Archive for March, 2007

You can buy poems of any lind after you register your account and form the first order.

Dear Winston, fourth edition

Thursday, March 29th, 2007

Dear Winston,

I keep reading stuff about how narcissistic we have become, especially young people. Things like Myspace, Facebook and YouTube (and commentators at blogs) are always cited as examples of this dangerous phenomenon that threatens the very foundations of society. It seems to me that these things are symptomatic of the opposite - a craving for connection, commonality and community. What do you think?


Curious in New Mexico — where the chilies are hot and the women are hotter
(This is a reader submitted letter taken from the comments.)

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Dear Curious,

What I find to be particularly absurd is how often these expressions of grief about the Internet’s alleged adverse impact on the purity of America’s soul come from major media pundits — you know, the folks who so love to look down their often very long (in the Pinocchio sense) noses at bloggers and other “new media” commentators for their alleged narcissism: Seriously, do these folks not own mirrors? 

Take a look at this definition:  Narcissism: Excessive love or admiration of oneself.

Now, ask yourself to whom this applies more: A teenage girl who likes to post links to her favorite musicians and actors on her personal webpage or, say, Christopher Hitchens, Chris Matthews or Howard Kurtz?

Not a particularly tough call is it?

Let’s just take the case of Hitch the Snitch, the former “liberal” columnist for The Nation turned neoconservative-warmonger: Here’s a man who literally perspires arrogance (or is it Johnnie Walker Black?), this despite having been wrong just about every time he’s opened his mouth in recent years, especially on the subject of Iraq.  The same can be said (except maybe for the Johnnie Walker Black part), of course, for pretty much the entire editorial staff of the Washington Post and most of the rest of the DC punditry.

I must confess to harboring a secret wish that one day the density of the combined narcissism of these professional gasbags will become so great that it will curve in upon itself producing a singularity — a black hole whose gravitational pull will be so strong that not even Bill O’Reilly’s ego can escape.

Besides, if blogging and otherwise posting on the Internet is narcissistic, doesn’t the same conclusion naturally follow for all other forms of writing?

In terms of the human motivation at play — which, of course, is what we’re concerned with in discussing narcissism — there’s really no difference between John Updike penning a Pulitzer Prize winner and Jake the used car salesman down the street pecking away at his PC preparing a post for his sports blog that’s been visited a grand total of 17 times (it was his mother, but even she lost interest eventually).  Both are writers.  Both are spewing their souls into the great meat grinder of public judgment — even if the most common judgment returned for the Jake’s of the world is simply that of being ignored.


Episode 56: Not the son he bargained for

Wednesday, March 21st, 2007

Nick has always loved his son.  He’s just never really known him.

The Last Chance Democracy Cafe
Episode 56: Not the son he bargained for
by Steven C. Day

Horace, speaking of his only son, Lester, who was killed in Vietnam, once said this about a father’s love for a child:

“Before your child is born, you think you know about love and you think your heart is full, but then . . . well, when that child comes you realize that before that day you’d never really understood anything. You discover a type of love . . . a type of unconditional no-holds-barred love that is so far beyond anything you ever even imagined that it turns you into a whole new person. Before Lester was born, I was just Horace. After he was born, I became dad. And to lose that . . . my God, the hole it leaves.”

Some holes are blown open by shrapnel.  Others we tear open ourselves

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Nick was staring apathetically at his half empty bottle of Bud.  It was perched at an alarmingly unsteady 90 degree angle between the thumb and forefinger of his left hand.  For the moment, the thumb was dominant — in a missionary position sort of way — resting on the top of the neck of the bottle, with the forefinger stuck submissively below.  But every few seconds they switched positions, as Nick swung the bottle from one side to the other like a gurgling metronome.

Although pulling off this maneuver without massive spillage — only a tiny puddle of drops had fallen onto the bar — must have required considerable dexterity, Nick’s face offered no hint he even knew he was doing it.

His mind, as they say, was clearly somewhere else — and by the look of him, not somewhere he liked.

Tall and thin, Nick has a ruggedly handsome face, with a high forehead, strong chin, piercing brown eyes and darkish-white skin.  His principal cosmetic challenge is his thinning oil-black hair, a situation made immeasurably worse by an ill-advised sweep-over hairstyle. 

Still, the total package is Marlboro mannish enough that most people are at least a little surprised when they hear his vocation is real estate.  You can see him out most Saturday mornings, with his Kmart dress shirt and a clip-on tie that hangs only halfway down to his belt, putting up open house signs.

Nick has made four profound commitments in his life: He’s committed to his wife, Shirley, to the Roman Catholic Church, to his country and to conservative Republican politics.

He used to have a fifth, his son John.  But things change.


Episode 55: A letter to the consigliere

Wednesday, March 14th, 2007

I’ve been as busy for the last few weeks as a Halliburton executive packing for the big move to Dubai. Let’s just say that my pre-café legal career summoned me back for a time. So, being the kind and gentle spirit he is, Winston has agreed to fill in for me in this week’s episode, by allowing us to publish an open letter he just wrote on behalf of the café to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

(Check back in one week for another exciting new café episode, to be posted a full week early to make up for the one I missed last week! Am I great or what?)

The Last Chance Democracy Cafe
Episode 55: A letter to the consigliere
by Steven C. Day

Dear Attorney General Gonzales:

Face it: It’s time for you to say goodbye. The dam that’s been holding the ocean of secrets back is beginning to give way and soon, very soon, the flood will come. And there isn’t one chance in ten you’ll survive it.

It’s that bad, sir, isn’t it? Impeachment bad, penitentiary bad.

I’m talking, of course, about the real story behind the purge of the US attorneys, the ugly details of which I’m sure you know by heart, but about which the rest of us can still only guess. We can smell the rot, though — like a dead rat decaying behind the drywall.

We know it’s there, but we haven’t been able to get our hands all the way around it — not yet. We don’t know how deep the rot runs — how ugly this will ultimately prove to be. We know you lied, but in an administration in which the words communication and deceit have come to be all but synonymous that’s small potatoes indeed.

Have you committed a crime? Perjury? Obstruction of justice? Lying to Congress? That’s actually a crime, you know, lying to Congress, even though I suspect you view it more as an art form. Although come to think of it, I really don’t give a rat’s ass what the criminal law has to say about you.

I don’t want you to go to jail, Mr. Gonzales (although you probably should); I want you to give me my country back. You know, the one that used to be based on the rule of law — a concept you plainly consider to be as quaint as you do the Geneva Conventions. You recall the theory surely, a nation of laws and not men. They covered it back when you were in law school. Hell, they covered it in your junior high civics class. Remember, it was the thing that supposedly made us different from nations like Iran and Cuba; the thing that made us better.


Dear Winston, third edition

Thursday, March 1st, 2007

Dear Winston,

What can we do about the cowardly corporate media?

Disgusted in Detroit
(This letter is a cut down and altered version of this reader submitted note)

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Dear Disgusted,

How about shipping large chunks of the corporate media off to China?  I mean, why should the People’s Republic settle for our manufacturing jobs, when we have so much more to give?

On a serious note, intelligently discussing the sins of the major media, both in terms of its cowardly failure to challenge Bush & Co.’s lies and more generally in its unmistakable drift rightward is a challenge.  This is a subject that cuts a broad swath that runs from grand old media outlets (ABC News) that have knuckled under to corporate pressure in subtle ways, to your standard substance-free — defend the status quo at all costs — inside-the-Beltway-Broderism, all the way to purebred right wing outlets epitomized by Fox News.  And while they have all committed sins in support of Bush & Co., especially in echoing the drumbeat to war, they don’t all neatly fit into the same bucket.  This can make the corporate media a hard skunk to get your fist around.

And to be fair — it’s a perpetual flaw of we liberals, you know, this obsession with fairness — but to be fair, the major media isn’t even universally right wing.  As Eric Alterman has pointed out, reporters actually trend slightly left of center on social issues such as abortion, gay rights and the like.  It’s when we get to bread and butter economic issues, such as the nation’s growing economic inequality, the pro-corporate viewpoint tends to reign supreme.  And given that money means power, this is a very big deal.

What to do about it?  Well, it would be nice if we could grow a few more liberal billionaires, or at least convince the few we have to invest heavily in media outlets, but I wouldn’t count on it.  Taking over a major holding from a multinational corporation is easier said than done.  So even if George Soros were to get it into his head to buy up some national media outlets, it’s far from clear he could pull it off (remember all the fuss it caused when he tried to buy a tiny percentage of a baseball team).  

No, I’m afraid we’re going to have to do this the hard way — building from the bottom up.  It’s the stuff we’ve talked about again and again at the Last Chance Democracy Café, about growing a liberal infrastructure of think tanks, advocacy groups, media sources and maybe even silly little Internet cafes.  And it’s also about giving the media hell when they do act like right wing shills.  Fortunately, these are both things the progressive community has started doing much better lately.

And one other thing: When the major media does do a good job, say the way the old Knight Ridder honorably refused to join the pro-war press stampede during the buildup to the Iraq war, we should let them hear about that too: First, because it’s the right thing to do and, second, because it will give us more credibility when we read the riot act to less deserving outlets.

And rest assured that we will have many occasions in the years ahead to do just that.



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Dear Winston,

Don’t you think we should impeach Bush preemptively?  I mean, if we can have preemptive wars, why not preemptive impeachment?

Mighty Mad in Michigan
(This letter is a cut down and altered version of this reader submitted note)