Friday, January 27, 2006

Cult of Personality (cont.)

Pictures of Maximum Leader and Jack Abramoff have mysteriously been disappearing from databases, and what pictures remain the White House refuses to release. Hmmm, what does this remind you of?

All Hail the Wisdom of Maximum Leader!

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Know Thine Enemies

Let's take as an example this quote from Maximum Leader in this morning's presser:

QUESTION: Could you call on your Texas straight talk and make a clear and unambiguous statement today that no American will be allowed to torture another human being anywhere in the world...

BUSH: Yes.

QUESTION: ... at any time?

BUSH: No American will be allowed to torture another human being anywhere in the world.

Sounds good! Americans will not torture. Who can't be reassured by that presidential assertion?

How about a follow-up question from our fearless media: Mr President, does the United States render prisoners to other countries and use intelligence gained from that rendering, regardless of how that intelligence is obtained? What? No one followed up?

Let's look at another Max Lead quote from today:

I know some have said, "Well, why did he put a qualifier in there?" And one reason why presidents puts qualifiers in is to protect the prerogative of the executive branch. You see, what we're always doing is making sure that we make it clear that the executive branch has got certain responsibilities.

Conducting war is a responsibility in the executive branch, not the legislative branch.

But make no mistake about it: The McCain amendment is an amendment we strongly support and will make sure it's fully effective.

Did someone in the media follow-up with, Mr President, in 2004 you said you strongly supported FISA, and in fact, in 2002, your administration worked against strengthening FISA, saying to do so would be unconstitutional, and yet, claiming presidential power, your administration repeatedly has superceded FISA; you have just claimed the right to supercede the McCain amendment as you see fit: why have the McCain amendment in the first place? What? No one followed up?

The headlines will read, Bush renounces torture, while in fact he both left the right to consign prisoners to torture chambers in third countries and reserved for himself the right to ignore any US statute against torture in any case.

Look, this is old news, though deserving of reiteration, but I bring it up to remind us, as we're bitching and moaning about Democratic fecklessness and wussiness, that we in the opposition are not fighting Bushco alone. Again, old news. There ARE Democrats out there, Schumer, Feingold, Leahy, screaming, screaming against Bushco. I'm not defending the whores in the Democratic Party who'd rather rule an opposition party than risk losing power in an ascendant party, I'm not defending those who urge the Democrats to be Repig Lites, I'm not defending those too cowardly to fight back.

I am saying that the right now, in the zero sum game of elective politics versus Bushco and the Repigs, until the Dems win an election they are powerless: witness Alito. I'm saying, the political war is a two front war, the Repigs on one flank, the media on the other. I'm saying, when the majority of Democrats in positions of power in the party believe Bushco to be corrupt, incompetent, immoral, illegitimate, and potentially catastrophic for the longterm prospects of this country and DON'T bitch and moan to the media for fear of the media labels, they are not morally qualified for power.

I'm saying, the media already has bought and trumpeted the Republican meme that opposition to Bushco is partisan at best, treasonous at worse and that no opposition is proof that Democrats won't defend themselves and hence won't defend the country. That's a pretty good trick, but one the Republicans could not have done without the tacit help of the media. The first goal of the Democrats should be to break that paradoxical tautology. Seems the only way to do it is to, yes, attack Bushco, but they need to attack, when given face time with the Matthews and Scarboroughs and others in the media the media's complicity in the power of Bushco, attack early, loudly, always. It's a two front war that needs fighting. What's going to happen? Lose another election?

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

One Art
by Elizabeth Bishop

The art of losing isn't hard to master;
too many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

I lost my mother's watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn't a disaster.

--Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan't have lied. It's evident
the art of losing's not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.

There are two songs on Guided by Voices'1995 release Alien Lanes that clock in each at less than two minutes and are, to my taste, perfect pop songs. "A Good Flying Bird" is wonderful; "As We Go Up, We Go Down" is better. There are two songs on the same album, "Ugly Vision" and "Pimple Zoo," each clocking in at less than two minutes, which, to my taste, sound like toss-offs in all connotations of that phrase. There are 24 other songs on the album, the majority of them almost excellent, a few almost awful. And there are a lot of GbV albums, all with a lot of songs.

Robert Pollard, the engine of GbV, yesterday released his first solo album since GbV called it quits following 2004's "Half-Smile of the Decomposed," and like GbV albums it contains a lot of songs. "From a Compound Eye" rings in with 26 songs, and feels and sounds like a GbV album. GbV, always with Pollard as polestar, evolved ever more into a Pollard project since Tobin Sprout left the band after Alien Lanes - and for me, Alien Lanes and Bee Thousand are the band's best - so it is neither fair to have expected something revolutionary or fair to be disappointed that it's not revolutionary. Some of the songs are wonderful, especially "Love is Stronger than Witchcraft," most are blessed by at least one good hook, a few seem filler at a generous best.

But I've heard this album. At a certain point the issue of prolificness needs addressing. Besides GbV albums there are boatloads of other solo and side projects. If everything that Pollard composes is committed to recording, how is the casual listener to value any of it as more than generalized noodling? If Pollard believes that his devoted followers want to hear everything he conceives, and those conceptions inevitably lead to constant reiterations and reworkings of favorite themes and sounds, the distinctions ultimately become fascinating only to devout Pollardologists who delight in and take pride in their universal knowledge of a microcosm. Whether intentionally or not, Pollard's amazing production has created a cult - and anyone who has been to a GbV concert can't help but notice the cultish rites of the true followers - and one of the defining characteristics of a cult is the insider/outsider division. Pollard's music is the language the cult uses to define who belongs, who doesn't. The more of it there is to know the fewer people there will be able to speak the language, reifying those members' credibility in the cult.

I'm not trying to impute sinister motives to Pollard, suggesting he sits in his basement studio comtemplating how best to manipulate his brainwashed followers. I've seen enough shows to believe that he's having fun and that he's sensibly determined it's a lot more fun to make money making music than slicing meat at Safeway. I can easily imagine that he is the type of artist who has to completely abandon a project in order to cleanly start another and that for him that abandonment is signified by a song's commitment to recording. He may be unable, as are many artists, to judge the merits of his own songs. He may be simply generous.

But ten years ago GbV was considered an important, major band, Pollard a major figure, "Alien Lanes" and "Bee Thousand" landmark indie albums. GbV could never have been U2 famous, Pollard could never have been on the cover of Tiger Beat, but they should have been more famous than they ended up, selling a determined number of albums to a determined set of fans and to small critical applauding. On each year's GbV album, from 1995 through 2004, on each of the solo and side project albums, buried in the 25 songs on each album, are gems. Each year fewer people feel the desire to search for them.