Monday, October 09, 2006

NYUK, NYUK, NYUK. So how's the Most Powerful Nation on Earth doing against the Axis of Evil -- or, as I like to think of them, Moe, Larry and Curly? Iraq -- originally the Curly of the outfit, though now downgraded to Shemp or perhaps even Joe Besser status -- has been "liberated" and "pacified" -- that is to say, it's a basket case, where daily life has become so dangerous that authorities recently had to stick a flak jacket on Condi Rice before escorting her from Baghdad Airport. Even the Donald Rumsfeld publicity bureau known as OpinionJournal today declared in an offhand tone that "if another 10,000 or 20,000 or however many troops would reassure Iraqis in the months ahead... then by all means President Bush should deploy them."

Iran, the Larry of the outfit, is treading water, with Ahmadinejad working a global charm offensive while riding herd on his opposition back home.

And North Korea, proving a worthy bearer of the mantle of Moe, just blowed up a big bomb. Remind him to kill us later!

We all knew this was coming, given the ham-handed U.S. approach to NK nuclear negotiations. Though previous administrations had managed to maneuver North Korea away from H-bombs, Bush treated and spoke of the Korean nuclear situation in oh-well, whattaya-gonna-do terms, as if it were out of his control: "I think what we have to do is plan for the worst and hope for the best."

Now Kim's got a working bomb, and naturally the conservative response is: we have GOT to keep the Democrats out of office, or they might fuck up even worse than we have! "...we know what the Democratic Party and its media surrogates will want to do -- begin a comprehensive and multi-lateral campaign to BLAME BUSH!!!" cries Dean Barnett. References to 9/11, WWII, and Awakening the American People to their Grave Peril naturally follow.

"When the conflagration comes, it will burn as surely as night follows day," intones Josh Trevino from atop a plinth, toga rippling in the wind. "The puerile predator in Pyongyang will do no less. We have failed to prevent: now it falls to us to deter, and in time, avenge." Avenge what? Maybe he means the North Korean "slave state," generally; Trevino once lived near it, of which joyous days he still has happy memories of "leftist students assaulting our housing compound," apparently forging a lifelong bond between Trevino and his noisy neighbors. Or maybe he seeks vengeance for this: if we nuke North Korea, maybe the radiation will seep over into Seoul, and that guy Trevino couldn't get arrested in '05 will finally get his.

Others also appear optimistic -- not for the imminent bloodshed, but because of the possibility of Republican political advantage. "Mr. Kim drives Foley off the front page -- or does he? Well, he better," sez Roger L. Simon. But his heart's not in it -- not like the old days of the Iraqi cakewalk and flag lapel pins! "Foley was starting to get boring," yes, but still there is a "fundamental lack of seriousness of a great part of our society, especially in the political and media classes" -- not like Simon, playing Stratego with Victor Davis Hanson and Michael Ledeen all night long! "In a way I hope the Democrats win in November, so that they are forced to face reality." Wow -- he's so rattled, he's forgotten we're all traitors!

In short, thanks to the persistence of human stupidity, this urgent worldwide crisis promises to be as hilarious as any other.

UPDATE. At Ace of Spades HQ, poster "Dave from Garfield Ridge" (who reveals, to our horror, in comments that "my day job touches on a lot of what I write about...national security stuff...") repeats the new wisdom: "The big lesson today is the most obvious one, a lesson most any reader here could have imparted long before we got here. Namely, that any nation that wants nuclear weapons will eventually get them, and will get them by any means necessary." Gee, if they've felt that way since "long before we got here," when Bush gave his original Axis of Evil speech, why didn't he just say, "We give up"?

Actual sensible commentary here.
SHORTER ANN ALTHOUSE. Good news! The voters don't blame Republicans for Foley -- they blame fags!

UPDATE. Crunchy Rod Dreher steps up to give Althouse a run for her funny. Dreher quotes a guy who thinks the Foley case shows that the GOP "elites" -- i.e., the kind who use a knife and fork when they eat -- are out of sync with regular Republicans. Dreher agrees, with a twist:
I socialize with many conservatives who are one way or another elites, and even if they (like me) oppose the demands of the gay rights movement (e.g., gay marriage) for reasons of political or moral principle, we honestly aren't made uncomfortable by being around gay people. It's not even an issue, so gay protests that conservatives are burning with fear and loathing of gays strikes me as way overblown, and an attempt to avoid actually considering our arguments on their own merits.

But to be fair, this comment makes me think about how unrepresentative my relationship with gay folks is of the typical conservative's.
Sounds like he feels bad that he isn't made uncomfortable by the mere presence of homosexuals -- because even that limited level of tolerance separates him from the Salt of the Earth and the Common Clay. Maybe it's time he went back to Bible Camp to learn how to be more judgmental.

UPDATE II. My favorite Dreher commenter:
But personally (and this has nothing to do with the legal argument against gay marriage) I find homosexuality even more revolting than a man (or woman) having sex with an animal. Hey, does this make me a bigot?
A: Yes.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

TOO MUCH INFORMATION. Regular readers may have noticed that I don't discuss my sex life much. Though it would make, as I think most people's would, a rich tale, full of drama and comedy and pathos, I yet cling to the old-fashioned notion that a gentleman never tells.

Not everyone feels that way, though:
I like various positions! With the lights on and off! In the daytime and the nighttime! In the ocean and in the windowseat! I like sex on Sunday mornings! Can I get an “AMEN” for Cunnilingus? AMEN for cunnilingus! Can I get a “You know how to whistle, don’t you” for Fellatio? “You know how to whistle, don’t you?” Can I get a “Ride’em Cowboy” for my husband? Yippeekayae! Can I get an “arghghghghg” for Readi Whip and maraschino cherries? Arghghghghghg! What, no brownies?
This noisome display is not from The Vagina Monologues, but from The Anchoress -- normally a reliable right-wing scold who speaks of sex primarily as an agent of death, who has been driven to this uncharacteristically lurid extremity by the Foley scandal.

Her idea -- and that of the comrades to whom she links in her post -- is, near as I can figure, that by finding humor in the current Congressional tsimmis, liberals have abandoned the high ground -- or the deep rut, depending on how you look at it -- of sexual liberty, which she now claims for herself.

As a sometime author of erotic fiction, I find The Anchoress' effort lacking in both style and prurience. Still, to each her own; at some early stage of sexual awakening, plain declarations of enthusiasm may provide sufficient titillation.

As for the political effect -- which I suspect is the real animator of this exhibition -- she needn't have bothered. As I have tirelessly observed, the Democrats have been cast, and well cast, as America's horndogs, and it will take more than a few Instant Messages to dislodge us. Besides, the election is only a month away, and near the event we may expect Republican operatives to haul out the FAGS A-GITTIN' HITCHED! banner to rally voters to their cause. Whatever amateurs may think, the pros know that there is more to be gained by promoting hatred of other people's sex lives than from celebration of one's own.

Speaking of amateurs, this phenomenon is mainly interesting as an expression of discontent among right-wing bloggers.

Sex-hatred has been a key factor in the Republican strategy for quite some time -- whether couched in terms of gay marriage, rainbow parties, wardrobe malfunctions, the Clenis, or any other available mechanism for welding Democrats to a realm of human life that apparently still baffles and disgusts a large number of voters.

The top conservative bloggers, despite their self-portrayal as men and women of The Peepul, tend to be professional word-workers with some education and prestige (law professors, speechwriters, journalists, students, etc). They have to know this Republican freakishness about sex is all bullshit. But they have gone along because it has been good for their Party and the non-sex-based causes it supports -- endless war on Muslims, low taxes on rich people, and such like.

By a willful misreading of the current scandal-twisted situation, some of them see an opportunity to speak up for sex without abandoning their Republican affiliation. This opportunity is so rare, and so delayed, that when they finally feel themselves free to speak out for sucking and fucking, it comes out explosively, in a pressurized stream of clumsily suggestive gibberish.

For all the harm their reign has done our country, let us be grateful at least that we are not so afflicted.

Friday, October 06, 2006

TIGERS 6, YANKEES 0. Mr. Rogers, where was this shit when you pitched for us? I ain't seen curves like that since they closed Billy's Topless.

I liked the Tommy Lasorda commercials, too. Lasorda's blog is just okay, though I love when he says stuff like "Go out and vote for Nomar, it is your duty!" I wonder what it would be like if comments were unmoderated. (What a pity Earl Weaver isn't around to do podcasts.)

UPDATE. Actually Tommy can curse pretty good too when a pitcher's giving him a hard time during a fucking World Series game. (The organ music is a wonderful accompaniment.) But Weaver had more style.
LITERALLY. David Brooks says, oh yeah, you liberals think the Foley scandal is bad, well, there's an underage seduction in The Vagina Monologues but you liberals love that, don't you?

Stunned onlookers point out to Brooks that The Vagina Monologues is a play, whereas Mark Foley is a real person. Ann Althouse -- she takes pictures, you know! -- responds:
The third letter notes Brooks's omission of the "simple point" that what Mark Foley did was "real" and "The Vagina Monologues" is "make-believe." But, again, the enthusiasm for "The Vagina Monologues" is very real.
There are a lot of things you could say to this. You could try to explain to these people the concept of fictional characters. You could try to explain that not every character in every scene speaks for the author. You could try to explain that these cows are very small, while those cows are far away.

It would all be a waste of time. Some kinds of ignorance are so obviously the result of hard, patient work that all you can really do about them is marvel at God's creation and move on.

UPDATE. I just had to haul this comment on up to the front of the class: "Millions of people enjoyed Silence of the Lambs, and yet if a Republican were caught engaging in murder and cannibalism, you can only imagine how the hypocritical liberals would react."

UPDATE II. Comments at Professor Althouse's place also augment the hilarity, but in a different way:
Didn't the left give us performance art and haven't leftists, in their never ending pursuit of absolute equality, instructed us the everything is art and that we're all artists?
When'd we do that? I've got to start coming to more of the meetings.
SHORTER CRAZY JESUS LADY. Now that I no longer work for any of the people Bob Woodward is exposing, it's amazing how much better his writing has become.
YEAH, WE GOOD. I have a cold and lots to do but I can't keep myself from watching these Mets. They're pumped bigger than usual, but not out of proportion -- their playoff jam is a natural extension of their regular-season jam: more clapping and arm-flinging between plays, but outside of that the same easy, team-wide shit-eating grin at being part of a very good machine.

I only got one game in at Shea this year, but even over the TV their pleasure this season has been radiant. It's very different from 2000, when the madman Bobby Valentine pushed by force of cap-chewing will a bunch of pretenders into the World Series, only to watch them crumble against the hated Yankees. I'll always respect Bobby V for that -- it was a brilliant specimen of the ridiculous persistence that keeps Mets fans sane in the long off-years. We've had shitty teams and shitty seasons, but sometimes, just as we're saying to hell with it, we come back from the concession stand to find we ain't done so bad after all. 2000 was the apotheosis of Orange and Blue* hope against hope.

But in the past few years the Mets have gone another way. They've reinvigorated the farm teams and shown something resembling patience. Look how Willie Randolph and Omar Minaya have nurtured the present crew. Who knew it was a good idea to lose Mike Cameron and gain Carlos Delgado? Dumbass me, I thought that was a wash. I thought Tom Glavine was a bad bet from day one, and expected we'd trade him away in the new era -- but look at his line tonight! And whatever the Skipper has been saying to Reyes and Wright ought to be recorded and kept in a vault for future generations to Talmudically ponder. And Julio Franco! 48 goddamn years old! Makes it to first and bats in a run! I haven't trusted an old man on the Mets since Derek Bell pulled up lame in 2000 -- and he was only 33.

They were overexcited in the 9th -- Reyes' throw pulled Delgado off the bag for the first out, and for the last. But they got the job done.

We're up 2-0 and our small-ball team is looking at the harder-they-fall Cards in the NLCS. It ain't '86, but it's pretty sweet.

Why to love the Mets, here. Why to hate the Yankees (like you need a reason), here.

* Yeah, I'm Old School.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

SHORTER MICHELLE MALKIN: If I can't post on websites that don't want me, the Islamofascists will have won.

(Why doesn't she just take her top off? I'll post her stupid video if she does.)
THE HE-MAN JESUS-HATERS CLUB. Remember the right-wing gibberish about the Amish schoolhouse murders? (Psst, just say yes! It's two posts down!) We can officially top it, now that John Derbyshire has weighed in on the treasonous, Jesus-emulating Pennyslvania Dutch grandpa who counseled some of that other-cheek* crap. In response to John Podhoretz' objection ("this story disturbs me deeply... I'm not sure I would want to be someone who succeeded in rising above hatred..." He needn't worry), Derbyshire writes:
A civilization that can't summon up some pretty widespread hatred for a man who lines up little girls and shoots them in their heads, after having been foiled in an attempt to molest them, is a civilization with a spring broken somewhere.
Here, the famously unstable Derbyshire seems to conflate "civilization" (in Derbspeak, the United States of America and all affilated homosexuals) with the Amish grandpa -- a brain-chemical rather than a philosophical issue, as even Derb must, when sedated, understand that ours is a society pulsating with inchoate hatred, and that much of it is discharged upon the perpetrator(s) of the criminal-outrage-of-the-week, albeit in absentia via dinner-table conversation or barroom braggadocio. (Those of us who have regular contact with Americans will recall how often we were told what Joe Citizen would do if he got his hands on Bin Laden, in those days before George W. Bush declared Bin Laden irrelevant.)

Leftover inchoate hatred then devolves upon wives, girlfriends, rival football teams, and perpetrator(s) of the celebrity-outrage-of-the-week.

You know you've reached some sort of a milestone when you make Rod Dreher look sane.

As I've said before, I'm not a Christian except in habits and morality. Derbyshire says he is one, and yet visits upon a perfect Imitator of Christ the sort of treatment he usually reserves for gay people. I would say it represents a new low, but I have been writing this for a few minutes, and I'm sure something worse has been published meanwhile.

* Duncan, don't even start. I checked the Sermon on the Mount, and the other-cheek stuff was not a typo.

UPDATE. A little clarifying on linkages added.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

THE END OF THE AFFAIR. The Foley scandal continues its widening gyre. Foley himself is becalmed in rehab, but no one cares about him. The Parties are surfing the gyre. The Republicans have the worse job, and are trying all kinds of wild shit to reverse its course. The Perfesser hehindeeds through the howling wind that it's really about gay hypocrisy, or pro-gay hypocrisy that's really anti-gay, or some damn thing. His comrade cries out:
Does anyone seriously think that the Democrats can position themselves as the party of sexual restraint? The party that will be tough on gay men, straight men, or anyone else who gives off even a whiff of impropriety?

Please - this is not a bidding war the Democrats can win and I am reasonably certain that, after years of "sex is a private matter", it is not a war the Democrats want to start.
But like most shouting into the wind, this is bootless. As previously noted here, the Democrats are considered the Party of libertine sex, as a thousand Leno jokes will attest. The Republicans have encouraged that perception, and positioned themselves as the Party of family values, and benefited from the comparison. When one of their own got caught out, no one thought the roles had been magically reversed. We just thought the Republicans had fucked up. Again.

Remember when the cry over Clinton was, it's not the sex, it's the lying/perjury/hypocrisy? Now it's not the sex, it's the fuckups. We expect our politicians to lie and perjure themselves and be hypocrites, but when Denny Hastert goes blundering around trying to explain Foley on the radio, it may be that the average observer is not reminded of Clinton or Gary Condit or Jim McGreevey, but of Rumsfeld, and "Brownie," and Abramoff: the spectacle of a Party that runs nearly all our government, once again giving mumbled, grudging responses when things go wrong on their watch.

When the Foley scandal subsides, no lingering taint of sex madness will adhere to the Republicans. The stink of failure may grow a smidge more ripe, though.
THE ELEPHANT, THE BLIND MAN SAID, IS VERY LIKE A LIBERAL CONSPIRACY. Hugh Hewitt directs our attention to this analyst of the recent Amish schoolhouse shooting, who closes:
How a culture finds a balance between love and weakness, fear, aggression and violence, is a puzzle that is not easily solved. I wonder if a more mobilized society, one which deems it appropriate and acceptable for all members of the society to have the right and the knowledge to defend themselves, will not eventually be the avenue of wisdom.
So, there's your answer: if the Amish schoolgirls were packing heat, none of this would have happened.

Dr. Mrs. Ole Perfesser, asked about the incident, says, "I mean, we focus so much on the mental health of girls and women, and we’ve neglected a lot of the boys and men in this country. You go into a school, and a lot of times, the boys’ psychological and mental health is sort of neglected." Damn bitches, hoggin' up the mental health care. Every time I go to my court-mandated therapist appointments, they're all looking at me like, what's this guy doing here?

Columbine Dad tells Katie Couric that it's all about abortion. (Hat tip to God Is For Suckers.)

This guy's just nuts.

If you're wondering why these guys think the Foley scandal is a Democratic plot, this will give you a hint. For them, everything bad that happens in life has something to do with a little bag of fetishes labelled "liberalism." That's why they can go on mouthing rank absurdities while the rest of us are giving them that Springtime for Hitler stare.

UPDATE. Red State commenter: "President Bush has called a meeting next Tuesday of 'experts' to figure out what can be done. I hope this is not just a political move to appear to be in favor of protecting kids, but is actually designed to get real results." I wonder if he was trying to be funny.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

WHY IS JANE GALT? A few posts back I challenged Jane Galt's notion that if we don't like our present economy, it means we also don't like iPods and 2-way wrist TVs and all the other great innovations of our times. Now she says this means my readers and I are Marxists with "a deep emotional need for things to be getting worse in order to justify their political beliefs."

Obviously arguing with her is a waste of time, but I will leave one question: if I think the Marx Brothers are funnier than Adam Sandler, does that mean I prefer the Great Depresssion to the Clinton Boom?

Monday, October 02, 2006

ANIMALS CAN BE BRED AND SLAUGHTERED Reihan Salam reviews Mike Judge’s Idiocracy. The premise of the film, he says (I haven't yet had the pleasure), is that “yuppies” won’t breed, so slack-jawed yokels who like fart jokes will inherit the earth and manage it very badly. Sounds pretty funny. Here’s Salam’s reaction:
…[Judge is] telling thoughtful Americans that we can't expect other people to solve our problems for us. If you're alarmed by the callousness and the crassness of our culture, which you certainly should be, do something about it. Lead or follow. Getting out of the way is not an option. Failing that, you should at least try to outbreed the people you hate most.
We’ve seen this idea before in conservative circles: that The Right People are underbreeding and thus allowing the Wrong People to dominate. Of course, usually the Right People are portrayed as the White People. I don’t think Salam’s saying that, but what is he saying? That smart people should “outbreed” stupid people? That “yuppies” should outbreed the underprivileged?

It is rare and sort of charming when they show faith in any branch of science at all, but even I know that genetics is more complicated than that.
WHY I AM A DEMOCRAT. A Republican talks to underage boys about taking off their underwear, and conservative bloggers agree: Democrats are immoral.

"How can -- why should? -- Democrats resist doing everything they can to hurt Republicans with this?" says Professor Althouse. Why, you could more easily separate fornicating dogs than detach Democrats from such scandal. "Of course, there's profuse salivating over on the pro-Democrat blogs," says the Professor. "Democratic leaders in the House have made their moves..." But in the end, Democrat saliva is, like everything else produced by Democrats, hurting the country:
So it seems in the run-up to the election we won't have to talk about Iraq and terrorism and detainees anymore. Let's talk about sex.
Such is the dream life of Althouse when Bill Clinton is not making her think about cigars. (She's not the only one. Dean Barnett's response is, "I’ve never met a person in private life who indulged his appetites with as much vigor as Bill Clinton did" -- further proof, as if it were needed, that Dean Barnett doesn't get around much.)

Meanwhile The Ole Perfesser says Foley's Pedopublican antics are a net loss for the New York Times, and Daily Pundit says the 16-year-old was asking for it. That provokes deep thought among Stop the ACLU's commenters: "I don’t know if flirting with a 16 year old is legal in Washington DC or at the federal level. There are states it is legal for an older individual to have sex with a 16 year old..." See, this is why I read law blogs: news I can use!

It may be that the Foley IMs only skirt felony. What these guys affect not to realize is why the spectacle of a Republican nailed for sexing up teens is so funny and resonant. It has little to do with legalities, or even right and wrong. On the off chance that they really don't understand, I would recommend a reading of Tartuffe.

Or, if they're impatient or illiterate, they can have this explanation: when you work for, and identify yourself with, a bunch of homo-hatin', sex-averse moral scolds, it's freaking hilarious when you're caught stroking it to male teeny talk. That's why the "B-b-b-b-but Gerry Studds" rejoinder doesn't work. We're Democrats -- we have to get laid constantly, by whomever or whatever is available. It's in our DNA, like treason.

The narrative of our current politics is admittedly all fucked up, and stacked absurdly against the Party of Jefferson. But it does have little compensations like these.

Friday, September 29, 2006

IN PRAISE OF INVECTIVE. I've had the phrase incomplete in my head for years, but finally thought to search it online, and found the prize. From a 1983 New York Times article on "Literary Invective" by the late Walter Goodman -- almost certainly where I first saw it -- comes this ancient judgment by Horace Walpole on Samuel Johnson:
...prejudice and bigotry, and pride and presumption, and arrogance and pedantry are the hags that brew his ink.
Regular readers will know how I value le mot brutally juste, and this is about as good as English has to offer, though Goodman gives others:

Carlyle on Emerson: "a gap-toothed and hoary-headed ape ... who now in his dotage spits and chatters from a dirtier perch of his own finding and fouling."

Dr. Johnson on Lord Chesterfield's letters to his son: "They teach the morals of a whore and the manners of a dancing master."

And Mary McCarthy's famously palpable hit on Lillian Hellman, which inspires Goodman's essay: "Every word she writes is a lie, including 'and' and 'the.'"

Ahhhh, that's good invective, or, to use the current term, snark. Top-shelf writing can be animated by any sort of passion, including contempt. Contempt can also animate the speed-rack stuff, of course. But what a difference in results between the high and the low! Bad angry writing leaves only a sulfurous match-stink, whereas the right combination of author and animus makes an incandescent glare. It burns off obfuscating details, revealing the underlying folly of its victim.

Take, for example, this immortal precis by H.L. Mencken of the speeches of Warren G. Harding:
He writes the worst English that I have ever encountered. It reminds me of a string of wet sponges; it reminds me of tattered washing on the line; it reminds me of stale bean soup, of college yells, of dogs barking idiotically through endless nights. It is so bad that a sort of grandeur creeps into it. It drags itself out of the dark abysm of pish, and crawls insanely up to the topmost pinnacle of tosh. It is rumble and bumble. It is flap and doodle. It is balder and dash.
You needn't know Harding, specifically, to appreciate this, but if you have any experience at all of boosterish political prose, you will know how true this hits the mark. The confident opening pricks your ears. The metaphors suit both the blandness of the subject and the imbecilic vigor of the execution. The final decompounded words are sharp flamenco steps that tamp the dirt on the grave of the unfortunate subject. This is not mere insult. This is artistry enlisted in the service of spite; and, like all true artistry, it exalts its purpose.

Not everyone approves, of course. The Pajamas Media people recently held a playdate to consider "How Partisan Is Too Partisan?" Readers of PJM websites -- including those of frequent alicublog subjects Jeff Goldstein, Roger L. Simon, and of course the Ole Perfesser -- will be unamazed to hear that the difference between good and bad partisanship is, in the participants' estimation, roughly the difference between the party they support and the party they don't:
...there is a difference between "smart partisanship" and a much less attractive alternative that relies on invective rather than argument and employs the widespread use of insults and obscenities. This is a problem the left continues to struggle with given that the new media revolution (to use a pretentious phrase) has taken place almost entirely in the last five years under the tenure of George W. Bush and given voice to a core of the most active liberal partisans who A) believe he wasn't legitimately elected in the first place...
Etc. The ideological bias I can forgive -- we are all sinners, and that remains true even when we are reminded of it by ideologues. But that they can sit, study, and spew on the subject without recognizing (much less celebrating) the rich historical tradition of political invective confirms something I have long suspected: that they write as poorly as they do because they do not even know what good writing is.

Indeed, the few right-wing writers they sometimes have the nerve to celebrate for their skill are either logorrheic buffoons who compensate for their lack of style and substance with MLA gibberish and feeble absurdist tropes, or addlepated wordsmiths whose streams always proceed from, meander around, and return to the same tiny backyard pool of chlorinated cliches.

I cannot imagine such people would recognize a literary brickbat if it split their thick skulls -- in fact, having thrown many such, I can attest they would not.

Still. We are not here to deride -- at least not in the main -- but to celebrate. Let me know what invective has pleased you. The subject or the politics does not matter. If the slur is sure or the sneer sheer, share please. Let us give praise to the belittlers, and pet the rich coat of savage beastly speech. Let us exalt the humblers of the exalted.

UPDATE. Comments are especially good here, full of great quotes and observations. I was glad to see a ripe, contemporary denunciation of Beethoven's 9th Symphony. We all love the glorious Ninth, but one is forced to admit that the critic has a point, and if we honestly disagree we must, at least in our own minds, answer it. Sometimes harsh criticism provides shocks that are not just tittilating, but salutary as well: they force the mind to encounter a contradictory point of view (as with, say, Christopher Hitchens on Mother Teresa). There is much to recommend the more patient and polite kind of criticism, but when attitudes have hardened, the discussion can always use a swift kick in the ass.

It may be that there is more than one reason for all the shrill language in political blogs, and one may be that many of us have little faith that our opponents are listening to us, and that we are trying to get their attention, or someone's at least. That's not unprecedented. The Chernow biography of Hamilton I mentioned before, along with some commenters, reminds me that the pre- and (especially) post-Revolutionary American Press was often savage, and Hamilton himself did not disdain the employment of slander.

I should say now that I was unfairly hard on Lileks in this post. He is actually very good at word management, as his non-political writing shows, and his skills do not disappear when he lectures us traitors at the Bleat. But he cannot leave snark enough alone, and his creditable insults are usually cool raisins in an overbaked rage, which is why he can be so much fun to make fun of. Goldstein remains worthless on every level.

Musical and literary insults are mentioned in comments, as is Dorothy Parker's theatre criticism, but I feel duty-bound to add Diana Rigg's No Turn Unstoned, a collection of mostly British stage reviews that are hair-raisingly mean, and Michael Green's The Art of Coarse Acting, nominally a celebration of hammy, incompetent playing (one chapter heading: "How to Steal the Scene, Even Though Unconscious").

The Ole Perfesser: It's only foreigners -- I think -- who get tortured, so the real losers here are the Democrats, Andrew Sullivan, and, I guess, the poor schmucks who get tortured. Heh.

Ann Althouse: What? Do I approve of what? Tor-what? Wait, I want to make sure I have this right! Did you just say "Bush is evil and I'm a very stupid Bush-hating partisan"? I can't hear you, I'm doing eight different things while I talk to you! What? (hangs up)

Eugene Volokh: What? Do I approve of what? Torture? Oh, hell yes. I always have, domestic and foreign varieties. And don't let the boner fool you, I've given it a lot of thought.

The Anchoress: In the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, if George Bush likes it, how bad can it be?

The Bull Moose: America has always been unique in that it acknowledges the human rights of its enemies as well as those of its citizens. We gotta cut that out.

Jonah Goldberg. Oh, you don't like torture, but you don't like racial profiling either! Well, which is it? Because you can't have one without the other. Farrrrrrrrt.

Curiously, a lot of the more rabid brethren have had nothing yet to say on this topic, probably because they're too busy ejaculating.

Fairness demands I point out that our nemesis Rod Dreher has come out against the trend -- though I do see that his minders are starting to walk him back.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

GRATITUDE. Jim Lileks tells his readers where to find some guy he doesn't like. Scan the comments they've left for a rare glimpse into the mental state of his constituency. (Sample: "I guess you only favor the first amendment when it's your free speech. In the hood they'd call you a punk, maybe a bitch." Signed, "Anonymous.") If Lileks didn't post links to the bathroom, they'd all piss themselves.

This is my asshole way of thanking alicublog's own commenters, who have been doing great work here, especially in recent days. Whether or not it's a conscious attempt to make up for gaps in my own analysis, it often has that effect. Bravo.

Coffee break over. Everyone back on your heads!

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

JESUS HATES YOU, PART 4,581. The last post drew some commenters upset with Democratic responses to Republican outrages, specifically in the current matter of state-sanctioned torture. "I'm somewhat reluctant to pile on the Democrats," says one such, "but I do wonder: if they won't stand up for Habeus Corpus, what the hell good are they?"

Hear, hear. Though I usually remove myself from the desolate business of politics on the ground, and do not take any interest in Democratic primaries unless Al Shapton is on the ballot, I will say that people realizing what a bunch of crap candidates their Parties' machines turn out is an unalloyed good.

The Republican variety never get this, of course. Rod Dreher recently had another of his fits about feckless Republicans and the mess they've made of things, but you know he'll always vote a straight GOP ticket -- he's as much as said so: "Is that what GOP leadership comes down to, in the end? They deserve to lose. They really do. But I don't think the country deserves the Democrats, at least not the Democrats we have now."

Regular readers of Dreher will wonder why he keeps turning from the light. 'Bortion, of course; "Given that the Democratic Party cannot be counted on ever to oppose the extermination of unborn life," says Dreher in another post, it's understandable how his co-religionist colleague simply cannot vote for Democrats, ever.

This is followed by the usual handwringing about the horrible things the Republicans are doing.

This is the sort of thing that, out of all reason, makes some Democrats think they can engage fundamentalist Christians in those areas which, their studies tell them, should make them attractive to fans of the man from Galilee. And no doubt there are some few devout souls out there who may find the party of torture, corporate greed, and Macacaism a bad fit with their sincere beliefs.

But for the real face of the energized Jesus people, I go with Dreher every time: crunchy, comfy, and, anytime the teeter-totter is poised between reason and ignorance, listing leeward with the yahoos. Let's look at some of his recent posts:

As you may have heard, a German opera company made sport of Mohammed, and got shut down. People with brains might in this case find common cause with the rabid Little Green Footballs in decrying this outrage. Dreher finally does, too, but only after a lengthy and instructive demurrer:
This jackass [director] was being deliberately provocative, and to what end? So many contemporary artists think nothing of defecating on the most deeply held religious beliefs of a very great number of people. In fact, it's seen as a mark of legitimacy in their circles. There is a nasty, spiteful part of me that takes pleasure in the squirming of these artists under such circumstances. I went to see Terrence McNally's blasphemous but ersatz and boring gay Jesus play "Corpus Christi" in NYC a few years ago, on assignment for the Weekly Standard, and saw hundreds of Christian protesters peacefully demonstrating outside the theater. McNally and his supporters thought they were being so brave. One wonders what they'd do if they had to worry about Christians being as demonstrative about blasphemy as they do about Muslims. A vicious little part of me likes to see them squirm. I have to confess this.
Then he says he knows it's wrong, terribly wrong, in the manner of Mr. Davidson in Somerset Maugham's Rain. I gasp; I understand.

But an hour later, Dreher is less equivocal about Muslim shopkeepers in Brooklyn who won't sell beer -- and Christian pharmacists who won't sell birth control:
I have to admit that I admire these guys for making a stand that costs them money, for the sake of honoring their religion. Though I would be deeply annoyed if I lived in their neighborhood and wanted to buy a six-pack. Do you see any kind of parallel in principle between these men refusing for reasons of conscience to sell beer, and the Christian pro-life pharmacists?
Then, another brief, watery on-the-other-hand.

Let us be clear. For all his granola idiosyncrasies, Dreher is typical in his belief that worship of Jesus is largely about hatred of free-thinkers, beer-drinkers, non-procreative-sex-havers, etc. He tags his rants with little beg-offs because he knows the time is not yet right, but looks forward to the day when he won't have to, as any good millenarian must. His is not a God of Love but a God of Wrath, and he is very sure against whom that Wrath is directed.

It is all well and good to show fundamentalist Christians the ginormous disconnect between the teachings of their professed Savior and the actions of the Party to which their votes reliably go, but I would suggest Democrats go hunting where the ducks are: that is, among the large number of citizens who may not be enlightened, but who are not stark staring mad either.

UPDATE. Speaking of that opera, is there any subject that is not debased by the input of Ann Althouse?
Now that some Muslims have made it painfully obvious that religion-taunting is not an easy game anymore, abandoning it expresses fear, not respect for religion. And continuing to disrespect the religions that don't lash back only highlights that cowardice. Poor transgressive rebel artists! How are they to shock the middle class anymore?
As someone who has taken the lead in anti-Mohammedian blasphemy, I have to say, fuck you and your stupid Bible, Professor. Go watch some more "Project Runway."
THE PUNCH LINE. Remember The Anchoress, who just this past week called Bill Clinton's mom a whore ("If you know nothing else about Bill Clinton than the fact that he grew up sort of 'between fathers,' with a somewhat colorful and flamboyant mother...")? And who spends a lot of her time telling us that liberals want to assassinate Bush, are fascists ("I never wanted to use the word 'fascism' for the troubling conformity of mind and manner which was driving me from the left... But..."), and constitute a "Cult of Malevolent Mendacity," etc, etc, etc?

Guess what her new post is about?

Come on, you'll never guess. Unless you've been following this blog for a while and recognize that this kind of profound self-unawareness is one of our favorite topics.

UPDATE. Blogger's on the fritz, comments may be eaten.
BUBBLE BOY. Finally saw The Aviator. It's sort of Citizen Kane with the greatness left out.

Our troubled, Promethean hero in this case is Howard Hughes, with a mania for perfection instead of a mania for acquisition, and a manic-compulsive disorder instead of Rosebud. His wound and his bow, so to speak, are a matched pair, and the movie does a pretty good job of showing us that, aided by a very good performance by DiCaprio, who makes clear that Hughes' demented impulses proceed from the same well as his creative ones.

The images in The Aviator are dazzling, and there are some passages in which the story really breathes -- as when Hughes takes that other magnificent monster, Kate Hepburn, up in his flying machine, and for a few minutes seems to really believe that he might have something in common with another human being.

But that inevitably collapses for Howard, and soon we are just watching him grow more monstrous and more magnificent by turns. It seems clinical, less like a story than a case study.

There are some reasons I can identify. For one thing, there is a prologue in which we learn how Hughes got all fucked up: black soap, coloreds, quarantine. It lasts a few minutes. I think Scorsese's instinct was that audiences would need an explanation, but a long, belabored explanation would have been superfluous. He's right in a way: Welles himself dismissed Rosebud as "dollar-book Freud." But Welles chose to make a mystery out of Rosebud anyway and left it for the end to reveal.

Maybe mystery has its own meaning in Kane: the thing you keep looking for that will sort everything out, an obsession that the audience and the hero can share. In the end, Rosebud is revealed to be a cheat. But (in my experience and probably yours) the viewer does not feel cheated, because we know by then that we have at least seen Kane in a way that he could not; Kane himself has suffered the cheat. His sled, along with his acres of other possessions, rises into black smoke like Cain's (!) refused sacrifice.

He was some kind of man. What does it matter what you say about people? We can follow Welles' obsessions throughout his career. For years Scorsese seemed to be on a course like that. His characters were all blindly struggling toward transcendence without knowing how, grabbing whatever was at hand, acting against their own evident interests because something they couldn't name was out there that they had to have. His greatest hero was Jake LaMotta, a man incoherent on every level -- verbal, emotional, spiritual -- who knew nothing but fighting, couldn't learn anything else, and wore himself down against the world.

Hughes follows that template, but to less avail. He's no less helpless than LaMotta, and Scorsese's craft is, if anything, improved. What's missing? Maybe the stakes -- not Hughes' or LaMotta's, but Scorsese's. In GoodFellas you can see it happening: brilliant as it is, you can tell that these monsters are not transcendent, but merely monstrous. That's the point, and that's why for all its gore it's so funny. But by Casino I found myself wondering something I'd never wondered with Scorsese before: Why did he make this? And why am I watching it? The final shot of DeNiro's exhausted countenance seemed like the end of more than a movie. It gave me the same feeling some of the late Sopranos episodes have given me: that the author was as sick of these people as I was.

In the years since then, Scorsese has been very active. He's a player in Hollywood, and can get big pictures made. His technique just gets better, and his energy remains high. Still, I remember when one of my favorite things about New York was that I got to see every new Scorsese movie opening day. That I no longer feel that way may have much more to do with me than with him, but I felt that way about Kubrick till the day he died. It had less to do with technical brilliance than with my faith that he still had mysteries to reveal. Nobody much likes Eyes Wide Shut, but it lingers in my memory: the boundless interiors and the claustrophobic exteriors; the half-comical, half-pathetic Tom Cruise (cannily used, like Ryan O'Neal in Barry Lyndon, for his weaknesses as much as his strengths) assuring everyone, "It's all right, I'm a doctor"; the scene at the pool table in which Sydney Pollack blandly tells -- invents? -- what has really been happening all along. A man who thinks he has lost something important, and finds that he has no idea what it means to really lose; a movie more about class than sex. It means more to me than The Aviator already.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

STOP THE PRESSES. In the Biggest Nut at The Corner competition, newcomer Mario Loyola is coming on strong:
One sentence in the original Times story needs particular explaining:
The report "says that the Iraq war has made the overall terrorism problem worse," said one American intelligence official.
Having served in the national-security establishment, I cannot imagine having said any such thing to a reporter except in deathly fear that I might spend the next ten years in jail, even if the Times came to me with the NIE in hand rather than the other way around...
"Loyola, the Iraq War is a total disaster. Don't let this get around!"

"Sí, mi General!"

Actually, given his other writings, it may be that Loyola has been given such an order. A day late and a dollar short, though.
SHORTER THE ANCHORESS: Bill Clinton hates Saint W because his mother was a whore.

UPDATE. The whole post is an embarrassment of... well, it's just an embarrassment. My favorite bit: The Anchoress' precious "memories" of Clinton, packed full of such image analysis as would shame a semiotician, and including the mysterious phrase, "...I never 'loved' Bill Clinton more than I did when gazing at that picture..." The Anchoress' quote unquote love could melt steel at thirty paces.

Monday, September 25, 2006

ECONOMICS MADE EASY. A conservative idea du jour -- that our declining wages don't matter because we have iPods and Starbucks -- is, unbelievably, made even stupider by the folks at Asymmetrical Information. Jane Galt:
But let's say we could find someone who makes $29,931 today, and remembers the 1970's. Do you think that if you offered to send him back to 1973, with 4% more than the 1973 median income, he'd take you up on the deal?...

Personally, I wouldn't take the deal... and not just because I'd be the one stuck at home trying to make the Harvest Gold drapes match the new Avocado refrigerator. 1973 means no internet. No cell phones. No cheap air travel to exotic foreign climes...
The mind reels. Do these people really think that, if we want our wages to go up -- as Americans used to be able to expect -- it also means that we want to go backward in time and disdain modern conveniences? Apparently -- here's Galt's colleague Winterspeak:
It's hard to take dour, left-wing academics seriously when the moan about how little things have improved for the common man while they pull links, citations, and documents from all over the planet electronically, and then post their thoughts to an audience of thousands, again all over the planet, without leaving their desks, with a technology that's cheap as chips today, and could not be found anywhere a decade ago. The truth is we live in an age of Wonders.
Grumpy liberals want you to live like 70s cavemen! If it were up to them, you wouldn't have Grand Theft Auto. So shut up and work, drone!

Neither Galt nor Winterspeak name the mechanism of action by which we trade purchasing power for mod cons. Maybe there's a Star Chamber of Commerce that decrees things like, "Allow us lay off 10,000 auto workers and make everyone in those communities work at McDonald's, and you can have Clarinex and flat-screen TVs."

More likely, they haven't thought of how it might work, but decided that a positive-sounding message was all the explanation anyone would ever need. This is America, after all, where no one likes a Gloomy Gus or a Negative Noam.

If it takes, I can imagine how their intellectual method will roll out all over the right-wing world:

"Thirty American troops were blown up in Baghdad today! We have to do something!" "Look at that sky! It's a beautiful, sun-shiney day. I suppose you want go back to before the invasion, when there were occasional showers?"


"The new Green Day album sucks. This is what happens when you block Social Security reform."
BESIDES, ANYTHING THAT GETS PEOPLE INTERESTED IN READING AGAIN HAS GOT TO BE GOOD. I just read the transcript of the Chavez U.N. speech. Why is everyone so bent out of shape about it? Chavez has been widely slurred as a madman, but compared to, for example, the average Ralph Peters column, Chavez's speech was a model of sweet reason.

Chavez' job was to represent his country's interests, and he did so capably. (I'm too much of a cynic to expect any traction for his utopian schemes, but you can't fault the guy for trying.) It is quite natural that Chavez would wish to "re-establish" the United Nations on a basis more favorable to Venezuela. And it is the opposite of crazy to be mistrustful toward the superpower responsible for so much mischief in his region. It may have been impolitic of Chavez to publicly express that lack of trust, though I suspect that Chavez' target audience enjoys that sort of thing at least as much as our local fist-shakers and finger-waggers despise it.

Which, come to think of it, may be what's got those fist-shakers and finger-waggers so upset. Chavez' talk of "dawn breaking out all over" is certainly over-optimistic, but there are a lot of countries out there with whom he can make common cause, since the United States has been, through the fecklessness of its current Administration, pissing off the world.

The recent blog-world revival of the term "Anglosphere" is mainly due to the fact that Australia and Great Britain are about the only significant allies that we have left -- or, rather, the only ones our right-wingers feel comfortable around (as exemplified by this Wizbang post, which uses the phrase "The White Man's Burden" without apparent irony).

Other forces looking for diplomatic and economic hookups will naturally see great opportunity in our trail of broken hearts. Fortunately, the "Axis of Evil" has been very bad at taking advantage, but we know (despite this Administration's continual insistence) that the world community is not divided between Good and Evil, but into constituencies of mutual interest. If Europe can Unionize, why can't Latin America communalize?

This state of affairs is certainly much more dangerous to our country than a few insults from Hugo Chavez, and it is also dangerous for our political class to acknowledge, so they firehose abuse at him, in hopes its force will push back any questions and misgivings that may be drifting in their direction.

UPDATE. Previously eaten post restored. Thanks, Matty!
SHORTER ANN ALTHOUSE: Michael Moore Bill Clinton is fat.

Friday, September 22, 2006

HERE'S YOUR HALO, WHAT'S YOUR HURRY? Crunchy Rod Dreher goes on and on again about the Devil in the moving pictures (in this case, the animated feature Open Season). Blah blah. But toward the end my ears perked:
"But we can't withdraw, we have to engage the culture!" an Evangelical friend said to me today. Yeah, sometimes. But I tell you, I'm glad that Noah didn't decide to stick around and engage the culture when the rain got heavy, and instead climbed aboard his ark and pulled up the gangplank.
It is always a pleasure to say goodbye to Dreher. After his career-building tenure here in Sodom on the Hudson, he said so long heathens, I'm off to the promised land -- Dallas!

Of course he got to Dallas and began bitching that it wasn't Crunchy enough. At first I thought he meant they didn't have enough high-grade mashed yeast and bulghur to suit his refined palate, and the houses weren't purty-lahk. But now it's looking as if no place in America will be good enough for him, blighted as it all is with Kultursmog.

To what redoubt will the Drehers repair? I like to imagine them building a space ark and zooming to Mars, confident that, despite the lack of breathable atmosphere, the Good Lord will sustain them. Or going to some Middle Eastern shithole where the general hostility to ungodly conduct, Western pleasures, and women's rights will more than make up the necessity to call Jesus "Allah" in public.

Maybe we'll just find them in their bunker, their bodies sprawled among the sacks of brown rice.

UPDATE. Oh, the comments are a joy, too. "Giving up football would be my equivalent to heading to the hills, and I might have to do so," says marko, because of the "the interspersed advertisements for the network’s amoral reality shows, immoral sit-coms and despicable dramas." marko also "go[es] through the Sunday comics with a Sharpie before turning them over to my 11-year-old." I wonder what the Righteous would make of Daisy Mae Yokum? She's empty out their pens in a hurry, I'll bet.

Best, though, is Rod hisself:
My kid Matthew was reading a Popular Science magazine a couple of weeks ago, and asked me, "Dad, what's erectile dysfunction?" It hadn't occurred to me that Viagra ads would be in Popular Science, but that just shows how stupid I am.
To coin a phrase: indeed.
SHORTER BRENDAN NYHAN: Comrades! When will you realize that only by self-doubt and ambivalence can The People's respect be won!

(I am in some sympathy with Nyhan, whose Spinsanity site I have enjoyed. But Jesus Christ: if I took a job with, say, Cat Fancy magazine, and then started filing columns about what stuck-up, finicky bitches cats are, and how you have to admit dogs are pretty sweet and loyal and you can teach them to fetch etc., I wouldn't expect to keep my job; and if the crew from I Love Cats magazine started harshing on me for my anti-cat columns, and I complained to those dudes that their comments were hurting the circulation of Cat Fancy, and that was bad for the entire community of cats -- those stuck-up, cat-food-breath bitches -- then I would expect them to laugh in my face.)

Thursday, September 21, 2006

ASTONISH ME. I've been watching, on and off, the Ric Burns Andy Warhol doc. It provokes my astonishment. First, I am astonished to realize how few Warhol originals I have actually seen. I've never seen any of his films. (Do I need to? The idea of Empire seems sufficient in itself.) I can only say for certain that I have seen one Marilyn because I remember seeing, on a free Target Friday at MOMA, three Japanese tourists posing for a cell-phone photo in front of it. Yet his influence on me, and on you, is unavoidable through reproduction and cultural diffusion. And reproduction and cultural diffusion are of course what his art is about.

I am also astonished at what a strong case Burns makes for Warhol's artistry. There is, as always with this kind of thing, a lot of gassy effusion from high-toned commentators, which only rarely and accidentally touches the truth. But as shaped by Burns, the narrative of his career -- the progress from utterly deprived youth to student of fine art to highly successful commercial artist to highly unsuccessful fine artist to the relentlessly repackager of commercial culture (take that, snobs!) and of ordinary objects and moments who become what we know as Andy Warhol -- describes the familiar arc of a real artistic journey. Of course, the best evidence of his artistic impact is his ubiquity of his effects. We tend to perceive Warhol through the second-edition reproductions of his myriad followers, which are almost necessarily inferior and the basis of the joke that is much of contemporary art. But Warhol invented the joke, and like the originals of most comic schtick (cf. Aristophanes, Boccaccio, Swift), it was at first something grander than a joke.

I was astonished at how tough-minded this airy-voiced, delicate artist could be. He wanted fame and, instead of wishing after it from ethereal annexes, pursued it with entrepreneural energy. He sometimes fought power, not in the classically Quixotic 60s way, but as a means to increase his own strength. When Nelson Rockefeller demanded that Warhol's "15 Most Wanted" be removed from the 1964 World's Fair, Warhol suggested a giant portrait of Robert Moses, and when that was rejected, he simply covered the original work in silver paint, and that stood -- a triumph over Rockefeller in nothing but its persistence. In one of his interviews -- in which he deflected the sharpest objections with the bland grace of Dylan or Lennon -- Warhol was asked if his Brillo boxes were a joke, and Warhol answered, no, they gave him something to do. "Don't worry about whether it's art," he told people. "Just get it done." This reminds me of Lou Reed's great song about Warhol: "He'd probably say you think too much/That's because there's work you don't want to do."

Even in the Factory days of silver balloons, drag queen movie stars, and the transmogrification of ashes into diamonds, Warhol achieved his aesthetic Valhalla not by inspiring the talented, but by manipulating the weaker people with whom he had surrounded himself -- until he miscalculated with Valerie Solanas.

A lot of Warhol's toughness came from the deprivation of his Pittsburgh childhood -- and that, too, was astonishing to me, because though I'd heard about it, the documentary made it vivid, partly through the memories of Warhol's older brother John, on film a very amiable, nasal-voiced, ordinary American of Eastern European descent. The Warholas originally came from Ravinia, an erased Eastern state. They were very poor in America, perfectly ghettoized, literally, separated as they were from the city by the Monongahela, marginal. John's respectability is his triumph, a sign of his ascension into the common promise that is America. But Andy, sickly, effeminate, painfully shy, obsessively drawing, unsocialized, could not even see an ordinary way up, and so built an emotional ladder out of the Photoplay magazines and Eastern Rite iconography available to him, upon which to climb across the Monongahela to a different America, one that he took a hand in creating.

One of the best comments in the story is that Andy Warhol "didn't have the slightest idea of bourgeois life." It's my experience of lower-class children who become artists that their apotheoses comes not out of the sort of conscious striving that makes most rags-to-riches stories -- at least not at first -- but out of a blind, desperate, and unreasoning need.

A great secondary shock comes to me from the book I happen to be reading: Chernow's life of Alexander Hamilton. Between two people, between two world views, no greater gulf can be imagined. Yet Hamilton, I have learned, was an outcast child of sorts, an impoverished bastard on a colonial island which promised him nothing, and whose precocity attached him to commercial industry and dreams of glory. He crossed the Caribbean, and pursued his dreams in what was presumed to be the losing side of a war; some people, even at the time, thought he was less interested in the Revolutionary cause than in the chance for advancement it offered. (He was also called effeminate and overenthusiastic toward male friends.) He showed great courage, great brilliance, and did rise. And in the fullness of his fame he dared greatly, even foolishly, overextending himself sexually and socially to seek in the personal sphere a continuation of his dominance in the political.

Somebody shot him, too.
AND I SAID, 'HONEY, I DON'T THINK YOU'D REALLY UNDERSTAND.' Ann Althouse most decidedly does not rock:
The theme today was school and the song was "School's Out" -- get it? -- because it was the end of the show. Lyrics: "School's out for summer/School's out forever/School's been blown to pieces." That doesn't resonate well these days, does it?
In the immortal words (and intonation) of Jack Nicholson in The Shining, what the fuck are you talking about? It would be fucking cool if the school blew up.

Not so cool that you should actually do it -- I mean cool to imagine, cool to talk about, and cool to wonder why it's so cool. It has been since Zero de Conduite at least, and probably since way before anyone had the nerve to write down how cool it was. Fantasy is important, even when it conflicts with societal norms -- actually, especially then. When it can be tolerated, that's a sign of social resilience.

Poor kids today. I know we're supposed to be happy and jealous for them that they have iPods, MySpace, and rainbow parties, and of course I am. But they are also subject to endless Columbine-awareness campaigns, and their attendant authoritarian bullshit, including the criminalization of fantasy:
When Andrew LeBlanc took some of his drawings to Galvez Middle School in Ascension Parish, La., little did he know that the pad contained a sketch his older brother, Adam, had drawn two years earlier.

That drawing — a tongue-in-cheek sketch of Adam and his friends shooting each other as a huge missile hovers over a high school — earned Adam, 17, a short stay in the parish jail on charges of terrorism and his 12-year-old brother a three-day suspension from school.
John Boorman has a very sweet film called Hope and Glory about a kid growing up in London during the Blitz. One morning the lad comes to school to find it has been so pounded by German bombs that classes have been indefinitely suspended. Overcome with joy, he turns his eyes heavenward and cries, "Thank you, Adolf!"

It pains me to think that somewhere in this favored land, some pecksniff would be unable to recognize that this is a very human response, and would instead consider the boy, John Boorman, and any of the thousands of viewers who have burst into laughter at that line to be pro-violence and pro-Nazi.

If Justin Timberlake came out with anything as cool as "School's Out," I could forgive him even his shitty beard.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

LET US CLASP HANDS OVER THE GLORY HOLE. I think I have found new ground for right-left consensus. National Review's Kathryn J. Lopez praises "Nip/Tuck" for having what she interprets as an anti-abortion sub-plot. The famously prudish Lopez admits that "Nip/Tuck" is "one of the most risque shows on television" and "the target (for good reason) of conservative scorn for the 'utter depravity of its sensationalism,'" but abortion's such a big deal for her, and any sign of opposition to it so redeeming, that in the end she says of the show "God bless it — even with all its immorality and downright nonsense..."

So here's the deal: let's have hardcore porn on network TV. Let it all hang out -- Beast, BDSM, bukkake, whatever. And we'll sell ad space to conservative action groups.

Every twelve minutes the Church of Latter-Day Saints will come on and show us some chopped-up fetuses. Then, back to the high-def sucking and fucking!

It's the sort of thing TiVo was made for.
BUT HE SAID IT IN A REALLY SARCASTIC VOICE. When the Pope said he was sorry he hurt Muslim feelings, the Little Green Footballs crowd (some of whom occasionally visit here, make improvised kung-fu gestures, and vanish) said Benedict wasn't really apologizing at all, but playing Jedi mind tricks on the Mohammedian hordes.

Now the Pope has elaborated on his previous whatever-it-was, saying
I hope that in several occasions during the visit ... my deep respect for great religions, in particular for Muslims -- who worship the one God and with whom we are engaged in defending and promoting together social justice, moral values, peace and freedom for all men -- has emerged clearly.
LGF et alia have yet to respond. Maybe they'll tell us he had his fingers crossed.

Or maybe they'll denounce him as a traitor. That always seems to make them feel better.
The case of Maher Arar, a Canadian Muslim allegedly tortured in Syria after being taken there by the CIA, warrants scrutiny. So, indeed, does the whole practice of rendition, a favorite of the Clinton administration long before the Sept. 11 attacks...

But with the lives of 300 million Americans at stake, the United States cannot make national security policy based on individual anecdotes about government roguishness...

Yes, rogues need to be rooted out. But the vast majority of our agents are honorable. They will follow the rules if Congress tells them what is and is not permissible...
The new schtick among these people is that the Bush Administration is just waiting for Congress to "tell them" the difference between right and wrong.

But this is just a political dodge to confuse the punters. If Congress told Bush, "No torture, no extraordinary renditions to torture-friendly states, and write a 500-word essay on why torture is wrong," Bush would get Secretary Rice or some other sap to write the essay, and go on torturing and extraditing nonetheless.

They promise only to leave the job of torture to "honorable" agents, who are implicitly trustworthy, perhaps because they've been properly vetted by their committees.

These people don't care about anything -- including, for all their talk, good and evil -- except power. Today it's just a little more obvious.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

THE PERSECUTION AND ASSASSINATION OF COMMON SENSE AS PERFORMED BY THE INMATES OF THE ASYLUM AT LEXINGTON AVENUE UNDER THE DIRECTION OF KATHRYN J. LOPEZ. I'm so glad The Corner is so crazy so early this morning. I am too tired to develop any Overarching Themes or Perspective, and would much rather poke fun at retards.

Someone seems to have dosed Jonah Goldberg's morning bowl of Reeses Pieces. He goes on a long tirade about "potshots at conservative Christians" in that much-debated work of art, "Studio 60: Live on the Sunset Strip." A reader tells Goldberg, "I'm always alert to the ritual denigration of Christians on prime-time TV, but I just wasn't seeing it here." "I didn't quite say there was ritual denigration," clarifies Jonah, "There was ritual Christian-baiting." These are the closely-reasoned doctrinal disputes that have earned The Corner a much-deserved reputation.

(As a bonus, Goldberg argues at length that "The West Wing" was trying to make liberals look good. Did you folks know about this? You learn something new every day.)

Derbyshire explains an earlier crack about Wal-Mart and Brave New World: "...the main idea was, that any society ought to offer useful and productive lives to its epsilons -- i.e. to citizens over on the left-hand side of the Bell Curve." Derb finds Wal-Mart, "with its simplified, stripped-down training programs that concentrate on a few easily-mastered skills and disciplines," a step in the right direction. I hope Wal-Mart finds a way to work this into its recruitment materials: "DRONES WANTED! You get to wear black, like Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones."

Andy McCarthy growls at NBC for planning to telecast a Madonna concert. Why, because it will pre-empt "Deal or No Deal"? No, because Madonna will climb onto a crucifix during the show, and though neither she nor her cross, unfortunately, will be submerged in urine, Madonna playing with religious symbols is as reliable a way to enrage people of McCarthy's religious sensibilities as laughing homosexuals or the works of Charles Darwin.

"No word yet on any riotings, torchings, shootings, bombings, beheadings or other executions," McCarthy says, "But you know, with these rascals, it's just a matter of time." See, that's a joke, because it's Islamic militants who do all the violence, while Christians -- at least, in the current stage of their history -- merely wish they could. Clever, isn't it? I wouldn't be surprised if we saw it elsewhere.

Better still is McCarthy's final, bitter jest:
Also, no word yet on whether NBC has considered airing "Submission," a film about the mistreatment of Islamic women. It hasn't been shown yet. You see, it's Dutch director, Theo van Gogh, was brutally murdered in 2004 by a not-so-moderate you-know-what named Mohammed Bouyeri, who pinned the corpse with a note calling for "jihad." (I hasten to add, of course, that, according to Muslim activists now providing sensitivity training to our federal agents, jihad is the peaceful "internal struggle against sin," not, God forbid, "holy war.")
"No word yet..." Was McCarthy in the pitch meeting? How did that go, I wonder? ("Actually, we're running While You Were Sleeping that night." "Screw you, liberals! I'll take it to Fox! They wont let America down!")

Meanwhile, some Cornerites are a little disturbed to see how uncomfortable George Allen was to be accused of Judaism. K-Lo opens the back door and lets in a bunch of Allen fans to beat drums for Mr. Macaca. Goldberg, admitting (as well he might) that he doesn't know what he's talking about, weighs in:
When in the zone and allowed to riff uninterrupted, Allen can sound very Reaganesque. But when backed into a corner or tripped-up, he becomes decidedly unReaganesque both in his sometimes gormless retorts and his slightly nasty and/or defensive streak. Reagan, even when he was twisting the knife, always reassured audiences that he was a nice guy who (mis)took his opponents for nice guys too. Every now and then, one gets a glimpse of Allen and one sees something other than a chipper Gipper.
So I guess what he's saying is, George Allen reminds him of Ronald Reagan, except when he doesn't. It seems, also, that "Reagan" is a synonym for something we liberals aren't clued into: "good," maybe, or "insane." (I also wonder: if Reagan "(mis)took his opponents for nice guys," why was he trying to stab them?)

Charming. Well, back to work.

Monday, September 18, 2006

THE CHILDREN'S HOUR. This nut gets mad because his daughter likes a we’re-all-people song from freaking Sesame Street that involves Muslims:
The song is innocent enough but it summons conflicts within me. Sometimes it's really angered me although I believe it's intentions are benevolent…

The message of the song assumes that because we're all human beings, we therefore all have the same values. If anything about the past few tumultuous years has taught me anything, it's that we don't all have the same values. And while the song concentrates on bridging racial and ethnic divides, it completely overlooks the possibility that some human ideologies are not necessarily compatible with others…
Did I mention that the song was on freaking Sesame Street?

I can’t wait for the post where this guy tells little Brunhilde she can’t be friends with little Amir anymore. “It’s about values, honey! You’ll understand your blood-debt to our race when you’re older.”

BTW, the comments to the post remind me very much of the old SCTV episode in which intellectuals discuss "Was The Flintstones a Total Rip-Off of The Honeymooners?"

Sunday, September 17, 2006

LA LA, I CAN'T HEAR YOU. A nun is murdered in Somalia, an apparent victim of Islamic radicals. Crunchy Rod Dreher knows where to direct his anger:
So what's a dead nun to the American left? What's a firebombed church, or two, or ten? Nothing. It's only Christians, after all, who probably deserve what they get. This is why I'm completely convinced that if, God forbid, Pope Benedict should come to physical harm at the hands of Muslims, we'll see the left blame him for his own fate.
If you follow writers like Dreher, you will notice that this has become a pattern: Islamic terrorists do violence, and American liberals get the lecture. Dreher links to OpinionJournal's Brett Stephens, who wonders aloud why liberals won't oppose terrorism when they have the most to lose from it: "Civil rights, gay rights, feminism, privacy rights, reproductive choice, sexual freedom, the right to worship as one chooses, the right not to worship at all." (I look forward to Stephens' defense of these principles in future OpinionJournal columns.)

I would point out that prominent liberals have declared, again and again and again, their opposition to terrorism -- recall John Kerry, in the late Presidential contest, saying, "I will hunt down and kill the terrorists, wherever they are," and, of Bin Laden, "we are united as Americans in our determination to hunt him down and capture and kill him. And that's what we're going to do." Still conservatives told the world that we were all quitters, traitors, etc.

As they make their various TV appearances, Democrats, of political necessity, preface nearly every statement against the Administration's inept handling of Iraq with a foursquare statement of opposition to terrorism. Hillary Clinton agitates tirelessly for better port control to defend the country against terrorists. Joe Biden argues that "The administration's most profound strategic mistake was not finishing the job in Afghanistan" and
...five years after 9/11, each member of the so-called 'Axis of Evil' is more dangerous; terrorist attacks around the world have nearly quadrupled; the administration's simplistic equation of democracy with elections has helped empower extremist groups like Hezbollah and Hamas; and Katrina and the 9/11 Commission have made it clear we are not prepared for an attack here at home.
In his recent debate with Republican George Allen, former Secretary of the Navy James Webb declared, "If we had the right people in the Senate there would have been more questions asked and a better policy in place in order to defeat international terrorism." Rightwing response:
A vote for James Webb... is a vote for Joe Biden to be chair of Foreign Relations and for Hillary to be president. I don't see a majority of Virginia voters making that choice.
Liberal blogs could pepper their posts with anti-Islamofascist non sequiturs; Democratic politicians could appear at all their press conferences wearing vintage AYATOLLAH ASSAHOLLAH t-shirts. Conservatives will still insist that we are all quitters, traitors, etc.

One might ask, the struggle being so important, why conservatives don't try making a better case to the half-or-more of their fellow citizens who disagree with them. But they wouldn't listen to that, either.
TITS OOT FOR THE LADS*. I knew they were fond of parsing movie posters and trailers for political content, but who knew they were into liberal breast analysis? And yet they don't offer comparative studies. Show your work, people!

The best overall analysis of this absurd spectacle is here. Obviously I have nothing worthwhile to add.

Except perhaps this: the presence of a full-bosomed woman in the presence of Bill Clinton will always provoke a certain reaction among conservatives. Still, I had hoped that the rise of conservative female bloggers with a breast-positive attitude would, so to speak, wean them of their phobia.

But news that the Clinton-proximate rack currently on display (albeit vestida) belongs to an avowed feminist seems to have caused a massive relapse. That male conservatives had to be roused by female conservatives to respond to the visual stimuli is itself interesting, but I will leave that subtopic to medical and anthropological professionals.

It is clear that Jessica Valenti did not show shame in herself or her surroundings, but stood tall and proud, and that may have been the cue that unleashed the fury. It is an article of conservative faith that liberals and feminists are sullen, angry creatures lacking in joie de vivre. To quote the instigator of the current fracas, "...the political vision of the left... feels like depression." Conservatives are supposed to be the fun kids, the South Park Conservatives, Republican party reptiles, etc.

If you're on the allegedly depressive team and you act like you're having a good time, it blows their minds. Throw tits and feminism into the mix and all hell breaks loose.

* Did you know there was a Sid the Sexist animated feature? Yet for some reason I can't find it on Netflix.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

NEW TRENDS IN CONSERVATISM. The latest old-time conservative to be rehabilitated is Enoch Powell. Roger Scruton, and Winds of Change echoing him, think the author of the "Rivers of Blood" speech decrying anti-discriminatory housing laws (and, secondarily, darkly-hued immigrants) got a bum deal from liberals, and compare his situation to that of the lonely voices of reason who want Muslims kept out of everywhere.

Of course a different class of political activists has always revered Powell, but his renaissance among mainstream conservatives is, I believe, new.

Here's a bit from the "Rivers of Blood" speech (to which, by the way, neither Scruton nor WoC link):
The other dangerous delusion from which those who are wilfully or otherwise blind to realities suffer, is summed up in the word "integration." To be integrated into a population means to become for all practical purposes indistinguishable from its other members. Now, at all times, where there are marked physical differences, especially of colour, integration is difficult though, over a period, not impossible. There are among the Commonwealth immigrants who have come to live here in the last fifteen years or so, many thousands whose wish and purpose is to be integrated and whose every thought and endeavour is bent in that direction. But to imagine that such a thing enters the heads of a great and growing majority of immigrants and their descendants is a ludicrous misconception, and a dangerous one.
I know that Powell's inheritors want Muslims kept out of their respective paradises, but I wonder if they also believe, with Powell, that the immigrants who came to Britain in the 60s, and their children, were a blight on the nation, and should be repatriated?

UPDATE. Let me clear this up: commenter Conservative Guy is not a sock-puppet created by me to make right-wingers look like racist clowns.
MORALE RELATIVIST. Today the Ole Perfesser is saying that "Western journalists" -- Perfesserland code for "traitors" -- have been making it look like Hezbollah and its minions won in Lebanon, but it looks a lot less like that to the Perfesser, so suck on that, Western Journalists.

The Perfesser adds a link suggesting that he knows all, sees all. I agree that he does, including contradictory opinions, which he mixes and matches as suits his propaganda needs of the moment.

Having the loathsome duty of reading him every day, I remember when the Perfesser felt this way about the Lebanon conflict:
I actually understand why he might want to throw up his hands on this subject. It's not that I don't care -- I do -- and it's not that I don't hope that things will work out well. I do. But beyond hoping (and "hope" is probably the operative word) that we'll see a decisive end to Syrian/Iranian mischief-making in the region, I don't have a lot to contribute.
In the same post, he entertains a suggestion that "we put the Romans in charge of that region again."

When the Bush peace plan came, as perhaps my readers will remember, a shitstorm ensued among the conservative faithful, which chanted "Israel lost" and ran looking for scapegoats. Sometimes they even dared blame Bush.

The Perfesser dutifully carried water for them -- usually under cryptic headlines that masked the moody nature of the linked posts. (There's a guy who knows how to keep his tenure!)

Now he has a new POV: all is well. The Perfesser sees no need to indicate to readers that this represents a change from his previous thinking: if they're veteran readers, they will understand that this simply is the new reality, and get with it; if they're new, they won't notice.

Why this particular shift now? One can only guess, and my first is that everyone knows the GOP needs a break -- why, Larry Kudlow has resorted to using numbers from an "online betting parlor" to improve Republican morale -- and the Perfesser's just the one to give it him. Maybe next week we'll get some more Lebanese protest babes.

For the record, I don't know whether someone sends him orders, or whether he exerts his power, like J. J. Hunsecker, on his own whim and to his own greater glory. Most likely, he's just a dick.