"a fish, a barrel, and a smoking gun"
for 10 August 2000. Updated every WEEKDAY.



The only thing more striking than the vacuous blather at the Republican National Convention last week was the overwhelmingly positive coverage it got from normally respectable old rags. The Washington Times saw fit to throw both objectivity and grammar to the wind, repeating on its pages in banner headline fashion George W. Bush's oddly stiff attempt at a catchphrase: "They have not led. We will." But if Bush's English was bad, his pandering was worse, as when he carefully trotted out a few of the safest plays from the New Democrat playbook. The calculated rhetoric about "single mothers" and the desperation of poverty would be forgivable had he even attempted a hint of what his party (or anyone) might do about these problems. "Tear down the wall that separates poverty from affluence" is about as empty a statement of policy as one can get this side of "End welfare as we know it." Still, Bush & company's appropriation of Clintonoid symbolism did make for some amusing moments. After all, Bush beat the Dems to the punch by comparing them to Hitler for a change. Even more offensive than Bush's speech was the media commentary on same. PBS pundits, who until now seemed marginally less cloying than their network colleagues, spent ten minutes talking about the balloons, only to be interrupted by Doris Kearns Goodwin and Michael Beschloss who nearly came to fisticuffs over who would divulge the trivia about Sam Rayburn getting shat upon by the doves released at the convention in uh, we forget... possibly because it's not a very important story. In fact, in all the talk of diversity, balloons, and pigeon poo, the most interesting aspect of the convention has yet to be discussed: The appearance of Windy Smith, a woman with Down Syndrome, who read a letter she wrote to Bush asking him to run. Some might think this was hypocritical. But we all know Republicans — despite longstanding opposition to the Americans with Disabilities Act — are all for treating individuals with mental handicaps the same as everyone else. After all, Texas executed one just this week. Even so, it's hard to imagine exactly what message the GOP planners were trying to send. "Retards for W"? Then again, the calculated exhibition of a woman who has only the most tenuous grasp of what her words mean, whose vision of the democratic process is that of a child infatuated with authority... perhaps this is an appropriate image for the process after all.


With all the rah-rah now attached to World War II as a staple of modern American conventioneering, we'd like to see a more conscientious third-party candidate make a plea for Russia's Greatest Generation. We're all for honoring our veterans, but even the most casual WWII buff knows the Soviets did 1,000 times more to defeat the Nazis than the US, Britain, Free France, Canada and everybody else put together. While the Western Allies were engaged in costly sideshows like El Alamein and the slog up the Italian boot — all designed less to win the war than to keep the Mediterranean a British lake and give the softheaded Churchill another chance to prove his "soft underbelly" theory which had failed so gloriously in World War I — the Russians were marching on foot directly across Poland and into Der Vaterland. In fact, if they had fought the Germans singlehandedly, the USSR still would have won. In the battle of Berlin, the Red Army lost four times as many soldiers as the western allies lost in Normandy. The Battle of the Bulge was the only time US boys faced the kind of offensive the Russians had been dealing with every day for almost four years, and the results there were pretty mixed. Besides, who can forget those Dannon yogurt ads touting the long Russian lifespan? Surely many Russian veterans are not only alive, but still in fighting trim. Considering what a strangely potent political tool World War II has turned out to be, we expect some left-leaning candidate to organize a special Communism Day, in honor of the army whose belief in collectivism helped them win the war.


Aside from establishing the patriotic credentials of dozens of pasty white men with political aspirations, World War II also set the stage for the longest running, most vacuous media technology known to man: radio. While government operatives were busy building ENIAC, the first vacuum-tube computer designed to help calculate bombing runs, the tube actually played a much more pivotal role in the home: propagandizing every god-fearing American within range of the family Victrola. Shortly after the war, the transistor replaced the vacuum tube, which made it possible to bring radio into the automobile, which set the stage for Meatloaf's massive hit "Paradise By the Dashboard Light." But we digress. This week, Motorola announced its "iRadio," the next generation of radio receiver to be installed in automobiles. (The company's original name was a concatenation of "Motor car" and "Victrola." Who says moronic neologisms like "MicroSoft" are unprecedented?) According to the AP, Ford and GM will introduce internet-enabled radios in a number of their luxury models beginning this fall. The devices will provide rudimentary web services like email and — what else? — sports scores. Whether it's safe, or even desirable to browse the web at the wheel, we can't say. But we do know one thing for certain: It'll be about a nanosecond before some angry nincompoop mints a bumpersticker saying "Log Off and Drive!"


Having made the ungraceful and unwelcome transition from child star to adult nobody, Macaulay Culkin might have ended up with a perfect face for radio. Instead, the Home Alone star has managed to keep a high profile by maintaining a rigorous schedule of post-adolescent tragedy. Earlier this week, Culkin announced he was splitting with his wife of two years, Rachel Miles. The lovebirds were married in 1998 at the ripe old age of 19 each. Six months later, in December 1998, the Culkin family apartment on the Upper West Side burnt to a crisp, killing four other tenants. And earlier this summer, Macaulay's half sister, Jennifer Adamson, died of a drug overdose. But perhaps the biggest tragedy of all was the release last winter of Home Alone on DVD — a painful, digitially remastered reminder to the under-employed Culkin that he peaked much too early.


While we were saddened by Culkin's uncoupling, we found salve — as we so often do — in the words of Ron Rosenbaum. In last week's New York Observer, the inimitable, edgy, armchair enthusiast sang the praises of two of our favorite Toms — Petty and Frank, respectively. Which got us thinking: What other pop pundits and pop stars would we like to see in congress (or, for that matter, Congress)?

Robert Fulghum and Robert Plant
Dave Barry and Davey Jones
Robert Bork and Bjork
Garry Wills and Gary Glitter
Mary Schmich and Mary J. Blige
Joe Torre and Joey Ramone
George Will and George Michael
George Stephanopolous and George Clinton
Dr. Laura Schlesinger and Dr. Dre
Rush Limbaugh and Rush
David Carr and David Hasselhof
James Poniewozick and James
Ron Rosenbaum and the Ronettes
With friends like these, who needs enemas?

courtesy of theSucksters