Steve Perry



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  Monday, March 24, 2003

Meet the New Blog

This is my old blog database; click here to go to my new blog.

11:01:15 AM    

  Friday, January 17, 2003

More I.F. Stone

"The only kinds of fights worth fighting are those you're going to lose, because somebody has to fight them and lose and lose and lose until someday, somebody who believes as you do wins. In order for somebody to win an important, major fight 100 years hence, a lot of other people have got be willing -- for the sheer fun and joy of it -- to go right ahead and fight, knowing you're going to lose. You mustn't feel like a martyr. You've got to enjoy it."

12:28:54 PM    

  Thursday, January 16, 2003

Fun With Real Audio

It's old news now, but check out this remix of Bush's State of the Union address if you haven't already.

10:39:17 AM    

  Wednesday, January 15, 2003

Le Carre on Bush’s War


At the Times of London website, novelist John Le Carre has just published one of the better and more concise why-America-is-crazy-and-dangerous essays (a burgeoning new species in the primordial soup of world press). I’m looking into reprint rights for an upcoming issue of City Pages, but meantime this excerpt:  


Baghdad represents no clear and present danger to its neighbours, and none to the US or Britain. Saddam's weapons of mass destruction, if he's still got them, will be peanuts by comparison with the stuff Israel or America could hurl at him at five minutes' notice. What is at stake is not an imminent military or terrorist threat, but the economic imperative of US growth. What is at stake is America's need to demonstrate its military power to all of us--to Europe and Russia and China, and poor mad little North Korea, as well as the Middle East; to show who rules America at home, and who is to be ruled by America abroad.

12:21:55 PM    

Suddenly, Wisconsin


It was a long time in the making, but the Pawlenty administration now inherits a moment of considerable poignancy. For many years Minnesota was a progressive leader in social programs ranging from welfare to health care to public works, and that’s coming to an end once and for all starting with the current legislative session; the only question is what they’ll kill now and what they’ll leave bleeding for later. The state’s various medical assistance programs are the last major province of “discretionary” social spending in the Minnesota budget, so they will be a special target. The same goes for the dwindling funds allotted to public defenders’ offices and Legal Aid societies--once you have done away with habeas corpus and Miranda, who needs them anyway? Education faces deep cuts. Everything’s ripe for slashing but the Corrections budget, which faces a system at absolute full capacity by this spring.


Where have you gone, Wendy Anderson? To see how we got here you have to go back to Bill Clinton and welfare reform in 1996. By slashing federal welfare supports and standards and making bloc grants to states, the Clintonites set in motion a state-by-state race to the bottom of the spending barrel. The logic is simple enough. In the wake of federal abdication, some states are rich, some states are poor; some have an edifice of relatively comprehensive benefits, and some have almost none. And so states inevitably begin to compete for the assurance that their benefits for the down-and-out are no more attractive than those of their neighbors, lest they become known as “welfare magnets” to their region’s saddest cases. In the Midwest, Tommy Thompson’s Wisconsin and John Engler’s Michigan got to work early doing away with their own programs. Minnesota lagged. But the deal was sealed by Jesse Ventura’s anti-tax populism, which resulted in multiple contractions of the state revenue base and forced the question of spending cuts as soon as there was an economic downturn.


But you can’t measure what’s happening here just in dollars and cents. It marks the passing of an era in the ethos of the state--in the idea of what it means to live here. Shaped in myth and partly in fact by a long tradition of northern European radicalism and prairie populism, Minnesota for generations has stayed largely ahead of the pack in social spending of various kinds. The government and the citizenry wore this fact proudly; business perennially carped about it and perennially reaped the benefits it brought. Unfortunately the Scandinavian social welfare ethic that shaped the Minnesota way has not stood up well to the intrusions of the larger world. The social generosity at the heart of it was reserved for “people like us,” and the less the subjects of our largesse looked like us, the less stomach we retained for it. A generation’s worth of new faces--in-country migrations of black and brown from other, more depressed Midwestern cities, and an influx of multi-hued refugees from the world over--has hardened the Twin Cities and the state in ways we’ll be years coming to grips with.

12:18:37 PM    

The Center Cannot Hold


I've spent a lot of hours driving in the past few weeks, during much of which I was too fried and too preoccupied to think of listening to music--too demanding by far, too solicitous--or even books on tape, and so I have listened mile after mile to AM news and talk stations instead, until their hourly recycling of topics began to play over in my head like words overheard at the edge of sleep.


In all those hours the phrase that struck with the most force and clung to me longest was "the war with Iraq." It was used in all the same well-worn settings--tactical deployments, the tortuous and dishonest path through UN weapons inspections with the whole world looking askance, the future economic implications--but never once was it discussed as anything but a foregone conclusion. So it was shocking but not surprising when on a few occasions the host or the copywriter slipped and referred to "the war with Iraq" in the present tense, as though it were already occurring.


As it is, practically speaking. The dispatch of war materiel continues unabated, and by now there can't be more than a dozen souls anywhere who actually believe that the contents of Iraq's weapons declaration or its degree of cooperation with UN inspectors could have any bearing on W's preconceived course of action. For Bush to go back and win Pappy's war, a la Rambo II, was in the cards from the start, even before September 11 happened. Meanwhile W is also hoping that the drumbeat of war will drown out meaningful comment on his larcenous tax proposal and his brazen efforts to steamroll any checks on his personal power. Norm Coleman heading up the subcommittee charged with investigating government ops--and therefore any misdeeds of the Bush White House? Thank you, Senator Frist. It’s the next best thing to having Karl Rove do the job himself. 


Right now it appears W can do anything, that anything goes. But the pretense that the public is with him can’t be maintained much longer. Vocal opposition to Bush's war aims is growing by leaps and bounds. A good many people likewise bristle at the rich handing themselves bonuses and heaping on the tax breaks. These brewing public energies won't come to anything in time to keep W from plunging forward on both counts, but there is every reason to think his popularity will crash under the weight of his own designs sooner rather than later. An encouraging thought until you see what's on the Democrats' plate: TV news anchor manqué John Kerry, the sallow, ferret-like John Edwards, and pious, sepulchral Joe Lieberman, who stalks the national stage like a vengeful, anxious Old Testament patriarch who can’t wait for God to tell him who to sacrifice next. And all of them running on a me-too line yet again, charging that W hasn’t been draconian enough in homeland defense. The Democrats may bail out W yet, just as the Gingrich class of Republicans saved Clinton.  


12:14:59 PM    

  Thursday, January 02, 2003

Th-Th-That's All, Folks

Mark Crispin Miller, the NYU professor and political critic who has long enjoyed a minor celebrity among the duller and more dour American liberals, is floating a new line on W and his losing battle with spoken English. (The book is called The Bush Dyslexicon.) He's not stupid, he's a sociopath, argues Miller, claiming that W only gets distracted and misspeaks when he veers away from his favored subjects of violence and domination.

On those occasions, apparently, he is just so damn bored that he might say anything. The following is from an article about Miller and his book in the Toronto Star:

"I know how hard it is to put food on your family," Bush was quoted as saying.

"That wasn't because he's so stupid that he doesn't know how to say, `Put food on your family's table' — it's because he doesn't care about people who can't put food on the table," Miller says.

But sometimes there is more than MADD (Moral Attention Deficit Disorder) at stake in Bush's misstatements. When it suits him, Miller plays the Freudian slip card:

 But equating Bush's malapropisms with Quayle's inability to spell "potato" is a dangerous assumption, Miller says.

At a public address in Nashville, Tenn., in September, Bush provided one of his most memorable stumbles. Trying to give strength to his case that Saddam Hussein had already deceived the West concerning his store of weapons, Bush was scripted to offer an old saying: Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. What came out was the following:

"Fool me once, shame ... shame on ... you." Long, uncomfortable pause. "Fool me — can't get fooled again!"

Played for laughs everywhere, Miller saw a darkness underlying the gaffe.

"There's an episode of Happy Days, where The Fonz has to say, `I'm sorry' and can't do it. Same thing," Miller said.

Yes, how true. Get this man a blog of his own! 

11:17:54 AM    

  Tuesday, December 31, 2002

My New Year's Resolution

"It's just wonderful to be a pariah. I really owe my success to being a pariah. It is so good not to be invited to respectable dinner parties. People used to say to me, 'Izzy, why don't you go down and see the Secretary of State and put him straight.' Well, you know, you're not supposed to see the Secretary of State. He won't pay any attention to you anyway. He'll hold your hand, he'll commit you morally for listening. To be a pariah is to be left alone to see things your own way, as truthfully as you can. Not because you're brighter than anybody else is -- or your own truth so valuable. But because, like a painter or a writer or an artist, all you have to contribute is the purification of your own vision, and add that to the sum total of other visions. To be regarded as nonrespectable, to be a pariah, to be an outsider, this is really the way to do it. To sit in your tub and not want anything. As soon as you want something, they've got you!"

--I.F. Stone

11:42:34 AM    

W's New Year's Resolution & Prayer

More spies, more snitches, more cops, more cameras, more background checks, more consumer spending, more jails, more wars.

Grant us these things, Big Chief-eroony, in Jesus' name we pray. 

11:36:22 AM    

Blogdom: A Vast Wasteland...

Since we launched these City Pages blogs nearly a month ago, I've spent a lot more time trolling other weblog columns. Never let it be said that journalists don't suffer for their art too.

Babelogue, indeed. (And that's babel-ogue, meaning a tower of talk, not babe-logue, you smartasses.) I'm sure I haven't touched on a tenth of a tenth of what is out there--I doubt that one person could, without secreting away a large store of amphetamines and abandoning the daylight world--but I'm not convinced that matters. Someday every person in China will have a blog, and even then they will all still sound the same.

Or, to put a more optimistic spin on it, you could say that the cream of the information age has yet to rise to the top. The bloggers' house contains many mansions. There are the so-called "pro" bloggers; this class consists mainly of the same old punditocracy, print media gasbags like Mickey Kaus, Andrew Sullivan, and Eric Alterman. There are others whom I guess you would have to call "pros" if only because it's hard to imagine they do anything else. There are staunch Republican blogs and indignant Democratic blogs, green blogs, libertarian blogs, socialist blogs, white power blogs, blogs that only a dog can hear. But mostly there are amateur, self-referential blogs--interactive Christmas letters that drone on all year long and serve only to satisfy the curiosity of the odd internet user (the genuinely odd, even pathetic, internet user) who wonders what guys living in basement apartments in Cleveland are listening to these days. The main pastime of this class of bloggers is linking to, back-slapping, or bitch-slapping other bloggers of like mind. It's the greatest Ponzi scheme the world has seen, only it's built upon words rather than money.

If you want a glimpse of American anomie as grisly as any car crash photo, just start down the blogpath some day, leaping from one to the next guided only by the links to other blogs they all provide. After a few hours of this you will want to forswear the internet, or maybe reading itself, forever. If blogging is to come to anything as a movement in journalism--and by this I'm not talking about professional journalists; god, no--then blogdom needs a few decent clearinghouse pages to point us non-maniacs toward the good stuff. Something on the order of Drudge's news links page, except pointing to weblogs rather than news stories.

If this is already happening, or if you know a really great blog you want to pass along, please email me and let me know.

Finally, no blog entry on blogging would be complete without a little logrolling, so let me plug a couple of worthy blogs originating here in the great Midwest:


Romenesko's Media News

11:33:34 AM    

The City Pages Martian Film Festival

The other night, while pacing around the house dodging the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future, I slipped into a bout of delirium--it may have been seeing Gangs of New York, Martin Scorsese's elegy to the brute force of American dreaming, or a bad oyster in my stew--and received a command from on high. Five movies, it said--five movies... about America! Huh? Oh, you know, the voice continued. Five movies you'd show to a visitor from Mars. Zeitgeist stuff. Recent zeitgeist, I mean--and made in the past 10 years. I shouldn't have to explain this to you.

Okay then. I reckon Spike Lee really ought to be here, but his best picture, Do the Right Thing, is more than 10 years old now, and you heard what God said.

Bulworth: Beltway Week in Review, or Mr. Smith Goes to Hell. The great lost American movie of our generation.

Gangs of New York: "You can always hire half the poor to kill the other half."

The Cable Guy: "Everybody gets lonely," Matthew Broderick assures Jim Carrey as the maniacal, TV-suckled cable installer dangles over the abyss. "Yeah," says Carrey, "but I get really lonely."

Office Space: The Tao of Downsizing.

8 Mile: Black and white and off-radar, something's happening...



11:28:37 AM    

  Thursday, December 26, 2002

Brave New Democrats

It's been a couple of months now since the Democratic debacle of November 5; what did the Party of the Living Dead learn from its trouncing? Big surprise here: Skew harder right! According to Adam Nagourney's  trend piece in the Thursday 12/26 New York Times, presidential hopefuls from John Edwards to Joe Leiberman are speaking with one voice to try outflanking the Bushies to their right on domestic terror preparedness. Said Tailgunner Joe: "With the possible exception of the aviation systems, we have not raised our guard sufficiently. This administration has been slow and inadequate in the response to the terrorist threat here at home."

No word on the subject from the Democrats' new fantasy frontrunner, Hillary Clinton, who outpolled all the usual suspects in a pre-Christmas survey of registered Dems.


9:43:46 AM    

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