Part Three Best Argument for Social Security …

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Part Three

Best Argument
for Social Security Overhaul
Proving Bush’s
Point.
Gov. Bush hasn’t gone far enough, in our opinion, in his proposal
for partial-privatization of Social Security, but at least he’s recognized
that the New Deal entitlement is about as modern at the hula hoop.

In late August,
on a talk show in Atlanta, a listener called in with the following story.

“My father
died in 1991 at the age of 59, never collecting a payment from Social Security.
Mother died in June of 2000 at 63, never collecting a payment from Social Security.
When I called this week to report my mother’s death, SSA informed me that
my mother’s estate qualified for nothing, not even the $250 burial benefit
because she wasn’t married nor had dependent minor children…

“Assuming
my parents worked since age 18, they paid into SSA for 86 working years for
zero return. Had my parents been able to invest $50 per month at five percent
interest for those 86 working years, they would’ve had $230,000 in the
bank rather than nothing from Social Security.

“You would
think someone would have at least sent the family a thank-you note expressing
the government’s appreciation for them dying so young.

“Also,
as a small business owner, I am required to ‘invest’ 15.3 percent
of my salary into SSA. Is there any way I can withdraw from the program or am
I just screwed like the rest of America?”

Best Art Reporter

Michael Kimmelman

The
New York Times

Well, They
Have to Get Something Right.
No one covers the art world’s many flatulent
subtleties and dung-covered controversies better. His style is reserved, sober
and never panders or obscures. His coverage of the “Sensation” show
made sense of it all and never took sides, and his profiles of artists are penetrating,
knowing, compassionate. He is that rare critic/writer who’s savvy enough
to call bullshit, but big enough to still love art, to seem giddy about writing
about it.

Best Media
Ad Campaign
Salon

Penny Stock.
We’ve made no secret about our feeling that Salon has always been
absurdly overhyped, both by itself and by its fans among the middlebrow doofi
who pass (in a herd) for media pundits. A couple years ago it was briefly supposed
to be a political player, an “important” purveyor of news and gossip.
Then that bubble burst, and the hype switched to how the IPO was going to make
zillionaires out of all the principals. Then the stock price dove straight into
the toilet, and this year’s buzz was about how Salon was diversifying
into a multimedia/merchandising “network” incorporating the online
magazine, online radio, a virtual shopping mall, a tv show and the kitchen sink.
Only a few scraps of this mighty vision have materialized at the time of this
writing–despite all the wide-eyed touting from places like The New York
Times
that really should know better (well, there’s some nepotism there)–but
that’s the nature of buzz, isn’t it? If the hype is sold well enough
the disappointing lack of follow-through may go unnoticed. So Salon just
sits there, looking ever more like just a shell of itself, with even its best,
most loyal columnists, like Camille Paglia, having some time ago put their shtick
on autopilot.

But the one
thing we’ve always given Salon is how very good they are at generating
that buzz. Hyping themselves is their most impressive skill. They sure do know
how to shine that penny (or, as the late curmudgeon Stanley Elkin is reputed
to have grumbled about the inept but hopeful students in his writing classes,
“polish a turd”). Thus the two great little tv commercials they ran
earlier this year. They really were small gems of image advertising and product
positioning. There was the one that showed kids playing with presidential candidate
action figures, cracking wise at one another, ending with the tag, “smarter
voters made daily.” Simultaneously ironic and iconic, it subtly evoked
the great old political spots of the 60s. The more generic one, showing a bunch
of famous people at a ball–politicians, movie stars, rock stars, the pope–brilliantly
suggested that Salon is funny, smart, smartass and hip. That Salon
itself doesn’t exactly deliver on that promise is, again, beside the point.
Neither is it relevant that you can find a lot better commentary–political,
social, cultural–on a lot of other websites that don’t have Salon‘s
media budget. The commercials themselves, qua commercials, were small,
wise triumphs.

Best Inspirational
Website
Rotten.com

Warms Our
Cockles.
The header on the opening page says it best: “END TIMES ARE
HERE… Critics hail impending Armageddon as ‘Feel-Good apocalypse of
millennium’ Cities consumed by locusts…” Rotten.com describes
itself as “The soft white underbelly of the net, eviscerated for all to
see: Rotten dot com collects images and information from many sources to present
the viewer with a truly unpleasant experience.” It’s actually very
amusing and frequently educational and uplifting. “Motorcycle”
is just the thing to forward to that good buddy who refuses to wear a helmet,
as proof that there are things worse than death. “The Incident with the
Bird” and “The Incident with the Fish” just serve to demonstrate
that even feminists are right once in a while, and the “Tupac Autopsy”
and the “Mayhem” series will bring you to full waking consciousness
faster than a triple espresso with a crack chaser.

The “Circular
File” contains many light-hearted images guaranteed to bring a smile to
the most jaded of faces, such as the “Crafty Squirrel” or the “Missing
Dog Head.” The “Testicle” exhibit has the biggest balls of all,
Tony Millionaire’s claims to the contrary notwithstanding. We use Rotten.com
to begin our daily routine, much the way certain Midwestern geriatric cases
use Guideposts. The site reaffirms our faith in a world gone mad and
encourages us to press on through the encroaching craziness and to always look
on the bright side of life in this, the best of all possible worlds. Rotten.com
makes us proud to be human again. There aren’t too many websites that can
do that.

Best Racist
In a Weekly Newspaper
Peter Noel, the Village Voice

Noel Coward.
In an August cover story, Peter Noel, the Village Voice‘s
black-man-of-record, called Colin Powell and other black conservatives Uncle
Toms who were “asking African Americans to sell out.” Noel should
watch whom he calls an Uncle Tom. Why is Colin Powell’s being a Republican
more Uncle Tom than Noel’s role as HNIC (Head Negro In Charge) for the
white folks who own and run the Voice? Perhaps Noel would reply that
the Voice is good white folk and the GOP bad white folk. This would make
him not only a racist, but more of a white folks’ dupe that Gen. Powell
could ever be. In black culture there’s an old tradition of the Field Negro
calling the House Negro an Uncle Tom, even when they’re both working for
The Man.

This notion
that blacks can’t hold conservative views is one that elitist intellectuals,
black as well as white, have imposed. In fact, large numbers of blacks hold
conservative views in areas like religion and sexuality, as well as saying they’re
for school vouchers–all areas where the black rank and file tend to be
more “Republican” than “Democrat.” Why won’t Noel allow
them to vote that way, if they choose, without insulting them all as dupes?
As though a wealthy pluotcrat like Gore won’t sell them out just as quickly,
dun them for taxes while dooming their kids to four or eight more years of cruelly
ineffectual schooling, and so on.

Best Lost Cause

Ralph Nader

Self-Fulfilling
Prophet.
We would be rich indeed if we had a shiny, barely circulated Susan
B. Anthony dollar for every numbskull we encounter who proclaims, “I’d
vote for Nader, of course, but he doesn’t stand an ice cube’s chance
in hell.” The reality is that he’d stand an iceberg’s chance
in the North Atlantic of sinking this kleptocrat ship of fools in a New York
minute if the disenchanted and demoralized electorate would get behind him.
Defeatism has no role in American politics. It’s no wonder the two fratboys
won’t debate him: he’d clean the carpet with them. The lesser of two
evils is still evil. However much we may disagree with him, Ralph Nader is not
evil. That alone should be reason enough to vote for him.

Best Sign
of Alternative Weekly Entropy
The Stranger

Oh Yeah,
You Bad.
At the annual convention of the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies
last June, New York Press and Seattle’s The Stranger were
identified as the “bad boys” of newsweeklies. We’ll accept the
designation in our own case, but–without intending to prove anyone’s
point–we regretfully note that in the case of The Stranger, it was
a bit anachronistic. The Stranger‘s not nearly as “bad”
as it used to be, and that ain’t good.

For its first
few years, the Seattle upstart was one of the few–the very few–”alternative
weeklies” in the country we could honestly and regularly say we liked and
admired. Founded and published by Tim Keck, who’d been a founder of The
Onion
(and this year started up a new one, the Portland, OR, Mercury),
The Stranger had a fun and funny renegade attitude that instantly distinguished
it from all the drab Village Voice wannabes on the one hand and the machine-tooled
New Times monolith on the other. Keck’s still one of our favorite
people in the business, but we’re thinking, now that his new Portland project
is up and running, that he needs to pay a little more attention to The Stranger
again. Over the last year or so we’ve been watching The Stranger
devolve into just another dull, kneejerk AAN weekly, increasingly indistinguishable
from its rival, the Voice-ish Seattle Weekly. Used to be when
New York Press freelancers asked us if there was another weekly in the
country where they might find work, we could send them to The Stranger.
Now they’ve all quit writing for The Stranger, complaining that
it’s no longer open to stories that aren’t straight out of the AAN
hippie-lefty Voice-clone playbook. Time was The Stranger used
to subvert and shake up readers’ expectations. Increasingly, under editor
Jennifer Vogel it just plays up to them. If you changed the names of the local
politicians and bands mentioned, you could exchange the editorial for that in
any two dozen other weeklies around the country, and not a reader would notice.
There’s the death of the “alternative” weekly for you. The “wildest”
notion Vogel’s come up with this year was an all-fiction issue. To hear
the whoops and huzzahs from certain morons in AAN, you’d have thought she’d
invented a new alphabet. Wow, fiction in an alternative weekly. That’s
new.

Great cover
art, though. It’s the only thing left about The Stranger we like:
beautiful cover art, week after week. Too bad there’s so little behind
it anymore. Get back involved, Tim.

Best Criticism
of Charles Rangel
Damn Good Point.
There are a lot of reasons to detest the greasy slimeball
known as Harlem Congressman Charles Rangel. Still, here’s the best attack
that we’ve heard yet on the rotund one: “The problem…that we have
[is] professional African-American people that make a living out of searching
out racism. And they find it easier to reach out and to get some Jew that’s
out of step with the rest of the Jewish community, and to point that out as
being Jewish racism, when they know throughout our country we have racism coming
from WASPs that are more powerful, that can do more damage, but they don’t
single them out.”

So who said
those pearls of wisdom? Why, Charles Rangel. Except he was trying to defend
that NAACP guy out of Texas who dared to make a clearly anti-Semitic reference
to Joe Lieberman.

All right,
here’s his actual quote: “The problem…that we have [is] professional
Jewish people that make a living out of searching out anti-Semitism. And they
find it easier to reach out and to get some black that’s out of step with
the rest of the black community, and to point that out as being black anti-Semitism,
when they know throughout our country we have anti-Semitism coming from whites
that are more powerful, that can do more damage, but they don’t single
them out.”

Still, we got
the message. Rangel’s saying that he’s an opportunistic tool who runs
around creating controversy. And the same goes double for Al Sharpton? We won’t
argue, Congressman.

Best Joe Lieberman
Moment
Sept. 3, 1998

Seems Like
100 Years Ago.
There was a brief period in American history, we’d like
to recall for high school students, when Connecticut Sen. Joseph Lieberman was
hailed, by both Democrats and Republicans, as a man of conscience. All of that
vanished when Al Gore chose Lieberman as his runningmate for the 2000 election:
Faster than you could say Paula Jones, Juanita Broaddrick or Kathleen Willey,
the Senator chucked all of his principles and became the Howdy Doody of our
national political culture.

But for the
record, let’s stipulate that Lieberman wasn’t always a self-promoting
shill, a discredit to both his religious beliefs and the principles that elevated
him above standard pols like Barney Frank, Bill McCollum or David Bonior.

Speaking on
the Senate floor two years ago, in the wake of Bill Clinton’s belated admission
of perjury, Lieberman was a beacon of truth in his party. That he eventually
voted to acquit Clinton of impeachment charges does diminish the following statement,
but it’s powerful nonetheless, especially considering that so few of his
colleagues had the guts to imitate it.

Lieberman said,
in part: “[T]he President apparently had extramarital relations with an
employee half his age and did so in the workplace, in the vicinity of the Oval
Office. Such behavior is not just inappropriate. It is immoral. And it is harmful,
for it sends a message of what is acceptable behavior to the larger American
family, particularly to our children, which is as influential as the negative
messages communicated by the entertainment culture. If you doubt that, just
ask America’s parents about the intimate and frequently unseemly sexual
questions their young children have been asking them and discussing since the
President’s relationship with Ms. Lewinsky became public seven months ago.
I have had many of those conversations with parents, particularly in Connecticut.

“And from
them I conclude that parents across our country feel, much as I do, that something
very sad and sordid has happened in American life when I cannot watch the news
on television with my 10-year-old daughter anymore.”

Strong, stern
stuff from the Senate Scold. Which makes it all the more disheartening to witness
Lieberman’s cynical embrace of Al Gore, the cowardly Vice President who
didn’t resign during the Clinton scandals, but instead lauded him, on Impeachment
Day, as one of the greatest presidents in American history.

Best Sign of
Desperation from the Village Voice
Tom Tomorrow

And Yet,
Very Funny.
We weren’t too surprised to see Ted Rall claiming in an
editorial cartoon that the Republican Party supported David Duke’s bids
for political office in Louisiana. But we were honestly a little saddened to
see Rall’s Voice cohort Tom Tomorrow sink to a real level of desperation.
We know it’s not going to be an easy presidential election, as the lefties
have to pretend to be appalled by Al Gore even as they’re itching to cast
their votes for the sleazy Veep this Reelection Day. But the “This Modern
World” strip hit a delusional low very early in this campaign.

The big gag
for the strip of May 31, 2000–or, rather, Tom Tomorrow’s idea of a
big gag–was that cartoonists deserved to take the summer off just like
the big networks. (It was too early for Tomorrow to realize that a debuting
network show would become the most talked-about subject of the summer.) The
final frame of his comic featured the crazy outcome of Tomorrow’s planned
vacation, as Mr. White Guy looks at his local alt-weekly and has a good laugh:
“Ha, ha! That wanker’s never seen a supermarket scanner before!…
Hey, wait a minute–this is a cartoon about George Bush Senior!”

Let’s
ignore the use of the word “wanker,” which probably suggests the big
Monty Python influence that entertained young Tom between rounds of Dungeons
& Dragons
. Instead, ponder the deeper meaning of the reference to George
Bush Sr. Everybody now knows that President Bush was never baffled at seeing
a supermarket scanner. It was a false story planted by the Democrats during
the ’92 election, and promptly perpetuated by obedient drones like the
one at Newsweek. Sure, there are probably some who still believe the
story, and we usually wouldn’t make a big deal about it. But isn’t
this the same Tom Tomorrow who routinely lectures us all about how we blindly
follow the media and never question the big lies? Could it be that Tom Tomorrow
is just as moronic as the WASPy caricatures that he relies on to make his simplistic
arguments? Or could it be that Tom Tomorrow is just as willing to lie as any
good Democratic operative, trusting that his audience is too misinformed to
have any notion of the truth? The best part is that it really doesn’t matter.
Douchebag, heal thyself.

Best Antiglobalist
Slogan
The New Federalist

Lyndon,
We Hardly Knew Ye.
The best antiglobalist slogan we’ve seen recently
wasn’t on a protester’s banner in Seattle or L.A., but was in fact
a headline of The New Federalist, the Larouchite newspaper. The Larouchites,
as Alan Cabal has pointed out, have been preaching antiglobalism since the WTO
protesters were in diapers. The headline of the July 31 edition of the “National
Newspaper of the American System” said: “Rich Nations to Poor: Let
Them Eat Laptops!” Below that was a bizarre illustration of Alan Greenspan
as Belshazzar, unable to read the writing on the wall.

Best Jerry
Brown Quip
He’s Still the One.
We happen to loathe the Grateful Dead cult that
blossomed in the 70s (although we’ll admit six or seven of the Dead’s
songs aren’t half-bad), but the famous song lyric “What a long strange
trip it’s been” seems apt when describing Jerry Brown. The former
California governor, three-time presidential candidate and current Oakland mayor
was unfairly slimed as “Governor Moonbeam” somewhere along the way,
a Mike Royko label that stuck with an unimaginative media. Brown’s bare-bones
’92 primary campaign against Bill Clinton is bound to be studied in the
future: as usual, the Californian was ahead of his time, proposing not only
a flat tax, but telling the country exactly what a corrupt politician Clinton
was.

Unfortunately,
Brown didn’t have the money or clout to derail the Arkansan’s political
triumph. Just like in ’76, when a thirtysomething Brown made a late attempt
to stop Jimmy Carter with the most charismatic campaign since JFK’s, he
came up short in the end. That’s life.

Anyway, Brown
was in town not long ago and was asked at a forum why he’s supporting Al
Gore for president. After all, isn’t Gore the embodiment of all that Brown
lambasted in ’92–the gobs of money, the lavish campaign spending,
the empty promises, the race-baiting? The Mayor widened his eyes and simply
said: “Jerry Brown didn’t endorse Gore. The Mayor of Oakland did.”

Best New York-Based
Website About Wisconsin
Dairy Aire

www.dairyaire.com

Mention
My Name in Sheboygan.
Wisconsin my not be the most derided and maligned
state in the nation, but it’s up there. That’s why it’s so nice
to see a couple of born and bred expatriate Wisconsinites shamelessly celebrating
their heritage and all that comes along with it.

Out of a small
office in Soho, two old friends–Kerrie Adami from Madison, Jeff Johnson
from farther north, Eau Claire–have been putting out Dairy Aire,
a monthly Wisconcentric webzine, for about the past six months now, posting
interviews with famous (and semi-famous) Wisconsinites, like publishing icon
Barney Rossett and accordionmeister Polka Ken, as well as first-person pieces
by displaced and wannabe Wisconsinites. And each, in his own way, explores what
it means to be from America’s Dairyland, whether writing about the Tommy
Bartlett water show in the Dells, or about growing up in Stevens Point, or just
about driving through on the way to someplace else.

See, the thing
is, Wisconsin isn’t like other places. Things happen there that just don’t
happen anywhere else–or like anywhere else. People talk different and look
different. So do the animals. You got your booyah, and the big brat fest, Oconomowoc,
things like that. Ed Gein, Jeffrey Dahmer and Tailgunner Joe. The Packers and
the Badgers, of course. And beer enough to make all the weirdness seem normal
while you’re there.

And after being
on the East Coast so long, Dairy Aire helps make it all seem weird to
us again.

Best Letter
to the Editors of a Literary Magazine
Mcsweeneys.net

Return to
Sender.
This ran last November in the online McSweeney’s:

Dear McSweeney’s,

Thank you for
the polite, if not lengthy, rejection letter for the story I sent you titled,
“Harry Finds the Ham.” I have always wanted to be a writer, and I
finally said, “It’s now or never,” and sat down and wrote, “Harry
Finds the Ham,” (my first story ever!) after reading McSweeneys No. 3 from
cover to cover. Overall, I found your comments to be both extremely insightful
and sensibly put. But I have to be honest, after reading what you said about
my use of plot device (recall the chart you drew on the second page), I wondered
if maybe you missed (my fault, and I’m sorry) some of the key things you
had to get in order to understand the story. So I wanted to run them by you.
I hope that’s okay.

1) The central
metaphor is the bonzai tree. So by the end of the story, when Phil says, “Here’s
a quarter,” you know the bonzai tree has changed back into a werewolf and
you begin to realize that what Phil means is, “You can’t run forever
without stopping.” That’s why the title has the word ham in it.

2) That scene
in the apartment can be boiled down to this: Jeanette never finds out that Tom
fed the goldfish catnip. And Tom can’t bring himself to confess, even after
the goldfish leaps out of the bowl and runs up a tree.

3) The story
takes place somewhere in the future.

4) When Paul
looks down and sees that he has hooves instead of feet, he’s not in the
dream anymore.

That’s
it. You were definitely right-on-target with everything else. I can’t help
but wonder what you make of the story now, especially when you remember how
Kate describes her first trip to heaven!

very grateful,
Chad Fordham,
Newark NJ

Best Way
to Get Your Press Release Ignored
The Dave Liebman?
Make your organization’s slogan “The
Sacred Art of Acting Within the Practical World.” Put that at the top of
the release, above where you explain that “any fan of Dave Liebman”
should be apprised of your man’s talents on the saxophone. Describe said
musician’s sound as “paradoxically full yet light” (like a Riesling?)
and be sure to mention the title of his latest release, Cosmos. Then
sit back, relax and wonder why you didn’t get a review.

Best New Media
Website
Smartertimes.com

If Wishes
Were Horses, We’d All Gallop to Work.
What all the large-staff, mega-budgeted
Internet content-site start-ups must ignore or bet against is that the Net really
seems more conducive, when it comes to fast-moving content sites, to boutique
operations: one or two people with a vision, an obsession and lots of time to
implement. Look at Matt Drudge, Mickey Kaus, Jim Romenesko. Possibly the three
best, most up-to-the-minute media-commentary (or media-and-politics) sites on
the Web, and they’re all one-man shows.

As of this
last June, add Ira Stoll to that list. Every morning, seven days a week, the
Brooklyn-based 27-year-old gets up, reads The New York Times, then goes
to his computer and fires off a scathing critique. Stoll’s a conservative,
so his focus is on pointing out all the myriad ways the Times betrays
its liberal, pro-Democrat biases in its supposedly objective news reporting.
You don’t have to agree with Stoll’s politics to see that nine times
out of 10 he’s caught the Olympian daily out cold as it distorts, ignores
or slants the facts, and occasionally just plain tells untruths. And you don’t
have to be a conservative to see that Stoll’s serving a great purpose in
piercing the Times‘ vaulted myth of objectivity in its reporting.
We know New Yorkers who read the Times the way fundamentalist Christians
read the Bible, naively accepting everything they find there as indisputable
Truth and unimpeachable Facts. It’s spooky–they don’t just read
it, they believe in it. That the Times managed to establish itself
as the temple of this secular religion for educated urban sophisticates is one
of the great media marketing triumphs of the 20th century. But it’s depressing
to see otherwise intelligent, appropriately skeptical minds being so gullible
when it comes to this one blind spot. We wish every New York Times reader
would follow up their daily dose of the “Truth” with a visit to smartertimes.com.

Best Political
Magazine
The Weekly Standard

www.weeklystandard.com

Murdoch’s
DC Gem.
First things first: What the hell is up with Weekly Standard
editor and publisher Bill Kristol? He runs a brilliant magazine, has a full
dance card of tv pundit turns and is rightly considered one of the top intellectuals
in the Republican Party. What more can a man in his profession desire? We suppose
it’s to be John McCain’s chief of staff in the Oval Office, but Bill,
that dream died months ago. It’s no secret that Kristol and the Bush family
are not simpatico, but we find the editor’s recent behavior rather strange–willingly
giving “panic” quotes about the GOP candidate to hostile newspapers
like The New York Times. Does Kristol, who’s devoted so much time
and energy in an often futile attempt to explain how corruption and deceit has
defined the Clinton-Gore administration, really want another four years of Democratic
rule in the White House?

These are questions
that keep us awake at night.

Nevertheless,
the five-year-old Weekly Standard remains the leading journal of political
opinion in the United States.

Seven reasons
why:

1. Unlike most
magazines, there’s a genuine diversity of views in the Standard;
it doesn’t adhere to a monolithic doctrine like almost every other periodical
in the country, whether it’s the mind-damaging New York Times or
quaint Village Voice. When Kristol was off in the Twilight Zone with
McCain, more than one Standard staffer fielded a steady stream of phone
calls and e-mails asking, “Is Bill off his rocker?” Actually, we think
he was, but what of it? Likewise, we don’t agree with the magazine’s
staunch stand against trade with China, but at least the arguments presented
are principled and smart.

2. The Standard‘s
cover art, whether it’s an illustration by C.F. Payne, New York Press
contributor Fred Harper or Thomas Fluharty, or oversized photos of Bush, Gore
or Fidel, has no equal.

3. Staff writer
Matt Labash is among the finest journalists in the country, and is as yet unspoiled
by too many tv appearances. His June 19 piece, “Al Gore, Sanctimonious
Slumlord,” was one of the most important of the 2000 campaign, even though
most Gore newsletters, like The New York Times, Newsweek and The
Washington Post
, ignored it. Labash traveled to Carthage, TN, political
prop-home of Al Gore, where the Veep owns property and rented out a house to
Tracy Mayberry and her husband Charles. Rent checks were made out to Gore himself,
although the candidate didn’t actually get his hands dirty and inspect
his tenants’ lodging.

Mr. Populist,
who sends his own children to private schools (unlike George W. Bush) but is
a champion of the teachers’ unions, might’ve gotten an eyeful if he
inspected the dwelling that’s just 150 yards from his own. As Labash reports:
“[T]he plaster was coming off the walls, the linoleum was peeling off the
kitchen floor, the basin of the bathroom sink was a constipated sludge puddle,
the guts of one toilet tank had to be held together with Sunbeam bread bag twisties,
and both bathroom toilets overflowed–when they flushed at all.”

When Mayberry
and her husband complained, they received an eviction notice.

And Labash
adds a nice twist: “If it were possible for Dickens to mount a comeback
and this time go Southern Gothic, a stop by the Mayberry homestead would give
him a good leg up on source material. The house sits a mere chaw-hock from the
Gores’, and is nearly as close to the Golden Nugget Lounge, a kicker bar
that promises karaoke and one-dollar longnecks for the ladies. Around the perimeter
of the Mayberrys’ medium-sized yard is a barbed-wire cattle fence, a gentle
reminder to their children not to wander off onto the Gore property where they
could get intercepted by Secret Service agents or electrocuted on another interior
fence.”

Labash goes
on to describe the general filth of the house: the 20 cans of Raid the Mayberrys
used this spring to exterminate black widow and fiddle-back spiders and flying
cockroaches, the ceiling cracks and dents in the kitchen floor.

The Mayberrys
have since relocated. As for the November election, Mrs. Mayberry told Labash,
“Gore can kiss my ass.”

4. John Podhoretz,
the New York Post‘s cross to bear, no longer works full-time
at the Standard.

5. The opening
“Scrapbook” section, usually comprised of five or so short bits, is
biting, satirical and dead-on about the elite media’s Democratic bias.
For example, in the Sept. 18 issue: “The Scrapbook considers it an appalling
invasion of privacy, not to mention an invitation to the worst sort of Tartuffery,
that we require our political leaders to disclose their charitable giving in
their tax forms. But given that we do, last week’s anti-Cheney frenzy in
the press was amazingly one-sided. In our Nexis search, only four of the 162
stories we turned up mentioned the Gores’ embarrassing 1997 tax returns,
which showed a total of $353 in giving from an income of almost $200,000. Like
the Gores, the Cheneys will no doubt ratchet up their giving next year to achieve
a respectable over-all percentage. But will this actually be charity, or the
result of a very public shakedown? And still reporters wonder why politicians
call them names.”

6. The Standard
owned the Elian Gonzalez issue. Week after week, Chris Caldwell (who
writes the “Hill of Beans” column for this paper) wrote passionate
editorials in defense of keeping the Cuban boy in the United States rather than
sending him back to be a puppet for Fidel Castro. A snippet of Caldwell’s
body of work on the subject, from the April 10 issue: “The Miamians who
are surrounding Elian’s house, the Cuban-American community organizers
who urge widespread civil disobedience should federal authorities seek to remove
him, and even those local elected officials who say they will refuse to cooperate
with those same authorities, have our support. They are protecting more than
Elian. They are protecting their country from a historic disgrace.”

Obviously,
we know what happened to Elian not long after those words were written. While
Bill Clinton talked pussy on the golf course, he let Janet Reno do his dirty
work: she seized the child and finally shuttled him back to Cuba. What a rancid
chapter in American history. When you have occasion to sing “The Star Spangled
Banner” and come to the words “land of the free and the home of the
brave,” think of Clinton and Reno and try to withhold tears of rage.

7. Finally,
we can’t think of a single magazine that boasts such an all-star stable
of writers and editors: David Tell, Fred Barnes, Richard Starr, Tucker Carlson,
Labash, Caldwell, Kristol, Robert Kagan, Charles Krauthammer, Andrew Ferguson,
Claudia Winkler and J. Bottum. And that’s just the A-team.

Best Glossy
Gay Magazine that Doesn’t Double as Pornography
Hero

Our Hero.
If you only read Metrosource, or Empire, Next and HX,
you might believe that gay life is all about the difficult choice of whether
to catch Junior at Twilo or have some “Drama” at Limelight, or maybe
the crushing problem of where to dine and shop within gay neighborhoods. Those
publications have their place, but we want an intellectually and esthetically
stimulating glossy gay magazine that doesn’t just emphasize parties and
sex and fashion layouts of underage things in spandex.

Fortunately,
Hero came along in 1998, with the mission to reach a specific, but apparently
ever-growing, demographic–gay men interested in having and maintaining
committed relationships. Hero‘s circulation currently stands at
30,000, and publisher Sam Francis expects it will continue to grow this year.
The bimonthly boasts the same mainstream advertisers that other gay magazines
have attracted–Bud Light, United Airlines and Prudential Securities, for
example. What first attracted us to Hero was the cover line on its premiere
issue: “Real Men Cuddle.” Subsequent issues have featured profiles
of, among others, GLAAD chief Scott Seomin and photographer David LaChapelle;
pieces like “Couples that Work Together” offer ample support for the
lovesick, for the hopeless romantics in the gay community. We especially enjoyed
the August/September issue’s wedding guide, which profiled six couples’
ceremonies, provided a lengthy planning section and gave suggestions for “10
Great Honeymoon Ideas.”

Best Zoned-Out
Egghead
Robert Kuttner

An Innocent
Rejoices.
Robert Kuttner, a syndicated columnist and coeditor of The
American Prospect
, melted upon hearing Al Gore’s acceptance speech
in Los Angeles last month. More money to be wasted on public schools: yes!
A war against the drug companies that save people’s lives: yes!
Commitment to hate-crimes legislation: yes! Special treatment for gays,
blacks and union members: yes! An abortionist on every block: yes!
More litigation to stifle entrepreneurs: yes! Multimillion-dollar rewards
for trial lawyers: yes! Power to the people: yes!

Right on, Bobby.

In an Aug.
20 op-ed article, Kuttner summed up his glee: “In abandoning his [Democratic
Leadership Council] roots, Gore stumbled on the political reality that Democrats
win the hearts of ordinary voters not by repairing to the bland center but by
being champions of working families. And they do it by using ample government
interventions to balance private power. FDR could have told him that. Welcome
back, Al.”

Mama mia.

We think Kuttner,
in his Boston bubble, has either been nipping at the cooking sherry or smoking
some orgasmic Thai stick. If Gore is indeed elected, the pitiful editor will
have a rude awakening when not a goddamn promise is kept by the new administration.
On the upside, Kuttner and his crew at the Prospect (Robert Reich, by
the way, an AP founder, favors school vouchers) will have plenty
to complain about next year.

Best Internecine
Media Assault
Felicity Barringer

The New
York Times
, July 24

Slant-Eyed.
We know it’s a cheap lede, but scout’s honor here: not during our
most Swiftian moments could we have conjured up the below-the-fold Post
hatchet job on the front of the Times “Metro” section on July
24. We wish Barringer had declaimed with some fire in her belly, but the piece,
“Running on Adrenaline and Ideology at the Post,” reads like she wrung
her hands throughout. Her thesis: “However straightforward [the Post's]
news articles, its headlines and columnists tend to goad, gloat and cheer.”
While we hope an editor stuck in that lame “tend to,” we can’t
shake the feeling that Barringer thought there was a sort of judiciousness about
the attack.

Notice the
distinction between the reportage on one hand and the headlines and commentary
on the other. Once made, Barringer presented, frankly, a worthy newspaper: sensational
headlines betrayed by journalistic sobriety, the temptation to insert commentary
denied. In order not to defeat her own purpose, Barringer had to undermine the
distinction early and often.

Barringer’s
example of how the Post covers a story was the mid-July piece about Hillary
Clinton’s alleged “fucking Jew bastard” remark. “The allegations
of an anti-Semitic slur fit nicely” into the ideological framework of a
conservative paper, she quoted the Post‘s former City Hall bureau
chief as saying. Okay, there’s something–were the story not picked
up by the Daily News, as Barringer admitted. But back to the vacillation
and the hand-wringing: “The Daily News ran its account of the accusation
against Mrs. Clinton the same day, but not in the first papers off the press.”
Finally, after Hillary issued a denial, the story appeared “in all news
outlets, including the New York Times [!], Newsday, the Buffalo
News
and the Times Union of Albany.” Doesn’t sound so much
like ideologically manufactured news anymore. “But the Post was
first,” we’re reminded.

But the marquee
attraction was the eighth graf. First, we got a clue as to why the story was
written at all: “[C]onservative critics have long defended the Post,
saying its news coverage seems biased only to those with a built-in liberal
frame of reference.” There was the claim of biased coverage, insufficiently
supported by the rest of the article–and then the coup de grace: “Conservatives
who see the New York Times as among the voices of a liberal city say
the Post is a necessary ideological counterweight.” So, you defend
the honor of your paper against the inevitable counteroffensive your incoherent
article raises. And you mold the opinions of the entire city in the image of
the paper while pretending to do exactly the opposite. Does the Times
really see itself as Barringer described? Did she originally write something
to the tune of “conservatives who see the Times as a liberal paper,”
only to have an editor butcher the phrase?

Best Half-Naked
Celebrities on the Internet
Celebpecs.com

Rrrrrrooowwww!!
We can’t remember exactly what we were searching for when we stumbled across
this comprehensive amateur site from the UK. Suffice it to say that the photos–of
Stephen Dorff, Hugh Jackman, Jude Law, Taye Diggs, etc.–held our attention.
These are photos in the public domain (from magazines, movie stills and the
like), but you probably haven’t seen them all before. You can also find
out what some of these guys have to say, which can be quite funny, and how old
they are, which is sometimes surprising.

The British
thing means that there are a lot of guys from Manchester United, Leeds and EastEnders
as well as far, far too much Boyzone. Perhaps British origins also explain Lenny
Kravitz’s surprising success in site polls. While some of the poses are
sort of embarrassing, in a what-was-he-thinking kind of way, we particularly
liked the shots of Jackman (Wolverine in X-Men), David Duchovny wearing
only a strategically placed teacup, Johnny Depp (on the site by popular demand,
apparently, since an older version’s copy deemed him “too slim”)
and Johnathon Schaech. Celebpecs.com also features regular “PecVote”
and “PecChat,” is continually updated with new pics and, in case you
were wondering, the number-one product visitors buy from the site’s associates
is Antonio Sabato Jr.’s Workout for Life.

With more than
a million visitors in its four years of existence, Celebpecs.com is not exactly
a secret, just a whole lot of fun, and possibly a necessity now that summer’s
over and all the men are putting their shirts back on.



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