Sunday, February 29, 2004

OSCAR III.So far the most majestic entrance is that of Maryann DeLeo, striding to the stage to accept the Doc Short award for Chernobyl Heart. I like her Mom, too, who took off her glasses for the camera. Errol Morris! "I'd like to thank the Academy for recognizing my films!" Tell them about the rabbit holes, Errol.

(I can't help it, I have to load The Chrysler again -- snide horror at Morris, weird speculation as to what the Beautiful People think of the Proles thinking of them, references to their college degrees -- ugh, no more shall I gaze.)

I like the tradition of presenters knocking the Academy President -- it's been going on so long since Robin Williams made Jack Valenti look like Margaret Dumont, now it seems fairly benign.

OSCAR II. Hey, something I saw (Master and Commander) won an award! I'm liking the Rings guy in the neo-Edwardian jacket who (as Art Director) paid lovely tribute to his childhood sweetheart and (as Makeup Guy) paid lovely tribute to the many many people who had to make, apply, and wear his prosthetics. In fact I like all the New Zealanders making good use of their stage time. Maybe I'll move to New Zealand someday. Nowabouts it seems good to consider options.

But here I am, acting like a culture-warring idiot. Must stop that.

I have to say it's weird to see Julia Roberts, who moves like a Dean of Men, paying tribute to Katherine Hepburn, who moved like grace itself. (Though the Barbara Walters anecdote was sweet.) The tribute films so far seem pretty perfunctory -- did they fire Chuck Workman? But no collection of Hepburn clips would look bad. This one made me want to see Rooster Cogburn, for Pete's sake. No -- for Kate's sake. She was a true priestess at the temple of art, God bless her.

OSCAR I. As of 10 pm, this is fun. Crystal loosened up quick. The Oscar Best Picture song schtick was at least as well-written as its previous editions. The Supporting winners are fine actors and acquitted themselves well. Every time they cut to Ken Watanabe, who has a natural "I kill you now" look, I break up. And they're right this minute giving an award to the sublime Blake Edwards, who is hamming beautifully.

I do peek in at The Kroener sometimes and think, how sad it must be to be a right-wing bloviator on Oscar night -- applauding a joke at Michael Moore's expense with no apparent awareness of the fact that Moore participated in the gag, which makes him rather a good sport (it's like hating on Bob Hope, honored here, and taking his self-deprecating humor as a point for Your Side). And freaking out that Messiah Mel is not present. Imagine politics being everything in your life! One almost feels sorry for them. Almost, but not quite.

Friday, February 27, 2004

MY NEW DREAM GIRL:


New York Times:
In a sudden reversal, Britain said Wednesday that it would not prosecute a 29-year-old government linguist who admitted leaking a top secret American request for assistance in bugging United Nations diplomats.

The request was made by the United States National Security Agency during the debate over the Iraq war a year ago, according to the linguist, Katharine Gun, and her lawyers...

Ms. Gun's arrest last March and her assertion that she had acted out of conscience to expose what she regarded as an attempt by the United States to undermine the debate at the United Nations, has attracted broad attention.
Ms. Gun "was prepared to admit that she had willfully violated Britain's Official Secrets Act" in order to get this scandalous behavior in front of the public.

I'm going to England soon. Hopefully I'll have time to ring up Ms. Gun and request a private debriefing.

SPEAKING POWER TO TRUTH. Here's a transcript of Rush Limbaugh talking to some kid about Clear Channel. The kid's pissed that CC has a virtual monopoly on airtime and that his own band has no chance with its stations because their DJs are told to play only approved playlists. Limbaugh says that when he was a DJ, he was told what to play, too.

At this point I halfway expected Rush to commiserate with the kid, but instead he explains that this is how things were, are, will be and, to coin a phrase, are supposed to be:
...it's not the radio stations that are giving you problems although it is a challenge for you, it's the music business at large...

I know you're 16 and you're bright. There's so many lessons here. Economics is one, specific business application is another. First thing I'd like to say, why does nobody complain about the number of Wal-Marts? I mean Kmart complains about it, but there aren't any government hearings...

Clear Channel owns a lot of radio stations, I can tell you they're not all music stations, they don't all play the same music... There's a little bit more autonomy at these Clear Channel stations than people understand. I happen to know this because my show airs on a number of them...
Then he talks about how, when he was a DJ, music companies treated stations "as a bunch of dirt sewers" and "the musicians themselves, their noses were straight up in the air and their heads were in the clouds and they wouldn't deign to walk into a radio station... Now all of a sudden, I'm listening to all these musicians complain about Clear Channel. Why, it's turned out that these musicians are being forced to admit publicly what they need."

I must be getting soft -- fancy even imagining that Limbaugh would ever side with the powerless against the powerful! The kid complains that he's locked out of a living by a virtual monopoly. A sympathetic soul might have told him about Vin Scelsa, about the remaining independent college stations, about satellite and internet stations, etc. Limbaugh instead tells him: isn't it great that now the power is on my side?

Thursday, February 26, 2004

COMPASSIONATE CONSERVATIVES, VERSION 2.0. It hadda happen: noted right-wing nut and let's-pretend Democrat Orson Scott Card, whose sad case was examined in this space last December, has weighed in on gay marriage, starting with the treacherous courts that approve it:
...every American who believes in democracy should be outraged that any court should take it upon itself to dictate such a social innovation without recourse to democratic process.... Anyone who opposes this edict will be branded a bigot... Which is the modern Jacobin equivalent of crying, "Off with their heads!"
(Signal difference, Orson: the Jacobins could actually get your head chopped off.)
Marriage Is Already Open to Everyone.

In the first place, no law in any state in the United States now or ever has forbidden homosexuals to marry. The law has never asked that a man prove his heterosexuality in order to marry a woman, or a woman hers in order to marry a man.
Thassa good one. Y'all ever hear the one about the faggot on the garbage truck?
The sex life of the people around me is none of my business; the homosexuality of some of my friends and associates has made no barrier between us, and as far as I know, my heterosexuality hasn't bothered them.
Card has gay friends? (Actually: Card has friends?) I wonder if any of them have read Card's "Hypocrites of Homosexuality":
Laws against homosexual behavior should remain on the books... to be used when necessary to send a clear message that those who flagrantly violate society's regulation of sexual behavior cannot be permitted to remain as acceptable, equal citizens within that society.
If they have read this, and they still want to be friends with Card, I have to ask them: are you busy during the Republican Convention? Because I think we can get you a photo op with the President.


THE END OF SOUTH PARK REPUBLICANISM. At first Glenn Reynolds, perhaps sensing that his regular-Southron-guy schtick needed a boost, backed Howard Stern versus Clear Channel, which had pulled his radio show.

Then, in response to the values finger-wagging of James Lileks, Reynolds got halfway back in line. While declining to disown the ribald Stern's content, Reynolds suddenly remembered that Stern wasn't "censored" after all -- he was fired. A good libertarian cover!

Maybe Lileks then called the Professor and had Gnat gibber to him until he cracked, because now Reynolds is apparently down with the official line: he implies that Stern promotes racism.

In this era of Jesus promo films and legislative fag-bashing, I predict you're going to see a lot of this sort of thing. Guys like Reynolds who like to insist they're more fun- and freedom-loving than those Puritanical liberals will start telling us how important it is to keep a clean mouth and a closed mind.

Prime candidate for early conversion: a guy who back in April was telling people to lighten up about Little Green Footballs -- whose Muslim-bashing he interpreted as "raw, unashamed criticism... of such sacred cows as 'religion' and 'culture'" for people who are "just plain sick and tired of bullshit." He praised LGF as "a cornerstone of neoconservative/South Park Republican thought." Now he's shilling for the FMA. It won't be long, I'm sure, till he starts telling us that Queer Eye for the Straight Guy is an Al Qaeda plot to sap our will.

When the Jesus freaks talk about a new Great Awakening, is this what they mean?


Wednesday, February 25, 2004

DAS CAPITAL, CONTINUED. I had a little extra time in D.C., so I went down to the Mall, mainly to see if the Constitution was still there. It is. But you can't go up the majestic front steps of the National Archives anymore; you have to skulk in by a ground-level side door. Sigh. On the plus side, I was able to query a knowledgeable guard about a few things. He was in many respects your typical Fed guard, working-class and no-nonsense, but very tall and supple, and he gestured with his whole arm toward the objects being described. He asked leading questions ("And at that time, George Washington was president of...?" "And what do you notice about Dickinson? Seven men in from the left") -- or should I say leaning questions, because he tilted over you when he asked them. If he didn't know an answer, he said, "Possibly, it might have been," and if you brought up an old wives' tale about the documents or the facility he took quiet but obvious pleasure in debunking it. I think as a kid he may have wanted to be either a dancer or a teacher, but always had too much sense to put his mama's son on a path to starvation.

He's right up there with the pudgy, deep-voiced, twinkle-eyed fellow with the cane at Westminster Abbey whom I observed patiently informing a mispronouncing tourist, "This is not the Stone of Scahn. This is the Stone of Scoon. Scahn is what you have with jam and butter for tea."


LIVE FROM OUR NATION'S CAPITAL. I'm down in the D.C. area for my semi-annual Von Hippel-Lindau examination at the National Institutes of Health. Don't worry, libertarians, this is a fair, one might even say laissez-faire, trade; the Feds get to study my rare genetic disorder toward the purpose of finding a cure for cancer, and I get treatment if things go wrong. Beside, fuck you, I like big government, and the NIH is big government at its best. The NIH does great work -- NIH-funded scientists just won another Nobel for chemistry -- while your big-pharma buddies were spending billions trying to get one boner pill to sell better than another.

I also like hanging around D.C., though I haven't had much time for it on this trip so far. The neighborhood near my hotel (Calvert and Wisconsin) seemed pretty luxe. When I got in around 9:30 pm, the few people on the street were either jogging or on their way to party at Marguerita-and-vanitas joints of the sort popular across American in the 1980s.

I usually wind up staying in one part of Georgetown or another. Everyone there seems extremely well-off. Yuppies in D.C. dress a little differently than they do back in New York. In New York business dress is a concession to necessity or an assertion of raw power. Here it seems more signficant in the clinical sense: clothes announce niche. There are dogged wonks and nerds in suits that are of excellent material but never hang right from their hunched shoulders; activists in courderoy pants and frayed oxfords; Republicans with flag pins; mysterious white-haired bulls giving off a faint aroma of power, their ties enigmatically ensigned. Women of this class actually dress more interestingly here than they do in Manhattan -- my favorite this time wore an impeccable powder-blue wool coat (!) with matching leather gloves -- and have a greater tendency toward opaque stockings.


Tuesday, February 24, 2004

CROCODILE TEAR WATCH. Now that the President has, as anyone with eyes to see anticipated, backed the FMA, let us see what the famous liberal Bush supporters are saying:

Roger L. Simon: "We Need a Third Party Candidate! But not that self-satisfied prig Ralph Nader... I feel at a loss. It's going to be a long 2004 for me." (Translation: Gotta make sure my gay friends see this post before I put the Bush/Cheney signs back on my lawn.)

Michael Totten: "Yesterday I took aim at Kalle Lasn, the editor of Adbusters magazine, for cheerleading the mayhem of World War IV. I’m not finished with him yet. His newest editorial is even worse than the last one...." (Translation: If I stay in my happy place, it will go away.)

Actually that last routine is the one currently favored by many in that crowd. Maybe they'll come out of their shells by the time you read this...

At least Sullivan finally got the picture -- for the time being, anyway.

UPDATE 2/25: Simon's lawn signs are already back up, and he's commending Bush for deploring Iran's mullahs. (Never mind his dagger poised at the Constitution -- he expressed disapproval of our enemies! Whotta man!) Totten made a quick negative comment, but his fellow "independents" are now setting him straight in comments, bringing up activist judges and AIDS and other reasoned counterarguments. They probably needn't worry, as Totten defers to someone who basically argues, oh, well, the thing will never pass so we better focus on stopping Kerry, who will invite Osama Bin Laden to pick off random Americans for the amusement of his best friend Jane Fonda.

Or some such shit. I can't even pay attention to these guys anymore. At least the people who are overtly cheering the FMA know what the fuck they're trying to accomplish.


ANIMAL FARMERS. The social scientists at the Washington Times, after praising the holy name of Reverend Moon and sacrificing to him a bottle of single malt, report that evil liberals make conservatives look evil by calling them conservatives. For example:
Throughout the election, news organizations used the term "conservative" to denote the radical, hard-line Islamic candidates supporting the absolute rule of the supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and "liberal" to denote the reformist candidates favoring a dilution of the ayatollah's power and a loosening of Islamic restrictions.
Even conservative dumbasses like Andrew Sullivan have some idea what "liberal" and "conservative" mean, particularly in the context of a nation like Iran, but the messhugineh messiah's acolytes stick by their willful misapprehension, and prescribe a punishment:
Mr. [David] Horowitz suggested that Republicans restore truth-in-labeling in politics by reflexively labeling their opponents "Left," "Far Left," and "Radical Left."
Talk about coming late to the party! Folks have been tarring the Democrats as Jacobins/Socialists/Pinkos/Leftists since the 18th Century. And to this day, rightwing operatives from the humblest Astroturf composer ("it's obvious where he stands -- very far left... he sure has an elitist attitude") to the most exalted Propaganda Minister ("When jobs move overseas, poor people there get work... You'd think that the Left, which is supposed to be for redistibuting wealth from those who have more to those who have less, would be pleased...") continue spreading the bullshit.

I understand there are some morons who wish to claim the work of George Orwell as conservative. Maybe these folks mistake 1984 for a how-to book.

Monday, February 23, 2004

DUDE! I get pretty harsh in these posts sometimes, but I surrender the palm to Mark R. Levin at NRO:
John Kerry and the other Democratic leaders are on the wrong side of history, as they were during the Reagan presidency. If they had won the day, and Reagan had failed, the Soviet Union would still exist, as would all the harm and suffering it unleashed, and American security would be far weaker as a result. And if they win this election thanks to a promise to undo the Reagan-Bush Doctrine, those cheering loudest will be the most evil-loving among us.
One imagines him punctuating this jeremiad with a gob of spit. "The most evil-loving among us"! I wonder if I qualify. This week I shall have to poll my friends and compare our levels of evil-love.

You know what's even funnier? This is only Feburary. By summer, Levin will be communicating soley by symbols of the sort used in comic strips to denote obscene and angry speech (snakes, spirals etc). By September his columns will all be non-verbal wav files. And by Election Day, when we open his pages, there will be no writing or sound, but we will receive a mild electric shock.


EAGLE SHIT. Ah, those glory days when Andrew Sullivan licked Ahnuld's asshole because he was an "eagle" who would "[fuse] low-tax conservatism with social tolerance." But now Schwarzenegger has shown his true colors regarding gay marriage:
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger waded deeper into the debate over same-sex marriages, directing the state attorney general to take immediate legal steps to stop San Francisco from granting marriage licenses to gay couples.

Schwarzenegger told a cheering crowd at the state GOP convention that "in San Francisco, the courts are dropping the ball."
And what is Sullivan's response? Boy, that Kerry is soft on terror and hey, maybe we should raise a war tax.

I must reiterate: Sullivan's so full of shit, I don't even believe he's gay.


Sunday, February 22, 2004

SHORTER WILLIAM F. BUCKLEY. The Iraqis had better be careful with their new Democracy. The 20th century lunacy of one-man one-vote can lead to nightmarish consequences, such as Hitler and Howard Dean.

Saturday, February 21, 2004

A NATION OF STONECUTTERS. If you're worried that America's low-employment, high-efficiency recovery will leave a lot of citizens out to dry, relax, says Virginia Postrel. You can make stone counter tops -- a lot of people are getting into that, the editor of that industry's trade publication tells her ("the magazine added 2,000 fabricators to its 20,000 subscribers"). And, Postrel adds, "Equipping a fabricating business can cost less than $30,000."

Surely your unemployed friends have 30 large they can sink into stone counter top businesses -- and if that market turns out to be so flooded with budding entrepreneurs (or desperate former wage-earners) that there are not enough yuppie households to support them all, and their businesses fail, well, they can always do nails.

Our incompetent government thinks there are only about 30,000 manicurists in America, but a pair of trade journals shows Postrel that there are tons more, as their subscribers total over 120,000. As we all know, the more workers there are in any given field, the more jobs there are for late entrants.

Of course, Postrel provides these large numbers to show that there are employment opportunities beyond the humdrum ones many family men and women rely upon to pay the bills. When these jobs evaporate -- and Postrel flatly states that "those workers will not be recalled as the economy improves" -- their former holders will have to realize that "value can come as much from intangible pleasures as it can from tangible goods." Of course, when they come to repossess your car, you may feel differently about it.

But try to remain Dynamistic! Prosperity is just around the corner/There's a rainbow in the sky/So let's serve another double latte/and take home a smaller piece of pie.

(P.S. These sentiments are published in the New York Times, and echoed at the Washington Post, just in case you wondered where the Liberal Media stands on the subject.)

Friday, February 20, 2004

SHORTER DANIEL HENNINGER: If you say bad things about the President, or even listen to them, the boogie man will come and blow you up with a nuclear bomb.
IN THE MIDDLE OF THE ROAD YOU SEE THE DARNEDEST THINGS. Crunchy Conservatives, South Park Republicans -- these kids today and their ephemeral political fads! Now at Tech Central Catspaw we have Nick Schulz filing a trademark on "Ambivalent Conservatives."

This is a single-issue craze, having to do with gay marriage. According to Schulz:
A curious thing happens when talking to younger conservatives about gay marriage. While many of them think same-sex marriage is in some ways an incoherent notion, I haven't come across any who think that gay marriage will not at some point be permitted. What's more, many of them are not particularly distraught at the prospect.
Isn't that nice? They're not like their Bible-thumping elders at all. They just find you and your same-sex partner's loving commitment to one another "incoherent." And they don't doubt that you will be able to marry "at some point" -- hopefully after they've risen to a high enough position at the American Enterprise Institute or in the GOP that they don't have to keep writing fence-straddling bilge like this about it for fear of being outed as a namby-pamby.

Schulz goes on to clarify his ambivalence:
...[AmbiCons] call themselves conservatives; but they are more comfortable saying that, while they certainly aren't exactly what you would call for gay marriage, they don't have much stomach to be against it, either... Jonah Goldberg of National Review captured some of this ambivalence when he recently wrote, "Whether you're for it or against it, many of us just don't want to hear about it anymore"...
Maybe it was the magic name Goldberg that knocked the scales from my eyes, but when I read this bit I suddenly saw what Schulz and his wholly lily-livered gang was up to.

As the anti-gay shock troops have been saying, gay marriage is now, will-you nill-you, a pressing issue. The weddings are happening, the courts are working, and it seems the FMA is coming, too. If you offer opinions for a living, or even as an avocation, on this one it's time to put up or shut up. (And let me state here for the record that I support gay marriage, gay polyamory and polygamy, straight polyamory and polygamy, and "mixed doubles." On straight marriage, however, I remain ambivalent.)

It's evidently easy to get young, ambitious conservatives to endorse the bombing of Iraq on the flimsiest of pretexts, but it is hard to get them to mount up with the queer-crushin' brigades, at least in public. That's because these milky lads, susceptible as they are to pressure from the big boys at the think tanks and party conferences and internet "journals of opinion," are also prey to peer pressure. "Lots of younger conservatives think of themselves as tolerant, freedom-loving and possessing metropolitan sensibilities," says Schulz -- and of course they do, because this is how any modern young person wishes to think of himself, and be thought of.

That's why the Bush Youth have been pushing South Park Republicanism -- it accentuates the "kick ass" part of the rightwing thing (Bomb shit! Make mad scrilla! Be P.InC.!) while playing down the less-popular Biblical strictures. Gay-bashing, even for one's boss, is just not rad.

Is it any wonder that these striplings, who are used to having it all -- conservativism and cred with their peeps -- balk at having to don, even momentarily, the white hood? What will Joe AmbiCon's gay friends say? Worse, what will his girlfriend say the next time he tries to fuck her in the ass?

AmbiConservatism is, alas, the best they can do. And a sorry spectacle it is. They do not acknowledge, even glancingly, the plight of gay citizens facing a wave of bigotry, asking instead: what about our needs? AmbiCons are made "uneasy"; they are left "scrambling for a political position they can articulate and be comfortable with." Sound like hell, doesn't it?

Actually, it sounds like gutless accomodationism by a bunch of punks who reflexively put party over principle, because the former is everything to them, and the latter nothing. They make Andrew Sullivan look like John Brown at Harper's Ferry.

If there's any doubt of this, it is dispelled when Schulz endorses Jonathan Rauch's gay-marriage Missouri Compromise -- a new version of the FMA with slightly more wiggle-room than the current one. There's no hope of passing it, of course, but like a new fashion speedily adopted, it may temporarily alleviate feelings of worthlessness.

Unjustly in this case.




DERBYSHIRE ON LOVE. Sweet but creepy, like a romantic ballad sung by Vlad the Impaler.

I wonder how he restrained himself from ending, "All the above does not apply to homosexuals"? NRO must have hired some better editors.

Thursday, February 19, 2004

JUST A TASTE FOR NOW. There's a lot to deconstruct in the latest batshit burble from the Crazy Jesus Lady, and I'm sure others are hard on the case, but for now I just want to point this one lovely orgasmlet from her paen to George W.:
George W. Bush didn't grow up at Greenwich Country Day with a car and a driver dropping him off, as his father had. Until he went off to boarding school, he thought he was like everyone else.
Yeah, that's what made ol' W the Man of the People he is today: those crucial, formative pre-boarding-school years.

THIN AS A FLOPHOUSE BLANKET. It's time someone said it: The closer we get to the election, the more obvious it becomes that Professor Reynolds is a straight-up Republican operative.

Not that he doesn't try, however feebly, to cover. Witness his behavior when employing the latest GOP memes, which he always has factory-fresh on his shelves. Note how he uses the "People keep sending me this" dodge before going into a long, luxuriant description of the tainted and irrelevant Cong-quoted-Kerry dirtbomb. And after yet another lame attempt to drag the mouldering corpse of the Kerry intern story out into the spotlight, observe that he hastily changes the subject -- to "Bush-hatred." ("And speaking of such things, I highly recommend this article by University of Texas law professor Doug Laycock...")

Yes, there's always somebody else onto whom the Prof can deflect attention and responsibility -- like this Rush-in-training who told the Professor, John Kerry and the Viet Cong made a baby and I saw the baby and the baby looked at me! (to which the Professor replied, "Looked at you, eh?" and posted the tawdry tale). But the cover is increasingly flimsy. No one could read a full page of Reynolds and fail to get where he's coming from.

Yet he keeps pretending. Even now, on the very same page at which you can see all the aforementioned disinfo (and the usual Bush-War encomiums), the Professor claims he doesn't understand why people call him a conservative.

On the odd chance that one of the Professor's handlers reads this (hey, it's not impossible -- maybe an ambitious young turk is scanning the most out-of-the-way sources for fresh angles, to get in good with his boss), I have to say: I understand "deep cover," but I don't get shallow cover -- and in this case, Reynolds' cover is as thin as a flophouse blanket. Why are you guys even pretending?

Seriously, this whole kitbag of tactics -- the eventheliberal tactic, the as-a-lifelong-Democrat ruse, and the "Sigh, some Democrat come and save me" (or Lieberman) maneuver -- is absolutely played. It fools no one. Why not bring Reynolds in from the cold? You can spend the saved resources on something really important, like programming veterans to testify that Kerry came to the Hanoi Hilton to torture them in 1971.

Wednesday, February 18, 2004

LISTEN TO THE WARM. "I'm quite a synesthetist myself, experiencing sound in visual terms. (Based on my experience, this is true of most sound engineers, and many musicians). The sound of falling rain 'looks' like polkadots. A kick drum hit looks kind of like an overstuffed pillow, with the shape and size varying according to tone. Electric guitars look like multicolored spaghetti.... I suspect that this is actually useful, allowing more brain processing power to go to work on a problem." -- Instapundit, who fails to add that he's a wow at parties and great in the sack, and looks good in his Johnny Carson Collection threads, but sounds like he'll get to it at any moment.

Multicolored spaghetti?

LYING LESSONS. While neither as skilled nor as noble as the great rhetoricians of old, our present-day political columnists (or Party operatives DBA political columnists) can still teach us much. In fact, the pathetic simplicity and transparency of their tactics makes it easier for us to see how the gears move in their attempted word-bombs, and so we may regard them as medical students regard cadavers: noxious, even nauseating, but capable of giving instruction.

One such stiff is Brendan Miniter. In a recent column he compared Bush with Lincoln -- favorably, yet. Right off the bat, that's a neat trick: an encomium so outrageously inapposite, bordering on sacrilege against both Lincoln and common sense, that by the time dissenters have recuperated from their shock, the piece is over.

But there is one specific passage here that could furnish a textbook:
Fighting terrorism, however, is increasingly dividing this country -- and not always along party lines. There are two distinctive camps developing. One comprised of Americans who don't think the war is something that should touch their everyday lives. And another that sees combating terrorism as a fundamental struggle not just between good and evil but also over the soul of this nation--a struggle over who we are, as a people, and what we will tolerate on the world stage.
First, let's consider the "not always along party lines." From the evidence of all his previous columns, Miniter's purpose has ever been to give Republicans a leg up over the Democrats by establishing the former as serious, and the latter as frivolous, about the war. But now that he is speaking of Lincoln and therefore of history, Miniter seems aware that he must pad the glove a little better. By stating up front that the comparison he is about to make is not strictly partisan, he creates the illusion that he is delineating eternal tendencies of humankind, as might Shakespeare or Moliere, instead of GOP talking points.

The comparison turns out to be basic conservative sputum: opponents are cowards and shirkers ("don't think the war is something that should touch their everyday lives"), we are patriots ("fundamental struggle... good and evil... soul of this nation... who we are, as a people, blah blah blah"). Still, there is a chance a few inattentive readers may be fooled into thinking they have been conducted into an examining room rather than an abbatoir.

Then there's Kaus, who spent days trying to stick a bimbo to John Kerry, and now talks about "Kerry thugs" -- operatives of the Democratic front-runner whom Kaus compares to ancient Indian assassins because they have promised to run hard against the opposition (rather than spend their time promoting fictitious sex scandals, as real patriots do).

And there's the New York Post, which might be said to have reached a new low with this bit, were its crapulence so obviously without nether limits:
Kerry's flip-flopping on the Iraq war is "consistent" with what he has done throughout most of his career: Flip -- then flop.

Of course, he did that with the Vietnam War: Months of admirable service; then, back in the United States, years of leading activists in protest against the war.
The Post hacks clearly love the term flip-flop, and use it several times a day, seeming to believe it has talismanic powers over the hearts and minds of their readers, but I must confess that even I never dreamed they would try to attach it to a man's military service: He disagreed with his country, yet served with distinction in its military! How inconsistent is that!

But, as Tammi Terrell sang, ain't no valley low enough...

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

SELF-PROMOTION. After a long hiatus I've put some new fiction up at my portfolio site. If you have any suggestions as to what magazines might be interested in this sort of stuff (the New Yorker has been strangely unresponsive) you might let me know.

THE PEOPLE HAVE SPOKEN. The folks at Wampum have announced the 2003 Koufax Awards for lefty blogging. No doubt they would prefer that you read their whole announcement (and why shouldn't they? They worked ferociously hard and diligently on these Awards), but in the interests of exposing this worthy enterprise to a wider audience, here's a short summary:

Best Blog: Atrios.

Best Writing: Billmon.

Best Post: Billmon, "What a Tangled Web We Weave."

Best Series: David Neiwert for Rush, Newspeak, and Fascism."

Best Single Issue Blog: TalkLeft.

Best Group Blog: Daily Kos.

Most Humorous Blog: Tbogg.

Most Humorous Post: Atrios, "Preznit Giv Me Turkee."

Most Deserving of Wider Recognition: South Knox Bubba.

Best New Blog: Kicking Ass and Whiskey Bar (billmon).

Best Expert Blog: Informed Consent.

Best Commentor: zizka.

Best Non-Liberal Blog (the "Drysdale"): Tacitus.

Best Design: Daily Kos.

Best Special Effects: Uggabugga.

As Koufax followers will know, alicublog was a finalist in every single category (with multiple citations in several, including Best Blog, in which voters could choose between alicublog with fart jokes and alicublog without fart jokes), and heavily favored by London bookmaker William Hill to sweep until my announcement on January 31 at the plaza of the Fox News Building (with amplifications at the Lakeside Lounge, the corner of East 7th Street and Avenue B, and the 9th Precinct Stationhouse) that I would decline all victories unless I were preemptively laurelled in the Special Effects category for my creative use of animated smiley faces and my blinking BUSH SUX banner. But I trust this will not taint the achievements of today's worthy victors.

JESUS HATES YOU. This morning's The Corner is the usual smorgasbord of psychopathology, with lots of expected outrage at civilly-disobedient gay marriages ("Can't someone do a citizen's arrest of these law-breaking registrars in San Francisco?" cries John Derbyshire, smartly clapping his hands in front of his chest as if to summon a constable chop-chop. "Where on earth are the state authorities? Where is the Governor?" Many thanks to the always hilarious Derb for starting my workday with an image of Rainier Wolfcastle striding through the Castro, torso oiled and an automatic weapon in each hand, marvelling, "I musd kill dem... und yet... dey all look chust like me!")

But the quote of the day is from Tim Graham, one of the many holy rollers who now help maintain The Corner's standards of excrescence:
And could we have an ABC special without absurd 'Jesus scholars' like John Dominic Crossan, touting their theories that Jesus was just a social revolutionary, a misunderstood hippie before it was popular?
It is so rare these days to hear a Fundamentalist even allude to the idea that the Carpenter was more like a hippie than he was like, say, Tim Graham.

And it sent me back to those dear, dead days of the early Seventies, when it seemed the Jesus freaks were all hippies, too -- the days of Jesus Christ, Superstar and Life magazine spreads of busty, braless hippie chicks gettin' full-immersion baptised (woo hoo) and "eleven long-haired Friends a' Jesus/In a chartreuse microbus."

Back then I was just getting debriefed from an extremely strict, commie-hatin', working-class Bridgeport Catholic grammar school. No one was teaching us St. Patrick's lads "liberation theology," I can tell you that much. Yet I instantly recognized the connection between the longhaired Jesus minstrels and the Jesus we had been taught about, because as hardcore as the nuns were, even they had to admit that Christ's new law was about love, distasteful as they found it, and forgiveness, impossible as they found that. The hippies were just wearing their gospels on their sleeves.

In later years I met a few certified Jesus Freaks and found them very pleasant company, if you stayed off the topic of religion (which, believe it or not, they could, though they ended each encounter by praying that one day I would "come to Jesus"). For years I thought followers of the Man from Galilee were perfectly OK.

Well, we all know what happened after that. American Christianity became a witch-huntin'. homo-hatin', muscle-flexin' affair. The nuns of St. Pat's, apparently, hadn't been hardcore enough; they'd been unable to make that final leap of faith, and present to us a different Jesus that did not love, that did not forgive. What was needed in this new, crucial age was not a Jesus who would lead us down to the riverside for veggie casseroles and wet t-shirt baptisms, but a Jesus that would lead us into battle, and that namby-pamby "Prince of Peace" character just wasn't going to make it.

Rev Falwell and the boys took care of business, and gave us the current, punitive, ass-kicking, tough-guy Jesus, covered with NASCAR decals and Republican endorsements, that Tim Graham and the rest of his buddies can worship. Judging by their behavior, this Jesus don't want no one-another-lovin' -- that's fag stuff! No, the new Jesus wants 'em to get up and spread venom (and sometimes amicus briefs) against those who have not gotten with the heavenly program.

People who talk about how the true meaning of Islam has been "hijacked" by belligerent radicals might want to turn their attention to the motes in their own eyes.


Monday, February 16, 2004

WHAT'S ON YOUR BLACKLIST? David Horowitz has created a searchable database of enemies of freedom (i.e., anyone to the left of David Horowitz). Referrers are numerous, but I saw it at Eschaton first.

And I'm not on it! My first reaction was, Christ on a crutch, what's a fella gotta do... (Though I'm not the only, nor the most qualified, party to feel this way.)

But I see that the Democratic Party fares only slightly better -- only its Colorado chapter has had its name named thus far. I'm guessing they got pride of place because they stand in the way of Horowitz' efforts to push an "Academic Bill of Rights" (involving government oversight of the content of college classes) through that state's legislature.

Part of the fun of the database is punching in random terms -- like "music," which yields an organization run by Zach de la Rocha's mom, and one "Association De Musicos Latinoamericanos" (I think they mean the Asociación de Músicos Latino Americanos, though what sinister purpose Horowitz sees in their activities I can't guess, unless he suspects them of trying to Mexiforniate Philadelphia).

"Blogs" yields zero hits. I guess we're all irrelevant, after all. Well, there's always the other lively arts. Bringing theatre to small-town America is always good for a spot on the watchlist. You might do a Living Newspaper or something.

You know, this kind of stuff is always funny at first...

UPDATE. The original site is down/password-protected/something, but Atrios came up with a mirror site.

HERE'S YOUR PITH HELMET, GENERAL. General Ralph "The World is a Stereotype" Peters talks today in the New York Post about the mysterious heathen Tartar Caucasian known to you civilians as the Russian Bear:
THE Russian soldier's greatest virtue has always been stubbornness. Time and again, Russia's military was defeated, fair and square -- by Charles XII's Swedes, Napoleon's polyglot legions and Hitler's armored barbarians. But the Russians wouldn't surrender...

Today, the Russians are being stubborn again, frustrating Europe's expectations and our own fond wishes. The new czar in the Kremlin is determined to have his country forge its own way. Our well-intentioned concerns don't move him a millimeter as he redesigns the one-party state for the 21st century.

Adding to our frustration, the people of Russia support him overwhelmingly.

They're being stubborn again.

Vladimir Putin's Russia presents those of us who revere democracy with a series of dilemmas. It's the worrisome member of the family of "Western" nations, charming one day, crazy the next -- and prone to nasty behavior... What do we make of a country that drinks itself to death, yet idolizes a national leader who refuses to raise a shot-glass to his lips?
And so on, in the manner of Commander McBragg talking about his battles with the fuzzie-wuzzies. These Caucasus Tartar Mongol hordes are shown as savages that easily submit to the yoke of Putinism, yet one is invited to admire, after a fashion, their bovine stubbornness.

The General has an easy answer for everything, and everywhere. Of course, the prescription varies from region to region. While in the Middle East, he advises that we show the damn wogs a bit of cold steel in the belly -- "Exemplary punishment may be out of fashion, but it's one of the most enduringly effective tools of statecraft. Where you cannot be loved, be feared" -- toward the Eurasian Cossack Tartar he advises a less forthright approach, though the regime is unspeakably corrupt and noxious to "those of us who revere democracy," and "Russia has done far more than its share to make terrorism worse."

"So how do we justify cooperating with Russia... Morally, we can't justify it. Yet, we cooperate. Because we must. In the real world, that's just how things work sometimes. You go with the less-bad alternative and grit your teeth."

Besides, says Peters, now looking a little less like the Scourge of the Satraps than previously, "An angel won't replace Putin in the Kremlin. But Putin isn't entirely a devil. The glass is dirty, but it's nearly three-quarters full."

Why does Peters take such a -- dare we say, moderate POV on the Russkies, but not on the Arabs? Could it be that the Russians would not be so easy to bomb into submission, or its eleven-time-zone mass so easy to occupy?

Or could some of it be that the General just has warmer feelings toward one set of stereotypes than for another?


Sunday, February 15, 2004

THE TUNE ITSELF. The Mighty Mighty Reason Man, understandably unwilling to focus on politics every minute of the day, uncorks a long lament on the parlous state of popular music. Sample bit:
There is very little new music that doesn't sound like utter shit to me, and I actually caught myself referring to some Nu Metal song as "just noise" the other day. Just noise?!? Dear God, soon I'll be denouncing Elvis's lurid pelvic gyrations.
Understandable reaction. There is nothing new under the sun, the preacher sayeth, and when you reach a certain age new things aren't going to sound as good to you anymore.

So is there any objective basis for MMRM's verdict that "overall, the kids don't know what the hell they're doing these days"? Well, as I tell my Saturday reading comprehension class, if you can't prove a fact it's just an opinion, and there is no reliable metric for the suck/doesn't suck factor.

I would venture to say, though, that how we think about pop music has some influence on what we get, and so read with an interest an article in last week's Entertainment Weekly (Feb 13) about how the Beatles were now some kind of "alternative" band, respected and in some respects imitated by the smart, popular kids. Tom Sinclair quotes Mark Hoppus of blink-182: "Of course the Beatles are still relevant. They changed the landscape of music forever. They are geniuses and heroes and will always remain relevant."

The other opinion-leader quotes are as laudatory, but no less dull and unthoughtful, and focus either on the total like awesomeness of the band or on that highly prized quality, innovation: "...sitars, symphonies, feedback, echo, multitrack," says a music professor at Trinity College, "They were like Orville and Wilbur Wright, even though people are now flying fancier airplanes." Another guy says he likes "Tomorrow Never Knows" because "that's like, the first electronic song." Q-Tip says the Beatles' tendency to "lay the music down, manipulate it, fuck with it, try to push it... is the hip-hop aesthetic."

What's interesting is that no one in the whole story talks about the Beatles' ability to write excellent tunes, or indeed about any musical gifts that do not involve fucking with sounds once they're out, as oppose to creating them.

Sinclair obviously took this direction on purpose, but I think it was an easy sell to EW because that's all we think we want from music anymore.

This is the Age of the Phat Beat, and at musical equipment stores there's as much of a crowd around the digital gear and samples section as there is around the pine boxes that emit the original unprocessed sounds. Pro Tools has been the industry recording standard for about a decade, and DJ and producers are superstars. The country may be less enthusiastic than it once was about processed foods, but these are boom times for processed music.

And a lot of processed music is great. One might argue that the music mills of old (like the Brill Building and Motown's famed The Corporation) were the Industrial Age forebears of whatever fun-factories churn out the current wave of product. Only those guys were churning out tunes, see. The Beatles wouldn't have been able to push the white-lab-coated sound engineers out of the control room and fuck with their own shit if they hadn't demonstrated their ability to grab ears with their tunes. The ensuing technological playtime was an outgrowth of their musical genius, not a substitute for it.

It's great that we have all the bells and whistles we have now -- that's the product of the restless exploration of creative minds. And the best sonic experimenters from Negativland to Ween to Fatboy Slim make objets d'audio that are at least as impressive as anything the best song/guitar bands put out. But I think things have flipped over in the minds of the audience and even of a lot of the music makers: the raw material is less important than the shiny product that can made of it. If the Beatles were starting now, I suppose the Phat Beats would be engaged early on, and who knows what "A Hard Day's Night" would sound like if the Neptunes had first crack at it, rather than the rather professorial George Martin.

The paleness some of us perceive in contemporary pop has to do, I think, with the expectations bred by years of technical and -- maybe more so -- industry progress. Once the distance between your band playing a local sock-hop and the exalted status of Gerry and the Pacemakers was not so great. Now it's a world away. Why would you want to write something as modest as a great pop song when there's this ornate machine that makes you sound like money? Why wait for the symphony orchestra? There's a module for that at Sam Ash.

Once upon a time, if you wanted all that flash and syrup, you didn't go into rock and roll or r&b. You made Cliff Richard records.

After a while music blather is as tiresome as political blather, but I will add that I sometimes think the popularity of "divas" like Beyonce (however attractive the package) have to do with the sheer power of their vocal apparati, which push something like a human sound through all the 24K schmaltz. And that Outkast comes up with some great tunes.


Friday, February 13, 2004

ACT LIKE BLUTO, VOTE LIKE NIEDERMEYER. Jonah Goldberg is the son of longtime GOP dirty trickster Lucianne Goldberg, and an apple that appears not to have fallen from the tree at all. Note his own recent brown ops:
  • Weeks ago, Crooked Timber suggested that the anonymous letters that increasingly comprise NRO's/The Corner's ammunition against Democrats were fake ("If you possess an email address and an eye-opening story, you've passed the rigorous fact-checking that has made National Review and the Penthouse Forum world-famous") and proposed that readers send fake anti-Democrat testimonials to The Corner to see if they would bite.

  • At The Corner, Goldberg acknowledged CT's strategy and defended himself against the specific charge on which it was based ("...while the posts in the Corner may be anonymous, they are virtually never anonymous to me... some emails should certainly be taken with a grain of salt on the off-chance a correspondent is embellishing...").

  • Popstar Moby suggests to the New York Daily News that concerned Bush opponents should spread false stories about the President's past.

  • Seeing the main chance, Goldberg harshes on Moby and, without notice, changes his characterization of the CT attack:
    A couple of weeks ago, several liberal bloggers announced that they wanted their readers to deliberately make up fake emails and send them to NR because they found the real emails we were posting in the Corner too unhelpful to their cause. So far they've all been way too stupid to fool us, but that could change... it now seems safe to predict that the Moby-Moore fringe of liberalism is ratcheting-up it's ends justify-the-means approach to political discourse. Get ready for the Age of Mobyism, it won't be pretty.

In short, what Goldberg knew, and said he knew, was an attack on The Corner's credulity when it comes to anonymous anti-Democratic emails, he now conflates with Moby's active attempt to spread lies about the President. Even better, Goldberg uses this hastily-arranged moral high ground to denounce the Democrats' initiation of dirty tricks -- as if GOP Astroturf (or, for that matter, his Mom) had never existed.

This strategy is classical, and best known by Otter's use of it in Animal House: "Well, you can do what you want to us, but we're not going to sit here and listen to you bad-mouth the United States of America!" No wonder Goldberg's always got that shit-eating sneer on his face: he's got what for modern conservatives must be the best of both worlds: he gets to live out his favorite movie every day -- in defense of the Dean Wormers of the world.


Thursday, February 12, 2004

LET'S PLAY SPIN DOCTOR. In the course of one of her typically milky, unfocused novenas, the Crazy Jesus Lady challenges her presumably like-minded readers to take part, without pay, in a White House creative exploratory:
The Bush people have to roll it all into, say, one speech, which can be distilled to one paragraph, which people will distill to a sentence or two to explain to themselves and others why they support the president for re-election... What should the Bush paragraph consist of? How to make it new? How to make it memorable, and true? Readers, you are invited to wrap up in one paragraph what the Bush campaign should say as it unveils itself anew.
I would be much more eager to see the responses if I weren't aware that OpinionJournal very carefully screens them. So the cries of "Free Silver!" "Drive the Dusky Invader Southward!" and "Millions for Ethanol, Not One Cent for Deficit Reduction!" will probably not be seen by a wider audience.

CJL adds that "The White House reads this site. They'll see it." Alas, I cannot promise that sort of attention. But if you guys want to run your own paragraphs past the dozens of sleepless graduate students, weisenheimers, and ne'er-do-wells who comprise my audience, feel free to avail the comments feature to do so. I'll start the ball rolling with one of my own:
Funny how the Lord works: he allows the Antichrist to go to 'Nam and make himself a war hero, while his own true servant is forced by circumstance and a fear of examining rooms to spend his war years playing foosball and contributing to the invention of the beer bong. Now the evil one stands draped in glory, while I, like Job, seem destined for the dungheap. If you folks have read your Bible, though, you know which of us is truly God's favorite. P.S. Remember I'm the one that hates fags.


Wednesday, February 11, 2004

WE KNOW BECAUSE WE RAN THEM THROUGH THE NRO VERSIMILITRON.

KERRY'S WAR [John Derbyshire]
Two very authentic-sounding responses from vets to my previous blog on
Kerry's Vietnam war record. Both agree completely.


Posted at 01:54 PM

SHORTER CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS. Must write about the evil Democrats, but Kerry's too hot to touch now. Dean's down. Might's well kick him. By the way, I do like principled anti-war candidates, especially if they can't win. Bartender! Some more napkins, please.

LIFE IMITATES VAUDEVILLE. Instapundit, who used to report on massive anti-war demonstrations by looking for the little clot of guys with GO BUSH signs and going "Heh, Indeed," shows a similar inattention to relevance in brandishing this Andrea Harris quote:
So, apparently we are now concluding that Hussein did not, in fact, have a huge stash of nuclear weapons aimed at New York and Washington DC. That’s a good thing, isn’t it? It means that the thing the administration wanted to prevent was, in fact, prevented.
How's that old joke go?

"Hey, why'd you take my five dollars?"
"Coyote insurance."
"Coyote insurance? There's not a coyote for miles around here!"
"See how well it works?"

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

THE THOUSANDTH TIME AND COUNTING. Conservatives have torn into this post at The Note and are dragging the bloody bits across the internet:
Like every other institution, the Washington and political press corps operate with a good number of biases and predilections.

They include, but are not limited to, a near-universal shared sense that liberal political positions on social issues like gun control, homosexuality, abortion, and religion are the default, while more conservative positions are "conservative positions"...

The worldview of the dominant media can be seen in every frame of video and every print word choice that is currently being produced about the presidential race.

That means the President's communications advisers have a choice:

Try to change the storyline and the press' attitude, or try to win this election without changing them.
Sounds pretty hopeless for conservatives, doesn't it? Which explains the two terms apiece enjoyed by President Carter, President Mondale, President Dukakis, President Clinton, and President Gore. And the Democrats' current veto-proof majority in Congress.

Remember, just because it makes no sense doesn't mean it's true.
FUCKUP.COM. Kathryn J. Lopez (or, as her colleagues at The Corner playfull call her, "K.Y.") has helpful pointed us to the latest boondoggle out of right-wing rich guy land: Brainwash, magazine of the America's Future Foundation. To save time, here's a thumbnail taxonomy:

  • Funding: Sarah Scaife (yes, of those Scaifes) Foundation, John M. Olin Foundation, and other such notoreities (thanks MT)
    Target: "Up-and-coming" conservative dweebs in the DC area (aka interns).
  • Youth pitch: It's, like, the ginchiest! They sometimes use bad words and talk about Fugazi! They help hook up prospective Fourth Reich power couples via DC7, where "we host such cool cats as Jonah Goldberg, Rich Lowry, Michael Lynch and others."
  • Cover Stories for Nervous SophCons:"Classical Liberals," "liberty-minded people," and the usual libertarians-welcome flimflam, though that's being swiftly debunked.

TBogg's already been over all this, but as a first time visitor I was fascinated and, in a way, delighted. Unlike the front organizations favored by, say, Glenn Reynolds, Brainwash has a painfully thin veneer of hipness, through which one can still smell the xerox-machine-and-pizza funk of a high school newspaper. I know the editors would like to put me in a concentration camp, but at this age, they're just so cute. Listen to this little fella, writing about (oh, it's too precious!) "the culture":
Western culture is dominant in the world because the intellectual tradition of Moses, Aristotle and St. Paul understands human nature better than other cultures. Something like a survival of the fittest has taken place, and tradition is the product... Admittedly, the Darwinian analogy goes only so far. Good culture will, at times, lose out to the crass and the vulgar.
At times lose out to the crass and vulgar! One has to admire his youthful optimism... What's that you say? The author is "a reporter for the Evans-Novak Political Report"? And his picture doesn't look that way because he's 12 years old, but because he's hideously malformed? Well, there's the death of another dream.

Monday, February 09, 2004

RAINY DAY FUN. You can go to the Discotheque site and register to look at the party pictures. A lot of them look like this:



Then you can print them out, get a pen, and pretend you're an editor at Vice.
WHITE MAN'S BURDEN PART #3,420. I seldom follow those links at Instapundit that essentially say, "Here's a soldier that agrees with me, proof that the rest of you are sissies and traitors." Today, I broke form, goaded by IP's insistence that this message from an Army Public Affairs Officer "should be printed out and posted on the bulletin boards of newspapers everywhere."

Essentially, the anonymous soldier's pitch is that 1.) reporters are lazy and 2.) Iraqis are mentally retarded.

Now, I know from personal experience that the former is certainly true, though I would argue to the Army's PR agent that reporters dog it most when they know they're being fed bullshit and have no spade with which to dig -- which would seem to describe the lot of most "embeds" working under the Pentagon's current conditions. (The soldier also reveals that his comrades in arms don't like reporters, which will surprise no one who has survived the typical American playground).

The bit about the Iraqi people is kinda weird, though. Their long life under tyranny, the solder assures us, has caused them to "misinterpret things they see." For example, the local peasants "believed American food gave us X-Ray vision and that we had mechanical enhancements implanted in our bodies." While this seems credible (action-movie imagery interpreted by pre-industrial minds), our military Virgil takes things further with a little culturally-induced interpretation of his own: "Given that 80% of Iraqis are about as intellectually and emotionally developed as an American 6th grader," he says, "we must be very careful in trusting the average Iraqi's 'eye-witness testimony.'"

In other words, since the peasant is too simple to properly interpret Terminator movies, he is incapable of comprehending simple space-time dynamics (like who shot Achmed, and what uniform he was wearing). Of course it may be that the peasants are just plain lying -- our guide suggests that later, too, almost as an afterthought.

But the overall impression he seems to be trying to leave is that these people have no cognitive skills to speak off, and lazy reporters working for "news networks that are pushing a storyline" (unlike Army Public Affairs Officers, who are devoted to plain truth) are wrong to even consider the testimony of these subhumans.

Maybe those links weren't meant to be followed.

Sunday, February 08, 2004

THE QUIET AMERICAN. I'm watching the tail end of the President on Russert now (Sunday sleep is, at this stage in my life, more important than political vigilance). I can easily see how people who don't support Bush would find him weak and unconvincing. I sure found him so. Russert's economic charts would have provoked a stronger defense, or objection, from a Republican Councilman than they got from the President of the United States.

But the show wasn't meant for me. The most remarkable thing about the event, as opposed to what actually happened during it, is that Bush was engaged in a display that was not totally managable by his office. This was a conscious decision by very smart operators, and my early, underinformed theory is that the President is lying doggo.

There is no way that he could have seemed powerful and confident in the situation: he seldom does when there's no backdrop covered with propaganda messages, no manicured text to work from. He didn't look so hot in the 2000 debates, either. But people liked him enough to vote for him anyway; in fact, he almost got a majority.

I hate to glom onto the conventional wisdom about Bush defying expectations, but it would make sense if the Bush boys were allowing a mild performance in February with a view toward a macho makeover in the Fall. You don't make red-meat speeches if you don't have to, because those things tend to wear out over time. Kerry has to make such speeches right now because he's running for something, and will be for months to come. Bush, I expect, will emerge from his New York Convention as from a chrysalis in the form of... well, I also expect they're still working on that, but I suspect it will involve our nation's military, the American Flag, Jesus Christ, and, of course, the photo opportunity down the street.

How that will work is anyone's guess, but it will be a lot more energetic and focused than what we saw today.


Friday, February 06, 2004

AND REPRESENTING THE QUEER-KILLIN' LEAGUE OF BUMFUCK, MISSISSIPPI, A NICE CANADIAN FELLA. David Frum marches to the head of the militia and breaks it down for the anti-gay-marriage shock troops:
The proponents of gay marriage accuse those us marital traditionalists of anger, hatred, obsession with homosexuality, etc. That's of course false... those of us on the traditionalist side welcomed the evolution toward greater understanding and sympathy for our fellow human creatures whose sexual constitution differs from the norm.
This will be news indeed to these guys and these guys and these guys, and the millions like them for whom Frum and his smiley, sophisticated buddies pretend to be leaders and spokesmodels.

This whole love-the-sinner-hate-the-Supreme-Court-of-Massachusetts schtick was old coming out of the gate. But it may help achieve what appears to be the real point of the exercise: to make the upcoming Federal Marriage Amendment drive look less like fag-bashing and more like freedom-fighting. To this end Frum imparts some ramparts etiquette:
...whether traditionalists win this battle will depend very largely on whether they can keep their temper. This debate will be won by whichever side does the better job of convincing the public that it stands up for the deepest values of American life -- and conservatives should remember at all times, as if they didn't know, that any incidents of extremism or harshness or vilification will instantly be publicized nationwide... So let's fight hard -- but let's be careful to fight smart.
I wonder how the civil rights movement of the 1960s might have fared if George Wallace, Bull Connor, et alia had thought to hire a slicker like this? Guess we're about to find out.


BUT THEN, WILLIAM SAFIRE HASN'T WEIGHED IN YET. We may not, alas, have heard the last word on Janet&Justin, but we well may have heard the craziest, via Carson Holloway:
For the stunt, as well as the whole song and indeed the entire halftime show, is perfectly emblematic of what such performers are selling: sex, understood exclusively as a source of bodily pleasure, and therefore devoid of any limiting responsibilities, like permanent commitment, or ennobling aspirations, like procreation. Stated more generally, they are selling an understanding of human life according to which happiness is achieved through the gratification of the most ordinary and powerful passions, and reason is impotent to identify any moral ends in the service of which our desires should be channeled. They are, moreover, selling this animalistic vision to the young and impressionable.

One need not be a Fundamentalist, or any kind of Christian, or even a believer in any revealed religion at all to regard all this as a disaster. One need only think, along with such non-religious philosophers as Plato and Aristotle, that reason should rule the passions, and that any decent society owes it to its young to foster, and not subvert, this ordering of the soul.
I hope the NFL hires Holloway to run next year's Superbowl entertainment, which will then consist of a dramatic recreation of Plato's Symposium, and the Pledge of Allegiance.


Thursday, February 05, 2004

SPOOK TALK. Interesting "stiff defense" by CIA Director George Tenet. Too bad we can't get the phone logs from Kennebunkport a few days ago:

"It may be time for you to have a pointed conversation with that boy of yours."

"Now hold on there, amigo. You know the game as well as I do. A bishop can fall as easily as a pawn, but the Queen must be protected. Savvy?"

"This bishop has not fallen, and there are plenty of moves left in the game."

"I remind you, kemosabe, that you serve at the pleasure of the President. Maybe it's time somebody castled. A word to the Intelligence Committee and you boys might have a whole new game to play, one with a whole lot more wiggle-room, comprende?"

"Whatever the game, the signals must be protected from the opposition."

"Then you shouldn't have called me on the hall phone. Bar! Get those kids out of here, willya? Transmission compromised. Abort. Abort."

No one's losing their job over this one. Capisce?

AN ESPECIALLY BAD DAY. God knows, there's always a lot of stupid shit on the internet, but sometimes the computer screen seems like a window into an old-fashioned lunatic asylum.

Lileks unleashes wrath he previously reserved for Salam Pax and Michael Moore on Patrick Stewart. When in this sort of five-hours-without-a-cigar fury, Lileks doesn't argue, he chews pet peeves till his teeth squeak. For example: Stewart is in the theatre, that effete, hairspray-smelling makework program for enemies of American common sense ("Noted: the future of humanity shall consist not in getting this place right but watching angry Pinter screeds about that wretched meat we know as our own flawed species.."), whereas Lileks is "about seven Atkins-assisted days away from a six-pack" and wrestles alligators for a living, when not advising our Commander-in-Chief on matters foreign and domestic (Have the burger without the bun, Sir; you'll be energized and hostile all day long!) and pwaying games wif his widdle dawter.

Half the ravings lament that the man who played Picard on the TV does not share Lileks' world-views, and then the other half is devoted to detailing the unworthiness of this, this actor to advise the President on interplanetary foreign policy. Jesus Christ. Someone give him a breadstick.

Further down the sludgestream Clifford May does the "imminent" routine again. I thought we'd seen the last of this one -- noted that Bush didn't use the word "imminent" to describe Saddam's attack on the West, but he did use so many scare tactics, including imagery such as "one vial, one canister... could bring a day of horror like one we have never known," that he might as well have. But May has a new angle:
Here's one straightforward way to express it: When a knife is raised and pointed at you, and you block the thrust -- that's not pre-emption. That's self-defense, a common sense response to an imminent threat. By contrast, pre-emption is when you recognize that someone means you harm, glimpse a knife -- and take action before seeing the weapon poised for an imminent strike.
Someone should tell May that if one is a paranoid lunatic, such moments of recognition come rather easily, even if the knife is as imaginary as Saddam's WMDs. Frequently the paranoid will blame another party for his confusion: death row inmate Scott Panetti, for example, blames an alter-ego named Sarge, while Bush blames one named Faulty Intelligence.
Fascinating behaviors, all of which should be observed far, far away from the cutlery drawer.

Speaking of the clinically insane, Peggy Noonan blames 9/11 on the real Axis of Evil: Michael Jackson, Elizabeth Taylor, and Whitney Houston. Her friend Mickey Kaus declares we must not set a bad, breast-exposing example to "young, angry Muslims," who may decide to attack Rhythm Nation for its prurient dancing girls. In which case it will all be Janet Jackson's and Justin Timberlake's fault. Just as Joel Grey and Liza Minnelli caused the Holocaust.

I can tolerate the presence of such sad cases, but Lord it's awful when they start screaming.

Tuesday, February 03, 2004

THATCHER: "ENEMY ARMADA OFF JERSEY COAST"! YOU KNOW YOU HAVEN'T THE SLIGHTEST PROOF THAT THIS -- THIS ARMADA IS OFF THE JERSEY COAST! KANE: CAN YOU PROVE IT ISN'T? Ted Barlow has a nice idea: send fake personal reminiscences of Democratic candidates to The Corner, where they publish stuff like that by the bushel, and see if they bite.

The good thing about the idea is that it is designed to drive Frat-Boy in Chief Jonah Goldberg batty. Mission accomplished:
Several readers from Crooked Timber have sent me links to this bit from Snopes saying that the "Do you know who I am?" emails I posted about Kerry must not be true. With all do [sic] respect to Snopes, which I consider pretty authoritative, and a little less respect to the folks sending me the email, So what... the idea that self-important Senators, media bigwigs and the like don't ever say "Do you know who I am?" is batty. I've heard it said by self-annointed [sic] big shots numeroues [sic] times... there lots [sic] of real-world instances. And I still fully believe Kerry has provided more than a few of them.
In other words, it is believed by the subject's mortal enemies, therefore it is true, or at least worthy of publication.

The bad part of Ted's idea is throwing it back on Goldberg and his brethren. Instead of challenging The Corner's doubtlessly sterling editorial processes, why not avail one's own? I have done so before, publishing a stunning account of President Bush's ongoing drug abuse and inhuman cruelty, and by a happy coincidence I have just obtained the following missive, which fully meets Goldberg's standards as well as my own:
Your readers may be interested to know that, one night a few years ago, Jonah Goldberg challenged me to a fistfight in Milano's on Houston Street. I am able to identify him positively because earlier that evening he had distributed throughout the establishment printouts from some website with his byline and picture. His resemblance to Flounder from "Animal House" gave me pause, as did his costume, seemingly based on that of Angus Young of AC/DC, except that the schoolboy cap was emblazoned with the legend NIGGERS SUCK and the short pants fit his ample bottom rather badly. I attempted to reason with him, but he kept screaming in a high-pitched voice that he would do to me what Ronald Reagan did to Jimmy Carter, "only without the help of CIA operatives in Iran" (if my memory serves me aright, and taking into account the monstrous slurring of his words), and roaring the acronym, "DYKWIA," over and over again. Finally there was nothing for it but that I must push him out the front door and onto the sidewalk, where he fell upon his back and soiled himself copiously, crying for his mother.
I'm getting a steady trickle of emails like this, but the rest shall have to wait for the next news cycle.

WHY DO THEY HATE AMERICA? At The Corner, John Derbyshire gleefully repeats that his correspondents think Lyndon B. Johnson and Thurgood Marshall, among others, "should be dug up and posthumously hanged, as Oliver Cromwell was."

But never mind that -- Michael Moore was mean to Charlton Heston.

Monday, February 02, 2004

THE CONSPIRACY THEORY OF BAD HALF-TIME SHOWS. I see that many residents of The Corner have, like me, complained about the Super Bowl half-time show -- but while I disliked the thing because it was crass and ugly, they seem convinced that it is a plot by toe-tally eee-vil artists to corrupt their young ("'Dad, why are they doing that?' asked my son, age 6, just before his bedtime. What was I to say? 'Some people call it dancing,' was my lame reply..." God, I hope Lileks wasn't watching with Gnat, we'll never hear the end of it).

They even haul out the customary young-fogey comeback used whenever the bourgeoisie is epatered:
What appeals to them is the idea of shocking other people... what was cool about it was that it would offend the sensibilities of fuddy-duddies. This sort of thing is the source of a vast, vast amount of bad "art," music, fiction etc. The value of a song or a video is measured not by its creativity or excellence, but by its ability to elicit the desired response from the other side.
Always, someone -- probably wearing a beret and high on the latest drugs -- is trying to do something to them. As if pop culture were someone else's fault.

This conspiracy theory of bad half-time shows strikes me as a guilty evasion.

Right-wing types have done their utmost over the years to spread the idea that wealth generation is the highest and noblest purpose of man. This was bound to cause cultural fallout. The first Reaganite phase of this infantile idea's ascendancy brought us such atrocities as Dynasty and Trump Tower -- ugly, but in a way we all recognized: a rube's idea of "class."

In recent years, technological advances and corporate windfalls have given top-end providers of eye and ear candy the means to cram their products to an ungodly degree with such signifiers of wealth as elaborate special effects and the high sheen of digital recording. Audiences responded to this, because it sounded and looked, as the wonderfully apposite saying goes, like money.

Over time, content mattered less than these signifiers. Movies became inchoate light and sound shows, and videos became noisy showcases of art direction and bling. But that was okay -- audiences got what they wanted: a lavish sensory bath in something that quite obviously cost a fortune.

Even the sports world got in on this: star players became warrior gods, rope-muscled, chest-thumping embodiments of the will to power. (And every fan knew how many millions his hero was pulling down, and where his mansion and/or golf course was.) In an age where too much ain't enough and only the loudest, most violent, and the most x-treme gestures are worthy of notice, pro football reaped the greatest bounty. Once the NFL could only get Hank Williams Jr. to sing its praises; now everyone wants to rub up against the new national pastime.

As half-time can only last so long, lest the athletes' muscles turn to mahogany, a few years ago the show's producers come up with an idea: instead of having only one headliner, why not have several? This was brilliant, because no one really needs to watch or hear these artists do whole songs: that's what iPods and DVDs are for. Live performances are so low tech. But six or seven top acts crammed into a highly-concentrated ball of entertainment, glazed with smoke and lights and celebrated by squads of dancers -- now that looks like money!

And if the particular hallmark of this particular product (music, file under contemporary) is snake-hipped sexual play-acting, let's make sure we have plenty of that, too. Check the calendar to see if the time has come for a nansecond of exposed breast on network. It has? Then let's go for it.

In this case, the resulting soulless, joyless eye- and earsore chagrined conservatives because it showed a little tit. I, of course, like tit. However, I don't like the howling vacuousness of the thing, which seems to have bothered them not at all.

The economy, the Defense of Marriage Act, etc., are all important, but this is really why I'm not a conservative.