Saturday, September 29, 2007

All Day Suckers

In case you needed evidence, here are two examples of the "We Report -- You Decide" credo as practiced by the good folks at Fox News.

The dustup over network loudmouth Bill O'Reilly's utterly moronic, if not mean-spirited comments are apparantly the fault of left-wing website Media Matters for reporting it with complete context. Not, apparantly the waterhead, paranoid demogogue who made the comments to begin with. God bless America.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Black People For Dummies

Many people wonder about my fascination with Bill O'Reilly. He's a demogogue and hypocrite of the highest order -- a vile and dangerous rabble-rouser completely divorced from facts, tolerance and reality. He's also a lot of fun to watch, mostly while screaming at the TV screen.

But all those screams are worth it when, quite regularly, he reveals his inner buffoon. Such as in this bit from his radio show the other day when talking with NPR's Juan Williams (excerpted at length to provide fair context):

O'REILLY: Now, how do we get to this point? Black people in this country understand that they've had a very, very tough go of it, and some of them can get past that, and some of them cannot. I don't think there's a black American who hasn't had a personal insult that they've had to deal with because of the color of their skin. I don't think there's one in the country. So you've got to accept that as being the truth. People deal with that stuff in a variety of ways. Some get bitter. Some say, [unintelligible] "You call me that, I'm gonna be more successful." OK, it depends on the personality.

So it's there. It's there, and I think it's getting better. I think black Americans are starting to think more and more for themselves. They're getting away from the Sharptons and the Jacksons and the people trying to lead them into a race-based culture. They're just trying to figure it out: "Look, I can make it. If I work hard and get educated, I can make it."

You know, I was up in Harlem a few weeks ago, and I actually had dinner with Al Sharpton, who is a very, very interesting guy. And he comes on The Factor a lot, and then I treated him to dinner, because he's made himself available to us, and I felt that I wanted to take him up there. And we went to Sylvia's, a very famous restaurant in Harlem. I had a great time, and all the people up there are tremendously respectful. They all watch The Factor. You know, when Sharpton and I walked in, it was like a big commotion and everything, but everybody was very nice.

And I couldn't get over the fact that there was no difference between Sylvia's restaurant and any other restaurant in New York City. I mean, it was exactly the same, even though it's run by blacks, primarily black patronship. It was the same, and that's really what this society's all about now here in the U.S.A. There's no difference. There's no difference. There may be a cultural entertainment -- people may gravitate toward different cultural entertainment, but you go down to Little Italy, and you're gonna have that. It has nothing to do with the color of anybody's skin.


O'REILLY: No, no, I mean, I like that soul food. I had the meatloaf special. I had coconut shrimp. I had the iced tea. It was great.

WILLIAMS: Well, let me just tell you, the one thing I would say is this. And we're talking about the kids who still like this gangsta rap, this vile poison that I think is absolutely, you know, literally a corruption of culture. I think that what you've got to take into account that it's still a majority white audience -- young, white people who think they're into rebelling against their parents who buy this stuff and think it's just a kick. You know, it's just a way of expressing their anti-authoritarianism.

O'REILLY: But it's a different -- it's a different dynamic, though.

WILLIAMS: Exactly right --

O'REILLY: Because the young, white kids don't have to struggle out of the ghetto.

WILLIAMS: Right, and also, I think they can have that as one phase of their lives.


WILLIAMS: I think too many of the black kids take it as, "Oh, that's what it means to be authentically black. That's how you make money. That's how you become rich and famous and get on TV and get music videos." And you either get the boys or the girls. The girls think they have to, you know, be half-naked and spinning around like they're on meth in order to get any attention. It really corrupts people, and I think it adds, Bill, to some serious sociological problems, like the high out-of-wedlock birth rate because of this hypersexual imagery that then the kids adapt to some kind of reality. I mean, it's inauthentic. It's not in keeping with great black traditions of struggle and excellence, from Willie Mays to Aretha Franklin, but even in terms of academics, you know, going back to people like Charles Drew or Ben Carson here, the neurosurgeon at [Johns] Hopkins [University]. That stuff, all of a sudden, is pushed aside. That's treated as, "You're a nerd, you're acting white," if you try to be excellent and black.

O'REILLY: You know, and I went to the concert by Anita Baker at Radio City Music Hall, and the crowd was 50/50, black/white, and the blacks were well-dressed. And she came out -- Anita Baker came out on the stage and said, "Look, this is a show for the family. We're not gonna have any profanity here. We're not gonna do any rapping here." The band was excellent, but they were dressed in tuxedoes, and this is what white America doesn't know, particularly people who don't have a lot of interaction with black Americans. They think that the culture is dominated by Twista, Ludacris, and Snoop Dogg.

WILLIAMS: Oh, and it's just so awful. It's just so awful because, I mean, it's literally the sewer come to the surface, and now people take it that the sewer is the whole story --

O'REILLY: That's right. That's right. There wasn't one person in Sylvia's who was screaming, "M-Fer, I want more iced tea."

WILLIAMS: Please --

O'REILLY: You know, I mean, everybody was -- it was like going into an Italian restaurant in an all-white suburb in the sense of people were sitting there, and they were ordering and having fun. And there wasn't any kind of craziness at all.

Now, I agree that it's not worthy of coverage by the national news media. But really: What is these days?

It's not the kind of thing that deserve protests and recriminations and calls for his ouster. But this is hilarious. He lashed out at CNN last night for piling on -- blaming the messenger for his message. He accuses CNN, MSNBC and Media Matters of taking him out of context when they provide the complete context and links to recordings or transcripts of his actual words.

O'Reilly lives in New York City and works in media. It's amazing that he would explain to his audience that he "couldn't get over" the fact there was no difference between a black-owned restaurant and, you know, a normal restaurant. Even if he was striking an ignorant pose to relate to his audience, he's guilty of creating that ignorance in his audience by feeding them endless clips and sanctimonious derision of Ludacris and Nas and other black people he feels are dragging down the culture. His audience doesn't know any better, he figures. He's just trying to help defuse racism. But he should know better than to say something so obviously ignorant and demeaning about a black restaurant in Harlem.

Hey, Bill! I was on the Upper West Side of Manhattan yesterday at a Kosher diner. And you, know, the people there were kind, well-behaved and charged a reasonable fee. They dressed fashionably, but conservatively, covered their heads (I suppose to disguise their horns) and weren't scrambling on the floor for loose change or anything!

Perhaps his intentions were noble, but his statement reveals something particularly clueless and out-of-touch about this self-described man of the people. I mean, what was he expecting to see there?

As far as my fascination for Bill-O, I suppose Andrew Sullivan once said it best, using a term a friend of his had coined.

Hathos is the attraction to something you really can't stand; it's the compulsion of revulsion. I feel that way about Bill O'Reilly. Hannity is just evil. Grace is unwatchable past two minutes. O'Reilly, however, is compelling in some mysterious way. I need a fix every now and again - and not just of the turkey wobble neck. You find yourself watching him the way you sometimes smell your own farts: it's disgusting, but you can't help yourself.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Top Five Favorite Lists of Lists

Actually, I've got nothing. Except Monday's column, which will look familiar to all you hardcore Rolling Bones readers out there. I'm talking to you, Fruitless Web-Porn Surfer from Bangalore!

And then there are these often-hilarious nuggets from McSweeney's.

Such as "Who Said It: Vice President Dick Cheney or Phil Leotardo From The Sopranos?"

Or Titles of Songs From Pet Sounds, Translated In and Out of Japanese by GoogleTranslate.

No. 82: Movie Spoofs—Sample Dialogue (Nonporn Category)
From Comedy by the Numbers by Eric Hoffman and Gary Rudoren
- - - -
"The first rule of Polite Club: Don't talk about Polite Club. Please."
"I'm bald as hell and I'm not gonna take it anymore!"
"You talkin' to pee?"
"Forget it, Jake—it's Funkytown."
"Ron Livingston, I presume."
"I'm out of quarters? You're out of quarters! This entire courtroom is out of quarters!"
"Gattaca! Gattaca! Gattaca!"
"Frankly, my dear, I don't give a fuck."
Or, my favorite:
Titles From Dr. Seuss's Brief Foray Into Realism
- - - -
One Fish, Two Fish, Catfish, Grouper
Scrambled Eggs and Ham
Hop on a Trampoline While Pop Watches
There's Some Spare Change in My Pocket!
Oh, the Places You'll Wish You'd Gone When You're Old and Dying!
The Cat in the Litter Box

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Shouldn't OJ Stay at the Tropicana?

I know I'm a week late on this story, but damn if this didn't feel like Christmas came early this year. My disdain for The Juice is well documented, but I just couldn't resist the opportunity to do a little happy dance in the hopes of his imprisonment.
Of course, there is no way to empanel a jury in this case. And so much can go so wrong before justice is served -- though not for Ron and Nicole. So I'm just enjoying the circus. I mean, Greta Van Susteren was interviewing Kato Kaelin the other night for chrissakes. Now that he's out on bail, I'm anxiously awaiting to see what car he and Al Cowling will use to flee to Mexico. The trial will surely be a hoot. Bring on the ghost of Johnnie Cochran! If you've got the collectibles, conviction is inevitable!

Sunday, September 16, 2007

This Post Brought To You By The Letter J

By Arielle

I've been a Jets fan long enough to know that even a trip to Sesame Street could be a nerve-wracking proposition for the Jets. Would Chad slip on Slimy the Worm and tear another rotator cuff? Would Mr. Snuffelupagus accidentally give Laveranues Coles another non-concussion concussion? Would Oscar the Grouch don a hoodie and illegally tape the Jets doing their alphabets?

Well, things turned ok this time. All three Jets and the coach survived, and Elmo played a lot like Justin McCareins.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Meet The Team

By Arielle

Meet the newest Jet.

Abram Elam played safety for the Cowboys last year. Before that, he was convicted of sexual battery and kicked out of Notre Dame after being accused of taking part in the gang rape of a fellow student.

The jury acquitted Elam of conspiracy to commit rape and criminal deviate conduct. A judge sentenced him to two years probation and community service for the felony sexual battery charge. At the trial, three of Elam's teammates testified that they heard the girl say "no" or "don't."

Fortunately, Elam never tried any funny business with dogs. Otherwise we might have a protest on our hands.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Six Years On

Six years ago today, I drove through the Lincoln Tunnel on a bright blue morning listening to The Black Crowes and oblivious to the airplane that just struck the World Trade Center. Like so many Americans, I was equally oblivious to the dangers that had been circling us around the world.

Five days later, I sent an email to everyone in my address book expressing my confusion, fear, resolve and doubt. I'm particularly struck by my inclusion of Iraq into a potential list of possibilities. How the hell did that stupid idea get into my head? Why were people talking about Sadam Hussein then? Fucking Dick Cheney.

Anyway, here's what I wrote. I know a lot more today then I did then. I'm not sure how much safer we are. I'm not sure how much we've learned. I'm not sure how many more years we'll only have this one day to remember these 3,000 people killed six years ago.


My To Do List 9/10/01:

--Fix Sink
--2 Wedding gifts
--Buy new Dylan CD
--Register for New School writing course
--Buy pasta bowl
--Plan Vacation for fall

My To Do List 9/16/01:


I don't want to be overly dramatic. But life doesn't get much more dramatic than airplanes slamming into skyscrapers. And I don't know what to expect next. And that's scary.

I'm not necessarily a man of action. I anticipate that the role of most Americans in the coming months and years won't be much more than working in our various, perhaps frivolous industries for nothing more than the expressed purpose of maintaining our economy and tangentially fueling our industrial and military strength through donations and taxes. No. I, like many of you, won't likely be taking any direct action in this newfangled war. And so my way of coping is simply to understand. To empower myself with knowledge of what sacrifices it will take and what life will be like in order to defeat global terrorism. Perhaps much more will be required of me. Since Tuesday, I have joked and smiled and laughed with friends and family--acts of both defiance and necessity. We must not lead morose lives cowed by madmen. Yet, through occasional teary-eyed bouts of helplessness and marvelous pride in this city's character, I ask questions.

Is our sometimes incompetent and often sluggish government capable of ensuring security for thousands of daily domestic commercial flights? If necessary, are we prepared to invade and occupy Afghanistan and Iraq? To squelch any potential revolution and secure the nuclear arsenal in Pakistan as a potential result of their intentions to assist us in apprehending bin Laden? Do we have the capacity to defend our airspace and cities while spreading our military all over Asia? Will our actions polarize the moderate Muslim world against us in the holy war bin Laden clearly wants? How do you measure victory in such a war? Can we anticipate 5 more terrorist attacks in the next year? 50 more? All across the country?

I don't have a clue, and yet I am preparing for the worst. Six days ago, I barely knew a thing about the twisted motivations of Muslim extremists or the precarious nature of geopolitics. But I'm learning. And I'm attaching a few worthwhile articles and editorials that might help you out, if you haven't found them already. They are more difficult to read and digest than some of the fist-pumping jingoistic monologues making their way around through email. As always, we need to pick and choose in order to get any sense of the truth out of the media. I hope these choices serve you well.

Some of you, I may not have spoken to in ages. I can only hope these words find you and your families intact in the midst of this tragedy. And for those that have losses, I can only wish for you to find whatever it is you might seek in your time of grief. For now, I am still here. I feel as though I have so little of real importance to do. I want nothing more than an end to this madness.

This summer, I was concerned with weekend plans or whether the Writers' Guild strike could delay the premier of "The West Wing," whether I'd be able to ever keep a tee shot from launching into the woods, and lamented a hockey team's inability to bring dynastic glory to (of all places) New Jersey. Today, I live in a city of carnage, rubble and heartbreak while I shamelessly nurse an undying nostalgia for our lost frivolity.

Friday, September 07, 2007


Here's a reality-check thought experiment for pro-lifers that helps explain their disconnect in a way that hadn't occured to me. There is plenty of room for compromise on the pro-choice side, but you can hardly argue with this fundamental difficulty of the absolutist pro-life position.

Edited for clarification. This only applies to pro-lifers who won't budge under any condition.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

New Logo, New Life

Are you ready for some football? And by that, I mean: Are you ready for something other than unwatchable preseason games and endless talk about dog fighting? Now's the time for the real dog fight ... and unwatchable regular season games.
I'm about as optimistic as a true Jet fan can ever be. Which means, not so much. Thomas Jones' calf, Chad Pennington's arm, a pathetic offensive line, little-to-no pass rush, a training camp-hold-out rookie starting cornerback ... these are not signs of hope.
But if you don't have hope when everyone is 0-0, then this sport isn't for you. Or you're from Arizona.
So tonight, I root for a tight shootout between Indy and New Orleans. It's always fun to root for a Manning and a Bush. Makes up for all the mockery I direct at Eli and George W.
To get all you folks in the mood for your team's debut this weekend, I recommend this series of articles by Aaron Schatz of Football Outsiders, a crew looking to redefine statistical analysis in the NFL.
Then there's Gregg Easterbrook's Tuesday Morning Quarterback, which never ceases to be provocative, exhaustive and funny, without all the masturbatory meanderings of Bill Simmons and his poker buddies.
And somehow no one ever told me that Pro Football Talk is the single best place to go for NFL scoops -- though it might be more valuable in the offseason than now that the bullets are ready to fly.
But enough talk. Let's get to playing. And I'll see you all in February when Tom Brady wins the Super Bowl again and impregnates a pit bull who then breaks up with him and names the puppy Laveranues.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Wake Me Up When September Ends

When summer ends, I feel 9 years old.

I feel like I've just said goodbye to my best friends at camp for 10 months. I feel empty. And full.

And though my camping days are long behind me and I've been out of school for more than a decade, the end of summer still stings with nostalgia.

September meant days at desks, homework and a different set of friends. For some reason, I was more popular in the summer. I rallied the troops, kept the peace and made a fool of myself without fear of embarrassment. At home, I wandered in the neurotic void between the cool kids, the kids who studied too much, and the kids who didn't feel the need to study or act cool.

But not in summer.

In the summer, we played softball, flag football, floor hockey, basketball, tennis and capture the flag. We swam, water-skied, filled water balloons and learned just how far you could bend the rules. Our greatest concern was how to suck every last drip of fun from our privileged, obscenely expensive eight-week vacation from home.

September meant 180 days of least common denominators and "Great Expectations" and Hawley-Smoot Tariff Acts. It meant sweat shirts and Sunday school and piano lessons and swim practice and badly played soccer on Saturdays.

September also meant football season: the thrill of barbecue in the crisp air, mingling with mud, sweat, leather and blood. Though for a Jets fan, while the atmosphere might be ripe, the team only occasionally offered actual joy.

But in summer, there was hope.

In the summer, I could bounce on my bed and off the walls for hours after Danielle Upbin kissed me goodnight. I have since had far more rewarding relationships — some that even lasted more than a week or two. But it's difficult to match the giddiness of a peck on the lips when you're 13 years old. The promise of fleeting meetings, casual touches, scrawled notes delivered with giggles.

September in college wasn't so bad. The freedom made it feel a lot like sleepaway camp — only with lectures and midterms and alcohol.

I suppose we had as much fun in college as should be permitted while ostensibly educating ourselves at our privileged, obscenely expensive four-year vacation from the real world. But deadlines loomed around every ivy-covered corner. It took five years after graduation before I stopped dreaming about some assignment I had forgotten or a test for which I had neglected to study.

Now, summer is just another season. The weather changes. Football kicks off. The job — rewarding as it can be — stays the same.

So as students return to school this week, I pity them some. But mostly I envy them.

Though they are trapped in stuffy rooms with stuffy students and occasionally droning instructors cramming information into them lest they be a child left behind. Though their parents likely schedule every last minute of their lives and dress them with itchy, unfashionable fabrics. Though summer is as far away today as it will ever be . . .

At some point, fall and winter and spring will end. And it will be summer again.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

The Decider

Worth checking out the excerpts from Robert Draper's new Bush book at Slate. I was struck by this passage below, which for me, typifies our president's meager intellect.

It's part of a rambling monologue in which Bush attempts to explain his thinking process when deciding policy. In the process, he reveals the black-and-white simplicity of his worldview and even more galling -- his inability to assimilate new facts into his pre-ordained conclusions. All the while, he explains the simplest things he's learned as though they are deep insights. And he does so in a tone of voice that mistakes us all for naive children. Is it 2009 yet?

Oh. And the man is a sloppy eater.
"The job of the president," he continued, through an ample wad of bread and sausage, "is to think strategically so that you can accomplish big objectives. As opposed to playing mini-ball. You can't play mini-ball with the influence we have and expect there to be peace. You've gotta think, think BIG. The Iranian issue," he said as bread crumbs tumbled out of his mouth and onto his chin, "is the strategic threat right now facing a generation of Americans, because Iran is promoting an extreme form of religion that is competing with another extreme form of religion. Iran's a destabilizing force. And instability in that part of the world has deeply adverse consequences, like energy falling in the hands of extremist people that would use it to blackmail the West. And to couple all of that with a nuclear weapon, then you've got a dangerous situation. ... That's what I mean by strategic thought. I don't know how you learn that. I don't think there's a moment where that happened to me. I really don't. I know you're searching for it. I know it's difficult. I do know—y'know, how do you decide, how do you learn to decide things? When you make up your mind, and you stick by it—I don't know that there's a moment, Robert. I really—You either know how to do it or you don't. I think part of this is it: I ran for reasons. Principled reasons. There were principles by which I will stand on. And when I leave this office I'll stand on them. And therefore you can't get driven by polls. Polls aren't driven by principles. They're driven by the moment. By the nanosecond."