Spiraling Toward Irrelevancy

Never has a blog title spoken quicker to the absolute truth than "Spiraling Toward Irrelevancy" ...


Leonard Steinhorn Responds to "The Greater Generation?"

Mr. Wise,

How you can call anyone a "nitwit" when you discuss a book without reading it is beyond me. You probably don't care much for psychology, but perhaps you should become familiar with what psychologists call "projection."

Sorry you're so full of anger and hate. I may disagree with you, but I feel sorry for you. Your echo chamber would be fascinating were it not so frightening.


Leonard Steinhorn

----- Original Message -----
Brian S. Wise
To: Lenny Steinhorn (Address deleted by TGO)
Sent: Tuesday, January 31, 2006 5:23 PM
Subject: Re: from Leonard Steinhorn

Thanks for reading. It's always nice when people more important than I am take the time to read the column.

Of course, one can say "nitwit" and not mean it hatefully - not that much of anyone recognizes the difference anymore. The line between casual insult and vitriolic screed is so thin as to not exist (another Boomer legacy). I've called Michael Savage a cook (which, of course, he is) and referred to Strom Thurmond as That Old Confederate (under the impression that if he'd been alive during the Civil War, he'd have picked the wrong side) with nary an objection ... this is an equal opportunity shop.

Not that it will matter, but I can assure you hatred wasn't involved anywhere in the writing process. Hatred - the sort of pure, blind rage you're assuming swarms deep within me - is for religious zealots and eight-year-olds. Being agnostic and distinctly not an eight-year-old, I'm hoping you'll allow the difference between dissent and venom.

On the other hand, what do you care what an Internet columnist thinks, anyway?

Still, I hope you continue reading. If I'm ever out that way, I'll buy you lunch. And I promise: If you're not a nitwit, I'll say so publicly.


Brian S. Wise

p.s. I'm considering "I feel sorry for you" a quotable blurb.

Column: "The Greater Generation?"


St. Martin’s Press has gone to great expense promoting Leonard Steinhorn’s new book, The Greater Generation, including placing two page ads in magazines like Atlantic Monthly, where I just learned the upshot: The baby boom generation is greater than what is commonly called the Greatest Generation.

The ad begins with a quote from Richard Shenkman (whoever he is): “What Tom Brokaw did for the Greatest Generation, Leonard Steinhorn does for Baby Boomers. It’s about time someone did.” Yes, because if the baby boom generation has only one great flaw, it’s that it doesn’t spend nearly enough time congratulating itself on its own wonderfulness.

Also from the ad: “The Greatest Generation gets credit for winning World War II and braving the Depression.” This is supposed to be a compliment, but it’s delivered in a backhanded way. You’re meant to bypass the fact winning World War II and braving the Depression were pretty big deals. Because, you know, worrying about your next meal every day for a decade and saving the world aren’t throw away discussions. For that matter, neither were braving the Dust Bowl, surviving influenza pandemics (real ones, not the media created ones we have now), fighting the Korean War, landing on the moon, et cetera. But to linger over those points would take attention away from those who thought Woodstock was the greatest thing ever.

“But the Baby Boomers? All they get credit for is knowing how to order a tall skim double latte.” (Attention coffee elitists: I have no idea what any of that means, and I’m better than you for not knowing.) “Summoning the amazing sea changes they’ve made in American culture, this controversial book recasts the much-maligned Boomers as a Greater Generation with a lasting under-appreciated legacy.” Such as? Thought you’d never ask.

“Farewell, Donna Reed: ‘For women, the Baby Boom era has been one of breathtaking change – in a single generation, American woman have effected one of the greatest social metamorphoses in recorded history.’” (Don’t they mean herstory?) That it has. Also, that generation of women helped construct the greatest unbroken string of uncontained selfishness the world has known since Romans finally found it necessary to build vomitoriums to contain their excesses. Boomers were the first generation to make social arrangements (i.e., marriages) they had no intention of honoring and produce children they had no intention of raising properly. The social implications of these have been devastating and have become permanent, but no matter – the important thing is that they shrugged off Donna Reed, the nuclear family and Mom’s apron.

“So long, Archie Bunker. The egalitarian norms of the Baby Boom generation have deeply changed men and will continue to do so for generations to come.” Good point. It also bred a tens-of-millions strong pack of prancing ninnies, emotionally crippled metrosexuals and fatally emasculated mama’s boys, rendered so useless from combinations of their own passive aggression and guilt for things their ancestors may have done, they can barely manage the strength to read another self-help book telling them how awful they are.

There were two good things about Archie Bunker’s bigotry: First, it forced other males around him to become better men and behave like them. Second, he was forthrightly honest about his beliefs, no matter how wrong they were. Neither of these things can be said about Boomer males, eternally self-centered, inner-child seekers.

“Diversity as a Moral Value: Boomers have led a culture war to ‘upend the rigid social structure of the Fifties and challenge centuries of entrenched norms and attitudes about race, ethnicity, religion, and sexuality.’” They sure have. Unless, of course, we’re talking about white Catholics. Boomers seem to have gone out of their way to vilify and devalue white Catholicism, even at the expense of elevating things like bomb-strapping Arabs, for no good reason beyond the fact their folks were white Catholics, and they still feel the childish need to rebel against anything remotely connected to their parents.

Oh, and if you’re looking for an update on how that sexual social engineering is working out, flip to page 167 of the same Atlantic Monthly and read Caitlin Flanagan’s utterly horrifying essay about younger and younger girls and their thinking absolutely nothing of orally pleasing younger and younger boys.

You get the point. Leonard Steinhorn is a nitwit, and I hope his book fails spectacularly, though I know it will be a wild success. It has to be, because it’s all about them – it’s always been about them, and don’t you forget it.

31 January 2006


Just Sit Through the Whole Thing ...


What begins as horror slowly blends into acceptance and then finally into the best laugh you've had in months.

Thursday's Update on Sunday: Lincoln Blog & MFW / TGO Radio / Assorted Nonsense

The blog at the Lincoln’s Tomb website has been updated; read the latest. It will be frequently updated, so check back.

Over the last two days, I wrote two magnificent, long pieces for that blog, each detailing various research materials that had arrived, others I would be seeking out … one even had the meaning of life snuck in there at the end. Both vanished into the ether. The first was because the power blinked off and on here at the Camp, thus all was lost. No one to blame there; I could only get mad to a point.

Sunday morning, though, between 3am and 4.20am, I wrote another very long entry about the same subjects, employing the “quick blog” service made available by my web hosting company. After 80 minutes I hit the save button and … was promptly directed back to the login page; all was lost. The term “motherless fucking whores” was sprinkled around quite liberally as I worked out exactly who I was going to kill at this company, making sure to plan it so that each death will be more gruesome than the last. (I will not name this company, but will henceforth refer to them only as MFW.)

By he way, I did call Saturday and paid MFW a certain amount of money so that the advertising could be removed from the blog at the Lincoln’s Tomb site. And it’s still there.

A red car just pulled up to the corner and parked. I can see it outside the window … I think the guy driving is getting oral. Well done.

I am told Jeff will be able to offer me a start date for TGO Radio (season two) after this weekend. I was also told that last weekend.

If you're reading this on Sunday, you're violating the very sanctity of International Internet-Free Day. And you should feel shame. Shame.

From the It's Not Mere Stupidity, It's Darwinism File: Tamra Eason paid for a tattoo from a door-to-door tattoo artist, who was using a homemade gun, and got sick. And you just know she has children ... and you just know that we're somehow paying for them.

"A prostitute who bit her client's penis so hard he required an operation has denied grievous bodily harm with intent .... Louise Jowett carried out the attack because Brett O'Leary... told her he had no more money to give her after already paying her for sex."

"A professor from chair of quantum and optical electronics of the Ulyanovsk State University in western Russia has patented a method of making things invisible, Interfax news agency reported." Sure he has. Why do I have a feeling there's an old Delorian involved?

"About 25 years ago, Ron Stallworth was asked to lead the Ku Klux Klan chapter in Colorado Springs. Problem was, the outgoing Klan leader didn't know that Stallworth is black."

Still avoiding Iraq? Yep.


Column: "Lingering Thoughts on Gonzales v. Oregon"

One: At first, the Bush administration (via John Ashcroft) opposed Oregon’s assisted suicide law because it violated the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), which holds that prescription drugs should only be used for “legitimate medical purposes.” Quoting the Supreme Court’s ruling in Gonzales v. Oregon: “In 2001, the Attorney General issued an Interpretive Rule to address the implementation and enforcement of the CSA with respect to [Oregon’s assisted suicide law], declaring that using controlled substances to assist suicide is not a legitimate medical practice and that dispensing or prescribing them for this purpose is unlawful under the CSA.”

When Scott McClellan was asked for reaction to the Supreme Court ruling, he said President Bush “remains fully committed to building a culture of life.” I know of no conservative (myself included) who doesn’t believe America would do well to more fully implement a culture of life. But if the goal was to build a culture of life, why bring the CSA into it? Or, if the goal was to enforce the CSA, why mention a culture of life? The answer: Invoking the CSA was a means to an end, and nothing more. If the administration believed it could work an assisted suicide ban through both the Congress and the people, it would have. Instead it sicked Ashcroft on Oregon in an attempt to set precedent, and failed.

Two: Oregon’s Department of Human Services (DHS) is lawfully obligated to report the State’s medically assisted suicides. In its last report (dated March 2005, covering 2004), DHS put the number at 208 since the law was enacted, compared to 64,706 who died “from the same underlying diseases.” Two hundred eight is a large enough number, but not nearly as large as it could have been … 208 means that 99.997 percent of patients allowed the same option, for lack of a better term, chose life. Oregonians may have more respect for life (at least in this regard) than we realize.

Three: Conservatives are pro-life but don’t spend much time thinking about quality of life. Before a rather serious hip reconstruction a decade ago, I was asked to fill out a living will. In it I wrote that if everything in the world went wrong, “no outstanding attempt should be made to save my life.” There I conceded life to quality of life and was relieved that, as an adult, I could make that choice. The universal acceptance of living wills and “do not resuscitate” orders speaks directly to the individual’s inherent desire to be left alone to choose his fate (at least to the extent he can actually choose); I applaud those initiatives.

Of the conservatives vehemently opposed to medically assisted suicide, very few have ever felt the sort of crippling, long-term physical pain that makes death preferable. Conservatives are right to be pro-life, and we’re right to lend such great credence to Man’s will to survive, but by the time someone can look into your eyes and honestly say they are so crippled with disease and pain they would rather be dead, well, who am I to say they’re not so crippled?

Honestly, I’ve always been divided on the question of physician assistance, but not on the finer point of self-determination. Generally speaking, if measures can be taken to prevent brain splatter (i.e., from self-inflicted gunshot wounds), I support them.

Four: On the other hand, I once had occasion to sit across a table from a few pro-assisted suicide advocates who flatly explained that their goal was to one day be able to put down children with Downs Syndrome (among other conditions) because it was the compassionate thing, a quality of life issue. I asked, “What if Downs Syndrome is their only ailment and they’re otherwise happy children?” The answer (so help me): Well, they don’t know they’re suffering, but they’re suffering, trust us. Dumbfounded I replied, “What’s the difference between that and eugenics?”

You know, I never did get an answer to that question. Probably because there is no difference. Thankfully, this idiocy is narrowly focused; it will never range much beyond the hundred dolts who believe it at any given time. (All of whom I’m sure will somehow find this column and feel the need to address my concerns at Dickensian length. Save it, I’m busy.)

Five: Someone asked, “What about God? God frowns on suicide.” Okay, but mind your own business. Make your peace with the Lord and allow others to make theirs, or not make theirs.

27 January 2006


And The Next Book Will Be ...

... Lincoln's Tomb.

"Why I Chose Lincoln's Tomb"
In Dissent; Number Two Hundred Fourteen
Tuesday, 24 January 2006

The reader will please forgive this departure from the ordinary and tolerate an announcement: Following some deep thought and a meeting with Jennifer Bednarek (my newly minted lead researcher), I am proud to announce that my next book will be called Lincoln’s Tomb. It will follow Abraham Lincoln’s corpse on its 36-year journey from the Peterson house (where he died, across the street from Ford’s Theatre) to Oak Ridge Cemetery in Springfield, Illinois, whereupon it was fought over, repeatedly inspected, moved over a dozen times and nearly kidnapped for ransom before finally being laid to rest in 1901.

I will now take questions.

Question: Why Abraham Lincoln?
Answer: Well, I figured that if Doris Kearns Goodwin can plagiarize herself a Lincoln book, I could too. But seriously, I’ve always had this amateur historian’s crush on Lincoln, and once I decided that I just couldn’t dedicate another whole book to my own opinions, he seemed like a logical next step. In many ways, I believe this is the book I was born to write.

Question: Doesn’t following Lincoln’s corpse through history seem a little morose?
Answer: “Morose” is one way to say it. Another is that I’ll be writing about things generally not included in popular Lincoln timelines. I took the time to ask around a little … no one I approached knew that Mary Lincoln threatened to have her husband’s body entombed in Chicago, by Lake Michigan. Or that a photo of Lincoln’s corpse (in its coffin) actually exists, despite Secretary of War Edwin Stanton’s insistence all the plates and prints be destroyed. Or that in 1876, a counterfeit ring planned to kidnap the body and bury it in a northern Indiana sand dune until their top engraver was released from Joliet State Prison, and they received $200,000. Most people’s knowledge of the story ends when Booth is cornered and killed, which is fine, because Lincoln’s Tomb will fill the gaps.

Question: Are we talking about an epic production, or a flyover of little known facts?
Answer: No, Lincoln’s Tomb won’t be 800 pages long. But it won’t be a fluff piece, either. My goal is to cram as much valuable, interesting and obscure knowledge into as few pages as possible. An epic doesn’t interest me; I want something palatable.

Question: So, where are we in the process?
Answer: Right now I’m working on a rough outline; hardcore research begins in about a month. Research will continue until I’m content – contentment has no timeline. Once I’m satisfied with the quality of research gathered, writing will begin. First, I will write two chapters and a complete book proposal, which I will shop to reputable publishers while completing the first draft. If I were an interested reader, I wouldn’t plan on seeing a completed work anytime soon. In fact, I wouldn’t plan on seeing anything before 2008.

Question: That’s a long time. What’s an interested reader to do, assuming he doesn’t want to wait two years?
Answer: In the very near term, interested readers can visit the Lincoln’s Tomb page at BrianWise.com. There they will find basic information and a link to an e-mail address where they can suggest specific research materials. Sometime between now and the end of February, LincolnsTombBook.com will open – it will function as a blog until just before the book is completed. There readers will be able to find frequent updates as to the progress of the book itself, what topics are being investigated and what materials are being gathered, et cetera.

Question: In addition to Lincoln’s Tomb, you’ll be writing two opinion columns a week and beginning the second season of your Internet radio show. What’s your contingency plan for burnout?
Answer: Jennifer doesn’t know it yet, but I’ll be leaving instructions with her that she’s to finish the book after it kills me. Other than that, there is no contingency plan.

Question: Say, isn’t it self-serving to dedicate a column to your decision to write another book?
Answer: Yes, now that you mention it, it’s remarkably self-serving. Luckily, I have no one to impress in this business, so I’ll carry about with my little space any way I see fit. Besides, I didn’t really think about anything else this last week, what else was I going to do?


GO BRONCOS! / "TGO 6" / TGO Radio

The IM discussion with researcher Jennifer Bednarek now completed, and my choice made, I can announce that my next book will be ... unveiled in my Tuesday column.

TGO Radio Season Two has been given the unofficial / official greenlight to begin sometime in either late February or early March. As hinted, the new version of the show will work in seasons, meaning twelve weeks on and four weeks off, and along with the usual brand of pallet cleansing nonsense, the new show will feature a sports segment, Old School and current songs and recurring segments like "Out of Context Audio" and "Great Moments in Porn History."

Some of my fellow conservatives have previously expressed concern that I would endanger my reputation by involving myself with a thing like TGO Radio, which - no matter how funny it may be - frequently delves into unconservative territory. And I understand those concerns. Allow me to explain it this way: Given the fact I'll be working on a very large new book and releasing two opinion columns a week (I will try very hard to release two a week, but cannot promise I won't slip up here or there), TGO Radio will be the release that keeps me from opening fire at a McDonald's because they won't serve me breakfast five minutes before breakfast is supposed to end. (Half of you get that reference; and I thank you.)

You unwind your way, I'll unwind mine. But if you're still very concerned about things like this, I invite you to not listen and otherwise mind your own fucking business. See you Tuesday.


Thursday Update: New Book (TGO 6) / IM Meetings / Lunches and TGO Radio / Columns / "The Boondocks", et cetera

I have narrowed next book (which I'm calling "TGO 6" until everything comes into focus) ideas down to a solid four. Sometime this Saturday, Jennifer and I will have an instant message chat about the new project ... the frontrunner would take, by my estimation, about two years to complete (researching and writing), and I have great doubts whether I can dedicate myself to such a task. Though I can make no promises, word may come as early as next week.

Jeff (former co-host with me on the legendarily ill-fated TGO Radio show) and I are having lunch Friday ... I haven't spoken to him for months, for personal reasons I chalk up to his disrespecting me. I plan on breaching the subject of TGO Radio ... if writing work gets as serious and extensive as I think it might, TGO Radio would be a great distraction, but I'm not going to press the point.

For those of you unfamiliar with TGO Radio (that's all of you), I'll be spending some of this weekend working on a greatest hits package, which will be posted somewhere soon. Yes, it will include the Pat O'Brien sex call tape. Further updates as they warrant.

Have to get to work on tomorrow's column, scheduled to be about the Oregon suicide law / Supreme Court decision. Here's a quick update to keep your levels even.

Saturday, 21 January at 11pm Eastern is your next chance to see "Return of the King," the ninth episode in The Boondocks cartoon series. The premise: Martin Luther King, having been shot in Memphis, lives but slips into a coma, from which he awakens in October 2000. The episode follows his life through the following few years, including his becoming a social pariah after 9/11 and his finally slamming the popular black culture when he can't take it anymore. This is an utterly brilliant 22 minutes of television, one of my favorite episodes of any television show I've seen in the last year. Watch - 11pm on Adult Swim, the late night function of cartoon Network.

eBay bargain of the week: Bid on this man's "Slut bag ex-girlfriend." Genius.

"A nude tourist was arrested at the international airport in Cancun, Mexico as she tried to raise funds for her return airline ticket by stripping in the terminal and asking for money from other tourists." And why not?

Another reason to dislike France: "Concern that French children's attitude to sex is being warped by early exposure to hardcore pornography was exacerbated yesterday when eight adolescent boys were placed under formal judicial investigation for the gang rape of a 15-year-old classmate.

"Details of the alleged crime, in a relatively upmarket district of France's second city, Lyons, emerged the day after the publication of a survey estimating that nearly half of France's children had seen an adults-only sex film by the time they were 11."

Ever think of exacting revenge against someone by sticking a nasty bumper sticker on their car? I don't ... I just keep a list of people I plan on torturing via the telephone, and their numbers. But if you'd like to go the bumper stucker route, may I suggest Sticker Revenge?


Column: "Thinking About Iran"

Liberal understanding of America’s enemies has never extended much beyond Sting’s old song “Russians” – “There is no historical precedent to put the words in the mouth of the president [meaning Reagan] / There’s no such thing as a winable war / It’s a lie we don’t believe anymore” – which is why grown-ups ignore them at crucial times, like when Iran insists on furthering its nuclear program.

Of course, by the time “What should we do about Iran?” became the dominant question, it was too late to do much. Those who believe the United Nations should be instrumental in handling Iran are the same who thought it could comfortably manage Saddam Hussein; fat chance. Given that much of Iran’s nuclear program lies underground, a common air strike (think Israel’s against Iraq in 1981) may not do the trick. Employing bunker-busting bombs could suggest something greater than is actually intended – imagine trying to convince the American Left and the Arab Middle East that war hasn’t been declared when you’re dropping 5,000 pound bombs armed with 4,400 pound warheads. And if Iran should declare war itself, well, then we’re stuck.

Writing for Atlantic Monthly (December 2005), Terrence Henry outlines the little known history of sabotage and assassinations carried out against those aiding Iraq in its pursuit of nuclear weapons. “Iraq bought the cores for the Osirak reactor from France. Originally they were to be shipped to Iraq in April 1979, but shortly before their departure an explosion ripped through the warehouse that held them. An organization calling itself the French Ecological Group, which had never been heard of before (and hasn’t been heard of since), claimed responsibility. Shipment was delayed six months while the cores were repaired.”

That was just the beginning. In 1980, Iraqi nuclear scientist Yahya al-Meshad “arrived in France to test fuel for the reactor. The morning he was to return home a maid entered his Paris hotel room and found that he had been stabbed and bludgeoned to death.” (A prostitute who had seen Meshad the night before was later killed in a hit-and-run car accident.) Henry continues, “Soon afterward workers at firms supplying parts for the reactor began to receive threatening letters …. Bombs went off at the offices of one of the firms, in Italy, and at the home of the company’s director-general. Over the next several months two more Iraqi nuclear scientists died in separate poisoning incidents …. [M]ost experts today believe that Mossad – Israel’s secret service – was behind each of them, though it has never claimed responsibility.”

Americans and Israelis are safe in assuming their countries have covert operations ongoing in and around Iran, but as Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s ramblings become more and more demented (if you can imagine), one wonders how well those efforts are serving us. (It’s clear the “Iranian youth movement,” which we’ve been preening and goading into action for decades now, is one of the all-time great paper tigers and irrelevant to this process.) There’s no denying the fact covert operations and open negotiations are necessary tools in times like these – even if they preclude the continuous carpet bombings of illegitimate third world regimes we all love so much. There’s also no denying that on this question, the civilized world (minus Russia, which one can hardly call “civilized” anymore) is fully on our side, at least as far as United Nations involvement is concerned. (China is a “maybe” in the security council, given its $70 billion natural gas contract with Iran.)

Increasingly, though, it’s becoming obvious Iran is typical of its breed and will one day become America’s toilet to flush. Some have argued (I am one) that the instant it took American hostages, Iran should have been pimp slapped back into its proper place and held firmly in check. (As it turned out, Carter intended for those hostages to be donations, but we got them back anyway.) It wasn’t, and in the intervening years Iran has watched the United States correct a great number of injustices around the world, including two of its Middle Eastern neighbors, taking no small note of the fact it has escaped real scrutiny.

Others have argued that by furthering its nuclear program, guaranteeing a Bomb will be sent into Israel and supporting Iraq insurgents, Iran is already too uppity for its own good. No argument here, but diplomacy must be allowed to run its course. That way, when bombs finally do start falling on Tehran, no one can say America didn’t try to make it right.

17 January 2006


Thursday Update

Everyone welcome Jennifer Bednarek to Team TGO. Late Tuesday night, she accepted my offer to become my (first!) lead researcher. Jennifer is a graduate of Indiana University and a resident of New Orleans; she’s also two of the three brightest women I’ve ever known, so I’m delighted to have her on board.

Details: “lead researcher” will not be one of those empty titles people bestow on others to make them feel good about themselves (e.g., air waitresses became stewardesses; secretaries became administrative assistants, et cetera). Sometime soon – I keep pushing it back; I’m thinking late February or early March – I will get around to announcing the details of my next book. In April, when the formal research process for this mystery book begins, I will be doing my share, but Jennifer will be leading the charge. This will leave me time to research and write the twice-weekly opinion column (both longer processes than you would think).

Jennifer has yet to accept my financial terms – i.e., she won’t take my money – but I’ll talk her into it.

Update on The End of Civilization: Watch CNBC (and you should), you’ll see they have two crawls at the bottom of their screen. The top crawl is for stock prices, the bottom crawl is for news … it must mean something when CNBC reported that Brad Pitt has planted a bastard inside Angelina Jolie, but for the life of me, I can’t figure out what that thing is. Let me just say this: I won’t believe it until I see a DNA test. You won’t convince me that baby isn’t actually her brother’s …

Someone call Bill (The Falafel) O’Reilly: A 99-year-old sex offender has been released from jail.

An Egyptian cleric has said that if Arabs are naked during sex, the marriage is null and void. “According to the religious edict is issued by Rashad Hassan Khalil … ‘being completely naked during the act of coitus annuls the marriage.’ “

Islam: Catch it!

You Can Still Stun Gun Kids in Florida. Goddamn! If I had an assistant I’d say, Pack my bags! But since I don’t, I say, I’m hitting the showers.


Column: "Still a Republican? Barely"

“The most politically perilous entitlement mentality congressional Republicans have to rein in is their own,” National Review explained in its 19 December issue. “Michael Scanlon, Republican uber-lobbyist Jack Abramoff’s crooked colleague, has agreed to plead guilty to a conspiracy that showered gifts on lawmakers and their aides allegedly in return for official favors. He is now cooperating with the three dozen investigators and prosecutors in the Abramoff case who are reportedly examining the actions of at least six members of Congress and several senior House aides …. It seems the corrupt chickens and coming home to roost in the Republicans’ too cozy coup. If the GOP leadership fails to take the initiative and clean up the House, the voters should do it for them.”

“The voters should do it for them.” That phrase has been bouncing around my head for a week. Three months ago I would have said the Republican party’s problems outside Iraq were manageable and didn’t necessarily mean we had to sacrifice the majority. But now I’m not so sure – not only unsure, but starting to think that a good drubbing in November may be the thing to get federal Republicanism back on track.

I say “federal Republicanism” because those weaknesses plaguing Congressional Republicans don’t exist in the grass roots. Rank-and-file Republicans have yet to veer substantially off the traditional course: They still want lower taxes, smaller government, non-activist courts, an end to abortion, border enforcement, free markets, schools to teach students without indoctrinating them, a defense policy with teeth and the weaponry to back it up. Basically the same things they’ve wanted since Buckley slapped Yale.

Federal Republicanism ensured some of those, but subsequently erased excess goodwill with decisions having nothing to do with Jack Abramoff. In announcing $50 billion in “spending cuts” over five years, Congressional Republicans acted as though they had accomplished something significant, when in fact they had merely attempted to plug a ruptured dam with someone’s pinky finger. In supporting the Medicare prescription drug benefit, they set into motion a program that, even if run as efficiently as humanly possible, is designed to fail (like all federal entitlements) and will likely need to be reformed before 2020. Federal Republicanism has failed its constituents on the borders, school choice, farm subsidies, “torture” legislation … luckily, it had Terry Schiavo and Christmas figured out. Too bad neither was Congress’ business.

With Jack Abramoff, Newt Gingrich has found the issue that will launch his presidential campaign: Republicanism is settling into business as usual, Democrat style, and must force change in order to survive. “The Republican party has to be party of reform to make any sense,” Gingrich said on The Laura Ingraham Show last Thursday morning. “Abramoff, by any honorable, working standards of normal people who listen to your show … is totally unacceptable. It’s a despicable series of stunningly dishonest things, and I think it calls for very major, very significant reform.” But more to the point, “No lobbyist is corrupt unless there’s a member of Congress or a Congressional staffer who’s corrupt. This is a team experience …. Abramoff is a symptom of the system, he’s not the problem.”

Yes, there are Democrats on the Abramoff list. Yes, Harry Reid is refusing to return $47,000 while President Bush has returned $6,000. No, not every Congressional Republican on the list is guilty of something illegal, or even shameful. But outside Washington DC, there’s a palpable sense of unease, and it’s growing: This isn’t the party we elected, and it’s not the party we want – even one crooked Republican is one too many. Grass roots Republicans want to remain Republicans, but how else are they supposed to communicate their displeasure with the federal party’s current course? Vote for Democrats?

There are the usual ways: Withholding donations from individual candidates and diverting them to private organizations or religious charities; organizing various forms of written and telephone based protests; supporting reform minded non-incumbents in primary elections, et cetera. But there are those who believe federal Republicanism as currently constructed may already be too far gone and simply not worth saving, even if it means sacrificing the majority for an election cycle or three. For those, Independence – that is, becoming an Independent – is becoming a more popular option than you might think.

The party ignores the possibility at its own peril, though it should remember that irritated constituent bases have been responsible for far worse things than a loss of Congressional control. Bill Clinton’s first term, for example.

10 January 2006

** New update coming Thursday evening.


Large Update

No sooner did I announce that I’d stopped watching Hardball at 3am in favor of the Three Stooges, Spike TV (apparently) stops showing them at 3am. Very nice.

For those of you who missed the original posting: Stalin wanted to create a race of half-man / half-ape super soldiers. “If successful, the plan would have seen humans and chimpanzees cross-breeding to create a new race of ‘living war machines’, which ignored pain and fear and which thrived on hardship.” All relevant civilizations hatch their own wacky plans, but there’s a reason the Soviet Union doesn’t have a flag on the moon, okay?

As I write this, Joe Scarborough is interviewing that blonde woman whose husband died on the Royal Caribbean ship several months ago. (Jennifer Hagel Smith, I guess.) I’m bothered by people’s reluctance to say certain things about this case, namely that it means something when your husband is sleeping in other people’s cabins on your honeymoon, and it means something when you’re not allowed to say where you were sleeping the night your husband died (was it her cabin or three floors about their cabin?) … I’m guessing they’re swingers, and apparently not swingers who can handle their liquor, either. Just remember I made the suggestion.

Did Cubans Assassinate John F. Kennedy? “The Cuban secret service was behind the assassination of President John F Kennedy, according to evidence presented in a new television documentary …. A former agent of the Cuban secret service G2 talks for the first time about how Lee Harvey Oswald, the assassin [Note: “the assassin”], was, he claims, pointed out to the Cubans by the KGB. Oscar Marino, who fell out with the Castro regime, said the Cubans were desperate to eliminate Kennedy, an opponent of the revolution who wanted to kill Castro.”

Invade Cuba! There’s a great column in this … liberals love Castro and third world, toilet totalitarianism, and they hate American displays of strength, but they also revere Kennedy, so it’s a toss-up as to where they stand on the question of exacting some revenge on Castro’s scalp.

Help build the longest page in Internet history. From left to right, this guy is hoping to build a website that measures a mile long at its finish. I think I’m going to submit a pic for The Unabrian Manifesto.

A bakery devoted to dogs has opened in Paris. Of course it has.

I’m still not sure if this is a real article, but it has been determined that candy corn is the “most insertable” of all popular candy types.

The Third World: Catch it!

Nominees for the White Trash Hall of Fame. “Mom, 13, is ruled a sex crime offender …. But she is also a victim; a boy, then 12, fathered her baby, and he is also a victim and perpetrator.” Why do I get the feeling I’m somehow paying for this?

This Explains a Lot About Certain Writers I Know: Creative types have three times as many lovers as other people.

Take a Joke: The Iron Hymen.

Welcome ACLU & Friday's New Column

It didn't take this new blog long to attract the right kind of attention ... while checking the stats Friday morning, I learned that someone from the ACLU dropped by to read my column, "The ACLU's Wiretap Shuffle." Welcome, ACLU! I look forward to educating you further in the future. As you can see, whoever came to read the column did not leave any comment, which is too bad. God, I can only hope it's a matter of time before I'm being slandered by Media Matters.

Here's today's column. A full update will be coming later in the day Friday.

"Media Driven Irritation"

Remember in 1992 when that senseless child asked Bill Clinton about his underwear on MTV? In The Unabrian Manifesto, I wrote that this was the moment Mature America rolled its eyes, knowing it had just witnessed the end of civilization. I couldn’t have been more wrong. As it turned out, the actual end of civilization came a couple weeks ago when The Wall Street Journal reported about hymen reconstruction surgery on its front page.

“For her 17th wedding anniversary, Jeanette Yarborough wanted to do something special for her husband,” reported the Journal. “In addition to planning a hotel getaway for the weekend, Ms. Yarborough paid a surgeon $5,000 to reattach her hymen, making her appear to be a virgin again. ‘It’s the ultimate gift for the man who has everything,’ says Ms. Yarborough, 40 years old, a medical assistant from San Antonio.”

Trust me, it takes a lot of reading about Best Buy’s stock performance and the 1918 influenza pandemic before “hymenoplasty” shakes loose from the front of your consciousness. Finally, that irritation was replaced with others, all involving the West Virginia coal miner story.

Near as I could tell, Anderson Cooper was the first to report that 12 miners had died while one had lived, not vice versa. Cooper was interviewing a woman named Lynette Roby, who was in a nearby church as Governor Manchin and the miner’s families were informed of the awful misunderstanding. After spending a few minutes trying to get his head around what he was hearing, Cooper turned his microphone toward the nine-year-old girl at Ruby’s right. Was she in the church, too? Oh, yes.

For this, Cooper ought to be drummed out of the Society of Pointless Television Personalities. The first rule of television journalism should be that you never – never – interview a child when it has borne witness to a tragedy, not even if that interview lasts five seconds. Child interviews are for stories about dogs who are lost on vacation and somehow traverse the 500 miles home, or nauseating games and fads, not when they’ve seen people’s lives fall apart. Unlike her brother, who horned into the conversation near the end, this girl was merely standing there … in a perfect world, she wouldn’t be standing there at all, but Anderson Cooper should know better than to break terrible news across small faces.

About three o’clock Wednesday morning, International Coal Group (ICG) President Ben Hatfield gave a press conference and tried his best. After reading his statement, Hatfield took questions from the assembled press and was asked how he was feeling (as though it mattered). Hatfield said the media was witnessing the worst day of his life, but not long after, one of the McJournalists asked: Well, if this is the worst day of your life, how do you think the families are feeling?

Hatfield couldn’t have uttered the proper answer (“I would imagine a damn sight worse than I am, you ass”) without causing an uproar about “corporate insensitivity” and “managerial thoughtlessness,” or whatever popular vernacular media uses to describe spontaneous bursts of honest reaction.

But the popular vernacular somehow always becomes credible, which is why fewer and fewer people still know the difference between lies and mistakes. This was spectacularly displayed by the man who said “[ICG] straight out lied to millions of people watching. And the families here, as you can tell, there’s probably 20,000 people waiting for good news and we got it. And it was nothing but lies.” No one batted an eye.

Now, no reasonable person believes the report of 12 living miners should have been leaked, and no reasonable person believes ICG was right to wait nearly three hours before correcting the misconception. But reasonable people absolutely cannot say ICG lied to the families; not as long as they know the initial misunderstanding took place between a first responder in the mine and those closer to the surface.

Meanwhile, who will accuse the Washington Post of lying to its readers Wednesday morning? “At St. Joseph’s Hospital, a second-floor wing was cleared in anticipation of the surviving miners’ arrival, spokeswoman Lisa Turner said. She said the miners were first being seen by emergency medical workers in a heated tent near the mine’s opening. There, oxygen levels were being measured, IVs for hydration were available and blood could be drawn for testing.”
“Were” or “would have been”? When it was Mitch Albom, this type of lie mattered a great deal. But when it’s the Washington Post, hardly anyone notices. Above everything else, that’s why I’m irritated.
06 January 2006


The Book Cover That Should Have Been

Column: The ACLU's Wiretap Shuffle

I’ve stopped watching Hardball. Normally I’d tune in for the 3am Eastern showing, but I’ve switched to the Three Stooges on Spike TV (called “the first network for men” when, in fact, ESPN was the first network for men). This is partly because I’ve been thinking of writing a Stooges biography, but mostly because I figured Mo Howard couldn’t make any less sense than Chris Matthews, who I think lost his mind somewhere between Abu Ghraib and the disclosure of President Bush’s wiretapping order.

Still, I lamented Matthews’ being on vacation when the ACLU published its ad in the New York Times last Thursday comparing President Bush to Richard Nixon. For those who haven’t seen the ad, it features pictures of both Nixon and Bush – to the right of Nixon are the words, “He lied to the American people and broke the law.” And next to Bush, “So did he.” Each is accompanied with quotes seemingly backing up the accusation; Nixon’s about having no prior knowledge of Watergate, Bush’s about his administration obtaining court orders before wiretapping.

The ad reads: “What should we do when the U.S. President lies to us and breaks the law? Congress must thoroughly investigate these lies and renew its bipartisan commitment to our Constitution’s system of checks and balances. A special counsel must be appointed to determine whether oaths of office were broken and federal laws violated through the Bush NSA spying program. Because it’s not about promoting a political agenda. It’s about preserving American democracy.”

This is the language of an organization that simply Can’t Take It Anymore – kind of what Ted Kennedy sounds like right before he gets all loud and twitchy. Nonetheless, the ACLU does raise an interesting question: What should the American people do when their president lies to them?

First, the American people must accept that not all lies are frivolous; sometimes presidents have to lie, because to not lie would prove more detrimental. The ACLU ad quotes Bush from an April 2004 stump speech … I’m unsure how wiretapping came into it, but ongoing efforts to preempt terrorism would have been dealt a staggering blow had the president admitted to working around the FISA court to monitor Americans speaking to known terrorists or terrorist organizations. It was better for Bush to say, “Yes, we are obtaining warrants” and leave it at that than give the enemy, foreign or domestic, a strategic heads up.

The American people must also understand that the federal government doesn’t care enough about them to monitor their calls to Pizza Hut. Frankly, anyone worried about the government listening to their phone calls are flattering themselves into thinking they’re interesting enough to warrant the attention. Sure, government is willing to subsidize your old age, your grocery shopping and your bastard children, but by no means does it care what Bobby said to Britney in fifth period English. (As though schools still teach English!) The Bush wiretaps make up a statistically insignificant percentage of all calls made and received during any given time period you can possibly name; no matter what the tinfoil hats say, the feds aren’t looking for you. Period.

Still unsettled? George Washington University posts National Security Agency documents online; among them is the United States Signals Intelligence Directive (USSID), issued 27 July 1993. (All emphasis in the following quotes is original.) “In emergency situations, DIRNSA / CHCSS [Director, National Security Agency / Chief, Central Security Service] may authorize the COLLECTION of information to, from or about a U.S. PERSON who is outside the UNITED STATES when securing the prior approval of the Attorney General is not practical because: a) The time required to obtain such approval would result in the loss of significant FOREIGN INTELLIGENCE and would cause substantial harm to the national security. b) A person’s life or physical safety is reasonably believed to be in immediate danger. c) The physical security of a defense installation or government property is reasonably believed to be in immediate danger.”

Furthermore, DIRNSA / CHCSS may undertake emergency collection of information if “there is probable cause that the TARGET meets one of the following criteria: a) A person who, for or on behalf of a FOREIGN POWER, is engaged in clandestine intelligence activities (including covert activities intended to affect the political or governmental process), sabotage, or INTERNATIONAL TERRORIST activities, or activities in preparation for INTERNATIONAL TERRORIST activities, or who conspires with, or knowingly aids and abets a person engaging in such activities.”

On page 14, “foreign power” is defined in one of six ways (a through f). The fourth and fifth definitions are: “a group engaged in INTERNATIONAL TERRORISM or activities in preparation therefore,” and “a foreign-based political organization, not substantially composed of UNITED STATES PERSONS.”

Doubtful the ACLU (or Senator Boxer, for that matter) has considered the finer legal points; it depends on your not knowing or thinking about them when asking you to demand a special counsel. Do yourself these favors: Read everything President Bush has said about the wiretaps since the New York Times broke the story; then read USSID. If you remain genuinely uncomfortable with the process, I say: Call or write your representatives and demand a special counsel. I know it’s hard to believe, but sometimes the federal government does undertake specific actions in our best interest … President Bush is confident in saying this is one of the rare examples, and for once I agree with him.

03 January 2006

New Column / "The Unabrian Manifesto"

My first column of the new year, "The ACLU's Wiretap Shuffle," is now posted at BrianWise.com. (Greetings to those of you who have arrived at the blog by reading the new column at an affiliate.) A slight change was made to the official version; one word, "following," was deleted. It was used, correctly, later in the same sentence and should have been deleted in the first place.

Later today (Tuesday), I will post the new column here, complete with links to reference materials.

While you're bumping around the Internet today, don't forget to download, read or investigate The Unabrian Manifesto, my new book available as a free download. Traffic to the book has been slow to say the least, but I haven't exactly been promoting it, so I expect things to pick-up once the "In Dissent" column is back into its old schedule.

Blog-wise, things will be hopping in the next few days, so feel free to check back often.