||Sorry about the late posting; it got to be midnight last night, and I was too beat to finish. And now, having completely lost my train of thought, I bring you what would have last nights failure and now stands as this mornings embarrassment!
I dont watch Letterman anymore; no time, and I dont care. I used to care, 20 years ago, when it was the ne plus ultra of late-night 20something cool, but no more. I wish Dave well, but every time I watch the show it feels like dry ice in an oven mitt. Whatever that means. Anyway, its on now my wife was watching CBS, left the kitchen / family room set on - and they just showed a clip of Lou Reed performing on a previous show. Hes aged better than Dave. LOU REED aged better than David Letterman. But I think thats because Lou went from 20 to 47 in about 19 months, and has been holding at 47 for the last two decades. Plus, he doesnt have to wear shades anymore; hes sober, and he can focus. That helps.
I still contend that the greatest pop-culture zeitgeist-defining crossover was Bruce Springsteen doing a spoken-word intro on Street Hassle. That, or the Kay Kyser Orchestra quoting an Andrews Sisters song about seafood. Take your pick.
Cold day, warm day you leave the house with a leather jacket and youre sweating two hours later. Gnat had a playdate, so I got my haircut at the Mall. Its always stylist roulette at this place, and hail: today I got a Madge. A fifty-plus haircutter who still had a hint of Winstons in her voice. You dont want a wash? We dont have to do a wash. Id say more, but I just realized theres a column in that, and I have to write a column tomorrow. Enough to say that it was a great cut, and I left feeling that wonderful Im too sexy for my head feeling you get after a good haircut. Combine this with the fact that I was wearing jeans I havent been able to wear for three years, and I presented a risible sight middle-aged Dorkus Americanus who looks like hes hearing You Should Be Dancing in his head as he walks down the promenade. Who cares? Its spring, and Im back to fighting weight. Lifes good.
Now, the obligatory weekly descent into crude reductive analysis devoid of nuance. Aw, you knew it was coming; at least its not a Friday entry. Light happy fun-ball stuff tomorrow. I just have to say a few things about Kerrys MTV appearance. Indulge me, or hop off to happier sites; I wont be offended. Ta.
Still here? Okay.
Choose or Lose is such a lame slogan it suggests that the mere act of voting is some sort of triumph. Way to be, man! You took your hand out of the Doritos bag, put down the remote, found a polling place and VOTED! And if your guy lost, youre still a winner! Everyones a winner! Its like second grade. The interviewer pitched the usual softballs. Some excerpts:
"Any writers or musicians that you think would do a good job serving in office?"
You know, one of the things Ive learned over the years is that skill in the arts doesnt necessarily transfer to the political arena. Art and politics occasionally intersect with great force and power; look at Goyas paintings, or Jacques-Louis Davids work around the French Revolution. And of course the music of my generation reflected, directed, and intensified the political arguments of the day. But I think that serious politics is best left to those who have the temperament and personality for the real world of governance. You cant sum up the farm bill in a five-stanza song. You can trot out Woody Guthrie to get the audience to believe youre for the guy whos got 40 acres and a mountain of debt, but Woody isnt much use when you have to balance the needs of the domestic sugar-beet industry against foreign competition.
Its not an insult to say that musicians dont belong in politics, any more than its an insult to say that Supreme Court judges shouldnt tour with Phish, or golf pros shouldnt start writing articles for medical journals.
Im kidding! Kerrys answer:
Sure there are. Of course there are people, absolutely. I mean, I'll tell you. Carole King, who has been out campaigning for me hard in Iowa, New Hampshire and various places, is as knowledgeable about the issues as anybody I have ever seen.
Carole King. Carole King? Look, this doesnt exactly connect with the MTV audience. This connects with the guys in the Obligatory Rectal Examination demographic, and theyre not watching MTV.
"Well, we know that you were into rock and roll when you were in high school, and we know that you play the guitar now. Are there any trends out there in music, or even in popular culture in general, that have piqued your interest?"
Im tempted to throw a question back to you: is it necessary to understand popular culture to understand America? And youd be right to say, sure, its a reflection of the country. And Id agree. But I think theres a difference between what America is, and what America watches. I never saw a single episode of Friends, because what happens on Friends just doesnt come up on the floor of the Senate that often, and I have to keep up to speed on the requirements of my job. But as far as I know its about a bunch of good-looking kids who have amusing problems. Thats fine, but America has some serious problems, and its my job to address those. Maybe after my second term Ill buy all the seasons on DVD; my daughter loves it.
I do keep an Entertainment Weekly in the bathroom, so I can keep up on all the stuff I never get the chance to see.
As for music, Ill tell you something Ive learned. Popular music, the stuff you have here on MTV, wont be so important to you as you get older. Youll still love it, and the old songs will still sound great, but when youre young it occupies an oversized place in your life. Sometimes I think people of my generation were more upset by the breakup of the Beatles than the breakup of the Soviet Union. Rock and roll is a tremendously vital force in pop culture, no doubt. But its for you, not me. It had better be for you, or its not doing its job. I got into classical about 20 years ago, and I like some jazz the New Orleans stuff, where the improvisation is amazing. You think the Dead could jam? Man. Listen to some of these guys from the 30s, and they make the Dead look like the friggin Monkees.
Well,no. His actual response:
Oh sure. I follow and I'm interested. I don't always like, but I'm interested. I mean, I never was into heavy metal. I didn't really like it. I'm fascinated by rap and by hip-hop. I think there's a lot of poetry in it. There's a lot of anger, a lot of social energy in it. And I think you'd better listen to it pretty carefully, 'cause it's important. I still find the musicians of our generation are appreciated and extraordinarily relevant to most of the young people I talk to today. When I go to a Bruce Springsteen concert or when I did go to the Grateful Dead, when Jerry Garcia was still alive, or when I'd go to the Rolling Stones, for instance, there's a lot of people there of all generations. And I think that young people are still growing up appreciating an awful lot of the music that came out of our generation, '60s and '70s.
Awful being the key word here. Another question:
"Senator Kerry, in the clearest terms, what would be the principal difference between the foreign policy of your administration and that of the Bush administration?"
Lets just think back to 1942, and imagine a blinkered, stumble-tongued Republican saying that the real problem isnt Tojo, its the lack of affordable transit solutions to get women to their jobs in the munition factories. Heres Kerrys reply:
Brian, the principle difference will be almost everything. This administration has been arrogant. I think they have been reckless. They have been overly ideological. They have pushed our allies away. I will bring our allies back to us.
By allies, of course, he means Germany and France. And perhaps our deep long-standing ally Russia. Kerrys statement indicates that either he doesnt know about the French governments vested financial interests in Iraq, or he does know and thinks we dont. Or he dismisses the story as irrelevant to the larger goal: building a body of international resolve that will meet any challenge by sending diplomats to exchange Frank and Honest Views in conference rooms, with that nice lemon tea they serve. Do they use a zest, or a peel, or just run the lemon along the rim of the cup? Whatever they do, its quite delicious.
I know this paints me as a buffoon of the tenth magnitude, but I dont care what France thinks, and I wonder why some are so eager to seek their approval. France is the only nation that behaves as high-handedly as China and somehow has the moral reputation of Tibet.
How will he bring our allies back to us? By waving the magic ally-reassembling wand? No: by doing what they want us to do, not by doing the things they dont. Its almost as if Kerry believes that the point of a war is to have allies first and victory second. But I think I know what hes doing. Its an appeal to those who always say always - that we squandered the goodwill of the world after 9/11. But in certain quarters that goodwill was equal parts pity, schadenfreude and the belief that we would now realize the errors of our ways. And note how no one ever talks about how the Palestinian Authority squandered the goodwill it got from the Oslo Accords. The Squander, it would seem, is a bird unique to our nation, and we alone are responsible for its care and feeding.
I will respect the international community not that we're tying ourselves to it in a way that doesn't allow us to make decisions and protect our own security. But it's important to try and build real coalitions. It's important to bring people to our side. Even the powerful United States of America needs friends and allies on this planet. And I intend to pursue a foreign policy that faces up to realities.
Again: a real coalition means Germany and France. Would he consider a coalition that included Germany and France, but did not include England, to be real? Whats the magic number of nations? Do we weight the nations for population and the nature of the government? If the UN is on our side, and most of the governments are autocracies, does that lend legitimacy to our efforts? I intend to pursue a foreign policy that faces up to realities. These realities apparently do not include the nature of nations, which is to act in their self-interest above all. Unless he thinks all those Syrian vetoes were done out of high-minded principles.
For instance, North Korea, George Bush didn't even negotiate, didn't even begin the process for two years. I would never not open the process of real dialogue to see what the possibilities are.
The government of North Korea is made up of liars and thieves who are starving millions of their own people to prop up a crime gang. They rolled us once. There is no profit in opening up the process of real dialogue to see what the possibilities are when you know that the process will result in the same old deals: give us oil and food so we can feed our army and keep building nukes while we insist that were not. I heard this line back in the 80s, over and over again: it was important to talk to the Soviets, to have lots of summits and sign lots of papers, because at least were talking! Thats preferable to fighting, and it has to lead to something good. Okay, well, imagine that Hitler never declared war on the United States, and conquered Europe by 41. Would you prefer that FDR responded by opening up the process of real dialogue to see what the possibilities are or sending the smart boys off to a dark room to draw up Overlord?
Warning: when someone says opening up the process of real dialogue to see what the possibilities are they have conceded the first round of negotiations, because the other side knows we can be had, and had cheaply. Because we want to deal. Because we want a deal for domestic consumption. Because we want a deal to legitimize the international apparatus of talks, more talks, summits, signings, banquets where the Secretary of State gavottes with the high-haired brute who sits atop his private gulag.
(Bush) turned his back on global warming, walked away from a treaty that 160 nations worked 10 years on. We should never have just declared it dead. We should've tried to fix it.
Never mind the ruinous effect Kyoto might have had on the US economy what really matters is that 160 nations worked for ten years on it. The process is more important than the result. Process is our savior. Again, Kerry must believe that we dont remember the timeline how President Clinton signed it but never submitted it. How the Senate voted 95-0 for the Byrd-Hegel bill, which said wed never adopt it. Kerry voted yea. But as he said afterwards:
It is clear that one of the chief sponsors of this resolution, Senator
Byrd . . . agrees
that the prospect of human-induced global warming as an accepted thesis with adverse consequences for all is here, and it is
. Senator Lieberman, Senator Chafee and I would have worded some things differently
[but] I have come to the conclusion that these words are not a treaty killer."
So he actually voted for Kyoto by voting against it. Or voted in favor of Kyoto before he voted against it. I can't keep track anymore. We continue:
We haven't done what we needed to do for AIDS globally. The president talks about it, but we still haven't passed the kind of comprehensive program that would help the United States lead on one of the great crises of our time.
At a signing ceremony at the State Department, Mr Bush said Aids was filling graveyards, creating orphans and leaving millions in a desperate fight for their own lives across Africa. . . Suprising aid and family planning organisations, rock star and poverty campaigner Bob Geldof has praised the Bush administration's Africa initiative.
"You'll think I'm off my trolley when I say this, but the Bush administration is the most radical - in a positive sense - in its approach to Africa since Kennedy," Mr Geldof, who organised the 1985 Live Aid fund raising concert for Ethiopia, told Britain's Guardian newspaper.
In contrast to the European Union's "pathetic and appalling" response, Sir Bob said neo-conservatives and religious right-wingers who surround the US president are proving unexpectedly helpful. Former president Bill Clinton had not helped Africa much, despite his high-profile visits and apparent empathy with the downtrodden, Mr Geldof said.
And how was this bill passed?
President George W. Bush surprised many in January when, during his State of the Union address, he committed to spending billions of dollars to combat AIDS in Africa. Up to that point, neither the White House nor Bush's conservative backers had shown much interest in the AIDS pandemic.
Last year, however, others on Capitol Hill were working on the problem. John Kerry, the Democratic senator from Massachusetts, along with Republican Senator Bill Frist of Tennessee, won Senate passage of an AIDS bill.
So John Kerry helped to pass the very bill he now decries as insufficiently comprehensive. In fact his comments seem to imply no bill was passed at all. The president talks about it, but we still havent passed the kind of comprehensive program that would help the United States lead. What would such a bill look like? Specifics, please.
We haven't done what we need to do for loose nuclear material in Russia, where we ought to be gaining the security of that material so it can't fall into the hands of terrorists.
Well, were not doing nothing but in the end theres only so much you can do without sending the Marines to secure facilities in other countries. Again, Id like to hear his suggestions. And please, dont drag in UN Atomic Energy officials here; when Iran dedicates its first nuclear bomb, they can inscribe the UN officials names on the nose cone. By way of saying thanks.
I mean, there are countless numbers of things that we could be doing to enhance the world's view of us and to minimize the kind of anger and ... almost recruitment that has taken place in terrorist organizations as a result of the way the administration has behaved.
And thats the second money quote, right there. We stopped pretending we would ratify Kyoto. We only spent $15 billion on AIDS in Africa. We did not take dictation from Paris. If we had done these things, it would minimize the worlds anger.
Is the world angry at Russia, which spends nothing on AIDS and rebuffed Kyoto? Is the world angry at China, which got a pass on Kyoto and spends nothing on AIDS for other countries?
Is the world angry at North Korea for killings its people? Angry at Iran for smothering that vibrant nation with corrupt and thuggish mullocracy? Angry at Syria for occupying Lebanon? Angry at Saudi Arabia for its denial of womens rights? Angry at Russia for corrupt elections? Is the world angry at China for threatening Taiwan, or angry at France for joining the Chinese in joint military exercises that threatened the island on the eve of an election? Is the world angry at Zimbabwe for stealing land and starving people? Is the world angry at Pakistan for selling nuclear secrets? Is the world angry at Libya for having an NBC program?
Is the world angry at the thugs of Fallujah?
Is the world angry at anyone besides America and Israel?
But even if you admit that the world is angry at America - so angry that the poorest of them cant wait to come here and stake a claim you have to stand in awe at the sheer political idiocy of Kerrys conclusion. Boiled down:
There are countless numbers of things that we could be do minimize the kind of anger and ... almost recruitment that has taken place in terrorist organizations as a result of the way the administration has behaved.
By toppling the fascists in Baghdad without French seal of approval, we have encouraged recruitment in terrorist organizations. Its not the invasion that ticked off the Man in the Arab Street, its the lack of a 17th UN resolution on Iraq. Right now in a café in Beirut an educated man, a chemist by trade, schooled in the ways of the West, is reading an article about how the US will only spent $15 billion on AIDS and probably wont reduce its carbon emissions to 1817 levels, and he throws down the paper in disgust: bastards! I must join Al Qaeda, move to Iraq and kill the contractors who are upgrading their outmoded infrastructure!
If there is such a man, well, I'm angry at him. Do I get to be angry at him? No? Okay. I'll sit down now.
(And here I decided just to go to BED, and I think you can see why. New Fence up; more tomorrow.