Would Everybody Please Settle The Hell Down About Wesley Clark Already?

 Civilizer

Wesley Clark was absolutely right.  Right, right, 2+2=4 right, Copernicus over Ptolemy right.  And Barack Obama, while right to refuse to apologize or disavow (except through a spokesman), wasn’t entirely right – Wesley Clark’s comments were not “inartful.”  Not at all.

Here’s what the General said:

GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: Because in the matters of national security policy making, it’s a matter of understanding risk. It’s a matter of gauging your opponents, and it’s a matter of being held accountable. John McCain’s never done any of that in his official positions. I certainly honor his service as a prisoner of war. He was a hero to me and to hundreds of thousands and millions of others in Armed Forces as a prisoner of war. He has been a voice on the Senate Armed Services Committee, and he has traveled all over the world. But he hasn’t held executive responsibility. That large squadron in Air- in the Navy that he commanded, it wasn’t a wartime squadron. He hasn’t been there and ordered the bombs to fall. He hasn’t seen what it’s like when diplomats come in and say, ‘I don’t know whether we’re going to be able to get this point through or not. Do you want to take the risk? What about your reputation? How do we handle it-‘

Bob Schieffer: Well-

GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: ‘ -it publicly.’ He hasn’t made those calls, Bob.

Bob Schieffer: Well, well, General, maybe-

GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: So-

Bob Schieffer: Could I just interrupt you. If-

GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: Sure.

Bob Schieffer:I have to say, Barack Obama has not had any of those experiences either, nor has he ridden in a fighter plane and gotten shot down. I mean-

GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: Well, I don’t think riding in a fighter plane and getting shot down is a qualification to be President.
That last part about the fighter plane is what has really gotten Clark in trouble this week, primarily because it has been fresh water drizzled onto the parched lips of the post-Democratic primary 24-hour news media.  I mean, you can only squeeze so many broadcast days out of analyzing Michelle Obama’s appearance on The View, right?  And hey, here’s an actual surrogate saying something that can be misconstrued as controversial!  Let’s beat this one to death all week, all those in favor say “Aye!”

Well let’s take that last quote:  “I don’t think riding in a fighter plane and getting shot down is a qualification to be President.”

He’s right.  It’s not.  Let me tell you what John McCain getting shot down in a fighter plane means, what John McCain getting taken as a prisoner of war means, what John McCain refusing to leave the Hanoi Hilton even though Charlie is opening the door unless the rest of his men came with him:  it means John McCain has gigantic balls.  Gigantic balls matched only by a sense of honor and duty not likely present in very many of his contemporaries in the Congress.

Now, I like duty and honor.  And frankly, when it comes to picking a candidate, I can be very ball size-oriented.  It bothers me that Barack Obama had a civil conversation with Bill Clinton recently and asked for his help on the campaign trail.  Doing that instead of saying “Hey, go fuck yourself you race-baiting Dixie lech, half the state of Ohio thinks I’m a gay Muslim because of you” is, to me, symptomatic of a ball size deficiency.  So I’m in no way dismissing the fact that John McCain’s conduct during his imprisonment, and in fact his entire military record, is something to be honored.  I think he’s a bad. ass.

But the fact remains – courage, the kind of courage required to sustain one’s self throughout such an ordeal, does not automatically translate into the requisite executive aptitude necessary to be the President of the United States.  For Clark to point that out is blunt, certainly.  Military service, especially the kind that leaves a man unable to lift his arms all the way above his head because he has been tortured by the enemy, has been so elevated in this country’s culture as to be sacrosanct.  When a person utters anything other than unqualified praise, then, it’s risky.  But you have to look beyond context in this particular circumstance, and get right to content.  That’s why Clark’s comments, when you shake off the politically-charged environment in which they were uttered, weren’t “inartful,” much less wrong.  They were simply correct, and worth listening to.  If you want to promote McCain’s executive credentials, you can point to his time in the Senate working with past Presidents, or running his Senate office, or handling foreign relations matters.  But you don’t get to say the guy can govern because he’s a tough son of a gun and not expect that rationale to be challenged by anybody with the capacity for critical thought. 

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Middle Finger Of The Apocalypse: Johnny Dare

Save for NPR, I have not listened to FM radio for a prolonged amount of time probably in over 2 years, and when I have listened, it’s typically been a mid-afternoon spin down the dial in the hopes that my local rock station will play Metallica or Ozzy – a pretty safe bet given that they play Metallica or Ozzy once every 5 songs, at least.  But I haven’t listened to FM in the morning since high school.  The morning drive time, of course, is the domain of the “zany morning show,” 3 or so hours of the high-larious antics of an unfunny douche and between 2 and 4 associates who, when not discussing issues such as breasts, sex, and pooping, have way too much fun with the 10,000,000 sound effects at their disposal.  The great Seth McFarlane and Co. pretty well nailed the format in this clip from “Family Guy.” 

Like I said, I haven’t heard one of these things in years.  But I was on a business trip this week in Kansas City, and can report that over on 98.9 FM, “The Rock,” the obligatory “porn star masturbating on-air” segment, which was last edgy during the Reagan presidency when porn stars and others making nudity-oriented livings did not get their own TV shows, and sundry other offenses to comedy, is alive and well.  And after listening to two mornings worth of this pablum whilst getting myself ready in the morning, I have no other choice but to award 98.9 FM morning DJ Johnny Dare the coveted Middle Finger Of The Apocalypse Award.

 

Dare is basically the obnoxious morning DJ straight out of central casting: a lumpy dude with hair courtesy of a Quiet Riot video.  His show crosses all the t’s and dots all the i’s.  I was awoken one day by the alarm to a parody tune set to Hinder’s “Lips of an Angel” called “Lips of an A-hole.”  (If you need to know anything more about Hinder, they’re touring this summer with Staind and Alter Bridge.  Thank you and goodnight.) If I listened longer, I’m sure I would have heard “Freeballin,'” the Shakespeare-esque parody rendition of Tom Petty’s “Freefallin.'”  Co-hosts on the show have names like T-Bone and Jake The Phone Snake (?).  The show hosted a game of Naked Twister with local female listeners.  This last one is something I have never been able to figure out, especially because similar shenanigans featuring naked women in the studio helped make Howard Stern the obscenely rich obstacle to profitability for Sirius that he is today.  Who the hell cares if Jenna Jameson is naked on your radio show WHEN YOU CAN’T SEE ANYTHING.  Anyway.  The Johnny Dare Morning Show is pretty much the same tired old stuff you’ll find on Stern, Opie and Anthony, Mancow, and the rest.

But what puts the show over the top and wins it the Finger is the name of its website:  www.corporateradiosucksass.com.  Come on.  There are few things more irritating than media figures who evince absolutely no creativity, no rebellious spirit, are easily categorized, and who follow a time-tested formula but who nevertheless cast themselves as self-made culture warriors who never miss an opportunity to stick it to The Man.  It’s utterly disingenuous – Johnny Dare’s radio station is owned by Entercom, the fourth largest broadcasting company in the entire United States.  That’s about as corporate as radio gets except for Clear Channel, and to do a radio show on the leash of somebody like Entercom and then to call your website “corporateradiosucksass.com” is lame, plain and simple.    

Middle Finger Of The Apocalpyse: Ralph Nader

I think Ralph Nader enjoys crapping all over his heretofore proud legacy as a consumer advocate.  That, and he’s really a big fan of himself.  As I’m sure you’ve all heard by now, the Green Party’s cranky old man is launching his third straight “bid” for the presidency.  I put “bid” in quotations marks because I don’t see Nader’s campaigns as actual pursuits of the White House so much as high-profile bitch sessions for a guy who has transformed himself into the political equivalent of the old guy at the pancake house who wears a lot of plaid and won’t shut up about how the coffee’s too cold.

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Rage Against The Machine sucks, and always has sucked, and always will suck.

Keep in mind that Nader presents himself as the sworn enemy of corporate interests.  He says stuff like “This (George W. Bush’s) administration is not sympathetic to corporations, it is indentured to corporations.”  Corporate interests this, corporate interests that, Republicans are evil, Democrats are cowardly sell-outs, blah blah blah.  The most unseasoned of political neophytes could tell you that Nader’s criticisms strike most deeply at the GOP, the party generally being perceived as the most beholden to big bad Corporate America.  And yet, Nader has three times now inserted himself into a presidential race in which his presence helps the Republican candidate by siphoning votes from the Democratic challenger.  This might not matter in landslide situations, but elections have been damn close lately.

So he enters the race, late, with little money, the idealism vote locked up by Barack Obama, basically all dressed up in an off-the-rack suit with no place to go.  Even he can’t actually believe he can win, so there’s really no explanation for his candidacy other than that he has lost all perspective regarding what a guy like him can do within the process.  So for once again launching a pointless, hopeless presidential campaign built on nothing but recycled complaints that no one in their right mind believes he is the guy to solve, Ralph Nader takes home the coveted Middle Finger Of The Apocalypse award.

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Middle Finger Of The Apocalypse: Harold Bloom

“Democracy, whether in Sweden or the United States, depends on the voter’s capacity to think. If you have read the best of what has been thought and said, then your cognition and understanding is on a much higher level than if you have read Harry Potter or Stephen King. So what this decline into half-literature and mediocre media really means is de facto a self-destruction of democracy.” (January 12, 2008)

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Don’t worry.  Harry’s brain is so powerful, his hair will brush itself.

Harold Bloom is an incredibly smart guy.  Certainly one of the most well-read, most erudite, most academic of American intellectuals.  He’s also the grown-up version of that kid we all went to high school with who used big words in class ostentatiously and at every available opportunity, made smugly pejorative remarks about sports, and trumpeted his ignorance of popular culture so that the rest of us knew he had no interest in paying attention to the same books, movies, and music as the rest of us rabble, and wore that ignorance like a badge of honor.  This kid, if there is any justice, spent a goodly portion of high school with his head in the toilet.

Bloom has long had his ivy-covered knives out for Stephen King.  He had a memorable freak-out in 2003, when the National Book Foundation bestowed upon King their award for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters:

“The decision to give the National Book Foundation’s annual award for “distinguished contribution” to Stephen King is extraordinary, another low in the shocking process of dumbing down our cultural life. I’ve described King in the past as a writer of penny dreadfuls, but perhaps even that is too kind. He shares nothing with Edgar Allan Poe. What he is is an immensely inadequate writer on a sentence-by-sentence, paragraph-by-paragraph, book-by-book basis. The publishing industry has stooped terribly low to bestow on King a lifetime award that has previously gone to the novelists Saul Bellow and Philip Roth and to playwright Arthur Miller. By awarding it to King they recognize nothing but the commercial value of his books, which sell in the millions but do little more for humanity than keep the publishing world afloat. If this is going to be the criterion in the future, then perhaps next year the committee should give its award for distinguished contribution to Danielle Steel, and surely the Nobel Prize for literature should go to J.K. Rowling.”

I suppose its telling that a guy who breathes nothing but the rarified intellectual air that Bloom does (he is a Humanities professor at Yale University), can’t stop sniping at a guy like King, who swims in decidedly different cultural waters.  Popping up when his nemesis gets a major award is one thing, but doing a random drive-by in an interview 5 years later positively defines pathetic.  Especially when you consider Bloom excels at writing about great writers, but his own writing is boring as hell:

“The second, and I think this is the much more overt and I think it is the main cause, I have been increasingly demonstrating or trying to demonstrate that every possible stance a critic, a scholar, a teacher can take towards a poem is itself inevitably and necessarily poetic.”

Ick.  Here you go, Harold.

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“What do you think? You get social or academic brownie points for deliberately staying out of touch with your own culture? Never in life, as Capt. Lucky Jack Aubrey would say.” (Stephen King, National Book Foundation acceptance speech)

Yet Another Award For Bill Belichick

sporting-civilizer.jpg Sporting Civilizer

So I’m starting a new feature here on All Things In Their Place.  It’s actually more of an award than a feature.  I’m introducing it because there are a lot of different types of real jerks in this world – there are the kind that you’d like to see actually removed from the gene pool, like the kind I put on The Cut List, the truly evil kind who cause worldwide chaos and suffering, like Vladimir Putin, and then there are the kind who are just so frustrating, so unlikable, that all you want to do is stick a middle finger right in their face.  And maybe flick them in the eyeball with it.

This latter category is who I am targeting with this award – The Middle Finger of the Apocalypse.

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The Middle Finger of the Apocalypse goes to that breed of person who you can’t even bear to look at – who inspires a burning desire to kick their ass whenever you so much as see their face.  You see his or her name in the newspaper and go “Man, I hate that guy!”  In the grand scheme of things, these aren’t very important people, very relevant people.  They’re not major figures in politics, or philosophy, or religion.  In fact, it’s their very irrelevance that makes them so annoying – they don’t even matter that much, and still you want to throw a brick through their windshield.  So I think it goes without saying that the inaugural recipient of the Middle Finger of the Apocalypse is none other than New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick.

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Bill Belichick: Black power

And here’s why, in convenient list form:

1.  He makes millions of dollars a year and yet prowls the sidelines in a hooded sweatshirt.  A hooded sweatshirt.  You wouldn’t catch Tom Landry pulling some weak sartorial stunt like that.  Hey Bill – you’re going to be on national television every week, how about springing for a couple pairs of Dockers?  You look like you’re on your way to make a late-night run to the gas station for some jerky and RC Cola.

2.  He runs up the score.  In professional football, I think all’s fair through 3 quarters.  There have been some miracle comebacks in the history of the league, and you can’t take for granted that, given 15 minutes, a team won’t suddenly catch fire and score a lot of points on you real quick.  Look at what the Bears did this weekend behind Devin Hester.  So if you’re pasting a team with 5 minutes to go in the third, and you have the chance to paste them some more, by all means do so.  Hit them with a throat shot.  But when you’re into the fourth quarter and the game is out of reach, just pull your Hall of Fame quarterback and run the ball until the game is over.  Belichick, on the other hand, throws a pass on fourth down and 2 in the final quarter of play with a 45-0 lead and two plays later has widened that lead to 52-0.  Asked to explain his playcalling, Belichick displays nothing but disdain for sportsmanship and decency with this answer:  “We’re just out there playing.”  Now, there is a school of thought that says all’s fair until the game is over in professional sports, that it’s the job of the defense to stop teams like the Patriots from hanging 50 points on them.  I don’t entirely dismiss that point of view, but I do with regards to Belichick.  The reason for that rolls into #3.

3.  He is a cheater.  We all remember Spygate– Jets coach Eric Mangini blowing the whistle on the Patriots practice of videotaping opposing defenses’ signals in order to get an edge on the offensive side of the ball.   A lot of people have tried to blow this off in terms of its impact on the league.  And truth be told, I don’t think the infraction itself is a huge deal.  It’s not like its steroids, it’s not like Belichick is planting a hidden microphone in the opponent’s huddle, it’s not like he’s throwing games to pay off a gambling debt.  So as far as pervasive damage to the game goes, I think Spygate ranks pretty low on the list.  And I further buy the argument that a lot of other teams are doing it.  And I especially agree that videotaping the signals didn’t give the Patriots some sort of disproportionate advantage.  So what’s the big deal if Belichick cheated?  

He cheated, that’s the big deal.  Our integrity is one of the most important things we have.  And integrity is built on a lifetime of decisions, some little, some big.  We’re presented with moral choices every day.  And one day in the recent past, the choice came to Bill Belichick: “Coach, it’s against the rules and it’s unfair, but should we go ahead and videotape the defensive signals of our opponents so we can study them for the next time we play them?”  And Bill Belichick, confronted with the choice to honor the rules or to willfully break them, said “Yeah, do it.”  That, more than anything, is why Belichick deserves unending scorn and condemnation.  He cheated. 

And because he was caught cheating, he’s running up the score.  After the story broke, people started questioning the worth of the Patriots’ past victories.  They suggested that all the Super Bowl victories were tarnished.  Maybe Belichick isn’t a genius, they said…it’s a lot easier to win games when you know the other team’s defensive scheme.  So to wipe those ideas away, to clear his name (an impossible task, by the way, since win or lose, he’s still a cheater), to prove he doesn’t need to cheat to win, Belichick is killing everybody.  He’s passing on fourth and short when he’s already up 5 scores.  In short, he’s compounding personal dishonesty with unsportsmanlike conduct. 

So Bill, the Middle Finger of the Apocalypse is yours.  Try putting a Super Bowl ring on this one.