September 11, 2007

City Strobe

Money = free speech — unless it’s someone else’sU.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell — who probably could use a hug… Anybody? Anybody? — became the talk of the town again last week after Insight Communications killed a political TV ad critical of him, and then promptly decided to unkill it, after the requisite outrage over censorship ensued and, uh, nobody could prove the ad was inaccurate.Insight made its initial move in response to pressure from McConnell’s peeps and the National Republican Senatorial Committee, who claimed the ad was inaccurate (a political ad? No!). The Public Campaign Action Fund ad (“McConnell+mp3” at YouTube) claims Mitch helped lobbyist Hunter Bates wrangle $8.3 million in grants to fund his organization’s effort to distribute propaganda-bearing digital audio players to Afghan tribesmen, while voting against body armor for troops fighting in Iraq. Insight — which in 2004 ran the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth lie-ads that helped defeat John Kerry — yanked the ad after Republicans complained its claims were false.Before his Pashtun podcasting program, Hunter Bates was McConnell’s chief of staff, campaign manager, editorial ghostwriter and legal adviser on, um, yeah, campaign finance reform. He was also Mitch’s handpicked candidate for lieutenant governor — that is, before Bates discovered he didn’t live in Kentucky and therefore was ineligible. Bates has greased McConnell’s reelection campaign with $120,000. And, natch, Insight bigwigs Michael Wilner and Keith Hall, along with numerous other Insight executives, have donated to McConnell’s campaign war chest — to the tune of $17,000.After Insight’s lawyers reviewed the ad (and after Kentucky bloggers started writing about Insight executives’ close ties to McConnell and the fact that nobody could disprove the ad’s claims), the cable company decided to allow it after all. The Public Campaign Action Fund says the point of its ad is to shine a light on McConnell’s participation in the age-old American political lube system: lobbyist donates to politician; politician secures money for lobbyist’s organization. The story is especially tasty to McConnell’s detractors because he has long been that lube system’s go-to man in quashing campaign finance reform, under the guise of free speech. Well, as long as it’s not anti-McConnell free speech. —Jim WelpPetraeus gives rosy assessment; people call the bluffGen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. general in Iraq, told congressional committees Monday that President Bush should delay a withdrawal decision until March 2008, and that some 30,000 American troops could be out of Iraq by July, bringing troop levels to pre-“surge” territory.Petraeus’s report, quite possibly doctored by the White House, also said 2,000 Marines would return later this month, in the first instance of a unit not being replaced in the civil war-ravaged country. The report provides cover for Republicans intent on staying in the Iraq quagmire. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said, “There is clear evidence that some success is occurring.” However, he said, it’s still too early to withdraw American troops or even draw down troop levels significantly. He did add, however, that Petraeus’s report confirms that the “surge” is successful, and “as a result of that success we can begin to move in a different direction.” This is part of a larger shift in McConnell’s pro-war rhetoric, which has softened of late, as it becomes more apparent that the majority of Kentuckians are against the war and are looking to the senior senator for much-needed leadership on the issue.Meanwhile, Democrats and progressives scoffed at the rosy assessment of the devastated situation Bush’s failed war policy has left in Iraq. “I respect General Petraeus, and he is right that long-term progress can only be achieved through political reconciliation,” Rep. John Yarmuth, D-3, said in a statement. “Today, he confirmed that progress in that regard has been nominal to nonexistent.“Iraq has met just three of 18 benchmarks for success, the national police force operates as a uniformed Shiite militia, and with 254 American casualties, this has been the deadliest summer for our troops in the history of this conflict. … I must again conclude that the escalation of this war, which has cost thousands of American lives and hundreds of billions of dollars, has brought us no closer to attaining a lasting peace and true national security.” Meanwhile, new national polls confirm what most people who aren’t the mainstream media already know: The vast majority of Americans are ready for our troops to be out of Iraq. A New York Times/CBS poll released Monday found that 71 percent of Americans disapprove of Bush’s handling of the war.Perhaps more interesting, an ABC Poll from last week said that 53 percent of Americans believed Petraeus would paint a more positive picture of the ground situation in Iraq than what’s really happening. Hard to trust leaders who take their orders from the liars and crooks who’ve already been exposed in the White House, eh? And because these people are stillignoring the message, let’s add this: An ABC/BBC poll of Iraqis found that 74 percent of them still don’t feel safe after the “surge.” —Stephen GeorgeLocals attempt, fail to become cool
Last week was marred by several embarrassing botched attempts at coolness by local citizens. Despite the fact that electronic gadgets are nature’s way of making it easy to quickly identify nerds, area dorks descended on the new Apple Store, in Oxmoor Mall, in a failed attempt to become cool. The store, which sells iPhones, iPods and iMacs, offers the latest overpriced technological advancements in helping customers insulate themselves from any possible human contact (which is apparently why Apple products begin with the first person singular, in lowercase). Bystanders took solace in the fact that there were few actual sales.In other overpriced-retailer news, the Big Granola formed by the merger of Whole Foods and Wild Oats announced it would close the Wild Oats store in Shelbyville Road Plaza and begin gouging customers in earnest at its Whole Foods store a block away. Bypassing the excellent opportunity to rechristen the chain “Wild Whole,” the company will instead be known as “Just Like Kroger but More Expensive and with Twice the Seitan.”Worried that insufferable pretentiousness was stampeding east, downtown’s 21c cemented its reputation as the world’s most self-conscious hotel by hosting an $821-per-person pajama birthday party for itself. The party included a boob-art porn star, a contortionist, “historical hip-hop’s” “Black Mozart,” a sidewalk sex clinic and an “orgy,” in what critics deemed “only $821 more expensive than public-access cable.”With so many failing so badly to become cool, ya really gotta feel for Dixie Highway. Those cats aren’t even cool enough for Kohl’s. Despite Mayor Abramson’s personal plea for the Dockers-mongers to take over the former Dillard’s space in the Shively Shopping Center, Kohl’s politely declined, though its thought balloon cited the company’s inability to compete with Wal-Mart in the discounted-crap-you-probably-don’t-need market. —JWContact the writers at citystrobe@leoweekly.com