Monday, May 02, 2005

SHORTER JANE GALT: Not only are Hollywood actors liberal and wrong -- they don't even know how to act! Jane Galt must school them in empathy!

(Refresh my memory, folks: back when libertarians actually existed, what were their distinguishing characteristics?)
BED-WETTERS AT CAMP KULTERKAMPF. How goes the Culture War? Bit of a snag at Libertas ("a forum for conservative thought in film"). The author has found an interview where Geoge Lucas mentions Fahrenheit 911 without spitting.

"Wired put Lucas on its cover, his face half-encased in the helmet Darth Vader," says the disappointed fanboy. "That may be more appropriate than they imagined."

His fellow Jedi rush in waving their light-sabres. "I still believe that despite Lucas’ own personal philosophy, his films belie a deep rooted conservatism," says one. "Perhaps Lucas doesn’t realize it," insists another, "but he is subversively conservative and even pro-life when he depicts this cold Cloning facility with a million babies in jars."

Yeah. And if Princess Leia ever got to know you, she'd really, really like you.

UPDATE. The Libertas post has received more comments; so far this one is my favorite. In case they've taken it down, here's the complete text:
As though there needed to be a subset of the “Star Wars Loser Group” now we have, whiney conserva-geek-star-wars-losers. What’s more, they’re looking [for] depth in a Star Wars movie. Depth! Meaning. Important political statements!

Time to turn off the computer, get out of the basement, move out of mom’s house and get a life.
Whoa -- looks like someone's gonna get a purple nurple.
Q.E.D. "I know Andrew [Sullivan] has a tendency to believe his own personal political preferences should and must be in perfect accord with external reality, but I’ve never subscribed to such a view." -- Jonah Goldberg.

The qualifier "external" suggests there is an internal reality by which one might make sense of Goldberg's politics. It probably resembles Porky in Wackyland.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

DEATH OF A DREAM. I took a stroll by the former Plaza Hotel this fine Spring afternoon. In its day, the Plaza was a monument to all that was splendid in the Big Apple – the gold standard of hospitality, the home of Eloise, the monogrammed bathrobe at the end of the rainbow for countless mid-level managers.

But that Plaza is gone. In its place stands a cruel mockery: Its windows, as high as rocks can reach, have been brutally shattered, and rough workmen’s planks obscure their once-majestic views. The fabled doors, once guarded by proud men in splendid uniforms, now swing loose on their hinges, freely admitting squatters and prostitutes -- not the new Plaza’s guests, but its masters. Its white fa├žade has been pitted by gunfire and scarred by graffiti; the scrawled legend BROKEN PROMISES looms over a family of three huddled against the north wall, sharing a makeshift supper.

The Oak Bar, in former days redolent of expensive cologne and fine wines, today reeks of crack cocaine. A visitor to the capacious bathrooms receives, instead of a gentle whisking of the shoulders and a posture suggesting that a tip would be appreciated, blows to the head and a rough frisking.

"This our house now," says "Crick," a self-styled "Customer Service representative" who patrols the lobby, a baseball bat in his right hand and a Blunt perched insouciantly between his teeth. "You got any problems, you fill out a card an’ give it to the desk clerk."

The effects of the Plaza’s decline reach far beyond its own walls. High life has drained from Fifth Avenue. Brooks Brothers is now a Dress Barn. Elizabeth Arden is a nail salon. Only the NBA store thrives. This famed thoroughfare, where splendid Easter bonnets were so recently displayed, is deserted after nightfall. "Since the Plaza moved to mixed-used, Fifth Avenue is a no-go zone," admits a weary-looking Sgt. William Daniels of the NYPD. "We only come in at dawn to carry out the dead."

"This is a wake-up call to our fellow citizens," declares Business Improvement District President Charles F. Gordon from behind the sandbag barricades of what was once F.A.O. Schwartz. "It’s too late for the Plaza, but for Christ's sake, keep the Helmsley open. Because if they get the Helmsley, it’s just a short hop to the Oyster Bar, and then God help New York!"

Friday, April 29, 2005

WISHFUL NON-THINKING. Lot of death-knells for newspapers lately, and what they have in common -- from the Ole Perfesser's smug solipsism("...it does seem as if we're undergoing a major change. I know that I pay less and less attention to newspapers and television...") to Richard Brookhiser's L'Envoi -- is that they're ridiculously premature. U.S. newspaper circulation, as even hostile reports admit, is down maybe about a point -- which means our papers are outperforming the national economy. Hey, maybe America's finished, too!

Certainly this is not a good time to grow rich in journalism, but -- this may shock the libertarians; cover their ears -- often getting rich is not the point. Sometimes the incentive is power. For decades certain gazillionaires (cough Murdoch cough) have been operating their tabs at a deficit just to keep their journalistic hobby-horses alive. 'Twas ever thus. You think James Callender got published on the strength of any fan-base besides Thomas Jefferson?

So why the declarations of irrelevance? Simple. These guys are pushing something called blogging. In this blog thing, some very few make money on ads, but mostly the practice is meant to burnish reputations sufficiently to get the reputees gigs with Media Matters, right-wing radio, or some other venue in a for-profit branch of the Fourth Estate. Some idiots, like myself, do it with only mild recompense from confused Blogad shoppers who perhaps picked a handful of sites from top of an alphabetical list, and some bloggers get nothing from it but the satisfaction of knowing that unseen dozens of bored office workers now know what the blogger had for dinner last night, what sort of stool the dinner engendered, and the blogger's thoughts on Faulkner and the Law of the Sea.

Sounds like quite a revenue stream, eh? Well, maybe, just maybe, if they can get everyone to believe that the Paper is dead, there'll be a reverse Tinker Bell effect. Then those few Americans who still know how to read will come running to Powerlineblog, jettisoning sports, weather, local news, and any other service Powerlineblog cannot deliver, just to be on trend!

It obviously works in politics, their reasoning seems to be; and since everything is politics, why should it not work for me?
GRAB BAG. The new Jonah Goldberg column is chock-full of idiocies, and I am very short of time. So I'll grab one of the idiocies, and you guys do what you will with the rest.
In the world we live in today, to be an American conservative requires two complementary forms of argumentation: skepticism about the new and faith in the old. You must have both to be a conservative of any stripe. Which new things you’re skeptical about and which old things you revere distinguish the kind of conservative you are. I think, unlike many readers, that by this criteria alone Sullivan is a conservative.
I revere our democracy and am skeptical of the government con men to whom it has been entrusted. I revere Social Security and am skeptical of the government con men etc. I revere our national resources etc.

Obviously I am a conservative. Goldberg's wrong about Sullivan, though, who is conservative -- as everyone possessing the bullshit-penetrating x-ray glasses known to my people as "common sense" knows -- only because the gravy train marked "Gay Conservative" still had empty seats when he turned up at the station.

Over to you.
SHOWING THE LOVE. Next to a drawing of him in which his narcotized-psycho features are scrunched into something resembling a smile, John Bolton is rhapsodized by the Crazy Jesus Lady:
It has long been said that in Washington a friend is someone who will stab you in the front. Mr. Bolton, again if the charges are true, has been a friend to many. He tells people off to their faces. That's refreshing. As a human tic, if that's what it is, it is probably more individually controllable than the temptation to damage people behind their backs, which is what people in intense environments more commonly and destructively do.
Really, Peggy? You really mean that?

Then here's some Bolton-style friendship, you brain-damaged old harpy. There was a time when your flights of flackery were so diabolical that we often had to step back out of sheer awe at your evil. But this here's some feeble shit. Where'd you get this he-shows-his-love-by-screaming-and-throwing-things strategy -- your marriage counsellor?

I don't care how many unwashed Gipper-touched-me-there spots you've collected, you've clearly been out there in the ether so long you don't even know what solid ground feels like. No wonder you had to go freelancing your propaganda skils during the last Bush campaign -- the White House guard-shacks are probably wallpapered with your mug shot. You're only fit to feed wingnut theo-fantasies in the Journal and play Prop Female at think-tank events.

Now way be my government appointment? Clearly I have the required temperment!

Thursday, April 28, 2005

BIBLE BEATINGS. Norbizness offers not only a wicked cool Ween reference (now do one called IT REALLY HURTS MOMMY/STINKY VASELINE) but also an introduction to the National Council on Bible Cirriculum in Public Schools (tagline: "It's Coming Back..." which I think was also the tagline of one of the Alien movies).

To be fair, the Bible folk have both good and bad reasons to throw the Good Book at pre-teens. Among the bad:
Proponents say the course would utilize the Bible as a textbook to study history, literature and geography. Opponents argue the class, to be taught by a local minister’s wife, would indoctrinate students to Christianity.
Anyone who has lived among human beings (paper cut-outs of human beings don't count) for any length of time knows how this one works out. The minister's wife starts out in her demure, white Secular Humanist labcoat, merely using the Bible to help kids find Magog on a map, but before you can say "Funny, I don't feel tardy" she's stripped down to her Jesus-string and the kids are storming through the halls and pulling down the lanterne for godless biology teachers.

But I can get behind the Bible as Literature dodge -- mainly because, while this obviously is a dodge to these folks, it is also true that the Bible is literature, and vitally important literature at that. And we may see from this course the results that human experience leads us to expect: the weak-minded indoctrinated, the lazy confused, and the inquiring (especially if they are blessed with teachers who are not down with the zombies-for-Christ program) inspired to learn that the Good Book is not just something with which Granny consoles herself and upon which politicians place their hands when they lie, but a book with dizzyingly rich literary, religious, and political contexts -- which knowledge may make the world more interesting to them, and -- Hallelujah! -- lead some out of the stultifying swamp of ignorance (and religious bigotry) entirely.

Always bet on knowledge over ignorance, kids. It may not pay off very many times, but when it does hit the winnings are exceedingly large.

Of course, the law of unintended consequences cuts both ways. Since "important part of our culture" is a big hunk of the Bible justification, after a few frivolous lawsuits Cultural Relevance will become the standard by which Mr. Hand will be forced to accept papers about The Relationship Between Pulp Fiction and The Clinton Impeachment. Plus the poetry might inspire rhymes like this:
I'm black but comely, my bed is green
I use the myrrh and not the Afro-Sheen
Which would just be terrible.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

PAGE SIXTH CIRCLE OF HELL. Boy, this gossip columnist really lets Katie Couric have it:
Andrew Lack, former president of NBC, described Katie, during the good times, as a "fist in the velvet glove," while for years her staff has called her "Katie Dearest." Bryant Gumbel... once complained, "I've had one assistant for 18 years. Somebody who shall remain nameless went through five in five years..."

...the stress of crashing ratings has obviously made her inner Cruella de Vil — always there under the surface — emerge full-time...

Each morning she is now expertly and heavily made up — not exactly the look most harried working moms can emulate. And while doing interviews, her bare legs in stiletto mules are perpetually center stage, getting more attention from the camera than the guest she is supposed to be interviewing...
Mee-yow! But wait'll you hear this, girls:
But what I think has contributed to Katie's major loss of appeal is that millions of women have finally caught onto the liberal bias in much of her reporting.
Wha? Huh wha? Wha huh wha?

(chuckling amiably) Aw, alright, she isn't a gossip columnist, she's -- well, I'm not sure what she is but she writes for NRO so she must be something. You caught on right away, didn't you? What a disagreeable old man I have become.

Part of what makes me that way is this vision of an alternate universe where not just headline news, and the arts, and sports, but even tabloid celebrity burble must be about politics.

PS: I really just went to American Scene to grab the link, but can anyone explain this gibberish? "Levantine beauties," "men without chests," the notion that "increased levels of disposable income" make women in their mid-20s more attractive than women in their early 20s -- maybe "Reihan" doesn't exist at all except as a code name for Douthat's id.

UPDATE. Baseball Crank cries foul in comments, and he's right. (Following the Mets gets you a fair hearing at alicublog!) BC does not conflate baseball and politics. You have to go back to vintage Noonan for that kind of thing. Or Robert Ziegler. Or -- but I'm digging here. I can see that the politicization of sports is running behind the politicization of everything else -- but give it time.
WHO PAYS? Nicole Gelinas of the New York Post has been carefully planting explosives under the Mayoral candidacy of Freddy Ferrer. She's not the only one, of course; some local bullshit liberals have been saying the guy is too non-bullshit liberal to win against the beloved current Mayor, Richie Rich, and his dog Dollar. Take New York magazine, please:
Ferrer’s remarks are well tailored to his audience. This is a union-proud, racially diverse, stone-liberal crowd of academics and students, about half of whom wear anti-Bush buttons on their lapels. In other words, a strong sampling of the city’s leftish Democratic base...

Assembling only a textbook New York coalition of unions and racial special interests actually does Bloomberg a favor, however: It allows the mayor to spin his wealth as a positive, declaring himself unbought and unbossed, a plutocrat channeling Shirley Chisholm...
The author, Chris Smith, is probably the only person alive who looks at Michael Bloomberg and sees Shirley Chisholm. Scratch that; I don't he sees that, either. He's just casting about for metaphors, however feeble, to help explain the appeal of the Boston fixer beyond the distressingly simple fact that Giuliani pushed for him last election -- after of course pushing for himself -- and squeaked him by the useless Mark Green.

But that's how the cognoscenti do when they lose their guts. Local conservatives have their own methods. The Posties have been fanning the flames lit by some cop-friendly comments Ferrer made about the Diallo shooting years ago -- never mind that the Post itself has routinely excused every shooting of civilians by cops since the dawn of Rupert Murdoch.

In the intellectual wing of that movement, though, they have to come up with stronger stuff. Gelinas works the angle that Ferrer, even more than his less-electable competition for the Democratic nomination, is anti-business: "None of the four Dem candidates for mayor has much experience in the for-profit economy," she writes, "...But only one candidate is willing to repeatedly reveal his irredeemable lack of understanding of how private-sector Gotham works: former Bronx Borough President Freddy Ferrer."

Ferrer is suggesting that we address our large shortfalls of City revenue with taxes on big business -- in this instance, on stock transfers. Gelinas will have none of it. That will chase big business out -- "Wall Street isn't a captive of New York City, as it once was," she says.

In Gelinas' view, big business is in no way to be touched up for City revenue, or even addressed disrespectfully. She finds our cigarette taxes and the State's big-tobacco lawsuits equally noxious -- not on grounds of injustice to smokers, but because the transfer of funds from tobacco companies to the government is "hypocrisy"; and when City pension fund managers lean on companies like Winn Dixie on discrimination grounds, she sounds the tocsin at the City Journal: "No longer content merely to change corporate America from the outside, public-pension funds are now taking advantage of a chastened and weakened post-Enron corporate America to shift the focus of their political and economic power to the inside of the corporate boardroom. Their resolve to change the world one shareholder resolution, press release, and board election at a time spells trouble for taxpayers, U.S. corporations, and the national economy."

New York is of course not entirely a business-unfriendly environment; we give corporations tax breaks all the time, but despite the jobs this has safeguarded, we're still in the hole. Even Gelinas has noted that "From 1988 to 2000, [a Center for an Urban Future] report notes, Gotham handed out $2 billion in tax breaks and incentives to 80 top-notch firms, simply to keep the jobs in the city. But half of those companies still moved jobs out of town." Such payoffs "have simply warped the city's growth pattern, at best." Her solution: cut other business taxes, such as "unforgivably regressive 8.625 percent tax on consumer goods [which] openly encourages merchants to leave," and thereby make a still more favorable climate for business.

One may ask, then, where Gelinas expects the money New York pressingly needs to come from. A hint comes in a recent Gerlinas essay on the parlous state of our subways. Along the way she calls for the usual conservative remedies: privitization, sticking it to the unions, etc. The firms that pick up the MTA's baton ought to do very well under this plan. But there is a constituency to whom Gelinas offers no surcease:
Cutting artificially high costs is one goal — but politicians must also allow the MTA to hike the artificially low price of a ride. Right now, city and state pols treat the subway as a social service — when the fare is raised, they complain of a regressive tax.

The MTA should ensure that fares cover the actual cost of a ride. Fares should cover operating costs (after federal and state capital grants), just as they did 100 years ago, and should be indexed yearly to inflation.

Will some low-wage workers be unable to pay? Sure — but the city and state governments can offer them vouchers based on need. Gov. Pataki could never stiff the city of that subsidy — or the poverty police would come knocking. (We'll take care of them later, one imagines Gelinas saying under her breath -- ed.)

Treating the subway as a market service paid for by customers, not as a social service subsidized by politicians, would improve the prospects of long-stalled projects.
These big, gleaming buildings, these roads, these trains, and whatever stadia Bloomberg and his allies muscle through -- they were not, and are not being, built for you, fellow citizens. In the new order, it will be made clear in the form of user fees, fare hikes, and whatever else you can or can't spare. Just don't ask the folks making huge profits off you to kick in a little. That wouldn't work; more to the point, it would be very unfair.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

IT'S A GREAT LIFE IF YOU DON'T WEAKEN, OR EVEN IF YOU DO. Sometimes I get tired of my own anger, and wonder if it isn't a bad thing to keep up this blog. Every time I see an outrage (well, not every time, teeny-boppers -- I'd be on here 24-7, or whenever the public library was open, parked at a public terminal, surrounded by my shopping bags, wearing four coats and twelve days' growth of beard, and radiating a strong fungal musk) I open Blogger and vomit out a response; but like Harry Hope's liquor after Hickey has reformed, it don't have no kick no more, and I come away still seething.

Sometimes I think I need an alternative action plan -- anger management classes, Paxil, or some more lasting form of self-expression. Anything's gotta beat serving as the Bizarro-world equivalent of those poor fellows who regularly rise to denounce Che t-shirts or Mao in the library as if the kids' eyes hadn't been glazed like Krispy Kreme since word one and the janitor weren't already putting up the chairs.

So I did like the social worker suggested and made a list, and the upshot is I will keep it up a little longer anyway, as the reasons in favor are still compelling:
  • Another year and I qualify for the blogger vesting program.
  • When I finally get Peggy Noonan alone in a corner of some think-tank dinner and make her listen to my crappy proto-electronica, I can truthfully say, in a wheezing voice, "I wrote you letters, many letters, why haven't you answered my letters?"
  • I'm right and they're wrong.


UPDATE. One of the tasks I set for myself as a young man was to stop fishing for compliments. It may be that, under the guise of thinking out loud, I dropped the flag with this post -- the only mystery greater than other people, after all, is oneself. I'm very grateful nonetheless for all the kind and (as usual) eloquent words in comments, even if you are all FBI agents, as the three-foot-tall green man in the corner insists. I expect to keep this popsicle stand open for a while yet.

Monday, April 25, 2005

NEXT ISSUE: HOW ABC'S "BLIND JUSTICE" IS REALLY A PLEA FOR PROMPT CONFIRMATION OF FEDERAL JUDGES. Thanks to Sun Myung Moon's top-down management style, even a simple review in the WashTimes of the Virginia Opera's Faust reflects the new realities:
...The nasty scene where Faust bullies the frantic Marguerite borders on the blasphemous, but proves a dramatic necessity, propelling the work toward its beatific vision of redemption. The work's emotional portrayal of moral conflict is sometimes derided by modernists as decidedly out of touch with contemporary sensibilities. Yet it somehow resonated strongly in this production, perhaps unintentionally illuminating Pope Benedict XVI's recent condemnation of the "dictatorship of relativism," and casting this opera in an entirely different context.
Perhaps unintentionally? Did they bring in wind machines and sand dunes to portray Faust's wanderings through "'deserts' of sprituality"? When Marguerite was swept into heaven, did Roy's Rock rise in her place? Was Mephistopholes given a fat suit, a movie camera, and a Flint, Michigan cap?

More to the point, why might Moon, who has already declared himself Messiah, pump up his competition? Perhaps he hopes to lull Benedict into a false sense of security -- then, when the Pope least expects it, out come the thunderbolts and all the glory associated with end times.

Maybe Benedict's in on it too, and they plan to put their apocalyptic death-match on pay per view.
BUT HOW DOES IT COMPARE WITH MUST-SEE THURSDAY? I could not get "Justice Sunday" on my little wire-hanger-reception TV, so you must look elsewhere for informed commentary. But without bragging too much on my predictive capacities -- I have long maintained that the nation would go to hell in a handbasket, and see, here we are! -- I can safely say that this show isn't going to do much for Senator Frist's cause. The serious Christers are already pledged up, and while mushy appeals to public decency and morality may sway some uncommitted souls in need of a stronger sense of redemption, the invocation of Christ as Bringer of Senate Procedural Reform seems a non-starter even in the church counties.

The highlight reel is pretty rich, though:
[Family Research Council] President Tony Perkins (!! -- ed.) said Democrats were using filibusters to exclude religious believers from the bench. Holding up a Bible, he told the audience, "What we are saying tonight is that as American citizens, we should not have to choose between believing what is in this book and serving the public."
A man waving a Bible on TV and asking for money is one thing, but a man waving a Bible on TV and asking for proxy support in a contest not involving colorfully-named wrestlers is just wasting everyone's time.
LATE BLOOMER. Finally saw Sideways. The objections to it touted by some people back when it was in theatres seem strange to me. Of course male critics, like any other filmgoers, will be flattered to see themselves in a main lead. But credentialed critics are successes, in that they are bylined and paid for doing what I am doing here for free; Miles is a chronic failure in a field closely related to theirs. Wouldn't they more likely view him as a loser -- somebody that they're demonstrably better than?

In fact, what I minded about Miles was that he is so ceaselessly stuck in gloom without being genuinely witty or otherwise appealing about it. His observations on everything except wine are purposely ridiculous whinging. Modern drama, and literature, and film are packed with attractive, indeed galvanic, underperformers -- Gray's Butley, Lowry's Consul, and Jack Nicholson's Bobby Dupea come to mind. If you must be damned, be stylishly damned!

Also, I never thought I'd say this, but Paul Giamatti doesn't help. He's a wonderful actor and his extreme sensitivity as a performer leads to a few heartbreaking moments, but his raging schlub bit gets hard to take sometimes -- well, many times. I mean, it's a road movie -- it's not a good thing if you keep wishing you could get out of the car.

Stephanie and Maya are a problem, too. The former isn't much more than a device, and the latter -- well, this may be where the Times guy got it from; she's so level and true that you have to wonder how she got placed in the same universe as Jack and Miles. And Payne really miscalculated with all the scene-setting; it doesn't add much to see California wine country in such lavish detail. Maybe Turning Leaf had a piece of the action.

Well, gee, Roy, that doesn't sound like much of a recommendation. So what's good? Mostly stuff that (forgive me) ripens over the course of the film. The dramaturgy is wicked smart. For example, throughout most of Sideways I wondered, what do these two guys see in each other? They spend most of the movie savagely attacking each other's actions and motivations. Good friends may do that, of course, but underneath it all you expect to see traces at least of the ties that bind.

Payne was subtle about this -- maybe over-subtle. The big clues came late: the attack at the golf course, and especially Miles' reclamation of Jack's wallet. After these the rest of their relationship, and the whole movie, made more sense. Jack may seem like a heedless horndog and Miles a volatile lush, but each has a strain of madness that the other can enjoy, if only because it's different and thereby more exciting to him than his own. Again, maybe too little too late, but how much better that is than something like the little speech Kevin Spacey gives in American Beauty to explain to us what a hot tamale his wife used to be before she got so anal.

And I liked Jack. He's a user, a dumbass, and a devious shit -- the way he melds his lie about himself with a lie about Miles, as a hedge against detection, would seem Machiavellian if he weren't so fucking dumb -- but the fact that he comes up with this shit solely by instinct, just to keep the party going, is part of his appeal. He's not charming, really, in the traditional movie sense; his shallowness is too obvious -- I think even Stephanie sees that from the get-go. But he's got an appetite for life that not only draws people to him but makes them feel happy and good about themselves. For a while, anyway.

Also -- and maybe mainly -- that's one hell of a coda. I'm not sure how much it needs the rest of the movie -- it needs Miles' journey, and it needs a casual remark by Maya at Stephanie's place, but not much more. I figured Miles would have to come around at the end, but I didn't expect his way of doing it to be so simple and so moving. Moral: A big finish, as they say in the show biz, takes care of a slow middle. And among the countless hours of crap I have watched in my time, I am grateful for every small epiphany.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

SHOWING UP AT SHEA. Finally got out to Shea yesterday, and saw the Mets roll the Nationals 10-5. Seo got called up from Norfolk to replace the ailing Kaz Ishii; Seo didn't do much last year and hadn't been pitching well in Triple-A, I hear, but he was sharp in this game, and even drove in two runs himself. The Mets' playing was the usual mix of derring-do and derring-don't, botched batting and baserunning alternating with clutch plays, and fortunately this time the mix was weighted in our favor.

We could have got that from the TV, but of course the park offers its own blessings. Like the mook behind me who called me a retard for tipping the beerman; later he complained that he couldn't find a vendor. And the guy who had to leave early, causing his friends to chant "Da-nny! Da-nny!" after him, in the manner of the old "Daaa-rryl" serenade. A crowd of young teenage girls in hoodies stood at the back of the mezzanine and chanted double-dutch style for the team's success; some kids waved Mets signs written in Korean. A Washington batter got brushed back hard and someone bellowed the Nelson Muntz laugh, the sort of senseless cruelty that is inexcusable anywhere but in a major league ballpark, where usually only well-paid egos are bruised. The day was damp and cold and everyone complained but being miserable is a good part of Mets fandom, and winning just makes it a little nicer.

Friday, April 22, 2005

SHORTER HUGH HEWITT (Permalink irrelevant, doesn't seem to matter what day or month or year it is): Praise Jesus! Praise Jesus! Jesus! Praise Jesus! Jesus! Jesus! Jesus! Jesus! (Looka this joke I stole from Letterman.) Jesus! Jesus! Praise Jesus!
WHATTAYA WANT ME TO DO, SPELL IT OUT FOR YOU? DRAW YOU A PICTURE? DON'T ASK ME MORE! AS LONG AS YOU LIVE, DON'T EVER ASK ME MORE! Oh Jesus, they're still talking about Ward fucking Churchill at National fucking Review, and bawling how the evil liberals won't let them go to school:
There is bone-snapping pressure of conservative not even to pursue PhDs! I simply don't believe that the "chilling effect" on conservatives can get much worse. Meanwhile, the warm, nurturing, environment for champions of Jackassery couldn't be much more encouraging. Hang Churchill (metaphorically of course). Send a signal...

Studying Churchill like he was a lab rat isn't a good idea precisely because he is exactly that -- a lab rat. Typical in every way; the baseline. No one studies lab rats qua lab rats anymore. You only study them after you've done something to them. The only thing that would make Ward Churchill interesting for study is if you cut him loose. See how the other lab rats react. I'm sorry if I sound to Machiavellian...
You don't, Jonah. Machiavelli was smart.

The cognitive dissonance (for future NatRev contributors, that means when things don't make sense) is anted up on the same fucking page, when Steven Hayward brags on his alma mater, Claremont: "Most (not all) of my classmates have teaching jobs, usually at smaller, red-state colleges, and are reasonably happy, but on the merits many of them deserve to be department chairs or senior pooh-bahs at the top universities, but have been prevented from doing so by political correctness."

I'm heartily sick of saying this, but as long as these people maintain their pretense of stupidity in the service of their cause, I suppose I must repeat myself: So Fucking What? There are hundreds of colleges and universities in the United States. Right-wing crackpots seem not to have suffered from a lack of educational opportunities at Claremont, Bob Jones, Liberty University, the University of Tennessee, and other state-accredited and Jesus-approved institutions. (Even Hayward, citing Harvey Mansfield, agrees that lots of schooly-cons have been highly placed in the Bush Administration.) If a talented wingnut wishes to attend college, no liberal magisterium prevents him or her from doing so. Hell, even the barely literate Goldberg holds a degree.

And if these guys are as smart, and as right, as they insist they are, over time their academic nut-hatches should have acquired a reputation for intellectual probity, at least among the people they seem to care about. So what if the Times likes Yale men? The Republican managers of nearly everything are cool with a BA from Goucher. Yet the fuckers scream bloody murder against affirmative action for minorities, while they demand it for themselves.

Pardon me. I don't usually get so exercised at their moronism. I've come to expect that, and even their self-ridiculing arguments in defense of the indefensible. But I guess even a jaded soul such as mine has its limits, and when they use ignorance as a defense of their right to an Ivy League education, I... just... go... berserk!

Thursday, April 21, 2005

I KNOW I'VE ASKED THIS QUESTION BEFORE but Condoleezza Rice's response to a query about America "exporting democracy" begs it again:
...from the practical point of view there is no necessity to export democracy. The people themselves feel that they want to have those freedoms that you get from democratic development. If you ask people whether they want to be able to say what they want to say, whether they want to practice whatever religion they chose, whether they want the freedom to educate their children, girls and boys, whether they want to be free from that knock on the door from the secret police, the people will say, yes, of course we want this. And that is why there is no need to export democracy or to implement democracy from above. People must be given the opportunity to freely express their wishes. And they will choose democracy, and so here I think the old terminology about exporting democracy has gotten old.
Very heartwarming, Madame Secretary, but if that is the case, why did we bomb the shit out of Iraq?

Also, all the other official reasons for invading Iraq having been rendered humorous, why are you discrediting the sole remaining (though admittedly risible from the start) "beachhead of democracy" one?

I'm guessing that even practiced liars suffer from burnout, and so will abandon wearisome rationales as soon as they are sure that no one is paying attention.
SHORTER CRAZY JESUS LADY: Mary is appearing to the people! JPI foresaw his own demise! Crowds of people waiting for the new Pope -- who saw that coming? The Pope's election is a miracle! He is our father! He has twisted enemies and we must defend him from them! At last -- a Pope for adults!

(I guess the Riefenstahl of Reaganism's bit about "You can hit distracted people with all the propaganda in the world..." must be some sort of inside joke.)

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

WANNABES. Membership has its privileges, but so too has apostasy, and this alumnus of a working-class Catholic grammar school and a Jesuit prep is getting a great kick out of the present Popemania.

The National Review has gone fully bullgoose, slobbering over Ratzinger's election as if it were WIII; Kathryn Lopez leads the charge with breathless bulletins ("The Holy Spirit, it would seem, endorses orthodoxy, a la PJPII"); Jonah Goldberg contents himself with deep analysis of 24 and, after a feeble attempt to ingratiate himself with the hyperRomanists, takes a long lunch.

Maybe Goldberg will eventually get with the program and go the way of Lew Lehrman and Lawrence Kudlow -- major Cons converted to the One Holy & Apostolic via Opus Dei operative C. John McCloskey, who also numbers among his conquests the Tyco mouthpiece Mark Belnick, acquitted last year of fraud and grand larceny charges -- taste and see the goodness of the Lord, indeed!

The attraction of the True Faith for wingnuts amuses those of us born into it, though I imagine it is a deadly serious matter for the world's Hewitts, who find the mission of the Church identical to that of American conservatism -- that is, not just a containment of but an end to homosexuality, adultery, and indeed every sin but covetousness, which modern Catholicism has enshrined as a positive virtue.

Whether they take to the Faith or not, it is clear these folks are looking for something like confirmation -- not the bit where the Bishop slaps you, quite, but some sign that something grand has touched them and endorsed, with glamorous robes and ethereal choirs, their cause to the Heavens. No less a Lutheran than Jim Lileks raves -- with harrumphs about "Maryolatry" (that should appease the dour local squareheads) -- that Ratzinger "wants there to be a core to which we can be shocked," that his election is a rebuke to "happy-clappy relativism," that the very name Benedict is "bracing," etc. Poor Jimbo: someone ought to stuff some incense into his vaporizer (he is currently suffering from his 74th cold of the season) and drape him with some Vatican bling, that he may dream himself into a cathedral and imagine his Nyquil the Blood of Christ.

Our President laid a few words of praise on the new Pope before heading to Springfield, IL to dedicate the new Lincoln Museum. This Museum is a very modern affair, reports the Washington Post:
It also features high-tech, Disney-style exhibits that museum curators say are aimed at making Lincoln's story more accessible... In one exhibit, Lincoln, who historians say was a lenient father, is reading the paper while one of his sons tosses an inkstand and another swings a broom as if it were a bat. In an exhibit recreating the White House kitchen, fictional conversations of black kitchen workers gossiping about the seances led by Mary Lincoln and rumors of Lincoln issuing an Emancipation Proclamation are piped in
These hilarious accomodations to modern lack of taste notwithstanding -- or perhaps withstanding, given the circumstances -- the President sought to defend his actions in the Middle East with the example of the Great Emancipator:
Our interests are served when former enemies become democratic partners -- because free governments do not support terror or seek to conquer their neighbors. Our interests are served by the spread of democratic societies -- because free societies reward the hopes of their citizens, instead of feeding the hatreds that lead to violence... We see that example and courage today in Afghanistan and Kyrgystan, Ukraine, Georgia and Iraq. We believe that people in Zimbabwe and Iran and Lebanon and beyond have the same hopes, the same rights, and the same future of self-government. The principles of the Declaration still inspire, and the words of the Declaration are forever true. So we will stick to it; we will stand firmly by it. (Applause.)
We might imagine Lincoln, a great writer as well as a great man, considering this flimsy bit of hired oratory; we might imagine him as one who favored high tariffs to protect American labor, and whose Presidency was wholly occupied by an attempt to preserve the Union, observing his legacy enlisted in an attempt to shift attention from our own ruined economy and deep divisions toward a fond hope for foreign amity. We might also imagine the Prince of Peace Himself looking down upon the highly politicized machinations of his alleged followers, and their unchurched wannabes, here on earth. But that would just be sad. Let us rather rejoice that these fools make such a glorious spectacle, and say unto them, as the old queen did unto the priest swinging his censer at High Mass, "Darling, love the dress, but your purse is on fire."

UPDATE. Hours later, National Review's staff are still rolling in Romanism, none more so than their People of the Book and I Don't Mean God And Man At Yale. Goldberg even makes a column of it, on the premise that he and Benedict have in common a hatred of the 60s ("almost everyone in the so-called 'generation of '68' was intellectually violent"). David Klinghoffer goes further, says not just he and Jonah but all Jews have a lot in common with the new Pope; for instance, ultrareligious Catholics are not moral relativists, and ultrareligious Jews (unlike those schnorrers at the Anti-Defamation League!) are also not moral relativists. Who knew? Something else, Klinghoffer adds, "our two religions share: the assumption that there is a truth out there, a singular truth, to be found and embraced." Yeah, not like Ratzinger's old employers, the Nazis -- those guys didn't know what they wanted! Sigh. Well, you know it's bullshit, I know it's bullshit, but politics is politics.

Finally some brave editor decides to stick up for materialism with this piece of P.J. faux-Rourke, in which the author affects not to know that Joe Walsh was joking and Alex P. Keaton is no longer a heart-throb.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

THE GODLINESS GAP. Brendan Miniter says, we Americans have the best of everything, but we have fallen so far behind in godliness that we cannot field a Cardinal who would be competitive in the Pope Olympics.

Here is an opportunity for American Fundamentalist Christians who do not mind turning their collars! I'm sure Miniter would agree that no one beats our Christers for godliness; Rick Santorum certainly lacks any squeamishness in the demonstration of his faith, and ought to take to Maundy Thursday foot-washing like a duck to water.

Who knows? If we can sufficiently mainstream Catholicism in this country, maybe the nets will give us a stateside version of Father Ted.

UPDATE. Ratzinger has been elected and will bear the name Benedict XVI. Like the former Pope, Ratzinger saw his native country invaded and overrun by Communists.

DIVISION OF LABOR. I see that the current criticism of Juan Cole (that part of it, at least, you don't have to pay for) boils down to this:

Per Michael Totten*, Cole likes Edward Said, who is liked by "Islamic fundamentalists," who hate the West therefore etc. This intellectual game of Telephone eventually allows a link to the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, which will be no shock to seasoned observers of the schtick.

Per the Ole Perfesser, his buddies don't like Cole, so why read him?

The actual Juan Cole site is a useful roundup of news from, and recent history of, the Middle East, with far fewer references to Orientalism and abstruse theories of race than these guys would lead you to believe; while there are some brooding asides that smell of the classroom, Cole seems to pad his stuff far less with theoretical analysis than, say, Hugh Hewitt pads his with Jesus and ecclesiasticals.

Which is to say that you can actually find out what's going on at Cole's site. And that's the alleged beauty of the blogosphere, right? Cole tells you about alliances, rifts, and battles in the region, and the other guys tell you about soldiers giving toys to Iraqi children. We are all free to choose whatever blend suits our prejudices.

*UPDATE. The post at the Totten site was actually written by one Mary Madigan, so consider "Michael Totten" in that instance as a brand name.

Monday, April 18, 2005

SHORTER ROGER L. SIMON: How dare Alan Rickman make a play about that Rachel Corrie woman, who claims to have been killed by Israelis (cough, bloodlibel). Such accusations of heedless violence make me want to commit heedless violence. Fucking artists.

OF COURSE YOU KNOW THIS MEANS CULTURE WAR! PART 4,388. While, like all thinking people, I am just about convinced that the Jesus freaks will soon rampage through our cities, torching libraries and forcibly installing v-chips, I have to admit that at this moment they just seem pretty silly.

Here, for example, is a Democrat preaching Culture War to whatever Democrats read rightwing nutmag OpinionJournal -- though as the author, Dan Gerstein, was Joe Lieberman's communications director, he must be used to small crowds.

Gerstein starts by attacking Frank Rich, whose "arrogance and narrow-mindedness... typifies the cultural thinking of our elites," etc. As this familiar rite is enacted, one's attention wavers, leaving time to wonder how many of those gosh-darned wonderful, salt of the earth moms and dads out there even know who the fuck Frank Rich is, and how folks like Gerstein would fare at an actual meeting of these folks if he seriously tried to convince them that their TV is full of swears because the former drama critic of the New York Times failed to criticize the coprolaliac excesses of Friends.

He may get away with it; his caution against "cynical Sister Souljah moments" suggests that he actually believes this tripe, and sincerity plays well in the heartland. Better, his model for winning over the values voter -- replicating the fight against Joe Camel by substituting a potty-mouthed David Schwimmer for the decommissioned cigarette spokescartoon -- further suggests that Gerstein is the sort of fellow who could do something that cynical without ever realizing how cynical he is being, and America has always cherished such types (high self-regard plus low self-awareness -- presidential timber!).

Hey, wait a minute. Why am I even accepting the possibility that anyone involved in this crap is in any way sincere? How could I let Small Precautions beat me to the obvious conclusion:
...the weakness of the argument aside, I couldn't help wonder, What is the WSJ doing giving space for "us" to talk about what the Democrats ought to be doing in the culture wars. The answer appears in the last two paragraphs: it turns out that the author of the article wants to promote Hillary as the proper moral face of the party.

And promoting Hillary is, of course, a highly desireable thing for the WSJ, since Hillary is exactly whom the Republicans would most like to see the Democrats nominate in 2008, since Hillary is unelectable nationally.
Am I losing my edge? I must go stare into the abyss for a while; watching Hewitt denounce comparisons of the Fundies with the Taliban as "anti-Christian rhetoric" and "hate speech" (we like Unitarians, Hugh -- do they count?) ought to sharpen me up.

Friday, April 15, 2005

AN OLD SHELL GAME MADE NEW. The usual suspects are flogging it, but the debut of Brian C. Anderson's South Park Conservatives book suffers from particularly bad timing: just as Anderson's trying to tell the world how wonderfully hip, fun, and politically incorrect the Right is, it seems all the top conservatives are either professing love for deceased anti-porn scold Andrea Dworkin, or screaming for Jesus, the Pope, and Terri Schiavo.

In fact, when the Schiavo became the subtext of an actual South Park show a few weeks back, the alleged party-boys and -girls of wingnut valhalla were strangely quiet -- not surprisingly, as the episode included the spectacle of Satan mind-controlling pro-lifers. (Swanky Conservative did gush, "I can’t wait to see where Trey & Matt take this," then never followed up.)

South Park conservatism attempts to play both ends against the middle -- like when Rupert Murdoch uses page-3 tits and tabloid sensationalism to finance political shills who denounce a decline in public morals. More than anything, perhaps, it reflects the pathos of political operatives -- or people in any line of work, for that matter -- who try to win advantage by announcing how very hip they are.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

HIGH CHURCH, LOW CHURCH. The Crazy Jesus Lady tries her hand at dramaturgy, envisioning the Catholic Cardinals at dinner:
A Cardinal from South America says, "I had a thought. When the crowd kept applauding during the Mass--to me, looking out at them, it seemed as if they were saying: 'We're not just observers anymore, we're the Church, Hear us!' It seemed to me possibly quite significant."

Silence as they all considered this.

An old cardinal with what seemed a German accent cleared his throat.

"What they want, I believe, is a healthy church. For all John Paul's illness, they thought he was a healthy man. Emotionally and psychologically healthy in a way modern culture is not.

"It seems to me the meaning of the crowds, the meaning of the cries at the mass, is this: 'We loved this hero of truth, and we want a hero of truth.' They want someone who won't bow to the thinking of the world. They want someone who will clean the stables, too. The corruption and worldly values of the church, the sex scandals--these must be dealt with."
Nice touch, that throat-clearing. Adds a bit of what Mike Hammer called "the old sincerity."

Funny, when I envision Red Hats at dinner in Rome, I see a different scene entirely:
CARDINAL MAZEPPA: More young boy, Cardinal Umlaut?

CARDINAL UMLAUT: Danke! We ought to get together more often, fellows. Not just for funerals!

CARDINAL SPAGHETTINI: Can't you get up here more often?

CARDINAL UMLAUT: Ach, they keep me chained to my desk in Bremen. Fortunately I have a Herman Miller chair. The only one in existence made of gold, they tell me!

CARDINAL M'TUMBE: Do what I do – offer to donate your frequent flyer miles to the poor!

(General laughter)

CARDINAL WENCES: So what do you think? Ratzinger is a lock, no?

CARDINAL M'TUMBE: Too creepy. Yesterday he told me his first act as Pope would be to have John XXIII exhumed and tried post mortem for the heresy of Vatican II. He said he looked forward to striking off Roncalli's blessing fingers himself. I suspect he would do it with his teeth.

CARDINAL SPAGHETTINI: What about Arinze?

CARDINAL M'TUMBE: Come now, Spaghettini! You do not think the punters will accept a black face on the throne of Peter?

CARDINAL WENCES: And why not? They accepted a Polack!

(General laughter)

CARDINAL WENCES: Hey, you know how Wojtyla first put on the shoes of the fisherman?

(Stands, puts one foot on his chair, bends to tie his other shoe. General laughter.)

CARDINAL UMLAUT: Sorry, I missed that. This boy is squirming overmuch.

CARDINAL WENCES: I fix.

(Cuffs boy, yells in Sponish)

CARDINAL M'TUMBE: We may see a wide-open conclave, with incense-filled back rooms and the like.

CARDINAL MAZEPPA: The deadlock will not last. Serious cash is changing hands. A little red bird offered me the Ark of the Covenant for my support.

CARDINAL WENCES: Ridiculous!

CARDINAL MAZEPPA: Why? I can deliver 20 votes on the strength of blackmail alone!

CARDINAL WENCES: Because I have the Ark of the Covenant! At least that's what that bastard Martini told me.

CARDINAL MAZEPPA: Ha ha! Played for a chump, you were! You know, I like this Martini's style. Maybe I will make a call to the IMF and see if he is acceptable to our global overlords.

CARDINAL UMLAUT: (Wiping his brow with a handkerchief) Ah, that was refreshing. You know what I could go for? Some consecrated wine.

CARDINAL M'TUMBE: (Pouring out a fresh round) Accepite, et bibite ex eo omnes.

ALL: Salute!
Well, it ain't Chronicles of Hell, but I've had a busy morning.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

BIG BROTHER, BIG DADDY, AND BIG MOMMY. I guess most of you by now have seen arch-conservative David Frum's obit for Andrea Dworkin:
Politically she belonged to the far, far, far left, but she had little use for an antiwar movement that made excuses for Saddam Hussein or Islamic extremism. And in one respect at least, she shared a deep and true perception with the political and cultural right: She understood that the sexual revolution had inflicted serious harm on the interests of women and children – and (ultimately) of men as well. She understood that all-pervasive pornography is not a harmless amusement, but a powerful teaching device that changed the way men thought about women. She rejected the idea that sex is just another commodity to be exchanged in a marketplace, that strippers and prostitutes should be thought of as just another form of service worker: She recognized and dared to name the reality of brutality and exploitation where many liberals insist on perceiving personal liberation.
David Frum misperceives a lot of things, and Dworkin is better known (certainly in my case!) by reductive popular commentary than by her actual work -- for a corrective of her alleged straight-sex-is-rape trope, see here, and see also this gentle and informed abstention to the Dworkin version of feminism -- but his moment of solidarity with Dworkin is tellingly useful to his purposes.

It was Dworkin's idea that our society turns sex into a commodity -- which notion should be unobjectionable to anyone possessing a TV -- and that as our society is male-dominated, women will tend to be the object rather than the subject of the transaction.

This analysis is of course Marxist to the core, whereas Frum is a gleeful capitalist. But Frum is a Republican functionary -- though one now plying his trade at National Review rather than as a Bush speechwriter, thanks to a spectacular PR fuck-up -- and he knows that religion is a big part of the Republican future. And he surely also knows that sexual shame is a big part of the power of religion the Republican Party relies upon for votes. As Paris was worth a Mass to Henry IV, so for Frum the GOP cause is worth a kind word for some feminist.

He's not alone in grasping hands across the funky chasm. Ross Douthat love-taps an alleged "centrist" who " dislikes," as he does, "few things more than the smug mix of cultural permissiveness and see-no-evil economic centrism that defines upper-middle-class, Emerging-Democratic-Majority liberalism." Douthat's hero, like Dworkin (but in a much, much lower key), blames capitalism (personalized here by the gap and Tommy Hilfiger) for all that offensive "ass-cleavage" and "visible midriffs" out there, and invites the Democratic Party to abandon its "injudicious defense of Hollywood violence, mainstream pornography, and bad art," and stand strong against ass-cleavage and visible midriffs for the good of... well, what he does not say; values, one imagines.

As mentioned before, it is no shock that, in our berserk marketplace, sexual titillation is used to sell products. So are patriotism, love of family, fear of abandonment, and as many other natural emotional equities as Madison Avenue can identify. That in itself does not make these things wretched -- not to me, nor, I am willing to bet, to Frum and Douthat. But you will wait a very long time before either of those gentlemen complain so strenuously about any other form of commodification on God's green earth other than that of sex. Because no Bible-beater is going to fill a church, or sway an electoral constituency, by denouncing Clydesdales who kneel before the fallen Twin Towers in the service of beer sales, but a million Elmer Gantrys have made a comfortable living by making their flocks feel bad that their pussies juiced or cocks engorged at the sight of a pair of underdressed models on their Magnavox.

Frum says that, when he met her, Dworkin was "grimly entertained by the opportunism of Bill Clinton’s feminist supporters." If there is a Hereafter, and she can see his column, how much more grim her entertainent must be now!

UPDATE. Marriage scold Maggie Gallagher has also penned a loving farewell to Dworkin. It has to be read to be believed, but the money shot, so to speak, is Gallagher's bizarre read of Dworkin's relationship with John Stoltenberg:
Andrea lived with a man whom she introduced as John. "Every day I wake up and realize that tomorrow John may not be there," she told me.

She was describing a kind of unmarital bond, endorsing the special kind of relationship produced when two people know they can leave and yet each morning still choose to be together. Once again, Andrea put her finger on my truth. For as she spoke, it occurred to me that everything I had written about (as everything I've done since) was a deliberate and desperate attempt not to live in her kind of world. I longed to find marriage ties as binding as the ties between mother and child...
When "two people know they can leave and yet each morning still choose to be together," that's love. "Ties as binding as the ties between mother and child," when applied to two adults, is something verrrrry different.

That Gallagher prefers the latter sort of relationship is no shock if you've read her before. And God go with her; just keep your bondage/infantilization trip safe, sane, and consensual, Maggie! What pisses me off is that she wants this sort of relationship not just for herself and whatever male she might ensnare in her own binding ties, but for you, me, and everybody (excepting homosexuals of course). And she just doesn't care whether we swing that way or not.

No means no, Maggie.

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.