The Gist of It: February 15th, 2013

CHICAGO, Ill. -- Ours is a spiritually benighted world, and though the lifelong ministry of my writing may yet prove a blazing beacon, the darkness is oppressive. Pyongyang's gruesome experiments in earthworm irradiation continue apace. America's latest spree shooter is roasted to death in a ski chalet by his erstwhile comrades. As for accomplishments, our profane showbiz pageants deliver the usual: "music" group Fun. won two Grammys and the Oscars will be hosted by "Ted" the raunchy teddy bear. Modern culture regards you, dear readers, hewers of wood and drawers of water for a panoply of soulless cretins, as utterly devoid of conscience or taste. Yes, this was the world of irredeemably violent Dorito ghouls I left behind, withdrawing to my winter hermitage in ignominy and despair – only to find the world beating upon my door.

In curious imitation of my pensive seclusion, Pope Benedict XVI has renounced the Holy See, seeking private-sector opportunities for sex abuse cover-ups, AIDS obscurantism , and Holocaust denier rehabilitation. The world was shocked, amid the indignity of Benedict's resignation – men in wine-colored cassocks nervously buzzing in Latin, crying bishops doffing their miters, papal butlers hurriedly carting wheelbarrows full of paper out of Vatican emergency exits. Shameful and strange, even for a church used to reenacting "Weekend at Bernie's" with papal corpses. But there is a silver lining even for this dark smoke emanating from a Vatican chimney. I have heard the call of the faithful, and so humbly submit myself. I am ready to be Pope.

In the unlikely event I fail to clinch god-sighted victory at the Papal conclave, and be anointed either Pope Celestine II or Pope Formosus II (have not yet decided), I shall remain your humble servant here at American Circus, with some exciting changes coming in the near-future. Having relocated to a new base of operations in a thus-far forgotten NORAD silo in Schaumburg, Illinois, I am excited to announce my brief has expanded to include reportage on the gun-ridden fiefdom of Mayor Rahm Emanuel, the ongoing Midwest labor wars, and the decrepit golem we call the "Rust Belt economy." Folks, it's going to be fun. Stay tuned for the new developments. 

General Gandhi

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The Gist of It: February 8th, 2013

Fuck Hamlet.

"I love the broken crown
The one you stole from the King and held for ransom
Love the broken crown
Love the broken crown
I love it"

--T. Rex, "The Motivator"

It was "without any royal solemnity" that Richard III "was buried at the entrance to a village church," the former Greyfriars Priory in Leicester, England, shortly after his gruesome death at the Battle of Bosworth Field, 1485. Now the site of the City Council's parking lot, where the good people of Leicester come to sign for the dole and report broken streetlights, the ruined Priory was where "hell's black intelligencer" himself would've remained forever - were it not for the archaeological dig which this week positively identified his bones as those of a king.

Ignore all the very tedious thought experiments in the coming week over the legacy of Shakespeare's "murderous falchion," over whether or not the historical Richard's going to finally get that "rehabilitation" it seems everybody thinks he's due. What infuriating bilge. Apparently it's down to me, a "poisonous bunch back'd toad" in my own right, to pick up Bad Dick's gauntlet, "whip these stragglers o'er the seas," and initiate the truly important and as-yet non-existent rehabilitation: that of the dramatic Richard III, Duke of Gloucester, Shakespeare's greatest, most courageous, and most brutally slandered hero. Fuck Hamlet, we don't have the luxury of time. We Americans are in desperate need of a scabrous, scouring genius, the kind who, for once in human history, made the smuggest, safest bastards pay. If I can't resurrect the bones of "The Boar" into an immortal zombie archon in time for the 2016 Iowa Caucus, I may just move to Canada.

Our degraded culture cannot, for a start, distinguish Richard III's divine vengeance from true villainy. Middlebrow mountebanks like New York Times columnist Roger Cohen only dare defend the Shakespearean Richard with bland platitudes like, "we need our villains in all their ugly, scheming iniquity." Thoroughgoing libel, as Shakespeare's audiences would've understood; Richard III was an avenging angel who only massacred the House of York, a crime family waist-deep in blood from the War of the Roses, at the moment they finally felt they could relax. The real "scheming iniquity" happens in broad daylight, against those untainted with such crimes, with no fear of such retribution. Just ask John Brennan.

Brennan, "a discontented gentleman/Whose humble means match not his haughty mind," has devoted his worthless life to proving the French reactionary Joseph De Maistre correct, that "all grandeur, all power, all subordination rests on the executioner." An easy tool, a little man, Brennan parlayed a career as CIA station chief in our repugnant Saudi proxy into that of a trusted blue-chip waterboarder - one who, the moment the backlash against Bush began, professed a Damescene conversion and began making straight cash money before finally rigging himself to the Obama zeppelin. Now, he is subject to a rigorous trial of confirmation , from that august branch of government Americans despise more than Genghis Khan and lice. Yes, he is the man for the job - won't finger the hired propagandists , looks like Spencer Tracy, speaks Arabic. Oh, and he's capable of lies so stark, they'd slap the colic out of a newborn: that Bin Laden threw up his wife as a human shield, that *no* civilians had been harmed by his drone strikes, that there was nothing untoward in his dealings with mercenaries.

Yes, we are in a democratic age that has left behind the strictures of absolute monarchy; now, in this enlightened era, lawyers draft elaborate justifications for executing their countrymen without due process, to say nothing of the faceless wogs we wage a shadow war against. This unfixed murder gaze even has a certain hip cachet now. Touré, the MSNBC panelist you might know from such hard-hitting documentaries as " Paramore: On the Record with Fuse," boldly came out in support of President Obama's right to kill anyone he wants for joining a terror organization that may not exist, in abrogation of any rights to due process the decedent may have once had. Nobody has blood on their hands for Abdulrahman al-Awlaki , or the thousands of other anonymous chattel we executed in a rain of fire, for some reason, because the blame is widely dispersed. Like buckshot, or the resultant waves of an earthquake .

Just ask Atlantic scribbler Jeffrey Goldberg, subject of an adoring backrub this week in The Washingtonian, where a star-eyed buddy described him variously as "hilarious" and "a good laugh." This is true enough; my favorite patented Goldberg gag was when he relied on a sweaty drug courier paraded by the Kurdish peshmerga to report that Saddam Hussein had transferred biological weapons to Al Qaeda inside several "refrigerator motors," a fantasy exposed when the courier could not even describe what Kabul looked like. Yes, just as Richard III needed slick operators like his Buckingham to procure the throne, so Jeffy proved useful to Dick Cheney on the 2002 talk show circuit - but only the former shill paid for it.

Our hero who would deliver us from this decrepitude remains dead in Leicester. Jean Molinet, the 15th century court historian of the Duchy of Burgundy, tells us that though "the king bore himself valiantly and wore the crown on his head," even the final flower of the Plantagenet kings, Richard III, died, as even those less kingly like you and I must, alone. The last of the House of York expired trussed upon a packhorse, "hair hanging as one would bear a sheep." It is the final reckoning of another time, and a brand of justice we will never see realized.

General Gandhi

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The Gist of It: February 1st, 2013

Here we go again: "A journal of opinion which seeks to meet the challenge of a new time."

As I shiver in the derelict cowshed that constitutes my writing quarters, the fires of journalistic inspiration all but dead, I can only draw warmth from that most incandescent of revelations: The New Republic, beacon of journalistic distinction, has been finally relaunched by the young millionaire who bought it from an old millionaire. "Yes," I ruminate aloud, as a draft knocks a dead june bug a few inches across the floor - "this will be the kind of unbiased and thought-provoking reportage that smart, curious, socially aware, and unemployed readers like myself crave."

And in this era of unending private gains and bottomless public losses, the world could certainly use a good umpire. Only it seems like the strikes being called never add up to an out. BP's 2011 Deepwater Horizon explosion, which liquified eleven oil rig workers and annihilated the Gulf Coast, has been corrected with a gentleman's agreement and a handshake - the third-largest energy company on Earth will pay a four billion dollar fine, say they're very, very sorry, and get to keep drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. With a couple of small-fry scapegoats already thrown to the wolves, BP has now, in the measured words of the Times, "resolved the criminal charges against the company." But since when were criminal charges something for white-collar sociopaths to fear? The Royal Bank of Scotland may be sweating as the Department of Justice tries to pin a seven-hundred and fifty million dollar fine on its tail this week for rigging interest rates, but fear not, laddies, there'll be no "gaol" time. If a Swiss bank can launder blood money for the million worst people on Earth, like some awful Michael Crichton novel come to life, and still escape by writing a check - well, I don't think I'd ever stop rigging interest rates. Remember, the law is only for Egyptian protestors or CIA whistleblowers.

Yes, everyone knows the world of high finance is just a leper's colony, albeit one bedecked in Brooks Brothers. But now, even good, clean recreation is becoming a hellscape. Collapsing goalposts trapped a Portuguese soccer goalie in its web. A snowmobiler was killed in a gruesome accident at the "x-treme" X-Games, his brain concussed into sponge cake. And a nightclub performance in Santa Maria, Brazil, by the grandiloquent "Gurizada Fandangueira," ended with a cheap pyrotechnic flare penetrating and igniting the ceiling's soundproof foam, turning the over-capacity club into an inferno that killed 235 people. A police inspector tells us "any child" could've predicted disaster in a club with one working fire extinguisher and one exit, at the end of a narrow hallway. The club's owner has already attempted a jailhouse suicide, borne of a desperation Barney Welansky would've understood. The former manager of Boston's tony Cocoanut Grove nightclub, Welansky served four years in prison for the 1942 fire there which killed 492 people. As a cancer-ridden Welansky confessed, leaving prison: "I wish I'd died with the others in the fire."

And so it is that this dim spinning world desperately needs some truth spoken to power. That's where a muckraking dynamo like The New Republic enters the frame. It is a great comfort to know that TNR’s new publisher, fresh-faced sapling Chris Hughes, will sustain the proud traditions of watchdog journalism and intellectual inquiry fostered by his charming predecessor, Marty "The Hutt" Peretz. Yes, Marty had many bows to his string in the years after his long-suffering, now ex-wife (a Singer Sewing Machine heiress) bought the brat his own vanity rag. Whether fostering an institutional predilection for producing and defending journalistic fraud, publishing virulently racist journo-bilge that'd make a Klansman go white(r), or clogging the ranks of journalism with wave after wave of ghoulish acolytes, Peretz certainly left an impressive (black/red/skid, etc.) mark on American letters.

Hughes seems set to do the same, only also on an iPad. A "success" in the chipped metrics of terminal-stage America, former Obama pitchman Hughes earned his estimated half-billion dollar fortune by osmosis, raking it in with a data mining operation's fraud-ridden initial public offering. Hughes, in his debut cri de coeur, argues that "too many media institutions chase superficial metrics of online virality at the expense of investing in rigorous reporting."

I gasped reading that, a sharp intake of cold air in my cow hovel. Hughes is right. In a world where the same fires of 1942 can reignite to claim a few hundred more lives, or where Louisiana's pelicans still can't shake dinosaur resin from their wings, now is the time for the sharp journalism humanity demands. Even a glowering cynic like myself can see this. And so the revamped, remodeled New Republic stands ready, ready to report the stories that count, the ones J-school students will look back upon a century from now, envious. These budding scholars will ask, "did Barack Obama, Nobel Peace Prize winner, Afghan War loser, and drone enthusiast – did he like watching football?" And there, in the yellowed pages of America's smartest glossy, they will find the answer. God's speed, Chris Hughes.

General Gandhi

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The Gist of It: January 25th, 2013

To most Americans, Martin Luther King Day signifies the rare chance to watch "The Price is Right" outside of a dentist's office. This year, however, broadcasters afforded daytime TV viewers a glimpse of a dream more illusory than a new Jennifer Convertible living room set: that of Barack Obama, Mark II, the "Second Coming." Eight hundred thousand faithful, maybe even a million, swarmed the parade route, blocking the left-hand paths of egress of the DC Metro's hundreds of escalators like the Beltway foreigners they were. After about three blocks of walking and waving, and with all the grandeur of the day's "relatively mild weather," the President of the United States disappeared back into his up-armored Cadillac limo, an eight-inch titanium door locked and sealed behind him, the roar of the crowd piped in via microphones.

It was one of those events that neatly cleaves two "eras," like when a horse tramples a king's only son. America has advanced into the golden hours of Barack Obama's second term, and like any enlightened society, must swoon as publicly as possible for the hero of the moment: a remorseless mass murderer who wants your grandma eating cat food. Such enthusiasm must have been humbling, which was why Obama chose to be sworn in upon one of Martin Luther King's bibles. A keen student of history, Obama previously honored Dr. King's legacy by stitching into an Oval Office rug one of MLK's favorite quotations: "The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice." Wise words that no doubt inspire much reflection, trod upon daily as they are by all the President's men, seeking permission to fire missiles into a mud hut, in some country.

No doubt, humanitarians like John Brennan and Lanny Breuer feel, when called to the carpet before the Commander-in-Chief, that they are veritable galaxies in the "moral universe." After all, thus far in the “Obama era,” society has lauded anyone able to "correctly" answer a question Dr. King posed in his 1967 speech "Beyond Vietnam": whether humanity should choose "nonviolent coexistence or violent coannihilation." King clearly believed in the former, and was thus pilloried for a year by the "white moderates" of Life Magazine as a stooge of "Radio Hanoi," right up until somebody murdered him at the Lorraine Motel.

Not a profitable line to spout. Just ask the heroic revolutionaries of Egypt, approaching the second anniversary of their victory of nonviolent resistance - only to see the vampire Mubarak reawakened, and his successor a repressive goon. "Violent coannhiliation," on the other hand, has drawn some serious suction with the movers and shakers of the world this past week. Mali seems to have captured the hearts and minds of Western militarists, rather than the other way around; but for the overgrown children who have gotten rich urging war liberal intervention in any country that can fill a bombsight, there's precious little difference. Just as with Libya, the immense historical and cultural complexities of these countries aren't nearly as important to policymakers as what a cross-eyed star child like Max Boot says. Why should it be otherwise? Nobody was ever hacked to death by the Malian Army and dumped in a well because they lied to Charlie Rose.

In the West's excitement this week to get it on with the "Taliban of Timbuktu," it might've been easy to forget about the OG Taliban, the ones we've been fighting since was a blue-chip stock. Prince Harry emerged from the haze of nudity and inbreeding he usually resides in to express his insensate reflections on his tour of duty in Afghanistan, scouring Afghans off the face of the planet from an Apache attack helicopter. In a boon for the NRA, Harry admitted it had been a "joy," since "I'm one of those people who loves playing PlayStation." This "Sgt. Spicoli" monologue isn't a put-on, and the only thing remarkable about these banal admissions is the speaker; Harry's defense of "taking a life to save a life" would be cited by every soldier in the chain of command. Nevertheless, even the most elite Americans feel it slightly untoward to emulate a literal warrior-monarch. That's why they attend a mock coronation at Davos every year.

Is there anybody out there who rejects the whole amoral boilerplate you have to sign to be somebody? Well, besides MLK, one hero was born this week, a brawler who demanded a decent set of values to govern this stinking world. On Tuesday, George Gordon, Lord Byron, celebrated his 225th birthday, and we can only hope that through sheer perspicacity, he might yet manage a physical comeback. If anyone's capable of coming back from the dead, it's Byron, scourge of the Lake Poets and warrior of the righteous. And so as we await the "second coming" of that true messiah, of the dawning of the "Second Byronic Era," in which drone strikes, inaugural galas, and austerity measures are a thing of the past, we can only take comfort in the example of the last time Byron flayed a withered, conservative, and deeply inequitable society, in his remarkably brutal "Dedication":

"You — Gentlemen! by dint of long seclusion...

...deem as a most logical conclusion,

That Poesy has wreaths for you alone:

There is a narrowness in such a notion,

Which makes me wish you’d change your lakes for ocean." 


General Gandhi

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