Tuesday, August 15, 2006

TODAY'S PHILISTINE. Lindsay Beyerstein plans to read The Tin Drum. Tim Blair implies that, because the book's author used to be a Nazi, Beyerstein is therefore an anti-Semitic semite.

I've read a lot of Shakespeare. I must be a monarchist.

It is amazing that these people learned to type words into computers without ever having learned to read.
FANTASY, CAMP. Tbogg directs our attention to a Citizen Journalist who thinks baby-killing needs a public defense. He also thinks colloquy, being an antique device, should be written like a Gor novel:
The gentle soul -- how I respect her! -- will begin by pointing out how many innocents have died in the recent wars, and especially the children, who are the most obviously innocent. She will point out figures for Iraq, for Afghanistan, for Lebanon, and ask: "How can you justify this? These poor children, who might have been good men, good women, lain in the cold earth?"

We have all had the conversation that far, have we not?
Well, maybe all of us who have a hitch-hiker tied up in the basement.

Another Citizen Journalist posts this provocative statement at a fellow Journalist's website:
If this were WW2, we wouldn’t be worrying about the feelings of Muslims, or castigating ourselves as racists for attempting to defend ourselves. We’d be girding our loins to defeat the Ragheads just as we battled the Nips and the Krauts to an unconditional surrender.

Admit it — you winced at my last sentence, didn’t you? That illustrates the depth and breadth of the problem we now face.
When taken to task by one of our own commenters for this display of "testicular lunacy," he responds, "At least we’ve got the testiculars with which to be lunàtic" -- manhood, in the Citizen Journalist universe, being proved by ready use of racial slurs, on the internet and under a pseudonym.

Following the rule of three, I looked this morning for a capper, and went directly to Ace of Spades. I know he wouldn't let me down. Sure enough, I find him lecturing an imaginary Arab (no use of the term "Raghead" here -- where are your balls, man?) who, in Mr. Spades' roleplay exercise, has objected to British racial profiling that harasses him despite his innocence. Mr. Spades is unmoved except to hot rage:
What did you guys think was going to happen? Did you think we were just going to let your fellow Muslims kills us, with only the smallest amount of help from you in stopping them, forever?

Did you think we would never decide "It is you who are causing the problem. It is you who should bear most of the inconvenience/'humiliation' from the problem"?

What you've been taking as "weakness" and "stupidity" was just a naive, idealistic hope that if we treated you well enough you would stop. You didn't. The naivete and idealism are giving way to cold hard ugly realities forced upon us by your soft support of terorism...

The outrage you'll now be directing at us should have been directed at the terrorists and terrorist-inciters and terrorist-supporters among you five years ago.

But it wasn't.

So now here we are.

How ya like them apples?
This routine is best imagined with Jon Wayne of Texas Funeral fame ("Mr. Egyptian, yer a goddamn liar!") reading the text aloud to a dusky-faced scarecrow.

As previously noted here, the latest Arab-Israeli clusterfuck has got our Citizen Journalists moody and restive. Sold out by Bush's cease-fire, and denied the invigorating bloodbath they had come to expect, some turn on one another; others go out back to see how those robot brides are coming along; but the most entertaining ones wait upon that candy-colored clown they call the sandman, and report his visitations as if they were real.

Monday, August 14, 2006

VISION THING. Boy, that Liberal Media sure is tricky -- letting former Bush apparatchik Michael Gerson go on for thousands and thousands of words in Newsweek! If any of you fellers figure out how this advances the LM's Islamocommie agenda, please let me know, 'cause I'm stumped.

Gerson was once a Bush speechwriter, and like Peggy Noonan is trying to tell the new breed how it's done. His peroration is meant to convince the public to stay the course, terror-wise, despite their obvious desire to go another way.

Gerson acknowledges that the people are no long singing "Glory, Glory, Hallelujah" with W and the boys. But guess whose fault that is?

The President, says Gerson, is a visionary -- "Every element of the Bush doctrine was directed toward a vision: a reformed Middle East that joins the world instead of resenting and assaulting it." Condi Rice is the midwife stoically enduring the new Middle East's "birth pangs" (though if I were the Middle East right now, I'd be wondering where the fucking epidural was).

And you crappy little people are harshing their new paradigm:
First, the nation may be tired, but history doesn't care. It is not fair that the challenge of Iran is rising with Iraq, bloody and unresolved. But, as President Kennedy used to say, "Life is not fair"...

Some commentators say that America is too exhausted to confront this threat. But presidential decisions on national security are not primarily made by the divination of public sentiments...
Or, to put it in the visionary Bush's own words, who cares what you think? Gerson goes further, proposing a "new compact between citizens and their government":
Americans have every right to expect competence and honesty about risks and mistakes and failures. Yet Americans, in turn, must understand that in a war where deception is the weapon and goal of the enemy, every mistake is not a lie; every failure is not a conspiracy. And the worst failure would be a timid foreign policy that allows terrible threats to emerge.
In other words, you have a right to your expectations, and we have a right to do whatever we want without your goddamn belly-aching. This is a "new compact," indeed, as applied to the citizens of a Republic, though it is familiar enough to conscripts, battered children, and such like.

Having thus cuffed his audience, Gerson believes they will sit quietly while he fills the middle section of his address with W's Greatest Hits. Democracy in the Mideast is "messy" but "no one has a better idea." We must "draw a line." "Liberty improves life." Democrats practice "McGovernism." Etc.

And now for the wow finish:
The response of many Americans to all of this is ... up in the air. And, unfortunately, the demands of history may just be beginning, requiring more engagement, more sacrifice, more promotion of democracy, more foreign assistance to raise failed states where dangers gather. Setting out this case will fall to presidents of both parties, in calm and crisis—and making it will always be difficult in a weary hour. But necessity, in the end, makes a stronger argument than the finest rhetoric. And from London to Lebanon, history is proving that peace is not a natural state; it is achieved by a struggle of uncertain duration. In that struggle, the cynical, the world-weary, the risk-averse will not inherit the earth.
Wow! I'm juiced, aren't you? We're locked in a struggle that will never end! Let's crank some Twisted Sister and get down with some dismal necessity!

(I love the little knock against "the finest rhetoric." As long as he's lowering our expectations of the government, I suppose Gerson has a right to lower our expectations of himself, too. Though I must say he needn't have bothered.)

I imagine Gerson and all these guys, the moment the latest terror incident broke, running to the tank and finding there was nothing left but bitter dregs, too noxious to be made palatable even with the Coke syrup of patriotic sentiment.

So they're serving it up raw: weary struggle and blind obedience, and "cynicism" is the new treason.

This new model does not require formation-flying displays, the National Anthem, or invocation of the Founding Fathers. In fact, such things would tend to mess up the routine. We are no longer talking about our hopes, but about our apprehensions. We are no longer encouraged to celebrate our infinite possibilities, but ordered to accept our lack of choices. And democracy is not a gift with which America is blessed, but a sort of chemotherapy that America must wearily roam the earth administering to other nations.

I'm a New York City smart-aleck, yet I think more highly of this country than the Republicans do! I never thought I'd say this without irony, but I really think they've lost their patriotism.

UPDATE. See Kung Fu Monkey's related thoughts about FDR and Churchill versus piss-pantsed us.
SHORTER BRENDAN LOY: I didn't hang up on the Democratic Party -- the Democratic Party hung up on me!

(Presumably Loy will now double not vote for Ned Lamont. No doubt by November the voting machines will allow that.)

Saturday, August 12, 2006

AN ECHO, NOT A CHOICE. The U.N. resolution on Israel-Hezbollah brokered by the Bush Administration (and France!) is answered at National Review's The Corner with disgust, anger, and despair. Editor K J. Lopez takes a moment to direct us elsewhere: "THE BLAME-BUSH INSTINCT: Anchoress has had enough...."

Momentarily forgetting what sort of people I was dealing with, I expected The Anchoress would address Bush complaints such as those at The Corner. But she is instead angry at liberals, whose complaints are "...adolescent spouting off, backed up by nothing more than 'feelings,' 'caring,' and hysterical, dramatic angst."

The Israel situation roils the belly-juices of the Internet's killingest voices. TigerHawk asks, "What will it take to militarize the United States? What will it take to militarize Western Europe?... We will almost certainly need conscription..." He asks his patrons for their input. Along with the traditional talk of "ragheads," Verdun, and ammo, readers fault Bush for "poor communication," a "compassionate nation building approach," and his reliance on Condi Rice. But the President is not without his defenders: "I swear I am going to vomit if I read one more Islamofascist apologist blame any current event on Bush or on Iraq."

Little Green Footballs is also skeptical of the cease-fire -- because the UN and them Frenchies are involved. Bush is barely mentioned, and only in comments, mostly approving ("This is a bush poker strategy at its' best!") -- the main page is mostly given over to investigations of liberal media treason.

"This is a great victory for the forces of evil," says Don Surber. At Surber's sidebar you can still open his posts entitled "Bush=Truman" and "Bush's plan works."

But let us be fair: many of these people are turning to a Democrat: Joe Lieberman. Conservatives, most of whom do not live in Connecticut, rush to support him against Ned Lamont and whatshisname, the Republican guy. Jeff Jarvis, Andrew Sullivan, and David Brooks want to see Lieberman on a national ticket. (The Perfesser is not averse.)

In other words: Things are going very badly, and the only solution is to step up our support of the people who made it so.

Friday, August 11, 2006

YOUR ASSIGNMENT. Some highly-placed crackpots have already started telling the world that Ned Lamont is bad for post-airliner-plot America because he is against the war in Iraq.

To them I issue a challenge: Pray this day, on one side of one sheet of paper, explain how our half-assed war in Iraq helped to foil the airliner plot.

The length stipulation (borrowed from Winston Churchill) is placed to restrict your output to names, dates, and events relevant to the topic, and to reduce your opportunity for patriotic gassing.

Warning: if you turn in anything as sloppy and poorly-reasoned as this...
If we just pick up like Ned Lamont wants us to do, get out by a date certain, it will be taken as a tremendous victory by the same people who wanted to blow up these planes in this plot hatched in England...It will strengthen them, and they will strike again.
...we will have to mark you down "Republican," and you will run serious risk of expulsion from the Senate.

(Or not. The nation is not a classroom, or if it is, it's more like one from the first half of Lean on Me.)

Thursday, August 10, 2006

SEVEN COME ELEVEN, SNAKE EYES WATCHING YOU. I see the news outlets are flooded with accounts of the the dog that did not bark. It is particularly weird to watch long morning news reports on non-events. The newsreaders furrow their brows and project a sense of urgency, and keep repeating the same thing: basically a variation on their usual mantra, be afraid be afraid be very afraid, be afraid be afraid be very afraid...

I also notice that the various rightwing blogs "report" on these events by repeating the stories of the hated MSM, adding as a garnish their own signature lunacies. Ace of Spades, for example, dabbles in numerology:




How about 8/11?

I know 7/7 doesn't work, but mustn't stand on ceremony when you have people to kill.
It's funny that, when confronted with even reports of a foiled terror incident, someone who calls himself "Ace of Spades," and leans heavily on his butchness, retreats into Kabbalistic gibberish.

Michelle Malkin is near-hysterical that more people don't share her ceaseless concern with terror in general and Muslims in particular. If we were all constantly at the same fever pitch of racial and danger awareness as she, though, how would that help? My understanding is that the current plot was defeated by police work and intelligence gathering, not gangs of "truth squads" examining wire photos for modifications.

I'm supposed to go to London in a few weeks with Editor Martin. I see no reason to postpone or re-route. Terror only works if you're terrorized.

You know I'm born to lose, and gambling's for fools; but that's the way I like it, baby, I don't want to live forever.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

"THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY HAS LOST ITS WAY" CRY THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY'S MORTAL ENEMIES. The defenestration of every Republican's favorite Democrat has brought much wailing and gnashing of teeth.

Ace of Spades in enraged that Lamont came out last night against lobbyists. Some months ago Mr. Spades professed outrage that Democrats were taking money from lobbyists. Now an insurgent has promised to clean house, and Mr. Spades is madder than ever. There's just no pleasing some people.

At RedState, Mark Kilmer, hoping Tacitus will give him an "A" in Rhetoric, intones, "The Democrat fringe has its scalp, and now it wants a stack of casualties... The nuts have a grip on that Party." His colleagues are presumably too busy celebrating the defeat of not-conservative-enough Republican Joe Schwartz to notice.

"Lapdog Lamont... pet poodle, Ned Lamont," says Dean Esmay in an apparent attempt to portray the "incoherent, spitting hatred" of the majority of Connecticut Democratic voters. (Esmay previously on this subject: "tool of crypto-fascist slimeballs," "despicable desire to abandon the people of Iraq to fascism," "friend to vicious hatemongers," "gzigshhs," "skopryts," and "potrzebie."

My very favoritest, though, is Brendan Loy, who after many years as a Democrat (well, "many" if you count from the days he "marched around the schoolyard in fifth grade chanting 'Jerry Brown! Jerry Brown!'" -- Loy is in his mid-twenties) has decided to abandon his Party because it failed to return a Democrat he liked -- or should I say, the only Democrat he liked.

Here is how Loy reacted to the last Presidential election result:
I gotta say, I’m not all that upset with the result. Yeah, I wanted Kerry to win. But I’m not convinced, like so many of my Democratic bretheren, that the country is now officially going to hell in a handbasket. I’m also not convinced a Kerry presidency would have been better. I though the odds were slightly in its favor, which is why I voted for Kerry. But I think Kerry had a decent chance of being a colossal failure, and Bush has a decent chance of being a surprising success. So I’m not exactly crying in my beer over the result...

Meanwhile, I look forward to watching the Loony Left implode in utter confusion over the result.
I'm sure the Party will miss Loy's youthful enthusiasm.

UPDATE. Jay Brida in comments: "There's also a longing for the good old days for FDR, JFK, Truman... Christ, compared to the guys running the Dems these days, those guys were fucking Marxists... Could you imagine what the Loys of the world [would do] if, say, Nancy Pelosi even thought that we should be giving federal money to writers?"

If the Netroots really do clean house, there'll still be a place for the Lieberman-or-death types in the Perublican Party.
SOMETHING'S HAPPENING HERE, BUT YOU DON'T KNOW WHAT IT IS, DO YOU, SCOTTY RESTON? The central narrative of Rick Perlstein's Before the Storm: Barry Goldwater and the Unmaking of American Consensus seems unimportant once you've finished the book. That's what makes it so damned interesting.

Not that the story of the 1964 Presidential race isn't richly told: in fact, it is so crammed with details -- the pursing of Eisenhower's lips as the Goldwater team commandeers his farm for a commercial; the "single, white-gloved hand" Lady Bird Johnson used to silence hecklers on her Southern tour; the campaign-staff haggling that almost scuttled Reagan's last-minute TV address; Johnson's belly excitedly thumping his 47-by-47-and-a-half-inch podium in the home stretch -- that it could comprise a separate book. You can almost smell the sweat of the cramped jet cabins, feel the sudden panic of blindsided aides, and hear the tidal shifts in the roars and mutters of the big crowds.

But that story doesn't really begin till about halfway through Before the Storm, and even when it's fully launched, the stuff on the margins overwhelms it. The real story is the epochal coalescence of the American Right that launched Goldwater's Presidential race (literally, in Perlstein's telling) and proved too fractious and polarizing to sustain it -- but not to sustain itself.

Perlstein carefully lays the groundwork, starting with Clarence Manion, who channeled his rage at the Commies in Washington into a direct-mail and independent broadcast machine that prefigured the juggernauts that rule our political landscape today, and touching on every conservative coeval from the respectable (Bill Buckley) to the crackpot (Robert Welch) as they were drawn into a common orbit. Goldwater was their lodestar for a while, but his pull turned out to be insufficient -- especially as, in Perlstein's telling, Goldwater was as likely to exert push as pull. It was their exile, their absolute dismissal by the custodians of American "consensus," their sense of being right when everything was wrong, that really brought them together -- and conservative moneymen, sensing a chance in hell to roll back the forces of organized labor and creeping socialism, exponentiated their force. They swept up, sometimes chaotically, hundreds of small, like-minded groups -- Young Republican chapters, Citizens' Committees, anti-Communist and anti-Civil Rights ad-hocs -- to create a force that was strong enough to turn the country. But first they had to learn the badly-needed lessons of national defeat. And what seemed to the political world an end became a beginning.

This broad summary neglects the internecine struggles among that force that Perlstein notes meticulously; they give authority to the book, and difficulty to the reader. (At one point Goldwater asks, "Who the hell is So-and-So?" and I didn't know either, though he had been introduced to me at length.) There are betrayals, noses put out of joint, and grudges -- all on the Goldwater side; Johnson bullied everyone on his side into his own form of consensus. But the path was forged and followed.

Perlstein is apparently a liberal himself -- indeed, he explained in the Boston Review, in a painstaking, discursive style similar to that of Before the Storm, how Democrats might take the lessons of his learning -- but plays sufficiently fairly with the conservative warriors that the Brothers Judd and Bill Buckley, among other rightists, have praised the book.

This is probably good historian's hygiene, but Perlstein clearly admires the early conservatives' nerve, cunning, and persistence, and scoffs openly at the know-it-all liberals who misread them (he even describes Steve Allen as a "particularly smug liberal"). Scotty Reston, Arthur Schlesinger, Richard Hofstadter -- they were as clueless as Steverino, believing that their universe was too settled to be shaken. Perlstein is more naturally sympathetic to committed outsiders who are told they can't, but do.

He's not the only one. The book was recommended to me by some Lamont backers, whose man has scored a victory in Connecticut tonight. Maybe they think they're onto something similar. Are their Netroots the equivalent of Manion's Robotype machine? More to the point, perhaps: are there liberal versions of the New Deal-hating business moguls that sluiced Barry's way, and can the Iraq fuckup (or any of the current Administration's other fuckups) enrage and animate crowds the way the Civil Rights movement enraged and animated the future custodians of our current consensus? It may be that the "storm" prefigured by the Goldwater campaign only blows one way, and Perlstein will have to settle for providing interest rather than instruction.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

NO SUBSTITUTE FOR VICTORY. We must be getting close to pulling out of Iraq: the New York Post today stacked up two articles explaining that the situation is hopeless, and that this is all the Iraqis’ fault.

John Podhoretz has inherited his father’s annoying habit of numerating wars that do not exist. Podhoretz fils explains that “This is the Third Iraq War, and the most striking aspect of it is that it doesn’t involve us.” The American troops currently stationed there might think differently, but only because they’re not seeing the big picture: Podhoretz says this Third Iraq War, in which we are not involved, “may be the one we’re going to lose.” Gasp, a paradox! Clearly, these/this Iraqi war(s) exist(s) on such an exalted philosophical plane that your average dogface couldn’t be expected to understand.

Podhoretz fully acknowledges a coming civil war in Iraq, but judges that it has nothing to do with us invading the country, bombing the shit out of it, and substituting for its corrupt but functional leadership a plywood shack of pseudo-governance. No, it’s only happening because the Sunnis are “crazy.” The evidence is that “they seem determined to start a civil war they can only lose.” The idea that desperate men in desperate circumstances might resort to extreme measures appears not to have occurred to Podhoretz, who, despite his deep involvement in World Wars II-IV and Iraq Wars I-III, has nonetheless managed to keep his cool.

Ultimately the message is that, “If the Sunnis and the Shiites really go at it… if Iraq wants to commit suicide in this manner,” it’s not our fault or even our concern: “the answer ultimately lies with the Iraqi people.” So the country may descend into even more hellish violence and misery – but Mission Accomplished, because we won Iraq Wars I and II at least, and two out of three ain’t bad!

Below Podhoretz, Rich Lowry, a war fan from way back and author of National Review’s now-legendary WE’RE WINNING cover story, now chides his Commander-in-Chief for ever thinking he could democratize these bloody wogs in the first place: “The problem with Bush’s freedom rhetoric is that it appears to be not true.” Now you tell us!

According to Lowry, Middle Easterners aren’t ready for freedom or democracy – it has something to do with “the Fall” of Adam and Eve, whose sin affected Arabs much more than it did us white people. But though Bush is dead wrong, Lowry says, “this doesn’t mean that Bush should abandon the liberalizing thrust of his foreign policy.”

Why not? Why persist in such a course if you don’t believe it can work? Shh, don’t disturb the analysis! Properly constructed and given time, it will so confuse the electorate that they will not realize the ignominy of our failure and the foolhardiness of our plan. Maybe we’ll even have our troops march backwards out of Iraq, so it won’t look like withdrawal. By the time people figure out what’s happened, we’ll be at war with Syria and/or Iran.

That will be a true victory – and, for this lot, the only kind that counts.

Monday, August 07, 2006

EASY RIDERS. This Times article about guys who stop working is very funny in places. For example, there is the case of Alan Beggerow, who maintains his life of ease by convincing his wife to work so he won't be forced to do just any old thing. A former warehouseman, Beggerow allows as how he would accept employment as a professional author.

If I had Mr. Beggerow's skill with the ladies, my novel would be coming along a lot faster. Or maybe it would be indefinitely delayed.

The article's bloviations about trends which Mr. Beggerow and his fellow slackers allegedly represent adds greatly to the humor. Work evaders are described as "unmoored"; a sociologist surmises that in this our modern age "men don’t feel a need to be in a career," etc.

Was I kidnapped in the middle of the night and taken to a planet where everyone is a college professor? Because in the world I used to live in, most people work because they have to, not as a journey of personal fulfillment to be pursued or interrupted according to shimmerings of the zeitgeist. And when they don't have to work -- when they have enough money to get away with it, or find a sucker to support them -- they stop.

Funny as the article is, though, it has been topped by the analysis of Dr. Mrs. Perfesser, who thinks these easy riders are slacking as an expression of male resentment toward feminists ("Why should we be surprised that men are opting out of their masculine role as provider when 'experts' and feminists have been trashing this role for years?").

As is her custom, Dr. Mrs. P has some entertainingly crazy commenters:
It's high time MEN got the easier, more rewarding side of things.

Working is stressful, unrewarding, and takes years off of your life. When you come home to a partner who has done about 3 or 4 hours of work when you've done 8 or 9, plus commuting, and to kids who run and cry to your partner for every need whim and desire, it's apparant that the worker is undervalued...
(Not my PERSONAL experiences, but others I know. I intend to make my life my own.)
I love that final note. Next up:
What a rotten generation you must live in.

An interesting Psychological Phenomena has been occuring here in leafy suburbia; when the wife relaunches a carreer after on average 11 years off, because her "clock" has given her "Babies Rabies", and now Mr. "Provider" is "between jobs", All the SuperDad performance in the world doesn't make up for the feelings people are surprised they have when he does an excellent job as "Mr. Mom" and she as "Ms. Stud, the Provider"...
He reports (or should I say, "Reports") on five bitches of his acquaintance who tried to be "Ms. Stud" and got what was coming to them. Others are content to wait upon the verdict of history:
Look, Moslem cultures have real contempt for females: THAT is a major problem. Our western culture does not as of yet have that level of contempt for males, but bet everything you own and everything you will ever own that we are headed in that direction.
Before long the commenters are talking to people who aren't there:
So yes, Mrs Athanasius, the first move is open to the women and that movement should be in the direction of picking up what members of your gender have abandoned--your authentic vocation. If they do not, the consequences are clear. When the social experiment we are currently in collapses, by virtue of the experiment, the men will be coarser then they ever were, the women will be subjugated and constricted to a level never seen before...
Mommy, you whore, I'm through.
I wonder if Dr. Mrs. Perfesser gets psychiatric clients this way. If so, at this rate the Perfesser will be able to take it easy soon enough.
VALLEY GIRL. Here's a Cathy Seipp article in her best Althouse-for-Angelenos tradition. She tells us that "[Mel] Gibson probably can be fairly described as right-wing," except by the Los Angeles Times, in which case it is a "non-sequitur." Then she tells us "knee-jerk anti-Semitism is now far more commonly found on the Left than on the Right," a charge she defends with exactly two anecdotes, one in which the Leftist blood libel is about "tourism" (there's an angle Der Sturmer missed!) and another in which a guy in a coffee shop blames Israel for the first Gulf War. (The guy's liberal credentials are "a blond ponytail" and involvement with a film crew, two members of which disagree with him; presumably they are not liberals, as no further ponytails are mentioned.)

There is also mention of "commenters at some lefty blog" deriding a previous Seipp article -- presumably commenters to my own post, because who else would bother? As you may recall, that earlier Seipp story was all about how Los Angeles liberals are obsessed with their area codes -- an accusation supported, again, by anecdotes, and one piece of on-record testimony: that of the famous ultra-liberal Mickey Kaus. This classic ended with the line, "And if the rest of those liberal [area code] 310 elites can’t get in touch with the rest of us, their elections will continue to be as lost as their area codes."

A good laugh all around. Seipp, however, thinks we were just laughing to keep from crying:
I can always tell when these things hit home because the lefties start flailing about with odd accusations — in this case that I’m one of those “gated conservatives” (Silver Lake’s a gated community?); that the West Side is “actually quite conservative” anyway (I guess so, if you define “quite conservative” as “overwhelmingly registered Democrats”); and that, of course, I have no liberal friends.

The truth is that because I live in L.A., most of my friends are liberal, just like if I lived in Rome most would be Roman. Unlike those tolerant Lefties, I don’t limit my friends to people who share my political opinions.
If Seipp is able to have friends who are liberals, while Lefties "limit [their] friends to people who share [their] political opinions," one of the following corollaries must obtain:
  1. Liberals and Lefties are not the same thing, and Lefties cannot be friends with liberals because Stalin said no or something.
  2. Liberals and Lefties are the same thing, and Seipp, by some osmotic process, is able to be friends with liberals without liberals being friends with her.
Which is it? I eagerly await your deranged comments.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

CONSERVATIVE BLOG STRATEGY EXPLAINED: "I would, for a price, go sit in a movie theater crowd and cue the flow of laughter on the subtler jokes. I would, for a price, eat in a restaurant and make slightly audible favorable comments about the menu and, with a co-worker, contribute a pleasant sound of conversation and even make up gossip about fictional characters to give the other diners something to eavesdrop on. Or maybe I should just start a business, designing jobs like this and selling businesses on the notion that they need fake patrons to improve the attitude of the real patrons." -- Ann Althouse

Saturday, August 05, 2006

ANCIENT ENMITIES. Jeff Jarvis is upset that Columbia J-School Dean Nicholas Lemann called out bloggers who herald the demise of the hated MSM. For starters, Jarvis says no blogger has ever argued such a thing:
[Lemann's] strawman king: that bloggers believe they will replace journalists. I don’t know a single blogger who says that with a straight face.
In general Jarvis is right: it's mainly mainstream media figures themselves who make such pronouncements. Like Peggy Noonan ("The MSM rose because it had a monopoly. And it fell because it lost that monopoly"), Newsweek's Howard Fineman ("A political party is dying before our eyes — and I don't mean the Democrats. I'm talking about the 'mainstream media'..."), and of course the unnamed (and perhaps unnamable) journalists quoted by the Ole Perfesser.

In fact, factoring out the bottom-feeders, the only mainstream blogger I can find overtly predicting the imminent death of the MSM is Jeff Jarvis:
If I owned a newspaper, I’d sell it, wouldn’t you? If I were Yahoo, would I buy it? Maybe only Yahoo and Google could consolidate the advertising marketplace to make big media work still.

...What we’re seeing, I’ll say again, is just the dinosaurs huddling against the cold of the internet ice age. The poor, old, lumbering beasts have to stick together.
Jarvis liked his dinosaur line so much he repeated it for a Washington Post discussion, which perhaps counts as another MSM-on-death-of-MSM cite. (And come to think of it, didn't Jarvis used to write for TV Guide?)

Jarvis' main point is that journalism has been and will be deeply affected -- not to say herded onto the ice caps -- by the new breed of "citizen journalists":
I so wish I had seen [Lemann] instead imagine the possibilities for news when journalists and bloggers join to work together in a network made possible by the internet. I wish he had seen journalism expanded way past the walls of newsrooms and j-schools to gather and share more information for an informed society...
We live, as ever, in flux, and tomorrow never knows, though Jarvis' blog creditably follows the trends and notes the markers of journalism's digital future.

But let us cut the crap. The general trend of our media criticism, online and off, is and has been for some time neither technological nor futuristic but political -- a concerted attack on the famed "liberal media," a hydra-headed beast so insidiously powerful that it has managed to deliver the White House to its Democratic overlords in all but seven of the past ten Presidential elections.

Such attacks go back to Spiro Agnew -- at least in the popular imagination; or, if one takes the long view, to Robert Welch. In either case, they far precede the golden dawn of blogspot.

When Jarvis' more modern citizen journalists have attacked the MSM, they have done so with charges that seek to discredit its liberal-identified reports -- successfully, as with Rathergate, or less so, as with Haditha. We are a long, long way from the Trent Lott affair, and the bipartisan citizen-journalist comity it supposedly represented (though some of us, I override modesty to admit, knew better even then).

The key involvement of Hugh Hewitt in Jarvis' expanded discussion and citation of the point is an indicator of this: Hewitt is a cheerful Republican operative, author of books with titles like If It's Not Close, They Can't Cheat: Crushing the Democrats in Every Election and Why Your Life Depends on It, whose interest in the subject of new media is not, to say the least, limited to a search for Higher Truth.

This connection stems from Lemann's own softball New Yorker profile of Hewitt last year, in which he described Hewitt as an "unlined, inquisitive-looking, forty-nine-year-old with an amiable but relentless manner." Lemann goes on: "Hewitt is definitely a Republican, but he is no mere mouthpiece... he has no problem presenting himself as an active, loyal Republican -- so why won't people who work in the mainstream [media] own up to views that surely affect their work?" Watching Hewitt go to work on liberal apparatchik Dana Milbank (!), Lemann notes that "Hewitt does not, like Bill O'Reilly, become righteously indignant -- he's never confrontational, always friendly -- but he is persistent..."

Lemann conveys Hewitt's liberal-bias-conversion experience: "On Election Night in 2000, Hewitt told me, there were cheers in the [PBS affiliate KCET] studio every time a state went for Gore" -- though Lemann does acknowledge that Hewitt's colleagues at KCET remember it differently, as of course they would, being PBS affiliate employees who are not Hugh Hewitt. Lemann ends by observing that Republicans have "a wonderfully efficient message machine," and that "Democrats aren't going to beat them merely by streamlining the delivery of their message" -- whatever that might mean.

Assuming Lemann's liberal bias -- and how could we not? -- what a unusually, indeed strangely, generous portrayal this is; on a par with Time's Ann Coulter cover story. Given the hysterical terms of our current culture war, it seems almost suicidal; and, indeed, that is how it was taken.

Immdiately after its appearance, the New Yorker softball was gratefully acknowledged by Hewitt himself -- though Hewitt's archives are farblonjet since his Townhall absorption, we still have on record conservative website Powerline, which said, "The New Yorker has a profile of Hugh Hewitt by Nicholas Lemann, a liberal writer I admire. The profile apparently is not available online, but Hugh has reproduced the first and last paragraphs. They support his overall assesment -- 'a very fair but hard hitting piece.'"

In the days following that valentine, though, conservative journal Weekly Standard reported, "There is a new high priest in the dean's office on the seventh floor [of Columbia's Journalism School] - -Nicholas Lemann... Lemann began his [career] scribbling for a New Orleans alternative weekly..." Noting Lemann's arduous pursuit of a spot on the Harvard Crimson, the Standard remarked, "Lemann will need the same persistence if his legacy as dean is to be something other than a footnote in the history of the decline of American media power."

That piece was written by Hugh Hewitt. Citizen Journalist Mark Tapscott called it "fascinating and important." Citizen Journalist Austin Bay said "Lehman really has no answer for embedded ideology and narrow points of view." Many, many, many, many, many other Citizen Journalists (partial list) agreed.

In recent remarks on the Jarvis argument, Hewitt is more charitable toward Lemann, but still hoists a battle flag that precedes Blogger, RSS, and iPods:
Dean Lemann doesn't want to personalize the debate, and he's right not to. It isn't about his personal views or my personal views, but about what can objectively be said about MSM objectivity. Dean Lemann believes in the ideal and is trying to resurrect it. I believe the ideal never existed, but that even its best days are far behind us, and that the idea of MSM objectivity today is preposterous.
You want to know about the relationship of new media to old? Don't think of Markos; think of Spiro. And of countless wishy-washy types who thought they were being fair, but were merely being rolled.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

UNSTOPPERED. I stopped paying attention to Tom Stoppard’s plays in the 80s. I’d like to say it was because I hadn’t time for the introductory seminars they increasingly seemed to require, but in fact it was because I figured I’d gotten the gist of him already -- sensible, witty people vs. nihilistic wreckers who are sometimes also witty; civilization either implicitly or explicitly in the balance – and I didn’t feel the need.

I have just read Stoppard’s Arcadia, which conforms to my horrible prejudice, but which I also enjoyed immensely. The play is split between an early-19th-century and a modern setting – in the early bit, Lord Byron lurks in shadow while a young prodigy seeks to harmonize the rigors of Newtonian physics with her budding love of life; in the modern bit, scholars squabble over their predecessors’ artifacts for position, recognition, and feelings of righteousness. The seminar we missed before the curtain was about math, statistics, chaos theory, etc., but the characters catch us up as best they can.

The historical forces implicated this time are the Enlightenment and the “Romantic Sham,” as it is put by Hannah, the play’s pivotal modern figure: “…a century of intellectual rigor turned in on itself. A mind in chaos suspected of genius. In a setting of cheap thrills and false emotion… the decline from thinking to feeling, you see.”

In an ordinary stage comedy, this would be the set-up for a come-down – hot leading man melts cool heroine! -- but Stoppard’s admirable perversity has ever been to side with coolness over heat. So Hannah and her droll maybe-fiancee Valentine are shown to be on the right track, while her opposite number, Bernard, is shown to be not only an impulsive Byronic, but also a cad (Stoppard’s villains are always cads – cads, or bounders, or both) -- and objectively wrong to boot! (Again, a requirement for Stoppard villains whenever he can possibly manage it.)

So not much has changed – or had changed by the time he wrote this. (His new play, Rock and Roll, is in London now.) Except, while Stoppard was seemingly resigned to the victory of moral relativism in Jumpers, in Arcadia he is more optimistic. For an old crank, he takes surprising pleasure in technology -- it allows Valentine to develop the prodigy’s stillborn ideas on a computer. Also, it aligns with Hannah’s thoroughness in chasing down the truth, which is portrayed as an expansive, pro-human gesture – while the volcanic Bernard, despite his Romantic gush, is shown to be more or less anti-human. There you go – Stoppard the techno-triumphalist! I surprised he doesn’t have a blog,

Still, I like it. Shavian didacticism in the cause of theatricality is no vice. I was at first infuriated at all the math talk, but was won over as it developed into a poetic parallel to Hannah’s thinking. Hannah is never exactly torn (between Bernard’s rasher way of thought and life, and Valentine’s quietism, it’s clear where she’ll end up), so her conflict is never quite dramatic, but like Stoppard she is passionately interested in abstract things, and some of her heat – or slightly-less-coolness – rubs off on the viewer, or reader. It ain’t catharsis, but what is these days?

Also, Stoppard is funny, really funny, in a (to some of us) irresistibly British way. Take this 19th century exchange between Lady Croom and her landscape architect, who has devised for her estate, in the fashion of the times, a “hermitage”:
LADY CROOM: And who is to live in it?
NOAKES: Why, the hermit.
LADY CROOM: Where is he?
NOAKES: Madam?
LADY CROOM: You surely do not supply a hermitage without a hermit?
NOAKES: Indeed, Madam --
LADY CROOM: Come, come, Mr. Noakes. If I am promised a fountain I expect it to come with water. What hermits do you have?
NOAKES: I have no hermits, my lady.
LADY CROOM: Not one? I am speechless.
NOAKES: I am sure a hermit can be found. One might advertise.
LADY CROOM: Advertise?
NOAKES: In the newspapers.
LADY CROOM: But surely a hermit who takes a newspaper is not a hermit in whom one can have complete confidence.
When you write that well, I guess you can make it about anything you like, can't you?

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

EMERGENCY! EVERYBODY TO GET FROM STREET! When Michael Totten refused to say that his old pals in Lebanon should be happy to get blown up, I was encouraged. But at last National Review has found someone who'll go where Totten wouldn't: "Lebanon-born Walid Phares":
Lopez: Is there really any hope that the Lebanese, in the long run, will understand why Israel had to bomb [them]?

Phares: First, consider what the Lebanese want. They are under tremendous pressures today, and they have multiple opinions about what has been happening to their country over the past decades...
I have to stop a moment. God, do I love that opening! My countrymen are faced with all sorts of dilemmas: which child to fall on top of when your house is blown to bits is just one of them.
...Simply put, they don’t see the link between the air strikes and their being able to get rid of Hezbollah once a cease fire takes effect. Many Lebanese we speak to, including politicians, social and spiritual leaders, NGOs, etc., tell us that they don’t understand what the relation is between taking out bridges in northern Lebanon or blowing up a manufacturing plant in Mount Lebanon and the disarming of Hezbollah.

Most Lebanese aren’t naïve; they try to understand the process, but no one is explaining it to them...
Maybe the Israelis will drop copies of this interview on Beirut before the next air strike. I can imagine, when the bombs hit, the last words of nearby non-combatants: "Well, you know, they make a good point."

UPDATE. Apparently Israeli psy-ops are "sending text messages to mobile phones and voice messages saying their war was against Hezbollah and not the Lebanese people." UR NT WHO I WANT 2 KILL! H'Z'B'L IS! DUCK!!!! ROTFLMAO!!!
If I were a Democrat, I'd support Joe Lieberman next week...
-- Andrew Sullivan
I wonder if it's too late for Lamont to put this in his advertising.

P.S. If I were a Republican -- hey, wait a minute: I am!

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

BUT THERE I GO, CONFUSING ART AND POLITICS AGAIN. A lot of really awful stuff has been written about the Mel Gibson episode, so I guess Ann Althouse was bound to get in on it:
My point is that what [O.J.] Simpson (presumably) did doesn't change the meaning of the achievements that made him a big star. Gibson, on the other hand, has revealed something loathsome about his mind that affects our interpretation of the works of art that sprang from that mind. In particular, it changes "The Passion of the Christ," which had to be defended at the time of its release from charges that it is anti-Semitic.
I've criticized Ann Althouse's lava-lamp aesthetics before, but this idea -- that works of art can be retroactively invalidated by the misbehavior of their creators -- is less entertainingly psychedelic.

I wonder if Professor Althouse has ever read and enjoyed H.L. "Prehensile Kikes" Mencken, Philip "Too Many Fucking Niggers About" Larkin, the Mussolini propagandist Ezra Pound, the Nazi collaborator Celine*, the Stalinist Brecht, or any other great artists whose personal views she does not endorse. If so, how can she still enjoy them, knowing of their thoughtcrimes?

Gibson's nowhere near their league, in my book, and I was only lukewarm on his Jesus movie, seeing less anti-Semitism in it than belligerent self-pity. But though his public downfall is well-deserved and hilarious, I wouldn't let it touch my view of his art, any more than I would refuse to drive a Volkswagen because of its associations with the Third Reich.

UPDATE. Great comments. Aimai pinpoints the Althouse issue:
...If she'd defended the original work on its artistic merits she wouldn't have to retract -- but she specifically defended it on its political merits as 'not anti-semitic.' Now she has to give up one or the other pose.
Usually, people who misuse works of art as identity bracelets, protest signs, bulwarks against indecency, etc., never discover their error (though they may over time develop contempt for art because it doesn't do very well what they think it's supposed to do). The Gibson incident offers a rare chance to see these people directly confronted with the folly of their approach. Althouse feels betrayed; this internet genius actually gets the question right, but can't shake off the political analogies (or Woody Allen, liberal defiler of youth). Watching him struggle with this is great fun -- like watching a monkey trying to figure out a violin. (In fact he gets so worked up that, in the end, he has to think of Andrew Sullivan in order to get his mind off it.)

If we had decent arts and humanities curricula in our high schools, this wouldn't be happening.

*I take GeoX's point that there is no evidence of what we'd consider collaboration by Celine, though the French did find him guilty of it.
I really, really, really hope this administration has a good plan to take advantage of Castro's — tragic! That's right tragic! — demise. Undoubtedly, there are 20 kajillion old plans sitting on a shelf somewhere. But a little democracy-spreading on Castro's grave would be a welcome change of pace considering the news these days. No, I don't want any invasions or whatnot, but maybe some walking-around money and some threats would work nicely. It's not my job to work out the details. It's my job to hope that someone else has — very late on a Monday night.
It is my custom at this point to say "This is the stupidest thing Jonah Goldberg has ever written, and will remain so until he writes something else" -- but actually I don't know if he can top this one. It's so catastrophically dumb that, when I showed it to some single-celled organisms, they rolled their nuclei at it.

Monday, July 31, 2006

SHORTER CHRISTOPHER CHANTRILL. The Seattle shooting was the direct result of liberals and their damned Civil Rights Act.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

MAD SCIENTIST. The recent discussion of parenting at The Corner reaches a watershed of hilarity in remarks by that great man of science, Charles Murray:
There is an interesting question in all this: Does Dad actually have to be alive to accomplish all this? There's an interesting study to be done of the sons of dads killed in war, or absent for some other honorable reason. Is it enough for Mom to be able to say "Your father would be very proud of you" or "Your father would be very disappointed in you"? I prefer to think no; that we're more useful alive and present. But it would still be an interesting study...
I love that "honorable reason" and can imagine Murray's reseachers assigning honor values to various paternal absences. Maybe if Paw went to jail for bombing an abortion clinic, the lad will get a "well-raised in absentia" rating. But what if Father just had a heart attack? No doubt inquiries will have to be made to establish that it was an honorable heart attack -- such as one induced by long consumption of American fatty foods.
As to Derb's question: can the right-hand tail of the distribution, the super-involved parents, who get just the right mobile to hang over the baby's crib, schedule every enhancing intellectual and physical activity, etc. etc., make things worse? I have no data, but I cringe every time I watch such parents at work. If I had to assign my children to be adopted, I'd prefer any ordinarily loving blue-collar couple with no college education and low income over a pair of Super Parents.
A touching sop to the working class! The youngster will learn the value of hard work in our society by watching his folks make a quart of milk last seven days. At least he will be spared excess fussing over his mobiles. There's a son or daughter Charles Murray can be proud of -- in absentia, and honorably.

Why do I get the feeling that all these lunatics were raised in Skinner boxes?
"GODFATHER III: GOOD VERSION." I never saw Godfather III before this weekend, having been advised by everyone in the civilized world that it sucked. Lately, though, I'd felt an urge to finally get through the trilogy. Maybe it's because I've grown older and gained a little more patience -- or desire to be patient, anyway -- with long-distance artists. I just knocked back #2 in Robertson Davies' Deptford Trilogy, and am steeling myself to read #3, not because The Manticore psyched me for it, but because I have developed a superstitious feeling about leaving such things unfinished.

G3 reaches back into the saga's first two parts, and the cinematography, sets, and costumes are a nearly seamless match. As before, they are not only impeccably of their time and place, but deeply imaginative and expressive of the psychology of both scene and character. In the big Corleone party at the beginning, there's a lot of brown and burgundy, velvet and flounces, in spacious but visually overheated rooms: a modern Medici feast. Sicily is a tropical backwater scorched to near-barrenness, the Vatican a labyrinth. And Michael is dressed impeccably but slightly loosely -- to accommodate his Richard III hump, and to suggest a man close to death.

Coppola makes some good use of the franchises' stored-up riches. When he shock-cuts from familiar Corleone environs to the neon sign of the China Bowl, or has Elvis Costello's "Miracle Man" blast from the windows of Michael's Sicilian villa, the thrilling sense of dislocation reminds us how deliriously inventive Coppola can be. (In fact, I'll go further: it reminds me of Scorsese.)

The acting, with one major exception, is perfect. Two of the veterans are sublime. The development of Talia Shire's Connie is organic and chilling: the cowering wife of G1 becomes a terrifying Electra. And Diane Keaton launches her acting renaissance with increasing layers of justification for her relationship with Michael. The new guys are great: Eli Wallach is Tuco resurrected as a Mafia Don, and Joe Mantegna puts spit in John Gotti's polish.

Sofia Coppola's performance is a common object of ridicule, but I find her suprisingly effective. She is, by Hollywood standards -- well, I guess the best word in English is ungainly -- her teeth and lips are badly out of sync, her nose is prominent, and her collegiate drawl has all the simplicity of youth without its charm. (I think she's cute, but I'm a big perv.) But she is believably a great man's daughter (no shock) and her lack of acting skill translates on-screen as a lack of guile -- which makes her attractiveness to Vinny (a brilliant update of young Jimmy Caan by Andy Garcia) more poignant than a more conventional starlet might have suggested. Vinny is Sonny Corleone's bastard son, and he identifies deeply with the Corleone family; his desire for Coppola's Mary is almost sickly familial: his romantic pet name for her is "Cuz." Coppola is clearly in love with him, and Garcia, with seeming romantic innocence, gobbles up her wan screen presence, which suits his character, his circumstance, and Michael's objections.

As in the sublime Godfather II, Coppola wants us to understand what Michael Corleone understands: that the further the Corleones rise, the more crooked things get. He also wants us to understand something Michael never understands: that the desire to rise must destroy. G1, Michael's story, and G2, Coppola's, are the bookends of a tragic vision -- arguably the closest thing to an American tragedy since O'Neill.

What then is G3 for? What is its connection to the first two films; how does it magnify their power or settle their debts?

I can see why Coppola would want to tackle the Vatican Bank/JP1 scandal. In the go-go era in which the film was made, it may have seemed natural for the Corleones to globalize. And, giving Coppola extra credit, that circumstance also gives an opportunity to resuscitate an important character trait of Michael's: his belief that he and his family are different -- that when he wins, it is something more than a tribal victory.

If Michael were merely a competent successor to his father, the Godfather saga would just be another story of a Local Hood who Makes Good -- a version of all our other great gangster stories, only without retribution. But in his youth Michael went to great lengths to evade his family's business, and when family ties finally proved too strong for him, he yet held onto the one part of his father's dream that served his deeper self -- "I never meant this for you... Senator Corleone... maybe even... "

The Kennedy parallel has always been screamingly obvious in the Godfather saga, and one of its great insights has been that a man might dare anything in pursuit of power without relinquishing one conviction: that he and his are yet something better than the most successful brutes in the jungle. Michael's comments on the harsh realities of power -- "Who's being naive, Kay?" -- were never signs of acceptance so much as of contempt. Michael swallowed the corruption of the world without ever believing that it applied to him.

But the Michael of G3 is not capable of showing us this, and it's not just the writing that makes it so. I love Al Pacino, but I think he got boxed in here. At the end of G2 Michael was nearly a living sepulchre: so hardened around his idea of power that he'd lost most of his capacity to express feelings. That was a brilliant performance, referring back to the opacity of Brando's Don, but it left Pacino with no emotional wiggle room for any future Michael Corleone performance -- and in G3 Coppola not only drags him into the future, but visits upon him several emotional extremities designed to expose that weakness. You can almost see Pacino struggling with his strait-jacket; only in a Lear-like explosion after the Atlantic City massacre can he release the deep frustrations of his character, and Coppola perversely films the scene in medium shot with a thunderstorm drowning out much of his ravings. Even when he re-courts Kay in Sicily, Pacino looks like Boris Karloff as The Mummy.

With Michael thus diminished, the international and Sicilian intrigues are allowed to overwhelm him and the story. The widening gyre of corruption expands only itself: the Corleones remain in a small, incestuous knot at the center. All that separates their final agon from any other drive-by resulting from petty blood-feuds is our familiarity with the characters, and despite their copious histrionics, and our sentimental attachments, it's not enough.

"I wanted the film to end as a tragedy... sort of like Hamlet or something," Coppola says in the DVD commentary. He adds, referring to Welles' Magnificent Ambersons, "Michael Corleone got his comeuppance." Coming from a mature artist, that sounds rather feeble. Better to understand that Michael hit the wall in 1962, and that the curtain drawn on him then should stay closed.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

ALTHOUSE UPDATE! Edroso was hypocritical to see political imputations in what Althouse wrote about T.C. Boyle, because she doesn't impute politics -- Edroso does! Plus, "the political vision of the left... feels like depression."

Maybe it's just the manic phase talking, but I think that with some effort I can work some better pull-quotes out of this whole thing.
IRREMEDIABLE READING. In a 2003 column, Josh Marshall argued that managing post-war Iraq -- given the limited war our Administration had planned for that country ("the loss of civilian life in Iraq will be minimal. Certainly, we all hope so") -- might be difficult: "Doing that in a foreign country may require a mauling of the civilian population that we are rightly unwilling to undertake."

Oho, says the Ole Perfesser, snapping his suspenders, so Mr. Marshall was worried that we weren't killing enough Iraqis! Then he looks at the jury, touches the side of his nose, and ambles on back to his table.

Marshall objects, and the Perfesser rejoins: perhaps if his learned colleague had objected when the Perfesser previously got it all fucked up, we wouldn't be settin' here today!

The Perfesser then offers a new piece of evidence on his own behalf: the testimony of Armed Liberal, who says that when Marshall reported the recent attack at a Seattle Jewish center, he updated with a note from a correspondent angry that Marshall wasn't comparing it to a 1994 attack on Palestinians ("The emails we get" added Marshall) -- showing Marshall is engaged in the same "moral equivalence" his commenter complained he wasn't engaging in.

The Perfesser rests his case! And the cuspidor rings in triumph.

I spent several hours today teaching kids how to read better. Maybe we can save that generation, anyway.

Friday, July 28, 2006

WHITE GUYS HAVE NAMES LIKE "LENNY," AND BLACK GUYS HAVE NAMES LIKE "CARL." The "Why Choco-mut Ice Creams Is Conservative" column of the week -- a designation we will consider making official -- is by Cathy Seipp, who tells us stupid liberals care too much about their area codes in Los Angeles. Conversely, Seipp only cares enough to write a lengthy, retch-inducing column about the alleged phenomenon. The punchline:
And if the rest of those liberal 310 elites can’t get in touch with the rest of us, their elections will continue to be as lost as their area codes.
Do you think they even have editors at NRO? I think maybe there's an old schooldesk somewhere on the premises, behind which Goldberg has placed a blow-up doll from one those infamous Goucher frat parties, with a tie clumsily placed around its neck and a sign reading EDITER taped to its chest. "Oh, but now you can't see her tits!" I can image Goldberg complaining as he gazes upon his handiwork; shifting unsteadily in place, one brown loafer half off his foot, Goldberg gestures wanly with his beer bottle, once, twice; the intern, still holding the tape dispenser, wonders if under her clothes Ann Coulter smells like raw hot dogs.

UPDATE. Thematically related Hit & Run post by Kerry Howley, on the culture scold Suzanne Fields: "Is there a tank somewhere with balls labeled 'Vagina Monologues,' 'college hook-ups,' and 'Girls Gone Wild'? Are these columns composed with magnetic poetry?"

Thursday, July 27, 2006

LE GAI SAVOIR. There's a chance that, being sane people with healthy priorities, you folks will never of your own volition go to the Ann Althouse site, and might not go even if I linked to it; so in an educational spirit I will reproduce here one of her best posts ever:
"The Iraqi prime minister is an anti-Semite."

Said Howard Dean:
"We don't need to spend $200 and $300 and $500 billion bringing democracy to Iraq to turn it over to people who believe that Israel doesn't have a right to defend itself and who refuse to condemn Hezbollah."
So it's the usual anti-war position, with a new spike of rhetoric... that doesn't seem likely to appeal to anyone.
I mean, because, like, um, oh look, a pretty rock!

Professor Althouse's breezy, dismissive style is at its zenith here, but this is not just about great style, but also about amnesia. Since the start of the World War Whatever: Return to Lebanon, conservative bloggers have been busting leftist chops over their less-than-total-and-unqualified support of Israel -- often in the "I don't think criticizing Israel is anti-Semitic, but..." manner. In fact, Althouse herself was giving the folks at Daily Kos a hard time about that just a few days ago.

Now our Government brings in for a speech to Congress Nouri al-Maliki, the PM of our other best friends in the Middle East, and al-Maliki says not one word about how much he supports the plucky little Israelis -- certainly because he doesn't support them, and because our Government let him get away with it. (I'd love to have seen those negotitations: "And we would like you to express your support for Israel." "Those pig-dogs of monkeys, may they rot in hell!" "Okay -- how about you just don't say anything about Israel?")

Our second ally in the region won't speak up for our first, and suddenly the "Say it, say you love Israel!" routine these guys have been pulling stateside is suspended, and they're all cool with nuance and realism. The Ole Perfesser shrugs: at least al-Maliki's not Kofi Annan! Even She-Wolf Michelle Malkin has nothing to say about al-Maliki's lack of Israel ardor, saving her rage for the "Hugo Chavez groupie" who heckled him.

These guys have been having it both ways for so long that simple logical connections no longer even occur to them. The punchline is, many of them are law professors.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

LAME AS IT EVER WAS. Some chatter at The Corner as to whether keyboard kommandos are actually "fighting" the War on Whatever. Cliff May comes up with an interesting affirmation:
There is a war of arms. And there is a war of ideas.

They are not just inter-related, they are interdependent. They are equally consequential. When we get the ideas wrong, when we misunderstand the problem, we end up with the wrong solution and all that follows from that.

Let’s take just one example: In the 1930s, Churchill fought a war of ideas...
Blah blah o fucking blah, snip.
This defeat in the war of ideas led to a conflagration unlike any before, in which tens of millions were killed.

So yes, Kathryn, you are fighting a war. And your e-mailer is ignorant about how wars are fought, about how wars are won and lost, and about the way the world actually works.
Try to imagine The Corner as The Roundabout -- a series of telegraph messages sent among like-minded individuals in pre-war Britain:
GOOD FOR FRANCO [Clifford Mayfair]
Bloody good show in Tereul, it won't be long now. True Britons will rejoice at the impending doom of the so-called "Republican" cause. Damned scruffy lot, rife with poets and whores. And think of all that Moscow gold wasted! Ha ha! Some of us will be having drinks at the Club to celebrate.

Several deviants discovered in flagrante in a Wessex loo last night. No Peers among them in this case, thank heaven; my long war against sodomy is clearly bearing fruit among opinion leaders. Doubtless these Bunburyists will feel the full force of the law, as well they should, for this is single greatest danger facing our Empire.

OSWALD'S A CORKER [John Derbyshire]
The politically correct will be outraged, but old Mosely was in great form at a 'do' for the BUF last night, attended by myself. The good-natured joshing of our Hebrew brethren would no doubt have raised hackles among our intelligentsia, but for me that is the cream of the jest. Oswald told me several stories about his friend Goebbels, who seems a right sort. Why our Government so oppresses the poor man when there are so many shirt-lifters and three-wheelers about is beyond me.

Have you ever noticed that Stanley Baldwin bears a striking resemblance to Oliver Hardy, the film comedian? Well, if Baldwin had a mustache and weighed a few more stone, I mean. I am aware that Miss Lopeshire has banned all references to the cinema, though I would counter that I'm trying to make a serious point about political drift in Britain. But anyway it's late and I have an omnibus to catch.
In any "war of ideas," the Cornerites represent a battalion of spitballers.
CRUNCHY CONS GO DOWNMARKET. I see that Rod Dreher has moved his Crunchy Con blog to Beliefnet. Time has not been kind to his movement, and it seems the come-down in venue has made Dreher more anxious to boost his conservative niche brand into the big time: he's talking less now about the relation of medieval theology to organic food, and more about gay toilet sex:
...a gay Republican male -- very successful guy, well-dressed, in the public limelight, not at all a desperate troll -- told me that this was a pretty normal part of gay male culture. He told me that he used to cruise public toilets looking for sex, in part because the stench of those locales smelled like "nectar"...

...what are the rest of us supposed to think about gay male culture, and the degree to which it self-defines according to behavior that most people rightly find repulsive?... it's pretty clear to me that the media, as a general rule, have a habit of sanitizing coverage that reflects badly on gay male culture...
Yeah, the media never asks Elton John if he likes it up the ass in a crapper. (Maybe Dreher's gay Republican friend can do a special report on Fox!)

Most of Dreher's recent posts are about your basic culture-war bullshit -- like how kids don't say sir or ma'am no more (especially when they's raised by New York bitches!), or how no one takes time to be pals anymore (and neither does Dreher -- oh well, that's life! Bye!) -- or standard-issue conservative belligerence: posts about how Israel must kill more, we must kill more, here is one of God's creatures I really want to die, etc. Not much here about Heraclitus or wheat germ.

Apparently the Crunchy book didn't summon an army of Ned Flanderses, marching with a cross in one hand and a bucket of Seven Stars yogurt in the other, so Dreher's going back to being a ordinary pain in the ass.

Monday, July 24, 2006

MOW-RON OF THE MOMENT -- FIRST IN A SERIES! Busy, no time; will post short bits, clowns & dumbbells, no details. Out of context? You decide!

Our first genius:
This seems to be at the root of the libertarian and liberal allegation, in my non-legally-educated mind. In their ever-present desire to condemn the Administration, they presume that those who do know the program best are willing accomplices to the undermining of the nation. I could perhaps accept this explanation if so many people were not involved, but that is not the reality of the situation.
Give it up for Confederate Yankee! And watch this space!

Sunday, July 23, 2006

THE POWER OF POSITIVE NON-THINKING. Christine Rosen has an interesting TNR article about the Ole Perfesser and why he sucks. She has one very good point -- that is, that the Perfesser's idea that new technology will improve political writing (and just about everything else) is disproved by the Perfesser's own blog:
But what would we-dia actually look like? This is a question that can be easily answered by InstaPundit. Reynolds's blog consists largely of links to news or opinion articles and other blogs followed by comments consisting of such profound observations as "Heh," or "Read the whole thing," or "Indeed." (These are recurring tropes whose centrality can't be exaggerated.)...

...Reynolds exposes how the blogosphere, at its worst, values timeliness over thought. After linking to an article on congressional earmarks, he'll add, "Well, that's encouraging. Sheesh." Quod erat demonstrandum. Or he'll carp, "Nancy Pelosi, on the other hand, is just dumb"--a point that may be perfectly true but probably requires some explanation or proof beyond the simple assertion. In the end, this method provides the intellectual horsepower of, say, an Andy Rooney commentary. To wit, he wrote in December, "A battery recall on the XM portables. Is it just me, or are we seeing more battery recalls lately." Well, no need for The New York Times, then.
But Rosen is a little compromised here. She characterizes the Perfesser as a "libertarian," and strongly implies that his techno-utopianism is based on that political orientation. Libertarians "believe that technology, in many cases, obviates the need for government," says Rosen, though we may assume that this free-wheeling approach will do for our society what InstaPundit has done for political commentary -- that is, nothing good.

You should keep in mind that Rosen also writes for the Ethics and Public Policy Center -- in this essay, she compares embryonic stem cell advocates to eugenicists. So for her the central meaning of Glenn Reynolds is Science Gone Too Far, or about to go there. But her Reynolds essay is in The New Republic, so she doesn't emphasize the baby-killing power of the Perfesser's brave new world, leaning instead on the blogosphere's threat to the sort of "peer review" and "sustained research" one finds at... The New Republic. This woman will never starve.

We've gone round and round here at alicublog about Perfesser's Reynolds' politics. As I've said before, take any page's worth of postings at InstaPundit, and the POV will remind you more of Hugh Hewitt than of Harry Browne.

What Rosen takes for libertarianism in the Perfesser's case is just laziness. He's an educated Babbitt who thinks everything will work out because it's worked out for him. That's why he loves the idea of robots and gadgets and web toys that will save the world while he sits on his ass. That's why he was so juiced about the "Cedar Revolution," with its cell phone photos of protest babes -- and so bummed when Israel wound up bombing Lebanon anyway. That's the real source of the "triumphalism" that bothers Rosen -- not science, but its opposite: an unshakable faith in one's own obliviousness.
LIES, DAMNED LIES, AND FUCKING BULLSHIT. You might have heard that Christian groups are trying to stop the HPV vaccine because such a vaccine would encourage women to have sex. You might have read the words of a spokesman for the powerful Family Research Council who said, "Giving the HPV vaccine to young women could be potentially harmful because they may see it as a license to engage in premarital sex," and of the President of the Family Research Council, Tony Perkins, who said, "It sends the wrong message... Our concern is that this vaccine will be marketed to a segment of the population that should be getting a message about abstinence."

Well, the FRC has sort of come around on this:
The Family Research Council welcomes the news that vaccines are in development for preventing infection with certain strains of the human papillomavirus (HPV), a sexually transmitted disease. We also welcome the recent reports of promising clinical trials for one such vaccine.
I say "sort of" because the FRC strongly opposes making the vaccine mandatory, as its Vice-President recently made clear. Which means, if they get their way (and they will -- look who's in the White House), that the vaccine won't work, basically. Mandatory vaccination would kill HPV as dead as polio, but unlike polio, HPV can be used to scare people out of fucking, which is bigger priority than life and death for the Jesus freaks; so we are fated to a hit-or-miss approach that will keep the cervical cancer precursor around for years to come.

You might be mad at these lunatics, but OpinionJournal says you're wrong -- the vaccine's real enemies are "people who might be called liberals":
They can't bring themselves to fully celebrate a cancer vaccine because it won't be instantly available to everyone. Women in the Third World, where cervical cancer claims the bulk of its victims, can't afford a $360 course of HPV immunization--so only the rich people and pharmaceutical companies benefit, one lament goes. And wouldn't more American lives be saved if the government spent money instead on reaching more people with basic health care?
The author does not provide any quotes to support this ridiculous attribution. And why would he bother? As OpinionJournal authors are taught at orientation, it doesn't matter how absurd and unsupported such articles are, because the only people paying attention are true believers like the one published respondent to this one:
The reason why we are not inoculating our children against cervical cancer is the same reason why we are not issuing birth control pills or condoms to them. In human morality a point is reached where you have to tip your hand regarding your value system and the relative importance of things to you and your family. To many, chastity and celibacy trump physical protection from disease.
That cowboy cracked the code. It remains to be seen whether professional journalists at other venues will be as sharp.

Saturday, July 22, 2006


Rent. I saw this thing when it came out on Broadway, and it annoyed the crap out of me: the squatters were idealized beyond recognition, and made shitty art besides, which fatally trivialized their beef with The Man and made them look like the kids from Fame but in an alternate, distressed wardrobe, and with less reliably pleasing tunes (and numbing recitative passages like "What are you DO-ing with this YUP-pie SCUM?"). That left AIDS as the only real antagonist, and I was repulsed by the dramatic shortcut: you mean I paid all this money for a musical version of Spirochette? But what annoyed me most was that I wound up being moved by the thing. It was a mess, but some embers of real feeling burned in it.

My Rent movie experience was similar. The things that had been bad about the stage version are even worse in the film -- the East Village locale is even more slicked-up (which makes the kids' gripes even harder to figure: you live in this sweet loft for free and you're complaining?), the "art" is even more of a joke, and most of the good songs are very badly served by their updated stylings: first, they make them sound like overproduced contemporary pop, which comparison flatters neither party; second, while the stage setting gave the players license to just belt many of the tunes, Chris Columbus is always fussing and it seldom helps. On stage, my favorite song, "Santa Fe," was just sung and enjoyed; here the characters try to find new ways to be goofy in a subway car, which made me wish I was watching The Warriors instead.

And yet. Rent isn't much of a story, but some of the characters are facing an implacable enemy, and their friends try to help them. Jonathan Larson was evidently not prepared to achieve the grand thing he was going for (and never got another chance), but he was able to get some of that situation up and moving. And I find it especially poignant that it was able to poke through all the feeble razzmatazz. That "One Song Glory" Roger is always talking about didn't amount to much, but something did.

Match Point. The movie's virtues are basic: it has a crackling story, it's extremely well-acted, and the directing is as solid as one might expect from someone who's been making a film a year since the mid-Seventies. The ponderous visual strategies of earlier Woody Allen movies like Interiors and Stardust Memories -- cameras lingering on vacated spaces, self-conscious groupings -- have all burned away now; Match Point has only one willful coup de cinema -- parallel shots of an object striking a barrier -- and it's very well done.

The conveyance is fine; what it's conveying is a little dicey. The plot gives us a young tennis pro named Chris who comes to London and happens into great success -- a fortunate marriage and a leg up in big business. But he has an affair which threatens to destroy all he's gained.

As anyone who's read three sentences about Match Point knows, the film is full of references to luck. It starts with them and ends with them and they're peppered throughout. But though chance puts Chris in several pivotal situations, luck has no more, and often a good deal less, to do with his choices and how they work out than does his character. We learn early on that Chris is intelligent and methodical; he knows what he wants and uses considerable skill, and even deception, to obtain it. (We see immediately, for instance, that he isn't interested in the woman who will become his wife but for the opportunity she represents.) Not everyone would play things the way he does, and the pleasure of the film is watching how he, specifically, turns a great setup into a threat to himself, and how he then endeavors to get out of it.

The one stroke of fate that does turn a key plot development is the subject of one of the bravura shots mentioned above, but that only connects it to the other bravura shot -- a moment of serendipity that's pleasing, but doesn't add up to anything except more guff about luck (and, unfortunately, fresh guff about Sophocles).

Woody Allen has cleaned up his mise en scene but he's still got an annoying pretentious streak. Still, it's reassuring that it takes up so little of the screen time, and that he's moving in the right direction. And he's probably got several more movies ahead of him. Any serious artist in that situation is worth sticking with.

Friday, July 21, 2006

ALTHOUSE AND BUTT-HEAD. Ann Althouse, some of whose vaporous aestheticizing has been denounced here before, talks about a big silly artist who said a silly thing:
I want to like novelists. Really, I do. For example, T.C. Boyle. I read him sometimes. That is to say: I subordinate my mind to his and let his thoughts become my thoughts. But then I read quotes like this, and it sets me to wondering all over again about this practice of reading novels. They're written by novelists, you know.
She's already told us she doesn't like fiction films, and now she's starting to come out against fiction itself. I expect her to denounce graven images next month.

Even better are her commenters:
But keep in mind (gee, this is going to sound like the "good muslims" argument) that any writer who pipes up with anything but leftist cant will make serious enemies for life.
Imagine T.C. Boyle biting his tongue, terrified to denounce gay marriage lest David Remnick destroy his career! The general consensus is that artists are stupid and bad and nobody should pay attention to them. All pretty hilarious, but I do feel sorry for the more extreme cases:
This is exactly why I almost never read interviews. So many artists have been entirely ruined for me due to the asinine things they've said in interviews.
Think what a horrible, parched life that must be: unable to enjoy art unless you approve of its creators' politics.
SHORTER "DAY BY DAY": Andrew Sullivan's a fag.

These guys get worse all the time. I had some hope for Winger, but the further Carson Fire gets from his bookstore characters, the nuttier he becomes. Here's a fine example: Fire seems to have gone through the C.S. Lewis reeducation program, where all signs of whimsy are draped in heavy allegory until they suffocate. I don't know whether the birds in this one are supposed to be Muslims or secular scientists, but they sure are black!

Thank Gaia for Free Republic's Friday Toons! "The United Nations is a fag" has a mad genius "Andrew Sullivan's a fag" lacks. And if you're going to slag the MSM, I say go all the way! People deserves it for not making Sean Connery the Sexiest Man Alive in perpetuity. ("Sean Connery, 96, died from injuries sustained two days ago, when he tried to wink at some cameras and badly sprained his cheek. Connery will remain Sexiest Man Alive for two more years, said People's editors, if the late actor's family will abide by the taxidermal clause in his contract.")

And their Hitlery-hatred has mutated in a fascinating way: think about it -- not even the Devil would be used this way; it's so random it would offend the judgment of a "The World According to Jim" fan. Right-wingers are often playful in the use of signifiers, but the Clintons push them into visual incoherence. And in a world sorely lacking in transcendence, that's rather touching.