Monday, February 28, 2005

NY Times in Touch With the Common Man

The New York Times, defender of the working stiff, was in fine form this Sunday as it chronicled the plight of oppressed wage slaves on the pages of the Styles section. In an article entitled "Six Figures? Not Enough!", Alex Williams tugs at the heartstrings with sob stories of poor saps struggling to make ends meet on a salary of $100,000—people whose lone extravagance is private school for the kids, or a $20,000 parking space.
There was a time not long ago when earning six figures was a significant milestone among upwardly mobile professionals....But $100,000 isn't what it used to be. It has been devalued, in the practical sense by inflation and psychologically because it is now a relatively common salary.
This "common," solidly middle-class salary (100 grand would put you in the top 5.2% of wage earners in the US) forces some to make unpleasant sacrifices. Take the Belden family, who "settled" for a loft in Boston's trendy South End. Or Maureen Spillane, who was forced to avoid "standard Manhattan indulgences—fancy food, fancy clothing—in order to afford a down payment on a one-bedroom fixer-upper on the Upper West Side." The Upper West Side is, of course, an impoverished area that's home to Michael Moore, Woody Allen, Jerry Seinfeld and, once upon a time, John Lennon.

So, to those who once defined success as a six-figure salary, $200,000 is the new $100,000. "The real point," Williams opines, "is the dreaming itself, the sense among many professionals that there needs to be some light flickering on the horizon to get you through the long hours and the stress of a career." Oh, and the sense of doing something meaningful with one's life. That's priceless.

If the pressure of middle-class life ever gets to be too much, the Travel section's Juliet Macur has just the right fix: "roughing it" in Anguilla. I think we can all relate to this:

I left in a huff because I had no time for distractions. This was serious business: I had to figure out how to get by on $1,000 a day.

What We Learned From the Oscars

  • Hilary Swank has officially used up all of her "Aw shucks, I'm just a bumpkin" cute points.
  • Sean Penn has no sense of humor (technically this isn't something we learned, just a reaffirmation).
  • Dustin Hoffman is either a raging drunk or he's turning into Rain Man (or he just understandably needed self-medication to appear in public with Barbra Streisand).
  • Chris Rock should host every awards ceremony.
  • Penelope Cruz and Salma Hayek should never speak—especially not together.
  • The Academy has bred a race of giant, Amazonian onstage ushers.
  • Sidney Lumet has made an unbelievably large number of movies we've never heard of.
  • Scarlett Johansson is the Academy's bitch.
  • Renée Zellweger seriously needs to eat something.
  • Beyoncé has the strongest eyelids in Hollywood (take that, Jessica Simpson).
  • Apparently Whoopi Goldberg was the best they could do for a Johnny Carson retrospective.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Media Nannies Want More Spanking

The Parents Television Council, a prudish media watchdog group founded by right-winger L. Brent Bozell III (click here to read my profile of the group), is all in a lather over what's been going on at the FCC.

It seems that departing FCC Chairman Michael Powell's final act on January 24 was to reject 36 PTC indecency complaints filed against such dangerous and subversive TV shows as Friends and The Simpsons. Buzzmachine has an exhaustive list of all 36 complaints as well as a hilarous explanation from the FCC of why it's alright to say "dick" on television.

The PTC voiced their dismay at what they called a "vacuous opinion" and reaffirmed their crusade against any entertainment not fit for a six-year-old.

A couple of weeks ago, they claimed victory when the House voted overwhelmingly to raise the maximum fine for a violation from $32,500 to $500,000; an increase of over 1400%. The FCC has been far more eager to levy fines in recent years (compare a total of $7.7 million last year to $48,000 just four years ago), and this legislation could make those fines soar.

But, of course, this is not enough for the PTC. Apparently Michael Powell, despite presiding over these enormous increases and levying some of the highest fines in FCC history against Howard Stern and CBS, just isn't serious about broadcast indecency. That's why the PTC views his departure as a prime opportunity to pressure President Bush into appointing a PTC-approved candidate to chair the FCC.

In a press release entitled "Powell Resignation Creates Opportunity for American Families," Brent Bozell inexplicably says, "...Michael Powell has brought us four years of failed leadership at the FCC. His reluctance to enforce broadcast decency laws have led to confusion and uncertainty." He goes on to "strongly support" FCC Commissioner and Harry Potter lookalike Kevin Martin as Powell's replacement. Martin, along with fellow Commissioner Michael Copps, dissented from the FCC's rejection of the PTC's complaints in January. (Click here to read about Martin's coziness with the Bush Administration.)

The PTC links to a 2003 letter from Martin to Bozell (tellingly, he ccs several right-wing groups including the Christian Coalition and the Family Research Council) in which Martin affirms his committment to higher fines and stricter standards when it comes to broadcast indecency.

The PTC is increasing its lobbying effort to get Martin appointed to the FCC chairmanship, and they have links to the House and Senate on their website so supporters can weigh in on the issue. Maybe the other side should get mobilized as well, lest we wake up one day and find that PAX is the only channel left. Click here to write your Senators and here to contact your Representatives.

Better yet, you can send this helpful diagram to anyone you know who supports the PTC and their censorship crusade:

Friday, February 25, 2005

Slack-Jawed Yokels

The similarity between Cletus and Brandine of The Simpsons and the Beverly Hillbilly couple Britney Spears and Kevin Federline is obvious once you think about it. These pictures stand as incontrovertible proof that the apple doesn't fall far from the family tree (especially when it hardly branches):

Uncanny, no? I can barely tell which is which.

Britney with her topknot, cigarette and pockets spilling out from under her short-shorts; Kevin with his wifebeater, shoulder tattoo and awful facial hair: It's too perfect!

You can buy a Brandine action figure that comes with a pair of nasty boots, a bandanna and a tiny tee emblazoned with the slogan "Classy Lady." [Correction: It actually says "Classy Lassy," which is even trashier.] That sounds about right for Britney, except that she'd lose the boots lest she scuff up the gas station bathroom floor.

Britney may be trespassing on Cletus' dirt farm for now, but I suspect it won't be long before the Queen of Tween moves on to greener pastures.

Britney: Do you love me, Kevin?
Kevin: Nope, but I'll take them sacks of money from ya.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Man-Sized Dwarf: The Cover-Up

I guess it's a sign of our times that my original post on how Kevin Weisman (of Alias, Celebrity Poker and I Love the 90s demi-fame) is a man-sized dwarf is by far the most popular post on my little blog. When the world's problems get big, we turn to the (ahem) little details for comfort.

Now, if the volume of Google searches on "Kevin Weisman" +dwarf can be any indication, I'm not alone in my suspicions. We want to know the truth, and I sense a cover-up. If you look at Jennifer Garner's IMDB entry, you will see that she stands tall at 5'9". Now click on over to Kevin Weisman's entry and you will see that he's a respectable 5'8".

But, if you take a look at an Alias cast photo, it becomes clear that either Jennifer Garner is a giant, or Mr. Weisman is not quite the man he's cracked up to be. It seems odd that a man whose height matches the national average for men would be dwarfed (if you will) by the entire cast of Alias, including the women.

Of course, maybe his height is one of those open Hollywood lies, like the fact that Tara Reid has been 26 for the past three years, or that Tom Cruise is straight.

Still, why the lies? Man-sized dwarves of the world, unite! You have nothing to lose but three or four inches. You have a (small) world to gain.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Fear and Loathing on the Left

I received a direct-mail solicitation from House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi the other day that seems to exemplify the morass into which the Democratic Party has sunk. The letter gets the tone all wrong from the very first sentence. "Do not despair," it says, taking for granted that the political left in this country is no better than a ragtag army in full retreat. Sadly, it seems that the pervasive feeling among liberals in the wake of Bush's reelection is one of desperation and wounded arrogance.

I guess that means there's nothing to lose so we may as well gear up for a fight, right? That is essentially what Pelosi is proposing as she calls for Democrats to "block [Bush and Cheney's] radical, mean-spirited agenda."

"In fact," she writes, "we can do no less."

As it turns out, the Democrats can do a whole lot less. After lacking the political guts to block the vote on Attorney General Alberto Gonzales' nomination, six Democrats (including moralistic scold Joe Lieberman) actually cast votes in favor of this utterly unqualified candidate. Talk about backbone! 30 Democrats voted to confirm Condoleezza Rice. And these moral cowards have the gall to pretend to be protecting the virtue of liberty against the rapaciousness of the Bush White House.

The occasion for the letter (apart from, of course, soliciting donations for House Democrats) is the 2005 State of the Union Survey, a short questionnaire on the hot-button issues of today. Pelosi promises that "responses will help us formulate an action agenda and shape the Democratic message for President Bush's second term."

It is sad but not necessarily shocking that Democrats don't already have a message or an agenda. The Democratic Party lost points in the 2004 elections due to a widespread feeling that they were rudderless, lacking both vision and a workable plan for the next four years. Pelosi's missive all but confirms this view. It also begs this question: Is the Democratic Party the political manifestation of a genuine progressive movement in this country, or is it merely a clearinghouse for a motley assortment of special-interest groups whose pulse is not organic, but can only be gauged via Business Reply Mail?

Is this party driven by conviction or consensus? Perhaps Pelosi can send out a survey on that question, too.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Go North, Young Liberal

This morning, Drudge is linking to a particularly depressing story from the International Herald Tribune about a surge in the number of Americans who are immigrating to Canada in response to the reelection of George Bush.

I say "depressing" because it exemplifies (in the extreme) the utter lack of imagination on the American left. They perceive a political crisis and instead of staying and fighting for the values they believe in—instead of standing up for the America that they so often, defensively, claim to love—they turn their backs and opt out in favor of the frozen utopia to the north. I hope they like hockey.

According to the article, the number of Americans seeking Canadian citizenship has tripled, which would up the annual migration from 6,000 people to around 18,000. Not so many, really. But it's the thought that counts. The article says "the Canadian government's immigration Web site reported a surge in inquiries from the United States, to about 115,000 a day from 20,000."

Who are these people? The sad fact is that those profiled in the IHT piece are straight out of liberal-stereotype central casting. There's a blue-blooded former magazine editor, a university professor and an assistant director of a not-for-profit organization who is putting her Volvo up for sale to finance the more. Really!

My first thought is: No big loss. Good riddance! As I think about it more, however, I feel my anger rising. These people are leaving because they don't want to pay taxes into, or otherwise participate in, a system that they cannot abide. Oh, poor you! As if this were the first time in American history that tax dollars were earmarked for unpleasant things.

What happened to the Democratic ideal of change through grassroots activism? I wonder if these rich solipsists will give a thought to the left's proud tradition of solidarity with the poor and less fortunate as they skip across the border to go on with their safe, comfortable lives unburdened by the responsibilities of citizenship to which they were born.
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