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October 28, 2006

Oh My God! They Killed the Donkey!

What I’d like to do this week is write about South Park, but those damn Democrats keep working their way under my gums.

For a long time I criticized the Blues for their 2006 campaign strategy of doing nothing and letting the Republicans beat themselves up. I’ve got to admit their strategy worked for a while. But after months of deaths in Iraq, bombs in North Korea, sex scandals in Washington and breathtaking incompetence in the White House, things have died down. The Blue Tsunami subsided and control of the House and Senate is a 50-50 proposition; more so the Senate than the House, but the Reds are still within reach of keeping control of each.

The problem is, 51% of either chamber ain’t good enough. The Bushites have done so much damage in the past three years that we need a veto-proof majority. Stasis is not improvement.

Given the wonderful performance of the Republican Party the past six years (at least), that should have been a no-brainer. It could have happened, if only the Democrats actually ran a campaign. Contrary to the Republican hype, the Blues are not the tax-and-spend party, but nobody believes it. Contrary to Republican whining, the Democrats actually have ideas to offer and alternatives to propose, and they’ve done a damn good job keeping ‘em to themselves.

Most important, Americans believe the Reds look and act stronger than the Blues, and these are times that require the resources of strength. From the way the Democratic Party crawled around during Campaign ’06, you can’t fault voters for this impression.

Here’s a clue for you political novices: the purpose of “negative” campaigning is not to get people to vote for your candidate. The purpose is to get people to not vote for the other guy. That’s all it takes, and the Democrats still haven’t figured this out. They left the Republicans lots of opportunities, and if you don’t believe they know how to take advantage of such opportunities, you haven’t been paying attention these past seven years.

The Democrats might manage to snatch out some sort of Pyrrhic victory and no doubt they’ll dance and sing at what little they get. I can appreciate that; I feel good every October 2nd when the Chicago Cubs are still playing baseball. But this year the Democrats had a shot at a real victory, their best shot since 1964. According to Newsweek, for crying out loud, the 51% of Americans would like to see George W. Bush impeached.

Let me repeat that: 51% of Americans would like to see George W. Bush impeached. And the Democrats are still fighting the Republicans for 51% of either chamber. This betrays a level of incompetence that was heretofore only seen within the Bush Administration. Are the Blues any better?

Oh, yeah, as for South Park. It seems lots of people in Australia and England are up in arms about the current episode that, briefly, shows Steve Erwin in hell. They complained it was in bad taste – well, duhhh, it’s South Park; if you don’t like bad taste switch over to ToonDisney – and insensitive to Erwin’s family and fans. Steve Erwin. The idiot who last year used his baby as alligator bait. That Steve Erwin.

Get a life.

Posted by Mike Gold at October 28, 2006 01:47 PM

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A word on negative campaigning:

Current election financing laws tend to make negative advertising more prevelant because "soft" money is virtually unregulated. So while candidate X may be constrained in how much he can spend on direct advertising for himself, the sky is the limit for "concerned citizens" who want you to know that candidate Y eats white Christian babies.

And as long as the first amendment remains mostly intact, don't expect this situation to change anytime soon. Of course, now that we've dispensed with both the fourth amendment and habeas corpus, I'm sure that pesky first amendment won't last long.

As for the impending mid-term elections, I think we can all happily anticipate close Republican victories in all races, regardless of how people actually vote. Remember: It's now who votes that counts, it's who counts the votes.

Posted by: Rick Oliver at October 28, 2006 05:52 PM

About the Steve Erwin bit on "South Park", are the Aussies and Brits upset because Erwin is shown as being in Hell? I'd think rap fans would be even more upset with the idea that Biggie Smalls (aka Notorious BIG) would not only be in Hell but be the fodder for a new take on the "Bloody Mary" UL. Or that the families of the victims of Gacy, Bundy and Dahmer would be upset over those three being turned into nothing more than a homicidal Three Stooges. Admittedly, I found the Biggie and Hell's Stooges to be incredibly funny (the scene of Butter successfully summoning Biggie was funny, but Butter's reaction to the choice of being killed or being grounded kept me laughing even through the commercial break; I'm even laughing as I type about it).
Actually, the Erwin bit is funniest simply because Satan actually thinks it's one of his "guests" dressed up AS Erwin and takes the guest to task for it being "too recent" until the guest says he IS Steve and then kicked out of the party for not being in costume. (I kind of think that Hell--at least in the "South Park" view--is occupied by everyone who's died, not merely the "evil" people.)
Of course, Mike, could you imagine the reaction (even, perhaps, yanking from the air) that would have followed had this been done within just a few months of Reagan's death?

Posted by: JosephW at October 29, 2006 02:37 PM

WRT Hell in South Park:

It's been established that the Mormons "were right" about Heaven, Hell, and God, and thus that only Mormons go to Heaven (barring the occasional need for a kid who plays video games well).

So, unless Erwin was a Mormon, he would indeed be in Hell on South Park.

RD Francis

Posted by: RDFozz [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 29, 2006 10:07 PM

It's Irwin, not Erwin. And I was a fan of his. I suppose it is fodder for irreverent humor, but I really don't get the joke. He's left behind a devastated widow and two small children. Ha ha, what a jerk!

Posted by: Marilyn at October 30, 2006 10:33 AM

Anybody who uses his or her own baby -- or, generally speaking, anybody else's -- as alligator bait is a jerk in my book.

As noted, bad taste is South Park's stock in trade and in their hands it's an artform. Check out Team America now that Kim Jong Il has the bomb; these boys are hardly stupid and they often use their humor to comment on our world and our society, much like Lenny Bruce did 40 years ago.

But I think our friend JosephW (above) got it exactly right: the joke was on Satan, not on Erwin. If you're offended by the concept of Erwin going to hell, well, damn, the dude used his own kid as alligator bait. I might not have read the Hell Users' Guide, but in a fair world that would seem to qualify for at least an outer circle.

Given your excellent movie website, Marilyn (http://ferdyonfilms.blogspot.com/) and the fact that you're a Chicagoan who hangs out at the theater named after him, I'd think you'd be more upset by South Park's inclusion of Gene Siskel (who I knew well as a Conan comics fan) in hell in what I regard as the funniest musical ever made: South Park Bigger, Longer and Uncut. That's certainly what pissed Roger Ebert off, and Roger should know better.

Posted by: Mike Gold at October 30, 2006 10:47 AM

I love South Park, and I loved the South Park movie. I just think the timing of this satire was cruel. His actions with his baby were thoughtless and dangerous, but given his upbringing, I could see that he wouldn't recognize the size of the risk he was taking. I also snorkel and have been in an African game park full of dangerous creatures with not much between me and them. Irwin courted danger, yes, but he also encouraged somewhat timid people like me to get out into nature and explore. He paid the price through a freak accident that could have happened to anyone.

Posted by: Marilyn at October 30, 2006 11:18 AM

By the way, Ebert changed his thumb in favor of South Park. He's now a fan.

Posted by: Marilyn at October 30, 2006 11:18 AM

No shit? Wow, I missed that one. Do you know where that one's archived? Damn cool.

Glad to see Roger's improving. Back when he started out on the Sun-Times he was corralled into one of those "visit the high school journalist wannabe" things and he critiqued my work, giving me invaluable advice. A decade later I returned the compliment by arranging an interview for him with Harvey Kurtzman. Roger didn't know who he was going to sell it to -- he hoped Esquire -- but he wanted to interview Kurtzman no matter what.

I was in the Sun-Times newsroom the day two of his magazine pieces were published: one in Esquire, one in Amazing Stories (or, possibly, Fantastic -- I think he sold one s-f story to each, both edited by Ted White). He was handing out copies... of the s-f story.

Posted by: Mike Gold at October 30, 2006 11:28 AM

It's not an all-out rave, but 2.5 stars is pretty good. http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/19990630/REVIEWS/906300301/1023

He also made his amends on the TV show. I have no idea if there is a video archive showing it, but I remember it very well.

Roger always answers my e-mails and is great fun at his Overlooked Film Festival. I hope he feels better soon.

Posted by: Marilyn at October 30, 2006 12:03 PM

Sometimes I like South Park, sometimes I don't. It seems to me they sometimes try to be even-handed in their scoffing, and that doesn't work for me. But I give them props for trying.

Which is more than one can say about the Dems. The only bright spot in this is that Dean seems to be proven right, that a 50-state strategy can work. It's great to see at least someone think outside the Beltway for a change

Posted by: Martha Thomases at October 30, 2006 12:39 PM

Bill Maher offers us the ultimate in Crocodile Steve, courtesy Webführer Hauman:


Posted by: Mike Gold at October 30, 2006 01:40 PM

Whether tragic events touch your family personally or are brought into your home via newspapers and television, you can help children cope with the anxiety that violence, death, and disasters can cause.

Listening and talking to children about their concerns can reassure them that they will be safe. Start by encouraging them to discuss how they have been affected by what is happening around them. Even young children may have specific questions about tragedies. Children react to stress at their own developmental level.

The Caring for Every Child's Mental Health Campaign offers these pointers for parents and other caregivers:

* Encourage children to ask questions. Listen to what they say. Provide comfort and assurance that address their specific fears. It's okay to admit you can't answer all of their questions.
* Talk on their level. Communicate with your children in a way they can understand. Don't get too technical or complicated.
* Find out what frightens them. Encourage your children to talk about fears they may have. They may worry that someone will harm them at school or that someone will try to hurt you.
* Focus on the positive. Reinforce the fact that most people are kind and caring. Remind your child of the heroic actions taken by ordinary people to help victims of tragedy.
* Pay attention. Your children's play and drawings may give you a glimpse into their questions or concerns. Ask them to tell you what is going on in the game or the picture. It's an opportunity to clarify any misconceptions, answer questions, and give reassurance.
* Develop a plan. Establish a family emergency plan for the future, such as a meeting place where everyone should gather if something unexpected happens in your family or neighborhood. It can help you and your children feel safer.

If you are concerned about your child's reaction to stress or trauma, call your physician or a community mental health center.

Posted by: John Atkins at October 30, 2006 06:48 PM

Unfortunately, George Bush is in the media way too much for me to keep up with these interventions.

Posted by: Marilyn at October 31, 2006 08:01 AM

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