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.

UPDATE FOR FEDERAL AGENTS: I'm kidding.
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.

Friday, September 23, 2005

SHORTER DANIEL HENNINGER. New Orleans would be so much better if it were Phoenix, AZ.

UPDATE. Henninger's reaching his audience, alright. From the reader responses: "It is unfortunate that Pesident Bush has a guilty conscience and has succumb to pressure from the likes of Jesse Jackson and the black caucus. The fact of the matter is that New Orleans is a bad place... The children relocated to Utah, Vermont and Rhode Island have a chance at a descent education. In addition, it seems that many of the refugees have criminal backgrounds..." Wait -- Bush has a conscience?
SHORTER JAMES LILEKS: Listen you moral relativists: there is Art, and there is Aaaaarrrrrt, and the latter is all that counts because it's wicked hard to do. I defend the superiority of Aaaaaarrrrt against philistines like Thomas Hoving! Now I must go watch "Lost" and scan some matchbooks.
THE RIGHT WING. Daily Pundit, seconded by the Ole Perfesser:
Liberal media promote ABC's 'Commander in Chief'
Screening & Discussion with Members of the Commander Writing Team, Eleanor Clift, Gwen Ifil, Helen Thomas, and President of The White House Project
Yes. I'll be on pins and needles waiting to watch a tv series about a woman President written by Eleanor Clift, Gwen Ifill, and Helen Freaking Thomas.

How about a series about a President who actually has brains and leadership qualities, written by Jonah Goldberg, Roger Simon and, well, me?
The froth was on him, I guess, and clouded his perception so that he didn't realize that Clift et alia were participants in a discussion, not the actual writers of the show. Or maybe he's just hostile toward objective reality, which has so often been shown to contradict his many opinions.

Nonetheless his idea for Prez porn written by the blogosphere's foremost numbskulls is an intriguing one:

DER PRESIDENT

Scene 1: Der Oval Office.

PRESIDENT SCHWARZENEGGER: (relaxing with a cigar) Ahh! I haff tekken a piss on ze piczure of Clinton! Life iz good! Ha ha ha ha!

CHIEF OF STAFF GOLDBERG: That was sweet, Mr. President! You know what would be cool? If you could work some quotes from Animal House into the State of the Union! (Turns to SECURITY ADVISOR SIMON) High five!

PRESIDENT SCHWARZENEGGER: (thoughtfully) Zat has grossed big -- but too old! I know! Ve use quotes from Ze Exorcism of Emily Rose! Vat vaz lines zey remember?

CHIEF OF STAFF GOLDBERG: Oooh, I know! "Once you see the darkness, I think you hold onto it the rest of your life."

PRESIDENT SCHWARZENEGGER: Vat ze hell iz dot? It don't mekk senze! Vat is zis, a gurly picture for ze Academy Avards? I piss on zem too! Ach! I know! We get CGI to make ze funny faces I remember from ze ad on ze TV! Zen ve make der Democrats verr zem! Ah ha ha ha! Life iz good.

SECURITY ADVISOR SIMON: CGI? I don't think we have the capability, Mr. President...

PRESIDENT SCHWARZENEGGER: (Grabbing SIMON by his ample lapels) Zen you make it zo! You little scheiss, before I raize you up, you make ze gurly moviez wiz ze Woody Allen und ze Paul Mazursky, and write ze books! But now you play in ze big leagues! You get me ze Induzrial Light und Magic! Schnell! (To GOLDBERG) Und you get out too! You dribble ze Cheetos crumbs on ze cahpet!

SCENE 2: SIMON and GOLDBERG Steadicam through endless West Wing hallways.

GOLDBERG: Once you get past the insane rages, he's rilly awesome.

SIMON: We have to get him to focus. This morning I gave him 12 countries to invade. He just kept spinning around in his chair and saying, "Ja, ja, I keel efferybody." How am I supposed to take that to the Joint Chiefs?

GOLDBERG: 'Member when he peed on Clinton? That was rilly awesome.

SIMON: Goddamn it! (yelling to 3,000 nearby junior staff) Has anyone seen my fedora?

SCENE 3: Some other impressive looking room.

PRESIDENT SCHWARZENEGGER meets with the Democratic Leadership, played by inanimate blobs of cookie dough.

DEMOCRAT 1: neener neener nee nee neener nee neener, nee neener neener nee nee ner.

DEMOCRAT 2: neener nee! (attempts to stand up, fails)

PRESIDENT SCHWARZENEGGER: Ah ha ha ha ha! Ah ha ha ha ha! (shoots them all to pieces with a potato gun)

SCENE 4: Some little room with people running around outside the windows, their brightness silhouetting GOLDBERG and PRESS SECRETARY COULTER within.

GOLDBERG: Oooh, I wanna kiss you, wanna kiss you so bad. You're blonde!

COULTER: Uh huh.

GOLDBERG: Der President called me Goldberg today. Usually he calls me Goldstein, or Untermensh! I bet he lets me run with him next time! Picture it -- Vice President Goldberg! Or Smith. I may have to change it. (stentorian voice) "Nothing's over until we say it is! Thank you, God bless you, and God bless America!"

COULTER: Have you seen my hand waxer?

GOLDBERG: 'Member when Otter and the guys went to that black club? That was rilly awesome.

SCENE 5: PRESIDENT SCHWARZENEGGER yells at the piss-soaked portrait of Clinton.

PRESIDENT SCHWARZENEGGER: You giff me a raw deal! Nobody giffs me a raw deal! (bares his teeth to the skies) Poppa! Can you hear me? Poppa, can you hear me? (to Clinton) Nobody giffs me a raw deal! (Unzips his pants)

(Aaaaand... scene.)

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

NONE DARE CALL IT PARANOIA. Bloggers are flogging Able Danger now that the Pentagon is stonewalling. Many have arrived at the interesting conclusion that George W. Bush is covering up for Bill Clinton, but hardly know what to do with this synapse-freezing idea.

Commenters at Captain's Quarters seem particularly stunned, even wounded, e.g: "I am disappointed in the extreme by DOD's decision yesterday to silence the Able Danger team and astounded at the Bush Administration's continued attempts to cover for its lice infested predecssor."

Hard Starboard speculates that perhaps the Bush Administration
agreed to help cover up the [Clinton Administration's] criminal negligence in leaving the nation so nakedly vulnerable to the 9/11 attacks. And in exchange for what? Manipulation of the Democrat side of last year's presidential primaries to help ensure an opponent Bush could beat? Letting the Democrat party be run into the ground by the Sorosians and moveon.orgers, leaving the GOP with a majority almost by default? Or maybe nothing at all - just the ultimate extreme of Bush's "New Tone" paradigm.
This is a gorgeous example of the genre, from the Rube Goldberg election-fixing scheme resulting in an extremely narrow Bush victory (couldn't they afford a landslide?) to the final suggestion that Bush is committing this treason because he's just too darned nice to his enemies.

I am sympathetic to the PermaGovernment cast of this story, but I decided a long time ago that down that X-Files path lay madness, and decided to let certain sleeping dogs lie. But for the sort of commentator who generally believes that liberals run everything from faculty lounges and newspaper offices and that's why Clinton was never hanged, such recourse is probably difficult to avail.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

NOT EVERYONE IS AN IDIOT. "The subway car was hot, smelly, and crowded, and the humidity at street level was so high that I felt as though I were being garrotted by a vicious odalisque in a Turkish bath." -- Terry Teachout.

"Scotland is the most violent place on earth, give or take the Sunni Triangle and Brazil’s prisons. A Scot is 7% more likely to get chibbed than an English person, and 15 times as likely as an Italian. Their Justice Minister blamed the 'booze and blade' culture, though many attacks may simply reflect Scottish people's understandable dislike of each other. Either way, it's a non-problem. If mutually-consenting drunks wish to beat each other to death in the privacy of Edinburgh town centre, that is surely a matter for them." -- Harry Hutton.

"Unlike this guy, I didn't coin the term 'blogosphere,' but I can lay claim to creating the following: The Virgin Ben, Jenna and NotJenna, The 101st Fighting Keyboarders, and America's Worst Mother™ ...which will be my Canticle For Leibowitz when Internet historians under President Dancin' Jack Roberts survey The Great Blogging Paradigm and try to understand why the people of the era never noticed what a wanker Hugh Hewitt was." -- TBogg.

There ain't half been some clever bastards, eh? Garland their sites with patronage.
DUDE, WHERE'S MY LOGIC? Well, Satch, it's Routine 12: An article about a rawknroll type guy with "a flowing mane of hair" who lends his hipster cred to the Republican Party because he imagines they're all about protecting his rights:
...the thrasher’s day job consists of running a string of adult bookstores christened "The Moonlight Readers."

...Contradiction? Hypocrisy? Paone doesn’t see it that way.

“The commies have closed more porno stores from us than the Bible thumpers ever did,” he said authoritatively. “There are people on both sides that want to take away everyone’s fun, whether it’s for the kids or the environment or whatever. They’d have no porn stores and we’d all be riding horse-drawn buggies to work if it were up to them. Still, nobody believes me, but the Republican party really is the party of tolerance these days."
Here's why they don't believe you, dood:
The FBI is joining the Bush administration's War on Porn. And it's looking for a few good agents.

Early last month, the bureau's Washington Field Office began recruiting for a new anti-obscenity squad. Attached to the job posting was a July 29 Electronic Communication from FBI headquarters to all 56 field offices, describing the initiative as "one of the top priorities" of Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales and, by extension, of "the Director." That would be FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III...
And it's not records of grossly illegal actions, like child porn, the Bureau's after, but explicit pictures of consenting adults, for no other reason than that they're dirty and, like gay marriage, hurt my widdle fambly by their very existence:
...Gonzales endorses the rationale of predecessor [Ed] Meese: that adult pornography is a threat to families and children. Christian conservatives, long skeptical of Gonzales, greeted the pornography initiative with what the Family Research Council called "a growing sense of confidence in our new attorney general."
Since this Paone guy apparently runs a porn business, you'd think he'd be more sensitive to this sort of thing. Unless he's paying off cops and politicians to make sure his joint never winds up on the big list. In fact, this personal endorsement for the GOP might be part of the deal.

Or maybe he's just a dumbass. Yeah, I think that's probably it.

(And wait till the Pandagon anti-obscenity trolls find out that Paone "swears like he’s in a Make-the-Sailor-Blush contest" -- then he'll really be in trouble!)
MORNING MISCELLANY. Here are two variations on Mallard Fillmore to brighten your day. (Next we get Rex Morgan, M.D.!) It is depressing that the rightwing duck gets so much love while my favorites, the Strindbergian Lockhorns, labor in obscurity. Maybe it's time for my monograph.

"E" for effort to Pandagon's Jesse for explaining why he has to use so many cuss words (What the fuck are you talking about? Sorry, couldn't help myself), but he had to know this would induce jackass bombentary and troll incursions. Still, that has beauties of its own:
You're an example of the left wing blogosphere (and journalism) at its worst. Lies, lies and more lies. And if that doesn't work, just throw in some profanity, and you think it makes you sound intellectual.
Yeah, see, that's how we do, all dressed up at our white-and-cheese liberal-intellectual Manhattan parties: "I say Meryl, have you read that new fucking Cormac McCarthy novel? Goddamn, that nihilistic motherfucker can write like your pussy gets tight. More brie?"
[Jesse] Taylor is the blogospheric embodiement of Jenny's angry boyfriend in Forrest Gump.
No, no, buddy, you're thinking of that hippie crook in that "Mannix" episode. Or maybe Andy Robinson in Dirty Harry. Or one of those pear-shaped libruls in Mallard Fillmore -- oh, look, closure! Buh bye!

Monday, September 19, 2005

A DISTURBING DEVELOPMENT. Look, if you're gonna play this game, play it right, okay, guys? At the Roberts hearings, Chuck Schumer engages in an extended analogy about movies:
SCHUMER: ...You agree we should be finding out your philosophy and method of legal reasoning, modesty, stability, but when we try to find out what modesty and stability mean, what your philosophy means, we don't get any answers.

It's as if I asked you: What kind of movies do you like?... You won't name one. Then I ask you if you like "Casablanca," and you respond by saying, "Lots of people like 'Casablanca.'" (laughter)
Eventually Roberts, a good sport, admits to liking Dr. Zhivago and North by Northwest. Ha ha. Fun on the Hill! Break for shitty food, many drinks.

This would be a cue for the humorless Left to step forward, pipe clenched in teeth, to decode these choices for their relevance to Roe v. Wade. (It was LINCOLN'S nostril! Not Jefferson's, Lincoln's! Roll that scene from The Lodger...) That's a gimmee, isn't it? Doesn't Lileks already have that Screed hot and ready in the microwave?

But the gauntlet must have been overly tempting, because noted Fox News film critics Chris Wallace and Bill Kristol have stooped to grab it themselves:
KRISTOL: [Roberts] did great. The only conservative worries I've heard are about Doctor Zhivago. Isn't that kind of a sappy, liberal movie, you know?

WALLACE: It's a little commie.
If you've ever seen Dr. Zhivago, you know the Former Soviet Union comes off very badly in it. Pasternak, the Russian author, suffered mightily for the original novel's success, as was acknowledged by the Pulitzer Prize Committee in 1958. The David Lean film does not transport the action to Fascist Spain. I saw it as a little boy, and thought, oooh, scary bad Russians (and, why are Dr. Zhivago and Lara in bed together? But that's another story).

I fear the blogosphere's many mutton-headed analyses of popular art have emboldened conservatism's more highly-placed operatives to try their own hand at the game. And, sad as these essays are in situ, they sound a lot worse coming out of the lipsticked mouths of blow-dried pundits. They provoke in me not only outrage, but nightmares. I am just now arising sweat-shirted from a bad dream about The McLaughlin Group analyzing WR: Mysteries of the Organism:
McLAUGHLIN: Will this obscure Eastern European film from 1971 lead to the further corruption of America's young -- Tony!

BLANKLEY: Absolootely! This bleedin' porno film is an ahssault on ahhhr Ahmerica mohrals, ahnd no ahmahnt of Hawlywood sawfistry can disghoise it!

CLIFT: Oh, come on, Tony! The villain is a Soviet soldier! He fucks her till her freaking head comes off! I mean, come on!

BUCHANAN: Eleanor, let me just say that her head was not fucked off, it was removed by the steady chopping motion I make with my hand, and that is how we will remove the heads of all you nagging bitches, block by block!

McLAUGHLIN: Prediction! Roy will awaken from this program in a cold sweat, and attempt to caricature that which is already a caricature, and he -- will -- fail! Bah-BYE!
I wake up screaming.
SO LONG, SUCKERS. Roger L. Simon episodically berates organizations such as Amnesty International and the U.N. for not doing enough about genocide, human rights, and all the world's various ills -- e.g., "Will Amnesty [Int'l] defend this real human rights abuse?... Or will they remain, in Orwell's evocative phrase, 'objectively pro-fascist'?" and "The United Nations, which was formed in the wake of genocide... has not nearly done its job [in Darfur], just as it did not in Rwanda. Why? Maybe there just isn't any money it," etc. etc.

But as we see from Simon's favorable notice of TigerHawk's "Genocide and the Free-Rider Problem," Simon believes there's one organization from whom the peoples of the world should not expect such assistance: the United States of America.

TigerHawk is responding to Nicolas Kristof's criticism of our Government's weak anti-genocide stand in the U.N. TH says we have every reason to resist any stated "obligation" to respond to foreign genocides, and offers several, including a desire to avoid "disrespecting international law" (though I think this is meant as a joke). But his main case seems (near as I can figure) to be that such a promise would encourage "free-riding" on the part of other countries, who should go out and solve genocides themselves instead of always bugging us to do so.

Now, this is consistent with TH's general approach (he frankly admitted in '04 that the best reason to invade Iraq* was, "Put simply, after September 11 we had to wreck a country in the Arab world, occupy it, sustain ourselves in that occupation, and never waiver" -- which is arguably psychotic, but not inconsistent).

But I marvel at the support he gets Simon, who often explicitly talks about the necessity of our Iraq imbroglio in human-rights term -- in fact, he has approvingly cited a Darfur-related apologia for the invasion and, more recently, offered advice on how "we" could "help" women retain their rights in the coming Islamic republic of Iraq.

What happened? Bush's second term, I'm guessing. As the battered Administration leaks copious amounts of money, it is becoming clearer that America has two choices -- bugout or bankruptcy -- and Bush may even take both. Even the most full-throated web-warriors are getting ready to re-declare the Mission Accomplished and produce a revival of Saigon '74. America will forget, as usual, and we'll be on to some other debacle.

Remember those palmy days when the Right was mooning over the poor Iraqis and their rape rooms and the necessity, by any means necessary, to save them? And how these friends of Iraq held up purple-ink-stained fingers in "solidarity" with the newly-enfranchised Iraqi people? Did you worry at those times that perhaps you were wrong about the war, howsoever strong the evidence, because their reasons seemed more humane than yours? "Seemed" is the operative word; it was all bullshit.

Not the oppression and exploitation -- those, alas, were all too real, and we may hope that the Iraqis will not long have to accept a life of chaos as their one alternative to a life of fear. I mean the human-rights angle as an excuse, before and after, for war. The advocates' passion for human rights was an expedient that they used to lure suckers; this handy-dandy little war not only fights terrorism, it also promotes human rights! If you were taken in, console yourself that at least you have a good, soft heart, but try not to let yourself be deceived again. [edited for clarity]

*UPDATE. TigerHawk tells me in comments that I misstated his "wreck a country" crack, which I called his best reason for the war. Well, his post was over 6300 words, and not written in such a way as to command unwavering attention. Looking at his original, I now notice that he merely said he liked the idea (out of Thomas Friedman) -- he had other arguments for war, which you can go see for yourself. I certainly don't agree that this "is tantamount to omitting the word 'not' from a quotation and substituting elipses" on my part, but it was sloppy of me. Roger L. Simon remains a tool.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

THE PASSION OF THE PARANORMAL. Everything good is right-wing! Chocolate, baseball, packing peanuts! You know what else? That TV show with Patricia Arquette:
Red Americans feeling underserved by the entertainment industry have less to whine about these days. If they were to stay up Monday nights just an hour past the president's bedtime, they'd find that NBC's hit show "Medium" is giving them a ringing endorsement from the Other Side.
Because they made a joke about the New York Times, and a character referred to a fetus as a person. The medium also seems to approve of the death penalty -- highly unusual for a cop show! Plus it's spiritual, like.
The show isn't heavy-handed, and its one or two conservative gems per episode are easily missed...
...unless you're a culture scold on deadline, and then nothing gets by you.

Next week: how "This Old House" is a hymn to the Ownership Society.
OBJECTIVELY PRO-AHMADINEJAD. Oxblog complains that the Washington Post is too soft on the Iranian Prime Minister. No, really:
The [Post] article is basically a summary of Ahmadinejad's press conference in New York. Even when he says things that are fairly absurd or insulting, you don't get a counterpoint from any of his critics, domestic or foreign.
The headline is "Bush Would Kill for That Kind of Press Coverage."

Demurrers follow; "...when you are a charter member of the Axis of Evil, journalists assume that no one will believe anything you say..." etc. Well, yes. Still, the author says that "any article about the Iranian government should also let us know about the ongoing efforts of the Iranian opposition to stop rampant human rights violations in Iran and bring down the clerical dictatorship." Because, one supposes, people who take the trouble to read a Washington Post back-pager about a Mahmoud Ahmadinejad press conference might not have heard about that.

Still, better safe than sorry, I guess; with all those college kids wearing Mahmoud Ahmadinejad t-shirts and taking summer trips to Iran to help the mullahs stone adulterers, it's imperative that we nip these false impressions right in the bud.

(The author also attempts to make a parallel case of the Post's coverage of Rep. John Lewis. "[Lewis'] status as a 'civil rights icon' ensures that his argument will carry the presumption of truth," he complains. Lewis was Chairman of the SNCC from 1963 to 1966, and a keynote speaker at MLK's March on Washington, which might lead some people to take his thoughts on race seriously, further demonstrating the insidiousness of the liberal media.)

Friday, September 16, 2005

NEXT WEEK: AN AEI CONFERENCE ON SWEET HOME ALABAMA. "STOP READING REVIEWS... of the lovely new Reese Witherspoon movie Just Like Heaven--except mine, which comes out in the Weekly Standard tomorrow -- and just go see it this weekend before the reviewers ruin the movie's extremely clever twist for politically malicious reasons."

Poor John Podhoretz -- God's lonely man, the only honest critic! What a load. Years ago, Podhoretz was the film critic for Rev. Moon's Insight magazine, and his reviews were always accompanied by -- I swear to God -- a little meter that measured each film's political orientation from left to right. When he tells you that other critics are politicized, Podhoretz is merely trying to lead you off the scent.

I, on the other hand, am not a critic but a crank, and politicized up the ass, so I will meanly ruin for you what I'm sure is the cinematic equivalent of horseshit whipped to look like pudding.

** SPOILER ALERT ***

It turns out Reese Witherspoon isn't really dead: though her spirit is full-grown, she's actually a seven-day-old fetus about to be aborted by her cruel mother, played by Susan Sarandon. When Mark Ruffalo attempts to intervene, Sarandon gets Janet Reno to throw him out at gunpoint. Eventually Reese and Mark get Sarandon to change her mind by reading The Purpose-Driven Life to her through the airshaft.

Thus Reese is born, a baby with the soul of a woman, and Mark obligingly saves himself till she's 14, at which point he knocks her up and drives her to a Bible Belt state to get hitched.

Then the little kid goes "Radical!" and the guy goes "Is that your final answer?"

And you know what? Bored couples will still flock to it.
THAT'S THE WAY OF THE WORLD. In the New York Democratic primary this week, Freddy Ferrer was a few votes shy of the 40% he needed to avoid a runoff. His nearest competitor, Anthony Weiner, pre-emptively conceded the runoff to Ferrer. The New York Post -- which oversized GOP Chick-tract has always taken great pleasure in Democratic fractiousness (during the 1984 primaries, the Post ran a front-page picture of Mondale, Jackson and Hart shaking hands with the headline THE BEST OF ENEMIES) -- suddenly began complaining that Weiner and Ferrer were giving New York A KICK IN THE BALLOTS because the law will probably require an expensive runoff anyway. "[It] could cost taxpayers as much as $12 million," marveled the Post.

Since a forced rematch would cost the same amount, and since Ferrer and Weiner are trying to get the runoff stopped, we may assume that the Post's position is that Ferrer and Weiner should be compelled to fight just for the sport of it. (Funny, when Giuliani tried to postpone the 2001 election, the Post was all for it.)

WEINER WEASELS, proclaimed an editorial indistinguishable from the next day's "news" story, BACKERS TO WEINER: QUIT BEING A WEENIE, in which some Queens folks were encouraged to say bad things about Weiner ("His name should be Oscar Meyer").

The Post is considered a comical, almost folkloric species of journalistic fraud -- heh heh, cute little propagandist! Let me ruffle his hair JESUS CHRIST HE BIT MY FINGER OFF. But they are different only in tone, and not by much, from numberless publications (and their little, unpaid brethren in the blogosphere) similarly disposed against truth and good sense.

So when the President makes another passel of promises which, history teaches us, he probably won't keep, it is no shock when the usual gang of idiots runs up and starts dancing around the Leader, waving banners and blowing conch-shells; nor that, when our rock-ribbed conservative President proposes an astonishing outlay of gummint cash (that's our money, fellow libertarian pricks!), the conch-dancers begin talking excitedly about what we're going to -- get this! -- cut from the Federal budget to make up for the cost, which rather reminds me of cave full of vampire bats discussing which sort of soft drink they will buy once they have stopped drinking blood.

Those who find this sort of work overchallenging can always cook up another librul-media scandal -- even if their own transcript shows their charge to be an absurd stretch -- and wait for the sheep to bleat back.

Sometimes this whole gig seems like fire-watch in a land without firemen.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

SHORTER JAMES TARANTO: Black people had better stop trying to make us feel guilty or we shan't have anything to do with them.
SHORTER JAMES LILEKS: This jury duty room is unpleasant and stocked with outdated diversions! I certainly hope my tax cuts aren't paying for this!

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

SHORTER JAMES PINKERTON: The mainstream media, which we naturally assumed had been utterly destroyed by a coalition of suburban househusbands, seems to have deceived the public (which had heretofore been crying the names of Volokh and Lileks in the streets of our Republic) into believing their "news." Those bastards have the facts, but we have the arguments; so take courage, brothers and sisters, and continue speaking power to truth.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

MARCH OF THE MORONS. I had thought wingers of a "cultural" persuasion, like kittens with a bit of string, might have tuckered themselves out after weeks of batting around the notion that March of the Penguins is a plea for traditional marriage (for humans, not for penguins). But now that the New York Times has energized the meme with "March of the Conservatives," I'm sure there'll be no holding them, for nothing excites this lot more than acknowledgement by the allegedly-hated MSM.

Of course, some of the quoted operatives are not content to make penguins into monogamy role-models (with the eventual result, one imagines, that mothers will start pushing their strollers over 70 miles of ice and snow to the Walmart), but must press on till the clowns of the Arctic come out Christian:
Ben Hunt, a minister at the 153 House Churches Network, has coordinated trips to the local theater to see the film.

"Some of the circumstances they experienced seemed to parallel those of Christians," he said of the penguins. "The penguin is falling behind, is like some Christians falling behind. The path changes every year, yet they find their way, is like the Holy Spirit."
Someone buy that man a copy of The Gospel According to Peanuts*.

Michael Medved picks up the flag:
"This is the first movie [Christians] have enjoyed since 'The Passion of the Christ.' This is 'The 'Passion of the Penguins.'"
Somewhere an enterprising B-movie producer is trying to convince a young filmmaker that, if he will just allow the ending of his crazed-stalker film to be changed so that the stalker is revealed to be a Christ-figure coming to bear a half-dressed starlet up and out of her life of sin, this baby could be huge

(* or The Gospel According to Popeye. This comes from a Jesus site, by the way, but a very [intentionally] amusing one. And there's my Come On People Now Smile On Your Brother moment for the month, and probably the year.)

Monday, September 12, 2005

VALUE ADD. If you are tempted to read Jane Galt's multi-part contemplation of the problems of poor people, leave me cut you to the chase:
I also don't agree with liberals that money is the answer. Money buys material goods, which are not really the biggest problem that most poor people in America have.
Aren't you glad I pointed this out? You might have wasted whole minutes listening to her on-the-other-handing (poor people gots bad behaviors, but so did I in high school!), and by the time you reached the part where she says poor people aren't poor because they're poor, your eyes might have been too glazed to pick it up.

The fact that I do not demand payment for this service (or put up a "If you like the site help me keep on blogging!" begging bowl, which I guess is the Objectivist approach), shows that I am mired in a poverty mentality and will never amount to anything.

UPDATE. PZ Myers plays Bert Brecht to my John Gay.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

GREETINGS FROM OUR NATION'S CAPITAL. Just a short note from a hotel computer to apologize for my AWOL status. My testing has been rigorous this time out, and I am short of free time as well as funds, so I spend my downtime drinking cheap grocery beer, obsessively flipping through the free cable*, and reading the local papers. The WashTimes is still a Republican president's best friend, and has picked up its blogbrethren's trick of defending Bush by finding a wacko webpost from the Left and waving it like Exhibit A. My few cursory scans of the newish DC Examiner have been inconclusive; other people have had trouble with them, and I was kind of puzzled by this softball article on Scientology in the Faith section of today's paper (do they maintain this same politely-nodding tone when they describe voodoo rituals and Black Masses?), but the makeup's good and it's free, so what the hell.

I'm staying in Georgetown, which is getting on my nerves more than usual. Maybe the more gentrified my own hometown gets, the greater is my tendency to look at überYups like the G-town crew as the responsible plague carriers. Or maybe I'm just sick of pastels. The last time I saw this much pink, violet, and pearls was at a Douglas Sirk film festival. Of course, I'm walking around this Arcadia in a filthy t-shirt and jeans with visible needle marks on my arms, and that tends to raise my alienation levels somewhat.

* I finally saw an episode of Rome. Are the main characters always this unpleasant? Were I blessed with cable at home, I don't know how often I would be compelled to return to watch scumbags duke it out for the title of chief scumbag. Maybe it'll wind up as a saga, and we can watch Christianity fatally weaken the empire. Of course, if I wanted to see that, I could just watch the news.

OH YEAH: I finally got a good review. I knew they'd come around if I just sulked long enough. That's how Monty Clift did it.

DOUBLE OH YEAH: Do you think Volokh or somebody bet him that he couldn't work "poor people are fat" into a Katrina post?

AND ANOTHER THING: I did get to a few museums -- the ones that are free, anyway. Where has William Beckman's Diana IV been all my life? (At the Hirschorn, it seems.) It's one of the best nudes I've ever seen, as strong and supple as a tree. The Hirschorn also has some DeKooning women, and I was surprised to notice that the more I see of these, the more I like them. The little gates of teeth he throws in used to creep me out, but now I think of them as a recurring joke: here, I'll get you started -- this is where the mouth is; now put whatever other distinguishing characteristics you like on this great splash of pink. And that'll be your "woman." Also: first time at the Renwick -- very lovely, but if that's really how they used to hang salon shows, no wonder painters drank.

Monday, September 05, 2005

SWAMP FEVER. New Orleans means this to a guy calling himself Proteus: he and his buddies are great – though he says he’s embarrassed to admit it (at nearly 7,000 words’ length) -- and people he doesn’t like are pink. Like bunnies. Or sheep. It’s a little confusing. He also talks about shooting people and kicking ass.

After we drain New Orleans, can we please drain the blogosphere?
SERVICE ADVISORY. Posting will be infrequent (yes, again) while I take my yearly "medical vacation" at the National Institutes of Health. In between CAT scans and MRIs I will wander the streets in a daze. Anyone who knows DC bars where a tab is allowed should leave a note in comments.
I’M RELEASING YOU ALL TO A GARBAGE BARGE WHERE YOU WILL BARE-KNUCKLE-BOX TILL ONE OF YOU EMERGES AS KING OF YOUR FLOATING HELL. I have spent hours reading about the Gulf disaster online. I am applying to FEMA for compensation. It was a waste of time.

Some sites have been great about pointing readers to informed sources. And many of the informed sources are actually informative.

But in general the weblog coverage of the Gulf disaster has been a festival of imbecilism unchained -- as if a levee broke in the id of every idiot with access to an internet connection. I have seen the flood's horrific aftermath blamed on unwed mothers, a scarcity of guns in New Orleans (great, then we could have had Thunderdome even without the hurricane!), and, of course, on New Orleans itself, and black people in general.

I have seen the blogbrethren exploit the event as yet another Advantage: Blogosphere! moment. So what did I get from this blogosphere that I couldn't have gotten from newspapers and television? A bunch of extra horror stories (including bogus reports of cannibalism), and more names of people to blame, most of them pulled, it would appear, from the tipsheets of political operatives.

I have my own ideas about who to blame – mainly, myself and all my fellow citizens for going along, passively or actively, with the cruel gag that the government that governs best governs least for the past 20-odd years – but for now I can’t stand to be part of the noise. Instead I direct you to this miserable defense of bullshit libertarianism against its obvious consequences. If that doesn’t make you sick without my enlightened commentary, I can’t guess what would.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

WHEN THE LEVEE BREAKS. There's a good reason I haven't written about the floods: I have nothing meaningful to say about them. Neither does just about anyone else who is not on the scene -- and neither do even many who are.

Maudlin crap has been the order of the day. Even Peggy Noonan disappoints. You'd think Full-Blown Lunatic + Apocalyptic Event would = Stem-Winding Strangeness. But her flood column sounds like a condolence memo from a public relations executive.

I only recently visited New Orleans, fell hard for it, know people from there, feel sick at the loss. But with such grief now available by the truckload, I expect breastbeating and pontification means a lot less than, say, a donation to the Red Cross.

It all reminds me of a story Bennett Cerf used to tell of a cub reporter who happened to be in Johnstown, PA in 1889 for some minor assignment when the celebrated flood hit. His editor breathlessly waited for this young tyro -- his only reporter in the city! -- to file his first wire copy. The kid began, "God looks down upon a desolate Johnstown tonight..." The editor immediately wired back, "Forget flood. Interview God. Rush photos."

Things are horrible enough. Bad writing just makes it worse.

UPDATE. On the other hand, some observations are worth noting.