13 July 2009

Analogies always limp.

Mary Matalin claimed on CNN yesterday, in regards to the latest item on the CIA torture scandal that implicates then-VP Dick Cheney as mastermind behind covering it up, that Dick Cheney was no Darth Vader. Here's a small snippet from CNN's ticker:
“Every time they get in trouble . . . they dredge up a Darth Vader story,” Matalin also said, making a reference to past comparisons between Cheney and the villain in the “Stars Wars’ movies.
And of course she threw in the obligatory fear-talk that revealing the extent of BushCo corruption would give information to "the enemy." Of course, I tend to see corrupt governments that undermine the basic principles of our nation as "the enemy," but apparently Matalin thinks it's more important to defend eight years of misrule than 220 years of our little "American experiment."

However, Matalin does have a point in the comparisons between Cheney and Darth Vader. In the end, Darth Vader does renounce his association with evil and helps Luke defeat the power-mad emperor. I don't see Cheney doing that.

12 July 2009

The dream of purity.

Ah, that sceptered isle...you know, for all our racial problems, at least in the U.S. a political party so forthrightly racist as the British National Party would never be a serious political force...oh who am I kidding? If we had parliamentary representation instead of a winner-take-all two party duopoly, we'd probably have the same proportional amount of right-wing wackos in Congress. I mean, Trent Lott managed to get re-elected numerous times.

So Nick Griffin, the leader of the UK's heir to the even more virulent National Front (a good comparison would be David Duke before he shed the sheets and David Duke in a three piece suit), has come out with the seemingly surprising statement that even the BNP doesn't want an all-white UK...which of course gives us the easy punchline of "after all, who would fill the servant ranks..." ba-dum-dum.

Here's Herr Griffin himself on the BNP's position:

Mr Griffin, who is due to take up his seat as an MEP for the North West, said the idea of a UK without ethnic minorities was "simply not do-able".

Speaking on the BBC's Andrew Marr Show, Mr Griffin said: "Nobody out there wants it or would pay for it."

He said claims that he was a fascist were "smears" but said the European Union was "very close to fascism".

Mr Griffin told the BBC's Andrew Marr Show that the BNP would put more money into voluntary repatriation programmes for members of ethnic minorities "who want to go back to their lands of ethnic origin".

Ah yes, "simply not do-able," so the real objection is that it's not practical to practice large scale ethnic cleansing in the UK, because, as he astutely notes, no one "would pay for it" (the final bit of that sentence heavily qualifying the "want" portion -- as in "I don't want it at that price."

Now his pledge -- should the BNP manage some sort of hellish miracle and take control of the UK -- to fund voluntary repatriation programs is most interesting and begs the question of where they draw the line at "ethnic minority," since the history of the UK is the history of invasion and immigration. The Welsh are an ethnic minority, except in Wales, but I'm wondering if he's offering to pay moving expenses for the Welsh living in England, Scotland, or the north of Ireland? And speaking of that other island, who's the ethnic minority over there in the six counties? Should they all leave?

And that's only the beginning...going back to the Norman Invasion as a good example, let's see if the BNP is hoping to repatriate those of Norman descent to France. Or maybe the Anglo-Saxons to Germany. But maybe they're the majority now, and it's the Britons who should be repatriated. It's getting too confusing. Maybe they should all just wear gold stars or pink triangles or some sort of identity markers...

08 July 2009


It's time to put some serious government regulation on "always on" media. That means television (network, cable, satellite), radio, and their associated streaming sites on the internet. But especially on the so-called news channels. In fact, I'm in favor of an outright ban on any stations that pretend to offer 24 hour news coverage.

You think I'm joking.

OK, I might be. But only a little.

I'll be the first to admit that I don't watch these channels. In fact, I haven't watched CNN on a regular basis since the 1st Gulf War, and I never watched Fox, MSNBC, or CNBC on a regular basis. The 1st Gulf War was really a turning point for these channels. Back then CNN was the only game in town, but that war coverage led the way in making war into entertainment. While Vietnam coverage brought the war into the living room to show its horror, the Gulf War coverage was there to show the power and the glory of technology and American military might (never mind that the US v. Iraq was basically the equivalent of an early September pre-conference football game for Penn State or Florida State).

Now before I get too Baudrillard on everyone, let me cut to the chase: the 1st Gulf War showed that it was the presentation of spectacle and not the importance or lack thereof of the object itself that mattered. It also showed that you could talk about one subject 24 hours a day if you just pretended you had different takes on it...so panels of experts appear out of nowhere, hour long pundit shows spring up to vary the delivery of the same information. And it doesn't only work for wars: the OJ Simpson chase and trial, Monica Lewinsky, etc. and now the Michael Jackson death can all be given the same treatment.

Enough is enough. Has anyone seriously reported on the G8? The length of time spent on unraveling actual stories that affect the world in a real way, like the G8 summit or Darfur or unrest in China? No, and the reason is that these stories aren't sexy. And they're dangerous. Sure war is dangerous, too, but the payoff is too great to ignore if it's a U.S. war. G8 summit coverage takes too much time, what with having to explain all the complex financial and political implications of a small cabal of industrialized nations getting together to decide how to maintain their influence. Darfur is, well, kind of dangerous, and so, well, 2008. And who wants to anger the Chinese government with coverage of internal unrest when China may decide to buy controlling interests in your news channel next year (OK, I jest on that last one, but only a little).

Complex analysis doesn't sell. You will learn more in one hour of the PBS NewsHour than you will in 24 hours of CNN or Fox. In other words, you don't need 24 hours of coverage to cover stories well, and you certainly don't need companies whose main goal is to fill 24 hours of time with about two hours worth of news (if that) fluffing stuff up like super-whipped butter on the IHOP buffet.

I'm willing to bet there's a direct correlation between how little you know about a lot of things and how much you watch cable news. And in the case of Fox, I'm willing to bet there's a direct correlation about how much you don't know and how much you watch Fox.

I think I've vented my spleen sufficiently.

07 July 2009

I can't quit you baby...

It's an odd thing to announce the week after you've announced that you're quitting, but Sarah Palin, the governor every Democrat hoped Obama would be running against in 2012, declared as much looking folksy in her hip waders on a family fishing trip. The soon-to-be ex-governor told CNN:
"I am not a quitter. I am a fighter," Palin told CNN on Monday while on a family fishing trip, on the heels of her Friday bombshell announcement that she was resigning as Alaska's governor.
Catchphrases are cheap, but deeds are often a bit more lasting. Let's assume that there's no real reason for her quitting (no tawdry sex scandal, no federal ethics investigation, no details emerging that she planned all along to secede from the Union and join her friends in the Alaska Independence Party). Let's assume that she simply quit -- can I say that? she's not a quitter...um what exactly did she do? Is "resign" essentially different than "quit"? -- to recharge her batteries for the 2012 push.

Well, actually she did give CNN a few reasons during the interview:
She resigned because of the tremendous pressure, time and financial burden of a litany of ethics complaints in the past several months, she said. The complaints were without merit and took away from the job she wanted to do for Alaskans, Palin said.
Now, she may have a little short-term sympathy from her supporters over the pressure etc. of the, as she says, unfounded ethics complaints, but I'm willing to bet that all she's doing is adding to the burden of any 2012 run. Can you imagine the Democratic debate prep experts sitting around salivating over comparing the pressure of being President of the United States of America to being President of a single state, and despite its size a relatively remote and low populated state at that?

On top of that, does failing to serve out your term really inspire confidence in the masses whom you need to vote for you (let's set aside the 25% of the population who still thought Bush was doing a good job at the end of his term and therefore are never going to vote for anything but a Republican even if said Republican is a sock puppet)?

Obama's been in office for about 6 months. There's a long time to go until the next election and I don't think getting yourself out of active politics is a bright move no matter how you cut it.