Today, it's Donna Reed in a thong! Or, I irritate everyone. More than usual, maybe.

But that's later. Right now it’s a tick past twelve, and I’m content. Gnat let me sleep in again, which made the morning frantic: I have two deadlines at 10 AM, and she woke me at 9:20. “I’d like a sausage, Daddy.”

Sure, hon – OH MY GOD! Frantic typing, brief proofreading, minor hair-pulling over passages that made sense last night but just sounded like throat-clearing now. Got them off in time, more or less. Spent the afternoon at home, making sure Gnat stayed on the mend; wrote a Joe, washed the floors, polished woodwork, took her to choir, did half of the next Diner show. Did nothing on the book, and I’m kicking myself. But after two days of incessant deadlines I needed to do something different, and the Diner is the perfect release. Now I am prepared to launch this unexamined screed and let the day go, just so I can sit back and finish “Star Trek: Nemesis.” Oh, stop it. Look. First of all, it’s not that bad. Second, I’ve never seen it in HD. Third, it’s not that bad, and it surely beats watching Judge Judy scream at someone or watching a Simpsons rerun, and I can fast-forward to the ramming scene.

Uh –

Oh, never mind.

Now, the screeching. Those disinclined to indulge me in this sort of nonsense are advised to jump right to Joe. Or maybe not; I got a letter yesterday that asked me to kill him, because he’s too depressing. Really? Not to me. Anyway, here I go. See you tomorrow.

Robert Coot is a crazy old byrd, and for years he’s been a strange, amusing auto-rhetoric dispenser: prop him up, plug him in, and out rolls long bolts of gilded dross. You imagine that a Byrd speech is an occasion for colleagues to use the rest room, file their nails, arrange the pencils on their desk (color, length, hardness) and generally relax until the warm fog is punctured by one of Byrd’s trademark
yelps! Every party always has its batty old men. But that’s no excuse for this tripe. After a good deal of jerque de cirque about the historical glory of the Senate, he said the following about the so-called “nuclear option” and the debate over Senate confirmation procedures. (Transcript courtesty Duane, who has additional comments.)

Hitler's originality lay in his realization that effective revolutions in modern conditions are carried out with, and not without, not against, the power of the State. The correct order of events was first to secure access to that power of the State, and then begin his revolution. Hitler never abandoned the cloak of legality. He never abandoned the cloak of legality. He recognized the enormous, psychological value of having the law on his side. Instead, he turned the law inside out and made his illegality legal.

No sheet, King Kluxer. Every totalitarian regime uses a cloak of legality. Laws are the means by which behavior is proscribed, and an excess of laws is the best way to codify your control over people. What sets a free society apart from, oh, NAZIS, is having some sort of process to correct the laws, some higher standard against which they can be measured. Like the Constitution, to use the first example that come to mind. The Nazis passed an “Enabling Act” that said, among other things: The national laws enacted by the Reich Cabinet may deviate from the Constitution provided they do not affect the position of the Reichstag and the Reichsrat.

So much for the Constitution. Granted, they had a “cloak of legality,” but legality itself was redefined into “whatever we want is legal,” which makes the very concept meaningless, and makes the analogy as stupid as it is insulting.

For a modern analogue, albeit a broad and inexact one, you could be worried about the SCOTUS decision on the death penalty. It upended laws concerning the execution of juvies because five judges didn’t much like the law, and were alarmed to find it was out of step with the direction of the drift of the emanations of the penumbra of several judicial decisions in Europe. I’m not all that keen on the death penalty; I think it lets them off the hook. I want killers to die in jail, alone, forgotten, with their last meal consisting of steak-flavored mush and Sanka. But the reasonings don’t seem based in that pesky Constitution itself, and the very idea of using foreign law as some sort of guide for American law unnerves me as much as it angers me. I know: let’s use Iranian law to settle the constitutionality of divorce, right now. Someone bring a case.

Hitler! It would be an irrelevant rant by an irrelevant old man if it didn’t underscore the remarkable comments of one Howard Dean, who remarked that the Republicans are evil. No, that’s a broad mischaracterization. They’re on the side of evil, that’s all. “This is a struggle of good and evil,” he said in a recent Kansas appearance. “And we're the good." Also on the side of evil: “right-wing pastors” who oppose abortion. Such nuance! Persuasive fellows, Misters Dean and Byrd. Big thinkers. The Middle East is poised to remake itself and repudiate all the tired tropes about Arabs and democracy, and Byrd trots out Adolph’s bones to complain about Senate rules, and Dean jumps up and down in Kansas about the perfidy of personal ownership of a tiny percentage of your Social Security money. Big picture men.

Then again, this is how you lose a majority, eventually: Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, wants to apply broadcast decency standards to cable. Which is like saying that the laws against shouting FIRE in a crowded theater should be extended to novels. I get tired of getting out my thin hairs and splitting them once again, but here I go again.

Exhibit A: Chris Rock at the Oscars. I was not offended. I did not go white as a Byrd weekend rally costume when he said naughty things. I’ve heard worse. I’ve said worse. I just think that the tone of public discourse should strive to angle up, rather than down. Others feel there’s something liberating in the use of earthy, honest language. On one side, Donna Reed in a dress and pearls; on the other, a hoochie mama in a thong. I would suggest that the proper model is Donna Reed wearing a thong under the dress. Propriety in public, relaxed standards in the personal sphere. Behave yourself on the public airwaves, but for the paying customers feel free to relax the standards. “The Wire” and “Carnivale” and “The Sopranos” are three of the finest TV shows I’ve ever seen, and not one belongs on broadcast TV; not one would be the same if subjected to the same standards of language and nudity. And what, exactly, is Rep. Ted is worried about? The article doesn’t say, but I suspect he lumps narsty PPV pron in with Showtime soft-focus mild-core drivel. And if he doesn’t, someone will. There’s a certain mindset that sees Janet Jackson’s wardrobe malfunction and sees no problem; there’s another that sees a dank crude stupid S&M routine at the Superbowl and groups it with a flash of teat on a cable movie. I don’t want either group setting the standards. Think of it this way: broadcast TV and radio is the front porch; cable and movies and satellite radio is the living room with the curtains down. We can all censure the man who stands on his own porch and moons the world while employing the full panoply of English cursewords. We have no business parting the curtains to see if he’s in the comfy chair reading Henry Miller.

And now Star Trek, where no one gets naked. Good or bad, depending on the season and the series.


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