Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Button, Button

I posted this 12 years ago, almost to the day.

It breaks my heart that it stands up as well or better now than it did back then.

Here is an excerpt:
You know Richard Matheson.

You may not know you know him, but you do. You’ve read or seen his work.

It’s unavoidable.

He, for example, wrote a fair chunk of the original “Twilight Zone” episodes. He wrote “I Am Legend”, which was brought to the screen first as “The Omega Man”, and to which pretty much every zombie/vampire-army movie ever shot owes a fat debt.

“The Shrinking Man” (they added “Incredible” to the title when they made it into a movie, because apparently a shrinking man by itself isn’t prima facie incredible enough) is his.

He did the script for Spielberg's first flick -- "Duel" -- (which, if you haven’t seen it, is “Jaws”...on land...with a big-ass truck instead of a big-ass shark.) and the script for the original teevee movie “The Night Stalker” (And, because Chris Carter knew and honored his own teevee lineage, why he created an homage to the master in the person of “Senator Matheson” on the “X-Files”.)

This list just scratches the surface. There’s a lot more, but this post isn’t my paean to Mr. Matheson. It's to put across the point that he is in the cultural groundwater. And, in this lad’s ‘umble opinion, at least one of his stories should always be included in the canon of speculative fiction that every school kid should be required to read (strapping into those "A Clockwork Orange" eyelid-spreaders if necessary), along with Jackson’s “The Lottery”, “The Flag”, Damon Knight’s "To Serve Man"...and any of a dozen wonders by Bradbury.

The specific piece by Matheson I have in mind is called “Button, Button”.

It first appeared in Playboy magazine in 1970 (See, Mom. I really was reading it for the articles.) and it's been buzzing hornet-like around in my skull very much these last many months. [After reading it] I double-dog-dare you to tell me that good science fiction is or has ever been “escapist” in any sense (emphasis added)....
The package was lying by the front door—a cube-shaped carton sealed with tape, their name and address printed by hand: “Mr. and Mrs. Lewis, 217 E. Thirty-seventh Street, New York 10016.”

Norma picked it up, unlocked the door, and went into the apartment. It was just getting dark. After she put the lamb chops in the broiler, she sat down to open the package. Inside the carton was a push-button unit fastened to a small wooden box. A glass dome covered the button. Norma tried to lift it off, but it was locked in place. She turned the unit over and saw a folded piece of paper Scotch-taped to the bottom of the box. She pulled it off: “Mr. Steward will call on you at 8:00 p.m.” Norma put the button unit beside her on the couch. She reread the typed note, smiling. A few moments later, she went back into the kitchen to make the salad.

The doorbell rang at eight o’clock. “I’ll get it,” Norma called from the kitchen. Arthur was in the living room, reading. There was a small man in the hallway. He removed his hat as Norma opened the door.

“Mrs. Lewis?” he inquired politely.

“I’m Mr. Steward.”

“Oh, yes.” Norma repressed a smile. She was sure now it was a sales pitch.

“May I come in?” asked Mr. Steward.

“I’m rather busy,” Norma said. “I’ll get you your watchamacallit, though.”

She started to turn.

“Don’t you want to know what it is?” Norma turned back.

Mr. Steward’s tone had been offensive. “No, I don’t think so,” she replied.

“It could prove very valuable,” he told her.

“Monetarily?”she challenged

Mr. Steward nodded. “Monetarily,” he said.

Norma frowned. She didn’t like his attitude.

“What are you trying to sell?” she asked.

“I’m not selling anything,” he answered.

Arthur came out of the living room.

“Something wrong”

Mr. Steward introduced himself.

“Oh, the –” Arthur pointed toward the living room and smiled. “What is that gadget anyway?”

“It won’t take long to explain,” replied Mr. Steward. “May I come in?”

“If you’re selling something—,” Arthur said.
He hesitated. “Well, why not?” he said.

They went into the living room and Mr. Steward sat in Norma’s chair. He reached into an inside coat pocket and withdrew a small sealed envelope.

“Inside here is a key to the bell- unit dome,” he said. He set the envelope on the chairside table. “The bell is connected to our office.”

“What’s it for?” asked Arthur.

“If you push the button,” Mr. Steward told him, “somewhere in the world someone you don’t know will die. In return for which you will receive a payment of $50,000.”
Let’s be clear; in America in 2006, this is not a fable. This is not a cautionary fable dressed up in science fiction nomeclature.

This is about the world, now.

The United States, now.

In 2004, when the GOP rank and file lockstepped into their polling places to re-elect liars and criminals, they pushed the button.

When they stand by and applaud reckless, useless butchery on the promise that the indiscriminate slaughter will somehow make them incrementally safer and keep their pump prices low, they push the button.

When conservatives of my acquaintence say – in all seriousness – “Fuck it. Kill ‘em all. They all hate us anyway,” they push the button.

When a drooling slab of racist slunkmeat like Michael Savage calls for wholesale homicide to the orgasmic squeals of the pig people, they stomp up and down on the button.

They push the button because they are drowning in their own fear and voting for the bastards that are holding their heads underwater. Because they are weak men. Cowardly men. Hateful men, who have lent their electoral authority to other weaklings and cowards to wholesale curbstomp brown people in their name.

Because it costs them nothing.

History gave them a chance to show the world their true faces. A chance to proceeding with the long, hard job of dealing with real enemies and real problems with care and gravity. Intelligence. Maturity. Focus.

Instead we got The Bicycle Chief and his Gang that Couldn't Loot Straight.

Twice. Fucking twice.

This was their moral acid test; one which they have failed spectacularly.

Safe in their basements, shielded by layers of greasy ass-fat and whistle-clean, fraidy-cat arsenals they will never use, kept Mommy’s-womb-safe by the gangsters and hucksters they elect and re-elect over and over and over again from having to spend a single dime or shed a single drop of blood, they have been given their heart's darkest, fondest wish: to kill brown people by remote control and have someone else pick up the tab.

Every day they push the button.

Every. Single. Day.
If the last 12 years have proven anything, it is that they will go right on smirking and sneering and pushing the button until it is slapped out of their hands once and for all.

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There's Always Work at the Post Office

For some time now, I have been hearing professional media persons waxing wistful and poetic with some variation of this kind of bosh (not an actual quote):
"There are a ton of super-ooper-duper-awesome journalists at Fox News!  A ton of them!  And sure they're angry at how Satan is running the fascist propaganda dungheap where they work, but c'mon man, they gotta work." 
It has happened often enough that I think someone should point out that when you hear such talk, you are not hearing journalists reporting the facts of a story.  You are hearing pundit break-room chatter from employees in a very small and fiercely competitive corporate media hiring/firing pool treading very lightly when discussing colleagues across the street but in the same business.  Ever wonder why Chris* Hayes and Ezra Klein would go out of their way to give a career boost to the odious Ben Domenech whenever his fortunes were flagging?  Or why the Kindly Doctor Maddow would  riff for eight solid minutes on what a goddamn saint Greta Van Sustern was, no matter what you might have heard? 

Because, as the cautionary tale of Melissa Harris-Perry demonstrated, teevee punditting is a volatile trade driven by hidden agendas and colossal egos which those in the business never share with us rubes.  And you never know who will be holding the whip-handle the next time you have to put your resume on the street.

So as a permanent media outsider let me make this perfectly clear: if you choose to stay at Fox News in any capacity other than janitorial, don't kid yourself for a minute that you are in any way heir to the legacy of Cronkite or Murrow or Royko or Finley Peter Dunne.

You are not.

You are taking up the mantle of the likes of Michael Steele and David Brooks.  Mark Penn and Juan Williams and Susan Estrich (What?  Did you think we'd forget you, Susan?).  You are hiring yourself out to be a beard -- to be the presentable public face of a depraved institution.

Do you think for a minute that I couldn't increase my income by an order of magnitude if I converted?  If I rent my garments, renounced Saul Alinksy, and all of his works, and all his pomps?  If I took up my pen to crank out the kind of glop they sling at The Federalist?  Or Townhall?  Or Red State?

Shit, I could type it with my toes while binge-watching Lost in Space with the entire F-M section of Roget's tied behind my back and still make it sing, because it's fucking easy.  Mindless.  Plus I actually know my way around a microphone and cameras don't freak me out, so who knows how high up the food chain I could ascend as an Apostate Libtard who has Seen the Light of True Conservatism.  Right now, through dint of grim, batshit persistence, Dinesh D'Souza's net worth is around $4 million dollars.  You think that we at The Professional Left couldn't match that if we joined Team Evil, and without the felony rap and those pesky ankle monitors?  You think that if we set "we gotta work" as our highest virtue and screw the morality of what we do, that we couldn't spend the rest of our days supping comfortably at the Wingnut Welfare trough between Jerome Corsi and Michelle Malkin?

But instead we put out the tip jar and hope for the best. 

Because I'll bag groceries and deliver papers first.  I'll beg in the goddamn street first.  Because working for madmen and monsters who you know damn well are bent on evil purposes -- madmen and monsters whose business model is deliberately destroying the integrity of your chosen profession -- is inexcusable. 

So quit.  Now.  Today.

Because you're being paid in blood money, kid.

And that shit never washes off.

*Thanks for the catch :-)

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Today In Orwellcome To Trump's America: The War For The Past Just Keeps Escalating

"As always, the past is the battlefield & memory is the Left's doomsday weapon." -- driftglass

Today we see President Stupid testing the limits of how far Conservative Strategic Forgettery can be be pushed by denying that his televised interview with Lester Holt in front of tens of millions of Americans --

-- ever happened.

As I may have mentioned once or twice, once you start to notice that a depressingly large number of our fellow citizens have become reprogrammable Orwellian meat-puppets, the rise of Trump is not hard to understand at all.

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Tuesday, April 17, 2018

The Utterly Predictable Return of the Independent Granfalloon: Update

Today seemed like a good day to revisit the Greatest Granfalloon of All -- that mighty army of Imaginary "Independents" astride a thundering herd of Third Party Unicorns who are always right on the verge of arriving to save us all from the Extremes on Both Sides.  Because in case you hadn't noticed, the number of Republicans who are once again trying to escape the righteous judgement of history by calling themselves "independents" is getting back into the "Fake Tea Party" range.

I case you are unfamiliar with the Independent Granfalloon, allow me to take you on a brief tour of this blog as it was nine long years ago.  Back to the day in 2009 when I awoke to discover that Mr. David Brooks of The New York Times had dumped every loose button and paper-clip of his own privileged, white, suburban, middle-aged, Boomer Burkean bourgeoisie terror into a big, loose sack and called it analysis...
What Independents Want
My response to which was...

Nobody knows what “independents” want, because “independent” as a modern political category is a textbook example of what Kurt Vonnegut defined in "Cat's Cradle" as a "granfalloon":
"...a proud and meaningless association of human beings"
Because “independent” can mean any-damn-thing, or nothing at all.

Consider that if you defined “independent” as someone who, broadly speaking, supported a Liberal agenda (not the imaginary, shadow-puppets-made-out-of-Rush-Limbaugh-stool-samples “Liberal agenda” that Conservatives have been using to scare stupid people into committing economic suicide for 30 years, but the real Liberal agenda) but was not welded to a particular candidate, or even to a particular party, then that would describe me pretty well.

But I'm also quite sure that a fair chunk of the the 5% of the voting public which -- just 24 hours before the 2004 Presidential elections -- still couldn't quite make up their minds whether to vote for Kerry/Edwards, or the lying, feeble-minded frat boy (and his homicidal regent) who had fucked up everything he had ever touched ...consider themselves "independents".

Rebel nuns who might just think that letting a rape victim have access to abortion services would not be the end of the world?


Snake-handling queer-hating Leviticans who think the GOP is too gutless because it won’t advocate rounding up Teh Gay and putting them in camps?


Bunker-dwelling survivalists?


Pimple-faced 30-something John Galt wannabees who masturbate themselves blind to “Atlas Shrugged” because that hot chick in accounting won’t give them a second look, but won’t she be sorry when Objectivists stop the engine of the world and people like her will have to stand in line to offer their vajay-jays to the alpha stud wealth producers!


Klansmen who want to smoke a little weed?


America's compulsive political middle-children who have been taught so thoroughly to compromise their way out of any conflict that they will travel a 1,000 miles just to find a fence to straddle?

The opinionless little ciphers who just want to make sure they line up with a winner?

The moral cowards wouldn’t pick a side with a gun pressed to their heads, because of the terror of then being committed to actually doing something instead of snarking their way through life declaring "Well, ya know, bote sides are juss a buncha crooks anyway!" about every situation regardless of context and circumstances?

If asked, I guarantee you all virtually of those people would tell you that they think of themselves as “independent”.

And based on simple observation, guess who appears to be the largest group of late-blooming independents?

Those fucknozzles who, after giving Dubya the longest tongue bath in modern political history while calling everyone else a traitor, started gagging on the sheer tonnage of bullshit their creepy idolatry of George W. Bush was requiring them to swallow and obediently regurgitate every fucking day, that's who.

Most newly minted “independents” seem to be little more than Republicans who are fleeing the scene of their crime, but at the same time still desperately want believe in the inerrant wisdom of Rush Limbaugh. They are completely incapable of facing the horrifying reality that they have gotten every single major political opinion and decision of their adult lives completely wrong, so instead they double-down on their hatred of women and/or gays and/or brown people and/or Liberals, and blame them for the miserable fuckpit their leaders and their policies have made of their lives and futures.

Like German soldiers after the fall of Berlin, they have stopped running away from the catastrophe they created only long enough to burn their uniforms.

But they fool no one.

Except, apparently, David Fucking Brooks.
And now, nine years later, Jesus Christ in a Time-Share, they're still the same fucking scam.  Still burning their uniforms.  Still waving their bloody hands and puling about their alleged "principles".  Of course, if they actually had principles, they would have walked out of the Party of Bigots and Imbeciles once Rush Limbaugh and Newt Gingrich took it over 25 years ago -- walked out, crossed the street and, on principle, lent their support to the only viable alternative to the madness and depravity of GOP.

But as Jonathan Chait points out, that was never going to happen.  Because these same hacks have spent so much of their professional lives rationalizing their membership in the Party of Bigots and Imbeciles by building ever more ridiculous Dirty Hippie Straw Men to scream at that the very idea of throwing in with us for real is like unto the Wicked Witch of the West cannon-balling naked into the Pacific Ocean.  Because they have been selling the Big Lie of Both Sides Do It for so long, that to switch sides now would fry their ideological circuitry.  Because...
The GOP’s Never-Trumpers Are Really Just Never-Democrats

What implications might be drawn from the implacable support of the party base for the manifestly incompetent, scandal-ridden party leader? One might entertain the conclusion that no combination of facts and logic can dislodge the Republican base from its tribal loyalties. This interpretation could be supported by such evidence as the fondness of Republicans for birtherism, their distrust of climate science, and so on. Perhaps the Republican base as currently constituted is hopelessly immune to reason and a reasonable person such as Brooks should instead refocus his political energies on curtailing its political power.

But Brooks’s column did not come to that conclusion. Indeed, amazingly enough, he did not even consider the option. Instead, he suggested that critics of Trump must try harder and somehow do a better job of persuading Republicans to stop loving Trump so much...
And so, boxed in by their own bullshit, the all eventually their way to the ideological opium den , shedding and torching their GOP glad rags along the way as they try to weasel their way out of Judgement Day.

Like Joe Scarborough, newly-minted Independent 
Scarborough formally leaves GOP, registers as independent
And Jennifer Rubin, newly-minted Independent 
 The GOP ‘Has Become the Caricature the Left Always Said It Was’

Jennifer Rubin has become a leading voice for a group of conservative intellectuals who don’t fit comfortably in either political party—and sees the party she left behind as ‘immoral’ and ‘anti-American.’
And George Will, newly-minted Independent 
This past weekend, George Will revealed that he had formally disaffiliated himself from the Republican Party, switching his Maryland voter registration to independent.
And I could go on and on, but here's the thing.  Since the term "independent" is nothing but a hollow catchall for anyone who wants to be against something very specific while not wanting to stand for anything but platitudes ("...a proud and meaningless association of human beings") then a Republican declaring themselves to be an Independent can mean anything at all, including the opposite of what any other Republican means when they declaring themselves to be an Independent.

For example, Bob Bennett's son is now a newly-minted Independent because he suddenly noticed that GOP is too nustsy-go-coo-coo right-wing for his tender sensibilities.
Senator Bob Bennett's son, Jim, leaves Republican party because of Trump

 A Utah businessman and longtime Republican is leaving the party based on its presidential nominee Donald Trump.

Jim Bennett, son of the late Utah Senator Bob Bennett told MSNBC on Friday he has switched his voter registration from Republican to independent due to the fact that the GOP no longer represents him. The party as a whole has changed in a bad way since Trump began his presidential run, he said...
But when America's leading hate-mongering Christopath, Franklin Graham, stomped out of the Republican Party to become an independent back in 2015, it was for precisely the opposite sort of reason:
Evangelist Franklin Graham quits the Republican Party over Planned Parenthood funding 
Evangelist Franklin Graham has announced he is abandoning the Republican Party in disgust over the move by the GOP-led Congress last week to pass a budget that Graham said was “wasteful” and provided funding for Planned Parenthood, which he compared to the Nazis.

Graham has previously said he has no faith in any political party, but his apparent renunciation of his Republican affiliation is an indication of anger on the right and the strong interest many disaffected evangelicals have shown in populist outsiders like Donald Trump.

“This is an example of why I have resigned from the Republican Party and declared myself Independent. I have no hope in the Republican Party, the Democratic Party, or Tea Party to do what is best for America,” the younger Graham declared on Facebook on Monday.

“Seeing and hearing Planned Parenthood talk nonchalantly about selling baby parts from aborted fetuses with utter disregard for human life is reminiscent of Joseph Mengele and the Nazi concentration camps!” Graham wrote. “That should’ve been all that was needed to turn off the faucet for their funding.”...
And just today, right here in the Land of Lincoln, we learn from the op-ed page of the State Journal-Register that Jim and Judy Young have also quit the Party of Lincoln and declared themselves newly-minted Independents because because the GOP was just barely not nustsy-go-coo-coo right-wing enough to nominate Jeanne Ives over Governor Hedgefund:

You know, this Jeanne Ives:

For my wife and I down here in our little hobbit hole in the middle of Middle America, "I'm an Independent!" has been our private, eye-rolling, sentence-finishing punch-line every time we see another stricken Republican on the teevee who wants to share with the world their shock and horror at discovering that their Republican Party is ...  OMG! Full of Republicans!

And given the baseline cowardice and cravenness of the average Republican, as of now I see no end to that trend anywhere in sight.

UPDATE:  And this just makes it perfect...

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Don't Worry Kids, Kevin Williamson Is Gonna Be Fine

Because the Wingnut Welfare drive-thru window is always open.

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What Hath Both Siderism Wrought?

Today, America's Sad Clown of Centrism -- Ron Fournier -- was paid a visit by one of his ideological bastard offspring.

Let's take a look shall we...
When you've spent your career defending the High and Holy Church of Both Sides Do It by handing out "Get Out Of Personal Responsibility Free Because Both Sides" cards to every wingnut in Christendom, don't be surprised when they show up at your door to redeem them any time you try to draw any attention to any case where Both Sides Don't.

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Monday, April 16, 2018

Hairy Slime

Some I do just for me

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I See Jonathan Chait is a Fan

I was reading Mr. Chait's column today on the subject of Mr. David Brooks of The New York Times to see if any of it required my attention (it does, but nothing I haven't already written about 1,000 times) when this paragraph caught my eye:
One might entertain the conclusion that no combination of facts and logic can dislodge the Republican base from its tribal loyalties.
Mostly because it includes a very specific locution that exists nowhere else on Teh Internet:

Except, of course, if you know where to look:

Also here:
Lastly, and most tragically, time and crisis have demonstrated over and over again that there is absolutely no magical combination of facts, logic or goodwill that can dislodge the Center or the Right from their destructive, co-dependent ideological bunkers.
And here.

What can I say?  A writer recognizes their own darlings :-)  Like, say, "dumpster fire" -- the origin of which still remains a complete mystery to the good people at Merriam-Webster, despite it being very well-documented out here in Liberal Coventry and despite me having written them several times to stake my claim.

Ah well.

Moving on...

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Sunday, April 15, 2018

RIP R. Lee Ermey

Seemed appropriate.

Matthew Dowd is a Fundamentally Ridiculous Person

When Megan McCain-Domenech asked ABC News chief political analyst Matthew Dowd which he would prefer, the Republican Party of Donald Trump or the Republican Party of Paul Ryan, anyone wish a shred of integrity would have fired back with something along the lines of:
What the hell  are you talk about, Megan?  The Party of Trump is the Party of Ryan, just as it is the Party of Dubya and Cheney and Mitch McConnell and Sarah Palin and Tom Delay and Lee Atwater and Karl Rove and Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham and Dick Armey and Jerry Falwell junior and senior and Sean Hannity and Newt Gingrich and Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter and on and on and on.

It is continuum of depravity, Megan, stretching back more than half a century, so wide and clear and well-documented that it's practically visible from space, so I have to ask, are you drunk maybe? Or did you fall on your head, repeatedly, very hard this morning?  Or are you, O daughter of John McCain and bride of Ben Domenech, really this completely clueless about the entire history of your political party over the course of your entire life?  Or are you just fucking lying?
That's what anyone with a shred of integrity would have said.

Here, on the other hand, is how ABC News' chief political analyst responded...

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