Tuesday, January 04, 2005

THE RIDICULOUS PSEUDONYMS SHOULD HAVE BEEN A TIP-OFF. I heard that Powerline is supposed to be the shit, so I took a peek today.

Here's "Deacon" telling the studiously moderate William Raspberry that if he doesn't like the mess we made in Iraq he should consider that the Civil War -- which freed his black ass -- was messy too. Deacon reenforces the point by stating that "leftists who, by ignoring or downplaying the illegitimacy and criminality of Saddam's regime, are able pronounce the pro-Saddam insurgents 'freedom fighters' defying a brutal foreign occupying force are in essentially the same moral position as those who supported the Ku Klux Klan." What has calling Saddam loyalists 'freedom fighters' to do with William Raspberry? [Michael Dunn at the end of Ship of Fools voice] Nothing, my friend; nothing. [/Michael Dunn]. To be fair, Deacon did use the time-honored device of planting Michael Moore (or, rather, "the Michael Moore left") early in the script, thus excusing, well, anything.

Deacon also reposts a heartwarming Iraqi soldier's report which turns out to be largely bullshit.

"Hindrocket" tells us that a USN sailor who deserted because he didn't want to kill people doesn't get to rescue people either, and thus is a hypocrite. I think I saw this idea previously in an old issue of Green Lantern, with great art by Neal Adams.

The rest is all links, ass-pats, and society news. What a disappointment. (P.S. I'm doing you a favor with all the paraphrasing -- the writing has that leaden-fingered quality common to the genre, which may be what has convinced some people that it is Serious.)

Monday, January 03, 2005

THE POLITICS OF DISASTER. There was a rather remarkable column by Daniel Henninger in the Journal the other day. Its theme -- well, I'm not sure what its theme is. At first it seems like standard-issue conservative religious hooey attached, by reflex, to the recent disasters on the other side of the world. "Religious belief, for those whose belief includes an afterlife, is a kind of comfort that even unbelievers would be loath to deny the survivors of this tsunami," says Henninger. "Not long ago people would offer solace by saying of the dead that he or she 'is in a better place.' I haven't read or heard much religious sentiment expressed in public about what has happened to the peoples around the Indian Ocean or the Arabian Sea." But this idea is not followed upon, and so is probably just a spasm of the sort bred into such authors by prolonged obeisance to Republican Party talking points.

For a while the article looks to be about that old chestnut, information overload. "Two weeks ago, Scott Peterson; last week, the Mosul mess-hall bombing; this week, South Asia wiped out," writes Henninger. "Time was, we'd watch the scenes coming out of Asia 'in horror.' Now, I think, we mostly just watch." I am of the self-examining sort, and do not think I have conflated the Scott Peterson trial with the deaths of hundreds of thousands in an epic disaster; and, widening my purview perhaps unfairly, I can't imagine many others have done so, either.

But this is only a bridge. Eventually Henninger gets to brass tacks. The info overload is revealed to include (or be caused by -- again, the author is unclear) horrors in Iraq. "The world's leading expert on how emotional, data-passed news can obliterate important context is Abu Musab al-Zarqawi," says Henninger. "His homicidal bombings can't kill Iraq's 25 million people, but he knows that images and tales of sudden death will suppress calmer, constructive portrayals of Baghdad's five million people restoring their lives to normalcy."

So, if it means anything at all, Henninger's column is about the image war waged by our enemies -- those pictures of atrocities that we have been told again and again to factor out of our considerations of American policy. But what is the connection with the tsunami and its aftermath? Insofar as I understand him, Henninger wants us to spread democracy as a means toward reducing misery of all sorts in the world. ("Political work is the means the civilized world has for replacing men and ideas that are dumb or dangerous with something better.") A noble goal, say I, though we may differ as to means. But what has this to do with shifting tectonic plates, the resulting angry seas, and the lives thus obliterated? "In the aftermath of 2004's too-numerous unnatural deaths," concludes Henninger, "the only resolution possible is to re-enter the arena of politics and fight the good, slow fight. It's all we've got, and it is enough."

I keep reading that some parties are trying to politicize the disaster. Is this what they're talking about?

UPDATE. Related thoughts at Gadflyer.
SO THAT'S WHAT'S WRONG WITH HIM. "I should add that I owe Michael Lind a lot. The Next American Nation sold me on the value of reading." -- Salam Reihan.

Thursday, December 30, 2004

QUAKE HITS S.E. ASIA; MANY WHITE PEOPLE INVOLVED.

Elsewhere at the NY Post, conservatarian Collin Levey uses the disaster, not as an occasion for tears, but as an opportunity to exult -- nay, luxuriate -- in America's awesome wealth-generating power. And because of that mighty dynamism, it doesn't matter to Levey if "America doesn't give as much as a percentage of national income as say... Norway," because we're rich and fuck you and here's some money, bitch.

Levey speaks of our contributions to this disaster relief effort as "foreign aid." Of course, anyone who's been around the block without blinkers made of Ayn Rand books knows that foreign aid is what we use to bribe the rest of the world into compliance with our mighty whims; the tsunami relief is just a public relations expense. But Levey has an similarly optimistic way of looking at other kinds of wealth transfers, too. Take the nannies, gardeners, and guys standing by the highway with bags of peeled oranges. You may think they're being exploited, employed at sub-standard wages by the Bernard Keriks of the world, and driving down the price of American labor. On the contrary -- they are further proof that the system works:

Then, too, our openness lets the world's poor earn money here and then send it home. In many poor countries (e.g., Mexico, India and the Philippines), foreign aid is dwarfed by remittances sent from family members working in America.

That's money -- some roughly $18 billion a year from the United States -- that goes directly to households that need it, from somebody who directly understands their needs. It doesn't flow through government hands, subject to rake-offs and politically inspired diversions to worthless projects.
I hope you were paying careful attention, because this is how Social Security is going to work in a couple of years.

IT'S NOT A MOVIE, PEGGY. In the warm stream of drool that is Peggy Noonan's year-end column, the Crazy Jesus Lady suggests:
...let me say that if Steven Spielberg went to the Mideast tomorrow, announced he was making a movie, and sent out a casting call for males age 12 to 30 he would immediately establish a new Mideast peace, at least for the length of the shoot. Because the only thing the young men there would rather do than kill each other is be a movie star. Hmmmm, a suicide bombing that raises my family's status in the neighborhood or a possible date with Cameron Diaz, let's see... Mr. Spielberg would also get a Nobel Peace Prize. I am actually not kidding.
So how come we didn't do that in 2003 instead of bombing the shit out of them?

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

HITSVILLE G.O.P. As we have seen, the trend in culture war is toward the managerial rather than the militaristic: while some benighted souls still crudely bash the impure, contenting themselves with condemnation of entartete Kunst, the new breed posit a conservative aesthetic, cite as positive examples current works that seem to fit its guidelines, and bid artists supply more of the same, please.

Even the old culture-warrior Maggie Gallagher is getting with the program -- though she can only follow it up to a point.

In September Gallagher was encouraged by the rightwing doc In the Face of Evil: Reagan's War in Word and Deed, calling it "The must-see movie of the season for zeitgeist watchers." Even this pull-quote did not launch Face of Evil into box-office heaven, but Gallagher remains confident that films like this represent "an unserved market" for people like herself.

In her latest take, Gallagher suggests that Hollywood's current obsession with schmutz is tapped out. "Gay sex, or sympathetic portrayals of pedophilia may still win critical accolades, but the buzz is no longer big box office," she writes. One stops at this: when were guy-on-guy and guy-on-kid films big box office? But Gallagher is on a roll:
Every human heart hungers to be part of a story, to take the disconnected dots of human existence and weave them into a meaningful drama. Yet millions of Americans never, ever see anything of the great aspirational stories of their lives reflected in America's premier storytelling genre, the movies.

Americans are an overwhelmingly religious people, for example, yet the drama of sin and salvation, of divine grace and purpose, is conspicuously absent. Millions of American men and women strive to connect sex, love, marriage and babies into a coherent story for their own life. And yet the particular intense kind of eros that can be experienced only by those so committed to such a connection is almost never glimpsed on television or film. Perhaps Hollywood does not even know it exists.
Now, by changing very few words -- maybe by making "religious" into "spiritual," or denuding the second graf of words reflecting Gallagher's highly particular POV on marriage -- this could be made to resemble the longings of many indie filmmakers and critics. How often have you been implored, in some small corner of Entertainment Weekly or a local free paper, to attend some earnest film about ordinary people, because this is the kind of movie Hollywood doesn't make but should? From Forbidden Games to Sounder to In the Bedroom to The Secret Lives of Dentists runs a thin but unceasing river of smallish films whose makers' point of pride is their relevance to real life.

Hollywood of course prefers noisy pop sludge, and has since it began fighting to lure audiences away from the quotidian dramas of early television, pretty much. If there have been more tits and taboos in the cinema since the MPAA went to letter-coding in 1968, that's because tits and taboos were things you couldn't get from the idiot box in those days.

A variety of factors, cable among them, have had their impact, but movies are still something you have to get out to the house and pay for, and Hollywood moviemakers still tend toward steroidal entertainments as a means of luring us to them. If you want to see ordinary Joes and Janes hashing out Life As It Is Lived, you're asking for niche entertainment. You can get it, of course, at the local art house or on IFC.

So Maggie has a point, but she also has an agenda. The strategy of playing the noble outsider has served conservatives well in recent years -- which is why, even as they control nearly every part of our Government, so many of them still make a decent living bemoaning their oppression by the ACLU. In the Gallagher version, Hollywood is not just something that evolved out of her liking, but a corrupt institution ripe for reform. And she is not content to watch the stuff on PAX or wait for Mel Gibson's latest Romanist epic -- she demands that Hollywood become "the next domino to fall" in the march of freedom.

So in the last ditch, the old Culture Warrior reverts to fixed bayonets. Still, she has played the Culture Manager role better than I expected. The only question is, why does she bother? The multiplexes are liberally stocked with feature-length cartoons that will not offend her, nor any breeder's or brat's, tender sensibilities -- and some of them are even approved by the Central Committee. There is also, as she approvingly notes, a strong Christian counterculture ready to keep her in Veggie Tales and Billy Ray Cyrus till kingdom come.

I think it's because she's not just looking for something good she can watch. She wants us all to watch it. And like it, and tell her we like it. For Managers as well as Warriors, perhaps, the prefix is nowhere near as important as the root. Culture is just another domino, insignificant but for the pleasure to be had in making it fall.
SHORTER JAMES LILEKS. Seeing those poor people devastated by that earthquake makes me think about how much I hate James Wolcott and Democratic Underground.

(PS: Brief excerpt in the comments for those who get pissed when I make them click through to Lileks' site.)
SULLY'S CHILDREN. The pure products of Andrew Sullivan go crazy. Now we have Reihan Salam talking about Holland's problems with unassimilated Muslims, and desperately seeking therein new and exciting meanings to prove himself the rightwing shizznit.

Yet at what a cost to common sense! Salam seems to suggest, by his wringing of a quote by Ian Buruma ("Buruma wrote on Iraq, arguing against 'perfect democracy,' i.e., rigorously secular democracy... he might consider applying it to Holland") that Holland should fight sectarian violence by writing more religion into its Government. Salam doesn't take time to tell how this religification might be achieved -- and that is one of the advantages of his breezy style: it leaves little time to speculate on possible real-life applications of his ideas ("The Chair recognizes the Honorable Member from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints").

Salam ends premonitorally:
That negotiation and compromise were preempted by elite consensus in Holland now seems clear. Democracy failed. To say that it’s only now under threat, now that the exclusion and alienation of an immigrant class has reached a crisis point, is to ignore the deeper tensions.

Which is one reason why the liberal disdain of populist conservatism is misplaced. That secular liberals will seek to defeat populist conservatives in argument is a given. But marginalizing concerns over “moral values,” the approach fatefully taken in Holland and elsewhere in Europe, has had ugly consequences all its own. Be careful what you wish for.
Maybe I'm reading this wrong (it wouldn't be hard) but here Salam seems to compare Holland's religious problems with America's. Taking him at his word that religious violence is widespread in Holland, what would be the American equivalent? Unitarifascists? The Radical Quakers?

Okay, so obviously there's no equivalent among American religious organizations. But there is a group that, while not religious itself, has been so strenuously and negatively associated with religion of late -- as seen in thousands of the-ACLU-stole-my-Christmas stories -- that it would quickly spring to any mind appropriately softened as the kind of clear and present danger Salam is talking about.

Under the circumstances, we may be forgiven for suspecting that the part of the Angry Muslims will be played in the U.S. production of Salam's "Get Religion!" by the Godless Secularists, America's current religious menace of choice. Marginalize "moral values" and you get armed gangs of secularists rampaging through church sales and Bingo nights, and perhaps even assassinating Trey Parker.

Or maybe he means something very different. Who can tell? The way the Sullivanians mangle their words, it's no wonder Roger L. Simon's goon squad thinks Ross Douthat is a liberal.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

SHORTER JAMES LILEKS: Jurassic Park is feminist propaganda.

Monday, December 27, 2004

YOUR MORNING MEMO. If you report news from Iraq, you might be a traitor. Pass it on.

AP photogs got a call to cover a demonstation. At that location, two election workers were killed. "So the AP admitted that its photographer was 'tipped off' by the terrorists," says Power Line. "The only quibble asserted by the AP was that the photographer expected only a 'demonstration,' not a murder." Hang 'em high!

Power Line understandably has no comments, but you can hear the voice of the rabble at Roger L. Simon's site: "Many members of our media are anti-American traitors." "Civil liability is something the families of those murdered should be asking about... I don’t think it is too much to expect reporters to have a sense of history..." "Not biased, just on the other side." "Without a Democratic party that would enact policies favorable to the terrorists, the terrorist/AP collaboration would have no effect." "If you are subscribing to a newspaper that carries the AP why not just send a check to Hamas?" Et alia ad nauseum.

Look for Fox to pick up on this, and start showing nothing from Iraq but pictures of soldiers giving dolls to appropriately adorable Iraqi children. Remember: if you didn't see it, it didn't happen.

UPDATE. Lots of gibberish being posted about this. My favorite, from the Belmont Club, seems to suggest that, if AP is allowed to show pictures of war atrocities to students, the Belmont Club should be able to send truth squads of bloggers to debunk them with unsupported allegations. I think they might also be suggesting that AP should support their truth squads financially, or at least provide car service -- but these guys write so badly that it is hard to be sure.
MINISTRY OF CULTURE. Ah me, the culture wars again. It is generally hard to figure out what Reihan Salam is trying to say, due perhaps to the dilatory influence on his prose of whatevs.org. (Please, please don't let him near a copy of Vice magazine.) But he is sufficiently clear in his trifurcated essay on culture wars, in which he suggests that, to reclaim the culture, conservatives (by which he seems to mean the Republican Party) must
...break the stranglehold of Big Media by reversing copyright laws that stifle free expression. Strengthen the hand of the innovative entrepreneurs behind peer-to-peer networks, spread-spectrum radio, and other technologies that have the potential to restore creative power to individuals and communities. Over time, you’ll see a more diverse media culture that will be far more in tune with -- here it comes -- our shared values. Larry Lessig’s notion of a "free culture" has a lot to offer conservatives vexed by the cultural hegemony of a narrow corporate elite.
This is meant to mark a distinction, I guess, between the Pat Buchanan types who want to "take back our culture," as Buchanan famously put it in 1992, by armed military intervention, and those like Salam, who want to use cool technology.

We might call this perspective "managerial." The part of actual culture -- you know, books, movies, songs, that stuff -- is left hanging as Salam concerns himself with the dissemination thereof by a "Benevolent Despot." We do get a feeble hint of what he and others in his less-miliaristic faction of culture warriors have in mind as to the content end. Among the very few of Salam's supporting documents that are fully available online (which is odd, considering his faith in the creative commons) is a Ross Douthat essay declaring that bitching about bad culture is a loser's game, and that conservatives have to go beyond preaching-to-the-choir, Michael Moore Hates America -type gestures, such as he saw at the American Film Renaissance Festival, and "roll up their sleeves and start writing some entertaining television shows and movies and books of their own."

So all that remains is for somebody to write good conservative entertainments. You Douthat, and Salam Reihan and his P2P hipsters will do the rest!

When you read stuff like this, you have to wonder if any of these guys have ever played in a rock and roll band or tried to write a story or a poem or done anything that was purely creative. They perhaps believe that we all show up at weekly meetings where the latest meme is announced, and go forth and sing about Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds and other Satanic things that will achieve our dark end of corrupting the culture.

Maybe they think that way because that's the only way they are able to think about anything. Maybe, being would-be managers rather than creators of art, they don't know what makes people want to be artists. They only know that such people are useful to them, and believe that, just as you can get actors to perform in commercials and musicians to make crappy pop records and draughtsmen to provide illustrations for corporate brochures, you can enlist artists to make conservative art. When a Christian commenator on Douthat suggests that conservatives "build a cultural infrastructure that will rival the political one that has contributed to so much success at the ballot box," you are hearing the voice of the manager, ordering HR to round up some talent.

The joke is that there are certainly plenty of very fine artists who could do something "conservative" enough without being bribed. Whit Stillman, for example, has made some films (Barcelona and The Last Days of Disco) that would seem right up their street. Stillman hasn't made a movie since 1998. Where's Rupert Murdoch? Where's Sun Myung Moon? These guys could bankroll a full-blown Hollywood production for him.

Maybe they actually do have some idea of what artists are like, and know they mightn't necessarily get from them a result they could approve. Even Sam Goldwyn and Harry Cohn had trouble with the talent, and they weren't even commanding that they make movies showing the folly of the estate tax. Conservatives who strongly approve, for instance, The Incredibles, which they seem to see as some sort of Ayn Rand allegory, usually fail to note that the film was made by Brad Bird, whose Cold War fable The Iron Giant was so annoying to conservative sentiments that the New York Post actually ran an editorial denouncing it ("Hollywood is taking up the cudgels to maintain the left-wing fiction that those who hunted Communists were hopelessly paranoid").

Creative types are famously pesky that way. And so, if Salam is any kind of harbringer, we may expect to see more culture-war managers devising ever more intricate distribution schemes, economic models, and business plans for right-wing cultural product, and waiting for that killer screenplay about The Joe McCarthy Nobody Knew to turn up, summoned by the invisible hand of the marketplace.

Friday, December 24, 2004

MERRY JESUSDAY.



As a present to myself and to you, I will try to avoid posting for a couple of days. Let me now express my gratitude to my dozens of readers, and especially to alicublog's many brilliant commenters. Compared to the dreck that flows through the talkback channels of most other weblogs -- well, that's not even an appropriate comparison. Enabling your enlightened chatter is this site's noblest achievement.

Thanks also to the sites on my blogroll, and many others I've been too lazy to include -- there's another New Year's resolution to consider -- for reminding me that the world has not gone entirely mad.

I must also thank the National Review Online, OpinionJournal, Free Republic, Andrew Sullivan, the Crazy Jesus Lady, the Ole Perfesser, and many, many others like them. They inspire me. They are the wind beneath my wings. Were their offenses to reason less reliably egregious, there might not be an alicublog at all. I owe them a great debt, one I may never be able to fully repay. But, be assured, I will try.

I leave the final words to Alex Chilton. May we never completely lose our hope, however forlorn that hope may seem much of the time, that the wrong shall fail and the right prevail.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

CHRISTMAS CHESTY NUTS. Not all the insanity of our restive season is centered on the use of the magic word "Christmas" as a talisman against liberals. James Glassman offers gloomy prospects for the future, as who wouldn't. But he blames them on -- wait for it -- "social and cultural" problems, "the result of a decline in striving, a lack of striving, a softness that has afflicted every other great nation in history. Call it American decadence — our own version of what happened to the Roman Empire."

Thankfully, he does not mention Desperate Houswives, but instead appears to be concerned with a decline in science skills and "animal spirits," which is causing capitalism to lose its mojo. The science drop happens because "our government skimps on basic research in the hard sciences" and native-born kids show little interest in pursuing the related disciplines, he says, while the spirits drop is caused by business regulation (!) and "a general attitude of entitlement and irresponsibility spread by politicians who promise constituents wealth without risk or pain." Hence our impending Roman ruin.

The article is so soft it is hard to find a place to take hold, but I would suggest that, on the science issue, the general contempt for education in this society impacts both nefariously and overtly our ability to breed young Einsteins and to put them to work on something less remunerative than a new boner pill. As to business, all our Administrations since Reagan (at least) have been so strenuously pro-business that it is hard to see how regulation is taming those particular "animal spirits." It might be better to consider how the increasing concentration of wealth into the hands of entities which do not circulate so much as transfer it affects our prospects of a better tomorrow.

As to the "entitlement and irresponsibility," I will only note that Glassman considers our current deficit "far from excessive." (If he wants to know where the science money went, he might start looking there.)

Of course, it all starts to go wrong at the very beginning of the essay, in which Glassman asserts that those of us in middle age are by and large living four times better than our parents -- "That means a house four times as large, a bank account four times as big (in real dollars, not eroded by inflation), and clothes, food, cars and vacations four times as lush." He must be drinking in that hypothetical bar patronized by Bill Gates.
MY AGENT ADVISES THAT I SELF-PUBLISH. Peggy Noonan tells us how a childhood Christmas gift (a homemade desk) made her believe in the birth of Christ ("There were some trees and bushes and a sort of wooden shanty with hay on the floor... And I thought: It's all true. It's not just a story, it's true, it really happened. This struck me like a thunderbolt"). Then she asks "readers of this space to tell of their favorite childhood Christmas gift, and what effect it had on them."

I liked getting Mouse Trap. I never played the silly board-game part, but instead built the Rube Goldberg contraption and activated it over and over again. This led me to believe that everyday objects should be put to unorthodox uses, and to invent the cat-food-lid bath drain stopper.

I liked getting Abbey Road. I played it till the grooves turned white. This led me to believe that one and one and one is three, and that, in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.

I liked getting The Gospel According to Peanuts. This led me to believe that Jesus was Snoopy, Linus was St. Paul, and Lucy was the Whore of Babylon.

But I lost my faith when Snoopy became a shill for Met Life, so I'm not going to bother sending this one to OpinionJournal.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

CARRIERS. James Lileks was tweaked for his part in the great Save Christmas From Liberals scam by James Wolcott, and now responds at great length. This is described by the feeder-streams as a "Fisking," the etymology of which is meant to imply that the rebuke went straight up Wolcott's ass, though in this case I am put more in mind of fists ragefully pummelling the heated air of a home office.

Llieks' defense of Lileks consists mainly of accusations of elitism ("coastal types who think the rest of America truly gives a shite whether Lindsay Lohan lost her Blackbird at a party last week" -- well, I guess that lets me out), and of misapprehension by elitists of the mystery of the Bleat, whose author is not, he asserts, a crazy man "who wants to tamp the thick bristling wad of God down everyone’s throat with a miter," but a sensible fellow patiently working the microfiche machines to prove that sometime after the Second World War newspapers started running "Season's Greetings" ads, Entertainment Weekly started running sacreligious imagery, and James Wolcott started making fun of Jesus. "I don’t think people in the Evil Coastal Godless Baal-Loving Media hate Christianity," he writes. "I’m sure some hold it in disinterested contempt, the way they view NASCAR and Simplicity dress patterns" etc.

So it is really just more ornate guff about our lack of resemblance to Lilek's little slice of suburban heaven, with a fresh overlay of self-pity. People like Wolcott have James Lileks all wrong, as the author's numerous comical renderings of the way his critics see him are meant to show. He's no Jesus freak; just a guy who wants to show you an old radio program and ask if you don't find it interesting that back then they talked about God in an approving manner, while today floorwalkers reel and James Wolcott watches birds.

All good fun for Wolcott and Lileks and me. Of course, the context is that, throughout the land of Citizen Journalists, it is reported that Christmas is to liberals as garlic is to vampires. The Citizen Journalists are industrious in their propagation of this myth; you can even see it peddled on movie discussion boards. The idea is a great deal newer than "Happy Holidays," but its dissemination, enabled by technology and a horde of unpaid assistants, has been miraculously swift and thorough, and I wouldn't be surprised if it quickly attained Classic status, like the Burl Ives snowman or the Ballad of Foster Barton.

Lileks may not be aware of the trend of which his writings are a prominent part, but given that he can pick up from a great distance New Yorkers' interest in Lindsay Lohan's Blackberry, this seems far-fetched. I do take him at his word that he doesn't want to bring Jesus into my Winter Holiday. The job he and his comrades are doing isn't quite that inclusive.

Monday, December 20, 2004

MORE PROOF THAT NO ONE REALLY READS THE CORNER: "Personal accounts are a sweetner/smokescreen necessary to do what really needs to be done, which is reduce benefits via price indexation (or increasing the retirement age). In an ideal world, policymakers could just reduce benefits without resorting to such tactics, but democracy is messy and we let too many people vote and so such tactics have to be adopted from time to time to get the right policy..."
--an alledged correspondent of Ramesh Ponnuru's on Social Security privatization; emphasis mine

Good thing for them (and the money managers who will grow rich at taxpayers' expense under this scheme) that no one's paying attention.
CHRISTMAS WITH THE DEVIL. As my readers know, we liberals hate even the mention of Christmas, which causes us to -- what was Lileks' evocative phrase? -- "appear stunned and flummoxed for a moment, as if I've just blabbed the plans for the underground's sabotage of the train tracks in front of the secret police."

Well, Satan and I know the remedy for that: a playlist of evil, Santa- and Jesus-mocking Xmas anti-carols! That ought to be good for at least three columns at National Review Online.

Since I am deep in holiday cups, I will crib the following citations from my own concatenation of holiday hissings from back in the Old Time, and invite my readers to supply any missing blasphemies.

"Father Christmas," The Kinks. A British social realist Xmas, in which a department store Santa gets mugged: "Father Christmas, give us some money/Don't mess around with those silly toys/We'll beat you up if you don't hand it over/We want your bread so don't make us annoyed."

"Santa Claus is Coming to Town," Rats of Unusual Size. Flint-based rockers do this song the only sensible way: as a horror-movie Black Sabbath shriek-fest: "SAAAAANTA Claus is comin'! SAAAAAANTA Claus is comin'!"

"Merry Muthafuckin Xmas," Eazy-E. "On the third day of Chrismas my homeboys gave to me/three pounds of indo/two birds of cocaine/and a A muthafuckin' K bitch." Word.

"Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy," Portsmouth Sinfonia. This famous experiment, in which musicians played instruments with which they were only vaguely familiar, yielded a hilarious version of the Tchaikovsky warhorse. The percussion is especially "good."

"Christmas in Prison," John Prine and "Christmas in February," Lou Reed. If we must have bleakly sentimental Christmas songs, let's go all the way, with hard-timers and homeless Vietnam vets.

"Santa Claus von Bulow," The Reverb Motherfuckers. Alright, so I wrote it. A bum dying of hypothermia on the Houston Street traffic divider while dreaming of Lotto says "Christmas" to me.

"I Hate Christmas," Oscar the Grouch. "I can't think of anything that's dumber/To a grouch, Christmas is a bummer!" This one's for the kids.

"Santa's Coming (and You're on His List)", Crucial Youth. This was submitted by Grady Olivier. I'm not familiar with it, nor with CY's "Xmastime for the Skins," but they sound like the right stuff.

"Christmas with the Devil," Spinal Tap. "The sugar plums are rancid/And the stockings are in flames..." Remember, Santa spelled inside-out is Satan.

Worthy additions, all, but still a bit too cheery to countervail the noxiously twee Christmas-American Spirit. So I offer a final suggestion: "Silent Night/7 o'clock News," Simon & Garfunkel. This amusingly earnest sound collage has the boys warbling the old Christmas chestnut while a Walter Cronkite impersonator (or is it Walt himself?) intones grim newsbriefs ("The nurses were found stabbed and strangled in their Chicago apartment. In Washington today the atmosphere was tense..."). This serves as a pertinent reminder that, thirty-seven years later, no one (least of all any big-time recording artist) is sufficiently idealistic and naive to try anything remotely like it. To blasphemously paraphrase John Lennon, "Merry War (Xmas is Over)."

UPDATE. Reader Smelmoth reminds me of The Pogues, "Fairytale of New York" ('Twas Christmas Eve babe/In the drunk tank...). How could I forget? Even Steve "White City" Sailer likes this one!

UPDATE 2. Lots of great suggestions in comments.I never knew AC/DC and ELP had Xmas songs. Thanks, Citizen Journalists!

Saturday, December 18, 2004

CITIZEN JOURNALISTS. Back in September, a soldier on leave from Iraq got beaten up outside a Toby Keith concert. The soldier, Foster Barton, said that he was attacked because he was wearing an Operation Iraqi Freedom t-shirt. It was reported that the assailant had slurred Barton's military service.

Though the parking lots of superpatriotic extravaganzas are not normally hunting grounds for roving gangs of John Kerry supporters, blame was laid at their doorstep. "Not anti-war," indeeded the Ole Perfesser, "just on the other side." One account was illustrated with a burning American flag, a silhouetted figure flashing the peace sign in the foreground.

Thomas Segel asked at GOP-USA, "Does This Hate Honor America?... Vietnam veterans commenting on the attack of this wounded soldier recalled the assaults, the spitting and the hate filled language they encountered upon their return from combat. Those attacks occurred at the same time John Kerry was diminishing their service before the United States Congress. It is their feeling Kerry is doing the same thing again during his presidential campaign....and with the same impact on American service personnel."

"It's more than just a local story," the serviceman's family told the press. "He is one of our soldiers fighting for America." Calls and letters of support flooded in.

Eventually the assailant was apprehended. His name is Brent Cornwell, and he is a veteran of the United States Army. Some correspondents picked this fact up; other didn't, including Mark Major, who reported for Suburban News Publications that, in response to the attack, State Representative Jon Peterson "has drafted legislation designed to punish more severely those who assault military personnel than those who attack civilians." County Prosecutor Dave Yost "went further than Peterson, suggesting the legislation contain language expressly allowing prosecutors to apply the law whether or not the suspect knew the victim was a member of the armed forces."

fuckfrance republished some of the local coverage, omitting the part about Cornwell's military service. "I would say that the offender be forced to join the Soldier's unit... for a week... on tour," one comment read. "I can only shake my head and ask again what someone so opposed to the war in Iraq was doing at a Toby Keith concert," said BitsBlog. "'Peace Activist' Arrested for Beating," announced Conservative Dialysis.

Some authors acknowledged Cornwell's service, but still tied him to their political opponents. "Just because Cornwell served for 4 years in the Army," noted a commenter to Lt. Smash's blog, "does not mean that he isn't now a 'peace activist.'"

Yesterday Cornwell pleaded guilty to a felonious assault on Barton. In his statement to the judge, Cornwell did not denounce the Bush Administration or the Iraqi invasion, or cry "Viva La Huelga." He told the judge that the fight outside the Toby Keith concert "started after the two exchanged insults about the other's military unit," according to the local news.

History, sir, will tell lies, as usual.

Friday, December 17, 2004

NOSTALGIE DE LA BOUE. Bush floats Social Security reform, and Jonah Goldberg gets to work on discrediting the New Deal. Kofi Annan has a scandal, and Cal Thomas resuscitates the John Birch Society slogan: Get the U.N. Out of the U.S. and the U.S. Out of the U.N.!

The Right's gone retro! Any day now we're going to start hearing about the fluoride in the water.

As with everything else, though, our conservative breathren don't know when enough is too much. What else explains the recent lively interest in the evolution issues visited in the Scopes Trial? Perhaps straw boaters will become the new fedoras!

Eventually I suppose we'll be hearing that the Bill of Rights (excepting perhaps the Second Amendment) was overreaching, the Constitution a step down from the Articles of Confederation (libertarians, be still), and the Enlightenment from which these documents sprang a terrible deviation from the will of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Actually, if you listen very closely, you can hear all this stuff now in the subtext.
GAMESMANSHIP. I rarely treat the sad case of Mickey Kaus -- just as I find college football more interesting than the NFL, I prefer my bullshit pseudoliberalism delivered by passionate amateurs rather than by pros like Kaus -- but his recent "Trouble with Beinart Part III" is a very instructive piece of work, though of course not in the way he intends.

I was surprised to learn that Kaus had so much as a Trouble I, let alone a Trouble II, with Beinart, whose recent we-Democrats-suck POV seems right up Kaus' alley: advocating a mildly socially progressive party that also wants to invade and occupy Middle Eastern countries.

But Kaus demurs on gay marriage, and on grounds so bizarre that he attempts to distance himself from them even as he asserts them: gay marriage will turn off the very Arabs we're trying to win to our side. He applauds an unnamed correspondent who states, "Gay marriage is probably about as threatening -- not to say insulting -- to the core values of Muslims as any of Communism's tenets was to the core values of Americans during the Cold War," then claims he's not prepared to "abandon gay marriage to cater to Islamic fundamentalist sensibilities," blowing it off with a lame joke. So what does he believe? This is as close as we get to an explanation:
I don't see why we can't have a Democratic party that openly a) refrains from force-feeding gay marriage to the public b) has room in it for patriotic Iraq War skeptics and c) as a consequence of a) and b) is better positioned to wage an effective military and ideological battle against Islamic terrorism.
Why would one need a Democratic Party at all, then? Perhaps just for the intramural sport.

I really don't understand why these guys don't just say "fuck it" and announce themselves Republican. This is not an attempt on my part to impose orthodoxy -- like I have that power! Look at me! I'm wearing a cardboard belt! -- but an expression of weariness at all the muddy thinking by which these guys attempt to preserve for themselves an illusion (or marketing strategy) of independence. If you wear your pro-war, pro-Social-Security-reform, pro-big-deficit, anti-gay-marriage rue with a difference, it's still rue. The fact that you dislike clear-cutting doesn't mean anything at all, frankly, if you're working to increase the power of guys who would drill, strip-mine, and clear-cut every National Park on the map if they thought they could get away with it.

One of the best encapsulations I have ever seen of this mindset appears in a comment (12/16 7:35 am) made by one "EssEm" on Totten's site. EssEm is responding to Totten's denunciation of that guy in Alabama who wants to bury bad books ("There are several reasons I’m not a Republican, but the biggest one..."). Totten's source for the story is the Guardian, which strikes some of his fans as a worthier target of rage, since they say bad things about Americans.

In mid-fray, EssEm laments:
Just read the [Guardian] piece, and aside from oh-no-not-this-crap-again revulsion at the paleo-thuggish viewpoint of Mr. Allen, what strikes me is that it was and is the authoritarian impulse that lurks at the heart of progressives, of the Secular Left, that made an ex-liberal of me.
Lunatics talk about the destruction of books in the name of the people, and the enlightened yet tell war stories about how some Spartacist turned them off to liberalism. Sigh. If you huddled these guys into an internment camp, I expect they would be okay with it, so long as they were spared the company of Michael Moore.

UPDATE. Michael Totten responds that he's not a liberal (glad we cleared that up), and advises that I acquire some "nuance."

12 hours later, he quotes Orwell on the unpatriotic Left, and sends us for further enlightenment to another guy who has devised "a test to distinguish the honest left from the pod-people, Chomskyites, and Moore-istas." This test does not involve, as one might reasonably expect, tossing a liberal into a pond to see if he floats, but "Politely ask[ing] him or her to talk for three minutes non-stop about what's great about America." In case you aren't fully aware of what this test is meant to reveal, it is compared to the WWII Marine gambit of getting suspected Japanese agents to try and pronounce the letter "r."

And if you think you can pass, be aware that the author is onto tricks we might employ ("I notice a tendency of left to claim patriotism by identifying it with a love of the people of the United States"). No doubt there are other telltale signs of unpatriotism which he is too clever to let slip in mixed company.

Some nuance.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

SIMON SAYS. I call her the Crazy Jesus Lady, and at first sight this article certainly suggests madness, conjuring images of CJL abandoning her bench and shopping bags to grab an unsuspecting Terry McAuliffe in the street and scream at him, "Confound them, Terry! Come forward with a stand. It is the stand that is the salvation, not mysterious words or codes or magic messages."

But I have come to think that Peggy Noonan is only mad north-northwest, and that there is a canny method to her suggestion that the Democratic Party take a strong, public stand on Christmas (in favor, in case you wondered). One of the advantages of feigned insanity is that you can say and do things the mentally intact could never dare; a sham loon need not concern herself with appearances, and so is free to rail and gibber toward the end making normal people like the Democratic Chairman very uncomfortable.

Thus McAuliffe is told to "announce that from here on in the Democratic Party is on the side of those who want religion in the public square, and the Ten Commandments on the courthouse wall for that matter. Then he should put up a big sign that says 'Merry Christmas' on the sidewalk in front of the Democratic National Committee Headquarters on South Capitol Street. The Democratic Party should put itself on the side of Christmas, and Hanukkah, and the fact of transcendent faith." And what can the poor man do? To decree publicly that, as Noonan declares, "the Constitution does not say it is wrong or impolite to say 'Merry Christmas'" would be tantamount to insisting that kittens are cute or that ice cream is tasty. I assume (indeed hope) that McAuliffe is willing, in his quest for votes, to play the fool -- but to imitate a clear and present fool would be disastrous.

To announce that the Democratic Party supports Christmas is not a first step toward consensus-building, but a step (and it wouldn't be the Dems' first, alas) in a ridiculous game of Simon Says that would be followed in short order by patriotic declarations of faith in baseball, clean living, microwavable popcorn, and better-tasting calcium supplements for women -- while outside the field of play, wars rage and the economy collapses. The Democrats would always be a step behind in this game, as their opponents are calling the shots, and would become ever more worried and insecure at the prospect of doing something that Simon didn't Say. Hell, a lot of them already are.

It's a neat trick she's pulled, and suggests that our Crazy Jesus Lady is only putting on her antic disposition. In a way that's reassuring, as it alleviates somewhat the nagging feeling that our national debate is led by the clinically insane. But then you have to worry about the people who listen to her.



Tuesday, December 14, 2004

I AM TRYING TO BE MORE POSITIVE. "Google is adding the books and papers owned by some of the world's leading libraries to its database in the latest step of its mission to make every piece of information available online. Oxford University is one of five world-class libraries that are part of the deal, the other four being US institutions including the New York Public Library."

Soon's I get a second I'm gonna scout me some Elizabethan porn! The Internet is way overrated, but between this, Google Scholar, and Google Uncle Sam, I think the kids from Mountain View deserve some applause.

Speaking of infotech and applause, I don't think much of awards (excepting the People's Golden Global Choice Awards, they rock) but have to speak kindly of the Koufaxes, if only because the nomination process gives many worthy wordsmiths who usually toil in obscurity (like this guy) a day or two in the sun.

Now, I won't ask for votes -- that would be lame, especially cloaked in the pretense of irony, and besides, I suck -- but I would suggest that those few of you who can spare it consider throwing some bucks to the Koufax proprietors. In a world full of Snidely Whiplashes such as myself, these guys are doing something that gives pleasure to others, despite their own shortfalls of time and money.

I would contribute myself, but every extra alicublog dime goes to my therapy.


MICHAEL MOORE IS SO LAST SLUR. Now the cool kids are telling us that Juan Cole lost us the election. I barely know who Cole is, and I'm part of the arrogant Reality-Based Community! I miss the days when they blamed everything on sitcom characters.


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!

Later:
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.