star, but he's not a
lightning rod either. What better description do you have of the
the role of Vice-President?
Ryan's implicit advantage. Obama failed to make his second-term
case for hope and change. Biden's job was to drive home campaign
talking points that all Republican ideas are old and worthless
while Obama ideas are new and glowing with potential. Think
about it. (Although he mentioned Obama by name only once or twice?!) The old man is arguing that his own long experience is
proof of the vigor of Obama's so far dismal results. The young man
is arguing that Washington's long experience is a death knell for
the next generation. Who's more credible? An old man who wants to
stay the course? Or a young man who wants to leave a stronger
nation for his young children? If both are sincere, who gets the
nod? If one is a shameless old hack and the other an earnest,
evidently astute reformer with skin in the game, who gets the nod?
Two Kinds of Christians
Two Irish Catholics. One who believes that life begins at
conception, which makes terminating a life past conception
unacceptable. One who believes life begins at conception, but,
hey, murder is in the eye of the beholder. Who are we to say? Are
we all expected to be politicians of faith?
Two Kinds of Americans
One who declares that we should never be ashamed to stand up for
American values. One who doesn't see the grotesquerie of laughing
during a discussion of the brutal assassination of an American ambassador and
then claims his opponents have always been down on America. Right.
Biden exemplifies an ultimate, highly distilled version of the
class system he pretends to oppose. In reality, there are only two
classes in the liberal Democratic view. The governors and the
governed. He's been riding the Amtrak gravy train so long he can't
even tell when he is patronizing not just his debate opponent but
the citizens he's supposed to be serving. He tells them to use
their common sense. As if he, at this stage in his long coddled,
corrupt life, he would know what common sense is.
Common sense is the guy who detected the fraudulent game Biden was
playing and chose, quite sensibly, not to play but to let reality
speak for itself to the American people.
The Obama campaign has a golden opportunity to learn from last
night's circus. Will they? No. Will Romney? We can only hope.
I made a prediction about this debate (see caption
under main graphic). I was right. When Ryan referenced JFK's
tax reductions, Biden lit up and said, utterly out of context, "So
you're Jack Kennedy now!" He'd been waiting for his Lloyd Bentsen
moment, but that moment was, unfortunately for him, almost 30 years
in the past. Like most of what he had to say.
Thursday, October 11, 2012
New from the Stones for all ye faint of heart.
Wednesday, October 10, 2012
Finally, a poll
That guy in the
corner? Andrew Sullivan with his handy-dandy speculum. Not even CBS News knows better than Andrew what needs looking into.
OF TIME BECOMES RELEVANT? This is going to come as a shock to
some of you. The ones who think they've been scoring body blows by
telling me to stop watching television. As if I haven't been
completely upfront for decades about the fact that I'm an observer
and critic of popular culture as an indicator of where we're headed
and why. So be it.
Me? I think that's pretty funny. The only way to start a fight
around here is to diss some sci fi movie, like as not derived from a
comic book or video game unless it's Star Wars or Star Trek related.
(Sorry. I forgot von Clausewitz. Prussians ace Klingons every time.)
Yeah. I watch TV. Because it matters to the state of the nation.
More people vote in American Idol than vote in presidential
elections. Same goes for Dancing with the Stars. Why I'm delighted
to share the following CBS
News item with you.
"Dancing With The Stars: All-Stars" elimination: Bristol rolls
as two go home
Former "DWTS" champions Helio Castroneves...and Drew Lachey were
eliminated in the show's third round Tuesday, Oct. 9, 2012
No Bristol bashing here.
Look not on this page, dear reader, for poison prose about the
girl from Alaska who keeps rolling over more talented competitors.
No tirade about the unfairness of a world that rewards the barely
competent over the gifted.
If you're looking for barbs about a voting audience that has
reduced political clout to its most trivial denominator, you need
to Google elsewhere.
We're not going to write that Bristol Palin taking her Red-State
free-ride once again is an expression of the rampant mediocrity
that threatens to drag down our great nation.
If it needs saying, someone else will have to say that every week
that Bris endures on "Dancing With The Stars: All-Stars" is an
aberration of the very definition of a "talent show."
No, I said all I needed to say last week, when the Bristol effect
first reared its ugly head again after keeping her in the game way
too long in Season 11. So let's just get to the recap.
After Monday night's dazzling show, it became clear there were at
least eight dancers who had the talent and moves to go all the way
One of that eight, ex-boy band member Drew Lachey, was sent
packing Tuesday -- the first former "DWTS" champion to go.
The second contestant ousted was Brazilian race car driver Helio
Castroneves, whose super-charged smile and "aw-shucks, I-love-ya
America" charm couldn't translate to audience support this time
around. Castroneves, also a former "DWTS" champ, was part of the
underbrush that needs clearing to get to the best and brightest...
The elimination show began with a reprise of the amazing quick
step by Shawn Johnson and her partner, Derek Hough, which was
hailed by the judges and this writer as one of the best dances
ever seen on "DWTS" -- full of energy, fun and flips...
In the first elimination, Kirstie Alley, herself on shaky ground,
got a scare when she was paired with Lachey in the bottom two. But
she survived to use her wiles and comic assets for another round.
"I can honestly say I would not change a thing, you know. Everyone
questioned why I would come back. I came back because this is
fun," said Lachey after the axe fell...
We got to see more of those pearly whites when Castroneves got the
cut. "I want to thank America, you guys vote for me, I couldn't be
The one who SHOULD be thanking America is -- oh wait, we're not
So Bristol Palin doesn't dance very well but she's being voted to
another week by the millions because...? Well, here's what CBS's
enlightened liberal commenters have to say:
dontknowitall says: Two good dancers
released yet the Ice Princess remains.
Kingsville1950 says: I do not even
want to watch the show anymore. I just knew BRISTOL was not going
to get kicked out. I could of dance the dance she did. There was
nothing hard about the dance. I do not know what is going on, but
the dancers that have gone home were 110% better than her. I am
very disappointed at the judges which are usually so picky about
any little thing and of course Bristol gets away with it. All
those great dancers that have been send home instead of Bristol.
Very disappointed here in Texas.
nirak2-2009 says: This is the last straw for me. I am not watching
anymore. First of all BRiston Palin shouldn't even been on the
show.She is the worst dancer ever and having two very good dancers
go home and have Bristol stay is a travesty.
lovethiscountry says: Remember, I doubt that Bristol begged to
come back. . . she would have been invited by the show producers.
They knew what happened in her first appearance and certainly knew
it would happen again. Bristol should have said no to their
bgdavis47 says: This is the most incredible travesty I have ever
seen on television. What must the producers of this show be
thinking? I know so many people, myself included, who will no
longer watch as long as that no-talent Bristol is on there and the
really talented dancers are eliminated. What happened to the
"dance-off" of the bottom two? Eliminated so that Bristol won't
be? But then the judges probably wouldn't eliminate her as they
already give her much higher marks than she deserves. Nomore for
me - I've watched from the beginning of DWTS but I'm done with it
spacengin says: Maybe the ratio of voting should be changed.
Instead of 50/50, I think that a 70 judges/30 public ratio would
be better. Or how about a dance off between the low judges pick
and the low public pick with the audience deciding. Rather than
discontinue watching, we should all vote for the mid-leader
boarders. That way, the top talent will be gone and the TEA
partiers can suck watching inferior performances. This will kill
the show unless the producers change the rating system.
misterhman replies: Good idea ...something definitely needs to be
done if the show wants to become an honest dancing competition.
Right now the show has become a national spectacle and laughing
stock. Maybe DWTS should adopt a modern-day GONG show format.
Imagine the images of the Palin entourage in the audience and the
reaction of tea-baggers if Bristol were to get GONGed.
LittleBird64 says: When I saw that Bristol was coming back this
season, I hoped that the "dance off" (that the show instituted
last year where the two couples in the bottom would dance off and
the judges would have the final say based strictly on the DANCING)
would mean that Bristol would be one of the first ones out. She is
after all, the worst one in the competition and consistently lands
at the bottom of the leader board. When I saw they did away with
that, (Wonder why? Because Bristol's back?)I just accepted that
she would sail to the end surpassing the better dancers. I decided
that I would try to enjoy watching the other, talented dancers
this season and try not to be surprised and angry each week while
the awkward, no talent Bristol escapes elimination after
elimination each week. I knew it would be this way because that's
the way it was when she was on before. I called it last night
before they revealed that Helios would be going home. I knew that
Bristol would not even be in danger and I was right. This season
is not a "dancing competition"....it's a competition about whose
mommy has the most influence and whose mommy is campaigning the
hardest to win her daughter votes. I'm sure Bristol is a nice
girl, but honestly at this point, I'd be embarrassed if I were
her...coming out on stage again after such phenomenal dancers have
been sent home before her. ABC, this is a dancing competition and
it's obvious to your viewers that you're catering to the Palins by
abolishing the dance off and by giving Mama Palin more face time
than anyone else's family members. It's really a shame...this used
to be my favorite show too. Hey how about Bristol trying out for
American Idol next? Doesn't matter that she probably can't sing
either...she might get to be a rock star! reply linkicon
reporticon emailicon oshinbreez says: Have you heard of the
website VoteForTheWorst.com ? It's a site that picks the worst
performer in the fan voting shows ie: American Idol, DWTS, etc and
has their followers see how long they can keep the worst in the
competition. I have a feeling Bristol might be around for a while.
twmat311 replies: This might
be reality TV's "jump the shark" - when the show gets the
attention of VoteForTheWorst.com? Otherwise, once viewers figure
out how to game the judging, either fix it or dump it.
oshinbreez replies: Someone had a
great suggestion that the dance-off be re-implemented. That would
work as the pro judges would be able to make the final decision.
luckyturqoise says: Palin should
have been sent home. Drew should have stayed. I will not watch
zenia5 says: Dancing With the Stars is becoming more and more of a
joke when a whining, poor dancer like Bristol Palin stays while
much, much better dancers are sent home. She is obviously riding
on her mother's rabble-rousing coat tails....still using her
questionable tactics to stir up her base. This entire family is
sickening. After I watched a clip from Bristol's "reality show"
where her young son was spewing the "F" word while Bristol and a
friend laughed uncontrollably at him, I knew for certain what a
piece of trash she really is.
lawkwfl replies:Well obviously you're interested in her, you are
after all reading an article with her name in the title. If you
don't like the way DWTS is doing their casting you've got a choice
you know, its called a remote.As for the "trash" comment, why is
it posts like yours always seem to lower themselves to name
calling? You know the old saying about it takes one...right? She's
making millions on TV and your posting on a CBS message board.
CBS. The Tiffany Network. Right. Couple points. CBS wouldn't have
any ulterior motive in trashing a popular ABC show, would it? No. Of
Beyond that, the dudgeon here is hilarious. (Be patient. There will be a larger point after
we've had our fun.) As if Dancing With the Stars was ever a
legitimate competition or anything more than a popularity contest.
Yes, it takes someone who actually watches TV to see what's going on
here. The show has always been a joke.
The judges are jokes. The imitation Noel Coward of a judge who
pretends to be punctilious about rules, niceties of dance movements,
and the inappropriateness of the expressly erotic -- unless he
suddenly decides otherwise based on a (usually male) butt whose
thrust takes his fancy. The female judge who fans her face and
sometimes has to leave the stage to change her panties when a soap
opera star or NFL retiree manages not to fall down during a dance
routine. The crazed Italian who practically launches himself at
every female who brings breasts and a big waggling ass to the stage.
Without this outlet, he'd probably be in prison. Competition? Yeah.
The professional dancers are a joke. They're there to become stars
in their own right. One, Maks, has been accused of slapping one of
his stars (Hope Solo) around when she didn't perform to suit him.
Another, Edyta, is trying to set the record for coming closest to
total nudity on a prime time network show. (Simple equation:
Sideboob = Stardom somewhere, somehow.) Still others have already
flown the coop for recording contracts, etc. Everybody on the dance
floor is on the make, one way or another, from fallen stars to
ambitious hoofers. Consider that some aging soap stars are actually
being jacked in the polls because they're dancing with famous DWTS
dancers. Reality TV? Well, you're the judge, aren't you?
The contestants are jokes. NFL alumni are great athletes but they
are not dancers. If they wanted to do an all-star show, they'd do
better by bringing back the talented ones who lost to much more
popular running backs, wide receivers, and linemen. There are a
bunch of those. Then there are the "non-dancers" whose athletic
disciplines involved training in ballet and modern dance. Figure
skaters, anyone? And boy bands and girl singers who have spent years
dancing on stage with no formal training. Really? And did we forget
fading pop stars like Master P, who showed up in giant sneakers and
didn't get voted off for weeks because hip-hop fans kept him alive?
Or popular old farts from Jerry Springer to George Hamilton to
"two-ton" Kirstie Alley, who never danced a lick but cleaned up in
the voting because, you know, people just love them. There was also the man without a face.
He won too. (Don't give me a hard time; that's his whole point in
becoming a celebrity...) I don't begrudge him that or think ill of
him, because he was performing a public service on behalf of wounded
veterans. Just don't tell me this show was ever a competition. It's
just a show.
All that's by way of clearing out the underbrush. The DWTS voters
have always been kind to country singers, for example. The support
for Bristol Palin is surely akin to the vote totals that kept a more
corpulent version (than now) of Marie Osmond on the show for weeks
after she should have lost out to a semi-professionally trained
competitor like an Olympic skater. The vilification of Bristol Palin
is completely out of place. It's just political hatred disguised as
a love of pure competition. Sad, really.
Now to the bottom line. Bristol Palin may not be a very good dancer.
But she's obviously getting lots and lots of votes against All-Star DWTS
celebrities who have a record of getting lots and lots (and lots) of votes.
That's interesting in this election season, no?
And Kirstie Alley still might win. She has much bigger boobs and ass
than Bristol or even Emmitt Smith. If you can't count on that, what
can you count on?
. I was just listening to Limbaugh crowing about
the forthcoming Romney landslide. He cited the fact that at 61, he's
been following politics closely for 45 years. Which inspired me to
do some arithmetic. I'm 59, but I've been following politics closely
for 47 years. I had my first political debate in 1964 when I was 11.
It was the Johnson-Goldwater election. I lost. My opponent mopped
the floor with me.
We were students in a small private school whose parents had all
made great personal sacrifices to procure a good education for their
children. Parents and
students painted the classrooms of a deteriorated sanitarium to get
ready for the upcoming school year. Class sizes were tiny, about 10
or 12 per grade. There was no state bureaucrat to tell us that even
little kids couldn't care about what happened in the 1964 election.
Their parents sure did.
It was a year after the assassination of JFK. Not one of us who
didn't know exactly where we were when we heard about that. Which also meant there
was no kid who was unaware that politics was important. The 1964
presidential race was an ugly one. For example, it was the year of
the single dirtiest campaign ad ever run -- by a Democrat, of course -- one never forgotten to
this day even though it only ran once.
Even kids knew what the ad meant. We'd already been through the
Cuban Missile Crisis, and we had had to deal with the fatal
contradiction between what our teachers, during those very directly
dire days, told us to do in the event of nuclear war -- get under
your desks and wait -- and what our parents were telling us at home:
If there is nuclear war, nothing
will be left. But we still played touch football, memorized our
arithmetic flashcards and James Whitcomb Riley poems, and took
spelling tests. The millennials think they invented multi-tasking.
This isn't a screed, just an explanation. The kids of our school
were into the 1964
election. We were going to have a straw vote, and the centerpiece
was going to be a debate between the Johnson and Goldwater
advocates. Kids were wearing buttons, for heaven's sake. How I know
what no one knows, the name of Goldwater's running mate. (Look it
I don't know how the decisions were made. The selected debaters were
me, a seventh grader (11) and Michael, an eighth grader (13) who was
my sister's principal academic rival and one she had repeatedly
trounced in grades and other competitions. My suspicion is that she didn't want to debate him
because she secretly liked him.
The focus of the debate, chosen by me as the argument developed, was
George Orwell's Animal Farm,
which both the seventh and eighth grade had recently read. I
projected it as a vision of the FDR/LBJ vision of how government
would continuously increase its rule by making ordinary people less
equal than the rulers. I cited Roosevelt, Kennedy, and Johnson as
the upright walking pigs of the farm Goldwater was trying to defend
us against. I was eloquent.
Then Michael blew me away with simple history. Animal Farm was a classic roman
a clef. Napoleon and Snowball were Lenin and Trotsky. Animal Farm was about the
Russian Revolution, clear and simple. It had nothing to do with
American politics. I persisted, insisting that it was a prescient
warning. Michael followed with more details proving his point.
Nobody told me I'd lost. In fact, Goldwater won our straw vote and I
went to Philadelphia to hand over the $50 or so we'd raised for
Goldwater to him at the Union Club. I shook his hand and he slightly
But I knew. It didn't matter if in some figurative sense I had been
right. I had missed the historical basis altogether. Which is when I
cut myself off from all the propaganda of my youth. I argued with my
own father about politics from then on. He hadn't known that. I was
subjected then to all the education he paid for -- liberals in prep
school and college who were determined to make me into the opponent
of my first debate. I had to find my own way back from the conviction
that being right doesn't matter if you don't know why.
So I learned why. I read a lot. I consumed
history. In college my major was absolutely everything that had ever
happened. Afterwards, when that proved to be a poor personal economic
decision, and when I couldn't afford it, I borrowed money to go see
Reagan at a chicken dinner when he was in eclipse. He blew me away.
"God. He's still the guy who made The Speech." I became a writer after all. Not in the name of politics but belief in myself. Fancy that.
In the end, my dad
was borrowing from me in his last letters to the editor. He'd always
been right. I should have been happier that like Dumas, he was
perfectly willing to take credit for Dumas fils. But you know how it
goes with fathers and sons. He never approved of me, and I never
forgave him till the very very end. It was Robert the Bruce who
said, in utterly incomprehensible dialect, "Warriors breed assholes,
which is to say they always sire themselves." Unless I said that on
my own. Why I don't lose many arguments 47 years later.
A property I haven't yet seen in the Romney "good fellow" family.
Let's hope I'm wrong.
Not since the
age of eleven. Bastard pure and simple.
Just don't tell me that the past has nothing to do with what's