Everything Means Less Than Zero:
(Updated below)
In Brett Easton Ellis's 1985 book Less Than Zero, after we've read about the narrator, Clay, snortin' coke 'til his brain bleeds, fuckin' meaninglessly left and right, watchin' his boyhood friend - now a male prostitute - gettin' fucked by a john, and simply allowing the entire world to decay, all of a sudden Clay walks into a bedroom where all the L.A. posers and rich boys have gathered around a nude, drugged-out 12-year old girl tied to a bed, and they're getting ready to run a train on her. Clay confronts Rip, in whose apartment the rape's about to occur. Haltingly, Clay says, "I don't think it's right."

Rip responds, "What's right? If you want something, you have the right to take it. If you want to do something, you have the right to do it."

Clay answers, "But you don't need anything. You have everything."

To which Rip says, "No, I don't."

Clay asks, "Oh, shit, Rip, what don't you have?"

"I don't have anything to lose," Rip says, before he heads into the bedroom to join in the rape. Clay walks out of the apartment. He doesn't call the cops, he doesn't rescue the girl, he doesn't even try to stop anyone. He just leaves. And in the pathetic realm in which the characters exist, it can be seen as some kind of mighty gesture of strength and character. If one wants to be blindly optimistic, it can be seen as a moment of change for Clay, a moment when he will become a different, better person. But, after Clay leaves, even if he's washed his hands of it, that little girl's stranded in a nightmare.

Today, Senators who voted for cloture are going to vote against the nomination of Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court. And when Lincoln Chafee, Maria Cantwell, Herbert Kohl, Blanche Lincoln, and Jay Rockefeller, as well as all the others run for re-election, they can say, "Look, I said 'No.'" But that "no" matters so little as the very issues they say caused them to vote that way - the power of the presidency, abortion rights, the right to privacy, the favoring of corporations - are turned against them time and again. Yeah, they voted against Alito, but there's a starving, beaten prisoner in Gitmo, a pregnant teenage girl in Nebraska, a coal mining family in West Virginia who are all gonna be the ones fucked because of such cowardly courage. And when they say they voted against Alito, someone's gonna be smart enough to say, "Hey, Maria, if it's such a big fuckin' deal, why didn't you join the filibuster?"

And if someone doesn't wreck Susan Collins, Arlen Specter, or any supposed pro-choice Republican after the first Supreme Court case that limits access to abortion, then DNC consultants need to have their Blackberries shoved up their asses.

So, no, right now the Rude Pundit's not gonna join in the whole "well, at least we tried, and, shit, you knew we were gonna fail, but, hey, maybe this means momentum towards some fuckin' thing down the road" warm and fuzzy fuckin' feelin' that some are wrappin' themselves in, with that wonderful tasty tang of "Told you so" on their tongues. 'Cause, you know, we had just had a bunch of future shit decided for us, and it ain't gonna be pretty.

Tonight at the State of the Union, which promises to be one of the more tedious and odious moments in recent history, President Bush will introduce his new justices, and how many in that chamber will stand up and applaud? Hey, maybe if Joe Lieberman remains seated, he can add that to his Democratic cred reel along with his empty vote. Nah. They'd all rather stand than take a stand.

(And if you really want your stomach to do the Charleston, remember the precedent that's been set: should someone put rat poison in Justice Stevens' creme brulee, Alito's views are now the bar at which a nominee can be approved.)

Update: The vote was 58 to 42. Enough to have sustained a filibuster even without Chafee if 16 Senators believed in more than empty gestures. And Olympia Snowe voted for Alito. There is no middle in the Republican Party. There is only Democratic capitulation masking as moderation.