Didn't catch George W.'s nomination acceptance speech live on Aug. 3, as I was instead watching the Mel Gibson-propelled The Patriot in a megaplex. It's a movie about freedom and the grand exertions our forebears endured to achieve it—I mean, Mel just tomahawks the fuck out of everyone in this movie—and it tugs at the heartstrings. Some of that tugging leaves you feeling manipulated and cries that The Patriot is bad history, and propaganda should not go unheeded. For all that, it still powerfully conveys the struggle and loss our founding generation went through. This isn't George Washington standing in a boat; it's hacking, bleeding mayhem in which men lose their souls in carnage.
It's popular these days to belittle the American Revolution as having been just a bunch of wealthy white male landowners acting in their own self-interest, ob-la-di, ob-li-da. Well, pardon me, Cupcake, but I have met but a few people whose lives are not an admixture of the selfless and self-interest. Some people may be pure, but I am not of that number. We are sullied, most of us, but capable still of sacrifice and acting for the common good, and the men and women of such rare moment deserve to be honored rather than chided for not living up to our current enlightened standards.
For if our founding fathers and mothers were to look upon what their revolution has wrought today, they might well have to wonder, "What, I tomahawked the fuck out of everyone for this?"
Suppose for a while that you are a bald eagle, and let's go swooping over the modern American landscape. Being raptors, we may as well plunge our beaks into the Republican convention for a while. I don't expect the Democratic one to be especially brighter, but it can't get much dimmer.
What a lot of bunting. In Bush's acceptance speech, he went a whole five paragraphs before mentioning "character," which is the cosine these days for the equation "Clinton = blowjob." Were it not for that tired indiscretion, they might have to admit that the president who most effectively advanced conservative goals—reforming welfare, achieving fiscal responsibility in paying down the deficit, boosting military spending—was Bill Clinton.
According to Bush, the two-headed Clinton-Gore creature only "coasted through" a prosperity created by Reagan-Bush, by which logic Reagan-Bush were buoyed by the rejuvenating fiscal policies of Jimmy Carter, and so on all the way back, until our present good times can be credited to King George III.
But let's move on: Bush's speech included a claim that he wants to reduce nuclear tensions in the world, immediately followed by his promise to implement the costly, non-functional missile-defense program that experts (and our testy world partners Russia and China) believe will spark a new nuclear-arms race. Huh?
Bush likened his party's current impetus to the civil-rights movement. Anyone blessed with even a vestigial memory might recall that in the civil-rights days, his party was only calling for states' rights. Republicans loved states' rights back when that meant the right to keep black kids out of schools. But, hey, they can change with the times. A case in point is the Republican-backed legislation in Congress to nullify states' rights —particularly California's—governing the safety and labeling of foods. Instead, thanks to the food industry-backed bill, weaker federal standards would rule.
Then there came the sensitive part of Bush's speech, in which he talked about visiting a group of juvenile inmates:
"Toward the end of the conversation, one young man, about 15 years old, raised his hand and asked a haunting question: 'What do you think of me?'
"He seemed to be asking, like many Americans who struggle, 'Is there hope for me? Do I have a chance?' And, frankly, 'Do you, a white man in a suit, really care what happens to me?'
"I looked him in the eyes and said, 'Sure, I'm going to spend up to 15 minutes reviewing your case before I electrocute you.'"
Okay, I made the last sentence up, but the Los Angeles Times did report that Bush has halved the time he spends reviewing capital cases down to 15 minutes. Given that in states less perfect than Texas it has been admitted that persons sentenced to death are sometimes innocent and that there is proven racism in sentencing, that's the real message Bush is sending about how much he cares, despite his stealing the "compassionate conservative" label from Arianna Huffington.
As if white rappers aren't bad enough, why must every politician embarrass himself by trying to mimic the stirring delivery of Martin Luther King, absent his skills and moral conviction? Both Bush and Gore try it, and it's bad karaoke. Now that he's an alpha male, Gore seems like he's got an electric prod in his ass, and every time his handlers flip the switch, he emits these guttural, Germanic sounds meant to assure us that he's our kinda guy.
At least he can talk. Regarding Bush, it would seem a modest ideal to want an American president who, when the chips are down, can speak in complete sentences, with nouns and verbs and things. Jim Hightower, the bitchen former Texas agriculture commissioner and populist activist, was recently quoted as saying he thinks Bush has good intentions but is just out of touch. Good intentions get points with me. I can believe that George W. is a genuinely nice guy (aside from the executions and the swinish things he did to John McCain in the primaries: that's just politics). But is he the best and the brightest we've got? No, thanks. I want a president who, when he speaks extemporaneously, doesn't give the impression that there's a pontoon bridge where his synapses should be.
But enough of the convention. Let's swoop now over the set of Bill Maher's Politically Incorrect last week, where the Reverend Jerry Falwell and our own Representative Dana Rohrabacher (R-Huntington Beach) were among the guests. Just because virtually every respected scientific body in the world has agreed that global warming is a massive problem, Maher made the mistake of thinking politicians should be concerned with it. Rohrabacher corrected him and called global warming a myth, while Falwell said something to the soothing effect that "God made this world right. It's going to stay right." They probably said that before the Flood, too.
Remember James Watt, who, as secretary of the interior under Ronald Reagan, said there was no need to preserve nature or the environment because the Rapture was coming any time now? That's good, solid science, isn't it? You want to go back to that?
But enough of politics, little eagle. Let's swoop now through the newsroom of the Los Angeles Times, where a landmark in corporate journalism occurred last week. In the Aug. 3 business section, reporters grappled with the news that the Times had secretly lent $50 million to a "weak" competitor to help them purchase the Los Angeles Daily News to prevent a "strong" competitor, such as the Register, from buying the paper, which might have caused the Times to actually, pardon the outmoded concept, compete. Instead, they bankrolled the MediaNews Group, which is noted for its cost-cutting and staff cutbacks instead of journalistic excellence. The deal included an option to let the Timespurchase the Daily News when (why even bother saying "if" anymore?) antitrust enforcement loosened up.
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That's not the news here, just the background. Here's the part I like: in the middle of the Times' piece, there was the unprecedented situation of a Los Angeles Times spokesperson refusing to talk to . . . the Los Angeles Times!
To quote: "Martha Goldstein, a Times spokeswoman, would not talk specifically about the transaction or its legal ramifications." What would she talk about, specifically? That ultrahunky Mel Gibson? "I tell you, these 20 British soldiers were riding along and suddenly—whap-whap-whap—they're getting the fuck tomahawked out of them!"
The Times, I may have to remind you, is a newspaper, a part of the press, that bulwark of democracy granted its own specific constitutional protection by the founding fathers because they knew freedom requires an informed populace that itself depends upon a press that will stop at nothing—except, evidently now, its own corporate self-interest—to get the story.
These are but a few of the fruits of the suffering, privation and lofty dreams of our founders. If they could have foreseen such a proud result, do you think they ever would have set quill to parchment to pen the Declaration of Independence?