Saturday, February 11, 2012

Saturday Blog Potpourri -OR- The Regulus Sweetheart Tree

Updated 9PM 2/11/2012: Whitney Houston died today. She was 48. See bottom of entry.

This is the entry I initially drafted Thursday night but simply ran out of time (it got too late and I had to get to bed in order to get up in time for work). I've revised and expanded the entry.


So it's CPAC -- that's the Conservative Political Action Conference -- time here in the Capital of the Empire Washington, D.C., specifically, the time of CPAC's ever-larger and metastasizing conference held annually.

It features thousands -- approximately 10,000 last year, if Wikipedia is to be believed, and concentrated in Dupont Circle / Woodley Park, downtown, and/or Capitol Hill -- crazed, glassy-eyed, young Republican types spanning the spectrum from fundamentalist evangelical to loopy libertarian to "movement conservative" to gun nut to budding lobbyist for the corporate oligarchical 1% 0.1% overclass to incipient pseudo-intellectual apologist to rightwing blogger and Fox News propagandist and everything in between. 

In short, the distilled essence of the modern day GOP / forces of reactionary intrigue and Collapse of Empire. 

Of course, there are some closeted types running around, too, and perhaps I'll even see some this weekend at Nellie's. Traditionally, there has never been a shortage of closeted  gay male rightwing Republican types.

Nevertheless, the CPAC attendees that stand out the most are the garden-variety, be-suited, sneering and arrogant yet milquetoast Republican "operative" or bowel "Movement Conservative" types (the kind that titillates the nihilistic horsetrading political reporters at POLITICO) ...

... sorta like this guy from Nebraska ...*

... age early to mid 20s, the complete works of Ayn Rand on their Kindle, enthralled with the vituperative wit of Ann Coulter and Rush, and either a Ron Paul or (if the fundie sort) a Rick Santorum button or sticker on their lapel. Politically, brutal, esp. compared to wussy Dems. And, needless to say, possessing no knowledge, wisdom, or understanding.

All very depressing.

(I'll save my critique of the professional Left for another entry, especially when discussing the abortion issue, esp. the next big pro-choice rally.)

(Yes, there is an "s" missing from "Compassionless" that lessens the value of the satire.)

*This 22-year old's goal in life, aside from establishing the GOP 1,000 Year Reign, is "abolishing" the inheritance tax. Imagine that: a tax that affects only a tiny sliver of multi-millionaires in a time of economic inequality as bad the Robber Baron era, and this punk's shitty LIFE GOAL is that. As I said, very depressing indeed.

At this point, I'd like to direct any readers to David Frum's review of Charles Murray's latest book, Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960 - 2010.

Left: Book cover of Coming Apart.

In case you don't know, Murray is a vapid libertarian ideologue ensconced at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) who periodically cranks out books always designed to help the corporate oligarchical overclass. That's what AEI "scholars" are paid to do and to be -- Scribes and courtiers in service of Money & Empire. (Little wonder that James K. Glassman ended up there.)

As for David Frum, he's an actual decent and principled conservative intellectual who got booted out of AEI -- or rather, off the GOP Plantation -- because he wouldn't stay faithful to its shape-shifting, inverted Marxist, insular reality.

Murray's book posits that it is moral collapse and rampant moral turpitude that has resulted int the collapsing white working class of America in the past 50 years, and it is the fault of ... drum roll ... "The Sixties" and the moral and social anarchy is supposedly unleashed on the world.

Murray expressly, even openly, refuses to acknowledge ANY economic arguments -- such as the destruction of the American manufacturing base and its wholesale outsourcing abroad, declining real wages, loss of pensions and benefits, and the half-century long war on the working class and the now uselessness of a high school education -- as contributing to this situation.

Above: A picture of Murray, whom I met once about 15 years ago while attending an AEI event.

I am unable do Frum's arguments any justice in abbreviated form and instead they have to be read.

Here is Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, and Part 5.

However, below are a few key excerpts from Part 1. Interspersed are images from recent entries on Prof. Paul Krugman's blog that shows some of the major economic and social changes (declining real wages and plunging marriage rates) but others that call into question a white working class social collapse (to wit, plunging out-of-wedlock birthrates and dropping violent crime).

Excerpts from Part 1: 

"To understand what Murray does in Coming Apart, imagine this analogy:

A social scientist visits a Gulf Coast town. He notices that the houses near the water have all been smashed and shattered. The former occupants now live in tents and FEMA trailers. The social scientist writes a report:

'The evidence strongly shows that living in houses is better for children and families than living in tents and trailers. The people on the waterfront are irresponsibly subjecting their children to unacceptable conditions.'

"When he publishes his report, somebody points out: 'You know, there was a hurricane here last week.' The social scientist shrugs off the criticism with the reply, 'I'm writing about housing, not weather.'"

In short, Murray makes the point that even if it is only shitty, low-paying, no-benefits, no-potential jobs that are available, it is still a MORAL failing of the underclass its members refuse to accept them.

Here is Frum's response:

"You are a white man aged 30 without a college degree. Your grandfather returned from World War II, got a cheap mortgage courtesy of the GI bill, married his sweetheart and went to work in a factory job that paid him something like $50,000 in today's money plus health benefits and pension.

"Your father started at that same factory in 1972. He was laid off in 1981, and has never had anything like as good a job ever since. He's working now at a big-box store, making $40,000 a year, and waiting for his Medicare to kick in.

"Now look at you. Yes, unemployment is high right now. But if you keep pounding the pavements, you'll eventually find a job that pays $28,000 a year. That's not poverty!"

"Yet you seem to waste a lot of time playing video games, watching porn, and sleeping in. You aren't married, and you don't go to church. I blame Frances Fox Piven." (Ha ha)

"How you can tell a story about the moral decay of the working class with the 'work' part left out is hard to fathom."

This graph tells the economic story very starkly -- click on image for larger version.

Frances Fox Piven ...

In case you don't know, this almost 80 year old, erstwhile 1960s socialist political activist and now tenured professor at CUNY, is the object of Glenn Beck-fanned rightwing campaign of hate, obscenities, and threats.)

That's your GOP base.

I should note that the always-thoughtful New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof wrote in his Thursday column that Murray has at least raised an important issue about moral behavior among an underclass (white or black). He cites the rampant use of crystal meth in rural Appalachia as an example of widespread destructive behavior.

Oh, yes, Paul Krugman has written about this issue in his current regular Friday New York Times column.

A young CPAC'ers Free Market dream.

Say, let's get the great Wall-P's take on this ...

What say you, Wall-P??

"Eh. Eh. Eheheheh. Talent naturally rises to its equilibrium point, and everyone is therefore exactly where they should be. You choose to be at your income level and --"

Oh, shut up, Wall-P, you little bug patrol. 


Some more political observations and commentary ...

So it looks like Obama's approval ratings are inching up as the economy shows signs of job-creating life.

He is also increasing his lead over his most likely GOP opponent, the ridiculous Willard Mitt Romney, champion and self-caricature of the rentier corporate oligarchical 1% overclass.

Ha ha -- worth reposting

In the end, as Steve Kornacki always reiterates, the election will come down to how well swing voters view the economy, or at least the trend of the economy.

Also, Obama's contraception insurance rule compromise should mostly help quieten the distracting fury of the issue that so titillates the media and could help the GOP in our zero-sum political discourse.

As it is, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops -- that collection of dour, pasty-faced, silly, closeted gay men in drag -- were never going to be placated because it's all-but-ex cathedra Vatican dogma that even contraception are "abortifacients."

This is beyond ridiculous (and I say that as someone who is a half-step away from being outright pro-Life on the abortion debate).

As you know, official Catholic Church teaching -- spouted by the likes of Mgr. James Watkins in between his mass-time operatic theatrics -- is to have a world sort of like the one pictured above.

Did I ever mention the time Watkins -- pictured at left -- gave a rainy (not snowy -- this IS D.C. after all) Christmas eve mass back in the mid-1990s when he was still at St. Matthew's Cathedral in which he ended with a theatrical "Welcome home!" I went up to him after the mass to say what a lovely homily that was, and he sneered and glided away in his flowing robes.

That told me it was all an act, and a particularly mean-spirited and fraudulent one at that.

He also occasionally gave talks ("starting 7pm SHARP!") at this bullshit organization called the St. Lawrence Society of single Catholic men to which I belonged (because I liked this guy Tim), and once with no sense of irony he spoke of the "Four H's" of life: 

Happy, healthy, hetero, and one more I can't recall.

Yes, I'm referring to the hetero part.

The highly ambitious and politically attuned Watkins seeks to be an archbishop. He also likes fine wine, fine food (in the 1990s, it was at the old Sesto Senso), and chocolate (just sayin'). In short, he is everything wrong with the Catholic Church in terms of gilded hypocrisy.

It is me or does he bear a striking resemblance to the late John Inman??

On the other side are the Father Thomas Morrow rightwing social engineer types who are appallingly allowed by the Archdiocese to run "ex-gay" groups (his was called "Courage" back in the 1990s).

I won't even get into the Opus Dei cult and how it permeates the upper echelons of D.C.'s political elites. 


So last night (Friday night), I went to Nellie's for a big post-work happy hour and about 15 people showed up. I also invited Kristof, Damon, and Gary (who didn't show up). Kristof mostly just insulted me. I got kinda drunk but nothing unseemly or warranting apologies or embarrassment occurred.

Damon and I then went to The Saloon on U Street and then capped the night off by going to Stetson's, which is a dive young straight bar literally 700 feet from where I live. I always think of that place and its side note to history involving Jenna Bush. 


Oh, one last item ...

This week's Metro Weekly silly cover story features the following image (one of two).

I *think* (but am not entirely sure since his eyes are closed in both images) that the angelic Anglo-looking guy is named R., and I actually met him one night circa 2003 at JRs, where he and a female friend had had a lot to drink. At one point, he wasn't wearing any shirt and (as you can see) he is quite attractive. We three went to Annie's and my understanding was that I could have gone gone with him.

Unfortunately, at the time he was living in Herndon and was with this friend, and I would have had to have driven their car back and I opted not to do that.

He probably does not even remember this and doesn't even give me the time of day when I see him walking his dog (he lives in a nearby building-- the one you always featured in my apartment window view pictures).

Yeah, that one. This was taken a short while ago today (3:09PM) during a brief, frenetic snow squall that blew through the District and environs.

Oh, by the way, there are NO pics in this week's Metro Weekly of Oooza the Unloved Crow Creature or of Local Comedian / Celebrity / Gym-Nasty-ist and Always the Ex-Boyfriend Mr. Sirius. I thought there was a picture quota. To quote Ester Goldberg, go figure ...


Anyway, I'd like to end on a happier note.

First, this is the Feb. 9, 2012 APOD ...

It features one week's worth of auroral images from last month (Jan. 23 - 29, 2012) over northern Norway, in particular, the villages of Ravnastua, Skoganvarre and Lakselv, during a particularly active solar period. The music is by Pulse Faction.


Because it was stuck in my head on Thursday ...

This 1940s song Who Wouldn't Love You? was stuck in my head, and so I'll post the lyrics and YouTube clip of it.

Who Wouldn't Love You?
by Kay Kyser
Lyrics by Bill Carey, Music by Carl Fischer, c. 1942

Who wouldn't love you, who wouldn't care?
You're so enchanting people must stare.
You're the dream that dreamers want to dream about.
You're the breath of spring that lovers gad about or mad about.
Who wouldn't love you, who wouldn't buy,
The west side of heaven if you just winked your eye?
You're the answer to my every prayer, darling.
Who wouldn't love you, who wouldn't care?"

Who wouldn't love you, who wouldn't care?
You're so enchanting people must stare.
You're the dream that dreamers want to dream about.
You're the breath of spring that lovers gad about or mad about.
Who wouldn't love you, who wouldn't buy,
The west side of heaven if you winked your eye?
You're the answer to my every prayer, my darling.
Who wouldn't love you, who wouldn't care?"


In the spirit of Saint Valentine's Day ...

And since St. Valentine's Day is quickly approaching, let me just post this version of The Sweetheart Tree by Johnny Mathis.

Here is it performed by the late, great Mr. Henry Mancini on The Lawrence Welk Show. For his part, Lawrence Welk inexplicably reminds me a bit of Kristof ...

Updated 3/29/2013: That YouTube video has disappeared, so instead I am using this one with the lyrics but no images.

"They say there's a tree in the forest, / A tree that will give you a sign, / Come along with me / To the Sweetheart Tree / Come and carve your name next to mine."


And on that note, I really will end this entry. My next planned update may not be until Tuesday night.


UPDATED 9PM 2/11/2012

Singer and actress Whitney Houston has died today. She was 48 years old. Information is still limited. 

Everyone is saying this was to be expected, but I'm not going to get into that at this point, and no matter, this is still shocking. Such an incredible voice and tortured person.


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