Sunday, December 14, 2008

Sunday Morning Comin’ Down /Blog Post #1,800

Car and Briber Magazine Edition

Our local Fox affiliate interviewed Judy Barr Topinka.

In 2006, Judy Barr was the last remaining Republican constitutional officer in Illinois (Illinois State Treasurer, 1998-2006) when she decided to roll the dice and run for governor. Unfortunately, her years as a more-or-less moderate Republican meant that the whackjob wing of the Illinois GOP (also known as “The Illinois GOP”) made sure she came out of the party primary extra-heavily bloodied, and then had to stand up a statewide campaign against an incumbent governor whose now-famous Awesome Shakedown Powers meant he could build a 27 million dollar war chest.

She got crushed.

Judy Barr reminds me of any number of brassy denizens of Chicago taverns I have known. Likes a cocktail or several. Voice graveled up from years of Virginia Slims and screaming for the Sox. Plain as water. Savvy. Knows a lot of really good dirty jokes.

Hard not to like.

Anyway, this morning she laid out the problems with Illinois politics pretty clearly, and they apply to national politics as well.

First, money. Judy Barr was never gonna beat a 27-million dollar incumbent with 11-million dollars.

Second, how Blagojevich got that money. She pointed out that, “they’re a bunch of thugs”. That they just extorted the fuck out of people whose jobs and/or contracts depended on the State. And if they didn’t say that directly, they certainly put the word around so that people knew.

(See Mary Mitchell’s “Meet the Press” comments later on.)

Third, the media, which has been outsourced/downsized/liposucked/hog-butchered down to bone slivers and has gotten rid of most of those pricier older persons who actually know what the hell they’re talking about “have experience”. Veterans who have built up an institutional knowledge, because a sense of what-has-gone-before has always been the meat-and-potatoes of beat reporting; because on any given day, a great reporter is not reporting on just that story, but tapping out one page of an epic tale that stretches back through decades of time and a cast of hundreds.

Great reporting neither ignores the past, nor regurgitates the whole Encyclopedia Politica in every article. Instead, great reporting develops a powerful, resonant voice that inflects every sentence with a deeper understanding than mere here-and-now.

Sadly, that kind of journalism is mostly dead. It needn’t be -- nothing in the last 10,000 years has fundamentally changed about human nature, the corrupting influence of clout or the power of words -- but we are ruled by ribbon clerks and sales managers, and there is no place on their ledgers for legends.

No, if you wanna hear what the Pure Quill sounds like, you gotta rob a grave.

You gotta go back to people like Royko, who blended mellow craft and smashmouth impact like a 20-year-old Ardbeg.

Here’s a snip from his reportage of “Da Picasso” for you to savor. Notice how, in the hands of a master, the simple tale of the unveiling of a statue becomes a funny, entertaining civics lesson on the sordid history of our grubby, magnificent "Urbs in Horto”.

A few people applauded. But at best, it was a smattering of applause. Most of the throng was silent.

They had hoped, you see, that it would be what they had heard it would be.

A woman, maybe. A beautiful soaring woman. That is what many art experts and enthusiasts had promised. They had said that we should wait that we should not believe what we saw in the pictures.

If it was a woman, then art experts should put away their books and spend more time in girlie joints.

The silence grew. Then people turned and looked at each other. Some shrugged. Some smiled. Some just stood there, frowning or blank-faced.

Most just turned and walked away. The weakest pinch-hitter on the Cubs receives more cheers.

They had wanted to be moved by it. They wouldn't have stood there if they didn't want to believe what they had been told that it would be a fine thing.
But anyone who didn't have a closed mind·which means thinking that anything with the name Picasso connected must be wonderful could see that it was nothing but a big, homely metal thing.

That is all there is to it. Some soaring lines, yes. Interesting design, I'm sure. But the fact is, it has a long stupid face and looks like some giant insect that is about to eat a smaller, weaker insect. It has eyes that are pitiless, cold, mean.

But why not? Everybody said it had the spirit of Chicago. And from thousands of miles away, accidentally or on purpose, Picasso captured it.

Up there in that ugly face is the spirit of Al Capone, the Summerdale scandal cops, the settlers who took the Indians but good.

Its eyes are like the eyes of every slum owner who made a buck off the small and weak. And of every building inspector who took a wad from a slum owner to make it all possible.

It has the look of the dope pusher and of the syndicate technician as he looks for just the right wire to splice the bomb to.

Any bigtime real estate operator will be able to look into the face of the Picasso and see the spirit that makes the city's rebuilding possible and profitable.

It has the look of the big corporate executive who comes face to face with the reality of how much water pollution his company is responsible for and then thinks of the profit and loss and of his salary.

It is all there in that Picasso thing the I Will spirit. The I will get you before you will get me spirit.

Picasso has never been here, they say. You'd think he's been riding the L all his life.

In a runaway-bride/child-in-a-well-driven-media, there is no room at the inn for writing with the intelligence and the attention span to tell stories that way anymore.

Judy Barr then closes the circle by talking about the public, because normal people don’t generally follow politics. When they do engage, they now no longer have much in the way of a media to help explain to them what the fuck is going on. So absent a real media, paid political ads rule the day, and we’re right back to the corrupting effects of kneebreaker-based political fund raising.

On “Fox News Sunday”

Bush makes a surprise visit to Iraq this morning to check on Dick Cheney’s investments.

Then -- as in every other venue today -- Republicans earn their ducats working hard to leverage the auto industry crisis into another chance to eviscerate labor and raze the middle class, while Dems counterpunched with the following:

1. When figuring the price of a car, labor costs are relatively small (10%).
2. Wages are already competitive.
3. What is killing the car companies are legacy costs that other countries help defray with national health care programs, and,
4. America is the only automobile manufacturing country that has not already jumping in to support its auto industry and save it from being wiped out by the global credit crisis.

Senator’s Debbie Stabenow, (D-Michigan), and Bob Corker (R-Nissan) do that dance here.

Corker: Treasury officials are going over the balance sheets of each car company to determine how much we should make them beg.

Corker: We have one group of people who want to throw money and lazy evil Unions and one group of Good Americans who want to save the day.

Corker: Had the UAW just agreed to “be competitive” by 2009 this would not be a problem. But they didn’t want to; they wanted to wait for the Obama Administration to come ‘n bail ‘em out.

Wallace; How much further should we sell out middle class workers to make my Conservative paymasters happy?

Stabenow: There is a global credit crisis and every other country in the world that has a car industry is stepping up … We’re the only ones in America who are not.

Stabenow: So far it is only the auto workers that have made sacrifices and have been asked to make more sacrifices. The average hourly rates that UAW workers make are on par with all of those foreign carmakers that are being rubbed in our faces as Teh Awesome.

Wallace: I don’t want to talk about the hourly wage rate or anything that quantifiable. I’d rather keep the discussion limited to free-floating, labor-bashing banalities.

Corker: I haz been a card-carrying Union member.

Wallace: Yeah, and my dad is Mike Wallace. The pay is way better over here on the dark side, no?

Corker: Waaaay better.

Wallace: Stabby, can you guarantee that the auto industry will never come back and ask for another dime?

Corker: Look; we have a historic opportunity to fuck the labor movement into the ground once and for all. I haz never been prouder of my conferencee. Of Cunnel Mitch.

I think the Bush Administration has a historic opportunity, but is George Bush still running the White House or is the UAW?

driftglass: I believe Bob Corker just called Dubya a dirty commie pussy.

Stabenow: The only people who have given up a damn thing so far have been auto workers. This is not about auto workers making too much. This is not about the middle class being paid too much. This is about a long-term commitment to Advanced Manufacturing.

Amen, Stabby!

Then, Representative Tom Cross [(R) 84th District House Republican] Abner Mikva (local pillar of reform politics in Illinois) talk about the Blagojevich, followed by a panel rehash of “How will Blagojevich being a filth rat taints the Obama?”


On “Face the Nation”

Mike Madigan’s daughter (Attorney general, Lisa Madigan) who has been gearing up to run against Dick Mell’s son-in-law (Rod Blagojevich) talks about maybe using the “removal for disability” statute in Illinois law to yank Dick Mell’s son-in-law out of office. Which, while interesting, will never fly, because if stupid and venial become job-disqualifiers for holding an elected or appointed position in Illinois Gummint, well, let’s just say you could fit the Left Behind in a couple of dozen fire-sale-priced condos on the North side and turn the Governor Jim Thompson Boondoggle the State of Illinois building into the world’s toniest grain silo.

Later, Bob Schieffer asks about the fate of Jesse Jackson’s kid (Rep. Jesse Jackson Junior), while the unseen spirits of Richard J. Daley’s kid (Richard M. Daley) and Cook Country Board President John Stroger’s kid (Country Board President, Todd Stroger) hang over proceedings.

Dynasty? You’re soaking in it!

Then Cunnel Dick Shelby’s

teevee understudy – Senator Bob Corker -- pops up again to explain to Carl Levin and Sherrod Brown why U.S. auto workers need to be financially keelhauled to make us all feel good about saving the American manufacturing base.

Carl Levin: No other country – none – that produces automobiles are allowing their industries to collapse. They all have this problem and they’re all stepping up to save their industries. Even China.

The word “competitive” was a word that, finally, was acceptable to Bob Corker, the White House and the Democrats. The people who for whom that standard was not acceptable were Slave States. Senate Republicans.

Sherrod Brown: I don’t think the White House wants to add the collapse of the US auto industry to their legacy.

driftglass: I do believe Sherrod Brown just called Dubya a wimp.

On “Meet the Press”

Mary Mitchell from the Sun Times was one of the only Chicago-based journalist who was raised up into the national spotlight

Her main point?

That what people are mad about is that Rod Blagojevich said “out loud” what has always been done with a “wink and a nod”. That this is the real world where even office politics works pay-to-play; that if da boss has some important job to fill, he ain’t gonna fill it with somebody who ain’t gonna do him some good.

Ya know?

Yeah, I know. Believe me, I know.

Next, a Round Table on the economy featuring five CEOs or Governors – current or former – and the only person sticking up for Labor was Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm.

Eric Schmit, CEO of Google: If we just innovate and technologize and jet packs and stuff, uh, y’know, we have great universities.

Mittens! Romney, CEO of the GOP: La-bor is e-vil. De-stroy. De- stroy. Biz-ness tax-es too high!

Bucky O’Satan, CEO of WalMart: We’re seeing large uptick in the sale of refrigerator boxes as our customers choose more mobile residences that allow them to live even closer to their local WalMart. Also, they’re coming to our pharmacy divisions with head wounds, and to our Tarot divisions for everyday low divinations. Maybe if we crush labor to paste and sell it to poor people on cheap Chinese crackers... Wait a minute. Did I say that out loud?

Carly Fiorina, Failed CEO of Hewlitt-Packard: Having driven HP into the ground and advised the McCain campaign into oblivion, I apparently still have a job. So wheeeeee!

David Gregory: A Google question. What can you tell about the psychology of the American people based on how they’re searching the internet?

Schmidt: Well, based on your search profile David, what you’re really asking is, can we tell what kind of porn you’re streaming at 2 a.m. And the answer is “yes”, NaughtyHouseBoy77. Yes we can.

Mittens!: What we needzez is more tax cutzes!

On “This Week” John McCain suddenly remembers that he really kinda loathes the Republican Party and the Republican President.

McCain: All due respect to the RNC, I think we should all be working constructively together on important issues like the bailout and the economy.

(Video here at Crooks & Liars)

McCain: I think my job in the Senate is to be to lead the loyal opposition, underscoring “loyal”. We are facing problems that are historic. Economic problems that I have not seen in my lifetime. This is the shit we should be working on, and not gnawing on Barack Obama’s ankles before he’s had a chance to air the Pinochet stink out of the White House.

McCain: How did we screw up Iraq? I talked to one of the hardest core Al-Qaeda leaders in Iraq. He told me they got a foothold in Iraq for two reasons. First, after knocking off Saddam and his degenerate kids, the Administration let to mad dogs off the fucking leash. We didn’t control the country, and so you had utter, widespread lawlessness. Rape. Murder. Settling old scores. Looting.

Second, the greatest recruiting tool Al-Qaeda ever had was Abu Gharib.

Then "The Panel" discussed the only two topics in Christendom: Rod Blagojevich and cars.

George Will told some story from, I believe, the Age of the Merovingian Kings. I didn't hear all of if it (being, as I was, curled in the fetal position under my drafting table screaming at the teevee) but from what I could make out, in 1910, Chicago Alderman Mickey “Spoons” Bigole beat Daniel “The Planner” Burnham unconscious with Frank “The Lloyd” Wright.

Or something.

Later, Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman asks George Will, “Are you prepared to make the awesome decision to let the core of the American manufacturing base fail?” causing Mr. Will to quietly pee himself in terror.

Krugman also notes that “the opposition to the bailout was led by Senator Corker, the Senator from Nissan” which made me smile.

On ”The Chris Matthews Show” five Washington D.C./New York-based pundits talked about Chicago.

What about this Blagojevich mess being a distraction for the Obama Team?

A lot of yadda yadda, and then…

Andrew Sullivan: Why is this a distraction at all? When it is clear this has nothing to do with Obama.

Andrea Mitchell: Well, y’know, White Houses get all tangled up in stuff like who called who, when, about what.

driftglass: No, Andrea, it is you people who get hair-on-fire obsessed over this kind of trifling shit and then will not stop talking about it wall-to-wall no matter how bright and hot Rome is burning. You people are the ones who could not stop lighting votive candles at the altar of Bill Clinton’s penis because you are glorified tabloid trollops who cannot wrap your tiny, tiny brains about the important, complex issues that are actually vital to the life of the republic.

Mitchell (rudely continuing over my mental rant): Like Scooter Libby.

Sullivan: Scooter Fucking Libby? He was committing crimes at the behest of the President!

And that’s the point, Sully: the Andrea Mitchells who clot your media constellation have moral sensibilities so debauched and degraded that they literally cannot distinguish between trivia and treason.

Matthews: So will the GOP be trying to help the Obama Administration to fix the hurricane of economic feculence that is bearing down on us, or with the be the same whiny, obstructionist pricks they have been for the last 30 years?

Sullivan: The 20%…the Palin/Hannity/Limbaugh crowd… will obstruct everything Obama tries to do.

And of course, when Sullivan says “The 20%”, what he means is “The entire GOP”. Because after 30 years of Nixon politics and Reaganomics, there is nothing left on the Right but the “Palin/Hannity/Limbaugh crowd” and a handful of the stunned, useless political walking-wounded like Sullivan who have not yet come to terms with the grim reality that while the Dirty Fucking Hippies have been pretty much right all along, they have spent their entire adult lives building lucrative careers enthusiastically pimping themselves out as the intellectual arm-candy of evil men who despise them.

And that while the Right will always need its Hannity/Limbaugh stooges and lackeys to push their poison, the Golden Age of the Useful “Respectable Conservative” Idiot is coming to an end.


Anonymous said...

THX Drifty

karen marie said...

absolutely smoking, driftglass.

i turned the teevee on this morning, heard that "the former ceo of hewlett-packard" (not even the news people thought it was a good idea to actually say her name) was going to be on and i gave the whole thing a pass.

i'm glad you are documenting the atrocities -- it's important.

the clip of royko is a thing of beauty -- double thanks for that.

Anonymous said...

Damn, we have it good over here in the UK. At least our conservatives have been relatively sane, if boring plunderers of the national wealth.

Comrade PhysioProf said...

Great reporting neither ignores the past, nor regurgitates the whole Encyclopedia Politica in every article. Instead, great reporting develops a powerful, resonant voice that inflects every sentence with a deeper understanding than mere here-and-now.

Joseph Mitchell was the master of that in New York City local reportage.

pwapvt said...

I hope that someday Andrea Mitchell and the rest of her ilk stumble across your pixelated domain and have an epiphany so hard it kills them all.

Thanks for the Royko as well. His is a much imitated style, without the substance. I remember reading him regularly back in the day.

As always Mr D, you rock.

Anonymous said...

Drifty, you sure can kick the shit out of deserving trollops using nothing but words and thin air.

Rehctaw said...

One of my most prized possessions is a hand-written note from Judy Barr Topinka thanking me for a few kind words I aimed her way.

I'll try to find the piece I wrote.
It was my letter to Santa c. 1992. One of the many pieces that infuriated my publisher because, according to him, I was writing over the reader's head. Too subtle, too many big words... Judy wasn't who I wrote it for, but she got it.

Judy is an endangered species. A fair and honest politician. The R after her name was a simple reflection of her unwillingness to play ball w Illinois' version of Democrats. For all she cared she would have run as a banshee from Dimension Q if it meant standing up for the people who needed someone to stand up for them.

People like Judy and Pat Quinn went into politics on principle, with principle and never strayed. That, more than the money made them unelectable. Catch 22.

There's still a chance that our President elect is this sort of public servant. There's still a chance that journalists, cast out into the wilderness for daring to write prose above a second grade reading level, will keep writing where the reader's heads NEED to be.

That's how I found you. That's why I keep coming back. You're doing what needs doing. and now it needs doing more than ever.

Donna said...

Complete Tip of the Hat. God bless you. Never were truer words written. What a completly useless bunch of idiots we have for a press corp.

Donna said...


Bustednuckles said...

"the Golden Age of the Useful “Respectable Conservative” Idiot is coming to an end. "

Thank God.

Look out Limpballs, you are next.

johnson said...

[weeps] Damn I miss Mike Royko!

Blue Gal said...

and congrats on post 1800...that's wonderful.

WereBear said...

Ah, writers.

You sir, are one.

Maybe one day, the newspapers and magazines and film studios will hire more of them.

Suzan said...


Absolutely at your best.

Why aren't you running Illinois?


Hack said...