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Saturday, October 29, 2005
MENDACITY ON THE MARCH
or, ON THE INNOCENCE OF HYENAS


Today, faced with the indictment of one of the inner circle, Resident Bush stood on the White House lawn and said the following:

http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2005/10/20051028-7.html
President's Remarks on the Resignation of Scooter Libby
The South Lawn, 3:51 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT: Today I accepted the resignation of Scooter Libby. Scooter has worked tirelessly on behalf of the American people and sacrificed much in the service to this country. He served the Vice President and me through extraordinary times in our nation's history.

Special Counsel Fitzgerald's investigation and ongoing legal proceedings are serious, and now the proceedings -- the process moves into a new phase. In our system, each individual is presumed innocent and entitled to due process and a fair trial.

While we're all saddened by today's news, we remain wholly focused on the many issues and opportunities facing this country. I got a job to do, and so do the people who work in the White House. We got a job to protect the American people, and that's what we'll continue working hard to do.

I look forward to working with Congress on policies to keep this economy moving. And pretty soon I'll be naming somebody to the Supreme Court.

Thank you all very much.

END 3:53 P.M. EDT
"While we're all saddened by today's news" is an astonishing take on the potential of criminality within the Oval Office (or maybe it's NOT so astonishing). Two stunning bits of hypocrisy were managed in as many minutes.

The first one: "And pretty soon I'll be naming somebody to the Supreme Court."

Doesn't there seem an astonishing innocence in making a statement on the indictment (he was sad) of one of one's closest advisors -- for committing crimes (probably on your own behalf) and finishing with a statement that, BTW, soon you'll be naming one of the nine final arbiters of law itself?

In nearly the same breath?

There is no self-awareness here. It's like giving a speech recruiting nuns and finishing by announcing this weekend's orgy schedule.

A hyena is a hyena without the necessity of self-awareness. A jackal is a jackal, a jackass is a jackass, and a hypocrite, evidently, is simply a hypocrite. It is their nature, and requires no introspection. Such is Bush.

The second whopper was a little more subtle. It was contained in what came after the "remarks" added to this: "I got a job to do, and so do the people who work in the White House. We got a job to protect the American people, and that's what we'll continue working hard to do."

And then he got on the helicopter to Camp David.

To knock off all that "hard work" for the week. (Has anyone occupying the White House ever complained so much about doing so little?)

After all, coming up with such guileless mendacities and stunning contradictions must surely be hard work.

Courage.
.
Friday, October 28, 2005
TODAY'S LITTLE DRAMA
or, THIS WEEK'S SOUND WITH BITE

Here's today's sound bite from KOPT-AM 1600, on the Breakfast with Nancy show. It was great to be back after illness precluded last week's attendance.

Dragnut comes to us from a 1952 radio and a 1967 television broadcast. Any resemblance to actual "Dragnet" episodes or plots, living or dead, is entirely coincidental. This is a work of fiction and any authenticity is entirely coincidental. Any seeming coincidences are entirely coincidental.

It's a 1 meg download. The (knee-slappingly hilarious) piece runs 2:06.
Download the MP3 (right click and "save as"):

http://www.hartwilliams.com/dragnut.mp3

In keeping with our policy of "Tomorrow's news today," this was played a little less than 45 minutes before the indictments were handed down.

Courage.
.
Thursday, October 27, 2005
HARRY AND RETREAT
or, MARTIAN OBSERVATIONS ON FACE-SAVING


Text of Miers' Withdrawal Letter
- By The Associated Press
Thursday, October 27, 2005
(10-27) 07:07 PDT (AP) --

The letter sent to President Bush from Harriet Miers withdrawing her nomination to the Supreme Court, as released by the White House Thursday:

Oct. 27, 2005

Dear Mr. President:

I write to withdraw as a nominee to serve as an Associate Justice on the Supreme Court of the United States. I have been greatly honored and humbled by the confidence that you have shown in me, and have appreciated immensely your support and the support of many others. However, I am concerned that the confirmation process presents a burden for the White House and our staff that is not in the best interest of the country.

As you know, members of the Senate have indicated their intention to seek documents about my service in the White House in order to judge whether to support me. I have been informed repeatedly that in lieu of records, I would be expected to testify about my service in the White House to demonstrate my experience and judicial philosophy. While I believe that my lengthy career provides sufficient evidence for consideration of my nomination, I am convinced the efforts to obtain Executive Branch materials and information will continue.

As I stated in my acceptance remarks in the Oval Office, the strength and independence of our three branches of government are critical to the continued success of this great Nation. Repeatedly in the course of the process of confirmation for nominees for other positions, I have steadfastly maintained that the independence of the Executive Branch be preserved and its confidential documents and information not be released to further a confirmation process. I feel compelled to adhere to this position, especially related to my own nomination. Protection of the prerogatives of the Executive Branch and continued pursuit of my confirmation are in tension. I have decided that seeking my confirmation should yield.

I share your commitment to appointing judges with a conservative judicial philosophy, and I look forward to continuing to support your efforts to provide the American people judges who will interpret the law, not make it. I am most grateful for the opportunity to have served your Administration and this country.

Most respectfully,

Harriet Ellan Miers
URL: http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/n/a/2005/10/27/national/w070220D72.DTL

In the interests of full disclosure, you really ought to know that I have an invisible friend. He may or may not be a pooka*. I don't really know. He does not manifest as a seven-foot-tall rabbit, nor do I tipple more than the very occasional anti-social drink.

[from the film: "POOKA: N. From old Celtic mythology, a fairy spirit in animal form, always very large. The pooka appears here and there, now and then, to this one and that one. A benign but mischievous creature very fond of rumpots, crackpots, and...." But "large" here may not mean "tall."]

I might be literary and suggest that he is my "daemon," as Socrates claimed to have had. I might be pretentious and name-droppy and claim it as the selfsame daemon.
Then again, I could be cute, or psychological, or whimsical. But I will merely be candid: my invisible friend is my invisible valet, Roscoe, who sometimes speaks in a guttural Bronx accent, but, mostly just occasionally asks embarrassing questions.

Over the years, I have been able to divine that Roscoe is a Martian, and, as he studies our species, there is much about human life that confuses or mystifies him, and generally, when he asks a question, I realize that it actually mystifies me, too. But I have never known any other society, and, therefore, the questions that Roscoe asks so innocently often take me a long time to answer.

That's OK, of course. Roscoe seems gifted with infinite patience, but he is persistent.

Today, Roscoe read Harriet Miers letter of withdrawal with me, and asked two questions.

The first one was relatively easy, by Roscoe standards: Isn't there something weird that she spells two of her three names wrong -- "Ellan Miers" instead of "Ellen Myers" -- and the third one's nickname is a man's? ("Harriet" nicknamed "Harry"?)

"I don't know." I said. But I DO know that I will NEVER know.

Roscoe was fine with that.

Then he asked the other question. "She is lying."

"Well, duh, Roscoe. I know that."

"Well, why is she lying?" Roscoe asked.

And you know, the harder I tried to answer that question, the tougher it became. Roscoe's questions are usually disarmingly simple that way. Once he asked me "What are 'please' and 'thank you'?" and it took me a long, long time to come up with a satisfactory answer.

Because as I realized that it didn't fool me, I also realized that it didn't fool any reporter who read it, nor did it fool any of the Senators -- even though Harry was accorded the honor of having her letter read aloud on the floor of the United States Senate by the majority leader, the not-yet-indicted-but-under-investigation Dr. Bill Frist, who wasn't fooled either.

And I realized that no one in the White House had any illusions about it. They knew that it was a lie, and they knew that we knew it was a lie, and that everybody on the face of the Planet (except for a smattering of Limbaugh and Hannity listeners, and various incarceates in mental institutions) knew that it was a lie.

Which only brought me back to Roscoe's profoundly wise little question. If everybody knows that she's lying and she knows it, why lie?

This was a tougher question than it had appeared.

"Get my tennis rackets down from the attic and polish them!" I snapped, and Roscoe left for awhile. It was important, because I needed to think, and didn't need any short, invisible Martian valets interrupting me.

As I pondered, it became even more obscure. Bush's biggest problem was the loss of his credibility. After the War, Katrina, Brownie, FEMA, and now his bold pronouncement just three days ago, on October 24th:
QUESTION: Mr. President, as a newspaper reported on Saturday, is the White House working on a contingency plan for the withdrawal of Harriet Miers' nomination?

BUSH: Harriet Miers is an extraordinary woman. She was a legal pioneer in Texas. She was ranked one of the top 50 women lawyers in the United States on a consistent basis. I understand that people want to know more about her, and that's the way the process should work.

Recently, requests, however, have been made by Democrats and Republicans about paperwork out of this White House that would make it impossible for me and other presidents to be able to make sound decisions.

In other words, they've asked for paperwork about the decision- making process, what her recommendations were. And that would breach very important confidentially, and it's a red line I'm not willing to cross.

People can learn about Harriet Miers through hearings, but we are not going to destroy this business about people being able to walk into the Oval Office and say, Mr. President, here's my advice to you. Here's what I think is important.

And that's not only important for this president, it's important for future presidents. Harriet Miers is a fine person, and I expect her to have a good, fair hearing on Capitol Hill.
Of course, no one believed that one either. And it can't be a coincidence that she was withdrawing "of her own free will" on exactly the same linch-pin that Bush's argument rests on: WE AIN'T GONNA TELL YOU NUTHIN!

So, given that telling the truth is the most important issue in the plummeting public confidence in his administration, why would they float a childishly transparent lie about why Miers was being yanked from the game?

It should be noted that she missed the deadline last night to turn in the do-over of her first, embarrassing take-home test, the questionnaire from the Judiciary Committee.

It didn't help when he appended this howler to the Miers letter:
Bush's Statement After Miers' Withdrawal
- By The Associated Press
Thursday, October 27, 2005
(10-27) 06:33 PDT (AP) --

President Bush's statement after Harriet Miers' withdrew her nomination to the Supreme Court Thursday, as released by the White House:

Today, I have reluctantly accepted Harriet Miers decision to withdraw her nomination to the Supreme Court of the United States.

I nominated Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court because of her extraordinary legal experience, her character, and her conservative judicial philosophy. Throughout her career, she has gained the respect and admiration of her fellow attorneys. She has earned a reputation for fairness and total integrity. She has been a leader and a pioneer in the American legal profession. She has worked in important positions in state and local government and in the bar. And for the last five years, she has served with distinction and honor in critical positions in the Executive Branch.

I understand and share her concern, however, about the current state of the Supreme Court confirmation process. It is clear that senators would not be satisfied until they gained access to internal documents concerning advice provided during her tenure at the White House disclosures that would undermine a president's ability to receive candid counsel. Harriet Miers' decision demonstrates her deep respect for this essential aspect of the constitutional separation of powers and confirms my deep respect and admiration for her.

I am grateful for Harriet Miers' friendship and devotion to our country. And I am honored that she will continue to serve our nation as White House Counsel.

My responsibility to fill this vacancy remains. I will do so in a timely manner.
URL: http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/n/a/2005/10/27/national/w063339D48.DTL

Notice how the Bush statement was released to AP a good half-hour before the Miers letter?

But that was what really bothered me. Why, given their troubles, would they so shamelessly lie, except, perhaps to save face?

But save face to whom?

Worse, Bush had already blanketed the nation (and the world) with his sound-bites about how committed he was to pushing Miers' nomination, and how he wouldn't back down, and would "stay the course" until "final victory is achieved."

Oh. Sorry. That was about Iraq. The first part was about Miers, though.

In order to believe that Harriet Miers backed down to preserve Executive Privilege, and fell on her sword, rather than accept any disclosure of her legal opinions working for the White House, one would have to believe that those running the White House were so insanely stoopid, or drunk with power that they didn't realize that you aren't going to confirm a nominee without some degree of disclosure, and that, Miers of ALL people (since she ran the team that selected her) would know what kind of paper trail was out there, and that it was sufficient to confirm her.
And that level of incompetence and stupidity beggars the imagination. That would imply that this utterly media-driven photo-op White House never bothered asking if Miers was confirmable.

Perhaps it isn't any accident that, being the first nominee ever to turn in the Senate Judiciary questionnaire without any sufficiency of completion, and CONTAINING at least one constitutional mistake in her explication, Miers failed to meet the deadline for turning in her SECOND, redone questionairre. With an entire White House legal staff available, they couldn't manage a decent test?

Good grief.

No, there obviously is a reason that Miers withdraws on the basis of a transparent lie, magnified by Bush's transparent lie in accepting Miers' transparent lie.

But Roscoe, I can't for the life of me figure out what it is. Got those tennis rackets shined up yet? Great. I'm going to keep working on answering your question, but would you do me a favor in the meantime?

Could you repaint the pink lawn flamingoes? The airbrush is in the workshop. I think the paint is in the shed. And I'll keep working on your question. It's a toughie, that's for sure.

You could say that it's about "saving face." That's where you keep 168,000 troops in a foreign country, dying a little at a time, because you can't admit that you made a mistake.

But why would you save face by publicly lying to all and sundry, all over the world that Miers withdrew all on her own, without any discussion with you, and not in the face that the Right Wing of your party went ballistic when you picked one of the least-qualified nominees that we've ever seen in US history.

That seems more embarrassing than face-saving.

So, Roscoe, I'm going to keep working on it. But don't expect an answer until well after the flamingoes are dry.

Sometimes having an invisible Martian valet can really suck.

Courage.
.
Wednesday, October 26, 2005
YESTERDAY'S BLOG EXPLAINED
or, A QUESTION OF PRIORITIES

Yes. Well, as I tend to do in my fiction, it was too subtle by half for a significant chunk of our readership. So, perhaps a "skeleton key" might be in order.

There are (intentionally) two ways of interpreting the central thesis:

First: if we're going to treat sex offenders like this, then why don't we treat gun criminals at LEAST like this?

Second: if we have a problem treating gun criminals like this, then why don't we have a problem treating sex offenders like this?

In either case (and thus, the subtitle), it says something uncomplimentary about our collective sense of guilt when it's more or less OK to shoot somebody, but if you fuck somebody (outside of prescribed limits) the most severe punishment that society can mete out must be imposed -- including ostracism and lifelong "ear-tagging."

Shouldn't we "tag" shooters in the same manner? Isn't that at LEAST fit and proper? (Unless you don't think that anybody should be treated that way.)

Think about it: use a gun, and we raised the sentences so that you would have a few years automatically added to your sentence (for whatever crime you used the gun for, including shooting someone after having had sex with them). But, commit a sexual offense, and you are entered into a permanent database, and made to wear a large, scarlet letter, so that all may know that you live in the neighborhood.

It is rare that a paroled murderer causes a community to rise up, and the monster is legally barred from moving into that community. With sex offenders, it is so common that it doesn't make the front pages anymore. Not in our town!

It is rare that vigilante reprisals follow the release of a murderer or a shooter, wounder or even flourisher of a gun. But vigilante action against sex offenders is, while not common, certainly NOT unheard of.

Use a gun, go to jail. Use a penis, go to hell.

And, although you CAN break the law by waving either one around in public, it is by no means universal, whereas in the latter case, publicly display -- especially in the 'cocked and loaded' instance -- will just about ALWAYS be seen as a breach of civil order, and will often land you in jail. (The former, more often, results in confiscation and a fine; not entirely practical in the latter case.)

I'm not going to tell you how to feel about penises. And I'm not going to tell you how to feel about guns. But I will note that no one has ever been killed by a penis. No one has ever been maimed by a penis. No one has ever been wounded or crippled by a penis (save, perhaps, the owner).

But killing people with guns, wounding with guns, maiming and crippling others with guns incidents run at epidemic levels in our society. Indeed, American gun crime and gun-assisted murder rates run higher than in any first world nation, and higher than in many third world countries.

I am not advocating (as one letter writer seemed to suggest in my morning email) that we take guns away from Americans. This isn't a Second Amendment battle, any more than I'm suggesting that we take penises away from Americans.

I'm asking why someone who shot someone isn't taken as seriously as somebody who fucked someone. I'm asking why there is nothing lower than a child molester, but that shooting a child doesn't seem to merit the same kind of wrath. It has to really be a rather brutal murder to really get our dander up.

Thus far, I've been talking about two separate Venne diagrams: gun criminals and penis criminals. But there is an overlap of those two categories, and, sadly, I have not been able to find any reliable literature indicating how large or widespread that penis AND gun category is.

But no matter. I'm not here to answer all questions; there are many things that I don't have the slightest clue as to what to do about.

But I am asking the simple question, if we are more frightened of penises than of guns (as clearly reflected in our laws and our social reactions), then don't we have our priorities severely screwed up? Doesn't it suggest that our society has ... issues?

Or should we just continue to say, in essence: "go ahead and shoot 'em, but for gawdsake don't fuck 'em!"?

Oh, and while we're at it, isn't it time to embrace a legal system that is justice-oriented, and NOT run like a Middle Eastern bazaar? Might we also consider running the money-lenders out of the temples of justice?

Courage.
.
Tuesday, October 25, 2005
WHAT WE FEAR MORE THAN GUNS
or, A QUESTION OF PRIORITIES


[NOTE: the following story is fiction. In science fiction circles, this is what's referred to as an "alternate universe" story. -- The Management]

As a condition of his parole, the defendant, JAMES RULE MARSH, JR., is to register with the local police where he resides, posters are to be placed no more than 1000 yards from where he resides, on all cardinal sides. He is not to live within 2000 yards of any school, pre-school or child care facility, including, but not limited to clubs, parks and toy stores; and he is not to come within 1000 yards of any gun shop, target range, hunting party, or other place in which guns are sold, traded or used, including, but not limited to loading, firing and sale of guns or ammunition, or paraphernalia used in the functions of guns, including but not limited to shell casings, black powder, smokeless powder or any other form of gunpowder; cleaning, boring or gunbarrel, or any appurtenance of gunsmithing whatsoever.

Further, MARSH is required to take mandatory counseling through a court-approved psychiatrist, counselor, psychologist, psychometrist, physniognamist, or state-accredited clergy, medicine man, shaman or guru.

MARSH will be entered into the national database of convicted gun criminals, and shall not come into contact with minors for any reason whatsoever, unless it is part of a court-sponsored voluntary program making presentations in the community on the dangers of guns in return for potential commutation of sentence (see clerk).

This offer only good in this jurisdiction and may not be used in conjunction with any other offer, express or implied, and shall not imdemnify this court for damages in any manner whatsoever, as a condition of parole.

So ordered.

Courage.

[SKIING UPHILL NEWS SERVICE: 06:00 PDT BREAKING NEWS -- 2000 down, don't know how many more to go. -- Bush]
.
Monday, October 24, 2005
THE 'ALTERNATIVE MEDIA' CONGLOMERATES
or, FEWER VOICES IN THE VILLAGE

Flying under the radar, amidst panic over the Bird Flu, hurricanes, earthquakes, new Supreme Court and Fed Chair nominations, misbegotten wars and idiot bastard sons, the following item was hidden in the bowels of a Howard Kurtz piece on the NY TIMES/Judy Miller scandal in the WASHINGTON POST:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/blog/2005/10/24/BL2005102400345.html
And here, before I forget, is today's print column:

The nation's two largest alternative newspaper chains plan to announce a merger today, a long-rumored combination that champions of quirky, iconoclastic, locally controlled papers have been sniping at for months.

New Times, the Phoenix-based publisher with 11 newspapers from Miami to San Francisco, is acquiring the Village Voice, the storied New York weekly co-founded by Norman Mailer, and five other papers owned by the Voice.

[...]

The planned acquisition will require Justice Department approval on antitrust grounds, since the combined company would control about 14 percent of the circulation of the major alternative weeklies nationwide. The department has clashed with both companies before. In 2002, New Times agreed to close its Los Angeles paper, which competed with Village Voice Media's L.A. Weekly, in exchange for the Voice shutting down its Cleveland paper, which did battle with New Times's Cleveland Scene.

Justice accused the companies of trying "to corrupt the competitive process by swapping markets, thereby guaranteeing each other a monopoly." The firms agreed in a consent decree to notify the department before any merger or shutdown. "We got bad legal advice," Lacey says.

That was not the only allegation of corporate excess; Brugmann's Bay Guardian has sued New Times on charges of predatory practices....
This brings to the fore, once more, the whole question of media conglomeration, and its chilling effect on free speech and freedom of the press.

After years of maintaining a certain fundamental thesis -- including a long talk with my former agent in New York (before he was indicted by Eliot Spitzer for fraudulent practices, in my continuing streak of bad luck with representation) -- I have finally noted that other voices in the media are noticing the same thing:

The so-called "diversity" of voices in America is narrowly constrained by Right Wing ideology and PeeCee arrogance. Any views falling outside the "acceptable" range are denied publication, denied the opportunity to compete in the bogus "marketplace of ideas," and consigned to the lowest circle of Dante's hell.

In the 1970s, until Shirley MacLaine, so-called "New Age" books and articles were unwelcome in media circles. After Shirley, or A.S., every fifth-rate hack in America wrote their "spiritual quest" memoir, and they mounted a frontal assault on the bestseller lists -- although the "legitimate" voices remained marginalized in favor of poseurs, charlatans and hacks.

Christian novels and articles were so marginalized that the churches literally formed their own subculture of music, radio, television and publishing (which is currently not only doing very well, but which the "mainstream" publishers are now licking their chops and drooling over).

"Conservative" points of view and books were rejected out of hand by publishers, although now, the selfsame publishers are all forming "conservative imprints" to market the latest publishing fad.

None of this is to suggest that I agree with all of the above positions, but, I would maintain, they DESERVED representation in the "mainstream," else there is no "diversity" of ideas out there.

And, really, there isn't.

Ditto gay and lesbian literature, and erotica written by men. The latter case, ironically, is in direct contradiction to what I was told by a New York agent of several decades' experience in 1991: "In the seventies, if it was 'erotica' I could sell it." (He added that in the eighties, it was 'romance' novels).

But erotica can now only be published if one is a FEMALE writer, and it will be touted in the most highfalutin' of terms as long as one's gender is correct.

The point is that our publishing, our "first amendment" free press is severely constrained by the astonishing biases and prejudices of an increasingly limited number of publishers.

Which brings us to the merger of the VILLAGE VOICE "alternative" press and the NEW TIMES "alternative" press -- or, more correctly, presses.

My writing has appeared in the evidently defunct NEW TIMES, Los Angeles, and it was a bit of a shock to find out that the moribund LA WEEKLY (subsumed by the VOICE back in the 'nineties) had been the subject of an 'insider deal' to destroy competition between the V.V. conglomerate and the N.T conglomerate: you shut down your LA paper, and we'll shut down our Cleveland paper.

THIS is "freedom of the press"? This is 'alternative' media? Bullshit: this is the same old same old crap that's left virtually every major city in North America with only one daily 'mainstream' paper, and, increasingly, only one 'alternative' paper.

And I've been in the media game long enough to understand what monopolies do to the pool of ideas. Inadvertently in 1978, I broke up a Los Angeles monopoly that the L.A. TIMES had on book reviews and literary criticism. And, I watched as the renewed competition between critical camps reinvigorated and enriched the cultural life of Los Angeles letters.

As Walter Brennan used to say (in "The Real McCoys") "No brag; just fact."

In 1978, after waiting six months to do a book review for the Los Angeles TIMES, I got to do a "capsule" review of Harlan Ellison's STRANGE WINE (my blurb is on the front cover of the paperback). But it was only about one column inch, and I would have had to wait ANOTHER six months to do another one. At that rate, I'd have had to wait until I was well into my retirement to be accorded the opportunity to write an actual 900-1500 word review.

This was unacceptable to me, and I rebelled. (At the time, the LA TIMES Book Review was run by Digby Diehl, please note).

Luckily, there were TWO major dailies in LA at the time, the TIMES and the Hearst-owned HERALD-EXAMINER. The old H-Ex was a crappy tabloid at the time, but they were pouring money into it, and my buddy, Larry the telephone repairman called me up to tell me: "The Herald Examiner just fired all of their old editors and are upgrading the paper!" He'd been there putting in a new phone system in their amazing old 1930s palace downtown.

It was a stoke of luck, and I called the new editor, Stu, who was thrilled to hear from a freelancer, and my first assignment (and, subsequently, my paycheck) took some time, because, as Stu said, "Nobody's ever asked before."

Which still strikes me as amazing. Or maybe my timing was just propitious. Sagittarius luck; go figure.

They gave me half a page on James Michener's CHESAPEAKE, and, thereafter, I had a lot of half-pages (with illustrations) on Sundays. And they liked the idea enough that I was asked to send other free=lancers their way. In the four years that I wrote for them (1978-1982) they built up quite a stable of them, and, finally, were successful enough that they hired away the editor of the LA TIMES' Book Review, Digby Diehl.

And, as he brought in HIS buddies, I never received another assignment -- but, that is not the point; it is merely an irony. The point is that the whole maelstrom of LA book criticism became a lot more vital, and the 'marketplace of ideas' was well-served by my (selfish, I will admit) act. The competition was good for everybody.

But the H-Ex folded, finally.

And the TIMES' book section returned to the moribund state in which it remains, to this very day.

Over and over in the past thirty years, I have watched as competition in media creates a more vital media, and lack of competition creates a narrowly constrained culture of cronyism, censorship and "unacceptable" topics.

Why do you think the mainstream press has been so terrible and so complicit in their failure to cover the phony war, the endless excesses and the cascading CF of scandals that characterize our current ruling junta?

Which brings us to the Village Voice and the LA Weekly.

Founded fifty years ago, with, among other founders, Norman Mailer, the Voice has been the New York TIMES of "alternative media" along with the Berkely BARB, the Boston PHOENIX, and the late, lamented LOS ANGELES FREE PRESS.

The FREE PRESS, few realize, died via an assassin's bullet. Larry Flynt (yes, THAT Larry Flynt) had just purchased the FREEP because of heavy cash flow problems that the publisher, Art Kunkin, had run into, thanks in no small part to the Nixonian IRS' unrelenting pressure. Flynt -- who was, again, believe it or not, a real counterculture fan -- had just brought REALIST publisher Paul Krassner on board (catalyzed by their mutual enthusiasm for Lenny Bruce) and was planning to take the FREEP national.

And then, a would-be assassin's bullet brought it all to a screeching halt. The Flynt publishing empire had published a couple of issues of the FREEP when Flynt was hospitalized.

The FREEP's editorial staff was cannibalized to take over publishing HUSTLER and its recently launched sister, CHIC, and because of the madness that reigned thereafter, the FREEP was never published again, although talks between Kunkin and Flynt to bring out the FREEP again proceeded sporadically over the years.

I know this because I became an associate editor at HUSTLER via Kunkin, who suggested that I send my resume to CHIC, and was hired for HUSTLER, instead. The couple of issues of the FREEP that had been published were in a cabinet in my office, and I worked with ex-FREEP staffers and former Merry Pranksters all pretending to be truck drivers from New Jersey. There is a point to this.

In the absence of the FREE PRESS, the L.A. WEEKLY was founded (among the founders, Michael Douglas), even to the point of picking up Harlan Ellison, the FREEP's old TV critic as a columnist for a short time.

But, unlike the FREEP, the WEEKLY espoused that horrifically conflicty-of-interesty business model of the "free" newspaper, beholden entirely to its advertisers for circulation, and, thus, much less willing to take on the kinds of edgy, anti-establishment articles and exposes that the FREEP had been bombed for. (Art's brother Hal has told me, at length, the story of the first bombing, but it's not germane here).

And slowly, the "alternative" press of the eighties through the present took form, with the VOICE and the WEEKLY merging only a few years ago.

But they were going, like ROLLING STONE, "establishment," as their bases became far more yuppie and far less hippie.

And, during the nineties, the NEW TIMES conglomerate expanded from its Phoenix base, another "free" paper, like the WEEKLY.

And the rest you know.

So, we come to a point where the barely "alternative" press has finally agglutinated into a monolithic, monopolistic conglomerate, and the last voices of the NON-establishment have all but died out.

As in Seattle, where the Seattle WEEKLY became so moribund that the STRANGER came along, snapped up many of the old WEEKLY editors and writers and is, itself, sliding into a deathly torpor of respectability and conservative tastes, the entire "alternative" press has -- just as it's desperately needed -- become nothing more than a glorified series of entertainment rags, culturally confusing "foreign films" and indy cinema with actual literacy and books.

Most of these papers are more given over to entertainment listings (usually sans book reviews) for movies, plays, and musical groups: crypts for press releases, musician bios and 8" x 10" black and white promo photos of musicians.

As far as the "old" underground press is concerned, they are as far from the old ROLLING STONE as the current ROLLING STONE is.

And that was BEFORE the largest two conglomerates started colluding to destroy competition (the LA/Cleveland swap mentioned earlier) and, now, the merger of the glorified TV guides that the WEEKLY and the VOICE have become, with the concert listings and capsule movie reviews that characterize the NEW TIMES clones.

Naturally, the official statement is that everyone will retain their editorial "independence" -- e.g. the opportunity to turn out stylishly empty "investigative" pieces that no one can wade entirely through due to the horrible prose and snooty presumption. Mere "independence" does not guarantee that the writers won't slavishly focus on PeeCee and empty exercises in style. Generally, it merely means that the free-lancers involved need not show any actual journalistic credentials or chops.

The VOICE occasionally manages eponymy, but more often, it is as predictable as the TV GUIDE, if less interesting. Sydney Schanberg (the former NY TIMES reporter whose Cambodian nightmare you might recall from the movie, "The Killing Fields") is occasionally found in the VOICE, but while the voice remains as prosaic as TIMES journalism, the journalism has lost its edge. Ditto most of the remainder.

So, to paraphrase Antony, I come not to praise the "alternative" press, but to bury it.

As though it had not buried itself a long time ago. Now, they're merely consolidating the tombs. For, after all, they are honorable journalists, as are they ALL honorable journalists.

Et tu, Larry?

Courage.
.
Sunday, October 23, 2005
SUNDAY'S PREDICTION
or, OH HELL


As I went to the Michael Moore site Saturday night, I realized that the troop death count stands at 1996.

AP SUNDAY, OCT 23, 2005 (early)
"... Twenty-three U.S. military personnel have been reported dead over the week, bringing the total of American dead since the war began in March 2003 to 1,996, according to an Associated Press Count. No agency keeps a comprehensive count of Iraqi deaths from violence, but an AP count found more than 3,700 killed since April 28, when the first elected government took power.

"The latest U.S. deaths reported by the military included a Marine killed by an explosion near the western town of Haqlaniyah on Friday, the final day of an offensive that began Oct. 4. After the blast, Marines fought with insurgents, killing four and destroying a bunker with an unknown number of gunmen inside, the military said...."
All of which probably means that today, Sunday, October 23, 2005, is the day that the death count tops 2,000. (Oh yeah, and don't forget that 15,220 soldiers have been wounded, even though just about everybody else has. After all, nobody wants to remember that sometimes there are worse things than dying.)

On June 28, 2003, the AP reported: "The military has confirmed the identities of 138 soldiers killed before that date, for a total of 201 so far, while the names of several other casualties have not yet been made available." That was when we went over 200.

I had a letter in the local newspaper on the day that the death count reached 1,000, September 8, 2004. Let's take a look and see what it said:
The Register-Guard, Eugene, Oregon
September 8, 2004
Letters in the Editor's Mailbag

A parable of pre-emptive war

My neighbor is a real creep. About 10 years ago, he got in a lot of trouble, and he's been on probation. I heard that he was going to buy an assault rifle, and I told his parole officers, but they didn't do anything.

I think the guy could be a deadly threat to my family, so my friends and I decided to take over his house. When we busted down his door, we sprayed his bedroom with gunfire, hoping to kill him, but I guess he wasn't there.

We found him hiding in the cellar and we put him under citizen's arrest. We found his two sons, and we shot them. They are bad, just like him. When we searched the house, we couldn't find any assault weapons, although we found an old bullet. Still, we're pretty sure he hid the guns at a neighbor's place.

It doesn't really matter that there weren't any guns. Everybody knows he was a bad guy, and his sons were just as bad as him, so nobody's crying about them.

The only problem is that the other people who were living in the house don't like us being there, and have asked us to leave. We appointed a guy we know to be the house manager and he wants us to stay, so we're staying. It's just that the police tell me I've broken the law. That's crazy. The guy was bad, and his sons didn't deserve to live. Vigilante? Me? No way.

HW
Eugene
requiescat in pace: May they rest in peace.

Read all about the kids who've died needlessly at: http://cryptome.org/mil-dead-iqw.htm

So far, none of the dead soldiers are my son.

But the meatgrinder continues its slow, grisly work. And for what? "Exporting freedom"? (Complete with rigged elections and phony vote counts.)

In a pig's eye.

Courage.
.
hart williams
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