Monday, December 06, 2004

SO THAT'S WHAT ALL THE FUSS WAS ABOUT! I'd been intrigued by the growing number of references in wingnut blogs to The Belmont Club, and went to investigate. There I found a long essay by the well-regarded Wretchard, explaining that Al Franken caused the death of several American servicemen by calling David Horowitz a racist ("Marines have paid Franken's piper with their lives"). In support of this interesting thesis, Wretchard quotes liberally from Robert Kaplan, who says that "If what used to be known as the Communist International has any rough contemporary equivalent, it is the global media," and chides liberals for not writing books like The One-Minute Manager instead of saying mean things about conservatives. (God, wouldn't we like to! There's big money in that particular sort of fraud!)

I guess that, on the Right, batshit-crazy is the new polyester. It was bound to happen. They run everything, yet their world still isn't perfect, and the shortfalls couldn't possibly be their fault. Having no powerful adversaries left to scourge, they turn on small fish like the comedian Franken, impute to them strange powers, and start spooling out the outrage. Gives them something to do until a spot opens up in the Ministry of Truth, one imagines.


WILD IN THE STREETS. Mary Eberstadt uses the f-word frequently (albeit with expurgating dashes) in Policy Review, but only in the context of hip-hop lyrics. The popularity of expletives spat by Tupac and Eminem, Eberstadt claims, is attributable to America's high divorce rate: "Many bands and singers explicitly link the most deplored themes in music today -- suicide, misogyny, and drugs -- with that lack of a quasi-normal, intact-home personal past."

And the cause of divorce, Eberstadt implies, is liberal sociology:
Representative sociologist Stephanie Coontz greeted the year 2004 with one more op-ed piece aimed at burying poor metaphorical Ozzie and Harriet for good. She reminded America again that “changes in marriage and family life” are here to stay and aren’t “necessarily a problem”... Meanwhile, a small number of emotionally damaged former children, embraced and adored by millions of teenagers like them, rage on in every commercial medium available about the multiple damages of the disappearance of loving, protective, attentive adults.
Considering Policy Review is a scholarly journal, it is strange that Eberstadt does not attempt to demonstrate this causality with examples of families that were doing just fine till Stephanie Coontz told them to split up. Can't she find one formerly intact family, now scattered amongst the trailer parks of America, that could point to their chance encounter with The Way We Never Were as the catalyst for their catastrophic choices? Surely the producers of "Cops" could put her in touch.

I fear Eberstadt is just doing like they do: mining pop culture for political affirmations. She even refers to the "crypto-traditional" content of Eminem's lyrics. But couldn't she at least pretend to like the music? I guess that's a bridge too far, because she makes sure to distance herself from any imputation of pleasure ("Much of today’s metal and hip-hop, like certain music of yesterday, romanticizes illicit drug use and alcohol abuse, and much of current hip-hop sounds certain radical political themes, such as racial separationism and violence against the police... Allan Bloom blah blah blah"). But -- and I offer this in a spirit of collegiality, with respect for her professionalism -- this joint would be more likely to transcend the little frog-pond of wingnut pubs in which it is currently mired if she referred to the new crypto-traditionalists more friendly-like. Like she want to wrinkle their linens, sprinkle them with gin and then begin sinnin'. Know'm sayin'?


Sunday, December 05, 2004

FRIENDLY ADVICE FROM YOUR MORTAL ENEMIES, #345,446. Michael Totten explains, "So here's my advice to American liberals: If you want to win elections against the Republicans, strike the Islamists."

Here are a couple of quotes from John Kerry, Democratic nominee for the Presidency of the United States in 2004: "I believe in being strong and resolute and determined. And I will hunt down and kill the terrorists, wherever they are." "Yes, we have to be steadfast and resolved, and I am. And I will succeed for those troops, now that we're there. We have to succeed. We can't leave a failed Iraq."

Shortly before the election, Kerry also said of Osama Bin Laden, "He's a barbarian, killer, assassin and terrorist. And what he'd better understand is, and what everybody had better understand is, we are united as Americans in our determination to hunt him down and capture and kill him. And that's what we're going to do."

It didn't seem to do him much good with the values voters. Maybe they forgot who Osama Bin Laden is, or were more focused on homosexuals who wish to marry.

Totten also counsels, "as long as the Terror War rages, if you keep lashing out at Republicans they will continue to beat you." There's a novel approach! Can't wait to see how the "Who are we to argue?" approach to political debate works out next election.

Elsewhere in War-on-Whatever Liberal Land, Jeremy Brown makes common cause with "Righties who bitterly reject social Darwinism and the fostering of fascist client states." Unfortunately, but understandably, he provides no names.

For comic relief we have a correspondent quoted by the Ole Perfesser, of the I-didn't-leave-the-Demmycrats-they-left-me stripe (he even invokes Scoop Jackson!), who lays out a Hillary scenario for '08: "If she tells the coastal cultural elites that they are the ones who are out of step with the country, then tones down her socialistic one payer health insurance scheme from 1993-4 and repeats her husband's line about abortion (safe, legal and rare) she could win in 2008."

Of course, the fella adds, "I would not be happy with that outcome, because I wouldn't believe her if she said those things..."

Democrats: remember the scene in Animal House where Otter goes, "Greg, look at my thumb... gee, you're dumb"? Good.


Friday, December 03, 2004

TODAY'S CONSERVATIVE ART SEMINAR. The science of determining what artworks go with what ideology has reached, via esteemed critic Lawrence Kudlow (on George W. Bush Economy I: "Aggressive new growth package! Dynamic new officials!"), a new low:
Judith [Pond Kudlow] and her associates, especially Andrea Smith from the Florence Academy, are leading lights in the return to classical painting. Sometimes it’s called natural realism. I just call it conservative art. Let me tell you what it’s not — it’s not modernistic, abstract, self-centered expressionism. It’s not just throwing paint at a canvas. It doesn’t tear down art, or the rest of the world, for that matter. It’s not the negative pessimistic crap that too often passes for art in blue states like New York and, well, you know where else. These are just beautiful, calm, pleasant pictures. Stuff you can enjoy looking at, which is what I think art should be.
That Kudlow is revewing the work of his own wife ("Yes, I am biased. For heaven’s sakes, Judy’s my wife. And I love her") is not so strange -- where would the art world be without nepotism? I do marvel at the scope of his analysis. The "crap that too often passes for art in blue states" could be Tracey Emin, or it could be Van Gogh, given that Kudlow's model for the production of "unbelievably good literature and art" is "the post-Civil War period [in America], when we became the premiere global economic power. There was no income tax, and money policy was based on the gold standard. Our navy began to rule the world. Industrial production was unparalleled. Religious virtues governed our culture..." Fancy poor Vincent slogging away in hovels, unaware that he lacked the economic and moral foundations for unbelievably good art!

One would like to introduce Kudlow to Austin Bay, who has a keen appreciation of the sort of modern art that doubtless occupies a spot on Kudlow's slag-heap. In February Bay found in a painting by Jackson Pollock inspiration for a deconstruction of America's pre-9/11 intelligence:
There's a Jackson Pollock painting titled "Lucifer." When I worked one summer for the now-defunct Houston Post, I used to walk past a poster of Pollock's Satan, an "abstract" of slashes, swirls, black scratches of color, each stroke individually perplexing. Over the summer, passing the poster on a daily basis, I saw Pollock's vision of evil emerge. The splatter became coherent, a unified vision organized by a gifted talent...

New eyes may see nothing but wild paint, though Pollock's title is a clue that something emotionally cold and dangerous lurks in the arrangement of color.

But if you don't detect it, no big sweat. It's merely framed canvas.

However, in the art of intelligence analysis, the world is the canvas -- a canvas inevitably frustrating the most astute frame of reference. What you don't see on that complex globe, and sometimes what you do see but don't understand, may get millions of human beings slaughtered...

In the aftermath of that unacceptable tragedy, both morticians and art critics will curse the leaders who dithered and didn't attack.
Bay knows that art can be more than "stuff you enjoy looking at." It can also be a metaphor for government operations. It unites the human race -- those who employ oils and pastels as well as those who employ embalming fluids -- in rage against the Clinton Administration. It serves a higher purpose!

Kudlow and Bay are both outstripped, though, by John Derbyshire. He reviews Tom Wolfe's latest very creatively, taking the role of an anxious parent. Having delectated all the "coed bathrooms, affectless recreational coupling, and heroic drinking" in Wolfe's bildungsroman, he turns inward:
One thing I very particularly wanted to know, as father of a bright, pretty, almost-12-year-old girl, is: How true is Wolfe's portrait of elite-campus life? Are modern college campuses really such riots of drunkenness and affectless sexual "hooking up"? Is potty-mouth slang really this universal? Is class snobbery really this rampant? I had trouble believing things were quite as bad as Wolfe paints them.
(Pause to wonder whether Derbyshire ever saw Jonah Goldberg's cultural touchstone, Animal House.)

Thus agitated, Derbyshire consults a "young friend" who informs him of the undergrad life he experienced, not to say enjoyed: "The probability of a hookup getting all the way to full-on intercourse the first time is a function of the status disparity between male & female." (The young man also says "Leftism, or at least apolitical attitudes, are required to get action... don't be openly rightist about anything or you're set for years of social & sexual ostracism." I guess we can assume he got away clean.)

In his anguish Derb haunts the NRO break room. There he had previously confessed some trepidation when his bright, pretty 12-year-old had come home from a class trip to a Holocaust Museum and pronounced it "Very boring... Oh, you know. Racism is bad. Respect for people who are different. All that." One might imagine from this politically-incorrect rejoinder that the Derbyshire daughter would make a fine National Review columnist someday, but her father is unassuaged: "I can't help thinking that there's something wrong here."

Now that he has read I Am Charlotte Simmons, and noted the collegiate characters' "cruel, oppressive cult of coolness, [whereby] all point and purpose drains out of life, and a dull, solipsistic hedonism takes over," Derbyshire's state is imaginable as he sifts through responses to his column, offering conflicting reports on his daughter's prospects at college, including such hair-raisers as this: "College is an expensive hiatus during which young men and women experience depravity, drunkenness and depression out of sight of their parents -- who benefit from not seeing the suicides, abortions, rapes and baseness." Bluto himself couldn't have put it better!

Ah, well, Derb consoles himself at last, at least Jesus is still at Radio City.

From all this, what may we conclude? That for a certain sort, art is a cautionary tale, or it is something pretty to look at. Such types have been with us through the ages, of course, and some have even written criticism, but it is rare to see any so proud of their own philistinism.



SCHADENFRAUD. In classic form, the Crazy Jesus Lady tells some warm, fuzzy stories about her old boss Dan Rather, then concludes that he is a rube who got bought off in Saville Row suits and pseudo-sophistication by evil liberals of the Edward R. Murrow school, and cheers his departure. This really brings to mind the old Gore Vidal line: "All the attributes of a dog, except loyalty."

Bonus mendacity: Noonan fondly recalls Richard Nixon, who in her imagining was harried by smug reporters "because Watergate seemed to illustrate what reporters knew, just knew, was the secret truth residing in Richard Nixon's dark heart: a desire for enemies lists and break-ins and IRS reviews." It does sound awful of them, till one recalls that the reporters were absolutely right. Which, it would seem, is the real reason Noonan is cheered that one of them went down.


Thursday, December 02, 2004

RACE TO THE BOTTOM. There's a full-court-press on by Joemomentum! types to get the Democratic Party to more closely resemble the Republican Party, and thereby squeeze out a few extra votes.

Peter Beinart seems to believe that the Democrats are led not by Nancy Pelosi or John Kerry, but by Michael Moore and MoveOn, and claims that when Moore sat in Jimmy Carter's box at the Democratic Convention, America "watched and wondered." (Boy, I'd like to see the polling data behind that finding.) Beinart suggests that Democrats embrace the War Against Whatever and use it as "a powerful rationale for a more just society at home." Because, you know, people won't go for a just society unless you attach a war to it.

Kristin Day of Democrats for Life avails that traditional platform for Democratic Party reform, National Review, to tell her alleged comrades that they must also jettison their support for abortion rights, or eternal defeat is certain ("some pro-choice forces in the Democratic party would rather lose than run a pro-life candidate").

For those who with reason wonder how Day intersects with Democratic Party principles, she defines those as "protect[ing] life at all stages by ensuring freedom from violence, a livable wage, affordable health care, an opportunity to live and raise a family, and social security for retirees."

Social security for retirees! The dream still lives!

Who knows what would work for the Democrats? If the mess the Republicans have made of our country was not sufficiently harrowing to voters to drive them Democratic in 2004, what would? Probably not "Same as the other guys, but with social security for retirees." Especially since big-S Social Security will probably be a gutted shell by the time they get another crack at it. Then some thoughtful neoliberal will tell the Democrats that they must embrace work-till-death as a means of preserving electabilty, so that a more just society (with a mismanaged war, work-till-death, etc.) might one day be reached.

Or maybe they could groom a few action-movie stars to run for high office. That might work.



Wednesday, December 01, 2004

THE NEW CRITICISM. Now Roger L. Simon is doubling as National Review theatre critic. He begins his maiden review (of Frayn's Democracy) with a few character observations that evince some knowledge of dramaturgy, but, anxious to please his Soviet masters, gets soon enough to the political money shot:
Like many successful playwrights in today’s iffy theatrical market, Frayn has formed an entente cordiale with his audience. Two of the plays more pointed laugh lines are "What does Communism have to do with the Left?" and "Never mind football! Try parliamentary democracy!" The audience is encouraged to chortle at a kind of soft cultural relativism of low expectations, their conventional liberal values reinforced and almost willfully unexamined. These views also fit a majority of that tiny segment of the American community still going to serious drama on Broadway. It’s not quite a "status/business deal" in the way the purchase of modern art was described by Tom Wolfe years ago, but it’s not all that far off.
With a few names changed, this wouldn't have been out of place in the New Masses.

I would recommend that Simon examine the work Terry Teachout, a conservative whose theatre criticism is about the plays rather than the goddamn audiences, but I fear the lesson would be wasted.



Tuesday, November 30, 2004

TO BE CHISELED INTO THE BASE OF THE WARBLOGGERS' MONUMENT. "I detest those who make the political into the psychological. But somehow I find myself unavoidably drawn to [the Left's] rejection of our heritage as a political version of the adolescent's rejection of their parents." -- Armed Liberal.


HICKORY & IVORY.
Most of my Christian friends have no clue what goes on in faculty clubs. And my colleagues in faculty offices cannot imagine what happens in those evangelical churches on Sunday morning. In both cases, the truth is surprisingly attractive. And surprisingly similar... And each side of this divide has something to teach the other. -- William J. Stuntz, Tech Central Station


PROFESSOR FRENZNERL: So... what's on network television these days?

REV. JAMES EARL BONAFIDE (pronounced "bona-feeday"): Well there's that show where the Amish children go to Los Angeles, and they're exposed to every kind of temptation: strippers, mud wrestling, sushi bars. But they emerge with their righteousness intact, praise God.

PROFESSOR FRENZNERL: Fascinating. What do you think of the cheese?

REV. JAMES EARL BONAFIDE: Kinda runny, but it's got a lot of flavor.

PROFESSOR FRENZNERL: It really seems to add something to these hush puppies. Almost like a kase brooje. Have you been to the Netherlands?

REV. JAMES EARL BONAFIDE: My boy Clem witnessed there last year. He was fine once he got out of detox. (Produces bottle) Like a snort?

PROFESSOR FRENZNERL: Let me just finish the Chardonnay. (Does so.) Fill 'er up, hoss. Is that white lightning?

REV. JAMES EARL BONAFIDE: None other. So, are you all homosexuals, or just the women?

PROFESSOR FRENZNERL: That seems rather a tactless thing to say. Fortunately my kind believes that violence never solved anything.

REV. JAMES EARL BONAFIDE: Now that's just Satanic. Our Lord Jesus Christ used to get into fistfights all the time, just to show the disciples who was boss. And when he drove the moneychangers from the temple, he actually broke a man's neck and killed him. They tried to hush it up, but you'll find a full account of it in the Gnostic Gospels.

PROFESSOR FRENZNERL: Here's something I've been meaning to ask you. When you people speak in tongues, are you actually saying something or are you just making a bunch of noises?

REV. JAMES EARL BONAFIDE: You want to swap trade secrets? What's that de-construction stuff all about anyways?

PROFESSOR FRENZNERL: Touche. So... how does one win a stock-car race?

MRS. FRENZNERL-HYPHEN: Excuse me, we have been asked to leave, because we are embarrassingly drunk and the Palestinian/Israeli dinner dance is coming in.

REV. JAMES EARL BONAFIDE: That might mean Armageddon right here in the Rainbow Room! I hate to miss that.

MRS. FRENZNERL-DOUCHE: I rather doubt it will be. They have put down quite a large deposit. Would you care to join my husband and me for an orgy?

REV. JAMES EARL BONAFIDE: That's against my religion.

PROFESSOR FRENZNERL: How quaint! Then let us go to a place where they don't care how drunk we are. I suggest the Yale Club.

(Exeunt omnes, singing "The Whiffenpoof Song")



BECOMING AN UNPERSON. Back in the days when warbloggers were praising veteran New York Times reporter John F. Burns for his clear-eyed Iraq coverage ("GIVE BURNS A PULITZER," quoth Andrew Sullivan), Roger L. Simon did his part: "...those of you who haven't read the Burns interview (Editor & Publisher, 9/15/03), hurry and do so," Simon breathlessly breathed in September 2003. "It makes you believe in the possibilities of journalism again."

But Burns, alas for this lot, has been expressing reservations about our postwar conduct of the Iraq adventure, and Good Solider Simon has taken up the new official line on him:
On my last day of a great New York vacation I am even able to laugh at the fusty local paper the NYT which is still, incredibly after the election, living in 1972. (If you're going to be nostalgic, at least give us Paris in the Twenties.) This morning they are sporting an orange "Apocalypse Now"-style photo of what could be the Mekong River (wink, wink -- we know it's the Euphrates) with the same writer, John F. Burns, flogging the same story he has for two years now, to wit Iraq could be the next Vietnam. (I know - you're shocked). And it's not even a Sunday. This kind of none-news usually fits better with bagel and cream cheese. Burns, once justifiably regarded as one of our better war correspondents, seems to be suffering from "Burns out," feeding his audience what they want to hear.
Everything about this loathsome passage smacks of the Soviet -- from the I laugh at anti-imperialist stooge Burns! opening, to the characterization of the story as "non(e)-news" (i.e., a story that is off-message and hence memory-hole fodder), to the assertion that Burns is "feeding his audience what they want to hear" -- a tawdry, cautionary end for someone who once filled Hat Boy with wonder at the possibilities of journalism (something Simon has visibly gotten over).


Monday, November 29, 2004

HOW TO READ THE OLE PERFESSER, PART 3,429. Lawgiver Reynolds on Wal-Mart:
I've never understood the fashionable Wal-Mart hatred, but I've never liked shopping there very much. I also think that a lot of people are doing their shopping online, like I am, though I haven't seen a lot of numbers on that yet.
What a tidy little universe is in that short passage! Despite his populist cred -- he knows more about guns than John Kerry (just don't scroll all the way down, indeed) -- the Perfesser finds Wal-Mart unappealing. For one thing, it don't look purty enough -- the Perfesser likes his megastores to resemble nightclubs.

But the Perfesser seems to sense that those who worship him (Harrison Ford in Apocalypse Now pause) like a god might feel dissed at this lack of affection for one of their leading cultural institutions. And then where would that leave him? As just another radical perfesser with a website, that's what.

So he explains that his is a cleaner, better sort of disdain than that of his enemies, because -- well, because it is his.

Let the yokels figure out for themselves that it's really because Wal-Mart doesn't sell a lot of stuff suitable for scuba diving in the Cayman Islands -- if they can. Heh.

Bonus laff points for bringing up "shopping online."



Sunday, November 28, 2004

A POOR RECOMMENDATION. David Gelertner celebrates our recent Thanksgiving by praising the magnanimity and tolerance of the Pilgrims, and by implication of current Jesus Freaks also.

Contradicting those who would make us askeered of Christian Fundamentalists, Gelertner says, "...that first thanksgiving was celebrated by radical Christian fundamentalists, and American Indians were honored guests -- as every child used to know." Gelertner's Pilgrims wore their Fundamentalism lightly, not endeavoring to convert even the heathen whose homeland they had appropriated -- "Obviously fundamentalists are capable of tolerating non-Christians on occasion" -- as Gelertner attempts to show by selective quotation:
The first settlers mostly wanted to be friends with the Indians -- and not only for obvious practical reasons. Alexander Whitaker was an early Virginia settler. His description of America was published in 1613. He doesn't think highly of American Indian religion, but goes on at length about American Indian talent and intelligence. ("They are a very understanding generation, quick of apprehension"; "exquisite in their inventions, and industrious in their labour.") And after all, he points out, "One God created us, they have reasonable souls and intellectual faculties as well as we; we all have Adam for our common parent: yea, by nature the condition of us both is all one."

In time, attitudes changed. American settlers and American Indians fell to treating one another savagely, and the Indians got the worst of it. But human greed and violence, not Christianity, brought those changes about. Christian preachers did not always condemn them -- but, Christian or not, they were mere human beings after all.
Except for the subsequent genocide, all seems cheery and tolerant, doesn't it? Unfortunately for Gelertner, Whitaker's entire text is available online, and contains passages such as this:
The naturall people of the Land are generallie such as you heard of before: a people to be feared of those that come upon them without defensive Armour, but otherwise faint-hearted (if they see their arrows cannot pearce) and easy to bee subdued. Shirts of Male, or quilted cotton coates are the best defense against them. There is but one or two of their pettie Kings, that for feare of us have desired our friendship; and those keepe good quarter with us being very pleasant amongst us, and (if occasion be) serviceable unto us. Our eldest friends be Pipsco and Choapoke, who are our overthwart neighbors at James-Towne, and have been friendly to us in our great want. The other is the Werewance of Chescheak, who but lately traded with us peaceably. If we were once the masters of their Countrey, and they stoode in fear of us (which might with few hands imployed about nothing else be in short time brought to passe) it were an easie matter to make them willingly to forsake the divell, to embrace the faith of Jesus Christ, and to be baptized.
And so it would seem Whitaker did seek to subdue his redskin predecessors, instill fear in them, and thus bring them to Jesus.

I'm beginning to see the resemblance to our current Fundies, at that.

ALAS ALEXANDER. Hey, wouldja like to read a review of Alexander by someone who actually saw it, as opposed to critics who just have a hate-on for Oliver Stone? Well, here's one anyway: it's not very good. In the better sort of Stoner movies, his obsessions are strung like Christmas lights along an at least semi-coherent narrative. The through-line of Alexander is probably no more muddled than that of The Doors, which of all Stone's films Alexander most closely resembles. But while Stone did a good job of showing why people were attracted to Jim Morrison, as well as of showing his insane drive, this Al the Great doesn't have anything but the drive. People follow him against their better judgement because they're in his army and have no choice, and his gracious gestures (like his kindness to the Baylonian royal family) don't add to his appeal -- in fact, in the long run they just seem to make his lieutenants more confused and dispirited. Contrast that with Pacino's Tony D'Amato in Any Given Sunday, who had to win validation for his blood-and-thunder ideas from Jamie Foxx's recalcitrant, strong-willed Willie Beamen.

That leaves the crazy Stone moments just hanging out there. I love that stuff, of course. What would JFK be without lines like, "Daddy, are they going to kill us like they killed President Kennedy?" (Not to mention, "Wait, I don't understand -- you mean they killed Kennedy because he wanted to change things?") Here we have a dissipated Alexander preparing to toast the dawn with a huge bowl of wine, in which is suddenly reflected the image of Angelina Jolie with snakes coming out of her head. (I expected Colin Ferrell to request an O'Doul's instead.) And there's a violent wedding-night encounter ("You love heem?") straight out of late Peckinpaugh. These, along with the superb sets, battles, and effects, make Alexander watchable but, alas, unworthy of recommendation to any but the most incorrigible Stone fans.

I have praised Team America and panned Alexander. By National Review Online standards, that makes me a hard-right-winger! I await the resulting influx of page visits.

Friday, November 26, 2004

APPEALING TO THE BASE. Steve Sailer proposes that the difference between Republican and Democratic districts is an intensifying "Baby Gap" -- well, that's how the American Conservative magazine headline puts it; upon further reading one finds that Sailer more specifically refers to a white baby gap between red and blue states, the idea being that, as parents accumulate mouths to feed, they flee to rural environs to escape high prices and, it would seem, black children ("...Lewis & Clark country, where the public schools are popular because they aren't terribly diverse").

Why are black parents factored out of the baby-gap equation? "The reasons blacks vote Democratic are obvious," Sailer shrugs, and moves on. One can discern his reasoning, though, from some of his other pieces for the anti-multiculturalist Vdare.org, where he has speculated on "the difficulties of getting a complex logical argument across to poor blacks," and declared that "The root cause of parentless black children is not the [National Association of Black Social Workers] policy, but the sizable numbers of black parents who don't adequately take care of their biological children," among other things. At his own site, one may read Sailer's musings on racial characteristics ("Blacks tend to display more of typically male qualities like muscularity, aggressiveness, self-esteem, need for dominance, and impulsiveness").

I found this article via an approving link by Andrew Sullivan, a writer widely known for championing the cause of the single disenfranchised minority group to which he happens to belong.

Thursday, November 25, 2004

GIVING THANKS. While I was preparing for the holiday whirl I tuned to WFMU and caught an hour of rockin' antique Pentecostal recordings like "Keep Still (The Lord Will Fight Your Battles)" by the Echoes of Zion and "Precious Lord" by the Spartanaires. In the midst of just plain enjoying these tunes, I was suffused with gratitude for the pleasures of pluralism: that, unless he is given to regulating his intake of culture for ridiculous reasons, the sentient American can enjoy both satanic rock and gospel music, epics about Jesus and epics about de Sade, the licentious as well as the prescriptive, and the moralistic along with the nihilistic. If intelligence is, as Fitzgerald said, the ability to hold simultaneously in one's mind two contradictory thoughts, then this perhaps is the genius of America. I am happy to be soaking in it.

In that spirit, Happy Indian Genocide Day to all my readers!

PS: See sidebar -- the RSS feed that Miss Riggs and other readers have requested is now available. Give further thanks!

And my annual condolences to the Detroit Lions.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

BUREAU OF CULTURAL AFFAIRS. Jonah Goldberg adds to his colleague's list of conservatively-correct shows "South Park," "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," and "The Dave Chapelle Show." No explanation is provided -- Goldberg is steamrollin' on his way to a demand for affirmative action for conservatives, about which more later -- but one ventures to guess that they pass the red litmus test because Buffy has values 'cause she fights evil and stuff, "South Park" proceeds from the loins of the sainted Parker and Stone, and Chapelle sometimes makes fun of black people, something Goldberg really wishes he could do.

Now, I like those shows myself, but believe me, that doesn't make me a conservative. Like most people, I deal with culture as, you know, culture -- that which makes us neither liberal or conservative but human, and something vastly more interesting and important than politics.

But for Goldberg, culture isn't something one is called to create by anything so non-partisan as a muse -- it's a rank power struggle: "Today," he says, "conservatives need to embrace more than tokenism, accept more than a quota for their views, and demand more than condescension... This is our culture, our nation, too." (That "too" is unusually generous.) "Everything we believe says that it would be better for everybody if we got busy taking it back through door-to-door fighting and persuasion."

Control of the culture is, in his view, an entitlement program, and he's out to twist some arms to make sure he and his get their slice of the pie.

The up-front problem is obvious: How do you take over a culture without artists? I know they have a few creative types who loudly proclaim themselves for the Right (as opposed to artists who happen to be conservative but would rather make art than culture war), but is Ben Stein patiently collecting funds for his Calvin Coolidge biopic? Are Richard Scaife or Sun Myung Moon subsidizing right-wing writer's colonies or film academies?

No. Because their model, remember, is not artistic but political. Laboring in garrets and ateliers, starving and unacknowledged, is for liberal losers; conservatives make things happen.

Another advantage of their political model of cultural control is that it exempts them from submitting actual works of art to the marketplace for judgement. In their way of doing things, constructive effort -- whether the building of superhighways or the filming of epics -- is left to wait until after the voters have been brought on board.

So, with rare exceptions, theirs is not a support-the-arts drive, but a war of attrition. Their obsessions with Michael Moore, Barbara Streisand et alia are well-known, but even a conservative gets bored sometimes, so occasionally they spray in other directions. They've been rolling on the new Oliver Stone movie, for example, since well before it opened, not because it figures to advance any political agenda (unless you're an ancient Macedonian), but because it was made by Oliver Stone, an approved target.

The plan, it would seem, is to so widely and completely vilify the opposition that all the liberals are chased out of Hollyweird like rats, leaving "The Joe McCarthy Nobody Knew," starring Drew Carey, written by Roger L. Simon, and directed by Mel Gibson, who also guest-stars as General McArthur, as the only game in town.

Can it work? Well, people do buy Hoobastank CDs, so who knows.

UPDATE. I don't know why these guys never mention "7th Heaven," one of my all-time favorite Christian shows, in which a minister's children fuck their lives up royally and with much love, laughter, and treacly acoustic guitar music. It makes me long for a Rapture I will never know. Continuing coverage here.

UPDATE 2. Y'all are killing me with Buffy-related comments. Aren't there any "The Joy of Painting with Bob Ross" scholars here?

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

ASSHOLES AND ACADEME. Here's your cheap shot of the day, and it couldn't happen to a more deserving soul than Roger L. Simon:
As a graduate of two Ivy League institutions (Dartmouth and Yale) I am beginning to question the Ivy educational hegemony in general.
Knowing that, so are we, hat boy! A little traveling music, maestro!

Seriously, and I say that with ferocious air-quotes, why do these guys keep bitching out the good schools? If Simon and his fellows think Columbia is anti-semitic (or too hard on Israel, which, these days and in their world, is the same thing), or too liberal, or insufficiently respectful of bloggers, or whatever, why not let the magic of the marketplace rule -- and send one's young'uns to Jerry Falwell's Liberty Law School? Yeeee-haaawww:
Like law students everywhere, students at Liberty spend much of their time reading and discussing judicial decisions. But where mainstream law professors tend to ask questions about judges' fidelity to precedent and the Constitution, Liberty professors often analyze decisions in terms of biblical principles.

"If our graduates wind up in the government," Dr. Falwell said, "they'll be social and political conservatives. If they wind up as judges, they'll be presiding under the Bible."
Yeeee-haaaawww! Thass some good education, hoss!

Like good moderns, our conservative education reformers (who are not shy about using political litmus tests and the force of law to enforce their "reforms") want it all: they want their kids protected from ideas they don't agree with, and they also want a swank brand name on the kids' diplomas. Even so I can recommend Falwell's inquisitor mill to them, because in the hell toward which this society is rapidly descending, no one'll be respectin' them fancy-pants schoo's no-how, and the only questions they'll ask yo chillens is have yew been saved? and how much money yuh got? Yeeeeee-haawww, Roger!

Monday, November 22, 2004

HOWDY, NEIGHBOR! Nick Gillespie's "Jayhawk Down" musing on what keeps people flocking to high-tax, "unfree" places like my home town has spurred some interesting commentary. Here's a blue-state-hater firing back:
[Gillespie] never learned to live in a true rural lifestyle.

I was the reverse -- raised on a farm outside a small town and perfectly happy with the calm, regular life. Went off the see the world and wound up in LA for 20+ years. Everything is costly and you can't walk the streets at night or trust the neighbor in the next house -- if you know who it is. Forget about leaving your house or car unlocked.
One has to marvel at a mindset that, though marinated in Los Angeles for 20+ years, still describes the place in tones of horror one would expect from Bible Camper who had only wandered out of the downtown Greyhound terminal during a 20-minute layover.

He's also proud of the low crime rate out his way. "...as one local cop said, '95 percent of the people around here get along,'" he proudly reports. "'All the real crime is done by 5 percent of the people -- and it's always the same ones.'" Wonder what he thinks the crook-to-citizen ratio is here in New York? If it's as much as five percent of our population, our 400,000 criminals are clearly underperforming. (He also mentions the "'racial minorities' blue cities have so much trouble with" -- reflexively, one supposes.)

Then there's some bullshit about how we couldn't survive without their largesse --"Red counties will exist quite well if the cities were disconnected from them. City dwellers would quickly revert to mob rule and start starving en masse, rioting, and so on" -- a popular self-esteem fantasy funded by our tax dollars.

Finally the author invites us to come out his way to "unwind" (perhaps a quaint local slang expression for "get tied to the pick-up and dragged") when "you get too uptight with all that noise and bizarre action around you, when the oddball stories get you too uptight..."

I'm working on 49th Street today. U2 just went by on a flatbed truck, playing a free concert. I guess that's a pretty oddball story, but I don't really feel the need to recover at Branson.

Now, I don't mind a little ribbing about our depraved, dirty city. Such intramural raspberries are part of the fun of living in a large and -- oh, I know you hate the word but I'm gonna use it anyway -- diverse republic.

Lord knows I've given as good (or as bad) as I've got on that score. But let me say this: you may think you don't need us, and we may think we don't need you, but I don't think either of us really wants to split it up and find out.

Then who would we have to hate?


SHORTER JIM LILEKS. Sullen teenagers! Why I oughta... I go play with army men now.

(I used to think Lileks wrote a bit like Thurber. Now I believe he was written by Thurber.)

Saturday, November 20, 2004

I MAY BE PREJUDICED BUT I LIKE NEW ENGLAND BEST. Pardon the alleviation in outrage this weekend (you can build your own, easily, out of stories like this one about the human waste products who run credit card companies and the extortionate rate jumps with which they fleece us suckers) but I am visiting editor Martin and his lovely wife Zara in Hanover, NH, and it is hard to feel sour when the air is so fresh, the company so pleasant, and the maple syrup so, well, maply and syrupy (we are just over the Connecticut River from Vermont).

Today we ate in Dartmouth's collegetown, which, like every collegetown, has its busy, beloved diner (Lou's, which was too crowded, alas), its take-the-parents bistro (the Canoe Club, where the steak sandwiches were excellent and the Dartmouth memorabilia inductive of Ivy League pride by proxy), and its general air of boola-boola. We then spent a pleasant hour at the Vermont Institute of Natural Science Nature Center, over by the Quechee Gorge, viewing owls, vultures, hawks, eagles, and falcons. I was amused to learn that the American Bald Eagle sounds in real life rather like a seagull, and that the Red-Tailed Hawk usually does his voice-overs when Old Baldy is serving on TV and film as symbol of our nation's strength. That says a lot, of course, but the birds, the magnificent new facility, and the harsh beauty of the stripped trees and granite outcroppings made even the more poetic kind of political commentary seem rather beside the point.

But of course I haven't been reading the paper, and will soon be back in my urban hellhole, recycling my discontent like an ammunition belt. See ya then!


Friday, November 19, 2004

FROM THE FOLKS WHO BROUGHT YOU "DEFINITION OF 'IS'" JOKES: David Bernstein at the Volokh place:
Kevin Drum writes:
ANTI-SEMITISM....This is getting tiresome. It has long been a staple on the right that most criticism of Israel is really just thinly veiled anti-Semitism. Then after 9/11 we began hearing that criticism of neocons was just thinly veiled anti-Semitism. Now David Bernstein comes along to tell us that use of the term "Likudnik" is just thinly veiled anti-Semitism.
Here's what I actually wrote:
Folks on the Left have been throwing around the term "Likudnik" to refer to any non-left-wing Jew who differs with them on foreign policy, even when the relevant issue has nothing directly to do with Israel, Iraq being exhibit A.... Not surprisingly, the phrase "Likudnik" is gradually becoming a general anti-Semitic term for Jews whose opinions one doesn't like. Case in point, an email from one Matthew Hess...
ANnnnndd... scene.

Here's my question: What the fuck is the difference? Drum says Bernstein says "...use of the term 'Likudnik' is just thinly veiled anti-Semitism." Ah, no no no, says Bernstein, what I said was, "...the phrase 'Likudnik' is gradually becoming a general anti-Semitic term for Jews whose opinions one doesn't like."

Perhaps there is some sort of tool -- a Lawyer's Hairsplitter, say -- that parses this finely enough to reveal a rabbit turd's worth of difference in the meanings. But all that can be revealed by simple sentence analysis (of which I am a master -- no brag, just fact) is that Bernstein said they were getting to anti-Semitism and Drum said Bernstein said they'd already made it. When you're charging anti-Semitism, whether it's the evolving sort or the clear and present sort is not a huge deal.

Bernstein says he wants a "moratorium" on the use of the word Likudnik to describe anything except see paragraph 4 section 10 blah blah blah...

Refresh my memory: Why are lawyers who work for poor people in class action suits evil, and lawyers who write stuff like this heroes?

CRAZY CHICKS ARE ATTRACTIVE, BUT REALLY... On firewatch this morning I discovered Dawn Eden, who is a peach. Like a lot of the cool kids, she plays the fun conservative angle ("After deejaying last night at POP GEAR!, I was dancing with a cute Mod-ish man-about-town..."), but unlike her comrades in rightwing clubland, Dawn's against most forms of sex ("You can say that some people can take sex outside of marriage... I submit that the very act of such emotional separation makes a person less than human") and, as some Bible commentary she wrote at 2:15 in the morning reveals, contraception:
Contraceptives are all "barrier methods," because they put up physical, emotional, and spiritual barriers to the true meaning of the sexual act... God's gift of sexual intimacy is accepted, but His potential corresponding gift of children is not.
She doesn't approve of homosexuals, either ("homosexuality stems from the fact that we live in a fallen world").

But I'll say this for her: at her site we don't have to listen to any phony libertarian bullshit.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

CONSERVATIVE CORRECTNESS PART 354,667. Cathy Seipp tells us what the "Red State TV" shows are. She includes "The Simpsons," apparently on the grounds that you can use some of its lines to mock liberals -- which makes sense, since most current conservative commentary boils down to Nelson Muntz's "Ha-Ha!" She also names "King of the Hill" and "Blue Collar TV," shows I like -- maybe I should start positioning myself as a moderate and start hauling in the long green. (Though I really can't stand the animated Life magazine spread "American Dreams," which reveals my recidivist tendency, I guess.)

Elsewhere Ann Althousedecides that because Oliver Stone says his Alexander the Great kisses boys and "may offend some people" (Yer kidding! An Oliver Stone movie that offends people?) he is "trying to lay the foundation for blaming moral-values, red-state Americans for his own embarrassing failure."

Wouldn't life suck if you had to consult the Morning Memo before picking a movie or TV show to watch? Yet some people do it voluntarily, it seems.

WELL, THAT'S A RELIEF. One of our pet themes at alcublog is the egregious characterization by right-wingers of everyone to their left, usually based on unsupportable, self-generated premises (e.g., "the joy has gone out of the left... while the right has been having a gas") or obviously fictional conversations. To head off this sort of thing, Norbizness has kindly offered to speak for the entire Left.

No better man for the job, I say. And he invites you to join the adventure:
I obviously can't be everywhere at once, keying pick-up trucks with "praying Calvin" and "ask me about my kid at Dumpy Willow Christian Academy" decals on them, spewing green tea on veterans as they leave the local VFW hall, and, of course, performing abortions on demand whenever demanded. Quaker in a Basement has bravely volunteered to stand in for me in the Denver area. You'll get your uniform (another area open for discussion) in 6-8 weeks.
I suspect my district is overrepresented as it is, but I encourage those of you with redder constituencies to offer your services.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

WE HAVE COME FOR YOUR CHILDREN. The latest redoubt of Stalinist indoctrination, per Naomi Schaefer Riley: The Big Brothers/Big Sisters Program!
...liberals have been transformed of late. And so has the way they interact with children. Now they're language is filled hate and fear, and ultimately a total loss of perspective on the lives we are lucky enough to lead in America... my "little sister," Janice (I've changed her name)... has told me several times that Republicans don't like poor people or black people, that they want to keep them from getting a good education or a decent place to live.
Yes, it's fresh country air and Air America for these inner-city lambkins, who wouldn't feel negatively about Fearless Leader unless evil do-gooders were brainwashing them.

Riley gets extra hilarity points for this: "While I'm guessing that many young conservatives in New York participate in community-service activities through church groups, I have yet to find one at Big Brothers Big Sisters." Well, they felt the same way about WMDs.

PLEASING THE AFFILIATES. "Can anyone point me to a single liberal American columnist who has written about the Theo van Gogh murder? Hitch doesn't count. I've been a bit stunned by the silence. But maybe I've missed some." -- Andrew Sullivan.

Oh, for fuck's sake. OK, I got a free moment:
The murder of Theo van Gogh was despicable. It was an outrage. It was very, very bad. Oy, was it bad. What a bunch of assholes. Fuck those guys. What a bad thing. You should be able to say what you want and not get killed. Jesus. P.S. Islamic fascism sux.
Well, I'll bet that did a lot of good. I don't know what's wrong with the rest of you guys -- you must be fifth columnists or something. I, on the other hand, now have moral stature. And it took so little effort!

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

HELLO, SUCKERS. Brendan Miniter's latest is the lowest sort of hackwork -- no surprise there -- offering advice to Democrats from their mortal enemies -- no surprise there either -- which includes adopting Republican policies -- damn, Roy, why you writin' 'bout this shit? Well, friends, because one passage would be very astute indeed if only a few of its words were changed:
It's time to let Democrats in on a little secret. America is a land of perpetual rebirth and reform--always has been. That's why George W. Bush gets a pass on whatever he did before he found Jesus and swore off drinking. And it's why Bill Clinton received the benefit of the doubt over his "youthful indiscretions" in 1992. And it is why John Kerry probably would have been given a pass on his anti-Vietnam War activities, if only he could plausibly claim to have seen the error in calling his fellow veterans war criminals and equating America with communist Vietnam.
The words to be changed, of course, are "perpetual rebirth and reform." If the word "suckers" is used in their place, the whole thing makes much more sense.

Set aside that most of what these guys recommend for the Dems is every bit as helpful as what Tweety Bird might suggest to Sylvester. What should be offensive to any Democrat, even a nominal one such as myself, is the very idea that we crave victory so desperately that any avenue to it, including total refutation of any principle whatsoever, would be attractive to us. That they feel so is obvious, but True Sons of Liberty should deal with their attempts to drag us down to their level as a gentleman might deal with the immoral suggestions of a common bounder: a swift brush-off and a word with the constable.

I'm sure there are people in the Party for whom winning is the only thing, because it is their job, God bless 'em. As previously noted, I am absolved of that responsibility, but, all appearances to the contrary, that doesn't mean that I am totally disinterested, nor that I can't see how more people could be turned toward the light in future elections, even without recourse to the tactics of political plug-uglies and cutpurses.

So my proposal would be that every Democrat go to the hinterlands and spread the gospel of critical thinking. I would suggest that we teach these skills to our children (don't leave it to the schools; they aren't equipped for, or inclined toward, such a program), but as we liberals are always having abortions and whatnot, we are understaffed in that regard, and so must extend the blessings of logical analysis, wide reading, and the entertainment of unfamiliar ideas to those outside our families, covens, polyamorous clusters, etc.

As Miniter's modus shows, idiocy is the Republicans' greatest ally. They have discovered that while, as their last good President said, you cannot fool all of the people all of the time, you can fool enough of them to make the effort worthwhile. When we act against them, they simply dangle the appropriate colored ribbons and shiny baubles over the idiot patch, and their voters dance away our hopes. So we must go another way, and diminish their voters' susceptibility to this kind of mind control.

Thus we solve the twin problems of the Party -- an insufficient number of voters, and contempt for the electorate -- at one swoop.

This is missionary work of a sort, but we should pursue it gently and Jesuitically, offering the truth as a gift. Lend a David Sedaris book to an unemployed machinist who thinks his layoff had less to do with multinational malfeasance than with homosexuals. When he asks you why the hell you think that freaky shit is funny, paint a rapturous vision of life with a liberal arts degree. If necessary, mention that literary chicks are easy and someone's always got weed at their parties. He'll come around.

If we all put our shoulders to this wheel, we shall make salons of the TGIFs and Piggy Wigglys, the BPOE chapters will start up book clubs, and Democrats will have a chance even in the reddest of jurisdictions.

If this doesn't work, and the Party and the country wind up not just fucked but ass-fucked thanks to my harebrained idea, at least I'll have established my cred as a political operative and assured myself a spot on CNN News. So long, suckers!

Monday, November 15, 2004

TOOL TIME. Today Michael Totten exhibits the deep thinking skills that make him such an important part of the Bush liberal bloc:
I have never, ever, not once in my life, thought of superheroes as Republicans. Although I guess I can sort of see it now. John Kerry wanted to do many things in office, but saving the world wasn’t one of them. I always thought it was liberals who wanted to save the world, not Texas Republicans, but alas and alack it’s a bizarro world as they say...
The article is about a cartoon and runs to 778 words.

Next week: which ice-cream flavor is more conservative -- Phish Food or Chubby Hubby? Each has countercultural subthemes, yet both celebrate free-market abundance! Maybe Totten can get a thousand words out of that one.


HELL YEAH, WHUT THAT FUNNY-BOY SAID! An interesting variation on a familiar theme at OpinionJournal this weekend: James Q. Wilson joins the chorus of Republican apologists saying the "moral values" thing doesn't mean what the liberals think it means. He is especially hard on Thomas Friedman's fear of Fundies. "Research shows that organizations of Christian fundamentalists are hardly made up of fire-breathers," tut-tuts Wilson, "but rather are organizations whose members practice consensual politics and rely on appeals to widely shared constitutional principles."

Comical as this may be to people who have followed the subject, the big fun really starts in the comments section, where several correspondents refute by example Wilson's point:
I can bet that our all voluntary armed forces great majority of members come from those red states -- truly counties -- and the parents, wives and children of those serving went for Mr. Bush...

...a great reformation is occurring now. It comes to this: Do you believe the Bible and in Christ Jesus--and have a real relationship with Him--and what He taught and stands for, or don't you?... In the parlance, we'd say God is shaking the tree of His church to see which is good fruit and which isn't. And if the church is being shaken, so is America. Americans are being forced--rightly so, in my opinion--to decide: Is there a right way or a wrong way of living and thinking? I base this, of course, on Judeo-Christian teachings and the life of the Christ. So, of course, Mr. Friedman and others lament that "his" America is being ruined. His, the Democrats', liberals' and secularists' comfort zone has been forever invaded and disturbed. They are being confronted uncomfortably and continuously with their moral ambivalence and immorality on things such as abortion and homosexual unions...

When the country watched two hotbeds of off-the-wall liberal areas, San Francisco and Boston endorsed gay marriages and force it down everyone's throats, the country became concerned about the direction of this country....

I think that many people here in Connecticut still trust the TV media and the New York Times. I think that if the MSM had been compelled to present fair and balanced coverage or had real competition many voters would have information they did not have to make an informed decision...

I liked your article and even sent it to my liberal friends who think that Tom Friedman is infallible. The liberal media, however, do determine the final vote... (Really? Then how come we lost? -- Ed.)

My wise sister-in-law said, months before the election, "If God wants George W. Bush to be president, he'll be re-elected, but if God wants our country to be judged, John Kerry will be elected." Perhaps, Mr. Wilson, it is easy to explain the election; it's a "God thing." Very simple, indeed.
I love it. The nicely barbered, degreed, and credentialed conservative mouthpiece clears his throat and demurely states that the GOP is not infested with crack-brained bigots, and the guys in the back row stand up and holler, "Yee-haw! You tell them faggot-lovers, Perfesser!"


Sunday, November 14, 2004

CULTURE WARS CONT. The Liberty Film Festival, a place where right-wing filmmakers can show their product and perhaps work out some deals, should be an encouraging development for those of us who believe in the marketplace of ideas. One may imagine that most Hollywood product advances a conservative agenda -- i.e., worship of money, status, and easy answers -- and still welcome the contributions of strong-minded folks who believe themselves to be advancing fresh concepts.

But from this Weekly Standard account, it sounds like another Republican pity party:
LIBERALS WHO FLOCKED to see Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 report that more than the film itself, they were exhilarated by the communal experience of sitting in an auditorium filled with likeminded people who all cheered and booed at the same things. So, too, but in reverse, at the Liberty Film Festival. Attendees loudly jeered whenever a liberal icon such as Bill Clinton or Ted Kennedy appeared on-screen, and they energetically applauded every on-screen Republican. "It was thrilling to be in an audience that would applaud when Ed Meese was on the screen," said Douglas Urbanski, a prominent producer and talent manager who appeared on the panel with Breitbart.

"It was very emotional. I had women coming up to me with tears in their eyes," co-organizer Murty told me. "There is an enormous public out there who feel their views have been despised, who've had their patriotism ridiculed," Murty said. "It was such a relief for everybody to have other like-minded individuals to talk to."
Poor conservatives, getting no respect from people they despise! These guys seem more interested in razzing their political opposition (two anti-Michael Moore docs played the Festival) than in actual artistic achievement. I haven't seen these movies, but even the Standard's sympathetic reporter had difficulty praising them ("As for the films themselves, they often seemed an afterthought. Many of them approached their subject-matter from an almost purely rational standpoint, trying to reason with their audience rather than to move them").

By and large conservatives seem to be falling back on their traditional strategy of harshing on works of art made by others. At OpinionJournal, Meghan Cox Gurdon decries the attitude toward abortion in the Alfie remake and in Vera Drake. Though she ends with a prayer for intercession by Mel Gibson, clearly Gurdon doesn't hold out hope for any big anti-abortion epics in the near future. She just wants us to know that our moviemakers are advancing an abortionist agenda.

It may puzzle the rational mind that anyone could believe that a nation which so recently returned right-wing Republicans to power has been brainwashed into fetuscide by a couple of low-grossing movies, but culture warriors have ever been about the counter-intuitive. At the Washington Times, the amusingly-named Christian Toto tells us that Lenny Bruce isn't funny. Now, I have not heard the recent Bruce collection that Toto claims is his only experience of the celebrated comic, and it's possible that judging Bruce by this is like judging Jimi Hendrix by "Crash Landing." And funny is more a matter of taste than just about anything else. But generally if you're going to go out on a limb and tell people that, say, Mozart isn't really so musical, you have to make some kind of case. Toto mainly says that Bruce's "references are dated" and that he was a very bad man ("an opportunist... proclaims his martyrdom, then uses it for marketing purposes"), and that Bruce reminds him of Howard Stern, whom he also dislikes. The summation is that "shock" humor will not last, etc.

One might think this is just a tin-eared review, but Toto's a credentialed culture warrior. Along with WashTimes he writes for the right-wing Insight and The World & I, where he can be seen praising events for Zell Miller and the Media Research Center (Lenny Bruce isn't funny, apparently, but Brent Bozell is a riot), the values-centered and short-lived sitcom "Kristin" ("It's a sad statement that when a sitcom character doesn't lie, cheat or engage in raucous premarital sex, she is treated like a creature from another planet"), the "Singles with Scruples" dating site, and other such approved subjects. (He does turn in some pans, e.g. of Chris Rock, whose "political rants too often skew predictably liberal and lack the incisive bite of his best commentary.") Since the days when John Podhoretz did movie reviews for WashTimes with a little meter indicating how conservatively-correct was each film on offer, the Rev. Sun Myung Moon's publication axis has empowered agreeable arts critics to spread the gospel, and we may reasonably read Toto's Bruce review as part of that effort.

They run everything, but as long as someone's making fun of them, even from the grave, they will never rest.

Friday, November 12, 2004

"BENNIE" DON'T LIVE HERE ANYMORE. Things look grim for employees of United Airlines, whose post-bankruptcy plans include this:
United has stated previously that it would most likely be forced to terminate and replace its employee pension plans to obtain the financing needed to exit bankruptcy. United has about USD$4.1 billion in pension funding due over the next five years.
If you feel bad for them, and wish they had the kind of protections workers had in the good old days, readjust your thinking. The Wall Street Journal (the esteemed news-gathering organization, not the froth factory) reports that companies have found a way to retract benefits promised to current retirees years ago:
Many companies have already cut back company-paid health-care coverage for retirees from their salaried staffs. But until recently, employers generally were barred from touching unionized retirees' benefits because they are spelled out in labor contracts. Now, some are taking aggressive steps to pare those benefits as well, including going to court.

In the past two years, employers have sued union retirees across the country. In the suits, they ask judges to rule that no matter what labor contracts say, they have a right to change the benefits. Some companies also argue that contract references to "lifetime" coverage don't mean the lifetime of the retirees, but the life of the labor contract. Since the contracts expired many years ago, the promises, they say, have expired too.
Once the lawsuits are up and running, it only remains for the corporation lawyers (who for some reason have a better reputation these days than trahhhhhl lawyers) to wait for the retirees to give up, run out of money to fight with, or die.

Many of these retirees are skilled, middle-class laborers of the sort that once comprised much of the "Reagan Democrat" bloc. But there is little consolation to be gleaned from the fact that most of those who have cooperated with the dismantling of workers' protections will, eventually, get stung themselves. Because if guys like these aren't protected, even with a contract, eventually none of us will be.


Thursday, November 11, 2004

BASEBALL LIKE IT OUGHTA BE. Hell no to video review for baseball.

For one thing, the game's gotten too damn slow already. Bad enough we got guys stepping out of the batter's box and fiddling with their gloves between every pitch. Add two or three breaks per game for umps to watch TV, and ballparks will have to start serving breakfast during the 7th-inning stretch.

Second, umpires are God (or at least Supreme Court justices) or they are nothing. You got to believe that they are standing tall on every call, even when they're wrong (unless one of the associate justices -- I mean line judges -- sets them straight). I don't want to see an umpire sheepishly trudging from the video booth to the first-base line to mumble "Upon further review..." Might as well let the players take swings at them, then.

And there are a dozen other reasons, all boiling down to I'm an old crank and I want players to wear baggy pants and have names like "Cap." Well, not really. But too much tech is too much tech, and baseball's threshold of too-much is lower than that of most other endeavors. Within a few years of this innovation, they'll be playing the game on a giant air-table and hitting the ball with their minds.

Bad enough we got this newfangled designated hitter foolishness.

THEY WILL KNOW WE ARE CHRISTIANS BY OUR LOVE. From alleged mail to the National Review Online:
I agree that Arafat was a bad man, and when I heard he was dying, I was glad. But that fact in itself causes grief: that there would be someone so bad that I would wish him dead. I'm a Christian, and I believe Arafat's in hell right now, and that also makes me sad. He could have chosen differently and he and the world would have
been better off.
I can understand why this guy prefers Arafat dead to Arafat alive. But what's interesting is that he describes himself as a Christian.

Having been raised Catholic, I recall -- and still try to observe, as it makes good moral sense -- the eminently Christian principle that we should not judge any former humans to be in hell, or in heaven for that matter (excepting the saints and the beatified), because to presume to know the mind of God, whose judgement alone settles the matter, challenges our humility before him. (Initial caps on pronouns deleted due to apostasy.)

I realize that Catholicism is the Tiffany of Jesus cults, and that the downmarket variants based in our nation's backwaters may have sloppier standards. Still, how strange that a professed follower of the Prince of Peace would so cravenly offload the responsibilities implicit in an imitation of Christ! Instead, he just feels "sad" that he feels "glad" about the death of a man that was "bad." No idea there that cheering a man's death is something in itself to repent. Did it never occur to him to pray for Arafat's soul?

Even the old National Review, before its thorough debasement in recent years, would put "R.I.P." next to their death notices for people whom they clearly despised. Christian hypocracy? Well, yes, but of the nobler sort. Now they can't even muster that.

There's another little insight into the Values Voters.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

THE PERSONAL IS THE POLITICAL, RIGHT-WING VERSION #34,711. Some guy responding to some other guy:
Of all the people I know who support this war, most of us have conversations like this with each other all the time:

"Why are the anti-war people so vicious and nasty?"

"Why are the anti-war people so irrational and hateful and smug?"

"How do we get through to them? They just won't listen!"

"Don't you get tired of being called a liar and a fascist? I sure do."

It reached a point for a lot of us that on election day, we were doing more than just saying "We want to re-elect George Bush." When we pulled that lever for Bush, we were also just plain saying "FUCK YOU!"
Guy also says he takes drugs. Man, I can't wait for the Sixties to be over.

I AM OUT OF TOUCH WITH AMERICA. This is Rene Zellweger after she "packed on the pounds" for the new Bridget Jones movie:



Packed on the pounds? She's fucking adorable.

But what do I know? I like Kim Novak too.


Tuesday, November 09, 2004

THE WOUND AND THE BALL. The most important high-level appointment of the month is Willie Randolph's. He has solid baseball (and New York baseball) cred, and he's smart, at least in interviews, and God knows all Mets fan welcome him and wish him well. But I can't help but think what might have been.

Former Met Wally Backman was in the hunt, at least fleetingly, and I was really hoping he'd get the job. When he went to the Diamondbacks instead, I was very interested to see what he'd do with them. He'd done well managing in the minors, and came into Arizona announcing that he would not rebuild the fallen D'backs, but win with them. This was classic Backman. He was the sort of player one expected to come into first spikes up: tightly-wound and no backing down. He wasn't generally a great batter or base-stealer, but in the Mets' championship year he hit .320 and he made pitchers nervous with his nervy, glaring, stretch-legged leads. I think he smelled victory and went after it like a hungry tiger. He was 5'9" and skinny and with his mustache and bellicose swagger reminded me of Jack Nicholson in The Last Detail.

Recently the Diamondbacks fired Backman after learning of his trailer-park history: domestic violence, drunk driving, bankruptcy. It may seem odd that his financial problems -- not a crime, at least not yet -- are in that mix until you recall how often the words "role model" come up in professional sports. I doubt very much anyone in the Arizona organization cares very much about Backman's character as such, but they seem to have serious concerns, as everyone seems to these days, about the appearance of impropriety. And so he was let go.

Do I care about his character? The question gives me pause. New York loved Billy Martin, by all accounts a seriously messed up guy -- but one who channeled his demons into baseball (when he was not sending them into his fists and drinking elbow) and won ballgames. Let us not forget that these are jocks we're talking about, and that those guys don't usually draw their inspiration from the same source as lyric poets. When most people do acid and smoke pot, they rhapsodize about trees; Bill "Spaceman" Lee mowed down batters and got into fistfights.

I never wondered before the revelations if Backman went home and belted his wife, and of course I don't approve and hope the anger management classes he had to take made him a less combative helpmeet, not to mention a more careful drinker/driver. But whether or not he's achieved a Phil Jackson sort of Zen enlightenment, I assume he'd still have something left over for baseball, and that in a tight game he'd run out and rip into an umpire over some stupid play in hopes of riling his team to victory. It's worked before, hasn't it?

This, I acknowledge, is a failing in my character. I should be wishing Backman a mellow old age, not casting him as Philoctetes. Baseball does that to me. Politics, too. I'm down for whatever it takes to get my team out the cellar.


GRACIOUS WINNERS DEPT. The Ole Perfesser observes that Maureen Dowd looks "like she's aged ten years" and "bitter." Must be a men's lib thing.

Speaking of chest-beaters, Matt Welch offers a sampling of recent winger hubris. (I suppose he left out some of the more imbecilic ones because, after all, he used to work the same room with the same "anti-idiotarian" schtick. But there'll be a lot of "I was in Switzerland at the time" over the next few years, so I figure why not forget and forgive.)

The baying of the Bushies is mildly amusing, but I'm still more interested in the glib rationalizations of the useful idiots. Michael Totten is still making "The Liberal Case for Bush." I absolutely cannot wait for his "The Liberal Case for Chief Justice Thomas."

Michele Catalano, meanwhile, momentarily turns her considerable nervous energy upon censorship. Her essay includes this nostalgic trope:
And it's not just ultra conservatives who want to shove their values down your throat. It comes from both sides. The PC left wants to obliterate passages from textbooks...
Just as the sight of a Coupe de Ville or a Model T fills my heart with warmth, it's reassuring to know that some simple souls are still fretting about Political Correctness in the Age of Jesusland. Republicans run everything, the MSM is discredited, the blogosphere is triumphant, but somewhere a Marxist is trying to replace "the Founding Fathers" with "the Framers" (and doing it for yucky women's-lib reasons, not good ones like when Robert Bork does it) -- we must be on guard!

Next week: how the atheists are trying to put a giant rock sculpture of "Tropic of Cancer" in the Kings County Courthouse.