Sunday, March 29, 2009

Don't It Make Her Brown Eyes Blue

No one knows what it's like
To be hated
To be fated
To telling only lies

But my dreams
They aren't as empty
As my conscience seems to be

I have hours, only lonely
My love is vengeance
That's never free
-The Who "Behind Blue Eyes"
Blue-Eyed Greed?
Published: March 28, 2009

Maureen Dowd goes on a classic rock bender this week. The impetus is a third world dictator making some crypto-reverse-racist statements substituting eye color for skin tone.
At a press conference Thursday in Brasilia with Prime Minister Gordon Brown of Britain — who has a talent for getting himself into dicey spots — [Brazilian president] Lula started off coughing from some cheese bread he’d wolfed down. Then he suddenly turned accusatory.
“This crisis was caused by the irrational behavior of white people with blue eyes, who before the crisis appeared to know everything and now demonstrate that they know nothing,” charged the brown-eyed, bearded socialist president.
The first classic rock allusion is just a hint at the Procul Harum signature tune.
As the brown-eyed Brown grew a whiter shade of pale, Lula hammered the obvious point that the poor of the world were suffering in the global crash because of the misdeeds of the rich.
She interrupts the flow to use her new favorite Crossword Clue® to again slap at the morals-free actions of AIG and their ilk.
And it is true, of course, that the upper-crust, underwhelming Anglo-Saxon leaders who allowed America’s financial markets to morph into louche casinos, George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, were very, very white men with blue eyes.
And the blue eyes finally push her into typing out the tune cootie in her head.
As the Who sang: “No one knows what it’s like to be the bad man, to be the sad man behind blue eyes. No one knows what it’s like to be hated, to be fated to telling only lies.”

And being a little more free-associative than usual she rambles past Jesus and Barbie to land on her favorite interview and Hollywood crush.
The cerulean-eyed Paul Newman once wryly predicted his epitaph: “Here lies Paul Newman, who died a failure because his eyes turned brown.”
And it's been a while since Maureen's mother made a guest appearance with her words of wisdom. This time she comes up with a great maternal ugly duckling-beautiful swan aphorism.
I obsessed on it so much, cutting out a picture of a beautiful brown-eyed model and keeping it in my scrapbook, that my mother finally reassured me:
“You look at blue eyes. You look into brown eyes.”
And the memory of her Irish mom sends her right back to the classic rock apple crate for that Celtic crooner of the 70s.
Later, of course, there would be the thrill of Van Morrison serenading a “Brown-Eyed Girl.”

Maureen ends the column with a wistful Alliteration Alert™ that is all peace, love and understanding.
With Michelle urging students to aim for A’s and the president promising to make school “cool,” brown eyes may finally — and rightfully — overtake blue as the windows of winners.
But she could just as well have used a different Who song:
I'll tip my hat to the new constitution
Take a bow for the new revolution
Smile and grin at the change all around me
Pick up my guitar and play
Just like yesterday
Then I'll get on my knees and pray
We don't get fooled again
Don't get fooled again

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Bonfire of the Bailout

Click on the image to read the revised tagline.

Toxic R Us
Published: March 21, 2009

Maureen Dowd's fury at the titans of industry that have wrecked the economy has not abated and she blames Barack Obama for not being tougher on them. We get a nice little Dowdversion® aimed at the robber barons.
Barack Obama prides himself on consensus, soothing warring sides into agreement. But the fury directed at the robber barons by the robbed blind in America has been getting hotter, not cooler.
And she places a share of the blame on Timothy Geithner for being too cozy with the Wall Street weasels.
And that’s because the president and his Treasury secretary have been coddling the Wall Street elite, fretting that if they curtail executives’ pay and perks too much, if they make the negotiations with those who siphoned our 401(k)’s too tough, the spoiled Sherman McCoys will run away, the rescue plan will fail and the markets will wither.
Sherman McCoy is the famously benighted and clueless hero of Tom Wolfe's The Bonfire of the Vanities made into a bad, bad movie starring Tom Hanks. And as part of the Movies Wiht Maureen®, she takes from the film one of its catch phrases only substituting 'shafters' with 'masters'.
The shafters of the universe have been treated with such kid gloves that they remain obnoxiously oblivious.
Ending that line with an Alliteration Alert™. And she says Geithner is a little to sympathetic to said masters.
Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, who grew up as a Republican and was head of the New York Fed for five years, sees things from the point of view of that wellspring of masters of the universe, Goldman Sachs.
In the bonuses, Maureen sees not only bad movies about the excess of greed, but also a fair amount of the theater of the absurd, citing its premiere writer.
Fannie Mae, the mortgage finance behemoth that had $59 billion in losses last year when the government was forced to take it over, and since has asked for $15 billion in taxpayer money, brazenly intends to give $1 million apiece in retention bonuses to four top executives, even though the word retention in a depression is pure Ionesco.
My guess is that her favorite play of his is La Lacune or maybe Frenzy for Two or More.

And it wouldn't be a decent Dowd rant on corporate excess without a Bling Report©:
Vikram “Pandit the Bandit” at Citigroup, which received $50 billion in bailout money, is pulling a Thain, spending $10 million to renovate his Park Avenue offices, complete with a Sub-Zero refrigerator and premium millwork (whatever that is).
While the grifters are remodeling in New York, the gardeners are planting an upscale vegetable patch at the White House.
It’s an image that could have come straight out of a McCain campaign ad: Barack Obama growing organic arugula at the White House.

But there was Michelle on Friday, the first day of spring, with a bunch of fifth graders, digging a veggie garden on the South Lawn.
Dowd says that perhaps Barack Obama needs the weapon Michelle is wielding.
The tableau of Michelle Obama hoisting a pitchfork on Friday with her sinewy arms and warning that the commander in chief would be commandeered into yard work left me wondering if the wrong Obama is in the Oval.
I can hear the howls now that Maureen is again emasculating Obama. But until he plants some blame on the bonus babies, he is going to keep getting rolled. Maybe Maureen can talk Michelle into taking a break from gardening and marching pitchfork in hand on the masters of the bailout.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Darby O'Gall

No Boiled Carrots
Published: March 17, 2009

Like a good Irish lass, Maureen took St. Paddy’s Day off, but it was a working holiday for her as she covered Obama’s latest address on the financial bail-outs.

On St. Patrick’s Day, the president spoke a bit of Gaelic, dyed the White House fountains green and talked about his distant relatives in the tiny Irish town of Moneygall, aptly named since money and gall are the two topics now consuming him.
Gawker notes that the Moneygall pun was used in her Irish Times interview, but in these tough economic times, who can blame her for a little recycling. She continues with the Blarney theme with an extended leprechaun metaphor.
But Mr. Obama is still having trouble summoning a suitable flash of Irish temper at the gall of the corrupt money magicians who continue to make our greenbacks disappear into their bottomless well.
And she digs into her well of quaint sayings from the Old Sod to quote her Irish dad:
[Obama] should keep in mind one of my dad’s favorite Gaelic sayings: “Never bolt the door with a boiled carrot.”
Now there is a mental image for the ages. Normally, this is a carrot and stick metaphor, but the executive excesses have got her blood boiling. And while other columnists are content to brandish pitchforks, Maureen has the oxcarts rolling up to the guillotine.
He’s got to lop off some heads.
Mr. Obama belatedly tried to stop the tumbrels that began rolling toward the Potomac after Larry Summers went on Sunday talk shows to assert that there was nothing the administration could do about the blood-sucking insurance monstrosity’s venal payout.

Summers, who inspires lusty dreams of A.I.G. tormentor Eliot Spitzer, asserted that the government “cannot just abrogate” contracts with financial vampires.
All this blood sucking and carrots makes be think of Bunnicula.
What President Obama should have said to the blood-sucking bums at A.I.G., many of them foreigners who were working at the louche London unit, was quite simple: “We stopped the checks. They’re immoral. If you want Americans’ hard-earned cash as a reward for burning up their jobs, homes and savings, sue me.”
Which rolls right into the combo Alliteration Alert™ and Crossword Clue® since 'louche' not only fits well with London but also means 'immoral'. One thing this crisis is doing, it’s making Maureen dig deeper into her thesaurus than ever. She's as mad as hell and she's willing to make the March Madness metaphor to prove it.
[Obama's] lofty team of economic rivals is looking more like a team of small forwards and shooting guards.
And there is nothing a righteous financial fury to make Dowd get her Irish up.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Maureen The Irish Rose

In honor of St Patricks Day, Maureen Dowd gave an interview with her sister to the Irish Times website. She also unearthed this photo of her at the age of two that appeared in the Washington Post. What a cute shamrock on her dress.

In the article, she talks about the Irish lad that got away:

Somewhere in Australia there's an Irish lad called Rowan McCormick who broke Maureen Dowd's heart. When she went back in the early 1970s to visit her homestead in County Clare, hard by the majestic Cliffs of Moher, she met him and fell madly in love.


Sadly, like most summer romances, Dowd’s didn’t work out, and her beau departed for Australia. But when she was Down Under a few years back on a book tour she put out an all points bulletin and he came running.

Alas, he was married now and settled down. Dowd still sounds disappointed.
The Dowd patriarch nearly didn't make it to America from Ireland:
Michael from Clare was the son of a poor farmer in a poor country, the second child in the family named Michael after the first died. He was booked on the Titanic in 1914, but his mother cried all night and he couldn’t leave her.
Once in America, her dad became a cop that hung around a neighborhood bar (no Irish stereotypes at work there) where he found love:
The cop and the barkeep's daughter were both champion Irish step dancers. In 1934 they married; the age difference was 18 years. They raised five kids together – Maureen, the youngest, Michael, Martin, Kevin and Peggy.
From her mother's side, angry politics runs in Maureen's blood:
Her mother was an Irish rebel. In the 1970s Peggy Dowd led a demonstration at the British Embassy after Bloody Sunday when 14 were shot by British forces in Derry. To her eternal satisfaction the then British ambassador had to sneak in through the underground garage.
A tradition she carries on:
The old Irish rebel still lives on in the daughter. Mike Quill, the great union leader and 1920s IRA activist, is alleged to have told the immigration man letting him into America that, “if there’s a government here I’m against it.” Sometimes it seems Maureen feels that way too.
Ain't that the truth. So on this Saint Paddy's Day, raise a pint and toast "Maureen Go Bragh!"

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Danziger Does Michelle

This syndicated cartoon by Jeff Danziger is dated March 12 and appeared online and in the Washington Post yesterday:

It looks familiar. Where have I seen it before? Oh, yeah. On the March 8 post of this very blog:

Great minds think alike.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

All About Douthat

Maureen Dowd took the day off, but that doesn't mean there wasn't news coming from the Gray Lady's Op/Ed page. In a stunning and daring upheaval of the existing paradigm, the Times has replaced a conservative Harvard grad with, wait for it, a conservative Harvard grad. While hardly anyone will argue that anybody brighter than J. Fred Muggs would be an improvement over the lazy and tired scribblings of Kristol Meth, some vetting of Douthat needs to be done. Lets see how he matches up.

Bill KristolRoss Douthat
Harvard '73Harvard '02
The Weekly StandardThe Atlantic
The War Over Iraq: Saddam's Tyranny and America's Mission (with Lawrence F. Kaplan)Grand New Party: How Republicans Can Win the Working Class and Save the American Dream
"[Obama's] selection of Rahm Emanuel as chief of staff suggests that Obama’s not going to be mindlessly leftist.""Barack Obama won the 2008 Presidential election on an agenda that tilted him further leftward than most recent Democratic nominees on nearly every issue."
All I can say is that Bill Kristol had a rock-solid reputation about never getting anything right. And for the new blogger on the right, those are tough shoes to fill. Someone as young as Douthat is a blank slate still. At just barely over half of Maureen Dowd's age, this baby-faced newcomer could be around for a long time.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

The Right To Bare Arms

Should Michelle Cover Up?
Published: March 7, 2009

Maureen Dowd apologizes up front for stealing stablemate Thomas Friedman's schtick.

Journalists are never supposed to start a piece with a scene in a taxi because it signals either laziness about gathering facts or a tendency to embroider facts.

Nonetheless, I’m going to. David Brooks and I were sharing a cab to the British Embassy the other day to meet with Gordon Brown.
And that kicks off a special All-Crossword-Clue© edition of her column (many of the definitions today are courtesy of Merriam-Webster Online). She starts out with what could be a Movies With Maureen®, but since she was just on Broadway to catch Will Farrell's one-man skewering of W., it it probably more a tribute to the current Angela Lansbury/Rupert Everett stage production since it's unlikely that Gordon Brown was really blithe in the sense of "lacking due thought or consideration."
The dour prime minister was a blithe spirit despite a mutinous British press corps that was whingeing about the president snubbing the prime minister.
Whinge being Dowd's favorite form of "complaining fretfully"
The press also conjured paranoia that the president’s “Lady MacBeth” had been behind the clipped treatment because, as James Delingpole snipped in a Telegraph blog, “Her broad-brush view of history associates Brits with the wicked white global hegemony responsible for the slave trade.”
Since the villainess of The Scottish Play is in quotes, that means Maureen is referring to James Delingpole quoting an American talk show host.
I discovered that Obama's judgment is pretty dreadful - but this? My favourite theory so far - suggested by presenter Greg Garrison - was that it was a move calculated to please his Lady Macbeth.
Delingpole also let go the great word "hegemony" which infers a certain level of economic or cultural imperialism. But a different British columnist saw Michelle in a different light.
The British tabloids carped that, while Sarah Brown gave the Obama girls Top Shop dresses and necklaces, a “solipsistic” Michelle merely gave the Brown boys models of Marine One.
The person calling Michelle "egocentric or self-centered" is Sarah Vine of THE Times who had this to say:
Short of giving the boys Action Man models of her own husband smiting the evil forces of neoconservatism, Mrs Obama’s gesture could not have been more solipsistic or more inherently dismissive of Mrs Brown.
But Maureen doesn't blame Michelle for the paltriness of the parting gifts.
(Step it up, Desirée).
Maureen's rebuke on the chintziness of the Obamas is aimed at East Wing social secretary Desirée Rogers.

And Maureen's extensive (if occasionally faulty) Austen expertise allows her to trot out a literary allusion personifying Wall Street as "a silly flighty person."
As blue chips turn into penny stocks, Wall Street seems less like a symbol of America’s macho capitalism and more like that famous Jane Austen character Mrs. Bennet, a flibbertigibbet always anxious about getting richer and her “poor nerves.”
And what would think of Maureen's vocabulary if she didn't trot out her very favorite word for "concise to the point of seeming rude or mysterious."
Wall Street is weak and jittery, rejecting the vague and laconic courtship of Timothy Geithner.
But back to the taxi-cab and the real point of the column. She quotes David Brooks (who shows a surprising familiarity with body-building vernacular) as inferring that Michelle needs to be more decorous in her dress.
In the taxi, when I asked David Brooks about her amazing arms, he indicated it was time for her to cover up. “She’s made her point,” he said. “Now she should put away Thunder and Lightning.”
This allows Dowd to channel fellow Pulitzer Prize winner Robin Givhan and give some fashion reporting.
David was not smitten by the V-neck, sleeveless eggplant dress Michelle wore at her husband’s address to Congress — the one that caused one Republican congressman to whisper to another, “Babe.”
She continues to quote Brooks getting increasingly cattier.
He said the policy crowd here would consider the dress ostentatious. “Washington is sensually avoidant. The wonks here like brains. She should not be known for her physical presence, for one body part.” David brought up the Obamas’ obsession with their workouts. “Sometimes I think half the reason Obama ran for president is so Michelle would have a platform to show off her biceps.”
And Brooks is not the only one obsessed with shoulder skin.
I’d seen the plaint echoed elsewhere. “Someone should tell Michelle to mix up her wardrobe and cover up from time to time,” Sandra McElwaine wrote last week on The Daily Beast.
But Maureen comes to Michelle's rescue.
I love the designer-to-J. Crew glamour. Combined with her workaday visits to soup kitchens, inner-city schools and meetings with military families, Michelle’s flare is our depression’s answer to Ginger Rogers gliding around in feathers and lamé.
The Ginger Rogers call-out subtly evokes Ann Richards famous feminist quote.
After all, Ginger Rogers did everything that Fred Astaire did. She just did it backwards and in high heels.
But Maureen also has in mind an even more famous icon that rolled up her sleeves, get the job done, Rosie The Riviter whose Can Do attitude lead the US out of the Great Depression and to victory in World War II.
Her arms, and her complete confidence in her skin, are a reminder that Americans can do anything if they put their minds to it.
Maureen sees no dichotomy between brains and brawn.
Michelle has soared every day, expanding the job to show us what can be accomplished by a generous spirit, a confident nature and a well-disciplined body.

I also have no doubt she can talk cap-and-trade with ease and panache.
And with a certain "dash or flamboyance in style and action", she ends our Sunday vocabulary lesson on a high note.

Friday, March 6, 2009

James Bellows, RIP

Jim Bellows was an infamous newspaper editor that had worked in New York, LA, and DC. From his LA Times obituary:

Bellows was "a newspaperman with verve and bravery in equal measure, who always backed up his reporters, and who loved nothing better than to do a joyous rain dance in a hail of criticism," Dowd, the Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist who worked at the Star before landing at the New York Times, once wrote of her former boss.
May he find peace in the great newsroom beyond.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Maureen And The Bard

When we are born, we cry that we are come
To this great stage of fools
-King Lear IV:vi

Talk of court news; and we'll talk with them too,
Who loses and who wins; who's in, who's out;
And take upon 's the mystery of things,
As if we were God's spies: and we'll wear out,
In a walled prison, packs and sects of great ones,
That ebb and flow by the moon.
-King Lear V:iii
Stage of Fools
Published: March 3, 2009

Maureen Dowd sees John McCain, now retired from the campaign trail and re-ensconced in the Senate as the angry geezer yelling at kids to get off his lawn. Or as a dottering mad King Lear with flowers in his hair.
If only Shakespeare had known how to Twitter.

There was a bit of King Lear in the scene on the Senate floor, a stormy, solitary John McCain on “this great stage of fools,” as the Bard wrote, railing against both parties and the president in fiery speeches and rapid-fire tweets.

“He’s mad that trusts in the tameness of a wolf, a horse’s health, a boy’s love, or a whore’s oath,” the Fool told Lear.
The truly snarky would remark that when it comes to whore's oaths, Dowd should know, but we'll take the high road here, so continuing:
And he’s truly mad that trusts in the promise of a presidential candidate to quell earmarks.
She also ridicules his new-found familiarity with a new form of technological ranting.
The 72-year-old senator who seemed hopelessly 20th century when he confessed during the campaign that he didn’t know how to use a computer or send an e-mail has now mastered the latest technology fad, twittering up a twizzard to tweak his former rival.
I do like "twizzard" as an imaginary word in her four-fold Alliteration Alert™.

Maureen then pads half her column with the full list of McCain's top ten pork projects including things such as astronomy promotion, but he seems particularly incensed by anything having to do with agriculture, livestock or wildlife, singling out things that have to do with grapes, honey bees, pigs, crickets, catfish, and beavers (insert Beavis and Butthead snickering here). The top ten list seems to be a recurring feature of his and you can read his latest senile ramblings on the SenJohnMcCain Twitter page.

Maureen than goes on to catalog the earmarks of various Administration members' favorite items from when they sat on the Legislative end of Pennsylvania Avenue. That campaign warhorse, the Chicago planetarium, even gets trotted out again. McCain sure hates science.
And then there are the 16 earmarks worth $8.5 million that Emanuel put into the bill when he was a congressman, including money for streets in Chicago suburbs and a Chicago planetarium.
Which returns Dowd to her Shakespearean fury.
Blame it on the stars, Rahm, or on old business. But as Shakespeare wrote in “Lear”: “This is the excellent foppery of the world, that, when we are sick in fortune — often the surfeits of our own behavior — we make guilty of our own disasters, the sun, the moon, and the stars.”
But we could also go with a different quote just a few lines before the line about the titular stage of fools:
Get thee glass eyes;
And like a scurvy politician, seem
To see the things thou dost not.
And as for McCain, all I can say is:
I am a very foolish fond old man,
Fourscore and upward, not an hour more nor less;
And, to deal plainly,
I fear I am not in my perfect mind.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Mission Relinquished

Spock at the Bridge
Published: February 28, 2009

Dubya may be gone from the White House but not from the thoughts of Maureen Dowd. Today's column was spurred by news that Barack Obama had given his predecessor a courtesy call.

Mr. Obama called W. on Friday to give him a heads-up about the repudiation on Iraq.
Maureen wanted to be a fly on that wall.
Wow. What a phone call that must have been.
"That’s why I’m calling, actually. I’m ending your stupid war.”
And in addition to stupid, she has plenty of other adjectives to use.
But on Friday, the new president did exit from the inane and pernicious W. era of cartoon villains, simplistic linear thinking, and black-and-white cowboy bluster.
She even gives the new policy a snappy title
Mission Relinquished.
Which is of course a call-back to the much derided over-reaching carrier deck banner that the Bush White House has tried to Orwell out of existence.

And Maureen can't call-out Bush without employing her favorite belittling Rude Name® for him. She even adds a dollop of Alliteration Alert to it.
What can the disavowed dauphin possibly be thinking as Professor Obama strides up to the blackboard to erase everything W. stood for, while giving us crisp lectures about how we must get more educated, more equitable, more realistic, more responsible and more reasonable?
There are enough mores in that sentence to revive Andrea True's career. The Dubya as dauphin is caricature that Dowd has nursed since even before Dubya began wrecking the White House. Here is the first appearance from July of 2000.
W.'s campaign has always been less about vision than vindication. The dauphin must reclaim the throne because the Bushes must restore the halcyon days of the ruling-class court that thrived before that dissolute commoner Bill Clinton usurped it.
To this day, she continues to psychoanalyze all of Bush's actions as attempts to cover up his inadequacies.
W.’s strategy was inspired by his insecurity. He has acknowledged that he went to war based on body language, without a full-throated debate or analysis; there was just a vibe coming from the general direction of the Pentagon and the vice president’s office that it was a good thing to do. His only real goal was to prove he was tough.
She even uses a quote from Obama to put into perspective what a disaster Dubya has been.
But in the Lehrer interview, the president compared America to a big tanker that needed to “start moving in a better trajectory so that five years, 10 years down the road you can say, you know what, because of good decisions now our kids are safer, more secure, more prosperous, more unified than they were before.” This analogy turns W. into the Exxon Valdez.
Dowd sees Obama's boldness spilling into domestic policy as well as he and his larger than life chief of staff push their budget through the jungle of Congress.

The new commander in chief has the nerves of a riverboat gambler and, on the humongous budget and stimulus package, he and Rahmbo Emanuel are liberally applying the Rahm doctrine: Take advantage of a crisis to grab an opportunity.
But the hyper-violent action hero isn't the only Movies With Maureen® moment we get. She also compares Barack to a certain logic driven alien of mixed heritage.
Speaking of the Enterprise, Mr. Obama has a bit of Mr. Spock in him (and not just the funny ears). He has a Vulcan-like logic and detachment.
Frankly, that comparison has been done before. For example, our guest photoshopper carlosthesecond has done a yeoman's job on that mash-up used at the top of the post that I can't hope to touch with my own humble attempt at right.

But Maureen sees enough irony in the current situation to bring emotion to the most Stoic politician.
Any mere mortal who had to tell liberals that our obligations in Iraq and Afghanistan are far from over and tell Republicans that he has a $3.6 trillion budget would probably have tears running down his face.
I'd be laughing at Dowd's observation if it weren't so tragic. Full warp speed ahead.

Spock Obama image used by permission of the artist.