Monday, October 24, 2005


SHORTER JAMES LILEKS: How come when Dave Barry does this kind of thing people love it, but when I do it I just look like an asshole?

SHORTER ROGER L. SIMON COMMENTERS: The growing success of women in higher education proves that English and History are for pussies and that universities should be trade schools.

SHORTER MICHAEL LEDEEN: Having helped effect the breakdown of law and civil order in Iraq, I am now pushing for the breakdown of law and civil order in Washington, D.C.

SHORTER DANIELLE CRITTENDEN: When the law is on your side, pound the law; when the facts are on your side, pound the facts; and when neither are on your side, pound Bill Clinton.

SHORTER GEORGE WILL: Time was, an American who did an honest day's labor with his hands could provide a decent life for himself and his family. Thank God we're putting an end to that!

* But the Combine demands that I acknowledge D-Squared and Busy Busy Busy as the creator and perfector, respectively, of the Shorter format.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

BUSINESS AS USUAL. Some laughs from the Heritage Foundation, exploring the pretty pass to which our budget has come in the age of compassionate conservatism. First, a backgrounder:
First, President Reagan inherited a bloated federal government that spent 21.7 percent of GDP, and he reduced that burden to 21.2 percent—even while fighting the Cold War and working with an often-Democratic Congress that regularly sought to increase spending further.
-0.5 percent! Reagan always benefited from being graded on a curve.
By comparison, lawmakers in early 2001 inherited a leaner budget that, as a result of difficult decisions made by previous Congresses, had been pared down to 18.4 percent of GDP, and they promptly responded with across-the-board spending hikes that pushed spending all the way back to 20.2 percent of GDP by 2005.
No mention of the reviled Clinton, natch. Nonetheless, the one-point drop seems kind of sad in general, until we get to the current figures:
According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), total U.S. government spending (including state and local government spending) reached 35.9 percent of GDP in 2005, which is more than was spent by the governments of Australia (35.5 percent), Ireland (35.2 percent), and New Zealand (35.1 percent). Granted, the memo specifies spending by central governments, but when measuring the total economic burden of government, there is no reason to ignore other levels of government, which is why virtually no international measures do so.
That's a bit crafty, but you can see what they're getting at: when a state government cuts education spending so that it may announce a lean 'n' mean new budget, you may expect local governments to pick up the slack. That's how we do in these United States, which fuels the reputations of various celebrity tax-cutter politicians who know small-timers will have to take the fall.

In more conventional conservative precincts, we are told that the Republican Congress has finally gotten serious about cutting the Federal Budget. And how will they accomplish this? From Scripps-Howard we learn that Katrina funding will be partly funded by, guess what, student loan spending cuts. And $3.1 billion in emergency heating relief for this coming winter is also on the chopping block, despite an expected surge in gas and oil prices. You can guess the other budgetary targets. Democrats are trying to make hay of this, but they have only press releases, not meaningful votes. Current tax breaks at the high end of the income bracket -- like the 15% tax rates on capital gains -- are not going to be touched. The pretense of fiscal responsibility will be affected by screwing the already-screwed.

Students of history already know that the conventional wisdom will tell us this is all the Democrats' fault. This is indeed (or heh-indeed) a blow to the MSM; why bother to read or watch news when you already know how it's all going to turn out?

Monday, October 17, 2005

READING THE CARETAKER IN MORON. He's often come close, but never has Jonah Goldberg so overtly revealed his analytic method:
I will confess here and now I know very little of Pinter's work. I've caught bits and piece over the years, read the occasional criticism (and many since the Nobel announcment) but I think it's fair to say I'm perhaps a few inches shy of real ignorance about Pinter's literary contributions.

But does that really mean I can't complain about his Nobel?
Yes, he really is asking why we shouldn't take his opinion of Pinter seriously even though he has only seen "bits and pieces" of his work -- in other words, not one play all the way through, possibly not even one scene. This leaves even the normal purview of ignorance, and becomes that which my mother used to call pig-ignorance.

The rest of the post is just as bad, pretending to explain but really only compounding the intellectual felony.

We are accustomed to laugh at Goldberg, but the phenomenon he so ably respresents is rather chilling. With his many posts admitting ignorance of his subject or claiming a lack of time to explain himself properly (yet insisting that he's making on contribution to the discussion) Goldberg seems to demand a right to make arguments based less on reasoned analysis than on his willingness to declare his own argument superior regardless of the evidence.

This is genuine anti-intellectualism: not the watery kind that leads politicans to pretend ignorance to win votes, but an evident and deep-seated desire to rewrite (or if necessary obliterate) the rules of logic and causality so that one's side will always come out ahead.

This blight is apparently contagious, as this reader comment, which Goldberg finds "interesting," shows:
To a conservative like me, it is the left that killed off Pinter’s art, more successfully than any censor could have. Doubtless, it is the later, bloviating Pinter who the Nobel committee is rewarding, not the true artist.
In this view, one's very identity is changed by political incorrectness: Pinter is not worthy of the Nobel because Pinter is not Pinter.

Some things are even worse than being wrong.

P.S. Terry Teachout's very sane assessment (and I don't just mean comparatively sane) is now online.

P.P.S. Backword argues in favor of a much-maligned Pinter poem. He hasn't brought me round quite -- in that genre, I still much prefer Selfish Cunt -- but it's a good strong effort.
A CRY FOR HELP. In days past -- surely you have these posts lovingly pasted in your scrapbooks -- I suggested that the Ole Perfesser's fascination with The Singularity portended his eventual super-villain transformation into an "immortal robot-lawyer."

The example of the Kennedy assassination notwithstanding, such secrets can only be kept for so long before some of the conspirators, and even the conspiracy's architect, begin to crack:

You have to imagine wires running from the robot's feet to a skullcap on the Perfesser's head. Comes the electrical storm, a bolt of lightning surges through the cables, at the end of which the Perfesser, strapped to a table and his face contorted in a horrible rictus, bays in triumph...

Sunday, October 16, 2005

THE CASE FOR GOOD GRAMMAR. WABC’s Like It Is is always interesting, and this weekend they had a nice show: an old, grainy film of Gil Noble interviewing Nipsey Russell. The recently-deceased comedian was a gent of the old school, and very smart.

There were all kinds of wonderful things about Russell’s interview. He was gentle on younger comedians who worked blue, for example; though Noble gave him an opportunity to bitch about that, Russell delicately suggested that those potty-mouthed comics who found success did so because of "that which is meritorious" in their artistry. He compared their condition that of to jazz artists who support themselves with commercial work, but who nonetheless maintain a high personal standard for the quality of their playing. This is a higher order of logic, not to mention a better understanding of the human condition, than one usually expects from TV clowns.

I was most struck, though, that Russell went out of his way to let it be known that, even though he’d grown up in "abject poverty" in Atlanta’s Third Ward, he had received there a proper education in English grammar, and that he respected that gift and had profited from it as an entertainer. Even when not doing his act, Russell spoke beautifully.

I like to think, being still romantic about the power of language, that Russell’s attention to it informed his reasoning and his positive outlook. I know all sorts of miserable and sometimes horrible people speak well, and I know that politicians have speechwriters. But in most cases I would put these unfortunate cases down to other negative environmental factors to which educated people are often prone.

But proper grammar isn’t, or shouldn’t be, only for those people we call educated: pretty much anyone can have it, if it is presented to them at the right time and in the right way.

At the very least good English is a civilizing hobby, like horticulture or chess. It is an observable fact that some form of useful discipline – e.g. the well-known "spell in the army" often prescribed for young miscreants – can turn even hard cases around, by channeling their inchoate energies.

Making a proper sentence requires a kind of mental engineering that causes even a strongly-felt emotion, coming out of the id like a compressed jet of molten lava, to confront a divided pathway of choice, which often leads to another series of choices, and then another, etc., thereby cooling and – when it all comes together in speech or writing -- condensing the product.

Let’s say I am writing a post about one of my favorite subjects. Is my target an idiot or a liar? If a liar, in service to what nefarious cause is he lying? What particular passages in my target’s drivel support this analysis? Which derogatory adjective is most suitable to him? And so on. By this method, I may have strengthened my argument, and also vitiated my initial rage which, were those skills not available to me, might have emerged as an actionable death threat.

At this weblog proves regularly, a hothead can still say foolish things in complex sentences. Take it from me, though, I would be even worse, much worse, if I hadn’t been taught to make words add up to something more than volume.

In my weekly teaching stint, tutoring kids who have not had my good fortune with educators, I try to work in as much grammar as I can. The rubrics often don’t call for it, but I am on a mission. My usual come-on with remedial students is that, in order to get over on the teachers whose poor recommendations have brought them to this place, they must be able to show they are smarter, and better English is a good way to do it. If I’m feeling brave, I also remind them that the world makes judgements on them based on the way they express themselves, and there is no percentage for them in being thought less intelligent than they really are.

I don’t share with them my conviction that better English leads to better thinking. But I hope it will occur to them over time.

Nipsey Russell did his bit, and I’m trying to do mine.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

AT LAST, A NOBEL LAUREATE I'VE ACTUALLY READ. The logic of Harold Pinter's Nobel Prize is inescapable, though it is not the same logic as that used by sad clowns incapable of comprehending literature as anything but another objective correlative for their drab politics.

Pinter picked up a few things from the last British-born* playwright to win the Prize, Samuel Beckett. The insistence on dinginess, for one thing: the household of Hamm and Clov in Endgame might also serve as the bedsit in The Room. And there is a superficial resemblance between Pinter's and Beckett's dialogue which was probably emulative -- if you were a young and serious playwright back then, teetering between realist and absurdist tendencies, I'm sure Beckett's pointless colloquies and earthy references must have been hard to get around. Not to mention the pauses.

While Pinter internalized some of Beckett's style, his best plays are much more conventional than Beckett's, and pitched a good deal lower -- not addressing the great issues of life, but the everyday behavior and appetites of men. Pinter's famed ellipticism comes from his style (lots of pauses, tendency to talk around the subject or refer to it as something other than what it is) rather than from his structures. Pinter's plots are pretty tight. The Birthday Party might be just be The Killers reworked by a pseud who has just read some Kafka.

But Pinter discovered a wonderful secret: if you have an old-fashioned dramatic conflict and leave out a few important details, the audience becomes annoyed. But if you have an old-fashioned dramatic conflict and leave out a few details with elliptical dialogue helping to moot the issue of credibility, then the audience is intrigued.

In The Birthday Party Stanley has been hunted down because of an unnamed offense. What did he do? We haven't got a clue. But the characters' intentions are strong -- we can tell from the dialogue and (hopefully) the playing. What are we missing? It's like an overheard fragment of conversation -- why is that man so afraid? Why does that woman insist it's his birthday when he says it isn't? This might be bunk, but it's extremely playable and, more important, watchable bunk that's been holding audiences for forty years.

And some of his stuff is demonstrably much better than bunk. In The Collection, a man thinks his wife has had an affair; she refuses to dignify his suspicions. He becomes quite sure of the identity of his wife's lover. The problem is, the alleged lover is involved with another man -- an older one, with money. Because the characters haven't been running around screaming "You're a liar!" and "I'm gonna get to the bottom of this!" -- they are people of the middle class (though each is from a different and subtly-conveyed species in that genus, and one, it is made clear, is only a provisional member), and not so eager to put a foot wrong -- the husband and the gay man come to some sort of an understanding. Of what sort, we're not sure. By the play's end we don't know whether anyone has actually cheated on anyone else -- but we do know that everyone in the play is seething with jealousy at everyone else. There's a lesson in there somewhere.

Final sidenote: A teacher of mine once pointed out, to illustrate the role of social tension in forming artistic temperment, that all the great British playwrights after the Restoration -- Sheridan, Beckett, Shaw, Wilde, Synge -- were Irish. "Except Pinter," I said. "Even better," said my teacher. "He's a Jew." (More on Pinter's Jewish roots here.) I note with interest that the menacing duo in The Birthday Party are named Goldberg and McCann.

UPDATE. Pinter's prize brings out the worst in some people:
"The Nobel Prize for Literature." Right. I mean Left... Mark Steyn once defined the "Pinteresque" as "a pause followed by a non sequitur." That's good, as far as it goes, but it is important to note that with Pinter the "sequitur" is always trailing in one direction: leftward.
Why don't Kimball and Steyn go make a Thatcher Prize medal out of paperclips and a yogurt lid and give it to Tom Clancy?

UPDATE II. It appears this is the new schtick: pretend the Prize is for Pinter's silly poetry, rather than for his major plays, to make the award look silly. It's amazing what you can accomplish when you have no scruples at all.

UPDATE III. Of course, the above tactic is beyond some guys, so from them plain yahooism will have to suffice. "The Nobel Prizes in Peace and Literature long ago fell into the hands of hateful Leftys," says Peace Like a River. "Don't pay any attention to them." He recommends you read Michelle Malkin (!) instead of Pinter, which is like telling someone to put down the Peter Luger steak and go eat shit. Amazing how many people will follow that advice.

UPDATE IV. This one's priceless. He announces that Pinter won the "Nobel Prize for anti-American politics" -- then adds sheepishly, "Mea culpa: I am a huge fan of the film of Pinter's play Betrayal." Is he ashamed that he can't write any better than he does, or that he admires the work of a double-plus-ungoodnik?

*UPDATE V. Every time someone intelligent links me (BTW, "come out swinging" would make a great title for a movie about Billy Strayhorn), I get a lot of smart guys spoiling to tell me how wrong I am. And this time they're right! It is a stretch to call Beckett, born in Dublin's fair city, a Brit. Let us say rather that Harry and Sam are British Islanders and have done.

UPDATE VI. As my old grey-haired ma used to say to me: remember, whatever you try to do, someone else will always do it better. (Actually she still says that.) Acephalous has a great post on this topic, and my new favorite response to the Pinter prize, from Little Green Footballs:
Nobody takes this stuff seriously anymore. I can't remember the last time I read a literary novel by a living writer or attended a play by a living playwright.
What! Not even Warren Bell? He out-Babbitts Babbitt! Someone give that man a job teaching law in Tennessee, if he doesn't already have one.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

PRIDE'S PURGE. Hugh Hewitt rejoices that Professor Althouse has turned toward the light on Miers. The Professor seems to have internalized the "elitism" charge agin' stuck-up types who think we should have constitutional scholars on the Supreme Court. She has about decided that we have enough of those for now:
If you are going to devote your life to the subject of constitutional law, as an academic subject, you are probably the sort of person who is attracted to abstractions, theories, and larger patterns and aspirations. You are going to tend to approve of jurists who have a similar frame of mind, a large capacity for theory, that makes you and the people you surround yourself with so impressive. Now, who is this Harriet Miers, this practicing lawyer, who presumes to go on the Court and write the opinions we must spend our lives reading and analyzing?...[italics hers]

Perhaps the Court is harmed by an excess of interest in the theoretical. A solid, experienced lawyer like Miers, with no real background in constitutional law, might look at the text, the precedents, the briefs, and use the standard lawyer's methods to resolve the problem at hand. What is wrong with having that style of analysis in the mix? We need a safeguard against the excessively theoretical.
I can see her point. Horace Debussy Jones, aka Satch, in his childish simplicity, provided a much-needed dose of folk wisdom to The Bowery Boys, leavening the more cerebral "regoigitations" of Slip Mahoney. Perhaps Miers can fill a similar role in the Supreme Court of the United States.

Professor Althouse salts her near-endorsement with some small cavils, perhaps in order to preserve propriety, but Hewitt, like a sadistic gang boss who has cornered a wandering sheep, gets up real close and spells it all out for her:
When Bush said "like Scalia or Thomas" many people heard many things. I think it is very safe to say that the vast majority of American voters did not hear "justices committed to a particular theory...of textualism or originalism"... I think they heard "results," and if I am right, Bush has not only not broken his promise, he may be well on his way to fulfilling it twice and hopefully more times over.
Put simply, Miers is a reliable vote for every item on the right-wing agenda. Professors will hem and haw and make up pretty paradigms; nothing counts to the enforcers but votes and endorsements.

The message spreads that conservatives who decry Miers' lack of qualifications are acting self-destructively. This message is disseminated by operatives like Hewitt, but it is tended lovingly by folks like The Anchoress, who attributes anti-Miers demurrers to the Seven Deadly Sins:
Oh, it’s only all the same old tired tricks that have been used since the very beginning… still being used, because they still confound the audience: Pride. Avarice. Wrath. Envy. Lust. Gluttony. Sloth. Stirring up long-held anger and a salivating desire for revenge heats up Wrath - and wrath demands confrontation and release. Turning people’s heads so that they unwittingly embrace their Pride in themselves, their intellects, their lives, their abilities and their successes is a terrific way to utterly cloud their comprehension...
Now, it is an observable fact that one can intellectualize oneself out of the gravitational pull of reality. But it should be noticed that many of those conservatives who spoke against Miers have heretofore been reliable Bush apologists. How much "Pride," of the Deadly sort proposed by The Anchoress, can you imagine they have?

Well, if you believe in Satan, I suppose you also believe that anyone can fall, at a moment's notice and without any stronger motivation than Man's fallen state. Seen another way (roar of flames, demonic laughter), it may also be that some people can only eat so much bullshit before they become nauseated.

But, as we have seen, appetitites can change. This is all going pretty much as I expected. But, despite my Satanic pride, I can't say as I take pleasure from that.
CAN'T WAIT TO SEE HOW THIS TURNS OUT: "BLEG: I know that at some point, the poet Philip Larkin, in a letter or review or essay, wrote something to the effect that he regretted the civil rights movement in America because it was ruining jazz. It was a joke, of course, but you can see the deeper point he was making." -- Andrew Sullivan. Larkin was one of the great English poets, and a casual racist; Sullivan was an early, and remains a faithful, promoter of The Bell Curve. That "deeper point" ought to be hilarious.

UPDATE. I find the first inkling of what Sullivan's on about inconclusive, though alicublog commenters are running their own tests. I don't know the context of Larkin's observation, though on its face he appears to say that jazz is a style, like Restoration Comedy, that passes with its age, with which notion some musicians of my acquaintance might strenuously take issue. Still trepidatiously I await Sullivan's essay.
JAMES LILEKS CELEBRATES NEW YORK: "Midtown is my favorite part of New York; it has everyone and everything, - but it’s also the only part of town where I’ve ever felt alone."

E.B. White can relax, soon as he stops spinning.

My favorite part of Anytown, U.S.A. is Main Street. But a fella can get powerful lonesome there; so, when the crowd thins out, I step into my key light and sing "Goodnight, My Someone."

Monday, October 10, 2005

WHAT YOU THINK COLUMBO DO/WHEN HE COME TO AMERICA IN 1492?/HE SAY TO POCAHONTAS, "DIE, INFERNAL WRETCH, SO THAT I MAY HAVE REAL ESTATE"/DAT'S-A WHY WE SAY, COLUMBUS DAY -- [piano riff] -- FUCK YOU. Like every other rightwing jerkoff wishing to flash his political-incorrectness cred, the Ole Perfesser takes this occasion to pump the Ole Colonizer. He quotes some other guy who mourns Columbus' era, when men were men and indigenous peoples were subhuman. Among the innovations of the Columbian age: "...the Church, purged and chastened by the Protestant Reformation, puts her house in order; new ideas flare up throughout Italy, France, Germany and the northern nations; faith in God revives and the human spirit is renewed..." Thus Columbus gets credit for both the Inquisition and the Renaissance. No wonder they gave him a parade!

Even better is the Washington Times op-ed by Edward Hudgins, billed as "executive director of the Objectivist Center and its Atlas Society, which celebrate rational individualists" (you know, every time the WashTimes goes on about some Democratic "extremist," I think of this sort of byline). Hudgins admits that the injuns got a raw deal, but... well, let him tell it:
The clash between the cultures of pre-Columbian natives and European immigrants certainly produced injustices for natives. But it would have been unjust for those natives to expect the immigrants to hold themselves to the level of primitive cultures and beliefs. The true long-term tragedy is that so many descendants of the pre-Columbian peoples in North America ended up on reservations rather than integrated into a society that offers opportunities for each individual to excel.
Yeah, while it was kind of a drag that so many of these guys wound up enslaved or dead -- though what could you expect? Not enslaving and killing them was a cultural concept foreign to white men -- the real tragedy is reservations.

Fuck Columbus. If it weren't for him I'd have government healthcare and seven weeks' vacation a year now.
SHORTER JULIA GORIN: Why you complain? In Sovet Union was much worse! Also North Korea! So you obey Bush okay? Stupid Amerikanskis.
SHORTER OLE PERFESSER: Yeah, I'm still doing the "counter a huge anti-war demonstration with a picture of a dinky one" bit. Who's gonna call me on it? It's not like I'm the MSM.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

MOOT COURT. I think the Miers controversy has much more to do with the need of newspaper writers, bloggers, and talking heads to preserve their credibility than with anything else.

Does a contentious or even a failed SCOTUS nomination seriously weaken the Administration? These nominations have all been contentious in one way or another since the Reagan Administration at least. After the failures of Bork and Ginsburg, it is true, Reagan resorted, late in his second term, to Anthony Kennedy, whom many movement conservatives consider a letdown at least. But Bush I, of all people, shoved through the highly controversial Clarence Thomas, who has been happily following the script ever since.

The Republicans under Bush II are observably more sensitive to their conservative base – the blood-and-thunder base, the Jesus base, not John Tierney and Glenn Reynolds -- that they were under his father, and much more than under Reagan (whose tenure produced, despite all the chest-beating, very few of the Kulturkampf victories for which his true believers agitated). When W says "trust me," he’s not talking to David Broder, he’s talking to them. Miers is an evangelical Christian. I don’t think her fellow born-agains care that she let Gloria Steinem give a lecture once. They know Miers has been called by the Lord, and has answered.

If Miers is withdrawn or defeated, the right to nominate does not devolve to Harry Reid. Bush will simply reach into his trick-bag of stealth nominees and eventually someone else of equal, um, reliability will be placed.

The Miers nomination clusters in an intellectually pleasing way with a bunch of other Bush mishaps, and may contribute to the public’s growing sense of unease with Republicans. But it’s hard to see a political benefit to the Democrats whatever the outcome. If they had their shit a little more together, they might be able to make a more credible "we warned you" case after these guys overturn Roe v. Wade, a distinct possibility over the new few years (especially now that John Roberts is the Center Square). But they probably don’t have the will, and they certainly don’t have the money, to work that angle effectively.

Bush has nothing to lose here but the approval of people he doesn’t need. The Republicans may be nervous, but it’s control of the largesse spigots on Capitol Hill that really concerns them – and this nomination can’t affect that one way or the other. The Democrats might make a stand here, but what, politically, will they have won, other than a reaffirmation of their reputation as spoilsports?

This is not to suggest that it would be a bad thing morally and ethically to insist on better qualifications in a Supreme Court Justice, if you want to be idealistic about it. But where’s the percentage in that?

UPDATE. Good points made in comments. I think Julia is right that this has awakened the sleeping midget that is our MSM. I'm not sure Notsobright is correct that the average voter will be affected by whatever weak skepticism the press has been emboldened to emit.

True, said voter is susceptible to propaganda, and the MSM can provide the sort of professionally-packaged messages that can reach his lizard brain. But the Bush Administration's terror mantra is psychologically very penetrating. If they have few non-Fox allies in the MSM, they can always count on cop shows, tributes to firefighters and soldiers, country music, football, etc., to fill in the copious blanks. The instructions that doubt is weakness will continue, and I think this will blow away whatever runny on-the-other-hand palaver the MSM provides.

Like Sven, I don't doubt that the Republicans would like to keep Roe alive as a secure fundraising scam. But for once I agree with the conventional wisdom that a Supreme Court Justice might do something silly once appointed. The Bushites are playing with fire here. Of course it may be that Miers' second birth in Christ is fake -- I'm not sure Bush's is legit either -- but if it isn't, we may see some wacky votes and opinions on her part. Besides, as Mark suggests, there's always hatred of homosexuals to keep the home crosses burning.

Gmoke is onto something: that Bush may worry about his own fortunes in a possible North American replay of the Pinochet trials, and want Miers as a sleeper sellout. (Pinochet didn't worry about stuff like that, but Pinochet was a soldier.) Bush may well hope that breeding will keep his old pal from sending him to the gallows. But one's Supreme Court appointees have been known to betray one -- or at least abstain.

Friday, October 07, 2005

DARK HORSE. Goldberg says:
I think it would be a fun exercise -- on the occasion of NR's 50th -- for my colleagues to answer who their favorite founding father of National Review was, and why. I think we should exempt William F. Buckley because that would be too easy.
I'm not invited, but I'll play. My nominee is Joseph de Maistre.

Like Buckley, de Maistre was a far-Right Catholic repulsed by the egalitarian movements of his time. Also like Buckley, he was well-educated, even gifted, but hated Enlightenment (or what we now call reality-based) thinking and, as described in Isaiah Berlin's great essay, was not content to disdain it but "set himself to destroy" it:
In place of the a priori formulas of this idealized conception of basic human nature, he appealed to the empirical facts of history, zoology and common observation. In place of the ideals of progress, liberty and human perfectibility, he preached salvation by faith and tradition. He dwelt on the incurably bad and corrupt nature of man, and consequently the unavoidable need for authority, hierarchy, obedience and subjection. In place of science he preached the primacy of instinct, Christian wisdom, prejudice (which is but the fruit of the experience of generations), blind faith; in place of optimism, pessimism; in place of eternal harmony and eternal peace, the necessity -- the divine necessity -- of conflict and suffering, sin and retribution, bloodshed and war....
It is not a perfect fit in all cases, but a surprisingly good one in general.

It may be argued that the National Review crowd is more generous with the dispensation of freedoms than de Maistre. They certainly like to talk about freedom -- especially, these days, in the Middle East (and God knows they love the idea of wars for freedom). They are fiercely devoted to some ideas associated with freedom -- e.g., "political incorrectness," and related, baser sorts of populism. But in matters of public policy such as the Patriot Act and consensual sexual activity, they are mostly anti-freedom; as to the free-markets thing which supposedly makes all conservatives True Sons of Liberty, they talk surprisingly little about it, and seem more concerned with top-down Federal policies. Though the Little Guy, beset by regulating liberals, gets a pat on the head from time to time, the NatRev people mostly put their faith in princes.

This, I think, is because they have all been splattered with Buckley's chrism, and have absorbed the idea that man is fallen and can only be redeemed by the intercession of the One True Church, of which National Review is a branch. As they cannot announce themselves with the traditional iconography, they use Gipper and Maggie as the Joseph and Mary of their Holy Family, with the role of Jesus rotating among conservative top-guns. Bush Jr. serves at the moment, and by the NR acolytes He is routinely flattered as tough-minded and beloved of the People even when it is most clear that He is not; and they frequently read anonymous anecdotes about His goodness into the public record.

My other nominees are Hitler, Satan, Robert Welch, etc. But this one, like Judgelet Miers, is so left-field it could work.
HI, just wanted to mention to those of you who don't live in New York that the latest bomb scare is more bullshit to try and make us scared. Later!

(P.S. Of course I know an explosion right about now would make me look awfully foolish, but that is just another fear the dirtbags wish to exploit. Sentient New Yorkers -- and probably sentient individuals anywhere -- have already internalized the idea that we can all be killed at any time. A life of fear doesn't suit us. Since no man has aught of what he leaves, what is it to leave betimes? Get real.)

UPDATE. Some of the Simonites are mad at New Yorkers for not bein' more ascared. "WichitaBoy" writes:
I'm sure that many New Yorkers are aware of a bomb threat. I'm also sure that many are in deep denial. If they weren't in denial they'd be looking hard for jobs elsewhere right now.
Yeah, that's our dream: to move to Wichita and spend our weekend nights watching Clem and Cletus blow up gophers. Especially now that their crystal meth is drying up, I'll give Cowtown a miss and take my chances with the suicide bombers.

UPDATE 2. More on Terra here.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

LET'S PLAY POPULIST! In today's New York Post (no link) Victor Davis Hanson suggests a few right-wing victories in the culture wars -- pretty thin gruel, including the opposition of some flight attendants to the hit movie Flightplan, though it is very hard to tell why he considers this a victory -- and explains how they came to be:
On the one side of all these controversies seem to be architects, curators, academics, CEOs, journalists, script writers, actors, lawyers, and judges. Their utopian view of what their fellow Americans should see, think, and feel are at odds with those of grieving families, police, firefighters, flight attendants and soldiers.

Those on museum boards, in Hollywood studios, and in the coutroom seek to fashion the intellectual landscape, in which those who put out fires, arrest criminals, serve food and shoot terrorists are to operate. The latter fight back...
Before he became America's delineator of the noble struggle of waitresses against architects, Hanson had many jobs. He was a cowpuncher in Abilene, a stevedore in Red Hook, and a roustabout in Cincinnati. He worked the oil rigs till the Doc said he'd lose his leg if he kept it up, so her startin' writin' these here columns.

Of course I'm teasing. Here's the guy's bio. Before a long academic career, Hanson was a "full time farmer," we're told, so maybe he gets his feel for The People from workin' the land. I wonder how much picking and plowing he did. Himself, I mean.*

I suppose one can have a sense of life without ever having worked a regular job. I just wonder where these eggheads get the moxie to describe the heroic fight of people who, if any of them ever got onto his "tree and vine farm," would have the dogs with bees in their mouths loosed upon them, versus the detestable elites of which they are obviously members.

UPDATE. Upon further review, I do realize this could be said about nearly every public intellectual. (Not me! I have done many common things, some remunerative, some just common.) It is interesting, though, how the populist dodge has been adopted, apparently with success, by conservative pencil-pushers versus the other kind. It's not like the salt of the earth are running from town to town in knee-breeches clutching the latest handbill by VDH, the People's Friend. Maybe this sort of thing is just an in-joke among the commentariat.

*UPDATE 2. Hanson describes a hardscrabble early life. I won't dispute it. Better, as always, to criticize the text than the man.

Of the four examples of plebian uprising Hanson describes, the best known is the fate of the WTC Freedom Center -- a struggle in which the principle combatants were politicians and newspapers (including the Post, which slammed the IFC for its "potential anti-Americanism"), with some 9/11 widows brought in as a secret weapon. Flightplan is primarily perceived by the public at large, if we go by the box office receipts, as a good way to spend an evening. The two Abu Ghraib citations -- one concerning the press, the other the release of photographs -- may well have outraged some soldiers, but I don't see any evidence that the American public is mobbing up to defend its fighting men and women from the exposure of an isolated torture case.

Whether Hanson bales his own wire or not, this is the sort of thing that gives populism a bad name. The only bright side is that maybe, as this sort of rhetoric moves perceptibly further from reality, people will stop buying it.
WHEN YOU'RE A SUBURBANITE, EVERY SOLUTION LOOKS LIKE A SUBURB. The Ole Perfesser tries his hand at transportation policy, and for reasons that should be obvious, it's all about cars and computers. Light rail's a non-starter, sez the Perf, because "the changing U.S. economy makes traditional commuting -- in which armies of workers flock from suburbs to downtowns in the morning, and back home in the evenings -- less significant."

There's a lot of rah-rah for telecommuting here, of the sort seen in the boosterish trade mags the Professor and his conservatarian hordes probably read ("This isn't your grandfather's workplace. We're five years into the new millennium," etc).

But if you live anywhere near a city, folks, tell me: have the highways become significantly less congested at rush hour? The Census Bureau's American Community Survey says that the "home-based" workforce was up 23 percent between 1990 and 2000 -- but that top figure represents only 3.2 million people, and a 10-year increase of less than a million. Between 2000 and 2003, the ACS reports, just another 300,000 workers went home-based.

These are not quite wave-of-the-future stats. And we don't know whether these folks are writing RFPs for big bucks, or making paper flowers at a subsistence wage. Not all home-based workers are "telecommuters."

But if you whole life has been spent in offices, classrooms, and malls, you might think that. Perhaps the Professor also believes that all those uncounted unemployed who have dropped off the unemployment rolls are actually running profitable consultancies somewhere in the Sun Belt.

But where the policy paper takes a genuinely weird turn is here:
Likewise, I think it's worth encouraging shopping from home, too. I order a lot of things from the Web specifically because it saves me the hassle of venturing out into traffic to visit stores, but when I avoid that hassle I avoid burning gas, too. True, the delivery truck burns gas -- but it's delivering to a lot of other homes at the same time it's delivering to mine, so overall it winds up using considerably less per person than if everyone shops individually.
First, given his cold-dead-hands approach to government intervention, it's hard to guess who is supposed to do the "encouraging" here. (Well, rightwing bloggers consider themselves Tribunes of the People, so maybe he thinks their endorsement will be enough to swing it.)

But it's hard to see how sending delivery trucks to consumers, instead of consumers to stores, will significantly decrease traffic -- or significantly achieve anything, really, except to bring reality more into accord with the Perfesser's fantasy. Because when you look at what he proposes, it's a suburbanite's wet dream: cities starved of transportation funding, and suburbs regnant, filled with jobs and coddled with services, their citizens exempt from the necessity of leaving the house even for an instant.

Something I think that's what really the problem with this country: too many of its most influential residents have a positive horror of human contact and physical exercise, and will do whatever they have to do -- to themselves and to the country -- to avoid it.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

DOGS AND CATS, LIVING TOGETHER! Some Dutch people have staged a marital three-way, and the Values brigade, clad in togas, is crying "Vanitas!" which is Latin for "Damned fags."

To be fair, Tacitus' contempt, being classicist is style and Biblical in scope, reaches further back than the gay-nups thing: "No-fault divorce opened up a Pandora's box of easily-broken families... those wishing to pretend that a homosexual coupling constitutes marriage... decay of Western Civilization," etc. Then the dry-ice machine was revved up and he floated, one bony finger raised in reproach, back into his Temple.

For the rest, it's solely about the homosex -- and those of us who are presumed to have supported gay marriage solely as a sort of malicious prank on Decent People. "When asked why they opposed gay 'marriage' last spring, many conservative trotted out the 'polygamy and farm animals' response, subjecting them to guffaws and derogatory remarks," recalls No Man's Land. "'As if,' snorted the left, and that was that. Or was it?" (Cue ominous multisex music.)

I know not what course others may take, but I have never sought to console nervous Kulturkampfers with promises that the very thought of gay marriage (which is really all we have of it now in the U.S.) would never lead to, or at least precede, three-ways, man on dog, etc. I have laughed at their fears, not because the things they feared could never happen, but because they are fools to fear it.

We live in a country where, despite all the Jesus-chatter, Mammon rules. Citizens are invited -- nay, commanded, lest they fall into a socially ostracized category called "Loser" -- to accumulate as much money as they can, and given only the barest of moral guidelines within which to pursue this hunt. Even disregarding outright crime, the amount of bad behavior this invites -- ranging from the pocketing of too much change at the deli, to the completely legal crushing of lives, hopes and dreams daily practiced by our bankers -- would cause the angels to weep if they existed.

Yet I never see these guys worry too much about the decay of Western Civilization into an orgy of rapacious capitalism. That's not the sort of orgy that gets their attention.

Well, whatever floats your boat. Our money-lust, like our freedom-lust (and our just plain lust) is part of who we are. I give less than a rat's ass whether some polyamorous cluster wants to celebrate its love in legal language. If you think our Empire will be toppled because of that, when there are so many other, much weaker spots in our underbelly ripe for tearing, then I honestly don't know what to tell you.
But I do know that it’s true that if you wanted to reduce crime, you could—if that were your sole purpose, you could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down. That would be an impossible, ridiculous, and morally reprehensible thing to do, but your crime rate would go down.
Defenders of Bill Bennett's statement, ranging ideologically from Matthew Yglesias to Jeff Goldstein, maintain that Bennett was not in fact advocating the abortion of every black baby. Which is of course obvious, and not the basis of any reasonable objection.

The actually offensive part of Bennett's statement was his assertion that mass black fetuscide would, of necessity, cause crime to drop. Bennett's defenders do not dispute this idea -- in fact, they appear to consider it beyond dispute.

It's strange that so many public intellectuals think the condition of black folks will not improve in another generation. In a way I am more surprised by the conservatives than by the eventheliberals. We are constantly assured by them that Iraq will swiftly improve, indeed, will soon flower into an oasis of democracy. If that shitstorm can subside, why not black crime stats?

But stranger still is the insistence of Bennett and his supporters that his comment be celebrated as part of an honest effort to "talk about race and crime" -- something we are, alas, "not allowed" to do, due to PC pressure.

Any discussion that begins the way Bennett began his is not going to evolve into anything very edifying. If you tell someone his mama is ugly, it does not matter whether his mama is indeed ugly, or pretty, or of debatable appearance; you should not be surpised if he responds, not with a reasoned defense of his mother's appearance, but with his fists.

Whatever statistics may show, and however reasonable your inferences from them may seem to you, ordinary people will take it amiss when you tell them that their children are predestined to be criminals. This feeling is natural, indeed primal, but it is not ill-informed or delusional. It is based on a bit of ancient wisom: that the sins of the fathers need not be visited upon the sons. (This idea also corresponds with common sense.)

Still Bennett's defenders seem to think that black folks should endure -- and even agree with -- the proposition that their children are prison-bound, else they are not sufficiently interested in an honest Dialogue on Race.

In the late 19th century, people frequently said that for the Irish-American, criminality was in the blood. We think these statements rather crude now -- but imagine how much different things might have been if we had defined these utterances as part of our Dialogue on Race.

Samuel D. Burchard would still have insisted that the Democrats were the Party of "Rum, Romanism, and Rebellion," for example, but no one would have disavowed or been alarmed by it (except, of course, race-card-dealing Democrats); rather, social scientists would have rushed forward with charts, and perhaps phrenological diagrams, to defend his analysis as something no thinking person could dispute. The Republican Party would have prescribed for the troublesome "Romanist" immigrants covenant marriages and government-funded classes on matrimony (and maybe a drawing class with Thomas Nast).

If prominent Republican Irish-Americans protested this slur, they would probably be told something like what Goldstein tells black Republican Robert George -- that they are "shifting their condemnation toward the linguistically corrupt notion that the signifier, divorced from intent, is nevertheless the responsibility of the utterer" -- though without, of course, all the semiotic trappings, which would have left the sentiment somewhat earthier.

ADDENDUM. Charles Murray, whose previous contribution to our Dialogue on Race was The Bell Curve, drops some winger science on New Orleans. He goes on about the underclass, based on Katrina's revelations of "looters and thugs, and those of inert women doing nothing to help themselves or their children." This sounds an awful lot like that MSM overreaching the Perfesser has been complaining about, and which caused some of his acolytes to call the press racist. "Behaving self-destructively is the hallmark of the underclass," says Murray. Well, not only of them, apparently.

Friday, September 30, 2005

THE SQUARES DON'T GET ME, MAN. Professor Althouse:
I'm not saying that the great artist adopts a right wing political ideology. If fact, I agree with you that the great artist needs to separate himself from politics and certainly to get it out of his art. I'm saying there's something right wing about doing that.
This is not a paradox or a Zen riddle -- this is plain nonsense. Go examine the Professor's explications, and you'll find that they illuminate nothing except the strength of her determination to blame her own lack of clarity on her readers.

I'm not enjoying this post-literate age, but what I really dread is the post-sensible age toward which we seem to hurtle.

UPDATE OCT. 5. Late as it is, I should mention that the Professor finds my comment boring. Fair enough. There's only so much creativity I can pour into explaining the obvious: if someone comes stumbling down the street, screaming that chocolate is not only a flavor, but also a moral choice, I don't feel obliged to play Stoned Grad Student with him or her. I will, though, warn other members of the community that the Fever has claimed another victim. It's my civic duty.
THE FUDGE NEVER STOPS WITH THE FUDGE FACTORY. As previously observed here, conservative writers are going mad, and the newer ones lack basic compositional skills. Todd Buchholz seems to have been knocking around for some time ("an economic adviser in the White House of George H.W. Bush"); maybe he was working mostly in a language other than English. Get a load of this:
We are in a global race for IQ points. Not useless Mensa meeting points but applied IQ points. Brains put to work. Those countries that best harness IQ will prosper most. The U.S. produces about half the annual patent filings in the world. That's an outstanding number. But new ideas are not enough if we do not have a motivated, educated work force to exploit them. Despite improved high-school graduation rates, our kids are the Jamaican bobsled team of education, to judge by international test scores. They lose to the Slovenians. If we don't buck up our schools, the next generation could end up with white collars and pink slips.
This is a clumsily padded non-idea -- Chamber of Commerce rah-rah blather about how ideas and education will win the race for fill-in-the-blank. That's why it stinks so bad. Take somebody with a strong motivation to obfuscate rather than illuminate a subject, feed him on cliches and Mark Steyn, and this is this sort of thing he squeezes out.

Buchholz does have one idea -- that because white collar and blue collar workers are equally at risk of losing their jobs, the line between these old employment categories is blurred (or, in his odd usage, "fuzzed up"). But this idea might lead a more assiduous author in a direction not likely to win a hearing at OpinionJournal.

Fortunately for his career, Buchholz comes up with plenty of sunny images to make the shared doom of suits 'n' brutes look like something fun and futuristic. "How many executives still dictate to a secretary?" he demands, and while you are too stunned to ask what the hell that has to do with anything, he informs us that "my local UPS guy is carrying not just my cardboard box but a sophisticated inventory control device," and that today Archie Bunker could buy a really big Philippe Starck bathtub if he had the money (which, given Archie's age and skillset, he almost certainly would not). So you see, the future is an exciting challenge (rather than a desperate, exhausting race to the bottom) filled with lots of glossy images from a corporate training video, of which Buchholz's article is the journalistic equivalent.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

WEAK BENCH. With the regulars succumbing to mass psychosis, National Review is bringing up raw talent from the minors, and we do mean raw. Sample Windsor Mann on rock stars who are mean to the President:
Though modern-day antiwar music spans many different genres, one common thread unites the musicians: They are all aging, fading, and facing imminent decline. This is not to say, however, that the Rolling Stones do not still command a massive following or that the Material Girl is eternally devoid of material to sing about. Nevertheless, it is probably safe to assume that those who today are "rocking against Bush" are not too far off from the day when the only rocking they'll be doing is in rocking chairs.
With what software was this translated into English? But I'll say this for Mann -- he's stylistically consistent. Here's a bit from the only other Windsor Mann article I could find:
Whatever one calls it, time off allows us all to refocus our energies on more important things. It is during times of recess that we can follow the trial of the King of P-O-P rather than the judicial nominations of the G.O.P., shop for gas grills instead of appropriations bills, watch "The Wedding Crashers" instead of the Bolton bashers and learn the name of a summer flame so long as it is not Valerie.
I like to imagine Mann throwing gang signs as he recites this to his horrified editors.

The decline in conservative writing proceeds apace. As a youth, I could enjoy the style if not the sensibilities of Ernest van der Haag and W. H. von Dreele ("Theopompous claims that God is dead/His congregation's comforted"). I never thought much of P. J. O'Rourke, but at least his shit had some snap to it, so even to this day professional O'Rourke impersonators maintain a certain level of freshness.

Those days are gone. Now, apparently, the sole requirements for conservative authorship are adherence to party dicta and semiotic signifiers of Humor (like the cute rhymes, showing, in lieu of an actual joke, awareness that a joke would go well there).

Soon it will all be Haw haw, Michael Moore shore is fat! The blogosphere offers plenty of potential recruits.

SPEAKING OF LITHIUM. "The worst part of TV in the hurricane coverage was the nonstop, wall-to-wall, relentless hammering of the viewers about the danger they were in if they were in . . . the path of the storm... they also try, when they get the chance, to terrify you. They try to terrify you into watching." -- Peggy Noonan, September 29, 2005.

"Imagine that there are already 100 serious terror cells in the U.S., two per state. The members of each cell have been coming over, many but not all crossing our borders, for five years... they will set off nuclear suitcase bombs in six American cities, including Washington, which will take the heaviest hit. Hundreds of thousands may die... a half dozen designated cells will rise up and assassinate national, state and local leaders. There will be chaos, disorder, widespread want... Think dark." -- Peggy Noonan, August 25, 2005.

We could put the Lithium in her coffee. The Jameson would cover up the taste.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

THE CRACK-UP CONTINUES. The next time Jonah Goldberg does the bit about how conservatives "tend to be more dedicated to their principles" than to the Republican Party, we should recall the alarmed-meerkat response at National Review's The Corner to the indictment of Tom DeLay. From the moment K.Lo sounded the tocsin to this writing, there has been much nervous chatter, including meta-analysis of a reporter who announced the news in a manner offensive to people who are conservatives first and Republicans only coincidentally.

A few Cornerites remain stuck too hard on their own trip to join the party. Stanley Kurtz freaks the fuck out that Neil Young is making the President look bad on CMT, the George-Jones-who's-that-but-we-do-have-lotsa-Toby-Keith country TV station. I have observed Kurtz' insanity before, and it seems only to have gotten worse. "CMT is owned by Viacom, the same company that owns MTV and VH1," raves he, "Up to now, they’ve been reasonably separate operations. But it’s beginning to look as though the cultural left has decided to use CMT to try to proselytize the South." This is millimeters from Little Green Men territory. Kurtz should be forcibly restrained.

Whither the usual right-wing reasonables? Here's Richard Brookhiser telling us how liberals are going anti-Semitic. He saw some kaffiyehs at the Washington march, apparently.

Looks like I was onto something yesterday. To paraphrase The Confession: Hayek, wake up, they are going mad!

UPDATE. Kee-rist, the Cornerdwellers further descend! Jonah Goldberg whips out his iTunes: "my #1 iTunes tune is Fee by Phish (181 plays), followed by Solsbury Hill by Peter Gabriel, Into My Arms by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds and then several songs by the Pietasters and then The Kinks and The Who." Compare this collaboration between Goldberg and his youthful intern ("What're you listening to? I can hear 'em through your headphones. They're rilly good! What's their name?") with the last Norbizness joint and ask yourself: what was that South Park Republican thing about again? Then scroll up for John J. Miller ("'Zero,' by Smashing Pumpkins -- all me, dude") and ask yourself: if I shoot into this computer monitor, will I hit the guy who wrote this? And if not, what good is the internet?

Then Iain Murray takes the sensible position that Google Print oversteps copywright law but, perhaps troubled by the unaccustomed feeling of solid ground beneath his feet, leaps off into a funnycon non sequitir: "That sort of approach, cutting corners with people's rights in order to reduce inconvenience to your operations, is, I think, the sort of thing that governments tend to do. Google needs to act more like Amazon and less like the EPA." Haw haw! See, Google's a megacorporation lookin' to make buttloads of money, and the EPA is -- haw haw! Ted Kennedy shore is drunk!

The pharmaceutical companies must have developed an aerosol form of Lithium by now. Wouldn't this be the best place to try it out?

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

A MILD DISAPPOINTMENT. "SURE SIGN OF A LIGHT TEACHING LOAD" -- headline by Jonah Golderg. I thought for sure it would introduce a portrait of Perfesser Reynolds, even though the hyphen was apparently missing between "light" and "teaching."

I really should just stop reading this shit and put all this negative energy into political assassination.

O THE HARD TIMES IN OLD WINGLAND/IN OLD WINGLAND VERY HARD TIMES. Is the conservative brain trust having some sort of collective meltdown? Mind you, even at high tide these guys don't make much sense, but at this odd and parlous time -- when poll numbers plummet and skeletons tumble from closets and even the Administration seems to know the jig is up and devotes itself to funneling swag to the Fredos of the family -- the blog-trotters skittishly shift their focus to some heretofore undetected real enemy; in this case, President Geena Davis.

At the Corner, where operatives usually tear energetically if irrationally into issues of great pitch and moment and devote only about 40 percent of their work to pop-art burble, it has lately been all flotsam all the time: they go on about the aforereferenced Commander In Chief (current count at 1,702 posts and rising), basketball players, a nanosecond-long reference to carpentry skills on some TV show, liberal children's books, and of course, pleas for pledges (PBS Commies only give you tote bag -- for $500, NR comrades get to find out how George Will eats without lips).

But elsewhere the fever rages, too. General Ralph "Blood and Guts" Peters, after a long absence from our radar, tells off those damned stinking hippies at the Washington march:
Were we able to psychologically profile the demonstrators, we'd find that most of them have a great deal in common: Disappointing lives, failed relationships and the desperate need for a cause of any kind. If we weren't at war, they'd be marching to save pinworms from drug-company aggression.
The General has an invigorating style, especially when you imagine his words shouted in Lee Ermey cadences, but if you ever watched any NBC Bob Hope Specials between 1966 and 1970, you already know the message.

Even in their usual rages against the hated MSM they have taken new lines of attack not ordinarily dared by even the most ambitious dragon-slayer. John Podhoretz finds the press responsible for making ordinary, salt-of-the-earth Americans believe that their economy is no good:
…Since the middle of 2003, the U.S. economy overall has been in terrific shape, growing at a yearly rate of more than 4 percent with little inflation and an unemployment rate hovering around 5 percent.

Yet in one of the strangest disconnects between fact and perception we've ever seen, the American people tell pollsters they think the economy stinks. Some of that may be due to high gas prices. But it's also surely the result, to some degree, of the negativity of the news coverage.
Great is the power of the MSM! It can poison the minds of honest American citizens, even as they roll in piles of wealth like Zasu Pitts in Greed, against the evidence of leading economic indicators. (To be fair, Podhoretz also blames Bush for talking about "the coming insolvency of Social Security." Yes, best keep that one under one's hat, along with the credit card bills.)

I suppose it was inevitable. For years these guys have been saying the craziest shit and getting away with it. Now that things are slipping a little, it's no shock that their first impulse would be to say even crazier shit. Each short, stunned moment the punters spend trying to digest the new and more bizarre talking points is another moment they won't spend catching on.
DOWN AT THE ROCK 'N' ROLL CLUB. Played one of the CBGB benefits this weekend. I was against doing it in principle, and in favor of doing it in sentiment. On the one hand, why should we play a benefit for a businessman, even a landmarked one like Hilly Kristal? The fucking guy made money every time I (or anyone else) ever played there. We might as well be passing the hat for Richard Branson. On the other, more compelling hand, I hadn’t been inside the place, let alone on its stage, in years. So I eschewed my principles for easy access to Memory Lane. If you’ve ever slept with an old girlfriend, you know the reasons don’t have to be noble.

All the bands were advertised by their association with old bands (ex-TELEVISION! ex-STRAY CATS! Ex-REVERB MOTHERFUCKERS!) The surprisingly large crowd was, by my reckoning, mostly tourists taking in the last days of punk rock Disneyland, in which we served as the Country Bears, pickin’ and sneerin’. Patrons kept coming out into the street and taking digital photos of the fabled CB’s awning, sometimes dragging us into the frame (that’s whatshisname! He was in some band!). When we played, the patrons were very attentive. We were the last of a dying breed. We probably should have brought down a buffalo and cut its throat.

I sat drinking at the bar after the show until I recalled what it was like to sit drinking at the bar after the show. Then I walked up through the East Village toward the train, till someone called out, "Hey, I know you!" It was an auld acquaintance, wearing a wedding dress and holding a beer in a bag. She and a bunch of other oddly dressed people were coming from the premiere of "Corpse Bride." They were going to the Raven, I had to come. At the Raven some guy was playing acoustic guitar, copying the Sabbath song the DJ was playing. Patrons bounced around the place like hot water molecules. After a while I left and walked to the subway. The night was soft and all along the way people were enjoying their night out. In a few hours I had to go to work, but that didn’t matter. The bass was strapped securely to my back. I had just played a show at CBGB. Hilly had made money off us again. My cut wasn’t generous, or even adequate, but at the moment it seemed to be enough.

Monday, September 26, 2005

TRICKY DICK KNEW SOMETHING. The Ole Perfesser does his usual "Never mind those thousands of traitors, dozens of true Americans held up signs across the street" schtick.

I think the tenured radical ought to forget about protestors and concentrate on the silent majority.