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Steve Gilliard, 1964-2007

It is with tremendous sadness that we must convey the news that Steve Gilliard, editor and publisher of The News Blog, passed away June 2, 2007. He was 42.

To those who have come to trust The News Blog and its insightful, brash and unapologetic editorial tone, we have Steve to thank from the bottom of our hearts. Steve helped lead many discussions that mattered to all of us, and he tackled subjects and interest categories where others feared to tread.

Please keep Steve's friends and family in your thoughts and prayers.

Steve meant so much to us.

We will miss him terribly.

photo by lindsay beyerstein


Captain Obvious

Goes bucking for Commodore.

Every now and then as I run barefoot over the burning shores of the NYT, I catch a glint of Tom Friedman talking about, say, energy policy. Like a shiny nickel washed up along a great swath of poo, catching the light just so.

And I nod and I say “Good on you” and then scamper away, because man, the reek at high tide’d knock a dung beetle out of Fred Phelps’ mouth. And for, oh, about a minute I indulge the notion that one of the most highly paid, highly regarded, highly quoted, best selling, A-listed op-ed columnists for America’s paper of record is not a vulgar and irredeemable idiot.

That maybe he doesn’t deserve to be cast into ignoble oblivion. Reduced to writing, say, lunch menu specials at IHOP (“A cab driver in Bangalore assured me that these pecan waffles in a peach compote are genuinely Vishnulicious!”) or ghosting the “Turn Ons/Turn Offs” for “Ass Fancier” centerfolds.

And then I read something like this (Behind the NYT blast wall, a snip if which is transcribed here) and I get cranky all over again.

They actually thought they could unite Iraq, while dividing America.

Whenever Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney had a choice between seeking political advantage at home or acting in a bipartisan fashion to buy more unity, time and space to do all the heavy lifting needed in Iraq, they opted for political advantage.

When Franklin Roosevelt fought World War II, he made a conservative Republican, Henry Stimson, his secretary of war and did all he could to hold the country together. The Bush- Cheney team, by contrast, summoned us to D-Day and then treated it like it was just another political wedge issue, whenever it suited them.

It has not worked. As Leon Wieseltier, literary editor of The New Republic, put it:
“You cannot govern like Winston Churchill some of the time and like Grover Norquist most of the time.”

First my mind wanders momentarily away from Captain Obvious to contemplating his employers and I wonder what kind of feeble-minded, inbred, tasteless Peter Keatings must be running the place?

Seriously, it is one of those questions that just nags at me: In a world quite literally overflowing with talented, literate, pungent writers, how in the world do utterly talentless, debased hacks like Friedman and Brooks find themselves at the very pinnacle of the mediaverse?

I know the general answer -- Market forces compacting competent journalism into the ever more Procrustean Bed of Entertaining InfoHappyBytes. The rise of the Hatekrieg Xian Right blasting away at the press for 30 year, shellshocking them into giving the out lame, the crazy and the outright liars ever more column inches and prime time space in the name of Holy “Balance”. The deliberate murder of the Fairness Doctrine by Reagan, Bork and Scalia (That was just for you, Ivory Bill Woodpecker). -- but I still think the particular, specific answers would be interesting.

I still dream of going full Patrick McGoohan on NYT Chairman Arthur Sulzberger, Jr., President and CEO Janet L. Robinson, Executive Editor Bill Keller and Editorial Page Editor Andrew M. Rosenthal.

Muse that whisking them off to The Village

for some fun, frolic and Pentathol would yield some remarkable and gag-inducing results.

And then my mind wanders back the fact of Captain Obvious and I just want to wish him into the cornfield.

Preferably just before the threshers roll in so that the Captain can be reaped and processed into something useful.

Like, say, ethanol.

There would be something satisfyingly poetic about that.

Because, Tom, how in the fuck dare you be surprised? How dare you?

For thirty years the GOP has campaigned and governed on a deep and abiding hatred for government generally, and those who believe in using government as a sword and a shield against the excesses of both unfettered capitalism and theocracy specifically.

For thirty years the GOP has plainly tattooed “Welcome All Loonies” on its ass in forty-foot-high Day-Glo letters, bent over and grabbed its ankles and beckoned the scum of the nation to take a jolly electoral rump-tango with the Party of Lincoln. It has openly, sluttishly enticed the Dobsons, the Gingrichs and the Coulters into it’s “Big Tent”, while driving out the Goldwaters, the Deans and the Phillipses.

It has not just practiced a hyperMcCarthesque politics of rend and rule, it is fucking proud of it.

It has been a little over 80 years since Adolph Hitler publish “Mein Kampf” in which he explained in some detail what he intended to do: He intended to conquer Europe, kill 20 million Russians, and exterminate the Jews. He was very clear about all of this and methodically set out to check each atrocity off of his "To Do" list while a chorus of the Tom Friedman’s of the age said, over and over again until it was far too late, “Well he can’t really mean it.

"He won’t really do it.”

It cost civilization a bloody world war in which millions died and whole nations were destroyed to stop the planet from being tipped mechanized Dark Ages from which is may never have recovered. And one of the casualties that perished in rubble of the Third Reich was the excuse that, when evil people tell you what they plan to do, they don’t really mean it.

Of course they mean it. In fact they say it extra loud and clear to recruit others to their depraved cause.

And so now live in a nation where a portrait of Karl Rove ripping the Constitution in half and then taking a dump on, rampant on field of Klansmen it practically the GOP Family Crest…and yet here we find Captain Obvious actually putting pen to paper to express how Shocked!Shocked! he is to discover that the GOP actually means what it says.

And then offering this bit of helpful advice to Democrats:

“Democrats need to be careful, though, that they don’t let their rage with the hypocrisy of Mr. Bush make them totally crazy, and blind them to the fact that they ? we ? still need a credible plan to deal with the very real threat to open societies posed by Islamist terrorism.”

Fuck you, Tom. I take back what I said: no IHOP job for you.

In a sane world anyone who exhibits this dizzying combination of blithering obliviousness and effrontery to such an extent that they:
A) Actually say out loud that they’re stunned that the GOP is acting exactly as they said they would and have for the last 30 years and,

B) Urgently council the only people in a credible position to oppose their rising fascist tide to pull their punches…

would never be allowed near a pen again.

Unless their intention is to commit honorable, Mont Blanc seppuku.

In which case, Tom,

c’mon and belly up to the bar.
Fixing those typos

This from the Irish Times, with the typos fixed.

See how much clearer it reads with the errata cleaned up.

Iraqi gunmen soldiers attack village killing 15.

Gunmen wearing Iraqi army uniforms Iraqi Army regulars entered a village east of Baghdad early today, removed families from their homes and opened fire on the men, killing 15 of them, an Iraqi general and a Kurdish political party said.

The victims were Kurdish Shias, according to a statement posted on the website of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan. The gunmen Iraqi soldiers entered the village of Hamid Shifi, about 60 miles from Baghdad and forced families from their homes, said Brig. Gen. Nazim Sherif.

The assailants Iraqi soldiers then separated the women and children, ordered the men to stand in a single file and gunned them down, he said. Sherif said villagers had received no threats before the attack, which he blamed on al-Qaeda. The village is in Diyala province, an area northeast of Baghdad where violence has violent skirmishes in the Iraq Civil War have risen sharply in the past six months.

Meanwhile five US soldiers were killed in four separate attacks by insurgents Iraqi soldiers dressed as civilians in Iraq yesterday and today, taking to eight the number of American soldiers killed in the past 48 hours, the US military said.

In one of the worst attacks, a roadside bomb followed by gunfire killed two soldiers and wounded two others in northeastern Baghdad yesterday, the military said in a statement today.

Another soldier was killed in western Anbar province, a stronghold of the Sunni Arab insurgency side of the Iraq Civil War, and a fourth was shot dead near Baghdad, also yesterday.

Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, we are training and arming the people who are killing each other and us Tuesdays, Thursdays, weekends and evenings.

Dear Democrats; Bush has walled up our soldiers in the Valley of Death and will fucking well keep them there until we’re all broke and they’re all dead or damaged for life. They need to be rescue from Bush’s Iraqi Fiasco as surely as New Orleans residents needed to be rescued from Bush’s Katrina Catastrophe.

On this point the landslides of 2006 made the will of the American people unambiguously clearly.

Your most vital civic duty is to save our military from their involuntary participation in an Iraq Civil War that is killing them for no damned good reason, and from the cowardly Republican sociopaths here at home that are holding them hostage to George Bush's ego.

-- Driftglass