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May. 24 2010 — 4:49 pm | 5,103 views | 0 recommendations | 64 comments


So it is with some sadness that I have to announce that I’m going to be leaving True/Slant. Starting in a few days I will be back blogging exclusively at www.rollingstone.com.

I say with sadness because I thought and still think that True/Slant is a great organization, one that is innovative and well-run and and whose founders have been a genuine pleasure to work with. Folks like Coates Bateman, Michael Roston and Lewis Dvorkin have taught me a lot about how the internet business works and have convinced me that there may actually be a future universe in which writers will be able to carve out some sort of dignified employment amid the wreckage of the print journalism business, and will not have to hook or boost cars for food. I think they have a great idea with this site and I’m sure they will continue their success.

I have a story on the Financial Regulatory Reform bill coming out in this week’s Rolling Stone and will be posting on the new RS site for about a week after that; then I will be going away on vacation until late June. Thanks to everyone who has visited this site since its inception, and I hope to see you at my new blog on RS.com soon.

May. 15 2010 — 10:30 am | 12,930 views | 16 recommendations | 122 comments

I, Sarah Palin, Goes Redneck

Then, saying she was proud of being labeled a “redneck,” she regaled them with a string of one-liners defining the term:

“You’re a redneck if you’ve ever had dinner on a ping pong table.”


“You’re a redneck if you’ve ever had a custody fight over a hunting dog. Well, Todd and I haven’t, but we’ve got friends who have!”

via Sarah Palin at National Rifle Association lobs laughing crowd with ‘redneck’ jokes.

Can I get a vote here? What’s the consensus on politicians who use internet joke lists as speech material?

I’m actually sort of divided on this issue. Clearly, Sarah Palin doesn’t have time to write new and original speeches for her myriad appearances. If I were as famous and as busy as Palin is, I could definitely see culling a few yukster lines from the net for speeches. But she ripped off like six or seven of these asinine “You know you’re a redneck if!” lines in a row from sites like Aha! Jokes, and that seems like a few too many to me. Sometimes the number matters — just like I think the maximum number of cats a single adult can have is three before it gets weird, I don’t think you can steal more than four or maybe five jokes before some kind of line is crossed, even when the venue is an NRA convention.

Palin by the way seems to have settled in on a new rhetorical strategy, which is basically to run out one or another version of her “pit bull” line over and over again and not say anything else at all. She’s tuned in to the fact that her audiences literally can’t get enough of having their lunatic self-images massaged (“I’m a violent, illiterate pig who eats with her mouth open just like all you outstanding Americans!”) and aren’t really interested in much else beyond that — issues are really secondary.

Sure, she’ll talk about immigration, or health care, or gun rights, but all that boring stuff is really secondary to the more important business of reassuring her audiences that that it’s okay to be a slob who does nothing but shoot cute animals and watch TV. Most of all,  Americans — the same Americans who buy everything TV tells them to buy and vote for the same shysters year after year, swallowing one lie after another whole — love to be told how tough and fearsome and independent they are. She was massaging this spot in a speech to a coalition of women against abortion group in Washington the other day:

Palin, a potential 2012 presidential candidate, delivered calls to action to an audience dominated by women. “The mama grizzlies, they rise up,” she said, to laughter. “You thought pit bulls are tough. You don’t want to mess with the mama grizzlies. And I think there are a whole lot of those in this room.”

The crowd went nuts at this. Palin has figured out that this is really all you have to do to win elections in this country — flatter middle Americans’ moronic fantasies about themselves. The great thing about flattery is a) you can’t overdo it as hard as you try, and b) it doesn’t pin you down to messy political positions, controversies, things you can be harassed about by Chris Matthews and other press weasels.

It’s basically a risk-free strategy. You get up on stage and you say, “I’m just like all you idiots. And you idiots rock!” People will fall for this stuff. The ingenious part in Sarah Palin’s case is that she probably genuinely believes it.

She one-ups even George Bush in this respect. Bush was sincere in his respect for the citizen’s right to craft important opinions about the world while drinking beer and watching baseball, and that came across in his speeches — it was a big reason for his success.

But Bush couldn’t have spent more than ten minutes in a dirty trailer in Arkansas before signaling for the helicopter. The guy was just too used to being around rich people, nice houses, cigarette boats full of sheiks and oil executives, etc. Sarah Palin on the other hand really is the kind of person who you can picture eating egg salad off a ping-pong table. That and her utterly genuine stupidity and meanness can take her a long way — all by themselves, I think these things can win the White House for her — and it seems like she senses this on an animal/reptilian level. Hence the renewed emphasis on jacking off her audiences of late.

It’ll be interesting to see if this works for her. Bear in mind there’s no shortage of hokey-ass internet joke lists for her to mine. Someone should keep a count of how many of these bits she uses…

May. 12 2010 — 4:55 pm | 5,758 views | 4 recommendations | 132 comments

Rhetorical Question for My Muslim Friends

Vilks’ cartoon depicting Mohammed came on the heels of Muslim outrage about cartoons originally published in Denmark in 2005. The republication of the cartoons several months later sparked violent protests in the Muslim world and prompted death threats against the cartoonist.

Vilks’ cartoon, which was published in August 2007 by the Swedish newspaper Nerikes Allehanda, did not provoke that level of global protest, although it has stoked outrage.

via Police: Swedish cartoonist object of attempted attack – CNN.com.

Just out of curiosity — exactly how much of a wuss does your God have to be, do you think, if he can’t take being picked on by a Swedish cartoonist?

I almost can’t wait to see which fringe/attention-hungry satirist decides to make himself a Canal Plus documentary subject by publishing the next image of The Prophet. Can we all take bets on this? I’m lobbying hard for the next Rob Schneider movie — maybe a supernatural-themed sequel, like Deuce Bigalow 3: Gigolo of the Eternal Afterlife or something – to include a bi-curious Mohammed scene.

Is that the most offensive thing imaginable? I’m straining hard but can’t think of anything worse. A Gilbert Gottfried routine also has possibilities, I guess. By the way, has anyone seen that new Gottfried-narrated ad for the “ShoeDini” shoe-horn? It’s the best film I’ve seen this year.

Okay, excuse the digression, I’m going back to work now…

May. 12 2010 — 4:17 pm | 636 views | 0 recommendations | 3 comments

Quick Note

Those of you out there who got a Facebook message from me today, that is spam, do not open it. My apologies.

May. 10 2010 — 10:58 am | 8,061 views | 7 recommendations | 93 comments


WASHINGTON — The Obama administration said Sunday it would seek a law allowing investigators to interrogate terrorism suspects without informing them of their rights, as Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. flatly asserted that the defendant in the Times Square bombing attempt was trained by the Taliban in Pakistan.

via Attorney General Backs Miranda Limit for Terror Suspects – NYTimes.com.

Memo to those Tea Party activists out there who’ve been howling about those liberal wusses in the Obama Justice Department who read Faisal Shahzad his Miranda rights: congratulations. You’ve just opened the door for a major new expansion of government power.

Having followed the Tea Party around on and off for a few months now it’s been hard not to notice some of the contradictory messages emanating from the movement. You’ll hear the same people who want to abolish the EPA complaining about the slow federal response to the Gulf oil spill, or the same people who are stocking up on guns to ward off the inevitable government assault on their property cheering for beefed-up drug enforcement laws and the no-knock search warrant.

The reason I really respect the Ron Paul people is that they’re consistent on all of these things. If they don’t want the government telling you you can’t buy a gun, they also don’t want the federal government telling you not to smoke weed or patronize a prostitute. Paul understands that you can’t make appeals on general principle unless you actually believe in that principle across the board.

It seems to me that a huge problem that Americans on both sides of the aisle have is that they believe in personal freedom, but only for themselves; for the other guy they seem always to want a powerful and intrusive federal government. Red staters and blue staters are both equally guilty of this in my experience. You get conservatives asking for a federal ban on gay marriage and then in the same breath screaming that abortion should be a states-rights issue. And you get progressives who want to pass their own state-by-state medical marijuana laws clamoring for federal bans on handguns.

And… well, I’m digressing. The point is that this gesture by Eric Holder to drop to his knees and pray at the altar of Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Sarah Palin is one of those things that both sides are going to end up seriously regretting.

For the Democrats, it will surely end up being one of the darker moments of the Obama presidency — not because it’s necessarily so terribly meaningful (at least compared to ending Too-Big-to-Fail), but because it represents a new low on the utter-lack-of-balls front. The only reason we’re even talking about this Miranda issue is because a bunch of morons on talk radio made a big fuss about it, and if our president is going to go sticking his thumbs into the constitution every time he can’t take a few days of getting reamed by a bunch of overpaid media shills whose job it is to hate him no matter what he does, then we’re all in a lot of trouble.

For the conservatives/Tea Partiers/Republicans (note that I have to make separate notations for each, since they’re not all necessarily the same people anymore), this Miranda furor is yet another one of those humorously contradictory political campaigns  of the “Keep the Guv’mint off my Medicare” variety that they’re becoming known for. I’m beginning to think that if the Tea Party had a symbol, it shouldn’t be the snake from that “Don’t Tread on Me” flag, it should be a drooling yutz sticking a pencil in his own ear.

The reason for that is that the Tea Party angle on this Miranda business is that they want to strip terrorist suspects of liberal/civil rights-era protections, and they think that foregoing their Miranda rights is a good way to get there. What they don’t get is that the inevitable consequence in this sort of meddling in constitutional theory is that we’re going to carve out exceptions to constitutional applicability for certain classes of people. We’re obviously not going to repeal the 5th amendment granting protection to American citizens against self-incrimination; and if we’re not going to tinker with that basic right we all enjoy, then the only other way around it is to start tinkering with the concept of who’s a citizen and who isn’t.

We’ve already seen a more than unusually ridiculous illustration of this instinct, with all-century blowhard Joe Lieberman coming up with a wacko plan to strip terrorist suspects of their citizenship, a completely useless idea that wouldn’t speed up interrogations one whit and in fact add nothing but another layer of bureaucracy to prosecutions of terrorism cases. This is an idea that has no practical application, but has a very broad theoretical consequence.

Basically we’ve opened the door for a discussion on whether or not it makes sense to selectively suspend the constitutional rights of Americans on a case-by-case basis. I’d like to see how the Tea Party responds to this concept the next time the ATF drives a tank into the compound of some group like the Michigan Militia. Given that they’re part of a movement that is driven almost entirely by a paranoid fear of the exploding powers of government, it’s bizarre to see these people signing on for the corruption of the 5th Amendment. But then again, no one ever accused these people of being smart.

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