DEATH AND TAXES AND NOVELS: What we get instead!


Part 1—Sunday morning: “She dreams a little, and she feels the dark
Encroachment of that old catastrophe, As a calm darkens among water-lights.”

Wallace Stevens said that. Just click here.

“What is it with Barack Obama’s penchant for getting in tangles with blond politicians on airport tarmacs?”

Alas. Maureen Dowd wrote that. But then, this is what Sunday morning is like within our sad, failing press culture:

“Was Nixon gay? No, but a rumor takes off.”

Yesterday morning, that was the banner headline atop page B3 of the Washington Post’s Outlook section. Professor Feldstein was all over the latest rumor—a rumor which hasn’t “taken off” and almost surely won’t. Including that eye-catching banner headline, this is the way he started:
FELDSTEIN (1/29/12): Was Nixon gay? No, but a rumor takes off.

Richard Nixon was many things—crafty, criminal, self-pitying, vengeful, paranoid. But gay?

According to a book to be released Tuesday, “Nixon’s Darkest Secrets,” the former president and his best friend, Charles “Bebe” Rebozo, had a relationship of a “possibly homosexual nature.”
Exciting! Professor Feldstein goes on to say that the author of this sad stupid book offers some “pretty thin gruel” on this topic—“but not so thin that it keeps the author from enthusiastic speculation.”

And not so thin that it kept the Post from this cry for readers’ eyeballs! Meanwhile, right at the top of Outlook’s front page, we were getting our sad, silly thrills about—bring it on!—Princess Margaret! Our world is very foolish:
SECREST (1/29/12): God save the queen from a tell-all

Once upon a time there were two princesses. The older sister was good and always did the right thing. She had a wonderful smile. When she grew up and became queen, she was going to single-handedly bring about a second Golden Age. Just like the first queen of the same name. Only better.

The younger sister was petite, shapely, smiled a lot and was absolutely stunning. All she had to do was be lovely, and, as one of Stephen Sondheim’s heroines sings in “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum,” she did that extremely well. She joked and flirted and stayed out late and smoked and was really bad.
Richard Nixon wasn’t gay—but Princess Margaret was shapely and smoked, and she was really bad. (Later, we learn that she “had a great pair of gams.”) Accompanying these cries for help was Outlook’s featured report—a hopeless attempt by a senile professor to discuss a topic of the deepest importance, an utterly bogus pseudo-analysis which ran beneath the largest banner in American headline history.

For a very bad time, click here.

God may save the queen from a tell-all—but what can God possibly do for us? If Outlook was depressing and sad, the New York Times Sunday Review was possibly dumber, sadder. Gail Collins was on that section’s front page—and needless to say, she was beating her meat about Newt Gingrich’s love life. This is the way the semi-sane lady started to float readers’ boats:
COLLINS (1/29/12): Newt’s Real Legacy

Do you think that after all is said and done, Newt Gingrich will just go down in history as the politician who conclusively proved that voters don’t care about a candidate’s sexual misbehavior?
Collins cares about two things: Who’s fucking who—and their dogs. But then, she was matched this day by the pitiful Dowd, who stroked herself as she dreamed about the cat fights of President Barry.

She did lounge in her peignoir, we’d guess. Or was she face down on Dear Jack’s shag? After examining her text, we can’t be entirely sure:
DOWD (1/29/12): Tension on the Tarmac

What is it with Barack Obama’s penchant for getting in tangles with blond politicians on airport tarmacs?

Usually, tarmacs are for joyous welcomes or teary goodbyes. But No Drama Obama saves his rare tempests for the runway.
On and on this idiot went, feeling the dark encroachment of that old catastrophic event: Why didn’t Michael love me more than Zeta-whatsherthingy?

Richard Nixon wasn’t gay—but Princess Margaret had a hot figure! “Barry” loves to tangle with blonds—and inevitably, Collins was moved to type what follows, in the piece which headlined the Sunday Review: “Mitt Romney drove to Canada with the family Irish setter strapped on the car roof.”

Collins has long been visibly nuts—and this was Sunday morning.

(Tomorrow, more on this visible lunacy, as Diane Rehm wonderfully puzzles about the things this very strange person has told her.)

Nixon and Margaret and Seamus oh my! This is the lunacy editors gave us Sunday morning. And not only that! Beneath the piece about Nixon-ain’t-gay, Melinda Henneberger also mused about the meaning of Gingrich’s love life.

“Was Nixon gay?” and “What make Newt rut?” filled Outlook’s entire B3. No ads! Just solid good fun!

This brings us back to that pitiful piece which headlined Outlook’s front page. The piece was written by James Q. Wilson, who is now 80 years of age and “analyzes” a major issue like he’s approaching 300, a perfect score in bowling. The headline itself ate half the front page. In size (though not in shape), it resembled the banner a person might drag behind a plane at the beach:
Angry about income inequality?
Wilson’s “analysis” emerged from that sprawling large headline. Let’s just say this: If an undergraduate turned in that piece, you might wonder what happened to the poor kid when he was still in high school.

Dean Baker commented on Wilson’s piece; for our money, he was too kind, although he clarified a point we had wondered about as we read. We’ll return to the good professor’s report before our week of mornings is done. But Sunday morning showed us the state of American pseudo-discourse.

We the people don’t understand federal taxation (click here) or any other major topic. That fact has been shown again and again, in a string of information surveys conducted down through the years. And why are we the people so clueless? To some extent, it’s because the barely sane people we still call a “press corps” cram their foolish repetitive piffle into our heads instead.

Can we be sure of death and taxes? That used to be the deal. But in our press corps, we get little clear writing about taxation, a point we will examine all week.

Thanks to our vacuous press corps culture, we get dreamy novels—complacencies—rammed into our head-holes instead.

Tomorrow: The (mistaken) thoughts of the 34 percent


  1. And on television and "Meet the Press"? John McCain and Fred Thompson, baring their yellowing teeth and looking just like they were about to be wheeled onto the nursing home porch to catch some wintry sunshine in the twilight of their lives. Or something.

    Give credit where it's due, the American mainstream media is capable of trivialising ANYTHING!

  2. Read the Leonhardt piece then the comments. Your thesis proven!

  3. "What is it with Barack Obama’s penchant for getting in tangles with blond politicians on airport tarmacs?"

    TWO qualifies as a penchant? Dowd'a assault on the English language is an embarrassment to the paper that continues to pay her to write such rubbish. I've eaten pig's head twice, so I guess I have a penchant for pig's head. Have owned two cats, so I've got a penchant for cats. Never realized I had a penchant for so many things.