Tuesday, April 12, 2005

THE BLOGOSPHERE FURTHER ELEVATES THE TONE OF OUR DISCOURSE. There used to be a bumper-sticker gag to the effect that Jesus is alright but the people who work for him are assholes. This distinguishes the Prince of Peace from wrestler-turned-wingnut-speaker Ultimate Warrior whose emotionally stunted approach to human relations is apparently emulated by at least one member of his staff, a "Director of Communications" who, after threatening to sue Something Awful for making fun of UW (and receiving appropriately unserious replies), went to work on his Lifetime movie villain act:
Did you know that for only $1 someone can go to the post office, fill out a simple form, and find out the street address of the individual who rented the box?

I also know that your wife's name is Megan, and that you two were married on February 13, 2005. I've also tracked down a street address and telephone number for "another" Richard Kyanka. I actually called this telephone number. This was either you or your father. A terrible shame that you don't have the balls to claim your own name, little man. Speaking of little man, I've also managed to track down a couple of pictures of you, which I've attached to this email....
Link followed from Jonah Goldberg, always a good source for lunacy, though not usually second-hand as in this case. Goldberg declines to choose sides between the funny website and the dangerous lunatic, perhaps sensing that the Ultimate Warrior represents the future of conservative commentary.

Monday, April 11, 2005

GUARD ASLEEP AT BULLSHIT QC. Jonah Goldberg tells us, through the medium of a "reader," that Republicans are unworldly types pushed around by tuff Democrats:
Mr. Goldberg - Something I have noticed, regrettably, for the last thirty years or so, is that Republicans are almost always too slow to react to attacks, appear to be on the defensive most of the time, and lack something I call the "Atwater gene".
Lee Atwater was, of course, the Republican master of dirty politics. Atwater worked for Reagan and Bush I -- well within the 30-year timeframe posited by Mr. X.

Sometimes I suffer an existential crisis over this blog. I mean, if they're not even paying attention, why should I?

IT'S THOSE LITTLE TOUCHES THAT MAKE A CHARACTER LIVE. Hugh Hewitt:
Apologies to Sodakmonk, the spelling of which I got wrong yesterday. That is the very first time that's ever happened on this blog.
Further down in the same post, Hewitt refers to Arizona's "Snator McCain."

The great comic characters rarely disappoint, because they just can't help themselves.

UPDATE. Hmm, maybe he was kidding; people tell me he has a sense of humor. Who knew? Usually selling them short is a can't-lose proposition.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

THE GREAT DIVIDE. From USA Today:
The middle of the country squared off against the coasts this weekend at theaters, and the heartland pushed Sahara to No. 1 at the box office...

The film exceeded most analysts' expectations by about $2 million and topped the romantic comedy Fever Pitch...

Pitch, the story of a man torn between his love for his girlfriend and his devotion to the Boston Red Sox, was hoping to lure women with the romance and men with the sports angle.

Sahara, meanwhile, geared itself toward action-hungry audiences, particularly in the middle of the country...

Though Pitch was the top film in several big-city markets, including Boston and New York, Sahara took the No. 1 spot in cities like Oklahoma City and Kansas City, Mo.
You see the significance of this. The red states gave a clear mandate to a dopey movie starring Matthew McConaughey, while the blue cities endorsed a dopey movie starring Jimmy Fallon.

I could go on, but I have decided to leave analysis of this major cultural indicator to experts. Maybe after Jonah Goldberg has finished reproducing correspondence claiming that engineers are turning liberal because they have been brainwashed by English professors, he can make a column of it.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

DOING MY DUTY. Julia got me into this ridiculous thing and I suppose there's only one honorable way out:

You're stuck inside Fahrenheit 451, which book do you want to be [saved]?

This is tough because you have to imagine that a whole culture might have to be founded on it and you don't want to wind up like the poor saps in A Canticle for Liebowitz. I think Bertrand Russell's A History of Western Philosophy fits the bill, and it has lots of thin pages that you could use to roll cigarettes when you finally figured the hell with it.

Have you ever had a crush on a fictional character?

Nerdcheck! Well, I've always liked the girl in Crime and Punishment because she seems like she would put up with a lot, which is always a plus. Ditto Phoebe Zeitgeist.

The last book you bought is?

Degas in New Orleans.

What are you currently reading?

A play by an impressive new kid named Adam Klasfeld: Good Fences Make Good Neighbors. And Carlyle's History of the French Revolution. I don't get out much.

Five books you would take to a deserted island?

1. A book on how to make fire.
2. A big fat book I could use for kindling.
3. Porno.
4. Porno.
5. Porno.

Who are you going to pass this stick to (3 persons) and why?

The Mighty Mighty Reason Man, because it might wake him up. dmfinny and Jeremy, because they might appreciate it, and how often does that happen?

UPDATE. Jeremy apparently already got the memo, so I'll be passing his torch to Steve Dillard at Southern Appeal.

Friday, April 08, 2005

NOTES FROM LOUIE'S SODA SHOP. Logically Leapin' Lileks (gave up permalinks, it seems, until Terri Schiavo and the Pope rise from the dead; update labeled April 8) finds a professor mad as hell about a Brit Muslim chick who won the legal right to wear the body-covering jilbab to school. Lileks notes: "Odd how 'women’s rights' are now defined to mean 'covering up every possible indication one might be a woman,'" which is so wrong that I hardly need explain why to such super-genii as my readers. (Oh, ok, briefly: Brit judge ≠ all feminists everywhere; dress code relaxation ≠ endorsed subjugation of women; etc.)

From Lileks' inspirator:
No expressed desire by a child or young woman to wear traditional clothing such as the jilbab can be taken as arising from free choice -- even if, in any given instance, it is the result of such a choice -- because of the oppressive nature of the subculture.
My first reaction to this was: Does this mean that now you guys will throw that anti-evolution crap out of school? Because I'm pretty sure no child comes to school really wanting to become even more of a dumbass, despite the oppressive nature of his subculture.

Of course, the endocrine storm soon passed and I recognized that this was merely, to borrow the Bowery Boys nomenclature, Routine 12: The Dusky Hordes Advance (see Footballs, Little Green for backgrounder), with a Bullshit Feminist Angle added -- not because the practitioners subscribe to any recognizable feminist priciples, but because the Angle can be used to give (for those crucial seconds before the thinking apparatus can be engaged) the impression that Western feminists don't care about women.

One day I have to classify all these Routines, and publish my taxonomy under the title Leave Us Regurgitate.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

TIME "BLOGGERS OF THE YEAR" BACKWARDS PEDALED UNTIL REELED THE MIND! The disputed Republican Schiavo memo is legit, but that doesn't stop the guys from Powerline from maintaining stern expressions, finding typos and inappropriate adjectives, and using ridiculous pseudonyms! "Hindrocket" writes:
We have no idea who the unidentified Martinez staffer is, but he apparently was not authorized to speak for his boss, and most certainly was not empowered to speak for the leadership of the Republican party. We'll try to track him down and get his story, but in the meantime, this story serves as an object lesson in how the mainstream media can take a dopey, one-page memo by an unknown staffer and use it to discredit the entire Republican party...
Later, "The Big Trunk" continues flogging the story, and tries to give the impression that Powerline has the dastardly Washington Post on the ropes. Of course, when you consider that just a few days ago Powerline's crack team of fist-shakers were calling the Schiavo memo an outright forgery, and are now reduced to picking nits, their tone of outraged decency sounds kind of tinny.

Journalism Powerline-style, folks! No wonder they hate the Pulitzers.

SERVICE ADVISORY. In case anyone cares -- and ill as it becomes me to admit that possibility -- I apologize for the light posting. I made some last-minute commitments to bore local audiences instead of you, and these have clogged and will clog my schedule over the next few days. The geniuses on the sidebar have always been interesting than me and I encourage you to give them a look.

I would also like to take this opportunity to note the passing of Saul Bellow. He wrote damn well. I read Mr. Sammler's Planet when I was too young to appreciate it, but fortunately I waited a bit to take up Seize the Day and Herzog and they have stuck to my ribs. Perfect as is the former, I am put in mind of Herzog near the novel's end:
...The life you gave me has been curious, he wanted to say to his mother, and perhaps the death I must inherit will turn out to be even more profoundly curious. I have sometimes wished it would hurry up, longed for it to come soon. But I am still on the same side of eternity as ever. It's just as well, for I have certain things still to do. And without noise, I hope. Some of my oldest aims seem to have slid away. But I have others. Life on this earth can't be simply a picture. And terrible forces in me, including the force of admiration and praise, powers, including loving powers, very damaging, making me almost an idiot because I lacked the capacity to manage them. I may turn out to be not so terribly hopeless a fool as everyone, as you, as I myself suspected. Meanwhile, to lay off certain persistent torments. To surrender the hyperactivity of this hyperactive face, But just to put it out instead to the radiance of the sun. I want to send you, and others, the most loving wish I have in my heart. This is the only way I have to reach out -- out where it is incomprehensible. I can only pray toward it. So... Peace!
A kind thought also for Richard Brookhiser, who didn't like Bellow so much, but had enough respect for him and for literature to make thoughtful, literary comment on his passing, in contrast to the hee-haws of his fellow travellers.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

THE LAND OF MAKE-BELIEVE. At the Washington Times, David Limbaugh sees, against all evidence, imminent victory for the forces of Life:
It is just possible, contrary to my original thoughts, the tragic Schiavo case will not usher in a slippery slope toward euthanasia but trigger a double-barreled backlash against both the 'Culture of Death' and judicial activism...

I sense in this nation a growing outrage at the arrogance and unaccountability of our judiciary, and at the cavalier attitude many exhibit toward life.
Evidence of this groundswell? Don't look for it. Limbaugh doesn't even cite the usual boilerplate on how the Schiavo poll numbers were fixed. He just reads minds across the years and the country, from the "Significant numbers of people" who "were outraged in 1973, when the Supreme Court placed its 'holy' imprimatur on the murder of babies in the womb..." to the present day.

Of course, Limbaugh says, "The conflict and turmoil among conservatives alone is enough reason for remedial action." I see how he would think that. We are no longer talking about silly political issues, but Life, a subject so transcendantly important that there is no need to heed input from anyone outside the believing community, howsoever many they may be.

Hugh Hewitt is feelin' the spirit too. After warning, accurately, that "this post is guaranteed to make zero sense to the non-believers. In fact, it will amuse them," Hewitt lays out his, pardon the expression, reasons why an American Pope might be, despite conventional wisdom, elected to replace JPII. "The cruel death of Terri Schiavo" coincided with the Pope's death agonies for a reason, says Hewitt:
...the anti-Christians will scoff at the idea of God's timing, but not the Cardinals, for whom God's timing is a given...

Is the idea of a "Schiavo effect" on the conclave just another American's preoccupation with American issues projected onto the much broader and much more indifferent world? Perhaps, but I don't think so precisely because on matters of science and ethics, on morals and sharp breaks with the past, the United States sets the tempo for much of the world...

The election of an American as pope is quite rightly ranked as the most improbable of outcomes of the conclave, but not so improbable is the selection of a new pope uniquely equipped to speak to this culture. God knows we need it. Terri Schiavo's death underscored that need in a way that cannot be understated.
There is plausible deniability of a prediction here -- but that's how the mystics work: signs and portents are lined up; a vague but suggestive prediction is made; and the mystic draws back into silence, leaving the doubts to percolate.

Boy, that whole "Reality-Based Community" thing is looking more timely than ever, isn't it? Limbaugh's and Hewitt's talking points are so very faith-based that they don't even take account what we non-Elect would call reality -- facts, figures, statistical probabilities. Bold assertions will do, as long as they are blessed by the Lord. So it is blogged -- so shall it be done!

BRIAN: YOU'RE ALL INDIVIDUALS! FOLLOWERS: YES, WE'RE ALL INDIVIDUALS! BRIAN: YOU'RE ALL DIFFERENT! FOLLOWERS: YES, WE'RE ALL DIFFERENT! David Brooks today laughs off (with the annoying, airy laugh of his) the idea that Republicans are beating the Dems with message discipline:
The theory is that liberals must create their own version of the conservative pyramid... [but] Conservatives have not triumphed because they have built a disciplined and efficient message machine. Conservatives have thrived because they are split into feuding factions that squabble incessantly...
Huh wha? I thought that was what we did ("no organized party" and all that). No no no, says Brooks (waving his hand in that highly irritating way of his), while you libs grimly enforce orthodoxy, conservatives do intellectual calesthenics -- "Liberals are good at talking about rights, but not as good at talking about a universal order" as conservatives:
Conservatives fell into the habit of being acutely conscious of their intellectual forebears and had big debates about public philosophy. That turned out to be important: nobody joins a movement because of admiration for its entitlement reform plan. People join up because they think that movement's views about human nature and society are true.

Liberals have not had a comparable public philosophy debate. A year ago I called the head of a prominent liberal think tank to ask him who his favorite philosopher was. If I'd asked about health care, he could have given me four hours of brilliant conversation, but on this subject he stumbled and said he'd call me back. He never did.
Fancy that -- someone not returning David Brooks' calls!

But you get the message: conservatives are superior because they go for philosophy, whereas liberals go for yucky policy prescriptions. You might have gotten the message, actually, several months earlier, in National Review Online, when Jonah Goldberg was bouncing it around:
Without knowledge of its own past, liberalism cannot have a serious political philosophy, it can only have feelings. I was amazed last summer at a political conference for college kids at the way the professional Democrats and liberals on a panel -- with the exception of Peter Beinart -- all began their presentations with "I believe" this or "I feel passionately" that...
And:
Just look at the conservative blogosphere. There's all sorts of stuff about Burke, Hayek, von Mises, Oakeshott, Kirk, Buckley, Strauss, Meyer, the Southern Agrarians, et al. I can't think of a single editor or contributing editor of National Review who can't speak intelligently about the intellectual titans of conservatism going back generations... I just don't get the sense that's true of most liberal journalists. When was the last time you saw more than a passing reference to Herbert Croly?
And on and on. Goldberg said he was writing a book about it -- maybe they're waiting till they can line up Frank Miller for the illos.

So to sum up:
  • David Brooks laughs at liberal claims of conservative message discipline.
  • He says conservatism is actually ascendant because conservatives are into philosophy, while the Democrats are merely into policy.
  • This message originated with Jonah Goldberg (or, who knows? With some other labtech from the Frankenstein laboratories of the Right) and has been carried, in a very disciplined manner, by Brooks to the pages of the New York Times.
As the Amazing Maleeni knew, magic is all about misdirection.

Monday, April 04, 2005

LITERARY LIFE. Here's a picture of author Alicia Erian from 2004, before her novel Towelhead came out. Here's a picture of her at Salon today.

Two possible explanations: either success really agrees with her, or Bookland is starting to catch up with Hollywood in terms of image consultancy.

If and when I get my book out there, they'll probably make me use a stand-in.

UPDATE. Judging from comments, no one knows what I'm talking about, and I don't either. Nevermind.

RAY DURGNAT, MANNY FARBER, ANDRE BAZIN: NO NEED TO GET UP. Hey guys, when I do film reviews, does it sound like this?:
I forgot to mention this in the chaos of the past few days. I picked up Closer the other day, mainly because I like Clive Owen (he should be the next Bond, and I loved I'll Sleep When I'm Dead) and because I was thrilled about seeing Natalie Portman prancing around in a thong on my widescreen. Sue me- progressive scan DVD players and HDtv's rule.

I watched the movie, and I have this to say -- I am no prude, but Closer was the filthiest movie I have ever watched in my entire life. That title had been reserved for The Postman Always Rings Twice for a certain scene that still mortifies my mother, but they were pikers compared to the directors of Closer.

And all the damned cheating. Just infuriates me. Overall -- color me unimpressed.
'Cause if it does, then I'm really, really embarrassed. Reviews like this are the reason they put DO NOT EAT labels on rat poison.


A MATTER OF URGENT CONCERN. The Texas legislature is fixing to punish cheerleaders who shake their asses too much. I know it sounds like the topline for a porno script, but it is actually news.

I hope all the folks who have been talking about the "slippery slope" lately will take note, because this is a terrible precedent. If the Texans can regulate our cheerleaders, it's only a matter of time before they start regulating our cheerleader fantasies. Then they'll take women's floor exercises away from us, and what will we have left? Disney teen movies, that's what! And I say it's not enough!

To all seven of my readers in Texas: resist this thin end of the wedge up to and including the point of death! (It was only a matter of time before your fellow Texans killed you, anyway.) The rest of you, you know the drill: keep "pushing the envelope," as our dread Lord Satan commands, and keep the Christians so busy fighting at the fringes that it will never occur to them to shut down the WB!

SHORTER JAMES LILEKS: Wojtyla! Is it the shoes?

PUSSY. Yeeee-haw! He-man woman-hater Dallas Claymore, whose sad case was treated here before, is back, this time at the GOP Nation site. The Freepers are in love with him, so let us treat him as seriously as that endorsement demands:
Independently, and regardless of one’s religious persuasion, I have always found it comical that anyone who believes in a Creator would ever regard our Creator as being afflicted with a lack of foresight whereby he made half of the world’s most dominant creatures fiends and the other half saints.
Can we assume from this that Claymore accepts each "half of the world's most dominant creatures" equal to the other? Let's see:
It seems that being a man puts you at a moral disadvantage when dealing with others.  Indeed, maleness is the height of social unacceptability.  We are the target of endless quips, digs, and are even lampooned in greeting cards...

Even with these forces of propaganda aligned against us...

...why are men so routinely the target of such vicious stereotyping and lying?  Well, it could have to do with radical feminists defaming us about as often as water cascades over Niagara Falls...

...Maybe it is a woman’s world, but when they f-ck it up and it will be ours again...
In my own working-class upbringing -- admittedly phallocentric, but by Claymore's standards that should be a good thing -- we had a word for men who felt themselves so victimized by women that they could neither deal with normal dating rituals nor accept an alternative lifestyle whereby idiotic gender roles were moot. The word is "pussy."
How many times have you been in some overpriced trendy chic restaurant and looked at the menu and groaned, “Why me?” Yet, it always is you and it’s always you who gets stuck with the bill, but it is rarely you who finds any value in 25 dollar entrees.
Pussy.
It is clear that men and women have equal means of intelligence, but all analysis of psychometric results showcases men having considerably more overall scatter within their profiles than women...
Pussy.
Status means everything when attracting a woman so who you are and what you’ve done is key to your reproductive success.  With men, the most popular females merely “are.”  They can be queens simply by leaving their homes with the curves and face they have been given.
Fucking pussy! Jesus Christ. If this unlayable little wuss is the face of modern conservatism, I can stop worrying about our country's future right now.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

COLLOQUY. One Peter Robinson, "A speechwriter in the Reagan White House," has given OpinionJournal an interview with the deceased Ronald Reagan, without the traditional pretense of authenticity. Sample "quote":
George W. Bush? When he took office young George was expecting an easy time of it, not the first attack on our territory since Pearl Harbor. Yet here we are, just four years later, and George W. Bush has rallied the country for the struggle against terrorists, won a war in Afghanistan, won a war in Iraq, and developed a strategy for promoting democracy that has already transformed the Middle East and fostered democratic advances as far away as Kyrgyzstan.
Pretty good, though I'd love to know how the Gipper pronounced Kyrgyzstan! Turnabout being fair play, I'd like to offer my own interview with all the other dead Presidents:

Q: What do you fellas think of George W. Bush?

Abraham Lincoln: I thought one Civil War was enough.

John Quincy Adams: I for one am happy to have lost my reputation as the worst hereditary succesor to the Presidency.

John Adams: Judge not, my Son; For it may be that this Imbecile will yet confound expectations, owing to his devotion to the one True God; Who is a powerful Molder of Characters, notwithstanding their prior debaucheries and lack of proper schooling.

Thomas Jefferson: I fear my Dear Friend is over-optimistic; for the mold of young Bush's character was flaw'd from the outset, and his reason is crack'd.

Richard Nixon: Hey, lay off his old man! He did a good job when he was working for me.

Harry S Truman: You god-damned idiot, who asked you?

Richard Nixon: I have as much right to speak as anyone, and I will say --

Harry S Truman: Like hell! It's a wonder they let you in here with decent people! Why, I oughta --

Franlin D. Roosevelt: Now, you boys quit squabbling.

Theodore Roosevelt: Let 'em fight! The only path to judgment is open combat in the arena! Dick, Harry, you two strip to the waist and have at it.

Andrew Jackson: Hell, yeah! I got two dollars on the boy from Missoura!

James Buchanan: I thought I had got away from this sort of thing when I crossed into the great Beyond.

Theodore Roosevelt: Perhaps you'd like to take a round with me, you great compromiser!

Franklin Pierce: Jesus, what a bunch of idiots.

Theodore Roosevelt: Don't swear in my presence!

Franklin Pierce: Fuck you! I was friends with Herman Melville, who would have thought you an ass and a parvenu.

James Madison: Interviewer, I have heard that one of your contemporaries was recently deprived of existence by removal of the conduit that provided her nourishment; is there not some way in which I may be similarly removed from the company of these morons?

George Washington: Me too!

James Monroe: Ditto!

(General tumult.)

Q: Gentlemen! Gentlemen! For Jesu's sake forebear! I am only here to ask after the current President.

Calvin Coolidge: Fucking idiot.

Herbert Hoover: Ha ha, Cal! We bet you wouldn't say three words!

Calvin Coolidge: You lo--

(General laughter)

Calvin Coolidge: Fuck me.

Zachary Taylor: I endorse young Bush.

Abraham Lincoln: You would, you old fraud, as one ginned-up warrior to another.

Ulyesses S. Grant: I resemble that remark!

(General laughter)

Warren Harding: If I may be allowed to speak, I should like to argue in favor of the gentleman from Texas...

Lyndon B. Johnson: Thank you, Mr. Speakah! Now that I have the flooah, let me say to you naaw, on behalf of mah colleagues in this Congress of Pres'dents, that we will not rest until ouah agony has been pe'manently stilled bah the Almighty, foah ouah sufferin' is great, an' every tahm you jackasses presumes to speak foah us, ouah anguish increases to a unfathomable extent; an', by Gawd, we shall ovahcome!

Whirling shades chase the reporter from the room, not before Nixon has placed Henry Kissinger's business-card in his pocket.

LONGER INSTAPUNDIT: Of course the birdbrain linked here is talking about Fox News. Right? Heh! Caught ya thinking.

THE POLITICIAN. In endless newsbreaks that the more conspiratorially-minded might interpret as a Protestant plot to make us sick of the guy already, John Paul II has been memorialized as a man who changed the world. The evidence most often offered (besides his high media profile) is JPII's implacable resistance to Communism, especially as it invigorated the Polish Solidarity movement and thus precipitated the downfall of the Soviet Union.

Whether the Soviet Union could have been overthrown without JPII's help we may leave as an open question. It is undeniable that the late Pope energizetically de-Communized the Church. He struck early against the Liberation Theology movement in South America, which put Jesuit priests explicitly on the side of the poor against their exploiters.

In this JPII was especially craftly. At the Puebla Conference in 1979, JPII saw to it that the language of the Lib Theos was not erased, but turned to exalt the "authentic liberation of Man," as opposed to any petty concerns Man might have about the distribution of resources.

But his masterstroke came when Jesuit vicar general Pedro Arrupe, the patron of Liberation Theology, suffered a debilitating thrombosis in 1981. The Pope refused to acknowledge the successor Arrupe had ordained -- as was Jesuit custom -- and appointed his own man to run the Order till its Thirty-Third Congregation could meet in 1983. Jean Acouture, biographer of the Order, describes the manner in which the Papal hit was administered:
On October 6 Father O'Keefe was informed that Secretary of State Cardinal Casaroli (the pope's "prime minister") would be arriving at noon to see Father Arrupe.

Were the high officials of the Holy Office unaware that the titular General was no longer able to hold a conversation? Was it honorable to discuss a weighty matter with a seriously ill man when he had an entirely legal replacement? Father O'Keefe therefore went to meet the Cardinal at the door -- and was told that Casaroli had been ordered to see the sick man alone. Casaroli asked the vicar general to leave the infirmary.

Here let us leave the floor to historian Alain Woodrow, whose excellent account is obviously based on sound sources: "The visit lasted several minutes. Without saying a word, the Cardinal asked to be led to the front door. When he returned to Father Arrupe's bedside, Father O'Keefe found the Pope's letter, placed on a small table. The General was weeping."
The letter denied Arrupe's successor and replaced him with a "personal successor." This successor and all the forces of the Vatican soon cleansed the Jesuit order of the Lib Theo spirit Arrupe allowed to flourish. (This cleansing also extended into our own country: JPII also ordered a Jesuit priest serving as a liberal Democratic Congressman, Fr. Robert Drinan, to leave his seat.)

Though he moved aggressively against Marxist or quasi-Marxist assistance in the work of the Lord, JPII was far more lenient toward the forces of market capital. In his 1991 encyclical, JPII praised work as the fulfillment of man on earth -- "the essential framework for the legitimate pursuit of personal goals on the part of each individual" -- and profit as the measure of its success. He was completely in sync with contemporary business theory in acknowledging the growing importance of intellectual capital. He acknowledged the "marginalization" that deprived parts of the world might suffer because of this, but rather than call upon the Church Militant to help redress the problem -- no Lib Theo he! -- JPII called upon business itself to take care of it, through the "education of consumers" and "the formation of a strong sense of responsibility among people in the mass media." He allowed -- seemingly with a shrug -- "necessary intervention by public authorities." But JPII warned the forces of government not to interfere overmuch on behalf of a "welfare state," though he added -- perhaps nostalgically -- that unions on the order of Solidarity might have a place. The Church, meanwhile, would give "attention," and insist that the "tendency to claim that agnosticism and skeptical relativism are the philosophy and the basic attitude which correspond to democratic forms of political life" is false.

In this, and in his implacable opposition to abortion -- while leaving wiggle room for capital punishment, allowing "very rare" exceptions to official Church opposition (wiggle room that our rightists triumphantly emphasized in their talking points throughout this weekend) -- John Paul II essentially conducted himself as an American-style conservative. Was that what he was? I have a theory about that.

Years ago, in the reign of Paul VI, I knew a devout Catholic who believed that the Pope was conducting himself as if the world were in its last days -- that he was trying to encourage the remaining faithful to get right with God before the last trumpet sounded. John Paul II, I think, had more or less written off the West -- except as an income stream -- but had an eye on other regions. His tireless travel, like our own crusades, was mostly devoted those areas less acquainted with peace and freedom (and capitalism, and individual liberty) than our own, regions where he may have imagined there was hope for renewal.

Though he railed against our "culture of death," JPII never put the Church in direct confrontation with it on our turf. It may be that, when he retrenched Liberation Theology, he was just swatting down Marxism -- or it may be that he was acknowledging that our hemisphere was for the time being lost, and that only a worldwide revival based in Southeast Asia, Africa, and Eastern Europe -- places that are effectively at Year Zero, where Church law could one day become, as it was in the West in centuries past, the law of the land -- could redress the balance.

Whatever his reasoning, Pope John Paul II worked tirelessly in the interests of a Church that I left many years ago. Any resemblance between those interests and the interests of Jesus of Nazareth are, I assure you, purely coincidental.

Thursday, March 31, 2005

MOMENT OF SILENCE. Over the past few weeks I have criticized some commentators on the subject of Terri Schiavo. I only know their commentary; I don't know them.

Traditionally when someone dies we lay aside the cudgels for a moment and let the silence briefly unite us.
HEY RUBES. Ezra Klein:
So far as I can tell, from a fair number of visits and a large number of friends, the Chi-town/NY mystique is entirely an invention of hardship. Unable to compete with the massively enjoyable lifestyle offered by California, they've fallen back on some ephemeral claim to sophistication and worldliness (though, so far as I know, Chicago isn't very sophisticated, and nor is Brooklyn)...
I guess Ezra imagines Brooklyn as it was pictured in old Bugs Bunny cartoons (Sheeeee's the dawter of Rosie O'Grady/A regular old-fashioned goil...). Please tell him most of us no longer loiter the waterfront in bowlers and stained t-shirts, pitching pennies and wondering how Dem Bums would make out against the Jints at Ebbets Field. On the other hand, it is true that we do not have endless summers and a healthful disdain of "hardship," and so do not grow the kind of authors who need a constant supply of sunshine and weed to remain productive. So Brooklyn will probably never spawn a Tom Robbins, alas.

From the opposite end of the political spectrum, Virginia Postrel:
The professional intellectual could do a lot worse than Dallas, however. You could, for instance, be stuck in the provincial ghettos of New York or San Francisco. There you'd have lots of other writers to talk to. The newspaper would report publishing gossip as major business news. You'd go to book parties and free lectures. You'd know who was arguing with whom about what.

But unless you traveled a lot, you'd have no idea what the rest of American culture is like. Reporters in New York have called me up to ask about the business significance of Whole Foods Market and the cultural meaning of the Left Behind series -- both ancient news everywhere but The New York Times. New York is an intellectual cave, and San Francisco is even worse.
Whereas, says Postrel, in her beloved Dallas, "You'll know that this part of Red America throbs with ambition... You overhear sophisticated lunchtime conversations about logistics management and telecom configurations." God, think what I've been missing! It makes we want to hop a bus over to Jersey and hang out at an office park, to soak up the authentic American culture.

As a New York citizen of many years, my first reaction to these assaults, was, of course, fuck you. But as Charles Laughton said in Advise and Consent, I can affo'd to be charitable. Dallas and Cali have their own splendors and treasures, which I have enjoyed on visits. Still, it is marvelous that our little town continues to haunt their imaginations so.

UPDATE. As you might imagine, comments on this have been a joy. "As a citizen of Philadelphia (whose stepfather is from Brooklyn)," writes one correspondent, "I can say, Fuck New York, California, and Texas. :)" That I can get behind! Regional rivalries can be good fun at the jackass level. New York's okay if you like saxophones, said the pride of Los Angeles. Boston Sucks, bawls the T-shirt at a Bosstones concert in New York. This is at heart collegial; no one would bother to dis a band for being from...

... insert your town (which sucks) here.

SHORTER JIM LILEKS. I'm sure Christopher Hitchens would Choose Life like I do, if he would only listen to Hugh Hewitt.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

R.I.P., PAUL HENNING. The man behind The Beverly Hillbillies and (with Jay Sommers) Green Acres has died at age 93. Well, there's another giant of the 20th Century I'll never get to meet.

Hillbillies was a nice little show, for the most part Li'l Abner Lite, with unfailingly honorable, decent hill folk vs. deranged and greedy slickers. But in Milburn Drysdale's insane maneuverings (as when he tried to get Jethro out of the draft by dressing him as a Nazi) one detected a more maniacal gleam, which came fully out in Green Acres.

As I previously observed, Green Acres was genuine American surrealism: Oliver always refusing to accept the rubes' logic, and the rubes' logic always triumphing over -- well, logic. A pig, with the homely name Arnold Ziffel, is treated as if his gruntings were conversation -- and even prophecies. I remember with astonishment Eb dejectedly reporting that Arnold has predicted snow in July (an admission which, as Arnold only ever goes "oink oink," Eb could have easily evaded) -- and Eb's subsequent joy when it does snow in July, proving the pig right after all! This is the intersection of vaudeville and existentialism that interested Beckett, and you don't have to be an intellectual to enjoy it -- fun for the whole family, as they say. I nod in gratitude to the great man's shade.


GUY THING. Like many men with computers, I trawl the web late at night looking for the magic key that will unlock the secrets of poontang. In this evening's quest I found an article in the little-noted Citizen Journal called "Sex, Women, and Conservatism -- I" by one Dallas Claymore. Dallas! I thought, Like the cheerleaders! Yeeee-hawww! and, unloosening my pants, delved in:
For those who grew up in the seventies and eighties, it was a time when boys were expected to follow both the mandates of chivalry and equality. The result often was confusion. It is bewildering for a young man to make sense of how one should behave towards women when every public authority proclaims “Men and Women Are Equal” while these same public authorities rig the laws to favor women over men via affirmative action hiring practices, the creation of a sexual harassment industry, and the unjust treatment of husbands and fathers in divorce and custody courts.
This put me off a little: I somehow got laid in the aforementioned decades. Affirmative action didn't stop me none, no sir. Still, fueled by drink and desire, I pressed on:
The current situation can be depressing and disheartening, but my message to the reader is strictly one of hope. Certainly the culture has become toxic but that does not preclude us from exploiting it to our own advantage.
This piqued my interest; it had a more scholarly air than the usual MAKE WOMEN CUMM spam messages, yet its promise to reveal tools of sexual exploitation were right out of the old playbook! I fished into my trousers and read on:
In light of this, in the chapters that follow, I will identify and analyze many of the tank traps blocking our advancement and suggest the most efficient and least costly ways of getting around them. I certainly am not King Solomon, but I do regard some of my ideas as being valuable and applicable to others.
Yeeee-haw! I thought. Never mind that King Solomon shit -- the only thing I wants to split it that beaver! Yeeeee-haw! Lay on, MacClaymore!
I certainly was never a Don Juan and never will be... the only areas of life in which I outshined others were the result of study and effort.
Uh-Oh, I thought, Nerd alert! But then I thought: This might be the traditional, pathetic come-on -- I was a loser in high-school, girls laughed at me -- before the righteous pornographic reveal! Pants around my ankles, I read on:
Few achievements came naturally, but this is why I am able to convey worthwhile advice. The fact that I am not gorgeous, rich, or connected in any way to famous people is perhaps the reason why I have something legitimate to say about this topic. The mediocrities of my birth necessitated a need for me to pay attention... It’s no accident that Bill Belichick and Bill Parcells were not outstanding football players but turned out to be tremendous coaches because natural phenoms rarely have much of an understanding as to how challenging it is for the average person to perform their craft.
After some squinting and mumbling to myself, I rejoined enthusiastically: I get ya, buddy -- maybe some sorta Jamesian wound took you out of the game, but ya still know something the rest of us can use! I'm with ya, buddy! Preach it!
The freshman co-ed in the Womyn’s Studies ovular has been just as fooled as the manicured Metrosexual with Prada shoes at an Indigo Girls concert. They’re both unwittingly part of an experimental grouping within a sick study created by our social engineers.
YEAH, buddy! Them stupid kids with their fancy shoes don't know nothin'! Preach!
A woman responded to me that my stance was selfish. I countered, “Shouldn’t I be selfish about my own interests?”
Heh heh indeed! Let's do 68 -- you blow me and I'll owe ya one! Heh!
Just last month, I met a guy at the gym who sniffed, after a comment I made about a girl on the Stairmaster, that he “doesn’t look at women in the gym.” I gazed at him with the same bewilderment that I would if I encountered an Ocelot walking down the middle of Madison Street. Why would anyone want to avoid staring at girls in the gym?
Yeeee-haw! I got me the same response when I told this one funny-boy his woman looked like she could suck the chrome offen a tailpipe! Well, I also got my nose broken, but I'm sure Claymore got mystifying powers to prevent such calamities! Come on, Perfesser, let's get to the money-shot!
Lastly, there is the topic of “conservatism” which is part of my title and thank God for that. For one thing, it alerts readers that I may just reference God once in awhile in these pages and will not do so in a mystified or angry manner. For my enemies, this will be a goddessend, as it will allow them to paint me as a religious fanatic which fits in perfectly with their pre-primer understanding of those who are not politically correct.
Aw, shit, I likes to humiliate the ladies as much as the next feller, but damn, buddy, I been readin' all night an' you ain't got it tight! Now come on! Make with the pussy-juicin' secrets!
Finding women attractive is not a political statement. It’s a personal statement and, oftentimes, what is attractive to one of us is not attractive to another. We can live with that To us, the purely personal can remain personal. For this reason, this book could be appreciated by many men who are not conservative in the political sense but are old school types who revel in just being the way they are and despise having to pretend to be something they are not. That is why I ask all of you to join me in this impromptu tour of our milieu and insist that the rest of society tolerate our diversity.
What the motherfuck! WHERE BE THE MONEY SHOT! I spent twenty minutes readin' your come-on, and I ain't learned nothin' 'bout getting my wick dipped! Yuh gimme a stiffee but I lost it in a jiffy, thanks to your political bullshit! Cripes! Lemmee check the Bull Moose site -- they sound kinda manly.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

ONE OF SEVERAL NEXT-TO-LAST REFUGES OF A SCOUNDREL. One blessing of the Schiavo mishegas ("mishegas" being the new "kerfuffle," people! Recognize or I'll start using "yakahoola") is that it's been keeping our minds off the usual bullshit (albeit with new bullshit, but hey, change is our friend!). Wingnut mentions of Michael Moore alone have declined 47 percent in the past two weeks. But Hugh Hewitt had to spoil it with a type of "thought experiment" familiar to students of the genre.

Some of Hewitt's fellow-travelers (Jarvis, Sullivan et alia), afrighted by the circus in Pinellas Park, began to suggest that the Religious Right might be disembraining conservatism unduly. True-believing Hewitt probably knew that the hit was, if nothing else, well-timed, and thereby dangerous; he reached into his ordnance; not much there besides Jesus, and the enemy was just throwing that back at him, with contempt; finally his fingers found the anti-anti-Semitizer -- a sort of stink bomb that leaves a whiff of odium on an opponent's arguments in even the most irrelevant circumstances -- and, after a moment of doubt, Hewitt put it in the launcher:
It is a useful exercise to run through Jeff's piece and substitute "the Jews" for the "religious right" and all pronounces referring to the "religious right." Jeff is of course not anti-Semitic...
"Useful" indeed! I myself find it "useful" to re-state all the bad things said about me as if they were said about the Jews -- "The Jews have no sense of responsibility, they shit on everyone they love, the selfish bastards," "The Jews are a constant disappointment to their family," "The services of the Jews are no longer required," "I think the Jews and I should stop seeing each other," etc. It may not disprove my opponents' arguments, but it makes them look bad, at least in the little theatre of my mind. And, as we have seen, in extreme moments that may be good enough.

Monday, March 28, 2005

(CUE "DUELING BANJOS"). As a professional writer I am of two minds about the galloping ignorance of young people today. On the one hand, it may mean more work for me, as a growing number of Americans, including even corporate executives, struggle to compose simple sentences. On the other hand, it may hasten our national descent into a pre-verbal state, whereby all communication is achieved by grunts, clicks, quotations from The Simpsons and Seinfeld, and blasts of machine-gun fire; in such a society I am unlikely to thrive.

So I am also of two minds about this story from the nation's laboratory for insane bullshit, Florida (found via The Poor Man):
The Academic Freedom Bill of Rights, sponsored by Rep. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, passed 8-to-2 despite strenuous objections from the only two Democrats on the committee...

While promoting the bill Tuesday, Baxley said a university education should be more than "one biased view by the professor, who as a dictator controls the classroom,” as part of "a misuse of their platform to indoctrinate the next generation with their own views"...

According to a legislative staff analysis of the bill, the law would give students who think their beliefs are not being respected legal standing to sue professors and universities.

“Some professors say, 'Evolution is a fact. I don’t want to hear about Intelligent Design (a creationist theory), and if you don’t like it, there’s the door,'” Baxley said, citing one example when he thought a student should sue...
I'm torn. Should I simply enjoy the joke, or start stockpiling guns, torches, and shiny beads that I may exchange for safe passage over the border?


SHORTER TONY BLANKLEY: I don't know what the fuck I'm talking about. (Data points include irrelevant citation of Socrates, inapposite quote from Alexander Pope, and "the ethical question of whether cyborgs should be permitted.")

UPDATE. While we're at it, SHORTER SUSAN KOENIG: Looking at my own Living Will is more research than I can be bothered to perform, but I think I gave the Virgin Mary power of attorney.

UPDATE II. Who will edit the editors? Kathryn J. Lopez's little Schiavo bleats -- meant to be ironic, one imagines -- reach apotheosis with this one: "SPARING ELK A PAINFUL DEATH: 'Five stranded elk shot; they faced slow starvation.'" Is KJL suggesting we shoot Schiavo with a hunting rifle, or fit the elk with feeding tubes? Try another draft, K-Lo.

Friday, March 25, 2005

THE PERFESSER MAKES AN OFFER. Reynolds boldy triangulates off Andrew Sullivan! It's a Sister Soulless moment! "If I were in charge of making the decision, I might well put the tube back and turn Terri Schiavo over to her family..." Can we pursuade him, Jesus fans? Keep hitting that tipjar! I think he's only a coupla iPods away from comin' to Jesus!

THE PRIZE WON AND RETIRED. I sometimes read movie reviews at National Review just to see how painfully they can twist works of popular art to suit their own ends. They've come down a long way since the days when John Simon actually reviewed films for them, instead of expostulating on their social paradigms.

But NRO will have to huff and puff a good deal more before they disgorge anything like this, from Paul Cella at Redstate:
But the whole drift of the film, aside from some occasional flashes, fails to give criticism the foundation and balance of philosophy – precisely because it fails to self-criticize. It sees with poignancy and even power the wounds sin inflicted in a lost age of man; but it cannot see what wounds sin is inflicting even now, in our own age...

The guns of tradition — strangely assembled, an eclectic mix no one could have predicted — have already begun to congregate, as Mary Eberstadt demonstrated in a brilliant piece examining the thematic roots of the more grim members of popular music, which often lie in seething anger at divorce. The fortress of sexual liberation is already doomed, though none can say with any certainty what will follow it...

As the University of Pennsylvania historian A. C. Kors one wrote, if you want to discover the most powerful objections to Christianity, look not to the haughty doyen of the modern age, the Darwinists and Nihilists and Rationalists; look instead to the sed contra objections of the great mediaeval Schoolmen.

What most marks the Modern Age is that thing from which the creed of the Cross recoils most sedulously...
Would you have ever guessed that this is from a meditation on the Julia Roberts weeper Mona Lisa Smile?

I get the feeling this guy would come up with the same thing if you showed him The Rules of the Game or Lola Montes. Or Space Jam. Or a blank screen.

SHORTER MICHAEL TOTTEN. The country is being run by irresponsible lunatics -- eactly as I expected when I voted for them!

ADDENDUM. I have been seeing some prominent Bushites (e.g. Young Curmudgeon and Balloon Juice) who are disgusted and even shaken in their faith by the Schiavo schmegegge. My instinct and custom has been to take such provisional repentances with a large grain of salt -- because in the hour of doubt, these questioning souls are usually visited by a demon who whispers, "But the liberals are weak on defense," bringing the penitent back more bellicosely wrong than before.

But let me presume a little good faith, if only as an exercise. As the clinical psychologists among you may recognize, my cynicism is partly a defense against my own urges, bred by years in Catholic schools, to enable auto-da-fes of my own. I will not join in calling conservative apostates to renounce Satan and all his works and come to Jesus, D.-Heaven. While in my weaker moments I imagine the emotionalism of our current politics being turned to liberal benefit, and how poetically just that would be, the bitter angels of my nature remind me that 'twas ever thus, that my own kind would also abuse the privileges pertaining thereunto, and I might turn into some sort of a Michael Totten, which would be a fitting if unspeakably cruel punishment.

Because when you gain votes by dispensing fear and resentment, you are creating and enabling a horde of addicts; they are almost certain to come for your wares again, but they will want more each time, and will be more desperate; and, when you show weakness, or run out of the sacred shit, they will turn on you without mercy.

Q. E. D.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

FREE TO BE YOU AND ME, AND TO GO SOMEWHERE ELSE FOR YOUR Ph.D. Before the release of an internal report on charges of student intimidation by wrongthinking Professors, Columbia President Lee C. Bollinger spoke the obvious, which, alas, apparently needed to be spoken. Per the NYT:
"We should not say that academic freedom means that there is no review within the university, no accountability, for the 'content' of our classes or our scholarship," he said. "There is a review, it does have consequences, and it does consider content"...

"The question is not whether a professor advocates a view," he said, "but whether the overall design of the class, and course, is to explore the full range of the complexity of the subject"...

While stressing that the university would not tolerate intimidation of students in the classroom, Mr. Bollinger stressed that "we will not punish professors -- or students -- for the speech or ideas they express as part of public debate and public issues"...

He also rejected the "academic bill of rights" proposed by David Horowitz, a conservative activist, that, he said, calls for a plurality of methodologies and perspectives in both hiring and curricula -- a proposal some state legislators are considering.

"We should not accept the idea that the remedy for lapses is to add more professors with different political points of view, as some would have us do," Mr. Bollinger said. "The notion of a balanced curriculum, in which students can, in effect, select and compensate for bias, sacrifices the essential norm of what we are supposed to be about in a university. It's like saying of doctors in a hospital that there should be more Republicans, or more Democrats. It also risks polarization of the university, where liberals take courses from liberal professionals and conservatives take conservatives classes."
The slap at Horowitz -- whose schemes for outside review of classroom content have, as I've said before, very unpleasant historical connotations -- is especially pleasing, but on the whole this should be unobjectionable to anyone who believes in academic freedom, not as a Constitutional matter, but as a vital component of Western Civilization.

Of course, that description may not be a good fit for the Ole Perfesser, who once suggested that the hate mail his readers wanted to send Nicholas De Genova might be more profitably sent to Bollinger, and even helpfully provided Bollinger's email address.

To repeat myself once again, students who do not like their Columbia education can always transfer to Liberty University. That's the free market in action, baby! I thought these guys believed in it.

POET VERY MAUDIT. Here's an amazing story: a Massachusetts murderer, apprehended after 20 years on the lam, had used his years of freedom to establish himself as a poet in Chicago.

What a cover! Norman Porter operated under the nom de plume J. J. Jameson -- which of course was the name of Spider-Man's boss, though I like to believe that it was meant, at least subconsciously, as an echo of Gulley Jimson. As described by friends and witnesses, Jameson seems to have found the transition from killer to poet rather natural:
...an elder statesman of Chicago's poetry scene -- a garrulous curmudgeon, the guy with the exaggerated Maine accent shouting from the audience for others to "Shut up and read the [expletive] poem!"...

He would wear a summer-weight suit and a bow tie in July, a second-hand fedora tilted atop his head. He was the Bug House Square re-enactor, the artist-provocateur, the hand-to-mouth handyman...

...said David Gecic, a longtime friend who published a book of poetry written by Porter using the Jameson alias... "He was a great, caring guy -- occasionally very generous. His faults were drinking and extreme anger when he saw injustice."
Heckler, drunkard, dandy, hothead -- sounds like a lot of writers I know. Actually he sounds a little like me. Dust for prints!

The Chicago Poetry News, which recently made Jameson Poet of ther Month, has updated their page on him: "He has been one of Chicago's most beloved anti-war poets. And now we find out he's really NORMAN PORTER!!! He recently did a huge feature at Coffee Chicago despite having shoulder surgery a few days before; even Marc Smith showed up for that one..." That's one of the things I like about Chicawgo -- they take life in stride.

Funny old world.

DEATH-LOVERS. The Crazy Jesus Lady is crazier and Jesuser than ever in her current Schiavo article. I could fill my morning with close analysis of its absurdities, but for now I will content myself with this:
The pull-the-tube people say, "She must hate being brain-damaged." Well, yes, she must. (This line of argument presumes she is to some degree or in some way thinking or experiencing emotions.)
I haven't heard anyone say "she must hate being brain-damaged," have you? Neither has Google.

Maybe CJL heard something else and -- oh, let's be charitable -- reinterpreted it. I do believe that CJL has heard people lamenting Schiavo's state of demi-life, and shuddering aloud to imagine themselves trapped in such a state. I've certainly heard such sentiments, even from unexpected quarters. Perhaps the angels in her head whispered to CJL that such people just don't know what they're saying, to which CJL replied brightly, Well, let's just tell them what they're saying, then!

Interest in living wills has sharply increased in the wake of this sad affair. Online marketers have seen traffic generated by the phrase "living will" increase tremendously. I doubt very much that these people are looking for ways to keep their life systems going through years of a vegetative state.

I guess they're all "pro-death," in the words of the Crazy Jesus Lady. I look forwards to the conversations she'll now invent for the members of the Supreme Court.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

WE'RE NOT NUTS, YOU'RE NUTS. Howard Dean won't have any luck spreading Democratic gospel in red states, says Holman W. Jenkins Jr. in OpinionJournal's Political Diary (no link, sorry, it's a subscription service -- I found mine lining the bottom of a virtual birdcage), because of "blue Democrats whose angry-loser mentality keeps pulling the party back in the wrong direction." Here's Jenkins' anecdote:
Monday's special congressional hearing in Columbus on the presidential election in Ohio. Reps. Juanita Millender-McDonald of California and Stephanie Tubbs Jones of Ohio repeatedly badgered Ohio's Republican (and black) Secretary of State Ken Blackwell over rulings made during the election campaign, with Ms. Tubbs Jones at one point suggesting he "haul butt" out of her sight when she didn't find his answers
satisfactory.

A certain kind of blue Democrat is obsessed with the loss of Ohio by 118,000
votes, a source of psychic compensation for the fact that Democrats lost by three million votes nationally, lost ground with core constituencies like Hispanics and blacks, lost in the fastest-growing states and communities, lost in the suburbs and vast swaths of non-urban America.
This may be to Republicans a soothing analysis at this time, when their own party appears to be going bughouse. But the Ohio hearing, which would naturally be of interest to politicans who represent that jurisdiction, hardly seems representative of a national Democratic obsession; while the folks at truthout still smell a rat, one can comb the MSM -- which, let us remember, we are daily assured is a front for the Democratic Party -- and find remarkably few of its investigative resources devoted to the Ohio vote. In fact, the most high-profile quibble on the Ohio numbers has been that of Christopher Hitchens, and he was probably just trying to beef up his contrarian cred.

Each side has its grudges and resentments, but there is plenty going on right now to distract us from them. (Alas.)

I will add that, as Jenkins apparently considers it important enough to note that Blackwell is black, it seems odd that he failed to mention that Millender-McDonald and Tubbs Jones are, too. Oh, I forgot: we're supposed to be secret racists as well as nuts.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

CRAPWATCH. The stream of gibberish loosed by the Schiavo case has grown so torrential that to identify the single most stupid statement issued on the subject by a prominent columnist would seem prohibitively difficult. Nonetheless, I think we have a winner! Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Brendan Miniter:
It is said that tough cases make bad law, and that's why it was wise for Congress to legislate only on this specific case rather than "making law" for everyone.
Such a perfect storm of bad faith, outrageous assertion, and absurdly inapposite employment of cliche, made from so high a perch as the Wall Street Journal, rarely occurs, and should be noted. Bonus points for the maudlin references in the rest of the copy to the subject as "Terri," as if she were a personal acquaintance, or a Lakers basketball star.

Or have I missed a better example?

UPDATE. Commenter Steve has a good candidate in Andrew McCarthy, who thinks "someone" should be in handcuffs for countenancing the removal of Schiavo's feeding tube (but hasn't the balls to call for any specific individual's arrest -- or, for that matter, to make a citizen's arrest of his own). Bonus points to McCarthy, too, for figuring an Abu Ghraib angle. I think Miniter still wins for the celerity of his stupidity -- congratulating Congress for their restraint in this extraordinary case because they aren't "'making law' for everyone" packs a lot of foolishness in a single sentence.

UPDATE II. Another good candidate proposed: Meghan Cox Gurdon, who uses Lewis' Screwtape Letters as a point of departure -- and departs indeed, and promptly, from Lewis' art to the arid plains of Propagandaland. Here's a bit of Lewis' original; the writing is thoughtful and stylish (if a bit damp); above all Lewis details a specific, recognizable perspective and manner, and even seems to take pleasure in the masquerade, which makes Screwtape vivid and interesting. Gurdon is doing a parody, true; but then we ought to have jokes at least, and what she provides in their place ("The walls are hung with scarlet velvet; the temperature an agreeable Fahrenheit 911") wouldn't tickle a Bible camper. Her Screwtape acts less like a devil than the villain in a bad Bruce Willis movie, and before long we're getting the material Hell House gave a pass ("The Right to Die... devilishly clever"). If there is a hell, the hottest rooms should be reserved for perverters of art.

UPDATE III. In comments Jeremy asks if the statements of Tom DeLay qualify for our competition. As he also intuits, politicians are in a whole other league from pundits, though, as this weblog has shown, the pundits are fast gaining on them, and the Schiavo affair may yet prove to be their Super Bowl III.

Also cited is John Derbyshire's lonely stand at The Corner. I am less interested, though, in the yowling of his challengers than in Derb's steadfastness. I have had a lot of fun with Derbyshire over the years, so risible has been his reactionary posturing and dedication to the proposition that he is refreshingly "politically incorrect" when he is merely an asshole. But the stark madness that has overtaken Derbyshire's colleagues seems to have shaken him into awareness that he is a grown-up, and as such he is most required to keep his head when all about are losing theirs. Ditto Brookhiser, but I always knew he had it in him. (Perhaps I should have seen it in Derbyshire too; no one who loves Hank Williams can be all bad.)

As for Hugh Hewitt, Jesus Fucking Christ. Glenn is right: that patch of Hewitt weaving between anger that Schiavo could die, and anger that the teenage Minnesota shooter will not die (in part because he's already fucking dead), captures a certain type of moral philosophy at its worst.

But we have been at this a while; the matin draws nigh. I sense the barometric pressure dropping, and a soothing mist descending. Might we have seen the worst of this?

Monday, March 21, 2005

BRAIN DEAD. I recently talked to a fellow whose aged, infirm mother passed on last year. At one point the woman was hovering between life and death, and the doctors had a talk with her son: we can probably revive her, they said, but she will certainly be brain dead and unable to breathe on her own. No heroic measures were taken, and the woman died peacefully.

This sort of thing -- for those of our readers unacquainted with life as it is lived by actual human beings -- goes on all the time.

Of course, but for an accident of timing, hordes of imbeciles might have forced Congress into an extraordinary session to get the mother on a respirator, or denounced the son as a murderer, or explained that the moral superiority of persistent vegetative states was proven by their childhood reaction to a "Star Trek" episode.

At the moment the American people seem to recognize what a lot of bullshit this whole Schiavo case is. But what they think hardly matters. The Republicans, flush with power, know that they can get away with a lot right now, and so are quickly handing out candy to their most powerful interest groups. The banks and financial companies got their turn with the Bankruptcy Bill, the oil companies got theirs with ANWR; now the Jesus Freaks are getting some play.

In the meantime, in case I can't scrape the money together for a living will soon enough, allow me to state here that I don't want to be kept alive in a persistent vegetative state, and hope my friends will act to end my misery should it come to that. I only hope the madness of our age doesn't make my wishes too hard to honor, and that no politically-motivated busybody gets the chance to exult over my drooling, mindless body.

Friday, March 18, 2005

CULTURE WARRIORS, WANKER DIVISION.<CountFloydvoice>Hey, boys and girls, you like scaaaaary movies? Ow-wooooo! Well, we got a special treat for you today -- a sneak peek at the sequel to the super scarey movie The Ring! You know, with the little girl she comes out of the well and you play the video and you die and -- hoo, boy that was some scary stuff! Ow-wooooo! Here to scare you now is Thomas Hibbs of the National Review Online.</CountFloydvoice>:
The Ring Two brings these two themes together in Sissy Spacek’s character, who advises the confused Rachel, “Send it back…Be a good mother.” It is perhaps too much to see Spacek as a horror-world stand-in for the detached, Enlightenment rationalism of the pro-euthanasia philosopher, Peter Singer, although the best piece on Singer, Peter Berkowitz’s essay in The New Republic, bears the striking title “The Utilitarian Horrors of Peter Singer.” As poorly made as it is, the film nonetheless gets at the horrifying reality of such proposals in ways utilitarian logic never could.
<CountFloydvoice>What the -- Ow-wooooo! Wasn't that scaaaary, kids? Huh? All that utilitarianism and radical veganism... think of the effect on contemporary mores! Ow-wooooo! Okay, so maybe it wasn't scarey -- in fact it's kinda pedantic and stupid! But these people do this kind of stuff all the time -- take silly movies and turn them into pamphlets for their stupid cause and suck the life out of everything. Think about it -- they're like -- like zombie nerds -- hiding in cubicles waiting to grab a scarey movie and suck the life out of it! Ow-wooooo! Still not scarey, huh? Well, wait until you get a little older and they put you in work-camps, boys and girls! That's scarey! Ow-wooooooo!</CountFloydvoice>

GOOD READING ON GREAT CITIES. I am reading a few books about New Orleans for research purposes. One, Robert Tallent's Mardi Gras... As It Was, dates from the 40s. It is wonderfully crowded with fact and incident, and its slightly stiff, reportorial tone provides a lovely medium for the many outrages it describes:
...In Gallatin Street, for instance, where police would not venture even in the broadest daylight, the murders showed a remarkable increase on Mardi Gras, although there was always bloodshed and excitement in that vicinity. In Gallatin Street the inhabitants' costumes were very simple. Both men and women would wear masks for their dances, but they wore nothing else, except perhaps a gun or a knife strapped to a thigh or an armpit.

But Gallatin Street was a country garden compared with an uptown section on and around Girad Street known as the Swamp. It was a boast of the Swamp that not for twenty years had an officer of the law dared to set foot in the section, and that the half-dozen murders that occurred every week were never investigated, never even reported. Bodies were as a matter of custom left where they fell in the mud streets or on a saloon floor until the odors drove the inhabitants to toss them into the river. A man could obtain a drink, a woman, and a bed for the night for six cents in this neighborhood, although it was certain that if he had any other money on him it would be gone when he awoke in the morning -- if he awoke at all...
The other book is New Orleans Unmasqued, from the mid-80s by S. Frederick Starr, described on the dust jacket as "president of Oberlin College, a distinguished Russian scholar and an advisor on Soviet affairs"; the end-notes add that he is clarinetist for the Louisiana Repertory Jazz Ensemble, and also its founder. This is a more general and desultory homage to the city, and many of its meditations are just pure pleasure, particularly this one on the historical character of New Orleans men:
...In their dealings with one another they avoided face-to-face conflict, prefering behind-the-scenes negotiations wherever possible. Rather than offer a firm "No" to a ridiculous business proposition from an old friend, the standard method was to nod gravely and equivocably, waffle for a few weeks and then do nothing. Everyone understands... This kept the ranks intact, heaven knows, but it institutionalized weakness and dependence. And it made the gents sitting ducks for opportunists from elsewhere...

But those same men possess other attributes that are unknown to the macho crowd of hyperactive doers. They have the time of day for friendships. They are reserved, but hospitable to a fault. Being acutely aware of their own failings, they are quick to forgive the weaknesses of others. Their sense of humor is genuine and honed by constant exercise...

The rarity of this attitude in the mainstream of male American Babbittry shows once more that not all desirable ends in this life are compatible.
I've never been but I'd sure like to go. Till then reading is adventure enough.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

THE LAST OF THE REAGAN DEMOCRATS. I'm not sure what this Michele Catalano column is about. I have been able to identify two themes:

1.) The second Bush Administration disappoints her. "There are others out there like me... we feel used. We feel taken advantage of. We feel manipulated."

2.) But that doesn't mean she's a goddamn liberal. "...a flurry of clenched fists and righteous indignation, with calls for me to go out and start protesting (or something like that) to prove my regret... And this doesn’t mean that I’m going to suddenly sign up for the Democrat party and start carrying around No Blood For Oil placards."

The election was four months ago. At that time, her reaction was a long harangue at liberals ("You ran your own campaign, one filled to the brim with bile and acidic spittle and you wonder why you feel so black today?"). Later she wrote, "Just because a state is blue on a map, Ted [Rall], does not mean that we, the red zombies, are not here. We are. We exist. And for the next four years Horton the elephant is watching over us." Later she wrote, "How the Democrats, the left, the liberals, whatever they want to call themselves, have suddenly decided it's ok to pass around the jugs filled with smug hatred, to lick their lips as they drool the slobbering bigotry all over themselves, to become everything they always claimed they weren't." Later she wrote... well, you see how it goes.

I would like to be more sympathetic. I'm told we need to be reaching out. But I know that if the Democrats nominated Jesus Christ Almighty in 2008, and Jeb Bush's people told this woman that JCA is soft on terror and unfit for command, she'd fall for that, too. And blame us afterwards.
MINORITY REPORT. As the grey eminence of the blogosphere, I hate to be drawn into "fun" online events, but Majikthise, Norbizness, LG&M, and other worthies have listed their top films of the 1990s, and none of them has even mentioned the obvious crowning glory of that decade, and this bestirs me to join the young people, in their fancy discotheque with their bumptious music and flashing lights, and say my say.

I could talk about Happiness for hours, but I will only say here that though it travels disguised as an outrage, it is a morally serious film, indeed almost a moral pageant. Each of the characters is looking for some recognizable variant of happiness -- from cheap thrills to true love to the peace of the grave -- and each expects it from other people, who are of course unable to provide it. (They sometimes seem to provide it, but there's always a problem: one doesn't have the right looks, another is incapable of love, another has a corpse in her freezer, etc.) None of the characters thinks to find happiness within himself, but Timmy at least has a chance -- he learns to make himself cum! So, you see, it is really a life-affirming sex comedy, albeit one in which the hero's father rapes little boys.

I love Goodfellas, The Big Lebowski, The Sweet Hereafter, and many of the other contenders, but I insist this very odd film is at least as successful on its own terms as they are on theirs.