Archives for posts with tag: politics

Five straight skinny reasons why *The Wire* is revolutionary, and TV’s best-ever show.

1.) Real People
As with British and Australian films and TV (as well as Euro, Persian, Chinese and world film and TV, which I don’t watch a lot of), the cast looks like real people. Many of them are. It’s not that many of them are black, which they are, it is that the white people and the black people all look like real people, not Meg Ryan’s post-surgery lips. As Liz Taylor used to say, “There are no real tits in Hollywood any more.”

There are in *The Wire*, and it is thrilling to see. No orthodontia. No nose jobs. No videogenic lipstick of a coral shade only seen in nature on blow up dolls. The diversity of peoples’ teeth, noses, skin textures, hands is beautiful to see. Sonia Sohn’s epithelial folds are almost as titanic a thing of beauty to regard as James Gandolfini’s eyes. The sets are natural colors too. Trees, water, blood, ruins.

2.) No Heroes
There is no star system. There are no heroes. The Hollywood/derriere garde/Aristotelian heroic system in which the story is the story of one handsome young guy does not exist in *The Wire*. They kill a protagonist off every season. The one you really love. McNulty, who is less the protagonist than the linking device, is far less attractive a hero than his creators believe (there is a lot of macho shit going on in the writing, a point to which I shall return.) And there is a reason the macho shits have the confidence to do that. And it’s not just in the ensemble player system.

3.) Real Life Mimesis
It is mimesis. Simon and Burns created the stories out of real life, with which, as a reporter and a homicide detective-turned-middle-school teacher, respectively, they were fairly familiar.

You know, of course, that Hollywood scriptwriters are all old Poonies. That is, they wrote for the Harvard Lampoon before they all got jobs writing for the Simpsons.

Cambridge to Hollywood. Not a circuit famous for the intrusion of anything but ideas, some of them wholesome, but quickly forgotten. Hollywood writers don’t know anything. They make stuff up. It’s called diegesis, as I’m sure you recall, which means basically narrative.

Simons is instinctually clear on the difference between making shit up and being a good writer. He also puts his finger on what keeps old reporters from ever really being able to let go of – let’s just call it, The Game. It’s why people who are paying attention to real life, and writing mimesis, will come up with a killa new protagonist – D’Angelo, Stringer, Frank Sobotka, Michael and the lost boys – every season, because they’re all out there. In the city. The major reason Simon’s new effort Treme is a flop is because he doesn’t know that city, and is falling back on tropes and stereotypes. And diegesis, like a Hollywood guy.

“God is not a second-rate novelist,” Simon says. “God knows what he’s doing, and if you just take what actually happened and marry it to where you want to go, it’s better than if you thought of it yourself.”

4.) The Back Channel Economy Is Ruthlessly Capitalist
The sharpest political lesson is not we’re all together in The Game. Many people I respect argue this, eliding the point that ruthless capitalism is an I.Q. test for the underclass, apropos a season four episode in which a hopper repeats state senator Clay Davis’ line about taking the money of people who are giving it, and the disgraced police major Bunny Colvin says goodbye to his superiors in the same terms Stringer Bell faces down his executioners. The egalitarianism of The Game, in which the good guys and the bad guys share values is a good point and an interesting one. The political smarm of the idea that sexist black thugs are capitalists just like Nice People is more easily felt when one recalls that Spielberg dedicated “Schindler’s List”, in which the capitalist saves Jews, to his dead capitalist mentor, Steve Ross.

To me the sharpest political point is not, perhaps, that the back channel economy, The Game, systeme D, is as resistant to the reform efforts of people like Stringer Bell and D’Angelo Barksdale as mainstream politics and economics. It is that the back channel economy is just as ruthless a capitalist system to all who do not conform to the macho shit norm as the mainstream economy. In other words, all the macho shits are playing on a level field and the rest of us can suck eggs.

5.) Cynicism As a Full Employment Mandate for Reporters
I disagree with Simon’s politics, which seem to be that The City is failing because its institutions, including the back channel economy, are incapable of reform, due to the self interest of people like the master politician, the spider seemingly at the center of the web, the police commissioner Ervin Burrell.  The image of a truly powerful black man in Burrell and his performance has gone under-appreciated. I appreciate it. And I disagree with Simon’s apparent politic that no politics can or will save the city, and that only individual action, like Cutty’s, can make a difference in anyone’s life. I reiterate here that Cutty is a character invented by George Pelecanos, not Simon and Burns, to relieve the cataclysm of entropy Simon so enjoys depicting.

The cynicism is pretty much one of self –interest. A broken city is a reporter’s full employment mandate, and a self-fulfilling prophecy. I have to think some more about the fallacies of cynicism; one of them is bullying. RIP, Hitchens.

Sometimes, the news sets an avalanche of accumulated epiphanies snowballing down into the abyss. I’m thinking about shamelessness apropos recent news. The former governor of CT, John Rowland, is bragging as a matter of resume-building that he became a born-again Christian in prison.

John Rowland, former governor of Connecticut, born-again Christian, jailbird.

The Chinese Watergate — phone-tapping his political superiors, among many other depredations by former Chongqing party boss Bo Xilai, his Lady MacBeth wife, and his party boy son — is making me think I wish I knew more about the Chinese. There’s a wonderful survivor memoir by Zhang Xianliang, a guy who spent 20 years in the Chinese gulag, the lao gai, Grass Soup. One of the things he learned in extremity was:

Yes, I was still able to laugh. I could even consider a tap on my shoulder by the Troop Leader as a special honour. People had already begun to regard the ridiculing of others as a means of education, so it was natural that people became thick-skinned and shameless. After ridicule became a proper and indeed popular method of education in China, we turned into a people that could not be shamed. p 137

Memoirs of the Khmer Rouge and Maoist self-criticism sessions in which, among other things, children were pressured to rat their parents out, a cataclysmic event for Asian filial and shame culture, emphasize the powerful social uses of shame and gossip as a police tool.

Son of Chongqing party boss, Harvard party boy Bo Guagua.

Emily Henderson, the HGTV design star, has made a post about how crazy interns are. Nearly 80 comments are divided between interns who say, what a bitch, you pay peanuts, you get monkeys, and bosses her own age (30ish, trending younger) describing the absolutely feral, off-the-wall and shameless behavior of young job applicants in every field. If the boomers can truly be blamed for something, it is the raising of this devil spawn. Here’s one of the best comments, from Donald of Baltimore, echoing the majority of the rest:

I hired this young, just out of college, guy at my publishing company. We were in the middle of moving from DC to Baltimore and his first week would be in DC then in Bmore permanently (where both he and I lived). My first big red flag….he wanted to know if I would put him up in a hotel in DC for that week because he didn’t think he could get up early enough to catch the train to DC (40 miles between the two cities and the train takes an hour, I gave him the most monumental eye roll in the history of eye rolls). The day before he was to start work I emailed him with the train schedule and just to touch base to answer any questions he might have and he told me that he had taken another job a week earlier and wasn’t going to take my job offer (that he had already accepted). Another week passes and his new job (sports marketing, Craigslist ad, rock and roll office, daily commissions) surprisingly (to him, not me) wasn’t working out and he wanted to know if my job offer was still available. Instead of mocking him for his immaturity and stupidity, I met him for lunch and tried to give him some life lessons and explain why I would never ever ever in a million years hire him, why he should stick it out at his current job, how being a grown up and responsibility go hand in hand, etc. He was the first of many new grads that asked about me buying them laptops to take home, iPhones, extra vacation time the first year (beyond the 2 weeks), could they work from home some days, expense accounts, etc. It’s mind boggling the expectations so many new grads have about their first jobs.

There’s so much that is offensive about this I can hardly deconstruct it, beginning, first, with the cluelessness of a supposedly literate young man — he is applying for work to a publisher — about not telling his employer that he decided not to take the job? And calls a week later to say the asshole job he did take is not working out? The generally accepted idea that you ask to get perks and bonusses to be on time for work? Your first week? Laptops? Iphones? Expense accounts?

This is of a piece with the toad intern Henderson hired who came onto the TV set, headed straight for the free food, stacked a plate high with Funyuns, sat down and started critiquing the show. Because, of course, as the immortal D.C. cab driver told me — the one with the four-foot-long Rasta dreadlocks cap — These people out here think they’re watching television.

Is this like feral latch-key kids of working single mothers?

I think not. It is of a piece with a snippet of information about James Murdoch I am still trying to digest, and which, I think, is the key to the whole implosion in Britain of the Murdochs’ News International media conglomerate. Simon Kelner, the executive editor of the UK Independent, was sitting in the newsroom one day working with the art director when James Murdoch and Rebekah Brooks, the flame-haired editrix, barged in, apparently without being announced. James was brandishing a copy of the Independent, and was objecting to one of the ad slogans the Independent was running apropos the 2010 elections, each slogan telling voters that vested interests would not determine the outcome of the elections, but that voters would. One of the ads read, “Rupert Murdoch won’t decide this election. You Will”.

It was to this James was objecting, loudly, saying Kelner had impugned the reputation of his family (in 2010!). That’s OK, if entirely assholeish, but then he called Kelner “a fucking fuckwit”.

This is not what even a balls-out executive does when he is being effective.

James Murdoch testifies before the Leveson inquiry on why he called Independent editor Simon Kelner “a fucking fuckwit”.

It reminds me of nothing so much as the conundrum of the war in Iraq I’m still ruminating. Even in the Republicans’ own Kissingerian terms, wouldn’t taking out Saddam destabilize the world simply by eliminating Nuclear Ahmadinejad’s one natural enemy? (Without meeting any of the cockamamie bellum iustus WMD and al Qaeda revenge goals Bush insisted were germane. Not going there. La la la.)

I can’t even.

Art historians argue, with ample documentation, that perhaps the most revolutionary assertion of the Renaissance was that Christ himself was a man.

Leo Steinberg has made a moving life’s work studying this specially frank way a picture is worth 10,000 words. I can think of no image of the adult Jesus’ genitals. (There are reasons for this, among them, apparently, that Adam had no penis until he had committed the Original Sin; therefore Jesus had no penis either, until the 15th century, at which point his fully erect member could be discerned under the usual loincloth in depictions of the Crucifixion. Or, he only had a penis after the resurrection.) But the genitals of Jesus as a child are freely depicted — with the Madonna lifting his tunic to reveal them, or the baby Jesus himself flashing his cherubic parts, with all sorts of people pointing to them, and Magi looking at them — starting in the Renaissance, as proof that Jesus was not the shape-shifting spirit of the Gnostic gospels or a magic trickster. Among the theologies asserted by the Renaissance depiction of Jesus’ genitals was that the first blood he shed for us, predicting the crucifixion, was his circumcision — which is a covenant with God. Making the baby Jesus’ genitals the cynosure of all gazes helped all the enterprises of the Renaissance claim that we are born in God’s image and likeness. He looks like us. He speaks Italian.

Tolerance for the proud Renaissance assertion that God is human, and fraternal, comes and goes, with a bronze loincloth that is applied and stripped and re-applied as, over 500 years, popes decide whether or not the public may gaze on Jesus’ genitals as depicted in marble by Michelangelo. The art critic Waldemar Januszczak noticed the loincloth on The Risen Christ — who along with the acquisition of genitals, has been healed of his stigmata — in a 2000 piece in the London Sunday Times:

The next time I visited Santa Maria Sopra Minerva, I was astonished to see that Michelangelo’s Christ had acquired a miraculous bronze loincloth that stayed up with no fastenings, baroque style. It was a ridiculous object. Michelangelo was a sculptor in marble. Cheap bronze loincloths were not his thing. His decision to display a naked Christ had been central to the intended effect of this prickly sculpture. Nowhere in the gospels does it say The Risen Christ sported a tiny loincloth. Yet this is what the priestly authorities of Santa Maria Sopra Minerva had insisted upon. By so doing, they had ruined The Risen Christ as a work of art. The papacy of John Paul II was acquiring its unmistakable flavour.

I later learnt that the ghastly loincloth was manufactured many popes ago, and that it came on or off depending on the prevailing Catholic reading of Michelangelo’s work. Today, the artist’s 500-year-old vision is again considered too progressive and shocking for the modern worshipper. The fake loincloth has been slapped back on. Michelangelo’s Christ has had ersatz sweetness thrust upon him.

Michelangelo's Risen Christ, with genitals covered by a subsequent loincloth.

It seems to me, as someone with a modicum of study of the images of children in extremity, that the photographs of dead babies, like those of the Duggars’ miscarried daughter, or the narrative of the death of Gabriel Santorum, by his mother, the wife of the former Presidential candidate, are informed by the pro-life movement’s graphic rhetorics employing images of what they claim are fetuses. The aim of the pro-life movement in using these photographs of children in extremity is the opposite, it seems to me, of the Renaissance artists’ incarnation of Jesus through his genitals. I think what is being asserted by the pro-life photographs is similarly a religious rhetoric, but going in the opposite direction. The Duggars’ photographs, the pro-life fetus photographs, Karen Santorum’s disturbingly graphic portrayal of letting her children “cuddle” the baby’s corpse, are asserting not that these unviable babies are human, but that they have immortal souls. Which should not be aborted.

Photograph, by Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep, of the Duggars' dead baby, featured on their website.

There are many other tropes being asserted in the trend of photographing and telling the story of your dead baby — “remembrance photography” as the people who photographed the Duggars’ dead baby have called it (warning: that is a website full of triggering images).

It interests me that the smallness of the corpse’s hand is emphasized, both in the supposedly private photographs of the Duggars’ baby taken by Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep, a company which specializes in baby funerary photography, and in the carefully conceived sales object which is a book cover — a book on the subject of the long struggle and death of a prematurely born baby.

What is asserted in these two images, by emphasizing the smallness of the child’s hand with the touch of the mother’s hand, is the agency of the mother not only to lead the child out of a fatal illness, but to resurrect her, to immortalize the child — by never forgetting her, by photographing her, by asserting and naming the significance of her immortal soul as someone whose life was not pointless or in vain.

The connection between the Renaissance impulse to incarnate Christ by depicting his genitals, and the 21st century impulse to incarnate unviable babies by photographing and describing their dead bodies is one I haven’t thought entirely through, except to the point that each is an acceptable theocratic political argument, whose political graphic seems to be unacceptably outrageous in its frankness about bodies. More transgressively,  it is very bad voodoo in its pimping out public iconography of what almost everybody thinks of as deeply private and intimate. God’s genitals and unviable dead babies are not anything anybody wants to look at without violating serious taboos and experiencing deep shame.

I’m having two thoughts here — as you will appreciate, when bodies are politicized and trophies taken, civility is of the utmost value in determining the truth of things. The first is that my favorite pro-lifer, a six-foot Irish girl from Dundalk, MD who used to press fetus key chains on me and argue with me for hours at a time in my days as an abortion clinic escort, once summed up the entire discourse of months by saying, But Jeannette! They’re immortal souls! As if I disagreed with her. As if abortion killed immortal souls. As if either of us had any agency whatever in the lives and deaths of immortal souls.

The second is that the ghoulish sensationalistic narcissism of promulgating the images and narratives is something I can’t get over, even as I understand the deeply mythogenic pathos in the drama of a mother’s grief. Our best and deepest mysteries — the Eleusinian — come from the rape of Persephone and the grief of her mother, the earth goddess, in whose fidelity to the memory of her daughter, and non-sexual obsession, the very type of unconditional love is perceived. Mother love!

Unconditional it is not. The condition is that Mother accrues to herself the agency of God. To confer life and death. To wreak havoc on the seasons, our food supply, and the universe itself if she does not get her way. Is birthing really so important? Or has God given the power to worms? Is parenting something God forks his power over to you to do? The foremost Bible scholar of our time points to a Christian thread started by St. Paul and moving through the monastics, the Cathars and the Shakers, that a true Christian doesn’t reproduce at all.  In the back of my head, I always hear, concurrently, when the ultimate power of the matriarchy is asserted, the ultimate power of the patriarchy. The threat of the sexually abusing father, the torturer of animals. I made you. God gave me dominion over you. And I will do with you as I wish.

I will snatch you, my creation, from the jaws of oblivion and make your most private body immortal by making its vulnerability a spectacle.

Nonconsensual nonimmortality.

Let us return, as it is always instructive to do, to Persephone’s isle — the place from which she was snatched — Sicily. They know, in Sicily, who is in charge. Here is Waverly Fitzgerald describing Mary Taylor Simetti’s tale, from On Persephone’s Isle: A Sicilian Journal, of the Easter ritual in the stoniest of Demeter’s redoubts, an old, old, old agricultural town called Castelvetrano:

Simetti describes as Easter Sunday enactment of the first meeting of Mary and Jesus on Easter Sunday as performed in Castelvetrano. In a crowd of onlookers, Simetti and her husband watch as two large statues, one of Mary and the other of Jesus, are carried into the piazza from two different directions. While the two statues are still out of sight of each other, the little angel statue that accompanies Mary and is borne by a dozen young boys, dashes across the piazza to sway at the feet of Christ, then darts back to Mary, as if carrying the good news. “Three times this polychromed plaster ambassador is hurtled back and forth across the piazza, faster and faster as the delighted crowd urges the runners on to greater and greater effort,” writes Simetti.

Then the bigger statues begin moving, slowly, shuffling forward, hesitating, as if experiencing doubt and disbelief. When they come within sight of each other, the pace quickens, the bearers break into a run and the two statues fly towards each other, almost colliding. At the very moment when they come face to face, Mary’s black cloak falls away to reveal a brocade mantel beneath and releasing a number of white doves that wheel and circle in the sky above. Both Simetti and her husband are moved to tears. Simetti writes, “The emotion that was released together with the doves was so intense, the longing for just such an encounter so palpable. Mary and Jesu, Demeter and Persephone, black-veiled mother and murdered child, release from mourning.”
— Waverly Fitzgerald, Easter packet

We all want to be human. We all want to be immortal souls. We all want to be resurrected and forgiven. And so, without even being very good, or lucky, or chosen, we are. By one another, if no one else.

(c) Jeannette Smyth, 2012-2017, all rights reserved.

Anna Dorfman over at Door Sixteen has an interesting post today for those of the digital magpie Pinterest generation. Dorfman, a top flight book cover designer hired by Simon and Schuster straight out of art school some 15 years ago, is one of the most stylish DIY reno bloggers and a punk ethicist — vegetarian, upcycling, city-loving.

She is often asked what serves her for inspiration. Her response is everything. And then she addresses advice to Generation Y:

….[Because of the visual stimulation of the city] inspirational stimulation can easily become overwhelming for me. I’ve never had an inspiration board/mood board/whatever board—I find them oppressive. Aside from the pressure of influence, I dislike the act of stripping context from another person’s work. And yes, I do do that here on this blog sometimes—but I cannot have it around me when I’m in “design mode.” I show up, and I get to work. OK, most of the time. Sometimes I’m an amateur.

So here are my lessons for artist/designer types, as inspired (oops) by Chuck Close:

Not every decision you make has to be crowdsourced beforehand. Trust your gut and keep it to yourself while you follow through.

It’s OK to strive to accomplish things that may never lead to financial reward. More than OK, actually.

Try to put a limit on the amount of time you spend searching for and cataloging images for the sake of inspiration. Think more about appreciating these things for what they are, and not just how you can apply them to your own work.

Inspiration is for amateurs. The rest of us just show up and get to work.
— Chuck Close

I read this after twenty-four hours of idly thinking about Karen Santorum and the power she accrues wielding the dead body of a baby, as others wield pictures of the bodies of their dead babies.

Dead babies are a very powerful symbol, as I have written extensively in my work on children as the icons of genocide. I’m not well versed on what they symbolize to Catholics, or pro-lifers, or to their mothers, but I can tell you what they represent to genocidaires and to artists who are the first to try to wrap their heads around the numeracy and finality of genocide. War trophies. Big medicine. The Khmer Rouge strung dried fetuses up around the eaves of one jungle headquarters. There’s more and worse; it’s all about magic.

A lot of it is to be seen in Save the Children ads. I once had a murderous discussion about the unapologetic exploitation by doers of good of images of children in extremity in their fundraising literature. The art historian Anne Higonnet was among the first to note the particularly ruthless exploitation of children’s images by women beginning in the 20th century.

Anne Geddes does Celine.

I want to ask you to think about pictures of dead babies as the Karen Santorum mood board. As inspiration. As precedent what do they command of your today and your future? As guideline for moral action, female empowerment, spiritual elevation, the narcissistic need for endless sympathy, pro-life politics or goddess shamanism?

Saturn devouring his son, by Goya, who helped define the age of revolution, and modernity itself, with this image.

What, explicitly, is the grief transaction that goes on when you publicize pictures or written images of your baby’s body? The usual psychological suspects are:

  • If I take my eyes off the photograph or narrative of your dead body, forget you, you really will die. Your soul is immortal only as long as mortal memory, a photograph, a tombstone, the curiously numinous void that is the Internet, enshrine it.
  • As your mother/goddess I can a.) pre-empt God and karma who have authorized or permitted your death and b.) keep you and your immortal soul alive only by mourning you forever.
  • My sins have caused your death, the death of an innocent, or failed to prevent it. I must work off my guilt by etc. etc. etc.

Giotto's Massacre of the Innocents, Scrovegni Chapel, Padua. Massed and disarrayed bodies are an early and persisting symbol of the numeracy and contempt of genocide.

At what point, not to put too fine a point on it, does God say You are powerless over the life and death of innocents and, Innocence has nothing to do with it, and, This whole motherhood/madonna/goddess power trip is not what you think it is and Your guilt is blasphemous and This is one of my mysteries and If you actually believe in me, you need to suck it the fuck up?

At what point does God say to Karen Santorum, the mood board is oppressive? Proscriptive? It accrues to yourself powers of life and death that are not yours to take? Yesterday I pointed out the mood board of the dead babies is iconic, the worship of which is something God explicitly forbids straight off the bat. Isn’t it possible that the handling of the dead baby might be the accrual to one’s self of the shamanistic power of a blood thirsty pagan God to bring you to your knees in fear?

Molech-Leviticus 18:21
And thou shalt not let any of thy seed pass through the fire to Molech, neither shalt thou profane the name of thy God: I am the Lord.

William James, the father of American pragmatism, took note of such a God and his uses to the citizens of a democracy as the 20th century dawned in The Varieties of Religious Experience. James, the subject of a magisterial new biography which sets him at the center of American philosophy and one of the inventors of modernity, writes:

Today a deity who should require bleeding sacrifices to placate him would be too sanguinary to be taken seriously. Even if powerful historical credentials were put forward in his favor, we would not look at them. Once, on the contrary, his cruel appetites were of themselves credentials. They positively recommended him to men’s imaginations in ages when such coarse signs of power were respected and no others could be understood. Such deities then were worshiped because such fruits were relished.

I haven’t checked the latest Biblical scholarship on what Leviticus’ fairly direct edict against the idea that sacrificing your children, your Isaacs, your Astyanaxes, your Jesuses, to God earns you Brownie points — oh, do let’s go there — means to the 21st century.

I think it still means something like, don’t throw your babies into the fire of propitiation and self-regard. I could be wrong.

Once again, as with the first commandment we discussed yesterday, either God means what he says, or he doesn’t, and he’s just kidding when he says the sacrifice of children is abomination. You choose.

Pyrrhus beats Priam to death with his own grandson, Astyanax.

(c) Jeannette Smyth, 2012-2017, all rights reserved.

One of my worst internet experiences was back a while. I was reading this young couple’s house reno blog, and scrolling back down through several years of posts I picked up that they were pregnant. I quickly scrolled by a pic of a baby, propped up and looking very unwell. I scrolled back to find out what was up.

What was up was that the baby had been stillborn. They dressed his body and photographed it and posted the picture to the internet on their blog.

I can understand that people all over the world take pictures of the dead and love them and look at them. What I do, which is cremate you within seconds of your last breath, and sprinkle you on the Gulf Stream, I understand others find sociopathic.

But whoah.

Reading the big profile of Rick and spooky Karen Santorum in the NYT — they brought their extinct baby home, so his brothers and sisters could say goodbye. I can understand that.

Then she wrote a children’s (?) book about it. It is sort of the major plank in his anti partial birth abortion bill. Not to mention Karen’s, a non-practicing lawyer’s, six-figure medical malpractice suit against a chiropractor who treated her for an injury related to the birth. The suit netted the Santorums, struggling to survive on his senatorial salary, taking cash from his parents, $75,000.

The next day, they took him home. ”Your siblings could not have been more excited about you!” Karen writes in the book, which takes the form of letters to Gabriel, mostly while he is in utero. ”Elizabeth and Johnny held you with so much love and tenderness. Elizabeth proudly announced to everyone as she cuddled you, ‘This is my baby brother, Gabriel; he is an angel.’ ”

Whoah. As she cuddled you? Forgive me, I’m not the biggest Christian in the world, but isn’t there something somewhere about thou shalt have no other Gods before me? Like dead bodies kind of thing? And what about the graven images thing? I do understand a body’s being an axis mundi, the rent in the veil through which eternity is pouring, honest I do. But that is an illusion. The axis mundi is you (or God in you).

I’m a big fan of the Catholic Encyclopedia ’cause they work this first commandment stuff out with real sophistication:
The Supreme Law-Giver begins by proclaiming His Name and His Titles to the obedience of the creature man: “I am the Lord, thy God. . .” The laws which follow have regard to God and His representatives on earth (first four) and to our fellow-man (last six).
•Being the one true God, He alone is to be adored, and all rendering to creatures of the worship which belongs to Him falls under the ban of His displeasure; the making of “graven things” is condemned: not all pictures, images, and works of art, but such as are intended to be adored and served (First).

As I said, I’m not the biggest Christian on the planet, but either God means it about the first commandment or he doesn’t. And if God is just kidding about idolatry, the Catholic Encyclopedia certainly is not.

But this is getting close to those diva realms in which people think tragedy makes them better than you and me. I can’t imagine for what other reason such a private consolation — perhaps the Santorums tell their children consoling things about the first commandment that they know aren’t quite true — would be made public.

Um. No. It is the Victorian fallacy Des Pres refutes for eternity in his study of the concentration camps.

Suffering refines no one.

The Gnostic gospels, ruthlessly repressed by the Catholic church apparently for reasons of male hegemony on apostolic succession, have Jesus laughing on the cross. You read it here first.

(c) Jeannette Smyth, 2012-2017, all rights reserved.

There are a few Republican documents which can be credited with the destruction of the U.S. democratic process, including the disappearance of real political issues from the discourse. These are

  • Lewis Powell’s famous 1971 memo;
  • the invention by Terry Dolan, Paul Weyrich and Richard Viguerie of hot-button single issues to get the wangnut vote out (abortion, for example, which is not a political issue and which most Americans either don’t care about, or are inclined to say is a private matter)
  •  — Dolan also invented political action committees, which circumvent caps on political contributions;
  • and the Frank Luntz talking points war of words which brought you the weasel words “climate change” and so much else.

Now comes evidence that trash-talking your opponent while actively avoiding political issues is the invention of Newt; though I suspect Weyrich — famous for enunciating the New Right’s anti-democracy tactic, we don’t want people to go to the polls, we win when people stay away — had a hand in the invention of the ad hominem campaign ads and strategies. These are sometimes fingered as culprits in keeping people from voting.

New Right Founder Weyrich Condemns High Voter Turnout

I think Newt’s trash talk tactics, which he characteristically touted via tapes you could listen to in your car, take their place in these apocalyptic strategery documents, and I look forward to their surfacing in the months to come.

I am also waiting for the Republican enemies Bob Michel warned Newt against to come forward. I’m not holding my breath. Bob Dole, whose bipartisanship I always respected, even when he was known as the meanest man in the Senate, has endorsed Romney. If this is what they mean by the Republican establishment coming forth to support Romney, my fears for the continued existence of the democratic process — in which, let me emphasize, people of good will should disagree — are not abated. Under this libertarian right wing regime, the economy and the political process itself have imploded as a matter of their strategy.

By this time, Mr. Gingrich had already taken charge of Gopac, a once-sleepy political action committee dedicated to electing Republicans. Mr. Gingrich pumped it up into a fund-raising machine and a training organization in which Republican candidates were given step-by-step information on how to run for office. He produced seminars and a series of cassette tapes; today hundreds, if not thousands, of Republican officeholders in states around the country can recall riding around in their cars listening to Mr. Gingrich’s formula for winning.

Mr. Edwards, the former Republican congressman, described the tapes as “all about how to demonize the opposition, how to use invective and scary language,” adding: “It wasn’t that he trained them to have a better understanding of foreign policy, or economic policy. They were techniques in how to wage a nasty partisan war against your opponent.”

Here is somebody’s senior thesis on Newt and the GOPAC tapes.

Gingrich recalled “Pete Du Pont approached me in the fall of 1984. Du Pont founded GOPAC with the idea to raise money for local candidates. He was beginning to look at a presidential race and he wanted GOPAC to survive so he would be seen as an institution builder. He had the choice between me and Dick Cheney and I guess he chose me because I was more of an activists. There was a high dollar fun fundraiser in 1985 and I walked in and saw the amount of wealthy friends that Du Pont had. I saw so much potential that this organization and this wealth could provide. In 1985 and 1986 I studied and saw that the party needed a training institution, not a funding institution. The problem was that I did not know how to change it. A few months later, I was out in Lansing, Michigan doing a tape series and it suddenly hit me that most legislators spent long hours in the car. If we had a training and recruiting system that could reach them while they were driving, we would have their full attention. They would be bored and would like to listen to us. It was a constant and mobile training program.”53

Newt’s 1996 GOPAC memo, listing words with which candidates are to demonize opponents:

abuse of power

 anti- (issue): flag, family, child, jobs







“compassion” is not enough





criminal rights











failure (fail)

















permissive attitude


 punish (poor …)


red tape









status quo







urgent (cy)



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