Fall of the Fourth Estate

What has become of journalistic integrity in this country?

There was a time when I couldn’t start my day without absorbing as much news as I possibly could. This was predominantly during my Angry BloggerTM days, although I continued to be a voracious news hound during that lull in between those blogging days and now.

I still read and listen to a great deal of news, but not with the same insatiable need. Truth is, I think that my distrust of media outlets has outpaced my desire to be in the know regarding transpiring newsworthy events. I hate that this is the case. I hate feeling uninformed. But I hate the feeling of being manipulated even more.

The distrust began a while ago, although I definitely think it came to a clanging, crashing crescendo during the 2008 presidential campaign. I continue to believe that the coverage of this campaign was offensively manipulative on many fronts, abandoning real news for editorialized irrelevance and pandering to the most inconsequential coverage because it was more entertaining.

Call me curmudgeonly (and I’m sure many of you will), but I don’t want to be entertained by my news. I want to be informed. But when you find that you have to go to personal blogs or Jon Stewart to locate the facts that are missing from mainstream media outlets, it becomes glaringly obvious that there’s something failing within the machine that might become irreparable if it’s not addressed soon.

But when did the machine first begin to fail?

I think the diagnosis is many-layered, but I believe that the problems first began to arise with the arrival of 24-hour news coverage channels like CNN and later MSNBC and Fox News. Here was an idea that had the potential to provide viewers with unencumbered access to the most up-to-date and thorough coverage of news as it happened. Sounds good, doesn’t it? Unfettered access to the truth!

What we got, instead, was a gradual blurring of the lines between honest news coverage and editorializing that has reached insulting levels. Don’t believe me? Turn on any of these round-the-clock news channels and see what’s playing. More than likely what you’re going to find is opinion rather than news. Even when actual journalists are present on some of these shows’ panels, they’re providing their opinions on matters on which they report for other outlets.

It’s reached a point at which we’re not even allowed to come to our own opinions. Prime recent example: News coverage of a local crime that occurred last week started with the news anchor sitting next to a graphic that stated, “Disgusting Act.”

True, the incident in question was quite disgusting. But I don’t need you to tell me that. I need you to provide me with the facts of the crime and let me make up my own mind. Period. That is, after all, your job. To report the news.

However, opinion has somehow cloaked itself convincingly enough that it now mingles with the sheep, whispering its distracting song into the minds of anyone willing to listen. Why? Because it’s being sung by a “news” outlet? Printed in a reputable newspaper?

Do such things even exist anymore? Perhaps, but I believe they are slowly being eradicated by the instant gratification demands of the online generation, combined with features like “Post a Comment,” which more often than not are nothing more than thinly veiled cesspools of racism, ignorance, and intolerance. With the “anonymous” function, most comment sections on news sites inevitably tend to devolve into the modern day equivalent of wearing a hood at a cross burning. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that it’s a White face beneath the hood anymore. Anyone can be hateful! It’s as easy as the click of a mouse button!

It’s exhausting and frustrating and overwhelming all at once. And it’s not going to get any better. True, I know several journalists who strive to remain true to that mythological creature known as “journalistic integrity.” But they, too, seem slated for the inevitable march to extinction, replaced by sensationalism and emotionalism disguised as news.

I’m not naive enough to believe that journalists must be complete blank slates. I know that journalists have their own opinions, their own beliefs, follow their own convictions, and make up their own minds. But they shouldn’t be trying to make up my mind or anyone else’s. Report the news. Nothing more. Nothing less. And if you find that too difficult a beat to walk, perhaps you should consider switching to another line of work. I hear Sarah Palin is putting together her own discussion panel on Fox News…

Country Music is So…Gay?

I’ve been keeping a secret from you, denizens, but now it’s time I come out.

I used to be a major country music fan.

I know, I know. That statement just sparks WTFery, right? I am the one, after all, who often reminisces quite fondly about my metal hair days and I even recently expressed my still-bright love for old school rap and go-go. But there was a period of time in my life when I traded in my metal cred and my go-go bounce for the love of a little slide guitar and fiddle.

How did this happen? Honestly, I’m not really sure. I know it involved patient but persistent prodding from a very good friend whose veins ran hot for country. It was her ultimate goal, I think, to convert as many of her friends as possible. And, for a brief moment in time, she succeeded in convincing me that country music was worth my time.

Then, however, came the Bush administration and all the über-jingoistic insanity that went with it. And there went my love for country. Music, that is (don’t think I don’t know what you jingo dingoes say about my traitorous liberal bleeding heart commie kind being America haters).

Here, in fact, is the original blog post I made on September 9, 2006, to ring the death knell for my country music love:

It’s been over for a while now. We were just going through the motions because…well, we’d been together for more than 10 years and we were comfortable together, even in our mutual unhappiness. We had changed so much, especially in the past few tumultuous years, that there really was no more common ground on which we could agree. So we met for one more time last night. It seemed at times to be as great as it had been when we first met. But there was the taint of change still there, still reminding me that it will never be truly that great again. At the end of the evening, we parted ways, perhaps not for good but at least for a while.

And so comes to an end my love affair with country music. It couldn’t have been a better ending though – third row seats for Terri Clark. In the words of Wayne Campbell, she wails. I’ve always loved her voice and her lyrics as well as how, throughout her career, she has remained different among the bevy of Nashville Barbies. It was a strength that added to her allure. I think right now though, even she is relenting to the deluge of jingoism roiling through the country camp. Though she’s not draping herself in red, white, and blue, she has definitely undergone a shift that has dimmed her uniqueness just enough to be noticeable by long-time fans.

I will continue to listen to Terri Clark’s CDs, as I will continue to listen to the country CDs that I have purchased over the years. It’s a small collection, to be sure, but truly representative of why I loved country music in the first place. I was drawn to it for its simplicity, its honesty, its honky tonk chords and whiskey-soaked vocals. Now, however, there has been a pervasive attitude shift, and the simplicity has been replaced by simple-mindedness. And that’s my stop.

I think what sealed the fate of my love affair was last night, staring at the no-neck beer keg two rows in front of me who was wearing a T-Shirt that posed the following philosophical question: “What do deer and women have in common?” From the drawing of a mounted deer head with large antlers next to a buxom blonde wearing a camouflage bikini, I figured the answer would have to include the word “rack.” But no, it wasn’t even that clever. He leaned forward and I saw the answer: “The hornier the better.”

At that moment, I understood: These were not my people and I was not their people. I don’t want to listen to the music of a people who so blatantly debase women. This included the no-neck beer keg two seats down from Mr. Buck-and-Fuck, who constantly yelled out lewd comments to Terri Clark whenever she would engage the audience in friendly stage banter. Interestingly, he never made a peep when the male opening act talked to the audience. Disturbingly, his wife never made a peep when he was harassing Terri Clark. She and others around him simply laughed at his ribald shouts encouraging the singer to strip on stage. Had I paid for a striptease accompanied by the blathering of a bellicose redneck, perhaps I would have been more inclined to be amused as well.

I’m not blind. I know that country music is a genre geared toward people with a completely different mindset from mine. For more than 10 years I was an East Coast Yankee in the Confederacy’s Court. It wasn’t until last night that I truly felt like an outsider. I guess our differences are now just too deep a chasm at this point. Does that make me a fairweather friend? I guess it does. So be it.

So Terri Clark sang the swan song of my love affair. I couldn’t have asked for a better farewell.

I keep trying to imagine what “Mr. Buck-and-Fuck” from the above blog post is probably saying right now about Chely Wright. Not one thing I’m imagining is kind.

A lot of people don’t know who Wright is, so a brief Loba rundown. She debuted on the country scene back in the mid-90s, won some awards, had some big hits (hits, you pervs…hits) like “Shut Up and Drive,” “Single White Female,” and “Jezebel.” Though never hitting the dizzying heights of fellow country songstresses like Martina McBride, Faith Hill, or Shania Twain, she had a solid career and a solid following. Toward the end of my waning interest in the genre, I remember that she was also climbing onto the “Love This Country or We’ll Burn You Alive” patriotism bandwagon (led, of course, by Mr. “Boot to the Ass” himself, Toby Keith) that I think many country artists felt they needed to ride in order to survive in the genre, with some song about a “Support Our Troops” bumper sticker on her SUV.

[Yeah, is it any wonder I stopped listening to country music? Like any true traitorous liberal, overt expressions of patriotism that involve the acronym “SUV” make my soul frown. What can I say? In many ways, I’m still blue through and through.]

Because of my distinct disdain for Bush-era country music, I really had no idea that Wright had fallen off the radar in recent years. She came out with a few more CDs, but never really hit the levels of popularity that she had in the 90s. Then, poof, she disappeared completely for several years. During this period of solitude, she reached a point in which, tired of praying and wrangling and hiding, she stuck a 9mm in her mouth and nearly ended it all.

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/32545640

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

The thought of no more Chely Wright in this world also makes my soul frown, for distinctly different reasons. Whatever stopped her from pulling that trigger, I’m so glad she made it through that darkness.

Now, I’ve read some comments from people who think that Wright has made this announcement about her sexuality as a means of re-igniting her career and kicking up promotion for her new CD and her book. In watching the above clip, I can see a certain truth in that. Maybe it’s because I’ve written speeches and advertising materials before, but I can immediately detect the “pull quotes” from her comments, those little lines that she’s probably going to repeat so many times over the next several weeks that she’ll be saying them in her sleep. Regardless of anything else, Wright is an entertainer, and just like all others in the entertainment industry, she must market herself to audiences as part of her chosen career. This, like everything else, is another part of her pursuit of her celebrity. All part of the business…

I also see a woman who nearly ended it all because of what she was hiding from the world, and still seems quite fragile and uncertain as she struggles with what this will do to her place in a genre that, in her own words, is composed of conservative mindsets that are not readily known for kickin’ it rainbow-style at the annual gay pride parades. True, kd lang has been out for years, but she’s also been outside the country realm for years as well. Although lang won a Grammy for her country debut, she was never accepted by the Nashville elite and soon walked away from the mainstream genre completely.

And then there is the fact that even something as supposedly important to country music fans as enjoying those almighty American freedoms can get you in serious trouble. Isn’t that right, Natalie, Emily, and Martie? The Dixie Chicks know all too well how quickly country fans will turn on you. I still remember all the newsreels showing former fans burning their Dixie Chicks merchandise and running over their CDs with tractors. Why? Because Natalie Maines dared to speak her mind. And she and her bandmates paid for it, with radio stations refusing to play their music (I suspect some still would rather drink roadkill-infused moonshine than play a Dixie Chicks song) and people aiming death threats toward them and their families. All for Maines’s simple sin of exercising her right to free speech, which apparently many country fans believe is only extended to those who toe the same lines they do.

So, yeah. This is not the announcement you make when you’re trying to get country fans to buy your stuff. This is the kind of announcement you make when you want country fans to fire up the bonfires and the tractors and make death threats toward you and your family.

But you know what? I hope that country music fans prove me completely wrong, show me that things do change. However, I can’t really say that I’m holding my breath. I even tried to check out what country fans have been saying about Wright, but what I’ve found instead is a none-too-surprising silence coming from many of the big country representatives. County Music Television has nothing on Wright’s announcement on their Web site. Neither does the Grand Ole Opry (although they’ve got bigger problems right now, with Nashville floodwaters leaking into their home).

I was even shocked to see that our local country station, WMZQ, has fuck-all about Wright on their Web site. You’d think being located in the evil liberal empire of the D.C. area would have rubbed off even slightly onto this station. Of course, they are owned by blatantly conservative Clear Channel Communications, so there you go.

Of all the country sites I visited, the only one I found that mentions Wright’s announcement was Great American Country, with this piece on their blog.

Small step, to be sure. But even small steps get you where you need to go in time.

I also hope that country musicians surprise me, too, and embrace Wright rather than ostracize her. I know there are those within the country ranks who have it in them to do so: The Dixie Chicks, Dolly Parton, and Garth Brooks immediately come to mind. Guess we’ll just have to wait and see. I really hope for the best for Wright, regardless of her reasons for her announcement. The best and maybe a duet with Terri Clark. “Dirty Girl” maybe?

Unbridled Hypocrisy

So, let me get this straight (and that particular pun will become more apparent in a moment): These TEA baggers, lovely conservatives that they are, don’t want to be taxed any more by the federal government because, as they so plainly put it, they are Taxed Enough Already. But they don’t mind donating money to the RNC, which in turn uses their donations for such worthy tasks as taking in a light repast and some equally light bondage play at a West Hollywood club known for its “[i]mpromptu bondage and S&M ‘scenes’ being played out on an elevated platform by scantily clad performers throughout the night.”

Yes, that’s right TEA baggers, your RNC donations may have helped cover the cost of a $2,000 tab run up at a lesbian bondage club known as Voyeur (yeah, probably mildly NSFW, but it plays a pretty tune). A place where the women wear all variety of bondage accouterments, including horse bridles, and simulate sex acts, I guess as part of their dinner service (I wonder, is it like at Lonestar when the servers just suddenly stop what they’re doing when the music starts playing and it’s time for the hourly floor show?). Personally, I think that’s so much more awesome than paying more tax money to the federal government.

This latest revelation about the RNC made me so simultaneously giddy and furious that I had to marinate on it for a while before even composing any kind of rational thoughts. Giddy, you may ask? Of course! I love schadenfreude, especially when it involves revelations of utter hypocrisy within the God-Ordained Plutocracy (Ooh! There’s one I haven’t used in a while!).

But why furious? Because this is precisely the kind of bullshit that makes me hate the Republican party. These self-assumed scions of morality, who sit on high, damning the sins they so eagerly accuse the Democrats of committing and embracing…why? Because as long as you’re pointing out the “sins” of others, hopefully no one’s going to be noticing that you’re doing the same damned things.

What makes me even more furious, though, is how the Republican party has convinced so many people that they’re the responsible party, that they’re the ones who should be in charge because they know how to manage funds and reduce debt and grant all their constituents three wishes and a chicken in every pot and a Lexus in every garage and a free sparkly pony…and all with a tax cut or three thrown in!

Never mind that the national deficit we now rock was caused by the reign of a Republican president and his Republican Congress. We’re not supposed to remember that. So just shake your heads vigorously and let the GOP control the vertical and the horizontal on your Etch-a-Sketch brains.

Oh, and of course, keep fighting against true evils, like health care reform. Because poor people don’t deserve health coverage and it’s perfectly acceptable for pharmaceuticals to continue to drill us dry and for doctors to prescribe completely unnecessary tests and procedures that often don’t do anything to help us and in some cases kill us…but not before the insurance companies are tapped to pay out. And if you don’t have insurance? Don’t worry. You won’t get those tests or procedures, even if you actually need them.

Sigh. I feel anger sparks in my fingers now.

Is the recently passed health care reform bill perfect? Of course it isn’t. Will everyone be happy? Nope. Then again, name me one thing that everyone can universally agree upon and I’ll show you a second season episode of TNG starring Dr. Crusher. Nothing is ever going to please everyone. Nothing is ever going to be perfect. But this should not be the excuse to continue to avoid doing something that should have been taken on decades ago.

Our health care industry in this country is horrid. We’re nothing more to these people than a means to make money. Money that they, in turn, use to pocket politicians from both sides of the aisle to ensure that they can continue to make maximum profits in the name of health “care,” Hippocrates be damned.

And are we angry about this? NO! We’re angry that the government is trying to step in and repair what has been allowed to devolve into such an utterly unchecked train wreck. We’re angry that someone is trying to do something to help us.

How dare they?!

And, of course, the ever-vigilant, ever-pious Republicans are at the very forefront of instigating this anger. Instead of trying to work with the Democrats to just this one fucking time try to come together and do something for the good of the people rather than the good of the corporations (who are not people, you stupid effing Supreme Court wankers!), what do they do? They help fund the efforts of TEA baggers (you know, with RNC donations not used to fund bondage parties). They send out their pretty (empty) talking heads like Sarah Palin, to burble insipid but easy-to-chant mantras like “Repeal and Replace” or “Lame-stream Media.” And they offer no alternatives, no solutions. No help.

I’m sorry. I don’t want my new lair to be an angry lair. But this has me so furious. So frustrated. So utterly disgusted and disappointed in the whole lot of fools. Truth is, it’s too late for health care reform for so many members of my family, and that truth has struck a vein of sadness within me that aches more than any palliative effort could ever hope to relieve. But it’s not too late to offer help to so many, including even those who have been duped by the bloviators into believing that these reform efforts are bad.

So what’s it going to take to get people to see beyond the shallow sheen of obfuscation and realize that we deserve better than what we’ve been getting? And that, while a little side order of lesbian bondage play with your meal might be more fun, maybe putting that money into reforming a system that we desperately need to reform might do a bit more good in the long run.

A Special Punishment

Here, then, is a statement made by Robert G. Marshall, a Republican delegate from the Commonwealth of Virginia, during a press conference to oppose state funding for Planned Parenthood:

The number of children who are born subsequent to a first abortion with handicaps has increased dramatically. Why? Because when you abort the first born of any, nature takes its vengeance on the subsequent children.

In the Old Testament, the first born of every being, animal and man, was dedicated to the Lord. There’s a special punishment Christians would suggest.

Hmm. I guess we’ve been misinterpreting that “suffer the little children” verse all this time. Of course, that’s from that pesky New Testament. True Republicans like to keep it real and kick it Old Testament.

I wonder: Will Sarah Palin be as forgiving of Marshall’s statement that a child’s handicap could be the result of God’s “special punishment” as she was of Rush Limbaugh’s “satirical” use of the word “retard”?

http://cloudfront.mediamatters.org/static/flash/player.swf

By the way, Sarah, “kook” is some of that inappropriate, unnecessary, time-wasting name calling you refer to. It’s also a derogatory word for the mentally ill. Guess you were being satirical, too.

The Cure for What Ails Us

As I was driving to work this morning, I heard a news announcement that Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens is considering retirement. The soon-to-be-90-year-old Justice Stevens is the oldest member of the Supreme Court, where he has presided as an Associate Justice since 1975.

The thing that struck me about this is the longevity factor. Seems that other than our entertainment elite (minus those who decide to speed up their mortality through various nefarious means), our government seems to be better than the Fountain of Youth for its upper echelon. Fellow retired Justice Sandra Day O’Connor will soon turn 80. Former South Carolina Senator Strom Thurmond was almost 100 when he finally passed. West Virginia Senator Robert Byrd? He’s now the Senate’s oldest member at 93 years of age. How about presidents? Ronald Reagan was 93 when he died. So was Gerald Ford. Richard Nixon made it to 81. Bush I is on the downward slope toward 90, this year turning 86. Bush II and Bill Clinton, both a spry 64, can expect quite a bit more time on their hands, if the longevity of their predecessors is any indication of what they can expect. Hell, even the Dark Overload himself, Darth, er Dick Cheney is still rolling merrily along at 69 (which is, ironically, both his age and the number of heart attacks he’s had in the past decade).

Add to this the relative stability of the health of our political representatives along with all the obvious teeth whitening, Botoxing, and face tweaking that’s going on there, and what does all this prove? To me, it proves that those in political service to this country are getting something that the rest of us are sorely lacking: excellent (and in the vanity instances, excessive) levels of service and attention from the health care industry. Our politicians are guaranteed some of the best health care that this country has to offer, no questions, no waiting, no refusals. Don’t believe me? Check it out for yourself: Here’s the homepage for the Federal Employees Health Benefits program. Go ahead and take a look. I’ll wait.

Done? Okay, let’s continue. Now, in all fairness, this is the same program that is offered to all federal employees. The difference? Well, I’m assuming that the Speaker of the House or the longest-serving member of the U.S. Senate isn’t going to go to just any doctor. They’re going to go to the best. Best doctors. Best service. According to FactCheck.org:

In addition, members of Congress also qualify for some medical benefits that ordinary federal workers do not. They (but not their families) are eligible to receive limited medical services from the Office of the Attending Physician of the U.S. Capitol, after payment of an annual fee ($491 in 2007).

Not a bad setup, if you ask me. And the coverage? This federal health insurance program covers from 72 to 75 percent of the premiums.

By the way, if you haven’t already figured this one out, since these are all government workers, We The People are the ones fronting the money to pay for all of this. But you knew that already, right?

So, here’s what I really don’t understand. Why aren’t the members of Congress, who are receiving these enviable medical benefits thanks to the people who A) voted them into office, and B) pay their salaries and their premiums with our tax dollars, bending over backward to make sure that we get the same benefits they do?

I don’t care if I sound totally naive on this one. I’m serious. Why aren’t they right now working toward making sure that everyone gets the same medical coverage that they enjoy? Did they at some point decide that we commoners don’t deserve it simply because we’re not morally deficient enough to want to be politicians? Does being politicians make them think that they are somehow more deserving? Or maybe I’m just assuming too much and, really, it’s the initial selling of their souls at the outset of their careers that grants politicians such enviable longevity over us mere mortals.

I know that I’ve been relatively quiet about this entire topic thus far. And I’m being a bit sarcastic/funny in my take on it now. Really, though, this is something that I take quite seriously. The last decade has been unusually unmerciful to both sides of my family. I’ve lost a significant number of relatives in this time frame (of course, any loss is significant to the ones who are losing), many due to serious health-related issues, and I currently have a critically/terminally ill family member who is not faring well at all at this present time.

And what are the health care professionals doing to aid in this present case? Barely stabilizing said patient before discharging them with little more than a wave goodbye and a “Don’t let the gurney hit you in the ass on your way out the door.” This patient is no longer able to get out of bed of their own volition. No longer able to walk, to tend to themselves without assistance. Doctors haven’t even given a concrete prognosis. But you can bet they make sure to submit their paperwork to the insurance company for their payments.

Meanwhile, doctors did everything short of bathe Strom Thurmond in the blood of sacrificed virgins to keep him going. And I’m willing to bet there isn’t one member of Congress who would ever be discharged from a hospital anywhere at any time with the same lack of regard from their medical staff that we’ve witnessed in our case.

And why? Why aren’t the American people getting the same level of care? Why are we getting consistently shafted when it comes to our medical coverage and the treatment we receive when we’re ill? And why isn’t our government taking the current health care reform debate seriously? Why, instead of pandering to talking heads and bloviating about socialism and death panels, aren’t they taking a serious and honest look at the current system (which is blatantly FUBAR) and trying to make it something that will actually work for the American people?

Oh. Wait. Could it have something to do with the billions of dollars that health care-related organizations are shelling out to these politicians? Head on over to OpenSecrets.org and you can take a look for yourself how much money these organizations are funneling into politicians’ pockets. Money they’ve bilked, incidentally, from people like you and me. Like the nearly $30 million that pharmaceutical companies donated to both parties back in 2008 (including more than $1 million they donated to Senator Barack Obama during his 2008 presidential campaign). Or the nearly $10 million they’ve already donated this year. Or the more than $250 million the pharmaceutical manufacturers spent last year on lobbying.

OpenSecrets points out this obvious truth:

The pharmaceutical manufacturing industry stands to lose if President Barack Obama’s plan to institute a public health insurance option succeeds. A government-run plan, because of its size, would have considerable negotiating power to draw down drug prices.

Guess that’s why they’re working so hard to grease the palms of as many Congressional “leaders” as they possibly can, on both sides of the aisle. For example, Republican Senator Richard Burr from North Carolina has received almost $100,000 in contributions from pharmaceuticals this year. Burr also happens to be quite a vocal opponent of health care reform. Democratic Senator Chris Dodd from Connecticut is slightly ahead of Burr on the pharmaceutical donations, so this is indeed bipartisan. Dodd also happens to be the senior member on the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, which, according to Dodd’s Web site, “has jurisdiction over our country’s health care, education system, employment, and retirement programs.”

Hmm.

How about insurance companies? OpenSecrets writes this:

Insurance companies staunchly oppose the idea of a government-provided health insurance option, which President Barack Obama and most congressional Democrats support. These businesses fear that implementing a “public option” will eventually lead to “single-payer” health care, which they say would mean the collapse of their industry.

Guess that explains why the insurance industry has already made more than $14 million in contributions this year. Rob Portman, Chris Dodd, Chuck Schumer, Earl Pomeroy, and Barney Frank are the top politicians receiving this money. Interestingly, all but Portman are Democrats.

How about health professionals? $27 million in donations so far this year. Harry Reid, Tom Price, Blanch Lincoln, Chris Dodd, Arlen Specter, and Ron Wyden are the top five recipients here. Hey, look, it’s Dodd again! And it’s all Democrats at the top of this list, minus Price!

What does all this mean? I don’t know. Call me jaded, but I can’t imagine that these industries are shelling out such large sums of money to support reform that they fear will cause an end to their steady plundering of the Golden Goose. So they keep doling out the cash and all we’re getting is petty bickering and obfuscating jingo dingo lingo to draw our collective attention away from the simple, glaring truth that not one member of Congress has to go through the bullshit or suffering that we peons must go through regarding health care.

Maybe that’s what should change. Maybe if we changed it so that politicians had to contend with the same treatment we get, had to deal with the same coverage issues we all face…maybe then we’d be getting a little less obfuscation and a little more serious action.

Yeah, right.

I have so few hopes regarding our political system, but I honestly had hopes about Obama’s focus on health care reform. Never mind that I’m firmly of the opinion that it’s too late for reform and time for a tabula rasa approach (yeah, who in Congress would be willing to do that?). But I had hope in this instance. Instead, we yet again have deferred to name calling puerility and a whole lot of commotion to go…nowhere. Will something come from all this? Maybe. I’m not holding my breath though. I’d hate to pass out, hit my head, and require medical attention.

Jackass Democrat: Eric J. J. Massa

Another fracking moron in politics

It’s been a while since I visited this topic, eh? Truth is, there are enough jackasses in the Democratic party that I could do one of these posts every day for the next year…and still be nowhere near finished.

[Don’t get all uppity, GOPers…you’ve got more than your fair share of jackasses.]

Actually, though, today is a bit of a bipartisan effort, since Representative Eric Massa was originally a Republican who switched parties because of his opposition to the latest Iraq war. That’s all well and good. Massa does deserve some respect for standing by his convictions as well as for serving his country (he’s former Navy).

However, his recent behavior chips away massively at any respect reserves he may have previously stockpiled. Massa was part of the 2008 coup by the Democrats to take control of Congress, becoming a freshman representative from New York, that awesome state that’s given us such classic politicians as Rudy “I like to dress in drag and fuck around on my wives (but not at the same time…yet)” Giuliani and recently disgraced governor and winner of the New York Chapter of Hookers and Hos’ 2009 “John of the Year” award, Eliot Spitzer-Swallows.

Anyway. Back to Massa. Again, he’s a freshman representative, which means he’s still in his first term. Most politicians don’t resign after one term. Most should, but most don’t. So, of course, there’s going to be curiosity. Massa gave as his reason for resigning the fact that his previously diagnosed non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma had returned and he wanted to resign and deal with that and spend time with his lovely beard wife, Beverly, and his children.

Problem is that he received this diagnosis back in December. He continued to run for re-election until his resignation on March 3. Dude, that’s slow, even for a politician.

Of course, then Massa changed his mind. It wasn’t really because of his diagnosis. It was because there might have been a teeny tiny little ethics investigation going on pertaining to some of the things that he had been doing during his first term. Just minor things, really. Nothing to get overly concerned or curious about.

“No, no, seriously, it’s nothing! Stop trying to look behind that curtain! Wait, did I say there was an ethics investigation? No, I meant, there should be an ethics investigation! Against all those mean bully Democrats who are roughing me up in between sessions because I wouldn’t vote for Obama’s healthcare reform. They’re terrible and not nice and Nancy Pelosi stole my lunch money and Harry Reid keeps giving me atomic wedgies and so I’m going to take my toys and go home. See? That’s the real reason right there! No need to keep investigating!”

Oh, but wait. Could it be that the real reason that Massa resigned is because of allegations of sexual misconduct involving some of his male staffers? Allegations that include sexually aggressive language about wanting to “frack” a male staffer (or as sexually aggressive as one can be when they include the word “frack” as a part of their vocabulary; seriously, don’t do that…it gives us honest geeks a bad name), as well as this incident, in Massa’s own words on his recent appearance with Glenn Dreck…er, Beck: “Not only did I grope him, I tickled him until he couldn’t breathe and then four guys jumped on top of me. It was my 50th birthday.”

Wow. I may have just vomited in my mouth a little. Oh, and Glenn, you shouldn’t be so hard on yourself when you apologized at the end of this show for wasting an hour of America’s time. Trust me, bucko, this isn’t the first time you’ve done that.

So, there you have it. Yet another desultory ass clown from the American political desert. I’m so glad he switched to the Democratic party before all this came out. Not that there’s really that much difference between the parties anymore anyway, but I always get a warm, fuzzy feeling whenever a Republican politician is found for having sexual proclivities that their party is supposed to be so adamantly against. Now I not only have to contend with the fact that Massa finally imploded after he became a Democrat, but he also is apparently a Battlestar Galactica fan. DAMMIT.

Fracking douchewanger.

The Essential Man

We have a habit of turning sentimental about celebrities who are struck down—Muhammad Ali, Christopher Reeve—transforming them into mystics; still, it’s almost impossible to sit beside Roger Ebert, lifting blue Post-it notes from his silk fingertips, and not feel as though he’s become something more than he was. He has those hands. And his wide and expressive eyes, despite everything, are almost always smiling.

Siskel & Ebert were my prophets when I was a wee wolf. I remember tuning in to listen to their argumentative sermons on the latest Hollywood offerings, at first always paying obeisance to these scions of cinematic debate, later processing their opinions with my steadily developing disagreeable demeanor.

Gene Siskel’s death broke that magic spell, and I never felt quite right about watching the partially patched ship of Ebert & Roeper. So, sadly, I didn’t even realize at first that Roger Ebert had slipped away from the public eye, his voice lost to a series of surgeries to save his life from the insidious spread of thyroid cancer.

So to see Ebert, profiled in this extraordinary Esquire article, was quite a shock to me. I’m sure it was a shock to most people, since he really hasn’t been seen by the public in almost 4 years. At first blush, we might be tempted to already start eulogizing him in our minds, his surgery-misshapen face and gaunt frame leading us to automatic assumptions that, when we read this article, prove to be greatly exaggerated.

Yes, Ebert is, as the article states, “dying in increments, and he is aware of it.” (Then again, as Ebert points out in his blog, aren’t we all dying in increments?) Not only can he no longer speak, he can no longer eat or drink. His is now a life of many vicarious pleasures. But it is also a life refocused. He has returned to the written word with a vengeance, not only as his sole means of communication but once again to the passion of his prose. He journals profusely, continues to review movies, continues to write books, continues to wield the power of his thumbs like a samurai wields his sword. He is, as the article states most factually, The Essential Man.

I cannot praise this Esquire article enough. Chris Jones has written, not a eulogy, but a tribute of eloquence and intimacy to a man still full of life in all its opinionated glory. Though quite a lengthy piece, I assure you, you will reach the end and be left craving more.

The Unbearable Whiteness of Being

I feel like I’m stuck in a Forrest Gumpian storm right now.

We been through every kind of [snow] there is. Little bitty stingin’ [snow]… and big ol’ fat [snow]. [Snow] that flew in sideways. And sometimes [snow] even seemed to come straight up from underneath.

The entire state is under a blizzard warning. Wind gusts up to 50 mph. Not expected to stop until 7 tonight. Oh, and by the way, if you click on the photo to the right, look for the little black mark in the snow. That’s a park bench.

Needless to say, my office is closed again, as is the federal government. As is really most everything in the area.

I’m sorry to keep blathering on about the snow. I can’t seem to think about anything else. All this blinding whiteness has permeated my brain cells. All I see are glittery, flittery flakes. All I can hear is the cold, silent sizzle of snow piling on top of more snow.

I totally regressed this morning when I finally hauled my chilled bones out of bed. I made myself a bowl of Cream of Wheat. That was what my dad would always make me during the winter: Cream of Wheat, buttered toast, and hot chocolate poured into my special mug from Silver Springs in Florida. Home of the famous glass bottom boats. Also where six Tarzan movies were filmed, along with The Creature From the Black Lagoon and the television show Sea Hunt. Actually, quite a bit has been filmed at Silver Springs. Check it out.

I miss our annual family vacations to Florida. True, sometimes we went to major attractions like Disney or Sea World. But my dad had a proclivity for finding the places far off the beaten path. Places like Silver Springs or Cypress Gardens. Gatorland. Marine Land. My dad still has a collection of hats from almost every single place we ever visited.

One of the last trips we took together, we all went to Bok Tower Gardens, with their beautiful singing carillon tower and the tamest, plumpest squirrels I’ve ever seen. They’d skitter down the trees and amble over, waving their tail plumes in greeting as they came. Of course, if you didn’t have a peanut or two for them, you risked having one climb up your leg. Best to have some nuts for them.

I wonder what those squirrels would think of all this snow.

When I was 6 years old, my parents dropped me off at school. It had snowed the night before, enough to cause school to open 2 hours late. So at around 10:30, I climbed out of my dad’s Dodge Dart, the infamous “Yellow Submarine,” and headed into the trailer where my first-grade class took place. Only when I opened the door, the lights were off and the trailer was completely empty and cold.

I still remember that panic of thinking that I was about to be left all alone at my school. I remember jumping off the little porch to the trailer and running after my parents as they drove away, crying out for them to stop.

I also remember the patch of ice that I hit, and how said patch projectile-rocketed me about five feet forward and to the right of my dad’s car. Thank goodness it didn’t shoot me completely straight. I might still be sporting a Dodge symbol scar on my forehead.

My parents thankfully heard me, as did the teacher in the trailer two down from my class’s trailer. Seems that he was supposed to be watching for students and telling them to come to his classroom. Seems he sucked at his assignment. Such is life.

To this day, however, I have an innate fear of ice. Pardon the pun, but I freeze on ice. Feeling the terrain slip beneath my feet puts me right back at 6 years old, shooting across the parking lot in a panic as my parents drive away. It totally sucks.

Kind of like unending snow. Ha! Didn’t think I could bring this one back around, did you?

Yeah, I’m just going bat-shit crazy at this point. But I’ve just found a CSI marathon on SpikeTV. Looks like they’re playing good episodes from early in the series. The Grissom Years. Ooh, and this episode stars Kate Vernon, she soon known as Ellen Tigh to BSG fans. So I must jet. I’ll probably be back though. It’s not like I’m going anywhere else today…

The Great White Hype Reality

OMGWTFSNOW?!?

I actually miss the days when the meteorologists in this area were always wrong. Used to be, they’d start hyping a snowstorm, only to have the predicted snowy deluge never materialize. I can remember several ocassions in which school systems shut down the night prior only to wake up to the rude reality that they closed for no reason whatsoever. No snow at all.

The meteorologists are starting to get better…and that sucks. They started predicting this storm at the beginning of this week. And they kept bumping the numbers each time they talked about it. 12 inches. 24 inches. 30 inches.

The storm started yesterday at around 11 a.m. I went into the office that morning, but when the president of the company came around and looked at me like I was crazy, I knew that it was okay to leave when the first flakes started to fall.

The snow finally stopped around 4 this evening. It was so blustery at points overnight that we awoke to a blanket of white over all the window screens and a pile of snow on the sidewalk that stood almost as high as the banister. I haven’t actually measured, but I can tell you that the snow drift I fell into when I was trying to check the phone lines at the back of the house came up above my knees. I’m going to venture a guess and say that we’ve got almost three feet. Some of the areas to the west got even more than that.

Like I said at the beginning, OMGWTFSNOW!

The last time we had a snow like this, I was about 12 years old. Actually, though, even that snow wasn’t this bad. This is now recorded in the history books as the fourth worst snowstorm in D.C. history.

I will grant you this…it is beautiful. I’ve taken quite a few photos since the storm began. I’d upload them, but they need to be resized and my main CPU is now off. The power started fluctuating sporadically around 3, so all essential electronics were clicked off at that point. The DSL also went out around noon. Followed by the phone lines at around 1. Both just came back about 20 minutes ago.

And of course my first thought was to come here to the lair and let its denizens know the 411 on my own personal white hell.

Can I just say now how much I’m dreading tomorrow morning? Sammy’s in about 4 feet of snow right now, thanks to drifting. And this is a heavy snow, denizens. Heavy, wet, clumpy snow. We’re going to be digging for most of the day, I believe.

The bonus? I strongly suspect that the federal government will be closed on Monday. Possibly even Tuesday.

Damn it feels good to be a contractor.

Anyway, so that’s where things are at Chez Loba. Now if you’ll excuse me, there’s a glass of wine waiting to be drunk and a cheesy 80s movie waiting to be watched. So I’m off…but only slightly…