Monday, December 13, 2004

ATTENTION COMRADES! We are all of one mind that Spanglish is good pro-family film, da? Good. Hear now new reality for Finding Nemo: Comrade Goldberg has found evidence is pro-life! "I'm now starting to pay close attention to the more subtle ways abortion politics play out in the popular culure," says Comrade Goldberg. Is way to grow, Comrade! Is hoping Comrade Mathewes-Green watches and learns!

THEY WERE, LIKE, LOOKING AT US! Yesterday when I was young, it would please my friends and me to recount, often immediately after the fact, some great danger we believed we had experienced just by being in a certain place at a certain time. After we had been in a cheap chicken joint on The Block in Baltimore, for example, or at an East German security checkpoint, or in a redneck bar, we would afterward laugh excitedly about how close we had been to "getting our asses kicked," though in fact nothing bad had happened to us, or had even been likely to happen.

I wonder what age Jay Nordlinger is. In his most recent mass of twaddle, he quotes a correspondent describing some guy who wore a lot of different Bush T-shirt during the 2004 election campaign: "His shirts drove people crazy, absolutely crazy. He gave me a 'Dalton Aunts [for Bush-Cheney]' shirt to wear, and although I was never physically attacked, I'm fairly certain that I left more than one person on the Upper West Side with severe indigestion..."

We musta pissed them off so bad! You could tell by the way they were like walking around!

He wore a very loud shirt that said -- incredibly -- "BUSH WINS! Electoral Vote Final: Bush: 286; CBS News: 252." You have no idea -- none -- how incongruous that is in Central Park, unless you live here. It's sometimes said that you can get away with anything in New York, that the city is so big and diverse and wild, no one notices. Baloney. If you had worn a Bush-Cheney button in Carnegie Hall -- people would have noticed. (You should have been wearing a Kevlar vest too.)
You shoulda seen, man -- people, like, noticed us! Good thing there were tens of thousands of people around, and it was broad daylight, or we woulda got out ass kicked!

In fairness we must note that, in a sane world, Nordlinger's ass would have been kicked many times over. He rags on New York City continually, yet continues to live and take employment here; one wonders why he and the rest of his City-hating colleagues have not relocated to Fritters, AL, there to rub elbows with the hoi polloi.

Nordlinger also claims to have trouble buying a Christmas card because of evil diversity apparatchiks. Try Hallmark, asshole.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

AND THE HOMELAND OF THE SECURE. Bernie Kerik is out, and the usual suspects brush this off as a "Nannygate" kerfuffle. Of course, the swift turnaround from hero to zero indicates that the nanny issue was merely the softest blow Kerik's nomination might have absorbed, and so Kerik and the Bush Administration took it, leaving other complications (including a cigarettes-for-prisoners scam at the Department of Corrections while he presided there) and hard questions that might have been asked about his disastrous three-month tenure as sheriff of Baghdad unaddressed.

While there are all kinds of reasons to dislike Kerik, one has to applaud Giuliani's loyalty in pulling him back on board the former mayor's current money train. Loyalty is one of Giuliani's few admirable traits -- he devoted a chapter of his best-seller to it; he demands it of subordinates and, one must say, he has returned it in Kerik's case. Tony Soprano would be proud. Now the former mayor can lick his exceedingly superficial wounds and go back to planning dancing bans and rent hikes for the whole of America.

Word on the street is that Joe Lieberman may step up to the plate next. It couldn't happen to a nicer guy.

COMRADES! PARTY APPROVES NEW ADAM SANDLER MOVIE! At National Review Online, Comrade Mathewes-Green disappoves Spanglish. Is noting that "the point this movie is trying to make turns out to be a good one: Parents should make sacrifices for their children, noble self-discipline is good, impulsive self-indulgence is bad, and breaking up a marriage, even a desperately unhappy marriage, is very bad," but Comrade Mathewes-Green says film is spoiled by "sitcom-style yuks and inexplicable character behavior."

Comrade Lopez raises point of order! Approves Comrade Mathewes-Green's approval of "pro-marriage" The Incredibles, but sees great correctness in Spanglish:"great lines and a great general attitude.. about responsibility... Family. Responsibility. Parental love. The friendship between the Sandler and Vega characters was so real and, frankly (and now I get patronizing? Sorry.) useful I think for a NY artsy audience, which I happened to be mixed in with tonight. The blues can afford to be exposed to 90 minutes of those messages in a funny, breezy kinda way.
Some conversations coming out of the theater were 'That was, uh, different. Like a family movie.' You sensed a little air of not getting it. (But I figure they cracked up enough they won’t trash it.)"

Is secret weapon for leading evil bluestate viewers to approve pro-marriage views! Also, "George W. Bush would love this movie," because Sandler "would be exactly the model W. seems to exude, just by being a father to his daughters." Central Committee may say "nyet" to comparison of President with bumbler Sandler, but heart is in right place! Comrade Mathewes-Green, have a care! Unfailingly correct critics abound who may like job at NRO.

Friday, December 10, 2004

PEOPLE EVERYWHERE JUST GOT TO BE FREE. The ho-hum part is that yet another production of McNally's Corpus Christi has run afoul of area Christians.

The funny part is that the production is at St. Andrew's University in Scotland, and somebody is trying to get the playmakers busted for blasphemy, which is apparently still a crime in that jurisdiction.

The hilarious part is that the U.K. is still mulling the British Home Secretary's religious-hatred bill, which is so absurd that even wingnuts can't get behind it (they'll probably try to blame it all on us, of course, but a coalition is a coalition, welcome comrades!). The Telegraph describes this edifying recent spectacle: "During a Commons debate on the Serious Organised Crime and Police Bill, [Blunkett] said it was not intended that telling jokes about a faith should be caught by the offence, which carries a seven-year jail term."

Ealier in this process, Blunkett had offered a fascinating tit-for-tat: accept the new law and we'll repeal the blasphemy ordinance.

But a new freedom to blaspheme seems to be moving off the table:
Some commentators had expected the repeal of the blasphemy law -- which applies only to Christianity -- to be announced in the Queen's Speech along with the new law, which protects all religions.

But Home Office minister Fiona Mactaggart made clear the Government was not intending to give all religions equal protection under the law by abolishing blasphemy.

"At the moment we have got no plans to deal with blasphemy," she told BBC Radio 4's Law in Action.
Let's not pick on them too much, though -- we Yanks have our own problems: "A Williamson County [IL} judge Thursday let stand the arrest of an exotic dancer from Stephanie's Cabaret charged with violating a county ordinance against dancing topless... Judge Phillip Palmer said dancer Amy Bullock's case is 'no noble cause' and that her freedom of speech, protected by the First Amendment, had not been violated." But you can still tell jokes!

What say we start a new country someplace?

HO HO HORSESHIT. "'I hate Christmas.' Every year the chorus seems to grow louder, leaving a trail of sour feelings and ACLU lawsuits for ordinary folks to trip over on their way to celebrate a holiday born of love," writes one of the less talented OpinionJournal staffers in an attack on people who don't like Christmas, which demographic the author imagines to consist of spoiled children, celebrity offspring, and, of course, liberals.

This short-straw-drawing scrivener should get a load of "In Defense of Scrooge," written by Michael Levin of the Ludwig van Mises Institute:
So let's look without preconceptions at Scrooge's allegedly underpaid clerk, Bob Cratchit. The fact is, if Cratchit's skills were worth more to anyone than the fifteen shillings Scrooge pays him weekly, there would be someone glad to offer it to him. Since no one has, and since Cratchit's profit-maximizing boss is hardly a man to pay for nothing, Cratchit must be worth exactly his present wages.
I dusted the article for irony and it seems to be an authentic, market-driven tesimonial to Scrooge. (The Free Republic smell test was inconclusive, devolving mainly into fights between Protestants and Catholics, though I enjoyed this comment by nopardons: "Charles Dickens was a sentimentalist and the very worst kind of bleeding heart LIBERAL, and ALL of his books contain and promote what we would call socially LIBERAL monographs." But let us not tarry, that way madness lies.)

I happen to dislike the bad things about Christmas (like the insane consumerist expectations, which always put me in mind of Ben Gazzara in Convicts 4, sitting in his slum apartment on Christmas Eve, trying frantically to re-insert the stuffing of a broken rag doll that will serve as his daughter's only present; when the doll ruptures irrevocably, he buries his head in his heads, then runs out and kills a store clerk), and to like the good things, like time off from work. I guess that makes me a moderate! Now maybe Michael Totten will buy me a latte.

(Convicts 4 is always worth a look, by the way, especially for Sammy Davis Jr. as "Wino," who explains to Gazzara that the prison bedbugs won't bite him "because they find something repulsive in my sweat," and Ray Walston as "Iggy," who keeps asking the art teacher to tell him about focal points "because it sounds sexy.")

Thursday, December 09, 2004

GIBBERISH. There is a much-remarked article in the Times this week lamenting the poor quality of writing among corporate employees. It's fine as far as it goes, but I have two cavils.

First, the article focuses on grammar and punctuation errors, which are mere symptoms of sloppy thinking, and not even determinative symptoms -- a piece of writing may be syntactically perfect, yet incoherent.

Second, it should be pointed out that corporate drones are not the only types with this problem.

To show you what I mean, here is the last paragraph of article by an American university professor, who, having endeavored to prove by use of anecdotes that the U.S. professariat is so nearly exclusively liberal as to have "a deleterious effect on the learning environment" (this last assertion bolstered by the ambiguous findings of a dicey poll), ends his meanderings thus:
What is to be done? Proponents of diversity, as measured by race, gender, sexual orientation, or what have you, long complained about the "old boys network" that dominated law school hiring. (Oddly enough, as the proponents of such diversity have achieved their own critical mass on most law school campuses, one tends to hear this complaint less often. Indeed, from what I see and hear, there seems to be something a "new boys and girls network" at work.) It's time for us conservatives and libertarians to take up that complaint. We shouldn't ask for affirmative action in favor of our fellow travelers, but we should insist that the pool of candidates not be artificially constricted by either the old or the new networks.
One can poke this from any angle and find mush. If the new boys and girls have replaced the old boys "by critical mass," and as there is nothing offered here to recommend the old boys over the new, shouldn't we just congratulate the current crop of cloth-ears on winning their power struggle? If cons & libs take up, as the professor suggests, the new kids' diversity complaint, what moral advantage over the current mob does that leave them? To whom would the professor and his confederates "insist that the pool of candidates not be artificially constricted by either the old or the new networks," and what would it accomplish, other than giving the professor something to bitch about to the like-minded readers of Tech Central Station?

Well, OK, that one sort of answers itself.

P.C. SCHMEESEE. Michael J. Totten sympathizes with a scriptwriter who thinks her screenplay, which contains Arab terrorists, is being suppressed by the evil Hollyweird liberals. Totten takes the opportunity to launch into a diatribe against "Political Correctness," clearly hoping to activate the balloons and claim the door prizes awaiting the ten millionth columnist to address the subject.

This reminds me of Lenny Bruce's Comic at the Palladium, who, when his material provokes a frosty reception from the toney London crowd, snarls, "Lotta squares here tonight!" I wish I had a nickel for every artist who lamented that his work was too real, too honest to get play. Hell, I wish I had a nickel for every time I've lamented that!

You have to wonder why the scriptwriter hasn't contacted Rupert Murdoch for funding. We all know what his political orientation is. Yet his film arm produces stuff like Kinsey, which has the fundies in an uproar. "'Fox has a schizophrenic personality,' [Director of the conservative Culture and Family Institute in Washington Robert] Knight told the newspaper. 'Conservatives appreciate Fox News Channel for bringing balance, but the Fox entertainment network, on the other hand, has clearly been the leader in driving TV into the sewer with its non-stop sexual emphasis.'" Maybe Murdoch doesn't discuss the lively arts with Brit Hume and Tony Snow, and so doesn't know any winger filmmakers. Or maybe, just maybe, it all has something to do with money.

Well, she can always try Sun Myung Moon. It's been a while since Inchon and maybe he's ready to get back up on the horse.

UPDATE. Totten's commenters on this topic are, true to form, mostly addled, but a real doozy can be found among the responses to Stefan Kanfer's relatively innocuous Hollywood article at OpinionJournal. Kudos to Harry Mathis of Round Rock, Texas for a unique solution to the "Why Do They Hate Us?" problem.

IF THROWING CUPS OF BEERS IS OUTLAWED, ONLY OUTLAWS WILL THROW CUPS OF BEER. I suppose it's hard enough to keep order at an NBA game, but all I can say is I wish this standard was in effect when I was fronting rock and roll bands. I got the beer bath many a time. One time a guy threw a bag of garbage at us. Well, like Lou Reed said, those were different times, not to mention pay scales.

I suppose the charges against the lager louts will lead to all sorts of similarly elevated discourse, and I look forward to it. Too bad we can't get a follow-up from National Review's Geoffrey "Gangstaball" Norman, who boldly predicted, "Fans who were punched -- even though they may have provoked it -- will sue." Considering that the prosecutor has already given Artest a pass for clocking the guy who famously wandered into Artest's waiting fist on grounds of "self-defense," we shan't be seeing much of that, methinks.

The players' case has been already been an occasion for much hilarious analysis. My favorite is from the Revolutionary Worker Online:
The talk about Artest’s problems or his previous run-ins with basketball’s authorities is a lot of crap. Bush took the U.S. to war in Iraq based on lies about weapons of mass destruction and Saddam’s ties to al-Qaida. Before that as Texas governor he presided over a record number of executions, including some where the person put to death was innocent. But news reporters don’t link this to his past problems with alcohol or to his current addiction to Pat Robertson-style Christian Fascism.
Now who, as David Huddleston observed in Blazing Saddles, can argue with that? Though we owe the RWO a debt for pointing this out: "The Washington Wizards (formerly the Bullets) had a designated heckler who was seated behind the visiting team’s bench. This guy would do research to determine the best way to get inside the heads of visiting players and coaches. He’d recite rewritten versions of Shaq’s rap lyrics, read sections of Phil Jackson’s autobiography and run down any run-ins players had with the law among other things." Now there's a dream job!

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

GRAMMY SMELLS FUNNY. This year's Grammy nominees list has some piquant entries. First of all, for Best Pop Instrumental Album et alia, Mason Williams -- the guy who did "Classical Gas" and wrote for the Smothers Brothers in the 60s. I know nothing about Cradle of Filth, but that they are called Cradle of Filth and they have a nominated tune called "Nymphetamine," and that is all I need to know. Love also to the composers of "Can't Nobody Do Me Like Jesus." And congratulations to Jay-Z for "99 Problems" -- I can't wait to see the number performed on network TV.

But my favorite is Best Spoken Word Album for Children nominee Elaine Stritch! "Alright, yuh little bastards, sit tight! Aunt Lainey's gonna take a little more 'throat medicine' and then we'll continue. Alright, where was I? Oh, yeah, so The Merm was chasing me up the fire escape..."

Well, it beats actually listening to the stuff.

UPDATE. Now that I've learned that CoF has tunes called "Absinthe with Faust" and "Satyriasis," I am officially a fan. No, I haven't actually heard any of these songs, but I'm pretty sure I already know what they sound like.

ONE WESTERN-STYLE DEMOCRACY, COMING UP! "A U.S. lawmaker who visited Afghanistan says Osama bin Laden uses cash from heroin sales to pay bodyguards and buy off Pakistani war lords." -- Washington Times, December 6.

Wait. They've been conquered for a couple years already, and they're still funneling poppy-money to Bin Laden?

I can see how the poppy fields would be busy. The UN and the U.S. coalition together have about 24,000 troops in Afghanistan. That's about one soldier for every ten square miles. Doubtless they've been too busy with other things to do DEA-style drug interdiction -- so far, anyway.

(Still, I wonder how the Afghanis get their drug money to Bin Laden? "Meet me at the corner of Allah Street and Main at midnight. I will be wearing a pink carnation.")

Understandably, the new Afghan leadership decrees that an end to the heroin trade there is essential to the growth of Western-style democracy, because that trade is connected to terrorism. The people of Afghanistan might feel differently about it -- especially since they have little else to live on -- but who cares what they think? Anything that aids the war on terror and the war on drugs is a twofer.

At least they're not getting rid of the heroin on the grounds that it's bad for people. That would make them "health nazis."

SHORTER JIM LILEKS. God (and yes, I mean "God") save us early-middle-agers from the depravities of the latter-middle-aged, and the bright young things. And Desperate Housewives. And Clarence Darrow. And &tc. But you, you probably would like Closer. Two words for you, pal: Perry Mason. If that doesn't shake your foundations, I have some old matchbooks.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

BUT SERIOUSLY, FOLKS... I repent and reform. For too long I have been one of
those liberals who know only how to complain. When the Administration has invaded non-combatant countries, bombing the shit out of thousands of civilians and leaving them in chaos, and run up huge deficits that led to no evident improvements in American life, and when its cheerleaders have accused all dissent to this approach as treasonous and atheistic, I have been less than serious in my response.

But I have seen the light, and offer an adult, positive, and above all serious suggestion regarding the future of our politics.

Many people have asked, in all seriousness, "Whither the Democratic Party?" Many fine, moderate, and serious people have agreed that, though they despise all DemoRats, it is a shame that the Party only won a marginal, insignificant, damning-to-utter-irrelevance 48 percent of the national vote this year, as it is important that we have a "viable and sensible competitor to the Republicans" because -- well, I'm not sure why, but I'm sure the reason is serious... oh, here's an explanation at Enter Stage Right, which proposes that Democrats be maintained as a sort of consultative body: "As a serious minority party, Democrats could challenge the ethical behavior of Republicans when Republicans grew jaded at having power for too long." You know, like a constitutional monarch, or a fellow you bring in from time to time to give your Integrity a good workout.

While actual Democrats might be tempted to offer an unserious and obscene counter-proposal, my serious suggestion is that these Republicans stop trying to get the Democrats to render service as a Loyal Opposition. Being traitors, they would probably start asking for universal health care and such like, defeating the whole purpose of Loyal Oppositionism.

Therefore I suggest the Republicans take a page from Delta Airlines. A few years ago, wanting to get in on the small-airline craze, Delta created its own "niche" airline, Song. Though it has a very indie look and feel, Song remains a subsidiary of the aviation giant. (See also Matador Records.)

In a similar spirit, rather than wrangling the Democrats into serving as their conscience/tackling dummy Other, the Republicans can just create their own niche political party.

The Party could be called, at least in beta, the Perublicans. The Perublicans could recruit political talent from within its own ranks, from the more cooperative precincts of the Democratic Party, and, of course, from the blogosphere. To each Republican proposal, the Perublicans could offer a serious "Yes, but..." that would probe, test, invite debate on, and ultimately validate that proposal.

The President's proposal to borrow massively to pay for Social Security reform, for example, would be seriously challenged by Perublicans, probably after the manner of Concord Coalition Executive Director Robert Bixby on the subject: "Ideally, Social Security reform should be done without any borrowing. That would require hard choices that politicians aren't inclined to make... If they do have to do some borrowing, I hope they keep it to a minimum." The Perublicans would keep this line of argument up until Republicans were ready to vote on a bill; being Loyal, the Perublicans would attempt no filibusters or parliamentary hanky-panky as the measure was being passed; and they would unite with their Republican brothers behind the new program, with several of their number appearing for photographs with the President as he signed it into law.

When quizzed by disappointed constituents or the press, Perublicans would point out that each disastrous proposal got a full hearing before it was approved, and that this full and fair exchange of ideas was a stern rebuke to Michael Moore.

By such clear-eyed, sober, constructive, and serious contributions, we may yet achieve for this great nation a situation that is very serious indeed.

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.

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, 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. " 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!