Tag Archives: RIP

Koch brothers influence: eye-on-the-sparrow bludgeoning

Thanks to Charles and his dead brother David, the Kochs are responsible for encouraging the pathology of anti-science. In Florida, where politicians pay lip service to Protecting the Everglades, their front organization Americans for Prosperity has opposed any regulation of the fossil fuel industry. Charles Pierce highlights a recent example:

In 2018, the city of Nashville proposed to build a $5.4 billion rapid-transit project involving high-speed rail. To pay for it, the city proposed to raise four taxes, including the sales tax. Which is about when someone lit up the Koch Signal. The Kochs hate rapid transit. It keeps people from buying cars, which run on the fuels that make the Koch family rich. They also produce the asphalt for the roads on which those cars run. Acting through a Koch-funded astroturfing operation, Americans For Prosperity, the Kochs lavishly funded the opposition and killed the plan. This kind of eye-on-the-sparrow bludgeoning is a measure of how thoroughly the Koch money has infected our politics all the way down to the local level.

Jane Mayer’s Dark Money has chapters devoted to their perfidy. Read it. An excerpt:

The Kochs continued to disperse their money, creating slippery organizations with generic-sounding names, and this made it difficult to ascertain the extent of their influence in Washington. In 1990, Citizens for a Sound Economy created a spinoff group, Citizens for the Environment, which called acid rain and other environmental problems “myths.” When the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette investigated the matter, it discovered that the spinoff group had “no citizen membership of its own.”

That’s what the Kochs do or did: ratfuck democracy in the name of plutocrats. I love the idea of ballet and marrying a man whom I’d take to the ballet, but ballet would suck when I have to roll up my pants to wade into the theater.

Peter Fonda RIP

A symbol more than an actor, but film actors are symbols anyway. Film actors often incarnate their times. It was Peter Fonda’s luck to star in Easy Rider, the epochal road film he also co-wrote. For him there was little of his older sis Jane’s intelligence and anxiousness; he projected a languor that millions of people took for a generational comment when the performance owed much to Brando and a previous decade’s idea of cool. But film actors do this too: that is, connect lines and establish a genealogy that directors and screenwriters can’t have known. Continue reading

David Berman — RIP

No critic is a sage, so David Berman revealed himself to me as a poet first. When I found his collection Actual Air for a buck in the reduced section of my satellite campus bookstore exactly a decade ago, I bought it on a condescending whim — “how good can a poetry collection by a rock guy be?” Then I read “Grace”:

As one who, reading late into the night,
When overcome by sleep, turns off the light
And yields whatever he can sense by sight

To what the gates of ivory or of horn
Will send him, sightless as a child unborn,
To goad, amuse, remind, reveal or warn,

So may I turn a light off and embrace
With resignation, better still with grace,
The dreamless sleep that all awake must face.

The toughness of these tercets — their understanding of art as a supreme fiction that makes sense of air, light, life — reminded me of Wallace Stevens, after whom Berman named the volume. Thanks to Berman’s laconic, self-effacing drawl, Berman under the Silver Jews moniker released a few albums that are the American equivalent of The Fall: an American vernacular accommodating itself to absurdity indistinguishable from tragedy.

Their masterpiece American Water (1998) is too well-named. The album’s first line — “In 1984, I was hospitalized for approaching perfection” — tipped the hat to an approach as attuned to the rhythms of the vernacular in American poetry and song as Cole Porter and John Ashbery. Collaborators and fellow travelers like Pavement’s Stephen Malkmus and Bob Nastanovich understood that Berman was the real thing: skeptical of the transcendental likes of Patti Smith and Allen Ginsburg, Berman drew upon wryness as a muse, as a way of moistening his confessions. Over the slow static progression of “Blue Arrangement,” Berman and Malkmus praise the “Protestant thighs” of a paramour who inspires a prolixity increasingly uncommon in Amerindie. Berman, unlike words-first guys, believed in melody. Perhaps the melody inspired the following verse:

Sometimes I feel like I’m watching the world
And the world isn’t watching me back
But when I see you, I’m in it too
The waves come in and the waves go back

Perhaps he sensed the high tide of those waves waiting to take him.

John Paul Stevens — RIP

For as along as I was alive, the Supreme Court was John Paul Stevens’ court. The justice with a devastating interlocutory style and one of the last to write the first draft of his own opinions well into his eighties, nominated by the most conservative American president since Calvin Coolidge, ended up well to Gerald Ford’s left by the time William Rehnquist replaced Warren Burger as chief justice; and very well to Antonin Scalia’s right after the latter replaced Rehnquist as associate justice, and Anthony Kennedy replaced Lewis Powell. Ronald Reagan nominated them all, and it’s amazing to think of Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch as scalphunters. Continue reading

Ross Perot — R.I.P.

Goodbye, Weird Plutocrat Guy, one-third responsible for the first exciting presidential race of my lifetime. Empty the pockets of H. Ross Perot, called “H.” Ross Perot by Dave Barry, and the following aphorisms jingle like fresh dimes:

If someone is blessed as I am is not willing to clean out the barn, who will?

and:

The activist is not the man who says the river is dirty. The activist is the man who cleans up the river.

The shiniest:

If you see a snake, just kill it — don’t appoint a committee on snakes.

With ears like coffee mug handles and a twang as crinkled as old rattlesnake skin, Perot captured enough of the popular imagination to give Governor William Jefferson Clinton of Arkansas and President George H.W. Bush, called “Poppy” by Soto, a scare in the spring and early summer of 1992. His message was resentment applesauce, sweetened by the knowledge that Americans will trust a rich moron over a poor intellectual. Campaigning against a federal government in which many of his politician friends were very good to him, he convinced the newly elected Clinton to commission Al Gore into looking at “waste in government.” In reality, this cornpone charlatan loved playing Wise CEO at the — I use the word deliberately — expense of his brutalized employees. In a well-trod tradition, he became yet another billionaire who believed rules for the poor, as demonstrated by his paying for his own commando squad — an example of how dearly he loved his country, according to NRO’s Jim Geraghty, who thinks irony is what you use on a wrinkled shirt. This neat little idea no doubt inspired Oliver North  to contact him for payoff money, we learned. He endorsed the means testing of Social Security. What thanks did he get from the GOP establishment? Why, smearing his daughter with incriminating photos before her wedding! Perot said he dropped out of the race in July based on this nugget.

Entertaining crackpots are for Carl Hiassen or Thomas Pynchon novels.

Doris Day — RIP

“She embodied our national will-to-happiness,” James Monaco observed in his essential Movie Love in the Fifties. Typical of Monaco’s generosity is a chapter-length study of what the late Doris Day projected onscreen that captivated Ike and JFK-era audiences enough to keep her as the top female box office draw years after her peak. Already the obits stress her “wholesome screen presence” and its relation to her times. Continue reading