Tuesday, November 22, 2005

"WHAT IS THIS, DISCOVERY?" WELL, IN A WAY, MS. ALTHOUSE. Ann Althouse tells us that rude jokes at Atrios mean that Democrats (not merely Atrios and his commenters, but Democrats) believe "women who don't hew to liberal dogma deserve sexual harassment." She doesn't accept Atrios' claim that the jokesters had their tongues in their cheeks:
Sexist jokes galore, and I ought to just learn to laugh about it. He seems to lack a shred of sensibility about how pathetically retro-male chauvinist that is. I'll say it again: Democrats have a long, long way to go to convince me that they care at all about feminism.
Wait till Althouse sees Blazing Saddles! Then we're in for a long, dotty post about all those racist white Hollywood actors tossing around the word "nigger."

Thankfully for Althouse, there is an alternative to the chauvinist Dems: the Republican Party. We may assume she finds the GOP more in sync with her wymyn-friendly agenda, as she voted for and reliably supports the Bush Administration, and her faith in them is such that, when SCOTUS candidate Alito was revealed to say that "the Constitution does not protect a right to an abortion," Althouse responded positively, saying she was looking forward to the "debate" comparing "the full set of conservative legal positions... with the liberal positions."

One thinks of John Reed walking up the steps of the Imperial Palace in Reds: "Boy, this Kerensky's some socialist!"

To be crystal clear: I can imagine an abortion-neutral and even an anti-abortion feminism, and even grasp the concept that people who joke about being sexist dirtbags may be covering up for actual sexist dirtbaggism.

Pointing out the (theoretical) hypocrisy of others, however, is not proof of one's own intellectual consistency. Althouse claims her feminist mantle by proclamation. That's her right, of course. I could call myself a monarchist, or a member of the Greenback Party -- it's a free country. And I guess I could insist, as Althouse does, when people point out that my postings in no way support such a self-interpretation, that it would take hours for me go dig up proof to the contrary, which it is not worth my while to do.

And it isn't, unless you wish to make an argument capable of being taken seriously by serious people. But if identity politics is your thing -- as increasingly seems to be the vogue on the right -- then why bother?

UPDATE. Echidne of the Snakes called this bullshit earlier and better.

UPDATE II. Topic engenders predictable willful misapprehension. CV's commenter is a peach, too: "The Left swallows everything up into its government-control agenda. They use workers, Negroes, women, homosexuala, Jews to promote socialism and Communism -- and then discard them when they have outlived their usefulness to the collective." What, we're already done with the Negroes? I needed them for my production of The Green Pastures!

Monday, November 21, 2005

BLUE MONDAY BARF BAG: A CLEVERLY-NAMED MISCELLANY. Someday I'll graduate from this blog bush league and become a real live pundit. Then I can talk about TV celebrities whom I think have gone too far:
...I found Penn Jillette's "This I Believe Essay" on NPR this morning to be particularly grating and representative of a strand of atheistic libertarianism I loathe...
First off, you've seen Jonah Goldberg, right? Try to imagine him saying the word "loathe." Goldberg's a full tank shy of the George Sanders hauteur necessary to pull off a word like that. In fact I don't even think he pulls off "atheistic libertarianism." It's like Cousin It reciting the Gettysburg Address.

The object of Goldberg's loathing is Jillette's ode to atheism. Jillette finds the idea of God ridiculous; Goldberg finds this "a form of bullying" of the sort that the large and powerful atheists' lobby is always pulling on the small, underprivileged Judeo-Christian caucus. Then Goldberg drags in the theological support of... Greg Easterbrook! Finally a colleague of Goldberg finds a way of saying he's a hypocrite and an ass without getting fired -- smart fellow -- and Goldberg says, you don't understand, it was Jillette's tone of voice. "Perhaps you should listen to the tone of Jillette's comments," he dudgeons, "as it's difficult for the printed word to capture the full extent of his smirking condescension." Yes, folks, Jonah "Cheese Eating Surrender Monkey" Goldberg accuses someone else of smirking condescension! Then he deep-throats a pound cake. Well, no, I mean I don't know but I believe and who are you to judge me, heathen?

But as I was saying: when I go big-time, I'll be able to impose my bullshit paradigms on children's entertainment:
J.K. Rowling's bleak vision of government

Well, I...
No. I can't submit you good people to a lengthy blockquote from this thing -- you have lives, families. Here, though, is a perfectly illustrative short section: "I recall a variety of businesses that come off rather well in Rowling's books, including the Weasley twins' burgeoning joke business..." The author also addresses countervailing POVs on the specific, hidden political orientation of a fucking kids' book. It's so Dungeonanddragony you could puke. In the great Scrabble match that is glibertarian blogging, those Jane Galt boys get the Triple Nerd Score.

But lo, in bitching out these bitches I have become the very thing I despise! So let me add to this post some political roughage -- and the trade doesn't get much rougher than General Ralph "Blood 'n' Guts" Peters. If there's one thing he hates worse then Frenchies (against whom he even sides with Muslim rioters -- or, as he usually calls them, "Allah's butchers"), it's the Demmy-crats. Some flecks of his latest spittle:
Forget about our dead soldiers, whose sacrifice is nothing but a political club for Democrats to wave in front of the media. After all, one way to create the kind of disaffection in the ranks that the Dems' leaders yearn to see is to tell our troops on the battlefield that they're risking their lives for nothing, we're throwing the game...
The General argues that the Democrats' antiwar shtick is nothing but treasonous vote-grubbing ("As long as the upcoming elections show Democratic gains, let the terrorist threat explode"). Were we dealing with a sane man, we might ask whether these "Democratic gains" are not signs that the average American voter is also turning treasonous, and if so, how many men the General will need to effect the obviously necessary military coup d'etat.

Oh, finally: Kurt Vonnegut wrote Slaughterhouse-Five, Cat's Cradle, Mother Night, Welcome to the Monkey House, and many other deathless books; James Lileks collects matchbooks and Glenn Reynolds just sucks.

Friday, November 18, 2005

CALL ME SCHOOL BULLY, CLOTH-EARS! So James Piereson is saying how the money we contribute to our alma maters is all going to buy Ward Churchill a new pair of America-stomping boots, and then his assertions get still bolder:
...this explosion of money has been accompanied by a steady erosion in the quality of education, especially in the humanities. Many research organizations, including the Intercollegiate Studies Institute and the National Association of Scholars, have documented the elimination of the traditional core curriculum at most of our leading universities.
No supporting figures or studies are cited -- alas! I was really looking forward to reading proof-points like "today only 35% of Harvard graduates can find a decent job" and "90% of Classicists identify Homer as the husband of Marge Simpson." In fact I would have appreciated any sort evidence at all.

Since the only authority Piereson gives for his charges are the names of the organizations that back him up, I checked them out instead.

Media Transparency quotes the President of the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, T. Kenneth Cribb, who says ISI's mission is "to establish a contemporary presence for conservatism on campus, and contest the Left on its own turf. We plan to do this by greatly expanding the ISI field effort, its network of campus-based programming." What sort of programming? Well, ISI publishes Rick Santorum's books, such as It Takes a Family; perhaps, comes the academic revolution, Senator Man-on-Dog can teach zoology.

Further glimpses of ISI's reading list are on view in its donors reports: can you guess what texts are found in "ISI’s Law Enforcement Library," which is "distributed to student groups, as well as criminal justice departments, to facilitate an understanding of, and thoughtful discussion about, the many challenges facing law enforcement officers today"? No, not Clockers, you anti-Western-Civilizationist! "The Library includes volumes such as: A Student’s Guide to the Study of Law by Gerard Bradley, The Roots of American Order by Russell Kirk, and Are Cops Racist? by Heather MacDonald." Because if Manhattan Institute stalwarts like MacDonald aren't around to tell the kids at John Jay that cops aren't racist, the core cirriculum is dead.

Well, at least ISI's getting them to read -- a positive thing, as its VP of "Institutional Advancement" Jeff Cain tells us, "as [unnamed] study after [unnamed] study shows, the kids entering college today no longer read books." (Maybe it's time I got my doctorate! If I can do it without reading books, how hard can it be?) The ISI seems to be nerd-bait, using lofty notions of the academic calling to lure underserved prodigies unto the right-wing think-tank track. Well, as the pterodactyl/phonograph-slave said on The Flintstones, it's a living.

The National Association of Scholars, again per Media Transparency:
First gained notoriety in 1990 at the University of Texas, as Austin, where NAS faculty succeeded in blocking the inclusion in an English course of civil rights readings that had been proposed in response to increasing racial and sexual harassment on campus. During the controversy, the faculty group also encouraged a right-wing student group to lead an ultimately successful campaign to defund the unversity's Chicano newspaper.
With a record like that, who needs statistics? (Except the money-counting kind: the MAS gets beaucoup bucks from Scaife, Olin, and all the usual suspects.) Well, NAS does have a few numbers, or at least "declining" and "rising" number statements, regarding K-12 education. Their solution: No Child Left Behind! Making them the only "scholars" of any sort I've ever come across that are warm for it. (They also state that "there is no empirical reason to set a cap on [classroom] size." So quitcher bitchin', soccer mom, and help us punch ventilation holes in Johnny's new, SRO Chem lab!)

But, like all their type, NAS defines itself more by what they're against than what they're for. The air of constant edumacational crisis, requiring the immediate attention of pedagogical firemen supported by your tax-exempt dollars, is thick and heavy. At the online forum we are told that "Madison[, WI] is a Midwest center for drugs, binge drinking, recreational sex, homosexual pride, and abortion, and therefore it is a leftist favorite." (For bonus comedy points, the author portrays no awareness of student dissolution before our current age of homosexual pride; can't NAS afford prints of "The Rake's Progress"?)

What can one do about such outrages? Send money! And we in turn will send our foremost fist-shakers to state legislatures, where they will suggest a hostile takeover of college curricula by right-thinkin' Americans (or, as this particular speaker, Stephen Balch, hilariously puts it, the Legislature should "exercise due diligence in satisfying itself that the conditions under which [intellectual] autonomy has been granted are truly being observed." Well, someone l'arned him real good!)

I suppose if I looked harder and longer I might have found some solid proof that liberals destroyed our schools, but the more time you spend around these guys, the less you expect a straight answer.

Thursday, November 17, 2005


"GRAND OLD SPENDERS" [Ramesh Ponnuru]
George Will is upset by social-conservative excess and by Republican overspending--e.g., the failure to reduce the growth of Medicaid even slightly. The excesses and the overspending are both worth criticizing. But it might be worth noting that the congressmen most likely to have supported the Medicaid restraint Will wanted were social conservatives. The Republican congressmen who would most heartily agree with Will about evolution, Terri Schiavo, etc., are the ones who would most likely disagree with him about Medicaid.

Posted at 01:29 PM
That's right, folks -- Ramesh Ponnuru finds George Fucking Will insufficiently loyal to the conservative cause.

I now believe National Review Online is a CIA black-bag op to discredit the American Right.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

ECONOMICS PROVES GOD MEANT YOU TO BE GROUND UNDER MY HEEL. In the midst of this pro-forma OpinionJournal review of some new pop-economics book, we find these statements:
[The author] calls it an "uncomfortable state of affairs" that in a pure market system whoever pays the most gets to send his children to the best schools. Why is that uncomfortable? Somebody has to send his children to the best schools. Why shouldn't it be the people who pay the most? And he repeats the canard that when American workers are hurt by free-trade agreements a "civilized society" should support and retrain them -- without acknowledging that you can't be hurt by a free-trade agreement unless you're overpaid to begin with.
In context, of course, they are unremarkable, but I bet if you showed these passages to normal people, they might feel less than kindly disposed toward the glib asshole who wrote them. Even a capitalist (or a bystander to capitalism, such as myself) might think them unseemly, like a guy telling a friend who'd lost his job, "Tough shit, and don't expect any help from me -- you must have deserved it."

As the Delphi crisis shows, the entitlement mentality among corporate leaders has reached the status of depravity. I know several people working for a large corporation that just announced it would be downsizing "substantially" -- over a period of months. That means thousands of workers will, like concentration camp prisoners, busily dig graves while wondering whether, or when, the bullet will be fed into their own skulls and their bodies pushed in.

Normal people don't think or behave like this. I wonder why the Democrats don't do a better job of pointing this out?
THE TRUTH ABOUT LILEKS & REALITY. The very mention of 50 Cent's book deal* literally freezes Lileks in his tracks this morning; and after, I would guess, tense moments of wondering how to chastise this overambitious blackamoor without getting those P.C. creeps all up in his forehead, the author decides to smack down a foul-mouthed female instead -- while (I like to imagine) wearing a white, spaghetti-strapped t-shirt, with a baby screaming the background and the neighbors banging on the walls of his trailer, on the door of which is hung a piece of cardboard with the words "Jasper Wood" spelled out in colored macaroni. (Gnat made it for school afore she got knocked-ed up.)

"It’s the mainstreaming of shite jokes that annoys me," says Mr. Matchbook. Yet all his ideas for the employment of diarrhea in prop comedy are golden! That bit about Silverman throwing a pail of diarrhea in Jimmy Kimmel's face made me laugh. In fact, I shall bring it to mind for comfort in the grim days ahead.

* I find Mr. Cent's book deal amusing myself. We truly do have the culture we deserve! I note with interest that Cent name-checks Donald Goines, and it would be nice if his enterprise churned up another writer like that. But the relationship of Goines' art to 50 Cent's is roughly that of Edith Wharton to Liz Smith: that is to say, outside of milieu, none at all. For more comprehensive 50 Cent coverage, see Harry Hutton.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

SAY IT, BITCH. SAY "YOU ARE THE KING OF CARTOONS." The internet, as any 300-pound Casanova or unpaid imagineer of Buffy-Willow sex scenes knows, is a place where dreams can come -- well, if not true, at least validated by like-minded others, which is often good enough.

So we shouldn't bedgrude Stephen Green his humiliation fantasy involving the mainstream media, though we should not mistake it for serious analysis, as many others have done.

Somberly addressing his audience of GI Joes, in the manner of Marlon Brando in Reflections in a Golden Eye, Green calls out the "arm of decision" in each of the past Century's wars. In WWI the arm was manpower -- or, as he is pleased to call it, "chests... and I don't mean war chests... Young men by the millions put their wool-covered chests up against machine gun nests." (Whatever floats your boat, buddy.) Today in Iraq, says Green, it's the press that will either win the war for us -- or (and here we can almost see the color coming rapidly to his face) pay the price for losing it:
But I do mean to serve notice to the MSM.

When a nation loses a war, it looks to punish the people it believes are to blame. After Vietnam, neither Washington nor our Armed Forces were ever the same again3. But if we lose this Terror War, our media will be seen as largely to blame. They'll suffer blame for their ignorance and for their petulance. They'll suffer blame for seeing al Jazeera as comrades closer than the privates and NCOs and officers fighting to protect the First Amendment. They'll suffer blame for putting their hatred of a Republican President before their love of country. Whether that assessment is fair or not, it is how the public will see things.

Then the public would demand changes. And they'd probably get them, courtesy of a government looking for scapegoats, real or imagined. Should that day come, we'd lose our free press, and we'd lose our freedoms. We'd lose our country.
He says he's against this, but ah, mon chere, that look in your eyes never lies!

People think I'm a miserable cynic, and they're half right at least, but see, this chests-and-chastisement sort of nonsense is why I try not to give myself over to glorious visions of how things will be when the Good Guys win. It is good to keep in mind that, comes the revolution, rather than living together forever in harmony and bliss, everyone will probably have to change his underwear every half-hour, and wear it on the outside so Esposito can check. Thus you will be forearmed against the disappointment, shame, and (sometimes) danger of naivete.

Of course, when we finally do the old Saigon '74 shuffle in Iraq, and crowds of angry citizens fail to show up at the Time-Warner building with pitchforks and torches, guys like Green will have forgotten all about it, and be on to some other, equally ridiculous fantasy. But I assume you, dear readers, have more sense and longer memories than that.

Monday, November 14, 2005

IT ALL DEPENDS ON WHAT YOUR DEFINITION OF THE WORD "BULLSHIT" IS, PART 1,533. God knows I am not an optimist -- I never get caught up in wishful-thinking epidemics such as the great pony hunt -- but I can admit that, as Bush's numbers do a little ANWR drilling of their own, some of the major crooks and idiots of our time may in fact be headed for an ass-kicking.

How can I tell? First of all, Ole Perfesser Reynolds is circling his wagon. You know, for someone allegedly not in the Republican tank, the Perfesser is a pretty reliable source of White House spin in its times of crisis. This week he says the Administration is "thumping" the opposition (in the person of Ted Kennedy!), and the GOP's "pushback" against the Dems "seems to be a general effort, not a one-off" (the Cavalry is coming!). In between these All-Is-Well proclamations, the Perfesser soothes himself and his fellow bunker residents with classic rightwing thumbsuckers, from the Krauthammer Diagnosis (enemies of Bush are insane) to the Medved Maneuver (Hollywood hates our fighting men). When your stalking horses get skittish, you know things are bad.

Also, I see that the Republicans have started hauling out the old-timers to reinvigorate the troops (the typing sort of troops, we mean). Grandpa Podhoretz is not short of wind, alas, but in the course of his ramblings keeps falling back on sentences like this:
All this should surely suffice to prove far beyond any even unreasonable doubt that Mr. Bush was telling what he believed to be the truth about Saddam's stockpile of WMD.
"Telling what he believed to be the truth"! One wonders what Podhoretz' idea of truth is -- plausible deniability, perhaps; he downplays Bush's WMD claims by quoting a few innocuous examples of Presidential jingo-jangle and then dismissing them, as if they carry the whole case. I don't think I've seen one of these guys mention this chilling bit from the 2003 State of the Union address:
Before September the 11th, many in the world believed that Saddam Hussein could be contained. But chemical agents, lethal viruses and shadowy terrorist networks are not easily contained. Imagine those 19 hijackers with other weapons and other plans -- this time armed by Saddam Hussein. It would take one vial, one canister, one crate slipped into this country to bring a day of horror like none we have ever known.
If he acknowledged it, Podhoretz would no doubt insist that no positive assertion was made herein, and his client should walk. No wonder the Perfesser is so animated; the Bush White House has reached the lawyerly stage of its decline. Maybe Bush can get Reynolds to negotiate the terms of his community service.

Friday, November 11, 2005


(Stage hung with flags of the world, some shot to pieces. In the eerie twilight, VDH squints dramatically at his own fist.)

VDH: First Europe turned on us... then Latin America...

(despite himself, his voice breaks and his hands fly to his face)

¡Ay, Manuela! ¡Mi vida, mi córazon!

(recovering himself with difficulty)

No, no diga arroz; diga, diga Vitarroz. Life calls and I go on.


I thought we could count on Antarctica at least -- but now it turns out that the penguins are gay. But never mind. It is time to move on. Behold our new best friends!

(Lights come up on three symbolic figures standing nervously against the cyclorama upstage.)

VDH: First, Vishnu -- loyal friend first of the British Raj, and now head of 20,000 subcontinental telephone operators whose employment helps "correct" wages in America. Then, Kazuo -- or, as we like to call him, Pete. He does not say much -- I speak no Japanese, and he knows only one English phrase, "Please give money" -- but is his not a friendly face? Finally, me Aussie friend, Blinky Bill Bollocks. Many's the night and morning we've spent around the barby, drinking tubes of Foster's and talking about the homosexuality of most of the world's nations.

(Stirring music)

VDH: Mark it well, friends: we didn't leave Europe, Latin America, and all together two-thirds of the world's population, and all of its penguins -- they left us. To them we say: Get a life!

(to the others)

VDH: Are you with me, fellows?

GUPTA: Mujhe Kucch Kehna Hai!

PETE: Please give money!

BLINKY BILL: Fuck off!

VDH: Excellent! We are the new Jamestown, and we will remake this soon-to-be-barren planet in our own image. Thank you, and good night!

(Stirring music climaxes, but cannot mask the sound of Blinky Bill strangling Pete and shouting "This is for World War Two, mate -- ye cut me father's balls off!)
FOREVER REMEMBER 11-10 or 11-9 DEPENDING ON YOUR TIME ZONE! Funny, I haven't seen bloggers saying We Are All Jordanians the way they were saying we were all Londoners and Madrileños and New Yorkers etc. a while back. I guess multiculturalism really is dead!
BESIDES, SINCE LIMBAUGH SLIMMED DOWN, I'VE BEEN STUCK WITH ALL THESE UNUSED FAT JOKES. I really didn't to talk about Jonah Goldberg again, but in the Olympics of Stupid he is having a Mark Spitz year and we must take notice. Get a pantload of this excerpt, in which he justifies torture by Americans:
...the detainees we are talking about are terrorists. That, as I understand it, is the point of the "Cheney carve out." Let's have a show of hands: Who thinks the US government should torture/abuse detainees who have no information to offer whatsoever?
The whole post is incredibly specious and I could worry it all day, but the passage I've quoted is so quintessentially Goldberg that, if we ever colonize other planets and one of them has a shortage of stupid, we could use these 42 words like sourdough starter to replenish it.

For one thing, Goldberg can only say "The detainees we are talking about are terrorists" because some highly unreliable people who happen to be agents of our Federal Government have called them that. We can't be sure of what they've actually done because these agents don't share such information with mere citizens.

The rest of it is a bizarre evasive maneuver meant to underscore one of Goldberg's themes: that we do torture for a reason, and if we have a reason it must be reasonable.

It is odd to that the archconservative Goldberg has apparently never considered that people do bad things when you give them too much power. If Jesus and the saints in heaven came down and took over the Government, given the latitude for torture and secret/indefinite detentions Goldberg approves, they would within weeks be asking Winston Smith "How many fingers?"

Now imagine a nest of ratfucks like ones we've got holding those powers.

Sometimes stupidity descends to the level of criminal negligence.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

SOCIAL PROBLEM. I was trawling Protein Wisdom's comments (Why do men go to zoos?) and came across this classic These-Liberal-Friends-of-Mine post:
To my chagrin, I have friends and family members who think this way. Narcicists all? Probably. They’re capable of massive self-deception to protect their fragile, bloated egos. Public and foreign policy are judged overwhelmingly on outward appearances and presumed good or bad intentions. All would probably name their primary flaw to be that they just care too much.

Unfortunately, their only real care is reaffirming to themselves and others their own moral superiority. This tends to reveal itself in overwhelmingly ostentatious displays of humility. I think this is related to the apparent self-hatred that leads them to “blame America first” and preface all judgments with indictments of American flaws. It’s not really self-hatred, so much as a self-conscious desire to appear to debase themselves and their culture in order to make themselves look and feel morally righteous.
Debasing ourselves and America just to get our righteousness buzz! We must pretty fucking sick...

...which brings up an old question of mine: given that conservatives sure do love to talk about how stupid and evil their Liberal Friends are, why are they their friends?

It's not like guys like this are laughing off some annoying habit such as public nose-picking or inappropriate bursts of song. They describe their "friends" as basket cases and as enemies of freedom. They obvious hold them in complete contempt. Doesn't that stretch to breaking the definition of friendship?

Maybe we need a new word: "strawfriend." ("I was hanging out with my liberal strawfriend and he kept insisting that Bush was Hitler. Then he did a little pathetic dance and shit his pants.")

Or maybe the sex is too good. I dunno, what do you guys think?

(For the record, I love, love, love all my deranged right-wing friends!)
CLUCKS. Jonah Goldberg has been writing a book, in the course of which exercise he apparently learned the names John Dewey, Charles Peirce, and William James, which he now uses to ornament his usual bullshit. Confronted by Louis Menand's clever parable of Peircean pragmatism ("The chicken that makes a special cluck every time it pushes the lever and opens the door may 'believe' the cluck is an indispensable element in the sequence of actions producing the desired outcome, but to the human observer the cluck is meaningless and belief in its efficacy is a superstition"), Goldberg unwisely tries to turn the tables to his advantage, but winds up spilling gravy on his pants:
Not every notion is a useless appendix even if it looks like one at first, particularly to an atheistic sophisticate with no time for concepts of the supernatural. And while the chicken may be stupid to believe his clucking causes the door to open, human beings are more complex and what may appear to be mere clucks may in fact be very important and useful organizing principles or symbolic concepts that hold civilization together.
It takes a special kind of ineptitude to defend tradition and ritual by pointing out their resemblance to chicken squawks.

But I can see why Goldberg was attracted to this unfortunate metaphor. As fans of his lumpy prose can attest, Goldberg himself clucks quite loudly and frequently during intellectual endeavors, never more so than when he is clearly full of shit, and seems to think this clucking holds said shit together.

For example, in this 2004 defense of our bogus Iraq policy, Goldberg starts, as one might expect him to do in physical combat, with an unconvincing feint ("On this I agree with the Bush bashers: I don't think it's true that we're safer today"). You might expect him to get around to a point eventually, in which case you would be disappointed. We are not safer, because we were not expected to be safer -- "First of all, since when are we supposed to be 'safer' according to the timetables of the presidential-election cycle? I mean seriously, how is that supposed to work?" But going to war not only was a great idea -- it's still a great idea, notwithstanding that it hasn't achieved anything ("So do you fix the problem at the source or do you use our tallest buildings, greatest monuments, and most populated cities as bug-zappers for jihadists. I say: Go to the source").

Goldberg thereafter strews specious stubs of arguments and wretchedly inapposite and unsuccessful similes ("so many 'international community' aristocrats that if they all got together for a group photo they'd look like a re-staging of the Sgt. Pepper's album cover with better suits"), and then vanishes in a cloud of fart.

Despite all the recent yapping about a bold conservative intellectual tradition, these are the worst times ever for conservative commentators (as far as quality goes, anyway; financially I'm sure things are great). The crooks and imbeciles these commentators wished into office are daily getting away with incredible fraud, incompetence and deception, yet answer any objection with the rhetorical equivalent of So What, because they know they can get away with it (talk about a Pragmatic "razor"!). In this environment, Goldberg and his fellows know, there is no reason to sweat out a line of reasoning when you can just do the hokey-pokey, turn yourself around, and defiantly finish, "That's what it's all about" -- or an alternate version such as Goldberg's today: "Anyway, I just wanted to get that off my chest. Now, it's time for a sandwich."

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

MAD STAN. The blogosphere's like a big video game where we assail each other with epithets instead of tojo blades. Over time, the insults lose much of their meaning. Now when wingers call us "traitors," it's sort of like "good morning" -- a pro-forma greeting.

But when I say Stanley Kurtz is nuts, I don't mean oh, that scalawag, he's incorrigible, or even I hate the bastard and this is the best insult I can think of because I'm drunk, I mean THIS IS ONE NON-COMPOS-MENTIS MOTHERFUCKER!

I really think some of his proposals reflect, at the very least, a depraved indifference to human life. His plan to save Western Civilization by destroying the economy is a case in point. At least his cohorts try to make-believe their lunatic plans will not lead to widespread misery -- which evasiveness shows they still have some awareness of a world outside themselves; they are thus sane, if not smart or likable. But Kurtz' plan was frankly sociopathic and he presented it as if it were a bouquet of roses for the homecoming queen.

Since then, whenever Kurtz has come down the block muttering about, say, how Hollywood is deliberately sacrificing profits to "make the culture more liberal," I have given him a wide berth. Now he seems to be in the tertiary stages of his affliction.

Check out his reaction to the "College Not Combat" measure that passed in San Francisco last night. The measure prohibits military recruiters in high schools. It's the sort of thing one expects of the left coast and, when the world is in balance, we may also expect conservatives to wag their fingers at it briefly, then move swiftly on to the next outrage. Why, it doesn't even directly involve homosexuals!

But Kurtz, exuding the dank smell of a man who has been up all night rehearsing before a mirror ("Listen you fucker, you screwheads, you... listen you fuckers, you screwheads..."), gives us this:
...the symbolic statement is not at all trivial, and it needs to be met with an equally powerful symbolic response.

I think congress ought to consider a resolution of censure. We also ought to get comments on this from congressmen and senators from California, not to mention the mayor of San Francisco and the Governor. Our public officials need to sharply repudiate this decision. We need to know whether they are with the United States, or with the voters of San Francisco. At this point, these are beginning to seem like separate entities. But clear statements of repudiation by public figures could help to reassure the country that San Franciscans remain loyal to the United States. Also, following publicity and national discussion, the city should take another vote on this question. It is to be hoped that with more attention and a larger turnout, the voters of San Francisco will themselves repudiate this ill advised measure, thereby re-associating themselves with the United States of America.
Demands for an investigation of everyone powerful. Blanket accusations of disloyalty. Finally, fantasies of vengeance. Listen you fuckers, you screwheads -- here is a man who would not take any more!

K-Lo, Jonah -- run, Kurtz has lost it! He may even come in to work one day with a loaded weapon, and... um, never mind.
THE PEOPLE HAVE SPOKEN -- IN THEIR CUSTOMARY GIBBERISH! Well, I don't see how we lost*, but Richie Rich is mayor again. Get ready for the Waterside Plaza Stadium! I hate the son of a bitch, but whattaya gonna do: $75 million in campaign spending cuts an awful lot of family ties.

I was a little surprised by the persistence of acrimony in victory of Jersey Governor-elect Corzine. He didn't seem to have much good to say about Forrester, referring to his opponent's personal attacks on him as if his own campaign hadn't lustily indulged in such attacks. (I will always remember the Corzine ads with a shifty-eyed Forrester standing next to George Bush -- a cropped version of which emphasized the proximity of Forrester's head to the Presidential seal, with a headline beginning "The final days...")

Bloomberg, of course, was nicer; noblesse oblige and all. (The later these people make their money, the shittier they behave.) Bloomberg's mantra of "open for business... back in business" is of course the roadmap for the City's future: Let's make a deal! You give us a couple hundred union jobs, we'll give you whatever prime real estate we have left -- even if people are still living on it. We'll see how this works, God help us.

The referenda results are coming in more slowly. NY1 has preliminary figures for all but Prop 1 -- wonder what the holdup is there? I voted Yes on 1 and 2 because the New York Post opposed them, and because I had no pen -- not that there was a write-in slot, but these plebescites make we want to talk back. (For Prop 3, having to do with a judicial ethics code, I voted No -- we rejected it in 2003, who needs it, what difference will it make -- but wanted to stipulate that I would be open to such a code if it included a provision whereby violators got an ass-bare spanking in Macy's window at high noon. I mean, where's the accountability?)

In other developments, subway gunman Bernie Goetz, at this writing, has about 4,500 votes for Public Advocate. (Betsy Gotbaum has about 185,000 and a lock on the office, for all the good it will do her.) I voted for Gotbaum, having no reasonable alternative (and no pen with which to write in Al Sharpton), but I feel more kinship with the Goetz voters. I felt a pang of affinity too for the candidate running on the Rents Are Too Damn High ticket. But, you know, habits die hard, and I expect to work within the system a while longer, at least until gasoline gets cheap enough for me to fill a few beer bottles with it.

Out in the flyover, I see a late Bush visit didn't help Virginia's Jerry Kilgore, but alternative reality fans need not despair: In a smaller but more significant vote, the Kansas Board of Education went for the Jesus slate of science standards, which "change the definition of science to allow for non-natural explanations." In 2006, expect Woman to be official designated Weaker Vessel in several state legislatures.

We're still waiting on Cali's batch-o'-referenda, which results I expect will be eminently spinnable no matter what.

And, oh yeah, "In Texas, a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage was being overwhelmingly approved." Can't wait for the "King of the Hill" episode about that!

The bottom line is the country's fucked, but with its democratic processes intact! Celebrate with your mass-marketed intoxicant of choice, and pray for divine intervention!

* This is a joke. Don't Pauline Kael me. Oh, go ahead. At least the guy in the link understood Kael was probably kidding.

UPDATE. To think, I didn't first consult the National Review apparatchiks! Manhattan Institute's Nicole Gelinas is dragged in for doublethinktank spin on City elections; after Old Dominion disappointment, K-Y looks for silver linings in Jersey; and some of the brethren are glued to parental-notification coverage for signs that, though their leaders are displeasing, sex-hatred trumps all. Jonah Goldberg retains his "squared" relationship to the general idiocy.

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.