Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Back from the beach

So there we were, stretched out in our aluminum lawn chair, ghetto blaster playing the Rolling Stones' recent beauty, "biggerbang," non-alcoholic pina colada pitcher ready to hand, and a pile of books to keep us distracted from the beach bunnies.

And what a pile of books it was: we burned through Oswald Spengler's two volume masterpiece, The Decline of the West - a mother of a macro-theory of social change, and a rebuke to Marx and Hegel. Spengler is the first Western philosopher of history to understand that true History does not begin with the Garden of Eden, thank you, but much, much earlier, and that the Asian, Middle Eastern, Western, and Meso-America civilizations were separate and unique products of human thought and religious aspirations; John Dean's Conservatives Without A Conscience explicates an interesting theory of personality rampant inside the Beltway right now - authoritarianism - with George W Bush the leading authoritarian asshole; an unhappy Philip Gold's Take Back the Right: How the Neocons and the Religious Right Have Betrayed the Conservative Movement (self-explanatory title).

We then read Imposter: How George W Bush Bankrupted America, by Bruce Bartlett(a died-in-the-crib Reaganite and the mastermind behind trickle-down theory), then followed that up with The Neocon Reader, edited by Irwin Stelzer, a neoconservative apologist of the first water. Selected articles by various right-wingers (including Margaret Thatcher!) reveal how fucking smart the neocons think they are; published before the recent decline in Iraq's glorious democratic prospects and Bush's plunging approval ratings, there's not a hint of their present implosion, not that they're paying attention anyway.

On the lighter side, we nearly spilt our drink reading James Wolcott's Attack Poodles and Other Media Mutants; hilarious, informative and scary all at the same time. Not so humorously, we were agog at the sheer length of the lists in Bushit!: An A-Z Guide to the Bush Attack on Truth, by Jack Huberman. Bloggers, take note: almost every reference is to a website or blog; you could be a quoted source!

We managed to cram in New Orleans native son James Lee Burke's Heartwood and Bitterroot. Keeping us up past bedtime was critically-acclaimed author David Masiel’s The Western Limit of the World, a soul-cringing anti-morality tale of high-seas piracy and the abandonment of civilization.

For a little historical perspective, we returned to the scene of the American presidential election of 1800, which pitted the first-ever American political parties - Thomas Jefferson's Democratic Republicans (today called simply, the Democrats) against John Q. Adams and Alexander Hamilton's Federalists (the forerunners of todays neocons, embracing almost identical policies of executive power and pre-emptive war) with Adams vs. Jefferson, by John Ferling. Adam's presidency - and Hamilton's monarchial scheming - had brought on the Quasi War with France, the XYZ affair, and the Alien and Sedition Acts, and the political heat was high. As the first election contested by political parties, it featured a virulently partisan press, ballot stuffing - and theft - and an ideological struggle so intense that our young nation was brought close to the edge of civil war. Spoiler alert: Jefferson's Democrats won.

For more recent history disguised as fiction, we polished off the pina coladas and the book pile with Tears of Autumn, the real story of the Kennedy assassination, as puzzled out by real-life CIA agent, Charles McCarry. No, Virginia, the Mob didn't have nothin' to do wid it.


And that's what we did on our vacation, thank you. Now the lawn chair is back in the garage, the computer is warmed up, and it's back to the blog!

LA Times may remain a real newspaper

Recently the Los Angeles Times ran a tiny piece in its business section noting that its decidedly non-liberal parent corporation, the Chicago-based Tribune Corporation, is raving how the Times is hemmoraging value (actually, stockjobber Monopoly money – its stock price has dropped a tad recently), and how are the stockholders gonna get rich if they have to keep paying reporters’ salaries when they need to buy some new high-speed advertising insert machines and also make way for the full four-color possibilities of double-page-spread advertising special editions? Hmm?

Which says almost everything you really need to know about why the press – our fantasy ‘liberal media’ – screwed the pooch in its exorable reportage of the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, as well as the miserable coverage of this administration's complete mismanagement of everything they have touched. As we suspected all along, the media is not in the business of reporting the news; they are in the business of delivering advertising, or, alternately – as the CEO of Clear Channel so eloquently put it – of “acquiring bandwidth.”

Further, what “news” corporate media does disseminate is pure government propaganda. As Vanity Fair culture critic and author of Attack Poodles and Other Media Mutants James Wolcott so succinctly put it, “Fox News is an arm of the government.”

To be sure, along with The New York Times and The Washington Post, the LA Times has been among the rare exceptions in the rush by most metros to turn their heritage into Daily Shopper clones. For instance, these three metros are the only American newspapers to still maintain press facilities in Baghdad, all others having fled the scene, claiming an indifferent readership.

This last is pure bull, of course, as polls commissioned by the Los Angeles management have revealed, to wit: fully half (46-54%) of LA's readers want national and international reporting. In short, we want less color rotogravures of Ikea furniture and more news of the screwups in Iraq - and elsewhere - and somebody please tell us what the hell those a-holes in Washington are doing.

Presently the Tribune Company is arguing with LA management about the future composition of the newsroom, threatening to cut the news staff from 1,200 to 950 or so, and this has led to speculation that the TribCo may sell the Times soon.

This last bit is Good News, as several local buyers are apparently waiting in the wings, ready to return the paper to local ownership and keep the editorial mission intact, much to the relief of its readership, yours truly included.