Politics are just a big game, nothing more. Until recently, it was mostly a two-player game, with both sides locked in a stalemate for the past 20 years or so. Dug into their respective trenches, the Democrats and Republicans took pot shots at one another, with neither side really ever gaining much ground. It’s been quite a cluster-fuck, but that was apparently only the beginning.
In the past year, the Tea Party has taken it up a notch to dumb the game down. The result is pure ridiculousness. There used to be some honor in the game, respect even (just a little), but no more. No longer akin to a chess match, politics have regressed into something much more childlike. Thumb wrestling would almost describe it, but it’s much more lazy. Besides, today’s politicians seem to prefer games of chance where they can gamble our futures away.
Perhaps a better game would be Ro-Sham-Bo. Of course, a three-way Ro-Sham-Bo means each side’s actions cancel out another’s, causing a null game. Politicians would like this since, essentially, no one wins or loses. Fun, huh? So, I guess the only question left is which party will pick rock, who wants paper, and who chooses scissors? Based on their actions to date, I think I have pretty good idea of how it will all go down.
The Tea Party is so bloodthirsty. They won’t be happy until everyone’s assholes are resting comfortably on the end of a bayonet. Unfortunately, bayonets are not an option in Ro-Sham-Bo; so, the Tea Party will have to go for the next best thing: scissors. While a seemingly obvious choice, it won’t be easy for the Tea Baggers to settle on scissors. There is going to be a lot of discussion about how the hand gesture for scissors looks a lot like a peace sign. To quell their fear of hippies, they’ll agree to attach blades to their scissor fingers.
Showing a clear disregard for the safety of others, they’ll run with their scissor-fingers and scream that the end is near. The Tea Baggers will cut out the already bleeding hearts of all liberal/commie/socialist/elitist devils across America. When not literally disheartening their enemies, the Tea Party will use their scissors to cut up the Constitution in order to protect its true meaning (at least as it’s defined by the Tea Party, or amended by Jesus).
Believe it or not, we will have to rely on the Republicans to save us from the scissor-fingered, brainless, Tea Party menace. The Republicans see themselves as immovable, resolute and solid, like a rock. They are also stubborn, burdensome, jagged, obtrusive and annoying, just like rocks. They stand in the way of progress and break the backs of those forced to haul them away. Rocks can also be used to build walls, and we all know Republicans love them some walls. From gated communities to border fences, America is going to be so “safe.” And if things get unsafe, Republicans will use their rocks to stone their enemies. It’s about to get biblical, bitches!
The Democrats will take about nine months to actually make their move, so they will be stuck with the only remaining option, paper. Despite the lack of choice, Democrats will debate the matter to exhaustion. In the end, the aerodynamically efficient hand gesture for paper will win them over to accepting the only choice they had in the first place.
They will write things on paper and read it out loud in the House and Senate chambers, and everyone will have to listen. They will write wonderful new laws, only to feed them to their fellow “paper” people, who will tack on so much crap that the paper they started out with ends up looking like an origami asshole. They will never stop patting themselves on the backs for covering those stone-headed Republicans with their lovely paper.
With all their enemies vanquished, the Democrats will prepare to “better” the world. They will use tons of paper, writing long-winded, inarticulate and often redundant laws that never seem to work out as originally intended. Eventually things will get so bad that Democrats will use pieces of card stock to slit their wrists, leaving the country in the hands of the Libertarians, Green Party and the American Freedom Party. I can’t even fathom what kind of game those three might play.
Word by Bocephus Chigger
Krist Novoselic discusses politics in the digital age
For as long as Nirvana was in existence, bass player Krist Novoselic served as the tall, somewhat goofy counterpoint to frontman Kurt Cobain’s charismatic, acerbic personality. Whether it was taking a bass to the face while performing at the VMAs or crafting impossibly hook-y bass lines to accompany Cobain’s rousing wails and anthemic rock song structures, Novoselic remained a strong constant throughout the tumultuous and all-too-brief history of arguably the most important rock band of the past three decades. With just three studio albums–the last of which, In Utero, was released in 1993–Nirvana’s music continues to be held in high regard among fellow musicians and fans. Meanwhile, numerous posthumous releases have given Nirvana legs beyond its years, expanding the band’s fan base to a younger generation.
“I’m so proud of it–that it’s so enduring,” Novoselic says of his involvement in Nirvana. “I mean, God bless Kurt Cobain. He was such a visionary. That’s why the music has endured.”
Since Cobain’s death in 1994, fellow Nirvana alum Dave Grohl went on to form another wildly successful band, The Foo Fighters, and more recently returned to the drums in rock supergroup Them Crooked Vultures. But Novoselic took a different route. Though he released one album with the group Sweet 75, and the short-lived Eyes Adrift (with Sublime’s Bud Gaugh and Meat Puppets’ Curt Kirkwood), Novoselic’s main focus has been politics. Though he’s teased at a couple of runs for office–lieutenant governor of Washington in 2004, which he later decided against; and last year as county clerk of his home Wahkiakum County, Wash., which was done to protest a Washington state election law–Novoselic’s main work has involved youth legislation and voter reform. The bass player turned poltico will make an appearance at Sacramento State Sept. 23, 2010 to discuss these matters as well as constitutional issues. He discusses this upcoming event as well as his thoughts on where politics are heading in the following interview.
In the write-up I read about your appearance at Sacramento State, it said that you’re going to discuss the effects of social networking on politics.
Yeah, it’s like, I got started into politics in 1995, and people were excited that this bass player/celebrity was being active and what kind of impact that would have on youth culture and youth participation. People would bemoan how come more young people don’t attend party meetings, and why are groups like…the Elks club closing and why are all the members in their 80s? Association must be dead. But it’s like, oh no. Association is exploding. It’s just finding new forms…
Association should be voluntary. People are compelled to associate with other people. I want to hang out with people who are interesting and compelling, bring something useful to the party. I don’t want to hang out with draining people; you know what I mean? [Laughs] That’s what association is about. You shouldn’t be forced to do anything.
I know you’re active in Washington. Do you follow California politics closely?
I’ve been following Proposition 14 [also known as the Top Two Primaries Act, which would create a single primary ballot], and I work with a national group called FairVote: The Center for Voting and Democracy. We put out a paper for fixes to Prop. 14. Two of the major fixes are allowing write-in candidates and moving the primary from June to September, so you can have a shorter campaign season, but you could also have more voices as part of the election, so instead of the top two being determined in June, they’d be determined in September.
Another thing we recommend is an associational component, this “prefers party” business… There’s going to be a trial in Washington State in November regarding the constitutionality as applied. The U.S. Supreme Court has upheld it as spatially constitutional, but now that it’s been used in Washington, the court wants to see any harm. I was going to touch on that.
You know how I was just talking about draining people, and who you associate with? You know Oscar the Grouch, you remember him from Sesame Street? He can say that he prefers your party from his garbage can, even if we have nothing to do with him–on a ballot! I see what the intention is behind the Prop. 14 and the “prefers party.” You want to open up the system, and I’m glad that those partisan primaries are gone in California. They’ve really outlived their usefulness as a practical political reform. I just can’t see how you have people associating online, it’s going to be a matter of time before Republicans or Democrats take full advantage of this Internet and social networking association, or someone’s going to beat them to it, and there’s going to be a new party or parties. A top-two voting system allows that… because it’s a majority voting system.
There should be an honest ballot, where if you’re a Democrat or a Republican or whoever, you were chosen by those people. I reject the idea of party bosses. That’s old-fashioned. I say let the major parties nominate hacks and losers, and the voters will know this, and they’ll vote for the person who best represents them. The point is, let the parties nominate, and let the voters choose.
When I was reading your blog for Seattle Weekly, I thought it was neat that you were talking about the smaller elections, and not just the sexy elections, like president or whatever. It seems to be that people don’t turn out for the smaller elections. How should we get people motivated not to just come out for the big votes, but the more localized and primary elections as well?
Nothing captures the imagination like a presidential election. A lot of times, there’s no reason to vote. With gerrymandering and redistricting, the districts are skewed. The insiders have settled the election for one party or another before anyone got a ballot. When I was starting in politics in the ‘90s, it was like, let’s get out the vote for this Democrat in Seattle who wins with like 70 or 80 percent of the vote. It’s just like, rah rah, hey, let’s get out the vote. You’re asking people to get involved with the vote, and they get a ballot, but the race is uncontested or uncompetitive. It’s redundant–even with the top two. My nephew is 20 years old; he got a primary ballot and he was like, “You mean I have to vote again?” There’s only two people on the ballot. That’s how it works! You’ve got to do it. These people are going to make decisions on your behalf.
What do you foresee happening in November? Do you see a big shift coming in Washington D.C.?
I don’t know. A lot of it seems to be horse race press. It’s easy to fall into just following the horse race, but there’s good information. Somebody in Washington analyzed who was voting in the primary, and there were way more Republicans than Democrats.
I don’t know what’s going to happen. What do people want? You can go back to the Republicans if you want. They haven’t shown anything. I remember back to 1994. What were the big keystone reforms when the Republicans were in power? I don’t know. I didn’t vote for any major party in the primary. Where I had choices of third party or independent, I always voted for them, because we have the top two in Washington, so I get a second choice. I can vote my conscience.
When Nirvana ended, was there anything in particular that made you want to get involved with political matters?
It was just really compelling. I’m really interested in it–reading about the issues. I’m really into election reform–ranked choice voting, proportional voting. There was a time when I thought I was going to run for office, but it didn’t really fit with what I want to do, which is more of a transpartisan, transformational politics. I’m going to try to reflect that in my speech on Sept. 23. Politics are about people, and I think people should come together. It all started even before Nirvana, with punk rock music…I was part of this group that rejected mainstream music and mainstream values in a lot of ways. We found each other and communicated and associated. We had the same needs. We wanted this punk rock music and this punk rock culture, and we had similar values. That’s what people do. You just find groups. Now with the Internet, it is way more decentralized. This was back before the Internet when you would get a Xeroxed fanzine in the mail, or you’d find another fanzine–Maximum Rock ‘n’ Roll or whatever–in a record store. There was no coincidence that there was that anarchy “A” symbol. Anarchy isn’t about smashing windows or protesting some global ministerial meeting; it’s actually about being organized and people coming together voluntarily and making independent structures outside of the corporate or governmental spheres. It’s an enduring idea. It’s up to the individual or groups of individuals to make it work for them.
Since you’ve been working in politics, how much change have you seen in the electorate or how politicians reach out to the public, and do you think people are more engaged in politics than they were 15 years ago?
I’m still assessing it. The tools are developing where campaigns have their Facebook page and a Twitter. The key to a campaign is to find a successful balance of holding a message together, but also not really keeping a lid on things, because on the Internet things are more decentralized and tend to grow more organically, so you can’t really have this top-down structure. People want to feel like they’re a part of something.
Changing gears a bit, you write about music a lot on your blog also, and you mentioned Sleigh Bells and M.I.A. You said of Sleigh Bells, “‘A/B Machines’ allows me to gauge our progression into the 21st century. We’re definitely in a new musical era.” What did you mean by that?
Well, it’s not about guitars and drum sets anymore. This is all digital technology. The way the music is produced is really noisy and abrasive, sonically, and your ears have to be attuned to that. You have to break through…years ago, even a lot of people today, wouldn’t be able to listen to it, because they’d think their stereo was broken. Yet, all the technology has gone into noise reduction and crystal clear recording. It’s a different sensibility. It’s a different world now. People see things differently, they hear things differently. It’s not 1955 or 1985 or 1995. It’s 2010, and things are different. That’s the nature of things–they change. We can imagine that politics are going to change, and how are we going to do it. Political change is happening, but it’s happening slowly, which is probably a good thing. A huge change could destabilize things, and with the economy perhaps it’s not a time for instability. Music’s in the digital era; we need a democracy that speaks to what is going on in the world, in the country, with the technology and people social networking.
Do you think Nirvana would have faired well in the current musical climate?
Oh, that’s impossible to answer. We’re still fairing well. We’re a huge band.
Are you working on any music projects now?
I think soon, I’ve got this collaboration coming out with a lepidopterist… Did I pronounce that right [laughs]?
I’m not sure…
A butterfly expert, a naturalist. He’s reading a poem on wildlife and the natural world, and I’m playing acoustic guitar, so that should be out soon. Produced by Jack Endino [producer of Nirvana’s Bleach]. Grunge!
You know what they say: Laughter is the best medicine. A divisive government, treacherous economy and two wars weigh heavily on the minds of most Americans as we approach another presidential election, hoping that no matter who’s elected, he’ll be able to turn things around. With the world seeming so dire, perhaps the only way to deal with it is to try to find the humor in it. But for some, the comedy of Lewis Black is probably a bitter pill. Author, playwright, actor and stand-up comedian–Black’s resume extends far past his appearances on The Daily Show and as host of Comedy Central’s The Root of All Evil. But more important than his accomplishments, Black is a keen observer of politics, and his sharp commentary takes shots at members of our government on both sides of the aisle. On his way to Purdue University, Black took time from his perpetual touring to answer a few of our questions.
I’m sure you’ve probably answered a lot of questions about this, but I saw that you went to perform for the troops in the Middle East at the end of last year. What was that like?
It seems silly to say, but it was sort of life changing.
I had not been exposed to the military. You realize that we’re insulated–we’re not only insulated from the war, but we’ve been insulated from our military. For all the lip service that’s paid by politicians, it doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of what these people do. And if they really paid the lip service, they’d be more careful in where and how they used people like this. They’re extraordinary individuals on many levels, and they [politicians]–from the bottom up–they don’t pay enough attention to them. They don’t provide them [the troops] with what they need. It’s just amazing.
Was it all what you’d expected it to be?
It wasn’t. It was stunning how much more in touch the military seemed to be with their men than the politicians in this country seem to be with the people they’re supposed to be governing.
In that light, does it upset you when you hear politicians telling Americans that they’re supposed to support the troops?
I don’t mind politicians saying, “Support the troops.” What I mind is when they act as if we don’t. It’s disgusting. You can’t use that anymore. You can’t say, because someone doesn’t want to have a war, that they don’t support the troops. You can’t say it. You may have been able to say it during the Vietnam era, but you can’t say it anymore. It doesn’t hold. It holds no water. It’s a myth. It’s a lie. You can’t say what McCain said about Obama. You can’t say it. That shit’s got to stop–some time in my lifetime–because it’s counterproductive, it’s stupid and it’s divisive.
I wanted to talk with you about the conventions. Did they sway you one way or the other, which way you are going to vote in November?
Yeah, it made me think about moving. It’s unbelievable. I really do feel that with the addition of Sarah Palin, it’s fiction. It’s like watching a movie.
What was your initial reaction to McCain picking Palin to be his running mate?
My initial reaction was what I’d always thought, which is anybody could be vice president. You can’t tell me that she’s the most popular governor. Really? Of Alaska, you fucking idiot–an alcoholic’s paradise. Please. To watch people who don’t know her talk about her–like Giuliani. They don’t know anything about her. Both sides spin their crap; it’s like, just be honest about stuff. You’ve got one group of people talking about the future, and the other group living in the past. What about now?
Something Giuliani said in an interview after his speech was that McCain’s choice of a running mate was looking toward the future, while Obama’s was looking to the past. I thought that was interesting comment in light of what you’re saying.
The whole thing is phenomenal. I have somewhat of an understanding of why he [McCain] made the choice he made. Him picking her is like watching Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, only she [Palin] is not quite as qualified as Jimmy Stewart.
To be fair, what did you think of Obama choosing Sen. Joe Biden?
It’s an interesting choice if you can get him to shut up. He talks too much. Obama had to pick somebody with experience. If someone’s going to die in office [laughs]–I mean, literally, you have to. I truly felt like if Obama wanted to just win, he had to pick Hillary [Clinton], no matter what the consequences. But the Democrats don’t want to win. They never want to win. They just don’t seem to want to. The logical choice is Hillary, whether you liked it or not, but if you wanted to win, as a ticket as a party. They don’t seem to want to govern.
What I find most appalling is their lack of response. What [Sen. Joe] Lieberman did was reprehensible on any level. So for the party that this schmuck represented, for this idiot to go speak for the other party, what are you saying to all of the people who voted for you? And what is the party saying by saying, “Oh well, what are you going to do? That’s Joe.” It’s not funny. It’s disgusting. I just find it odd that they don’t respond. Democrats don’t ever seem to know how to respond.
It’s nonsense what the Republicans are saying at this point, but the fact is, since the Democrats don’t have a proper response, it makes you go, “How intelligent are you?” Come up with something. Be direct.
What do you think the Democrats should do next if they somehow manage to lose this election?
I think they should rename the party. Come up with a new name, a new logo and go through a re-branding process. That’s all they can do. I mean, really, after eight years of this, if you can’t win the election, just disband.
Are you going to miss President Bush when he’s gone?
No. You can tell already. Look, it was nuts before, and now it’s even more crazy. As a comic, you can’t write the stuff that they’re doing. They’re writing it for you.
Has your job almost been too easy over the past eight years? Are you kind of looking forward to a challenge?
In a way, but it’s been hard to find the funny in it in a lot of ways. As funny as it is, it’s hard to treat it as if it is funny, because it’s really unbelievable.
How do you think history will judge this president [George W. Bush] now that his reign is almost over?
After they get over the laughter and the tears in just trying to record it, I think history will stand agape at what he did. He made a concerted effort to go back to 1956. If television was in black and white, I might have bought this, but it’s in color and it’s digital. It’s a mindset that should have never been in power.
Do you think that if he managed to succeed, that if he’d actually rolled the clock back to 1956 that we would have been better off?
Well, no. I would’ve been suicidal, having lived through it once, but it certainly would have made more sense. It would have made it seem more rational.