March 22, 2005

People so busy, makes me feel dizzy

* David Brooks on the Masters of Sleaze. excerpt:

"...The sleazemasters of old look back into the land of the mortals and they see greatness in the form of Jack Abramoff.

"Only a genius like Abramoff could make money lobbying against an Indian tribe's casino and then turn around and make money defending that tribe against himself. Only a giant like Abramoff would have the guts to use one tribe's casino money to finance a Focus on the Family crusade against gambling in order to shut down a rival tribe's casino.

"Only an artist like Abramoff could suggest to a tribe that it pay him by taking out life insurance policies on its eldest members. Then when the elders dropped off they could funnel the insurance money through a private school and into his pockets.

"This is sleaze of a high order. And yet according to reports in The Washington Post and elsewhere, Abramoff accomplished it all.
"Yet it's important to remember this: A genius like Abramoff doesn't spring fully formed on his own. Just as Michelangelo emerged in the ferment of Renaissance Italy, so did Abramoff emerge from his own circle of creativity and encouragement.

"Back in 1995, when Republicans took over Congress, a new cadre of daring and original thinkers arose. These bold innovators had a key insight: that you no longer had to choose between being an activist and a lobbyist. You could be both. You could harness the power of K Street to promote the goals of Goldwater, Reagan and Gingrich. And best of all, you could get rich while doing it!
"Soon the creative revolutionaries were blending the high-toned forms of the think tank with the low-toned scams of the buckraker. Ed Buckham, Tom DeLay's former chief of staff, helped run the U.S. Family Network, which supported the American family by accepting large donations and leasing skyboxes at the MCI Center, according to Roll Call. Michael Scanlon, DeLay's former spokesman, organized a think tank called the American International Center, located in a house in Rehoboth Beach, Del., which was occupied, according to Andrew Ferguson's devastating compendium in The Weekly Standard, by a former "lifeguard of the year" and a former yoga instructor.

"Ralph Reed, meanwhile, smashed the tired old categories that used to separate social conservatives from corporate consultants. Reed signed on with Channel One, Verizon, Enron and Microsoft to shore up the moral foundations of our great nation. Reed so strongly opposes gambling as a matter of principle that he bravely accepted $4 million through Abramoff from casino-rich Indian tribes to gin up a grass-roots campaign.
"Abramoff's and Scanlon's Indian-gaming scandal will go down as the movement's crowning achievement, more shameless than anything the others would do, but still the culmination of the trends building since 1995. It perfectly embodied their creed and philosophy: "I'd love us to get our mitts on that moolah!!" as Abramoff wrote to Reed.

"They made at least $66 million.

"This is a major accomplishment. And remember: Abramoff didn't do it on his own.

"It took a village. The sleazo-cons thought they could take over K Street to advance their agenda. As it transpired, K Street took over them."

* Wolcott on Wolfowitz. excerpt:

"The argument for Paul Wolfowitz heading up the World Bank seems to be that he's not as vile as his fellow neocons; more caring and idealistic than his ideological cohorts, an almost poignant figure (to the point of Eric Alterman taking pity on him and chatting him up at a party). Well, anyone would look like the skim milk of human kindness compared to Richard Perle, Doug Feith, John Bolton, and Elliott Abrams. After all, every criminal enterprise has its degrees of iniquity. Reggie Kray was by every account a much nicer gangster than brother Ronnie. But it hardly justifies foisting him on our allies at the World Bank, no matter how gangrenous that institution.

"The truth is that Wolfowitz's judgment has been unfailingly wrong and he's either easily suckered or drawn to unsavory types.
"As Richard Ingrams, former editor of Private Eye and certainly no liberal, wrote in the London Observer this week:

"'Closely involved with both men was Richard Perle, another notable hawk. As Seymour Hersh writes in his book, Chain of Command: 'There was a close personal bond between Chalabi, Wolfowitz and Perle going back many years.' Perle was a business associate of the disgraced Daily Telegraph owner Lord Black, who, like Mr Chalabi, also finds himself accused of fraud.'

"One pictures them in the sauna together, sweating oil."

* 20 albums you should hear, according to John Darnielle. excerpt:

Red Mecca, Cabaret Voltaire
This one's from just shortly before the Cabs hit what most people think of as their prime period, but I prefer my Cabaret Voltaire a little more raw. In the middle period, the band sounds like they're at war with themselves over something obscure. This album starts off a little weak but once you lock into its bleak dystopian groove there's no stopping it. Music for machines to sing to their android babies.

Sky Motel, Kristin Hersh
This album stays in the iPod even when everything else gets purged; massively underrated record in the Kristin Hersh catalog! The guitars are really pretty, all chorus'd and flange'd out, and the lyrics are cutting, hard, hermetic, great.

Natural Bridge, Silver Jews
Such great lyrics, such subtle melodies, such canny musicianship. The drumming on "Pet Politics" is especially subtle and great. But every song's got little lyrical gems to be dug up & wondered-at.

Manzanita, Mia Doi Todd
Another confessional folk record. Years ago I ran from confessional stuff like a villager fleeing the Visigoths but how can anybody resist Mia's voice and how close to the bone she's willing to go? I love the world when I listen to this record.


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