Spiraling Toward Irrelevancy

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


Column: "The Oil No-Brainer"

Friday, 20 June 2008
633 words

The last time oil and gasoline consumption were covered in this space was four years ago, when a gallon of gas was selling for two dollars twelve cents and Americans were out of their minds from righteous indignation. The more outraged among us were scheduling fruitless boycotts, mass-forwarding barely readable, thirteenth generation conspiracy theory emails, and screaming at the top of their lungs about how little the Bush administration was doing to stem the tide. But as was concluded here at the time, “… if the goal [of protests] is to make a financial statement, then conservation at and beyond the gas pump should be your first consideration, and will be your best bet.”

Reader reaction back then often said that conservation was beside the point; some of the objections were so long and twisted the Unabomber was seen convulsing with jealousy. Most lost upon the majority of those doing the screaming was the concept of conservation beyond the gas pump – if you really wanted to move as freely in 2004 as you did in 2001, and your finances didn’t otherwise allow it, sacrifices would have to be made. Sacrifice is not part of the modern American character. The thought seemed to be that prices should just be lower, even if they achieved at the point of a bayonet. Anything except using less.

We needn’t wonder whatever became of those radical nonconformists. Once gas prices started looking and feeling more European, the radicals did what they should have been doing in the first place. The Department of Transportation reports that between November 2007 and April 2008, Americans drove thirty billion fewer miles than normal, the biggest decline since the late 1970s, which is encouraging, but much too late to make any real difference, as we see.

Substitute hosting Glenn Beck’s television show Thursday, Michael Graham asked a question that didn’t get nearly the attention it deserved: If there were suddenly a mass shortage of bread, someone in a position of authority would say, “Make more bread,” and that would be that. Why isn’t this the case with oil? Putting aside the obvious regulatory gymnastics and ideological entanglements that stymie any such process: If you started building the appropriate infrastructure fifty miles off the Florida coast today, five to ten years would pass before a drop of that oil would be available for consumption. Obviously this is a process that should have gotten underway many years ago.

The Left’s answer to demands for increased oil drilling is uniformly, “The United States cannot drill its way out of its energy problems.” Actually, yes it can, and could have been doing so for over a decade now if only Bill Clinton had bothered to exercise the prescience we were assured lingered, as if somehow in-born, with the very fabric of his soul. (Or something.) We can’t drill our way out of this problem quickly, which is a turn-off for a country that expects everything to be done with a sort of fast food efficiency. We absolutely can drill out way out eventually, if only certain elements would stand down and allow progress to be made.

Those opposed to new drilling could make a better, more logical, and modern argument if they would accept the reality of the moment and say, Yes, America must be energy independent and must drill for oil of its own, to fulfill its own needs, but it cannot only drill for oil. Concurrently, those insisting only on drilling must also meet the reality of our times. The strides we’ve made toward alternative fuels et cetera must continue, but at this stage it would be unrealistic to say alternative fuels must be the only game in town. More oil is a no-brainer, if only we can muster the moral courage to move forward.


Tim Russert / The Fag Seat / The Incredible Hulk / James Rosen’s The Strong Man / Stay Classy, Liberal Scum

1) The loss of Tim Russert is as significant a setback to NBC News as I can ever recall, being that he was its smartest host and best interviewer (not to mention a fellow Beloved Buffalo Bills fan). A fervent secular prayer: Please, do not let that Communist, partisan fraud David Gregory ease into the host chair Russert more than capably filled for lo these many years. To promote Gregory would deliver the decapitating blow to a news organization already crippled by its own biases and high-grade inaptitude. Let not that awful network destroy what Tim Russert and his brilliant staff maintained so magnificently. Amen.

2) Friday night at the movies with my son; a sort of last minute development having mainly to do with international conspiracies and grain prices. One row ahead of where we sat, and to our left, sat a group of teenage boys who, despite their floppy, effeminate haircuts and jaunty halloos throughout the fucking aisle, wanted so badly to convince potential onlookers they weren’t queer that they instituted an empty seat between each of them. Apparently, their way of proving their stark raving heterosexuality was to lean way over to talk into each other’s ears during the movie, in a fashion that appeared so blatantly gay I thought of throwing a bottle of Astroglide between the three of them to see if a struggle broke out to determine who would be on bottom first. Well done, new meat.

Back in the day we referred to this gap between seats as the Fag Seat – i.e., “If people see this distance between us, they won’t think we’re gay” – but honestly, I thought the Fag Seat had mostly gone out of style. The last sighting of it at the movies was last year, a space placed between two grown men one row ahead of me; I attributed their arrangement to their NASCAR and Confederate battle flag gear. You know what I’m saying.

But before that, I’d not seen the Fag Seat executed for many years. Spent about fifteen minutes thinking about this…. I need to understand the psychology of someone who believes the Fag Seat settles for eternity the question of their august straightness, about as much as I need to understand the psychology of someone who might see two men sitting together in a movie theatre and automatically assumes they’re lovers.

Anyway, if you can help me out with that, drop me a line. And save all that “societal constructs and its widely held views of homosexuality” bullshit. I’m looking for real, thoughtful analysis here.

3) The movie was The Incredible Hulk, which I enjoyed immensely despite fearing I would hate it immensely.

After spending fifteen minutes thinking about the Fag Seat, I thought of how best to explain my fondness for a movie like The Incredible Hulk while harboring a deep disdain for a critically acclaimed movie such as There Will Be Blood. Though one is tempted to chalk it up to low breeding, the truth is that I long ago developed an equation that translates directly into enjoying a movie. It is:

Despite its plot or genre,
a movie still has to make sense
in order to warrant
proper Suspension of Disbelief.

Now listen: I absolutely am not going to get into longwinded debates with movie dorks as to why There Will Be Blood makes less and less sense as it goes along while The Incredible Hulk remains consistent; they just do. Nor will I debate with anyone the movies I have shitcanned on this blog (e.g., Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End, Spider-Man 3, and Transformers, all of which were truly awful films, and in the case of Pirates, among the worst I’ve ever seen). No Country For Old Men is probably the best movie I’ve seen in five years, and won my award for best movie of 2007 in February (before the Oscars, thank you) – it remains consistent, as all great movies must.

Anyways. As a popcorn flick, The Incredible Hulk is pretty good.

4) James Rosen is one of those guys who has spent the majority of his life obsessed by an event (Watergate), and then the better part of two decades researching all or part of that event (in this case, John Mitchell). His wonderful new book, The Strong Man, covers Mitchell’s ascent through Law and the Nixon administration, then precipitous decline, eventually into prison. A link to The Strong Man can be found at the Dot Com, on the front page’s little “Recent Reading” section, on the left hand side.

5) Cornered by the Falafel last week, Laura Ingraham addressed her absence from talk radio …


… which I link to from Think Progress only because of the lovely, well-intentioned comments immediately following the video. Stay classy, liberal scum.


Column: "Bill Clinton, Vanity Fair, and Old News"

Thursday, 5 June 2008
620 words

You can’t help but defend Bill Clinton sometimes. For whatever else was wrong with the man (and we’re not to forget there’s still a lot wrong with him, both intellectually and emotionally), there were times throughout the 1990s when his thoughtful opponents had to take his side. No, dammit, Bill Clinton didn’t traffic cocaine as governor, and he didn’t impregnate prostitutes, and he had nothing to do with that list of people who “mysteriously died” during his presidency.

Among principled anti-Clintons (I consider myself one), the thinking has always been that when someone is as psychologically stunted as Bill Clinton, there’s no moral cause in making things up about him. Left to his own devices, he will shoot himself in the foot sooner or later, leaving the critic ample opportunity to explain the wound. As far as that goes, Clinton has long been the gift that keeps on giving.

But these days, Bill Clinton more gives the appearance of a somewhat sad, loosely hinged older uncle who just can’t get out of his own way. Everyone is so familiar with his act that the assertion he has an act feels like a non-event, which in one reason why Todd Purdum’s article “The Comeback ID” (for Vanity Fair) is the most unimportant newsworthy item of the campaign season. Too much of it reads like a town cryer yelling about last week’s news. “Clinton chases women! Clinton pardoned criminals and cronies! Clinton hangs out with shady people!” We know, Todd.

Mayhill Fowler’s thoughtful, unbiased questioning of the former president (“Mr. President, what do you think about that hatchet job somebody did on you on Vanity Fair at the end of the race?”) sets two parameters, the first being that “The Comeback ID” was a hit piece, the second that the timing of its release was meant to benefit the Obama campaign.

To the first allegation I’ll admit a preference for clearly defined distinctions between those who report and those who opine; and the two classes should never cross. Employing this standard, Purdum does lapse into opinion making, though not in any significant way until the last section, entitled “A Solitary Man,” where we start reading passages such as “this is Clinton’s most grievous sin, his steady refusal to take grown-up responsibility for the consequences of his own actions.” The entire section carries on like that, managing to be both offsides and old hat. If speculating after someone’s mental fitness is all that turns a simple, somewhat dull, too-long essay into a hit piece, then we hope for the day Mayhill Fowler will passionately declare that Bush on the Couch ought never have been published.

As to the second point, you’d be hard pressed to prove a conspiracy where a magazine of no consequence posts an article in hopes of somehow disrupting two primaries that were foregone conclusions before the polls opened, in a race that was decided weeks ago but remained an open question only because one of the candidates refused to concede reality. This may feel like a put up job to a Clinton partisan, but so would any piece of media, mentioning either Clinton, that didn’t roughly translate into a marriage proposal.

If the end commentary doesn’t lose you, the sourcing will. There’s an awful lot of “a former longtime aide said” and “four former Clinton aides told me,” all of which would be bad enough if it weren’t eclipsed by Purdum’s extraordinary decision to print Hollywood gossip as background (in the rumor of Clinton and Gina Gershon). Under the hands of a competent editor, “The Comeback ID” would have been far better at half the length. As it reads now, it’s merely a frivolous article about a frivolous man.