Tuesday, November 08, 2005

SURCEASE. I'm sick of current events -- war, Congressional hearings, riots, elections, and now this. Maybe MLB needs a dress code!

If you feel the same way (about current events, not the dress code), I recommend to you the works of Ivor Cutler, which for whole minutes at a time can make reality seem quite irrelevant.

If you just can't help yourself, you might explain to me what's going on in France. God knows there's plenty of Clash of Civilizations spin; maybe I haven't watched enough of the Lord of the Rings movies, but this sounds more likely to me. (Ralph "Blood & Guts" Peters' reaction is, as one might expect, so deranged not even John Derbyshire can endorse it.)

Monday, November 07, 2005

SERENDIPITY -- sometimes you hit a nice patch of it. I was surfing the barrel of crackpot sites and came across this post about Christian fantasy movies, and it gave me two hits of bliss: first, a press release revealing that "Hyde Park Entertainment and Vincent Newman Entertainment are producing a [film] version of 'Paradise Lost,' the epic poem about Lucifer's fall composed by John Milton" (let Malkovitch and Willem Dafoe duke it out for the lead, I say); and this from the comments:
I am inspired to write a screenplay based on the life and times of Rescue Rick the Grass Cut Man. It is based on a real-life story, including faith-based experiences. I am not sure how the movie will end at this point.

Rescue Rick the Grass Cut Man
The world is so full of a number of things, I'm sure we should all be as happy as kings.
As I listen to the attacks on Judge Alito, I hear, relentlessly expressed, the idea that law is political and judges are all ideologues who, given power, will work their will on us. Where are the passionate, Brennanesque liberals of yore, who really believed we have rights? Is that belief becoming solely a conservative notion?
Look, I sent out change of address forms, so when a massive change like liberals not believing "we have rights" goes through, I should be getting notices.

UPDATE. She teaches law? Jesus fucking Christ. Well, this sort of thing is not unprecendented.

UPDATE II. Professor Althouse says that my "wisecrack" reveals that I "know nothing about Legal Realism, Critical Legal Studies, and ordinary left-wing political talk about law." Once again I commit the error of responding to what the Professor said as opposed to what she meant.

Even if we concede that some liberals seem to agitate for results-based judicial appointments, it does not follow that liberals cease to believe in rights, and that rights have become the exclusive concern of conservatives.

Law's her thing, language mine. Both, I understand, are exacting disciplines. But if you don't get a handle on the latter you can't always expect others to understand you, however highly you regard your own expertise.
KULTURE KORPS KOMEDY FUNTIME! Tbogg notices that the Kultur Kops of Libertas are reviewing films they haven't seen. Hey, I've been all over Libertas like a dog on vomit -- or a pre-teen on edible body frosting -- for months!

I notice that the Libertasians still review movies by their trailers, too ("We spend a lot of time in the trailer with Erica Bana looking soulfully off-camera, wondering whether he’s losing his humanity -- and where are the terrorists in all this?"). Somebody tell them that, when Craig Kilborn used to review movie posters, that was supposed to be funny.

Not being in the business of reviewing films I haven't seen, I will trust the authority of OpinionJournal's Daniel Henninger, who actually took in Capote (what a shock -- I thought those OpinionJournal guys spent every weekend at hoedowns and hayrides with the Real People) and tells us this:
Up to this point, Truman Capote has been the perfect emissary from the land of the blue--a person who all at the same time can be ironic, morally fine-tuned, witty, empathetic, detached, and the brightest person in Holcomb wearing a scarf "from Bergdorf's." But inside Perry Smith's cell, Truman Capote suddenly passes to another place. He is staring into the face of evil, and after all these years, after all the articulate empathy, he knows it. Call it a Red state moment.
I always thought the states that went for Bush were defined by their psychopathic killers, and now a prominent conservative has confirmed it.

Bonus comedy: "Again, against the grain of current Hollywood practice, this movie takes no sides and, even more admirably, condescends to no one in Kansas." I can see the studio execs now, lounging in their hot tubs of fetal cord blood, watching the Capote rushes and yelling, "Wait a minute -- where are the Kansas jokes? Where's the rube from Topeka asking the urban-ethnic hero to help him get his thumb out of his own ass? That's what pushed My Best Friend's Wedding over the top!"

(PS to Henninger: Capote spent the highly formative first 10 years of his life in the deep South, and he retained some of that Southern flavor in both his speech and in his writing ever after. This actually makes him a very good exemplar of "the land of the blue," but probably not in the way that you think.)

EVEN MORE FUN in Henninger's comments section. Consensus: where we traitors see "diversity," patriots see "evil." And "New Jersey standards," by which I believe the fellow means something like this.
SHORTER STANLEY KURTZ: Good news, fellas -- I found another guy who uses big words and hates fags!

Friday, November 04, 2005

GOLDBERG'S GALILEO. Weary of mau-mauing the flak catchers*, I went to the Corner to watch Jonah Goldberg put Oreos to their right use -- that is, stuffing as many as he can into his mouth -- but, to my chagrin, he was writing:
Derb - Must we revisit Galileo again? It was the scientists as much as anyone who really screwed him. I'm not saying the Church was blameless, but Galileo's scientific colleagues were back-stabbers while the Church bent over backwards to cut the guy some slack.
Having run out of current events to misrepresent, Goldberg reaches into the mists of time! Actually he's done this routine before, in a 1999 article obviously influenced by, if not cribbed from, the Catholic Encyclopedia Galileo entry. In the earlier article, Goldberg throws in a bunch of crypto-jokes ("the Church didn’t stop the publication or the debate, let alone sew a starving squirrel to Galileo’s pancreas") to distract from the essential idiocy of the premise; the non-cryptohumorous parts actually underline the essential idiocy of the premise ("The trial is very complicated but the result was that Galileo got house arrest, which is where he did all of his research anyway").

Nowadays, of course, Goldberg, seasoned by years of bloggery, simply emits such absurdities like wet farts and runs out the door. But the idea that the all-powerful institution that threatened and indefinitely detained Galileo, and forced him to publicly deny physical fact, is less culpable than a couple of jealous scientists is an intriguing one for an alleged conservative. Let us imagine Goldberg's Life of Galileo:
(POPE URBAN and GALILEO sit with their arms around each other, the theme from The Godfather playing in the background)

POPE URBAN: Look, Gally, ya gotta understand -- I don't wanna do this thing, but if ya keep tellin' people the earth revolves aroun' da sun, I'm gonna hafta wack ya -- the slow way. (Makes a wringing gesture.) Get me?

GALILEO: I understand, Don Urbano. Ya gotta do what ya gotta do. It's those bastards who ratted me out I can't forgive!

POPE URBAN: Okay, just sign the papers, then come over my house. My wife's making braciole.

GALILEO: I can't come over your house, ya mook! I'm under house arrest!

(Much laughter, curtain falls.)

If nothing else, taking blame off the Church seems like moral relativism, and that's still a bad thing with these guys, right?

*... but not too weary to point out this choice bit from the denunciation of me at Protein Wisdom:
Why is acceptable (or at least not racist) for a black man to call a white redneck, or cracker, or honkey, but it’s not acceptable for a white man to use nigger or other racial insults towards blacks?
If nothing else, I've raised their level of debate!
TREADWELL, THE WRATH OF GOD. Finally got to see Grizzly Man. I used to be a big Herzogkopf, but I hadn't seen a Herzog movie since My Best Fiend (and before that, God's Angry Man). Now I want to go back and make up for lost time. Does Netflix stock his stuff?

Grizzly Man is awfully funny in the classic Herzog manner -- that is, it's often hard to tell whether he means the scenes to be funny or not, but they work whether you laugh or not. What's funny about Treadwell, the doomed ursophile, as he gibbers among his beloved killer beasts, is also what's terrible about him -- and Herzog is very clever about stringing out the details of Treadwell's inner life so that we perceive him as a clown reacting blissfully to nature long before we are encouraged to see him as a pathological case playing a mad game with death.

Other Herzog films kept coming to me as I watched. Treadwell might have been an amusing vignette in Fata Morgana; maybe some of the folks in Fata Morgana might have been Treadwells. The odd locals reminded me of the Americans in Stroszek, reacting uncomprehendingly to another incarnation of Bruno S. And Herzog goes out of his way to remind us of Klaus Kinski, and the agonized heroes Kinski played for him, when Treadwell curses out the Park Police and just about everyone else.

It's more me than the film, perhaps, but I thought that Grizzly Man was in part about loneliness. Treadwell's girlfriend manned the camera for him, but in the film at least that's all she is: a camera. When Herzog brings up the fictitiousness of Treadwell's solitude in the wilderness, he shows Treadwell insisting on it -- "Here I am, all alone" -- and he is still very convincing. His monologues have a Robinson Crusoe (via Buñuel) quality of desperate self-justification. Treadwell's history reveals many people who loved him, and suggests his inability to really love them back. (His friend's laconic reaction to the deceptions Treadwell practiced on him are in a way more chilling than the rage or hurt one might expect.) His professions of love to the beasts reminded me of Crusoe's greeting to the ants in the Buñuel version.

Various people in the film refer to Treadwell's death as a "tragedy"; others say he had it coming. Both may be right. We tend to talk about every untoward death as a tragedy, but this one, taken as an artistic construct, has the elements of tragedy -- hubris, hamartia, all that. I thought of Yeats' Cuchulain: the waves have mastered him.

(fixed reference to Arizona in Stroszek -- I was obviously thinking of those wistful shots of Bruno with "By The Time I Get to Phoenix" playing in the background)

Thursday, November 03, 2005

BREAK TIME. I'm tired of harshing on fools, let me share this epiphanette: I was thinking of The Cask of Amontillado, and on a whim tried the URL "montressor.com." I got this. I'm sure Ms. Montressor is a wonderful tour director, but I wonder if she does wineries.

UPDATE. Not that's there's really a theme, but let's call this a belated Halloween post and include this terrific story about Bela Lugosi.
SNAPPY ANSWERS TO STUPID QUESTIONS. Jesus fuck. Rosa Parks' mourners talk about civil rights at her funeral, and the National Review folks try to revive the Wellstone Maneuver.
And why does the Left get to claim Rosa Parks? Brave American. Inspiring American. Does she need to become a liberal icon? Condi Rice is the walking legacy of Rosa Parks blah blah blah... -- K. J. Lopez.
Maybe, "K-Lo," it's because back when Rosa Parks and her colleagues were getting arrested, attacked by police dogs, murdered, etc., the magazine for whom you work took this position on their struggle:
The central question that emerges... is whether the White community in the South is entitled to take such measures as are necessary to prevail, politically and culturally, in areas in which it does not prevail numerically? The sobering answer is Yes – the White community is so entitled because, for the time being, it is the advanced race. It is not easy, and it is unpleasant, to adduce statistics evidencing the cultural superiority of White over Negro: but it is a fact that obtrudes, one that cannot be hidden by ever-so-busy egalitarians and anthropologists.

National Review believes that the South's premises are correct... It is more important for the community, anywhere in the world, to affirm and live by civilized standards, than to bow to the demands of the numerical majority.
Written in 1957, BTW, so the NatRev guys weren't talking about rap music -- yet.

(Boy, how about that Walter Duranty, huh?)

UPDATE. A very interesting article about overt racists in "mainstream" conservative media here.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

HOW COME THEY CAN CALL EACH OTHER 'NIGGER' AND WE CAN'T? A bunch of wingers are mad because some black people made fun of some black people. Why, one black person even portrayed another black person as Sambo! This indignity causes the wingers to say stuff like this:
Therefore, it follows that a move away from the Democratic party is tantamount to a move away from black authenticity, a willful act that opens to attack those “race traitors” who have surrendered the protections that proceed from adherence to the dictates of the group’s identity. Which is to say, racial jabs are okay when they are aimed at those who’ve surrendered the protections offered by the group, because those who’ve left the group no longer meet the requirements for protected blackness.
This same guy likes to complain about "a culture of political correctness constantly on guard against giving offense," but when black people throw Oreos, it's time to regulate!

And... oh, I give up. This is like trying to develop an argument against people who think peppermints are made out of peppers and mints. If you don't see the difference between Caucasians doing these things to African-Americans, and AfAms doing them to other AfAms, then I can only suggest a remedial class in Life Itself.

UPDATE: Jeff Goldstein responds, says it's time to add me a list of people (out of a quote from Salman Rushdie) who believe "that everything is relative and therefore these people should be allowed to kill because it’s their culture to kill." And check out who I'm aiding and abetting (or maybe we're peers -- it's hard to tell): "Robert Mugabe, the leaders of China, the leaders of Singapore, the Taliban, Ayatollah Khomeini." Seems like a stretch to me, but what do I know, I'm depraved. (Fixed for clarity.)
COMRADES! IS MAKING (AND TAKING) DOUBLE-PLUS-GOODFILMS FOR GLORIOUS REVOLUTION! Tbogg points out the latest "I claim this cool thing for conservatism" article, this one by Brian C. Anderson, who predicts a right-wing takeover in Hollywood because all his favorite movies promote the Republican agenda. Like Cast Away.

You didn't know Cast Away was right-wing? Anderson explains:
The movie makes us keenly aware of the benefits -- the immense human achievement -- of an advanced capitalist society. (Untypical for Hollywood, Cast Away depicts a big corporation as a caring and effective organization: when Noland returns after his rescue, FedEx takes him in like a long-lost family member.)
Whereas goddamned liberals want us to rot on desert islands.

There's plenty such nuttiness to enjoy there, but may I play killjoy a moment and point out what's really wrong with stuff like this?

It's the presumption that there is no such thing as art -- merely better or worse propaganda. Anderson closes:
If [conservatives] can create a popular cinema that artistically reflects a right-of-center worldview -- rather than crudely imposes it -- it would be a huge advance for the Right in America’s ongoing cultural struggles. After all, it’s not just reason and analysis that will decide the outcome of those struggles. The imagination and the heart -- the Dream Factory’s stock-in-trade -- will play at least as large a part.
That bit about "ongoing cultural struggles" in which the imagination and the heart "play a part" sounds like Stalin running a filmmakers' boot-camp.

Anderson's fellow numbskull Michael Medved asserts that artists make "dark, hard-hitting, critically acclaimed material" in order to get laid. He is of course half right. But he's half-wrong, too, and that's the important part. There are easier ways to get laid than making art. There are easier ways of getting anything than making art. Yet some people continue to do it.

Doesn't it seem as if Anderson could never even imagine a person making a work of art out of pure love of craft? When he looks at paintings, movies, novels, etc., a little meter in his head calibrates each cultural artifact's relative usefulness in the Struggle.

Culture War, these days, apparently means war on culture.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

BUT ARE WE JUST THE GUYS TO DO IT? Just saw the second and final debate between Bloomberg and Ferrer. Neither combatant was very good, which of course hurts Ferrer more. The challenger contented himself with jabbing at Bloomberg -- a typical loser's gambit -- for specific shortcomings without pulling them together into a case. After hearing the Mayor continually offload onto the Governor and State Legislature all blame for the lack of action at Ground Zero, the crappy state of the subways, and the inability to get commuters and wealthy citizens to pay a fairer share of taxes, a more enterprising opponent might have more strongly suggested it were curious that the great deal-maker Bloomberg had been so bad at making deals to the City's benefit.

A good answer to that might be that, if Bloomberg couldn't swing these things, why would Ferrer? I have to admit I don't see Mayor Ferrer striking terror in the heart of the entrenched interests. The only difference I would expect is that he would actually try. As the boys in Animal House knew, there does come a time when the situation absolutely requires a really futile and stupid gesture be done on somebody's part.

For years the City has been giving away leases and contracts to powerful interests in hopes of generating enough jobs to keep things peaceable. Donald Trump pays less rent on the Grand Hyatt than I do on my railroad flat in Greenpoint. This creates some jobs, but also increases the distance between those who own the town and those who work in it.

We drones trudge wearily into Manhattan each morning from the far corners of the boroughs, and wearily back again. To get far enough away from us to make their dollars seem worth the effort, the managerial classes are removing farther and farther away: to south Jersey, upstate New York, Pennsylvania. Greater New York is beginning to look like a massive version of Manchester in Friedrich Engels' time, as described by Edmund Wilson: "...its commercial section surrounded by a girdle of working-class sections, and, outside the working-class girdle, the villas and gardens of the owners merging pleasantly with the country around... the owners had arranged it so it was possible for them to travel back and forth between the Exchange and their homes without ever being obliged to take cognizance of the condition of the working-class quarters..."

My equanimous soul is not much bothered that the slum districts of my youth are now shopping bazaars and playgrounds for the moneyed -- I could be bounded in a nutshell and count myself a king of infinite space. But it strikes me that as the poor get pushed further out from the center, we are replacing one sort of tension -- the sometimes dangerous but often fruitful tension that comes when the well-off and the not-so-well-off are cossetted together -- with another.

As the distance in New York between the rich and poor becomes more a physical one, we come to resemble other cities where one can go to do one's work without ever meeting anyone whose experiences are significantly different from one's own. You might scrape a plate, you might have your plate scraped; the world on the other side of the plate remains a mystery to you.

You could go from your college to your penthouse without any awareness of the teeming world without which your life would be impossible.

Have you ever wondered how New Yorkers got so damned liberal? It's not because we all read Marx -- many of us don't read at all. It's because for years the rich and the poor lived all bunched up together here. There was no escaping the awareness of other ways of life, and whatever your station (outside the richest precincts), you probably had a neighbor much worse off that you.

I remember, years ago, eating at the Kiev on Second Avenue with my then-girlfriend. The Kiev then was so cheap that everyone could eat there; a lot of indigents without stoves took small meals there. A little ragged woman sitting next to us had finished her portion of food and, with great trepidation, asked my girlfriend if she could have some of her fries. It obviously took a lot for her to ask. My girlfriend declined; we weren't rolling in dough, either. The woman tapped her fingertips to her own mouth a moment; something was at war inside her. Then, with a little cry, she reached over and grabbed a fistful of fries. A waiter hurriedly escorted her out.

This woman was not a welfare queen.

You don't forget things like that.

From Jacob Riis to Jim Carroll, great souls have thrived on the porous social fabric of New York, and it has given them heart and substance to in turn give to the rest of the world. When you think of New York's glories, the things that made it great rather than merely colossal, what do you think of? Do you think of James Baldwin, Jane Jacobs, Bernard Malamud, Leonard Bernstein, Jackie Robinson, Allen Ginsburg, Lou Reed, Grandmaster Flash? Or do you think of Trump Tower?

At the close of the debate, Ferrer referred to the bridge he had figuratively crossed to get from Fox Street in the South Bronx to the Democratic Mayoral nomination, and said he hoped he could help others to cross it. It was campaign boilerplate, but it gave me nonetheless a little pang. The whole idea of figurative bridges is very old-fashioned and perhaps silly, but for a moment, a shoddily poetic, ward-heeling New York political moment, I was moved. Because that bridge is real, and the chasm it spans is real, and for many years our City has been about leading people to the other side.

Bloomberg radiated contempt for Ferrer and the whole idea that he should be made to justify his ways in a TV studio not his own.

God, I hate that fucking pasty-faced rich prick.

The situation in the short and perhaps medium term is hopeless. Neither Ferrer's nor Bloomberg's "affordable housing" schemes are going to make a serious dent in things. The blackjack table at which Bloomberg folded his hand on the West Side Stadium deal, and keeps gamely tossing chips for the Ratner Atlantic Yards project, will remain where the action is, has a limited number of seats, and has not appreciably changed its tipping policy in quite some time.

Hapless as he is, I owe Ferrer a vote because he stood up to Giuliani when that creep wanted to postpone the 2001 election, a bit of useless Caesarism that he otherwise would have pulled off. Other than that, mine's a no vote -- no to City governance as corporate governance, and to the idea that we are merely employees in a giant conglomerate with a shitty benefits package and a glossy annual report.

I know not what course others may take -- well, I do know. It doesn't matter. It may be that in 2009 I'll be sitting in Far Rockaway, trying to finish my election essay in time to get a few hours sleep so I can catch a train at dawn. Never mind. I've seen it go from bad to worse, and I'll see this thing through to the end. I'll be here when Bloomberg has fucked off to whatever tropical island he'll reward himself with when this piece of his resume is completed. Perhaps that will be victory enough.
REPUBLICANS WITH WEED. Looks like SCOTUS nominee Alito has the support of everyone who matters: Not only are the fetus fans of the Religious Right suspiciously confident he'll see things their way, but the Judge is getting mad props from the glibertarians. We previously noted the approval of the corporate individualists at the American Enterprise Institute, and at Reason's Hit & Run, Julian Sanchez offers a lengthy defense of Alito, including this lovely passage:
If some employer decides it doesn't want to hire people named Sanchez, I think it ought to be able to legally -- though I'd hope for it to be swiftly punished by public opinion.
In the coming glibertarian paradise, Comrade Sanchez might just get a chance to find out.

What do these guys believe in again?

Monday, October 31, 2005

HAPPY HALLOWEEN. "These pictures are horrifyingly graphic. But I believe we need to see them - and the barbarism they represent -- if we are to maintain our will to fight back and defend our civilization." -- Andrew "The Crypt-Keeper" Sullivan.

Boo! Scary dead girl head. 'Sokay, but no Re-animator.

People keep telling us that, unless we regularly treat ourselves to bodies falling and heads being sawed off, we cannot make reasonable judgments about world events. I'll take my perpetual-outrage medicine in the form of bourbon rather than of snuff-porn, thank you very much!

While I am not a libertarian, even of the bullshit variety, I say let these folks do what they want in the privacy of their own homes. I do see that prolonged exposure to violence has had a negative effect on their minds, but America is all about the right to be wrong, as their columns prove every day.

UPDATE. Oh, wait, I get it now -- libertarianism means maximum individual rights for corporations! Maybe we need a new name for a creed demanding maximum individual rights for everyone... on second thought, why bother?
SHORTER OLE PERFESSER: How can I push Alito without losing my bullshit-libertarian credentials? I know! I'll reposition spousal-notification as a Men's Lib issue! Hehndeed! I'm a fucking asshole.*

(* To be honest, this last bit can't really be extracted from the text. The Perfesser shows no awareness at any time that he is a fucking asshole.)

Sunday, October 30, 2005

THE PEOPLE, YES! Having had some fun with Peggy Noonan's shirt-rending over the intransigence of our elites, I was interested to see the Ole Perfesser's counterlinks under the headline "Cheer Up."

One is from a blogbrother who had addressed a State Legislature*, and thought enough of what he had said to quote his own remarks in defense of a brighter vision of the future. First, he told the legislators, his wife the waitress could probably get them a table at the restaurant at which she worked faster than "professional lobbyists" could. In a similar way, the author had been able to get a local newspaper to post a correction online, "leading thousands of readers — interested readers, connected readers — to my argument. " And a friend of his had been asked to appear as a conservative commentator on TV, even though he was not a "bow-tied professor." (Note it well, ides-markers: Republicans in Chinos!)

Perhaps sensing that these portents by themselves would not convince, the author told the legislators about Dan Rather and the forensic typesetters whose skills were unleashed by the power of the blogosphere. He did not compare them to the taxi-drivers of the Marne, but the point was clear enough: just as his wife can get you into her restaurant, so humble blog-writers would simply seize the power currently held, however tenuously, by "the conceit-full Baby Boomer elites" who "have managed to secure the 'grim comfort' that 'I got mine.'"

Summarizing his own argument, the author says that
...blogs are proving that, if the functional elites are too resigned to that trouble to lead our society through it, the underclasses now have the technology — and the faculty — to pick up the slack. Maybe the sky is falling only to reveal the truer sky beyond, and in its light, we will be better able to respond to the troubles with which life — and history — accosts us all equally.
Daniel Shays couldn't have said it better. It is cheering to know that some people still think that, once their guys get the power, we can say goodbye to the elites, replaced by the protelarian masses as represented by Powerline and Ann Althouse.

As another of the Perfesser's referents puts it,
The people who will determine the future are hard at work in the real world. Some of them may be classified as belonging to some sort of "elite;" but most of them do not. They work in business and in the public sector. They are educators, doctors, sales people, farmers, clergy, and, yes, even some journalists and politicians. They are scientists and engineers.
Considering that our current elites were all created in laboratories, we may be assured that our new power-brokers will retain to an unparalleled degree a sensitivity to the needs of their law-professin', land-tillin' constituents back home.

The sentiment is near-universal, I guess. The people we elected, or whose jobs are maintained by our subscriptions, are heroes when we agree with them and turncoats when we do not.

What adds gall to these new iterations is that they are made by conservatives at a time when conservatives are in charge to a nearly unprecedented degree. The President and the Congressional majorities have impeccably conservative credentials. Business is untrammelled by the high tax rates and onerous regulations that existed when conservative power was not so great. And the profit motive, the central principle of conservative thought, is everywhere celebrated. No one believes in the redistribution of wealth except to his own pockets.

It should be paradise for these people, but it is not. So when a prominent conservative like Noonan falters, those whose faith is unshaken direct her attention to such positive harbingers as they possess. Blogs are a good one: they're everywhere, they make the news sometimes, and most importantly, they're on the internet, which is a potent and universal symbol of the magic of technology. Tech stocks may have lost their luster, but blogs, relieved of the need to generate income to prove their worth, still gleam.

And, being technological, blogs affirm our faith in other technology-based panacea: along with the Third Millenium and The End of History, some of the latter correspondent's commenters point to the Singularity, "Biotech/genomic supra-evolution," and "Off-Earth 'space culture'" -- blueprints and gizmos that will so alter our reality that all the bright hopes and dreams that have lately thudded to earth will be borne aloft, believable once again.

I don't know how these cheering messages will affect Noonan, but they gave me a laugh, albeit a grim one.

*CORRECTION. The first author, Justin Katz, spoke at a seminar attached to the National Conference of State Legislatures, not a State Legislature. Gotme!

Saturday, October 29, 2005

A DAY IN THE LIFE OF A FERRER SUPPORTER. I had the TV on and the folks at WABC’s Eyewitness News were reporting on the New York Mayoral campaign, devoting to it their customary four minutes.

Bloomberg was shown in in Williamsburg, speaking at, the commentator informed me, a "youth center," which contained an indeterminate number of people not in their first youth who sat quietly in folding chairs. The Mayor stood at a podium festooned with his campaign placard, telling these people in his office-meeting voice that his Administration had cut welfare by ten points.

Next Fernando Ferrer, Bloomberg’s opponent, was shown in Sunset Park with the Governor of Puerto Rico. The commentator told us he was by this method "trying" to shore up the Latino vote. Then they showed a couple of Spanish-surnamed citizens who said they had not decided to vote for Ferrer.

Somebody dressed like a Billionaire for Bush was shown brandishing fake dollars bearing Bloomberg’s image. This was a "comical" effort by the Ferrer administration, the commentator told us, to call attention to the millions Bloomberg had devoted to the campaign. A clip was shown of Ferrer speaking to the point, which was followed by a clip Bloomberg back at the podium, smilingly responding that he just wanted to "leave the world a better place for my two daughters." The relevance of the heiresses’ fates to that of the City at large was not addressed.

The New York Times and, so far as I can tell, all local papers except possibly the Revolutionary Worker have endorsed the current Mayor. One would imagine that, if liberal media bias were what its claimants insist, the media elite of New York City would be biasing like mad for Ferrer, a Democrat, a liberal, a member of an ethnic minority, and an endorsee of Al Sharpton. One might expect to see Bloomberg’s eyes photoshopped unflatteringly at least. Failing that, I would expect someone from the media elite to convince Ferrer to get contact lenses and start dressing and speaking like Che Guevara, surrounded by mobs imported from the boroughs, roaring lustily for La Huelga y El Alcalde Ferrer, all photographed and edited for maximum propaganda effect by members of the powerful television craft unions, and reported stirringly by our subversive press.

That Bloomberg is so far up in the polls -- a fact so widely broadcast they know about it in North Dakota -- should have nothing to do with this. The Iraq war and President Bush were both very popular once upon a time, yet our elites were able to so discourage citizens with negative stories that both the war and the President now poll very badly. Given their enormous power, I don’t see why the press doesn’t just will Ferrer into office with lies and fancy camera tricks.

It’s getting so you can’t believe in anything anymore.

Friday, October 28, 2005

HOMAGE TO P. LATTRAUX! I'm a little sluggish this morning, so let's do like showbiz professionals and turn to the sure-fire: Friday Toons at FreeRepublic.

Today's reading of the rightwing id shows signs of malaise -- the Miers episode clearly left a bad taste (in both senses of the term: see the Kristosl Pee-shop file) -- but nothing that can't be dispelled by hate, hate, hate for Hillary! (And, for the nostalgic, John Kerry.)

For close readers, we have a nice lineup of race-related conservatoons that lay out the party line: 1.) Liberals don't respect black people; 2.) Black people (excepting those that look like an ectomorphic Ziggy) don't respect black people; and 3.) the new version of the old slogan is, "Democrats fuck dogs to make hippies."

They're all over the Condi Photoshop incident, but approve this caricature, which makes the Secretary of State look like Alfred E. Neuman after a severe beating.

I'm not sure I get this one -- why is Shelley Long celebrating our 2,000th Iraq casualty? And a comment sent me to the Faithmouse site, where I was confronted with this -- evidently aimed at Garrison Keillor (see "alt" text), but for what? Maybe the artist is mad at Keillor for something he did in a dream...

All and all, pretty tame -- but that's what happens when enterprising citizen journalists discover a hot underground craze: the weekends become bridge-and-tunneltime, and one must drop by on Thursdays for the real thing. Paydirt: This is my favorite cartoonist of 2005 -- he makes Gary Panter look like Piranesi! Not even Google knows him. But I do, and now so do you. Spread the word: in this heavily-armed survivalist camp lives a genius. You read it here first!

Thursday, October 27, 2005

WELCOME TO OUR WORLD, CRAZY JESUS LADY! Peggy Noonan’s Dies Ire offers the expected laughs -- her equivalence of apocalyptic symptoms (“nuts with nukes, epidemics”) with swears on the TV; her suggestion, with “It's beyond, ‘The president is overwhelmed.’ The presidency is overwhelmed,” that if George W. Bush can’t handle the job, by God no one can; and the sort of sound bytes that, were they snipped out of the context of, say, a local cable babbler’s TV show, would be cruelly unfair, but which in Noonan’s case do not distort but rather distill her special, mad Irish poetry (“You say we don't understand Africa? We don't even understand Canada!”).

But there is a sort of poignancy there, too. For the most part I don’t feel sorry for Noonan. She made a pile of money as the Riefenstahl of Reaganism; she continues to rake it in as a propagandist; whatever discomfort her obvious mental infirmities bring her are no recompense in the cosmic scale for the confusion she has sown and the misery it has caused.

Still, the sight of Noonan Lasching herself over the revolt of the elites makes one wonder if perhaps she has glimpsed, among the stuffed goblins marked “liberalism” with which she has been accustomed to populate her dreamscapes, something like an actual demon:
Our elites, our educated and successful professionals, are the ones who are supposed to dig us out and lead us. I refer specifically to the elites of journalism and politics, the elites of the Hill and at Foggy Bottom and the agencies, the elites of our state capitals, the rich and accomplished and successful of Washington, and elsewhere. I have a nagging sense, and think I have accurately observed, that many of these people have made a separate peace. That they're living their lives and taking their pleasures and pursuing their agendas; that they're going forward each day with the knowledge, which they hold more securely and with greater reason than nonelites, that the wheels are off the trolley and the trolley's off the tracks, and with a conviction, a certainty, that there is nothing they can do about it.
There is something in this that suggests a real, if momentary and (for her) unsustainable insight: that the “elites” know the jig is up and don’t give a damn, so long as the gulf between them and us stays wide enough to keep the molten lava off their private beaches and the agonized screams faint enough to be masked by a Sound Machine.

One important thing is missing, though: any sign of awareness that any specific members of these elites brought about this state of affairs, by consciously widening that gap between themselves and ourselves – that anyone had effected a specific and dastardly plan to concentrate the wealth and power of our nation in the hands of the few, with the cover story that thence it would trickle down to the rest of us – and that Peggy Noonan had written their speeches, accepted their honoraria, and to this day speaks of them as if they were our greatest benefactors.

Perhaps, now that she is not attending so many state dinners or answering Presidential calls, she is no longer entirely sure which side of the chasm she occupies.

I don’t believe in Hell, so it may be that the vague fear which currently ruffles her fine hairs is as close to physical justice as the crack-brained hag will ever get. Well, it is not enough, but it’s something.
A SPOT OF BOTHER. Forgive the interruption. Lots of work, the Series, and then comments went down. Your practiced eyes will detect Haloscan. If anyone knows a way to chop 'n' channel their font/appearance, let me know.

You may consider this reintro an open thread (the last refuge of a slacker), with a bias (there's always bias!) toward the Miers withdrawal. My immediate reaction is nugatory-to-negative. Bush will now nominate Darth Vader or Satan or someone like that, and all the horrible people who got bent out of shape that Miers shook Gloria Steinham's hand once will clap like electroshocked seals, Chuck Schumer will go "B-but but but," and the Republicans, delighted to be distracted from their petty squabbles over the people's money, will turn with vigor toward their preferred work of reducing us peasants to a neofeudal state. Cheers!

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

ENEMIES EVERYWHERE! Michelle Malkin complains that the leftist firebrands at USA Today made Condoleeza Rice look scary.

Next week: Highlights for Children attacks President Bush with its thinly-veiled parody, "Goofus and Gallant."

UPDATE. Apparently USA Today has changed the photo -- the result, some of the blogbrethren believe, of Malkin's tireless efforts to prevent newspapers from making Republican officials look bad.

And it's true! My fellow reporters and I have just received these new approved image standards for President Bush:

  • Acceptable skintones: Pantone 7509C, 7507C (7510C may be used when the President is addressing Latino issues).

  • Eyes: May be narrowed, but not squinting. Stunned expression (white-to-pupil ratio > 2:1) forbidden

  • Mouth: no more than three inches open (void in event of assassination or pie-eating contest). Tucked corners strictly off-limits.

  • Weird Marks on Face: Must be airbrushed out, or accompanied by text explaining that he got them doing something butch.

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.