Archive for Society & Culture

Sponge-worthy metal tape begets decentralized culture

by David Solomonoff

TDK cassette ad "The Sound Sponge"

Boingboing recently had a post about the last remaining factory making analog audio cassette tapes. Business is booming with a resurgent taste for things analog, physical and tangible – and they also sound good.

My wife and I took part in an international underground art and music movement in the 1980’s that used snail mail to create a decentralized culture that predated but anticipated the public Internet. Cassettes were the game-changing technology that allowed for fast, cheap music reproduction in small production runs.

Blank cassettes are actually collectors’ items now. Unfortunately the type of cassette that allowed us to do complex sound collages with cheap hardware doesn’t seem to be made anymore. The Type IV metal tape – actual metal bits instead of metal oxide in the tape emulsion – had sound quality that rivaled analog reel-to-reel machines and digital compact disks.

I found a few metal cassettes at a church rummage sale recently and plan to save them for special musical projects – the way Elaine chose “sponge-worthy” boyfriends on Seinfeld.

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The Working Class Rides Again!

by Carola Von Hoffmannstahl-Solomonoff

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Holy moldering Marx, the working class is back! Drawn out of hiding by the Donald and Bernie. Cheerleaders for the Ownership Society who pushed subprime mortgages and equity draining as a substitute for NAFTA-gone jobs are aghast. As are devotees of identity politics. Solidarity Forever? Screw it. An overarching concept like class, with its multi cultural inclusiveness, could undermine decades of hard work fanning social divisions.

As for snobs on both sides of the political divide, for them it’s a real knuckle-drag to see the return of the “great unwashed”. Yes, West Virginia– there still are folks who use that phrase. Or think in its terms. That many of them are no better off economically or secure in their futures than the Morlocks they imagine and despise matters not. Illusions of superiority are as comforting as a baby’s blankie.

So– where has the working class been hiding? Answer: in plain sight. Only the term “working class” disappeared, not the actual people.

In an infamous scene from Sex & the City, the gals are discussing their sex lives (did they ever discuss anything else?) while getting a pedicure in a Korean nail salon. Miranda, a high-powered attorney, is dating a bartender. Charlotte, an art gallery manager with a wealthy husband, says the relationship has no future because a bartender is “working class”. The gals all laugh at such an archaic concept. Then the camera pans down to show the Korean women kneeling at their feet…

The term “working class” began fading out in the 1970’s; its erasure has been helpful politically to both left and right. The boon to the right is obvious; no working class means no need for organized labor. Not saying that not using the term is the sole reason unions have shrunk to a ghost of their former selves– just that it’s harder to organize people when they can’t name the group with whom their economic interests lie. And when that increasingly nameless group is made to appear ridiculous, boorish, and bigoted the organizing gets even harder. I mean, who wants to identify with–

Archie Bunker

Ah, Archie. The creation of liberal TV god Norman Lear, blue collar Archie ruled the sitcom world in All in the Family between 1971 and ’79. Talking trash with little cash. The latter wasn’t a sympathy factor, just another indicator of Archie’s social inferiority. Some claim Archie was an anti-hero and that white viewers secretly identified with him while pretending to scorn. But anti-heroes, after decades of cultural presence, tend to segue into respectability. So why does the term ”Archie Bunker” remain an insult?

Archie Bunker was an ugly stereotype. One that was allowed to stand because its target, the working class, was no longer deemed worthy of respect. Also because those being targeted were ambivalent about identifying as “working class”. Doing so flew in the face of middle class aspiration. Plus, the term was an ideological one associated with communism, our Cold War enemy, and in this country with hoary political groups still fighting the Stalin v. Trotsky wars. Many such groups featured the word “workers” in their titles. Comrades dressed the part, circa Woody Guthrie. The New Left called these groups “Old Left”. By 1971 their worker-centric influence had dwindled to an echo.

Not so New Left influence. Thanks to their piggy-backing the counterculture, rads of the New Left were hip and happening. Their cultural judgments carried weight. And from them, the working class got no respect.

Few groups on the New Left called themselves “worker” anything. In New Left minds, American workers had been corrupted by the success of organized labor and were now part of the problem not the solution. They had houses, cars, and televisions. Refrigerators full of beer. Cupboards stuffed with white bread. They worked in factories that belched pollutants and/or produced gas-guzzlers that carried people away from urban slums to suburban tract homes with lawns. (The New Left, with its amazing ability to intuit hidden motives, knew the exodus was really about racism not lawns.) But the biggest sin was support for the Vietnam War. That most working class people had kids, siblings, spouses, or friends fighting the war was no excuse. In Vietnam, the USA was Hitler. Which made all its supporters back home “good Germans”. Something New Left activists took great moral pride in not being.

Back to Norman Lear. Creator of Archie Bunker. Wealthy as hell but still an ace identifier of all things working class ugly, Lear has denounced Donald Trump. No surprise. Trump’s blue collar supporters are often called Archie. “Meathead” aka Rob Reiner, liberal son-in-law of apocryphal Archie, has also delivered a finger wag.  Apostle Meathead spreading his Creator’s Word…

One Last Thing

Thankfully for fans of the TV working class, Archie Bunker wasn’t the only blue collar guy to grace sets in the 70’s. There was also Detective Columbo of the LAPD. Underestimated. Rumpled. Smoking a cheap stogie, driving a beloved beater. Unlike Archie, Columbo never talked politics. All he did was ask homicide suspects gazillion nagging questions. Relentlessly. The payoff being his nailing arrogant elite types who thought they could get away with murder.

When I look at the people cheering Trump– and Sanders– at rallies in post-industrial places I don’t see the face of Archie Bunker. I see Columbo bringing it home. I can almost hear it…

“One last thing. Nothing important. I just need to clear up a few small details. It won’t take long. I know you need to get on with ruling. But first, can you tell me where you were when American jobs were being exported, cheap labor was being imported, and working class/middle class incomes were stagnating?”

Everybody into the beater!

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All Saints Keep Marching In! 200 Postcards/Got Mail Art

by Carola Von Hoffmannstahl-Solomonoff

All Saints Eve aka Halloween is long gone. Even the Great Turkey has flown. Yet the saints keep marching in! How spectral is that? Meanwhile, back at the 200 Postcards/Got Mail Art project, folks are revving up for Xmas*. Partying with in-laws and no laws, stalking Black Season sales, and decking the motel halls with duct tape. Me no tell Santa if you don’t…

 

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1) Making merry with balloon golf. BYOB and watch out for the holes. Go ask Cousin Alice— she fell down one!

 

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2) Bennington, Vermont.  Where a surprising amount of product can be found.

 

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3)  Anonymous Motel, Lake George, New York.  An attentive staff and a TV in every room. Set amidst rolling acres of stain-resistant carpet.

 

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4) Anonymous Motel, Lake George, New York. An attentive staff, plus cozy cabins with kitchen/bath combos.

 

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5) Meanwhile, back in Vermont, the wacky ways of Hollywood– and organized crime– are being pondered.

 

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6) Duct tape, used auto parts, and a heavenly calendar girl. Happy new old year, January, 1963. Cooperstown Junction, New York.

 

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7) Gilboa Dam, Schoharie Reservoir, upstate New York. Created to supply New York City with water, the reservoir sits atop a flooded village and acres of rolling drowned farmland.

 

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8) Hotel Mark Hopkins, San Francisco, California. A tip top view from glamorous Top of the Mark. Careful of the eye holes tho. Cousin Alice… well, you know.

 

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9) Shinglekill Falls, Purling, New York. Postcard sez: “The water evoked reverence in early years”. Now?  Folks “must scream to be heard over the roar”.

*Xmas: Though often confused with Christmas due to proximity, Xmas is a completely different holiday. Widely celebrated, its origins are somewhat mysterious. Conspiracy theorists claim Satan thought it up while “X-ing” old angel friends out of his address book. Others put the blame on Bizarro. Or possibly Mame

 

Coming for Christmas: Return of the Magnificent Incoming/ Miraculous Mail Art from Around the World.

The series so far:

200 Postcards/Got Mail Art– The Movie!

200 Postcards/Got Mail Art: Summa Summertime Fun

200 Postcards/Got Mail Art: Famous Faces, Strange Places

200 Postcards/Got Mail Art: Incoming! Incoming!

Spring a Ding Ding, Eight from the Gate

Mail Art Confidential Part 2: Extreme Sports

Mail Art Confidential Part One

Five More for the Road

200 Postcards/Got Mail Art?

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200 Postcards/Got Mail Art: Summa Summertime Fun

by Carola Von Hoffmannstahl-Solomonoff

Oh yeah, the living is easy. Catfish jumping, cotton high. Pols sweating bullets all over the place. Dodging ’em can be tuff. Load up the car and hit the road jack. Send pals postcards from the Paradise Motel saying “Wish you were here!” Ditch the cell tho. It doesn’t do privacy…

 

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1) “Purring Tranquility” in the Scenic South of Bessemer, Alabama.

 

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2) “Welcome to Walt Disney World.” What would Summer be without a drop-in on Disney, the “Vacation Kingdom of the World”?

 

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3) Tomorrow Land at Disney World: “Welcome to the Future”. Or is it the past?

 

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4) Just ’cause it’s hot and gritty, don’t skip New York City! “Luscious” Lana Turner and “Mob gorilla” Johnny Stompanato do Rockefeller Center Plaza.

 

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5) In upstate New York, famous folks can be spotted at Niagara Falls. But you gotta look fast before they disappear…

 

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6) Paleface Mountain Inn, Jay, New York; yet another great place for people watching. How many pale faces can you spot? Winner gets an all-expenses paid trip to Albany!

 

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7) The State Capital, Historic Albany, New York circa 2007.  No matter how hot things got, Governor Eliot Spitzer always kept his socks on. And though his “Steam Roller” temper was legendary, historians say Eliot/Elliott never erupted over his misspelled name on the Capital’s most iconic postcard.

 

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8) All aboard the Union Pacific Railroad! Claim a seat in the Astra Dome Observation Car and bring on the non-stop booze. Take in the “mystic and romantic light from the star-studded canopy” while the cat up front blows an ode…

 

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9) The Big Texan on I-40 East says “Exit Now”. Steak for 99 cents– an offer that can’t be refused.

 

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10) Meanwhile, back in the heart of Dixie, North Carolina’s state bird spots an angel amongst the magnolias.

 

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11) One last reminder re that cell…

 

The series so far:

200 Postcards/Got Mail Art: Famous Faces, Strange Places

200 Postcards/Got Mail Art: Incoming! Incoming!

Spring a Ding Ding, Eight from the Gate

Mail Art Confidential Part 2: Extreme Sports

Mail Art Confidential Part One

Five More for the Road

200 Postcards/Got Mail Art?

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200 Postcards/Got Mail Art: Famous Faces, Strange Places

by Carola Von Hoffmannstahl-Solomonoff

Saviors, celebs, and monsters ride the Snail. Therein lies the tale. Yippee-ki-yay! Mofo or no, they go with the flow…

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1) Christ and Pol Pot in Desert w. touch of El Topo. Highway 84 between Phoenix and Tucson.

 

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2) Frieda Kahlo by TicTac. Geisha rising from Lake Mead, largest reservoir in the US– straddling Nevada and Arizona.

 

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3) Mao Zedong say wha?? Revolution isn’t a Pu Pu Platter. China City Restaurant– quaint, exotic, and air conditioned. Florida, possibly Saint Petersburg.

 

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4) Going to a Go Go with Mail Art and iconic dervish. Silver Springs, Florida. “Nature’s Underwater Fairyland”.

 

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5) Skeletons and Ocotillo. Indigenous to the Sonoran Desert in Southwestern U.S. and northern Mexico.

 

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6) Christ and Saturn in Ballroom w. touch of Louis XV. Henry Morrison Flagler Museum, Palm Beach, Florida. Flagler was Dad to Miami and Standard Oil. Monopoly anyone?

 

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7) Mao Zedong and Skull Pez. United Nations, New York City

 

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8) Back to the Desert, Varieties of Cactus. Some less prickly than others.

 

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9) Greetings from the Mohawk Bingo Palace, St. Regis Reservation, Hogansburg, New York.

 

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10) Riding the Ridge in Hunter, New York. Catskill Mountains. Corn high, Eye in the Sky…

The series so far:

200 Postcards/Got Mail Art: Incoming! Incoming!

Spring a Ding Ding, Eight from the Gate

Mail Art Confidential Part 2: Extreme Sports

Mail Art Confidential Part One

Five More for the Road

200 Postcards/Got Mail Art?

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Spring a Ding Ding, Eight from the Gate

by Carola Von Hoffmannstahl-Solomonoff

It’s season of the switch at 200 Postcards/Got Mail Art? Magnolias are blooming and tigers and teens are looking for a kiss. Sure, politicians keep shoveling but guess who has risen? Hint: His name rhymes with…

 

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1) Mississippi Magnolia: “This beautiful flower of the evergreen Magnolia Grandiflora is seen throughout the South in the late Spring.”

 

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2) Mating Season in Historic Beaufort, South Carolina.

 

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3) Mating Season in Ormond Beach, Florida.

 

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4) State Capitol, Albany, New York. Regular tours take in “The Million Dollar Staircase”. Coming soon– a casino to die for! Just a hop skip from the Cap.

 

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5) Aladdin Casino, Las Vegas: “Truly a magical resort where your wish is our command.”

 

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6) Main Street, Old Tucson, Arizona. Among the many Westerns shot at Old Tucson Studios: Rio Bravo, El Dorado, and Andy Warhol’s Lonesome Cowboys

 

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7) Palm Springs, California: “…famous for its luxury shops, restaurants, and hotels.” But natives say “keep watching the sky”.

 

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8) Alta, Utah: Skiing in deep powder. After the fall, a rise…

 

Thanks to pals in SoCal for the cards from Vegas, Palm Springs, and Utah.

The series so far:

Mail Art Confidential Part 2: Extreme Sports

Mail Art Confidential Part One

Five More for the Road

200 Postcards/Got Mail Art?

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Five More for the Road

by Carola Von Hoffmannstahl-Solomonoff

Five more postcards hit the road– a moving part of the 200 Postcards/Got Mail Art? project.

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Midwest Modern, Waterloo, Iowa, 1933:  “Our YMCA is the newest and most modern in the 5 state area in Midwest.”

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Florida Pelican Boy

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The Ghost of Radio City, New York

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Million Dollar Aqua-Babe, St. Petersburg, Florida

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Silver Springs Demi-God w. Maiden

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The Swingin’ Totalitarian: Vladimir Lenin Sings!

by Carola Von Hoffmannstahl-Solomonoff

Think totalitarians are dull boys (and girls) who wear matchey matchey duds, never quaff cocktails or croon torch tunes in the wee small hours? If so, you’re wrong. No need for shame though. I thought the same. Until I found a copy of The Swingin’ Totalitarian: Vladimir Lenin Sings! in a box of old records at a junk store.

At first I figured it was some sort of spoof production. Lenin sings? Yeah, right. Maybe in his shower after rolling out a little Red Terror. But no. Lenin did cut a record (actually, a wax cylinder) in 1922, around the time he became premiere of the newly formed Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR/Soviet Union). After Lenin’s death in ’24, the album disappeared into a memory hole dug by his successor, Joseph Stalin.

Luckily for lovers of pop culture esoterica, the master somehow survived…

After Stalin died in 1953, Nikita Khrushchev eventually emerged as head of the single party USSR. In ’56, he delivered his famous Secret Speech at the 20th Congress of the Communist Party, ripping Stalin and the personality cult that let Stalin be Stalin. Among other things, Khrushchev denounced Stalin for expanding the use of the term “enemy of the people” to include Party officials who disagreed with Stalin. Thereby putting them in the same non-human, expendable category as, say, kulaks— those Greedy Gus peasants who resisted having their farms collectivized.

Khrushchev also distributed copies of Lenin’s Testament at the Congress. Lenin wrote it in late 1922, after being been laid low by a stroke. Death was on the way. In the Testament, Lenin assessed various Party biggies with an eye to future leadership. No thumbs up for Stalin. Lenin dished “Comrade” Stalin’s “rudeness” and “capricious temper” and suggested he be booted from his position as Secretary-General of the Party’s Central Committee.

Until recently few knew Lenin’s Testament wasn’t the only thing Khrushchev distributed; he also passed out remastered vinyl copies of The Swingin’ Totalitarian: Vladimir Lenin Sings!

What motivated Khrushchev to include the record? Did he hope hearing Lenin sound so presciently Rat Pack would make rude boy Stalin seem totally yesterday?

Whatever. The album stands on its own as a pop music classic. Lenin delivers the goods from first cut to last, opening with a subversively scat-shattered version of Irving Berlin’s Alexander’s Ragtime Band and closing with a high octane, finger-snapping delivery of Cole Porter’s little known Ha, Ha, They Must Sail for Siberia. Twixt Berlin & Porter, Vlad turns sad. Waxing middle-of-the-night moody with lush ballads– including one written by himself titled What is to Be Done (When your Lover Leaves).

Though copyright laws make it impossible to include cuts from Swingin’ Totalitarian, I’ve reproduced the album’s cover, a gatefold hinged at Lenin’s waist with identical images front and back. The doubled Lenin is shown lounging at the type of bar typically found in suburban basement rec rooms. (Swingin’ was recorded at Lenin’s dacha on the outskirts of Moscow.) Those octopus-like suckers sprouting from his head? Symbolic. As said, the record was cut ’round the time the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics was formed.

Album Cover

Interestingly, the graphic from Lenin’s album surfaced in altered form during the late 1960’s as an advertisement for Romanov Vodka. Not to be confused with the Romanov Vodka currently being marketed by the India-based UB Group, the Romanov Vodka that featured Lenin in its ads was produced in Romania under the aegis of Nicolae Ceaușescu. A swingin’ totalitarian in his own right…

Romanov Vodka Ad

 

Next in the Swingin’ Totalitarian series: Mao Wow! The Lost Nudie Pics of Mao Zedong

 

 

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When Hitchens Met Clinton/Oh What a Lovely War!

by Carola Von Hoffmannstahl-Solomonoff

Farewell Christopher Hitchens. Gone but not forgotten. A memorial for Hitchens (he died in December) was held in late April in New York City. The New York Times announcement of the event touched on some high points of Hitchens’ career, including his 20 year stint as columnist at Vanity Fair. It also mentioned that Hitchens “had no compunction about jabbing his pen into sacred figures, like Mother Teresa, or ripe targets, like Henry Kissinger.” Not mentioned was the jab Hitchens gave President Bill Clinton. But then, No One Left to Lie To: The Triangulations of William Jefferson Clinton wasn’t a jab, it was a dissection. CSI with razor wit and moral scalpel.

No One Left to Lie To was originally published in 1999. Other editions followed and– silver lining to a cloud– it’s been reissued in light of Hitchens’ death. I just read it for the first time. A word of caution; reading No One Left aloud while a passenger in a moving vehicle is extremely dangerous. (It should probably be outlawed like texting while driving.) While zooming along the Thruway recently, my husband almost swerved off the road laughing as I read Hitchens’ skewer of a scene from Hillary Clinton’s It Takes a Village

One morning back in 1986, Bill, Hill, and child Chelsea were sitting round the breakfast table in the Arkansas governor’s mansion. Hill was explaining to Chelsea that Daddy was going to run for governor again. Saying that if he won “we would keep living in this house and he would keep trying to help people. But first we have to have an election”. The nasty part (besides the necessity of an election) was that bad people would be telling lies about Daddy to try to stop him from being re-elected:

‘Like most parents, we had told her that it was wrong to lie, and she struggled with the idea, saying over and over, “Why would people do that?” I didn’t have an answer for that one. (I still don’t.)’

It Takes a Village was published in 1996. That Hillary was still pondering why people lie at that late date seems to support Christopher Hitchens’ perception of her as “quite devoid of reflective capacity”.

When No One Left to Lie To first appeared a major flash point was Hitchens’ assertion, which he swore to in an affidavit during the impeachment process, that Sidney Blumenthal, prominent journalist and senior advisor to Bill Clinton, tried feeding him (Hitchens) a line about Monica Lewinsky being a delusional stalker who’d been “threatening” the president. (This was before Bill’s precious bodily fluids were found on Monica’s blue dress.) Blumenthal swore under oath he said no such thing.

Incidentally– or not– the question of Blumenthal as a Clinton funnel to the press arose again during the 2008 presidential race via a rumor that Blumenthal, who was affiliated with Hillary Clinton’s campaign, was leaking negative info about Barack Obama.

Sidney Blumenthal and Christopher Hitchens were professional friends. They also shared a background on the left. Hitchens was deeply disappointed in Blumenthal’s willingness to toss aside ethics and ideology in order to protect Bill Clinton. In general, Hitchens was appalled by the willingness of so many liberals to do likewise. The calculating fealty of party hacks wasn’t surprising. What bothered him profoundly were the delusions and moral evasions of those who felt that in protecting Clinton, they were protecting progressive liberalism.

The dissection of Bill (and Hill) by Hitchens in No One Left to Lie To was particularly irksome to Clinton defenders because it didn’t come from a member of the vast right wing conspiracy, but from someone who believed Clinton’s policies, foreign and domestic, betrayed liberal ideals. Hitchens also believed Bill Clinton’s political character was rotten to the core and that his sex scandals reflected that rot. Hence they were not purely personal and were open to scrutiny.

Finally, Hitchens believed the protective coloring Clinton received from the left helped him pull off the biggest lie of all; his lionization as Man of the People.

Clinton’s non-qualifications for that title are laid out extensively in No One Left. Among other things, Hitchens cited Clinton’s wag-the-dog bomb drops in Sudan and Iraq, his pandering to the middle class while whittling down welfare, and his embrace of capital punishment (in particular, his personal oversight of the execution of brain damaged Rickey Ray Rector) in order to dodge the Dukakis soft on crime bullet. Financial corruption and cronyism? No need to cover miles of familiar ground. Let’s just say Hitchens ran it down.

As for the sex scandals, Hitchens stressed abuse of power. As Arkansas attorney general and governor, and as president of the U.S., Bill Clinton consistently hit on women who were beneath him socially and susceptible to pressure. After the lovin’, Bill (and Hill) were never reluctant to go to war against inconvenient women. Enlisting official colleagues and political connections as needed.

One of the most searing sections in No One Left to Lie To deals with Bill Clinton’s alleged rape of nursing home operator Juanita Broaddrick in 1978, when Bill was Attorney General of Arkansas (the state’s chief law enforcement officer) and making his first run for governor. Hitchens lays out a convincing case for believing Broaddrick. Read it and weep. Or not.

Disclosure: In the 1970’s, I did volunteer work at several rape crisis centers. As a councilor, most of the stories I heard were totally believable. A few seemed to contain elements of falsehood. When Broaddrick first went public with her charges in 1999, I didn’t immediately assume Bill Clinton’s other scandals made him capable of rape. But after seeing Broaddrick tell her story on TV, reading pro and con accounts, and comparing her to women I’d known as a councilor, I believed her. My own experience of rape (in the 70s, most rape crisis centers were staffed by rape survivors) made that conclusion extra disturbing.

Also disturbing was how little the possibility that Broaddrick’s story was true mattered to Clinton’s defenders on the left. These were the people who were supposed to be pro-woman. Saying rape wasn’t about sex but power. Decrying the social stigma that kept women silent. Urging them to come forward, promising support and belief. Juanita Broaddrick might well have asked “Ain’t I a woman?

The chapter in No One Left titled Is There a Rapist in the Oval Office? closes with this: “the mute reception of Jaunita Broaddrick’s charges illuminates the expiring, decadent phase of American liberalism.”

Before wrapping the chapter, Christopher Hitchens had a high time describing how presidential candidate Al Gore dithered and dissembled when a woman in the audience at a 1999 campaign event asked him if he believed Juanita Broaddrick.

When Hitchens was good, he was very very good. But he did have bad hair days…

Hitchens’ anti-religious writings too often read like screeds. One picks up a whiff of obsession. And his support for the war in Iraq was rife with the same types of moral evasions he derided in Clinton’s enablers. Hitchens’ passion for truth-above-all went south. That 9/11 was used by the Bush administration as an excuse to launch a war against a country that had nothing to do with the attack mattered not. If the American public was manipulated into supporting that war through lies about WMD and images of incipient mushroom clouds, the end justified the means.

This from the man who wrote Why Orwell Matters.

Which by the way, is an excellent book. And as the memory holes open around our feet, a perfect election year read.

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Big Catholic Boo 4 Obama, Bah 4 Limbaugh the Lesser

by Carola Von Hoffmannstahl-Solomonoff


 

I rarely come on all Catholic. I don’t feel entitled. My Catholicism was acquired via conversion; defending the faith seems best left to those who’ve held it in their heart all along and whose knowledge is more profound. Plus, I’m not a good Catholic in practice. Raised an atheist, I never set foot in a church until well into adulthood. I believe– but I’m deficient when it comes to habits of worship.

Then there’s my reluctance to attend church locally. Complaints by victims of pedophile priests were swept under the rug for decades by the Albany Diocese. (I live in the Albany, New York area.) Unlike better Catholics who rise above the failings of human beings and connect with the eternal Church, I get hung up on the actions and inactions of its temporal leaders. My bad. I mean that sincerely. I only hope God cuts me some slack for being slack.

Being a slacker doesn’t mean I don’t notice that anti-Catholic bigotry has become a ho hum staple of pop culture. Not to worry tho. The Church has outlasted many a meat dress. Far more disturbing are the anti-Catholic actions of our government. As in, the effort by President Obama and his Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to force Catholic institutions to provide employee coverage for contraception, sterilization, and abortion-inducing drugs– medical procedures antithetical to Catholic belief.

For the record, I agree with the Catholic Church about abortion. I don’t agree about before-the-fact contraception. This in no way tempers my being appalled by Obama’s attempt at a massive, unconstitutional expansion of government power into the realm of religion. Never thought I’d see the day when an American president, with the backing of many in his party and much of the mainstream media, would attempt to annex Catholicism. Or for that matter, any religion. Hubris, much?

The Church has clashed with, and outlasted, other big-headed heads of state with a sex beef. Prime example, Henry VIII. The Church has also clashed with war lovers. See George Bush II.

Dubya and crew were steamed when the Church wouldn’t declare the Iraq war a just war. Neoconservatives were all over the media, crowing that polls showed American Catholics were overwhelmingly for the war. In 2003, neocon Catholic pundit Michael Novak flew to Rome and tried to make Pope John Paul II see the light. No go. The war didn’t jive, theology-wise. A few years later, Pope Benedict XVI didn’t buy it either.

To Dubya’s credit, he never tried to force Catholic institutions to arm their employees.

In the 20th Century, Catholicism was targeted by totalitarian regimes– the most extreme practitioners of thuggery against religious freedom. Those regimes are gone; the Church is still standing. In the 1980’s, the Church stood with Eastern Europe as it moved from communism to democracy.  In Poland, Pope John Paul II threw the Church’s weight behind Solidarity, the labor-based mass movement that contributed mightily to the fall of the Soviet Union. At the time, conservatives called Catholicism their new best friend.

The Catholic Church never makes the right or the left happy for long. Just when the right thinks it has the Church in its freedom loving pocket, she goes and makes some annoying pronouncement about unfettered greed, economic disparity, and the rights of workers. And harps on the suffering of civilians bombed in the name of preventative war. Just when the left is priding itself on its love for humanity, the Church says something about our responsibility to protect the helpless and how there’s nothing more helpless than an unborn baby. Then tallies the huge number of unborn babies who’ve died on the altar of reproductive rights.

Back to the hubris thing–

Rush Limbaugh has a ginormous head. He recently opened it and spewed forth some trash talk about Sandra Fluke, former president of Law Students for Reproductive Justice at Georgetown University. Rush’s spew was in response to Fluke’s testimony in Congress as to why the Obama administration should force Catholic institutions such as Georgetown to provide coverage for medical treatments that violate Catholic beliefs. Ever the political opportunist, Rush is Catholic-friendly this election cycle.  With friends like that…

Rush Limbaugh is merely a meat dress. You can turn him off. Same goes for trash talkers on the other side. Turning off government-gone-wild is a whole lot harder. But thankfully, not impossible. Remember Solidarity and smile.Thomas Sarnecki, "Solidarity Poster - "High Noon 4 June 1989"," Making the History of 1989, Item #699, http://chnm.gmu.edu/1989/items/show/699 (accessed March 07 2012, 10:36 pm).

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