Saturday, October 30, 2004

The Gauleiters of Florida

28° 36' North; 80° 30' West

There is a scene in the faux astronaut hagiography 'The Right Stuff' when Dennis Quaid's character, Gordon 'Hot Dog' Cooper, is asked, "Who's the best you ever saw?"

Cooper/Quaid goes pensive for a moment as he thinks of Chuck Yeager. Then the 'I-Ain't-Spam-In-A-Can', shite-eating grin reappears on his face and he answers, "Me".

Now, I'm pretty sure that if you asked the hot shots of the Political Blogosphere the same question you'd likely get the same answer from most.

But in that moment when they were thinking about who really had the right stuff, a lot of them would be probably be thinking of a guy named Billmon.


Billmon was a rarity in that he banged the Blogosphere like a gong without ever letting it rub up too hard against his fulltime pseudo-straight journo job, or vice versa.

He also had a nose for history, both military and political, as well as a twisted sense of Brechtian humour that separated him from the herd.

As such, the great majority of the 1600 or so posts he wrote between Spring of 2003 and the Summer of 2004 were worth two, or three, or maybe even six reads.

And, while he was no way gone lefty, many of those posts were directed squarely against BushCo and the Rovians.

Another interesting thing about his site was the way Billmon's well researched longform posts attracted an interesting and argumentative, but mostly respectful, group of posters that made the threads themselves almost as interesting as the screeds that started them.

By way of comparison check out anything on, oh say, Atrios, and compare the amusing, but ultimately trivial, dreck that floods the threads there to something like this.

But something that good that was operating non-stop, high up in the rafters without a net could not last forever.

Billmon's balance began to wobble back in the Spring when he mentioned the strain of keeping tabs on 500 comments per thread - one of the things that kept posters on their toes was the fact that they knew the Barkeeper (the site was called 'The Whiskey Bar' - more Brecht) was actually paying attention and that he would jump into the fray at a moment's notice, sometimes to contribute, sometimes to scold.

Clearly, Billmon had a great admiration for Seymour Hersh, and while he gave the original Abu Ghraib relevations great play you could see that they also gave him great pause.

Because, while the initial revelations were an indictment of BushCo, as a thinking person who still believed in all that could be good in an implied American exceptionalism, Billmon could not bring himself, at least in the beginning, to believe that the entire system was rotten to the core.

As a result, he really let fly at any and all posters who suggested that it was. Kate Storm, who we wrote about last week, was one of the ones that got hit in the cross-fire.


But then the revelations kept on coming, day after day, until the White House torture memos and the dead ghost prisoner wrapped in saran wrap finally came to light.

To his credit, Billmon changed his tune and let the posters go. But he himself started to slip when it became clear that most of the American ruling class, the So-Called-Liberal-Media, and a good chunk of the electorate just didn't give a damn.

And then he really lost his footing when he was forced to watch Colin Powell, up close and personal, soil himself, his State Department, and his country over and over again during a speech at a Davos meeting in Jordan.

After that Billmon shut off the comments, and a few weeks later he stepped off the highwire for good.


Well, almost for good.

First, there was a short, viscious rant on the OpEd page of the LA Times that was followed by a weird, HST-inspired, Mojo-Rising image on his site that came down almost as fast as it went up.

And now it looks like he's climbed the ladder to roof and has stepped out into the void once more.

This time around he pulls no punches, directly comparing the BushCo Loyalty oath that is being administered all over the U.S., and especially in swing states like Florida, to similar bouts of fascist flim-flammery that were so prevalent in pre-war Germany.

But what really scares him now is not so much the fact that the Rovians have stooped to this level of play acting, but rather the fact that the rank and file is lapping it up.

So, the question for us 'still feeling superior' Canadians is, if BushCo wins and the Anschluss comes, will we roll over and play the lapdog too?

Seem far fetched?


But don't forget that, in response to Kerry's use of Bruce Springsteen and a message of Hope this weekend, BushCo has brought in an Austrian poseur with big biceps and a message of Annhilation/Termination.

End times indeed.

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