Tuesday, January 16, 2007

IDLE QUESTIONS. I see that the evil MSM has given the Ole Perfesser a platform for his gun rights activism in their house organ, the New York Times. My first question is: why did he bother? The Perfesser keeps telling us that the MSM is finished, through, washed up -- so why not just post this on a blogspot page and let PayPal and Jeff Jarvis work their magic? Mayhap he has some relatives who live way on up in the hills and have no WiFi access but receive the Times regularly. ("Lookie here, Brandine -- Yorkies is movin' up, but they don't say nothin' bout hound dogs!")

Also, as long as the Ole Perf was in the belly of the beast, why did he choose to illustrate his point (that we should all be forced to have guns at gunpoint) by using a little Idaho town as his example, when he could have instead presented a dazzling vision of how the paper's readership would fare in an all-guns, all-the-time New York City? Greenpoint would certainly be a more exciting place had I a government-mandated weapons cache!

And I must ask, under this plan would poor people get government-funded firearms? I'm guessing the Perfesser would prefer not, but I'm sure my right-wing readers will agree that one should always take a moment to consider the unintended consequences of governent programs.

UPDATE. Speaking of right-wing readers, I will save a certain someone a bit of time by informing him or her that this post was written and posted during my lunch break and on my own internet connection. P.S. Blow me.
MLK DAY WRAPUP. Aged recluse Jeff Goldstein bestirs himself to perform -- in poor voice, but with maximum attitude -- some Jeff Goldstein Greatest Hits, challenging black folk who think they deserve some sort of a holiday -- which they don't because there is no such thing as race, you see. Goldstein's boys love it, until a person claiming to be black shows up in comments, whereupon they immediately forget that there's no such thing as blackness and start attacking black people ("And what do you say about a 70% out of wedlock black birth rate? Is that unmentionable? Whitey’s fault?"). Even on MLK Day, apparently, there are some neighborhoods people of color ought to avoid.

More surprising is the National Review tribute, where some of the brethren actually admit that American conservatives were once hostile toward MLK:
Aside from the general dislike that conservatives held (and hold) toward civil disobedience under most circumstances, there are a number of other reasons left unaddressed by [Rick] Perlstein for why conservatives cannot embrace King without reservation....
If Perlstein left those reasons unaddressed -- I'm thinking of one in particular -- I'm sure he was just being polite.

They'll Do It Every Time -- celebrating the King holiday by explaning why he shouldn't have a holiday and so forth. If I wish they could just stop pretending and say what they really feel, it isn't entirely because I would like to see their electoral disasters increase -- it is also out of fellow-feeling, because the strain of trying to seem respectful appears to be wearing on them something awful.

UPDATE. Mark Krikorian says the best thing about the recent Mike Judge movie Idiocracy is that it makes fun of black people. Every day is MLK Day for some people!

Monday, January 15, 2007

PLEASING THE AFFILIATES. I have always said that this blogosphere thing is a joke, but even I must admit it has some advantages over print media. For one thing, we are not subject to deadline pressure, which prevents us from having to file such crap as Mark Steyn had to cough up for this Chicago Sun-Times column on Nancy Pelosi:
I would wager that, when the young Nancy Pelosi had ''five children in six years,'' a hefty percentage of that parenthood wasn't planned. She is, in that sense, philosophically at odds with her party -- and, indeed, with her congressional district. San Francisco now registers more dogs that it does schoolchildren.
See, it's funny because Pelosi is a hypocrite because she got knocked up and she's from San Francisco where you're supposed to have abortions. OK, so it's not funny at all. If you were up on your right-wing methodology, you'd know satire doesn't have to be funny in the -- what's the academic term for it? -- intentional sense.

But wait a minute -- Steyn has a follow-up:
Lest you think I'm being my usual homophobic self, I hasten to add that for once I'm not: It speaks well for the Bay Area that they had to embrace the gay life to match the collapsed birth rates European cities have managed to achieve heterosexually.
Ha ha ha! Because, see, they're all fags.

Read the whole thing if you're nostalgic for women's lib jokes ca. 1971. I don't know how many of the Sun-Times' readers suffer from that sort of nostalgia. I doubt it matters. The lucky Steyn has scored one of those right-wing affirmative-action journalistic sinecures that are supposed to take some of the edge off conservative media criticism. To paraphrase the old joke: you know it's bullshit, I know it's bullshit, but business is business.

Friday, January 12, 2007

ANOTHER MILLION-DOLLAR IDEA. St. Rudy Giuliani (with added bombast by Newt Gingrich) explains that what Iraq needs is for Rudy to go chase away the squeegee men.

Okay, not quite. But he does want to turn the Green Zone into a Business Improvement District:
The week before Christmas, the Pentagon asked Congress to approve a supplemental $100 billion for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, on top of the estimated $500 billion spent to date. The administration should direct a small percent of that amount to create an Iraqi Citizen Job Corps, along the lines of FDR's Civilian Conservation Corps during the Great Depression...
Of course, during the Great Depression, America had not literally been attacked by the Martians from War of the Worlds, who then, under political pressure back on Mars, rushed to institute the CCC. But other than that the analogy holds!

I can't wait till they send St. Roo over there to run the Iraqi Citizen Job Corps:

ST. RUDY: Alright, men, I know you've been poisoned by a culture of dependency. For too long you depended on running water, electricity, and civic order. But now those of you who have boots will pull yourselves up by the bootstraps, and those that don't have boots will wake up and smell the coffee. In fact you'll all wake up and smell the coffee!

In the absence of water to make actual coffee, ST. RUDY has BERNIE KERIK spray the room with Demeter's "Fresh Coffee" scent.

ST. RUDY: Today we're going to sweep the streets! Where's that kid I sent for brooms?

IRAQI 1: Pardon, oh lisping one, that was my nephew, Achmed. I saw him just now outside the window, dying in a hail of gunfire.

ST. RUDY: Your nephew died a hero, sir. We'll carve his name into a memorial sometime in 2016. Alright, who wants to go get the brooms?

Nobody moves.

ST. RUDY: Listen, people, those orange jumpsuits aren't going to pay for themselves! Would you rather sit here all morning and read articles from City Journal out loud?

One man raises his hand.

IRAQI 2: I would be happy to go, sir, if I could have American soldiers to protect me.

ST. RUDY: Soldiers to protect you! I suppose you'd like food stamps, too!

IRAQI 1: (his mouth watering) You have stamps made out of food? Allah be praised!

The Iraqis rush ST. RUDY, who is protected by KERIK and others with tasers.

ST. RUDY: I was wrong about you people! You're not capable of self-reliance! To hell with you, I'm going to Somalia -- I understand a lot of the problems there are caused by black people!

(Regrettably, I am too lazy to find a .wav file of The Little Rascals closing theme, which should be played here; use your imagination, like I did when I was your age.)

UPDATE. Thanks Tild~ for the illo!

Thursday, January 11, 2007

WILLING SUSPENSION OF DISBELIEF. Lord knows there is plenty of comic potential in the President's speech, and some of his fans have been making the most of it. Like noted Sadly, No commenter Ann Althouse:
I doubt that President Bush has any capacity to inspire Americans about the war in Iraq. I vaguely wish that he could.
Well, that'll get them up and out of their seats! Brave troops, muzzily march to your vague doom!
He's made his decision, and I think people need to support what he's doing and not undercut him by revealing to our enemies that we can be worn down and demoralized. Yet it doesn't bother me that much that Americans are not fired up by presidential speeches. We don't like war, and we especially don't like to live with a long war that doesn't reward us with distinct successes from time to time. We express our dissatisfaction, but I think most of us realize it's the President's responsibility to get us through this. Electing Democrats to Congress can be read as an expression of dissatisfaction, but does it also mean that we expect or even want Congress to interfere with the President's plan?
It's like this stain in my blouse. From my perspective it sort of looks like the continent of Africa, but from your perspective, it would look like something entirely different. You might see an arrowhead, or a flame. Or you might say, "That's some big stain, Ann." Wait, what were we talking about again?

But strangely, some of the more reliable laugh-getters leave me depressed. From Infinity-to-the-tenth-power-Star General Ralph "Blood 'n' Guts" Peters, I expected a yuk-fest, especially after Bush told Peters' beloved grunts and swabbies and whatnot they were now free from "restrictions" -- kill and kill again, General! But there is something rote in Peters' performance. The last thing one expects from our favorite kill-crazy madman is equivocation, but Peters' opening is painted in pastels as pale as Althouse's:
...Will the plan work? Maybe. It's a last-hope effort based on steps that should've been taken in 2003, from providing basic security for the population to getting young Iraqi males off the streets and into jobs.

The added 20,000-plus U.S. troops to be phased in over the coming months will make a tactical difference in Baghdad and Anbar province - but that may not translate into strategic success...
Of course, there's one topic on which Peters never disappoints, and that's the media, which he predictably and pre-emptively blames for the failure of Bush's shitty plan:
Our troops can stand up to any enemy. But I'm not as certain President Bush can withstand the onslaught of an enraged media - and any prospect that we might be turning the situation around will certainly enrage them.
But even this doesn't have the old Peters kick -- it's almost as if he's phoning it in.

Maybe it's just me. Because, when you think about it, the loss of lives this crackpot scheme will bring isn't all that funny.

UPDATE. Oh thank you Michelle Malkin for bringing teh funny! Such a cute widdle Iraqi boy-with-US-flag! Next time put a Hershey bar in his other hand -- if he has one -- and we'll run that baby on page one!

UPDATE II. Thanks also to John Podhoretz! You tell 'im, hoss -- that guy can't use that word, that's your word! Like "politically correct," "feminazi," and "America"!

UPDATE III. Paul J Cella -- now that guy cracks me up:
What prevents me from supporting President Bush amounts to this: I do not trust his judgment. Put another way, a man whose judgment has been demonstrated to be so suspect cannot claim my trust.
Alternately, my trust I do not in him entrust, because I judge his judgment untrustworthy. Conversely, were he judged trustworthy I would trust his judgment. Or judge his trustment. Also funny: Democrats are "cynical" to oppose the Iraqi quagmire because "everywhere else we look, Democrats are urging that we 'do' something for somebody" like poor people and chicks, so why not people in other countries we've recently blown to shit? Also funny: "Alas."

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

SHORTER THE ANCHORESS: You're Dems if you do and Dems if you don't!

(For the record, I have always thought this war was bullshit -- see my archives, or even the original alicublog, for confirmation -- and I think we should get the fuck out, no matter what the wets and water-treaders think.)
SHORTER AUSTIN BAY: Slow news day -- think I'll invent a meaningless catchphrase.

(Fave sentence: "As a noxious odor spread through Manhattan, reasonable people feared either an extensive natural gas leak or a poison gas attack." Many of us, however, just assumed Jonah Goldberg had a second breakfast burrito.)

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

MORE ADVICE FROM YOUR MORTAL ENEMIES. Some weeks ago, ferociously anti-"raghead" Gates of Vienna waged white jihad on Keith Ellison, a Muslim and a Democratic candidate for Congress. "Minnesota, weep for your children," said Dymphna. "This candidate is a piece of work." "Mr. Ellison’s fealty does not lie with the U.S. Constitution," said Baron Bodissey. (Yes, these are their names -- they're into Nordic roleplay.) "...his past, plus his present associations, most definitely point in the direction of 'Koran First, Constitution Second.'"

Well, now Piece-of-Work Ellison is Congressman Ellison -- sworn in on a Ko-ran, by Odin's codpiece! -- and Dymphna is offering him advice: take a stand on "the plight of women under sharia law — especially in Iran and Pakistan..."

The cause is commendable, though the utility of a freshman Congressman's denunciations would be in this case probably nil, at best. Still, Dymphna calls for Ellison to speak out, because -- get this -- "your public stance on the predicament of Muslim women is vital to the progress of reforming the view many Americans have of Islam at the moment."

Gates of Vienna (an "Islamophobic and Proud of It" button featured on its sidebar) offering to help Keith Ellison improve the image of Islam in America! By Loki's ampallang, that's a good one.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Iraq's massive oil reserves, the third-largest in the world, are about to be thrown open for large-scale exploitation by Western oil companies under a controversial law which is expected to come before the Iraqi parliament within days.

The US government has been involved in drawing up the law, a draft of which has been seen by The Independent on Sunday. It would give big oil companies such as BP, Shell and Exxon 30-year contracts to extract Iraqi crude and allow the first large-scale operation of foreign oil interests in the country since the industry was nationalised in 1972.
Keep an eye on this one. Both the outcome and the coverage should be interesting.

UPDATE. Commenter LA Confidential Pantload points to this RedState post, in which "Socrates" (I imagine RedState staff meetings as sad Symposia with giant bottles of Mr. Pibbs instead of wine) argues that we've been too nice to our "defeated" "enemy" in Iraq (you know, the erstwhile flower-strewing freedom-lovers). "Victory is incomplete until the loser internalizes the outcome," he says. But DeBa'athification, hanging Saddam, and turning the nation into a hellhole haven't led to the right sort of internalization, so what will? Maybe something like the Pol Pot Year Zero formula, after we get the future corpses to help us erect the derricks. For added laffs, check out ol' Soc's interpretations of the American Civil War and WWI.
TEACHING THE MSM A LESSON. Kerry photo funnies enjoyed by rightwing assholes (ha ha! Soljers stuk in irak hate Jon Cary!) shown to be bullshit. Ole Perfesser (via correspondent) says the real story is how that Cary -- I mean Kerry, ha ha -- has "special talents" for looking foolish.

Jamil Hussein, long derided by rightwing assholes as non-existent, is produced. The Ole Perfesser says the real story is that Media Matters listed Patterico among about a dozen other rightwing assholes.

Rightwing assholes flout Bush/Pelosi poll comparison which turns out, you guessed, to be misleading. (They tried something similar a few months back.) The Ole Perfesser turns it into a thought experiment: "I'm guessing, though, that these numbers would be getting a lot more press attention anyway if the party affiliations were reversed."

The knock I hear these guys constantly making on Main Stream Media is that the MSM's malfeasances, however small in the scheme of things, make all their stories hard to trust. They have a point. The MSM should work tirelessly and shamelessly, as the Perfesser does, to spin even obvious reversals into victories for their political affinity groups. Trying to actually report is difficult, and you can easily screw it up; but doing such work as the Perfesser does takes very little skill and there are no standards, apparently, against which to judge it. And there will always be a select group of people who will believe what you tell them, no matter what. And you never have to leave your basement!

Really, I don't know why our media isn't worse than it is, considering the current incentives.
HISTORY'S GREATEST MONSTER. This whole post, by Malkin storeminder Dafydd ab Hugh, is a gem, but here's the best bit:
The Iraq war -- indeed, the larger GWOJ (global war against jihadism) -- is as much a propaganda war, a war of ideas and "memes," as it is a shooting war. Paul Josef Goebbels understood the power of propaganda; so too did Tojo, Walter Cronkite, and so does al-Qaeda, of course.
I eagerly await future installments of this fever dream, in which the author uncovers Walter Cronkite's rape rooms and concentration camps. Not to mention the "Black Rock Death March."

Walter Cronkite as a peer of Tojo and Goebbels! Defeat has made them even more hilarious.
ALL I CAN SAY IS, if some of the big, big money I make every day with alicublog has run off in Dr. Mrs. Ole Perfesser's direction, well, blogging's like manure -- it's no good unless ya spread it around!

Previously, in her comments section, Dr. Mrs. OP has also claimed that Glenn Greenwald and I bought her a boat. If the IRS is reading this (and it is!), I just want to say that, judging from my actual traffic numbers (and what I know blogads and adsense actually pay), her claims are rather fanciful. (Though she may have a separate arrangement with Mr. Greenwald that I don't know about.)

UPDATE. Dr. Mrs. is onto me: not only am I a blog-millionaire, but the real power behind the Ann Althouse Army known as Sadly, No! It's only a matter of time before she figures out that I'm the brains behind this whole damn operation. Atrios -- Edroso in Latin! Kos -- Edroso in Greek! Pandagon -- Edroso in drag! My name is legion!

If you want me I'll be hiding out on Skull Island till things blow over.

UPDATE II. DMOP points out that I only gave her enough money to rent a boat. It's still going to look bad in the tabloids, though.

Friday, January 05, 2007

CHAOS THEORY. Adam Gopnik reports on Mayor Bloomberg's big plan for the City's next 25 years. Just as my eyes were glazing over -- "It is hard for people who don’t know what the city was like in the seventies or the early eighties to understand [blah blah blah]... Despite even 9/11... [blah blah blah]... New York is in good shape, and getting better..." -- Gopnik takes an unexpected turn:
What seemed a little odd about the plan, and the speech, though, is that the one thing that leaves many New Yorkers worried, or at least uneasy, was nowhere mentioned—perhaps because the Mayor doesn’t notice it, perhaps because that worry is a little metaphysical and almost poetic, resistant to oratory or city budget numbers. It is the sense that the city’s recovery has come at the cost of a part of its identity: that New York is safer and richer but less like itself, an old lover who has gone for a face-lift and come out looking like no one in particular. The wrinkles are gone, but so is the face. This transformation is one you see on every street corner in Manhattan, and now in Brooklyn, too, where another local toy store or smoked-fish emporium disappears and another bank branch or mall store opens. For the first time in Manhattan’s history, it has no bohemian frontier. Another bookstore closes, another theatre becomes a condo, another soulful place becomes a sealed residence. These are small things, but they are the small things that the city’s soul clings to...
Gopnick is a little overcautious and over-poetical, which is understandable -- he's a establishment type and the territory he's approaching here is very far from where such people normally like to be seen. The earlier, blahblah part of the essay is their real comfort zone: how wonderful that Starbuckses have replaced the crack houses, and that Disney took Times Square. No one wants to speak against safety, comfort, and the good will of the tourists who swell our economy with their vacation budgets.

In fact, if the subject is broached at all, it is always in the triumphalist terms taken by James Traub in 2003, when he suggested that now that New York had "got its swagger back" thanks to Saint Rudy (and "if that was Yuppified, I'd take it"), we could will "more theater, more cafes, more bookshops" into being and make the transformation complete: clean streets, and a cultural renaissance in the bargain!

Such types do not consider that the bargain went a little differently: the economic boom came with high rents, and the high rents made cultural activity much more difficult at the cheap end, where dreams are born. Ateliers, theatre and dance studios rentals are prohibitively expensive; so are apartments, and it's hard to attain the kind of critical mass that breeds a bohemia when you have to work all day just to sustain a marginal existence, and take two trains to an affordable crib far from anything. The evidence is all around us. The dirty 70s birthed punk-rock, hip-hop, Martin Scorsese, etc; our clean and sober era gives us the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and artisanal cheese shops. Our venues are mostly expensive barns that need star acts to keep afloat. Showcases are a luxury. New York is more than ever a place where the Best of Everything does a four-night stand, not where it is manufactured.

That is what they wanted and that is what they got. I rather expect it will only change when things get tough again -- when the tourists forsake us, when another President tells us to Drop Dead (rather than doing his own four-night stand, as Bush did in 2004 with the Republican Convention), when the bottom falls out of the housing market, when people can come to New York with practically nothing and make something out of it.

No one wants to think so, because we have been taught that economic growth is the wellspring of all good things, and that we can have it all, even a Traubian renaissance. It is hard to tell a booster that some kinds of growth come from the mulch born of decay. Our businessman mayor's plan contains many necessary items, but some things you can't plan -- especially if you don't really want them, not at the cost they would demand, and you couldn't admit it in polite company if you did.

But even if you did want them, and had the bad taste to say so, it wouldn't really matter, because if they came they would come the way such things always do -- by accident, and against our best intentions.

UPDATE. Comments on this one are fascinating. Don't misapprehend me: I'm not trying to tell you how much better it was back in my day. I wouldn't have minded coming of age in the New York of Allen Ginsberg and Marlon Brando, either, or that of Warhol and Lou Reed. From what I can tell, most postwar sub-generations of New York had something we don't have now. You may disagree. But I do wonder what features of this era future sub-gens will look back upon with nostalgia and admiration. Bottle-service clubs? Dave Matthews in Central Park? Hopefully I can hold my position long enough to find out. In every sense, things can always get worse.
MORAL GUIDEBOOK -- COPIOUSLY ILLUSTRATED! Ace of Spades will link you to hot pics of a naked cheerleader, but first you have to listen to a lecture:
Something has seriously gone wrong in this culture. God knows I'm not a super-strict virtuecrat or anything, but a steady diet of MTV sex shows, Sex & the City, and the like now has many, verging on most, young girls pretty much behaving like gutterwhores...

I don't think the ubiquity of porn has much of an impact, because in order to sell this behavior, you have to sell it as cool, chic, hip, an attractive "lifestyle choice"...
Etc. The commenters are all over it: "I blame the Boomers. Judging by her age, I'd bet her parents were just enough a part of the Summer of Love that she (and her peers) grew up in an environment that was pretty much 100% sexually indiscriminate..."

And in the background, a soft, ceaseless chorus of wankwankwankwankwankwank like crickets in the country.

Ah well -- They think up so many new ways to be ridiculous that it's kind a relief to see them working the classics.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

WHEN ALL YOU HAVE IS A JACKBOOT, EVERY PROBLEM LOOKS LIKE A CULTURE WAR. "As for Don McLean's 'classic' ["American Pie"] -- I still hate it but with less gusto after learning that it is in fact anti-hippy" -- Dean Esmay.

Please, nobody tell the poor guy about "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds" -- or, given he's an Elvis Costello fan, "Tramp the Dirt Down."

Everything is politics to these guys. Imagine a life like that! It's almost sad enough to stop me from making fun of them.
SHORTER PETER WOOD: Anger makes Democrats very unattractive, which is why nobody voted for them in 2006.

(I must add that a semiotic deconstruction of the Works of Jon Chait was about the last thing I ever expected to read at National Review Online. It was annoying enough when these people were tugging our sleeves, pointing at Michael Moore, and going, "See that fat guy? That's what you look like." On the other hand, it will be interesting to see what happens when this meme is force-fed to the base: imagine a national network of warbloggers and other operatives trying to rouse the populace against Jonathan Chait Democrats. If that doesn't work, they can do the one about how Jimi Hendrix at Woodstock was even worse.)
A LIBERAL MUGGED BY AUTHORITARIANISM. I make fun of libertarians sometimes, but really, like most of us these days, I'm something of a lipstick libertarian myself -- you know, all about maximum freedom until you push my statist buttons. For example, I support laws against child labor, yet insist on a right to consensual sodomy. What a hypocrite I am!

Whether I am as much a hypocrite as the Lip Libs of The Corner or the Ole Perfesser, I leave to be judged by my non-existent God. I will say that Hit and Run is one of my favorite blogs, and that the only thing that kept me from wasting a whole morning raging over Victor Davis Hanson was this eloquent David Weigel analysis -- or should I say dialysis? In any event he sure takes the piss out of the old clown.

See, they do too have a sense of humor! Now they just have to stop standing too close to you when they talk.

UPDATE. Oh, and the Hit and Run commenters -- who all have girlfriends "away at college," and adult acne* -- are also brilliant. Fave line so far: "'Think tank' has become a byword for 'place where people who are wrong about Iraq work.'"

* This is a joke. My site is full of jokes like this. Due to my complex psychological makeup, gentle ribbing is one of the few ways I can show affection. Yet despite my curmudgeonly pose, I love all my fellow creatures, especially when I'm on mescaline.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

BUT OLD MAN RETARD, HE JUST KEEPS ROLLING ALONG... "If Syriana is profitable it’s thanks to overseas sales, and I’m sure terrorist recruitment centers everywhere." -- that ever-reliable source of culture-nerd nuttage, Libertas.

(Any random Libertas post will lower your esteem for kulturkampfers by several degrees, no matter how low it is already, but if you're pressed for time just read this one about how all post-60s Republican Presidents had a sense of humor, and all post-60s Democratic Presidents did not. Money shot: "SNL did a very funny skit about Carter.. It portrayed him as naive, cowardly, and small. Had Akroyd shaved the mustache and added a dash of anti-semitism it would’ve been perfect.")
BLACK AND WHITE TURN IT ON, FACE THE NEW RELIGION. At the Weekly Standard Joseph Epstein's talking about American Presidents who are "believers" and American Presidents who are "unbelievers." All our Presidents have professed some sort of faith, of course, and Epstein himself -- overcome, perhaps, by a spasm of sequential thought, or a glance at his word count -- declares that "I do not know American history well enough to run through all 43 of our presidents, designating the believers and nonbelievers among them." But he recovers quickly, and says he can hit the target from Truman onwards:
Truman wasn't supposed to possess anything resembling belief; when he came to the presidency at the death of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, he was considered a politician of the ward-heeling type, beholden to the Pendergast machine in Kansas City. Yet he was called on to make some of the most significant decisions of the 20th century--including that of dropping atomic bombs on Japan--and it is impossible to imagine him making that decision without deep belief in its rightness. As it happens, the decision was one that every American serviceman, even ardent liberals among them, viewed as the correct decision.
You can already see the pattern emerging here: where biography, or any empirical evidence, fails to show True Faith, it may yet be inferred from positive results -- if it's good, it's the product of belief!

But the longer this goes on, the sloppier things get:

"Dwight David Eisenhower had no strong beliefs that I can make out... Eisenhower believed in order... But his belief was cool... To be a true believer, passion is required." (Translation: He really dicked us with that military-industrial complex thing, and integration. No True Faith for you!)

"John F. Kennedy was a non believer... Had he lived longer, Kennedy might have come to belief..." (Translation: I want to say he burns in Hell but we have to throw aged Catholics a few bones or the Republicans are fucked in 2008.)

"The great irony of Johnson's career is that the man everyone considered the operator par excellence until he ascended to the presidency was brought down by his own genuine beliefs." (Translation: Thank God they can't blame him on us!)

"Difficult to imagine Richard Nixon actually believed in anything." (Translation: They can't even blame us on us!)

"Gerald Ford was on the scene too briefly to establish any strong beliefs, let alone act upon them. Yet, beliefless though he may have been, he seems to have been the right man at the right time..."

Jeeeesus fucking Christ, who needs it? In the end, belief is shown to be of ambiguous utility -- "If Churchill was a believer, so was Hitler." Sometimes it's good and sometimes it's bad; sometimes it matters and sometimes it doesn't.

Why then does this miserable, seemingly useless essay even exist?

Because belief is a big deal for conservatives -- it's one of their distinguishing market equities, a point of difference that has helped win elections for their candidates. But now that conservatives are in a bit of a trough, and liberal Democrats are starting to claim the benefits of religiosity for themselves, they have to work a little harder to hold onto that equity.

These guys can't just yell "Jesus" anymore and expect rubes to come running. But they can get one of their culture-critic types to chew over the issue of belief intellectual-like, dropping along the way slurs against people they don't like. It's the total cynic's version of "taking the high ground" -- like Jerry Falwell retreating from his Moral Majority lightning-rod to concentrate on running Liberty University, or Albert Brooks aping the psychologist in Real Life ("Oh, you think you're the only one who can write things down? Well, I can write things down too! Here, look -- 'I... never... said... that'").

It's a way of looking thoughtful without taking the trouble to think.

I can see why they'd want to rebrand along more upscale lines, but this may be a bad fit, like selling Ovaltine as an energy drink. Still, the American People have bought worse crap.
SHORTER JIM LILEKS: As I was saying, the death of Old Media can't come soon enough for blog giants such as mysOH SHIT THEY SOLD MY MEAL TICKET! Uhhhhhhhhh you know what the New Owners need? Someone who can write long about bullshit. (Flirtatiously fans himself with an old matchbook.)

(alicublog tipster Nancy Nall observes, "Like he'd be able to find 'the assignment desk' at the Strib with a GPS and spy satellites.")
ALICUBLOG KEEPS THE DORKALICIOUSNESS FRESH! Responding perhaps to our recent themes, the Ole Perfesser insists that he's not a dork, you're the dork! Then he shoots himself up with Nanobugs that will keep him alive forever "with godlike powers."

On the count of three, everybody retuck your shirts!

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

DORKUS MALORKUS. Lots of talk here lately about dorks and nerds. Consider it our way of extending the holiday mood. We are laying off the truly evil propagandists for a minute to enjoy the motley and jingling bells of guys who just get a little too into their RPG.

For example, Paul J Cella, defending the honor of the Great American Midwest:
...a great but dwindling arc of towns and small cities which another Midwesterner, Willmoore Kendall, liked to refer to as the “Appalachia-to-the-Rockies” America — are regularly the target in our national media of derision, contempt, and sanctimonious criticism. These censures come from various quarters: from the entertainment media cometh the contempt; from New York the derision; from Washington the sanctimonious criticism.
Oh, one is tempted to interject, cometh the fuck on. But wait for it...
And so again we encounter the evidences in our beloved land, of what C. S. Lewis called the abolition of man.
Ding ding ding! C.S. Lewis check! Quick search for Chesterton, Gandalf, Frazetta -- well, it's a short piece by Cella standards. And who needs nerd namechecks when he brings original sentences such as this:
Can our Liberals learn nothing of the infuriating complexity of mankind from this fact: that Red America, to them the fount of nigh every prejudice, has given us men who embody the very virtues they avow their longing for in our statesmen and policticians?
Canneth Lord Cella learneth that William O. Douglas, George McGovern, and a whole lot of other liberal traitors were not created in Liberal City test-tubes, but born and raised on the Plains or the Prairie? Wouldst this bloweth his mindeth?

'Swounds, what a dorknerd.
IN THE TIME OF LEPRECHAUNS A WIZARD, NOBLE, SPRANG! Happy New Year! One of my 7,655 resolutions is to waste less of my readers' time and get right to the money shots. Simple juxtaposition for comic effect with be frequently employed.

In that spirit, Gates of Vienna tells us about some sort of Nordic Golem who will rise from his centuries-old sleep to kill darkies for us:
Now, if even a trace of the blood of the Men of the North runs in your veins, or if you have lived long enough among them to have acquired some of their spirit, the hair on the back of your neck will rise when you read these words, and you will say, “Yes! This is the hero, the man who will defend us during the troubles that are surely coming.”
"Baron Bodissey" sets the scene with some snips of Ted Hughes poetry written for Heavy Metal magazine back when it was good.

Which put me in mind of this 21 century poet:
In a mighty earthen crock
A Lord was boiled with his beef!
His bloated eyes popped from his head
And were stolen by a thief!
More here. This is easy and fun!

Sunday, December 31, 2006

THE LAND OF MAKE BELIEVE. In continuance of his War On Search Engines That Don't Ask His Advice Before Devising Holiday Graphics, the Ole Perfesser gets on Google for front-loading seach results.

Not on moral grounds, of course, but because a big mob of citizen journalists will rise up and crush Google if it doesn't behave. It's a power play, basically. Sometimes the Perfesser has to flex his muscle a little.

So he quotes some other tech dork who says Google better watch it and quotes yet another tech dork who says Google better watch it.

Neither Perf Reffed Dork 1 nor Perf Reffed Dork 2 -- nor, indeed, the Perfesser -- have any meaningful ad, traffic or other numbers to justify their warnings. Dork 2's post is actually a non-sequitur -- Google users are "dweebs" because they don't look for Britney Spears or Weather, haha! -- and perhaps linked in error; Dork 1 has a marginally more substantive complaint: that Google is acting like a big bad corporation, which it is, and all the while pretends to be Non-Evil, which it does, since Dorks of whatever numeration love to hear that shit.

But Dork 1 suggests that Google is by its predations is losing "trust," that magical fairy-dust, and suggests indirectly that said loss of fairy-dust will lead to something we've "seen... before [,when] Yahoo, AOL and Microsoft were the darlings of the valley back in the late nineties..." and the big crash that followed.

Those of us who remember the tech crash -- indeed predicted it -- also remember that it was fairly sweeping, and did not exempt companies that were Non-Evil. It exempted companies that offered things people were willing to pay for, which sort of company Google appears to be.

But Dork 1 Thinks Different:
Now Google is in the position of dominance, and they definitely have the arrogance that goes with it. But they are in a very difficult spot because of that damned motto ["Don't Be Evil"], and perhaps right on the tipping point where public opinion could change. More and more, people are hoping for Google to stumble. And every time they do, the press pounces. And they always point to the motto.
"People" and "press" are used more or less as synonyms here -- and actually, in our Glorious Blog Revolution, where the the Means of Production are held by the Wankers, I suppose technically everyone is "press." And maybe this is why our Dork thinks the complaints of the commentariat will cause all mankind (which is the same thing!) to dump Google out of sheer righteous indignation and avail search engines that are made by monks on organic server farms.

After all, if the Reagan Revolution taught us anything, it's that ethical behavior is much more important to ordinary consumers than pricing and performance. That's why everyone the Dorks know (and, by logical inference, the population of our solar system) has the Google motto by heart.

The Perfesser himself seems to believe the same ridiculous thing -- or his own, much shorter and funnier version of it. He hehindeeds:
I've noted declining trust in Google over the past year or so, and it seems that the problem is getting worse. Google should be a lot more worried about this than it seems to be -- all you need to do to take your business elsewhere is type a different URL.
Do check that "declining trust" link, where the evidence is... one Jonah Goldberg mouth-fart and a graphic link to (dare we say "paid product placement for"?) Ask.com.

With such slim evidence can "declining trust' be implied, because 1.) few people follow deep links, and so will not know how full of shit this one is, and 2.) the Perfesser's devotees are as reality-averse as he is, and inclined to believe, with or without evidence, that he and his buddies represent a groundswell.

This is not a defense of Google's hanky-panky, but a reminder that "citizen journalism" is less exempt from institutional hubris and bullshit than its cheerleaders tirelessly make it out to be.

The worst kind of pundits, I think, are the ones who are addicted to the idea that the whole world agrees with them, even in the face of contradictory facts. Pretty much the entire right-blogosphere displayed this behavior in the month before the 2006 elections (Use my own archive for examples!). That their arrogance leads to frequent and hilarious come-uppances does not excuse them, because they never learn from these reverses -- they just apply their arrogance to another area until time has passed and the coast become clear for their next beating of pots and pans on behalf of the Emerging Blogospheric Majority.

UPDATE. A correspondent takes exception to my use of the term "tech dork." I admire the strong feeling for standards and simple justice often seen at slashdot and other places where tech types gather. Anyone who stands for purity in this soiled world is going to seem a bit dorkish.

God knows I have. As a jacked-up little shit of a punk rocker, I used to think that the music industry was Moloch and that the truth was only known by guttersnipes. Had I been (and it would have been only just) killed by a falling stage monitor at age 20 and reincarnated as a tech guy, maybe I'd be dorking up a storm now, righteously wishful-thinking that Google's sellout will be noted and avenged by the masses.

So I agree that the tech dorks don't deserve my breezily dismissive attitude. The Perfesser's cynical use of them, on the other hand, deserves all that and more.

Friday, December 29, 2006

SHORTER STEPHEN BAINBRIDGE: See, the difference between us Catholics and bloodthirsty maniacs is, we humanely lull you to sleep with endless speeches of self-justification before we kill you.

UPDATE. Michael Rubin at NRO says, "Of course, the Iraqis do favor capital punishment and that’s what matters..." When did we go back to pretending to give a shit what they think?
THE CONTINUING WAR AGAINST VICTORY. Seen Rich Lowry's column today? Today's moment of oh-no-he-DIH-hint:
In a major speech on poverty last year, he referred to the social ills besetting young mothers who “aren’t married.” But his prescription for this problem is to excoriate teen parenthood and say that people should be expected “to hold off having kids until they’re ready.” He refuses to offer as the obvious solution the M-word that rhymes with carriage.

This is because the word “marriage” is something of a taboo in the Democratic party unless it is prefaced by “gay.”
Is it true? Are these guys really going back to the Democrats-hate-marriage argument? Hello President Kucinich! Because by the time me and my Demonrat Congresscritter friends finish gayifying America, even fancy restaurants will be serving condiments in packets 'cause the waiters won't even marry the ketchups! The Mother of Christ will charge her name to Commitment Ceremony! Bride magazine will be full of drag queens! etc.

Or maybe they expect to turn the electorate back on with Bridget Johnson and her comedy "resolutions":
Grab other conservative pundits for a weekend of headline-grabbing partying in the manner of Lindsay Lohan, Britney Spears, and Paris Hilton. I shall be Lohan, pre-gothic hair dye, because unlike Britney, I remember to put on unmentionables. The New York Daily News will catch up with the squad of conservavixens and christen the GOP the “Republican Par-TAY!”
Well, there go my next three erections. ("Unmentionables" is, like, 19th-Century for panties, right? 'Round my way they're called ankle-warmers.)
YEAR-END DUMBASS CLEARANCE! As an English tutor of yout's, I teach a module on Fact and Opinion, in which I explain that assertions that cannot be proven are opinions. If you say "This potato weighs a half a pound," you are stating a fact, because you can weigh the potato to prove your assertion; but if you say "Potatoes suck," you are expressing an opinion, for there is no suckometer with which you could measure the suckage of potatoes.

Sometimes, though -- and don't tell the kids -- I feel as if I, perhaps alone among humanity, possess an internal suckometer, one that has been sensitized by prolonged exposure to the fatheads and dipshits that are alicublog's primary subject matter. And I must tell you that, by its measure, Crunchy Rod Dreher is reading absolutely off the charts.

First he bitches on and on about how they's a Wal-Mart a-comin' to his l'il ol' childhood home. In Crunchy Rod's former (and my current) jurisdiction, of course, we use activism and politics to prevent such noxious results; but, to each jerkwater burg its own.

Then he drops this turd:
Here's something interesting: there are Mexican laborers in town now. More and more of them. A local businessman said to me, "If you want to get anything done nowadays, you have to hire Mexicans." He explained that the black day laborers that people around here used to hire for agricultural or small-scale construction work aren't available anymore. He speculated that this must have something to do with the way the drug culture -- especially crack -- has made serious inroads into the black community here. Frankly, I'm so shocked by this that I can't even think about being sad. Crack for sale in this sleepy Southern town. I guess I'm too Romantic, too naive.
Because if blacks aren't doing the grunt work, it must surely be due to their crack addiction. "Romantic," indeed.

A commenter calls Rod on this, and Rod gits mad:
Harvey, you may valorize yourself your condescension, but you know nothing about the way life is and people are around here. You know how you wish they were. You know exactly nothing about how the black community, as a general matter, lives in this specific place, or the white community. Neither do I, though I know more than you do...

...It is also the case that the black unemployment rate is much higher than the white unemployment rate, which informs the "won't work" judgment -- you have a significant number of employable black men here who are able to work, but who do not work. Some of these men sell drugs instead. If someone needs unskilled labor on a temporary basis, when I was a boy it was possible to hire a crew of black men who didn't have regular employment to come perform the labor. I am told now that those kinds of jobs, which used to be performed by black men a generation ago, are now performed by Mexican laborers, who are available and willing to do the work that local black men, for whatever reason, are not...
...willing to do for a buck-three-eighty, like in my pappy's day.

How many times have you heard crap like that? I know it's not a Southern thing, because I've been hearing it since I was a boy in Bridgeport, Connecticut. And I've heard it in every region of the country: Oh, you don't know those people like I do. They just don't want to work! All they want to do is get likkered up and play dice! Or get coked up and play Young Jeezy, whatever.

Well, I'm here to tell you that I've been walking this earth quite a long time now, and the monstrous stupidity of that POV just gets clearer, and the traditional defense offered by Crunchy Rod -- that outside agitators don't know his little slice of Valhalla, where human nature is totally different than it is everywhere else you've ever been in your life -- increases past simple lameness and into immobility.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

TODAY'S ZEITGEIST SNAPSHOT: BILL BENNETT YELLING AT THE CORPSE OF GERALD FORD. I have to admit, when old Number 38 went down I was tempted to post a parody version of this headline. But we the living should not press our advantage over the newly dead. There is hilarity enough to be gleaned from right-wing jackasses now professing to admire him.

We all know what these people truly feel about the proto-RINO who took Nelson Rockefeller as his VP. Still, for the sake of their Party, they have made a pretense of mourning, and reminisce fondly about the Mayaguez incident -- 40 Americans killed to rescue sailors who had already been released. That's standin' tall, by God!

Rare as these japes are, the punchline is even better. Ford left his Republican brothers a time-delayed stink-bomb: a posthumous bullshit-call on the Iraq War. Apparently Ford wanted history to record that, whatever his other defects, he was no GWB.

Who would be the first of the mourners to rip the lid off the coffin and start pummelling the corpse? Why, Dollar Bill Bennett:
This is not courage, this is not decent. The manly or more decent options are these: 1. Say it to Bush's or Cheney's face and allow them and us to engage the point while you're around, or 2. Far more decently, say nothing critical of Bush will be on the record until his presidency is over. There's a 3. Don't say anything critical of George Bush to Bob Woodward at all.
Or 4., tell Ken Mehlman you want a cool million to keep your mouth shut, then take the money to Caesar's Palace. Best slots in the West! Tell 'em Bill B sent you.

UPDATE. Crunchy Conman Rod Dreher on Ford:
Sorry, I wish I had stronger opinions about Ford. I also wish I had stronger opinions about mashed potatoes. R.I.P.
What, I wonder, is the Crunchy Con policy on drugs? Because it sounds like RD has got him some of that good hydroponic weed.
PLEASE, PEOPLE, don't any of you tell Ben Stein about The Producers, or he'll kidnap Mel Brooks and take him to Israel for trial.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

SHORTER THE ANCHORESS: I really hate my sister.
ADDED VALUE. I haven't been paying enough attention to Ann Althouse lately. Fortunately Whiskey Fire is on the job:
Althouse feels things, and these things are terribly important:

I am struck -- you may think it is absurd for me to be suddenly struck by this -- but I am struck by how deeply and seriously libertarians and conservatives believe in their ideas...

...One of the reasons 9/11 had such a big impact on me is that it was such a profound demonstration of the fact that these people are serious. They really believe.
The problem with this is that it is self-aggrandizing pap, complete with a silly observation about 9/11. It's a strategy. It's a move in a game, the claim to be above playing it. Also, it's annoying. And beyond that, it's a confession that she's labored under conditions of appalling ignorance for years...
This is good shooting, soldier, and it also helps explain Jonah Goldberg's earlier-noted confusion: he thinks Ann Althouse is a liberal.

Adding to the merriment: someone at The Corner has linked to the post. Matter meets doesn't-matter!
A NEW LOW. It is traditional at alicublog, when we treat a piece of writing by Jonah Goldberg, to close with the phrase, "This is the stupidest thing ever written, and will remain so until Goldberg writes something else." But his latest essay will be hard even for Goldberg to top.

The theme is religious certainty. Here is the intellectual highlight:
The rot, not surprisingly, has reached Hollywood. For example, in Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith, George Lucas caved to the fashionable anti-absolutism that comes with Bush hatred by having a young Obi-Wan Kenobi proclaim, “Only a Sith lord deals in absolutes!” Translation: Only evil people see the world as black-and-white. This signaled that Lucas’s descent into hackery was complete, since it was Lucas himself who originally explained that the entire universe is divided into light and dark sides.
I don't even know what to say to this. I tried out three jokes here, and they were pretty good jokes (two involved bongs and poop), but they just seemed so... puny compared to the breathtaking scale of this idiocy. That the editor of a major magazine would present such dorm-room sci-fi drivel without a blink of embarrassment! Somewhere the shades of Addison and Steele are tearing one another's hair out and screaming God-a-mercy.

And how about this:
Whenever I hear people say such things, I like to ask them, “Are you sure about that?” When they say yes, which they always do, I follow up by asking, “No, no: Are you really, really certain that certainty is bad?” At some point even the irony-deficient get the joke.
Next week, Goldberg discourses on the use of "why are you hitting yourself?" as a rhetorical tool.

Goldberg would not roll so often into such ripe patches of intellectual manure if he were not so addicted to willful misunderstandings. Liberals worry about the influence on our governance of religious dogmatists, and Goldberg absurdly interprets this as an anathema on "certainty." Then he makes a great show of revealing that "they aren’t offended by conviction per se, but by convictions they do not hold." In other words, if you like Rosa Parks but don't like Osama Bin Laden, you're a liberal hypocrite for whom "'Closed-minded' has come to mean 'people who disagree with me.'" Plus Hitler was a vegetarian. Psych!

I do advise you follow the link and find your own favorite bits. But I call dibs on "As Chesterton teaches, a dogmatic conviction can also be morally praiseworthy and socially valuable." And, as Shakespeare said, white wine goes with fish, and an open box of baking soda will help keep your fridge smelling sweet. Sweet Christ, the Argument from Authority itself must feel unclean after such a use.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

STAY ON THE SCENE. On my local TV news, tears rolled down Rev. Al Sharpton's face as he paid tribute to the late James Brown. That figures. Like Reverend Al -- my love for whom you all know -- JB was a shuck-and-jivester who sometimes left a bad smell after himself, but whose glories far surpassed his trespasses.

I used to work with a guy who played first trumpet with JB and kept coming back on tour, partly for the music and partly because JB always paid players for the last tour rather than the present one -- "Holly," he told my friend, "you're a smart man -- you know I can't pay ya!" I'm sure if it were only the latter reason that compelled, Holly would have just gone to the union, but he loved playing for the man, and it showed when he was on a gig.

I'm sure JB could be hard for players to love. He famously fined them for missing cues. He was just as famously tight with a buck, so we may suspect his ear was well-tuned to such malfeasances, and maybe even hypersensitive to them. But here too there was more than one reason: JB started out as a drummer.

All jokes aside, it has been my experience that the drummers who conform to stereotype are the ones who just can't do anything else (just as it's always the monomaniacal cooks who are the crazy ones) -- but if they have anything besides paradiddles rattling around in their noggins, they are usually quite brilliant, and typically exacting when put in charge of group endeavors. The great drummers I've worked with -- Andy Malm, Ray Sage, Sally Barry, Billy Ficca -- all have wide-ranging interests and very short tempers. They love a groove, but they despise a mess.

JB's music is full of hairpin turns and dead-stops -- you better be on top of things if you're playing it. But those tight boundaries just make the grooves groovier. The funk has got to be loose, but the turnarounds have got to be snare-head tight. It's only when those rivets are snug that the pocket can get deep.

No one talks about JB as a songwriter. In a way, that's unfair. Some of his songs are excellent on their own terms. Check out Eartha Kitt's strangely compelling cover of "It's a Man's Man's Man's World" to get a taste of how far that supposedly macho lyric can be stretched. Or just look at it plain, especially at the end: "He's lost, lost in the wilderness ... he's lost, lost in the loneliness..." That ain't triumph. That ain't even soul-man baby-please-don't-go pleading with a promise in its pocket. That's despair. She ain't coming back. Ain't no one coming back. That's the end, the sad, stinking, canned-heat end of a ladies' man who's run out of game. It gives cold-water-flat chills.

But for the most part, JB was less a songwriter than a funkmeister. His joints are designed to wake joy and shake ass. He used modern songwriting techniques -- verbal and musical riffs -- to make that happen, but once he achieved launch velocity, he didn't feel the need to elaborate. Stay on the scene, like a sex machine. I feel nice, like-a sugar and spice. I got soul, I'm super bad. Well, damn, what else do you need?

But let's not just talk about his legacy on recorded media. I saw him once, at the old Lone Star Cafe in New York. My sloppy who-was-I-sleeping-with metric puts the show at 1978, give or take a shake. (Also, I'd just missed Iggy at the Palladium on the grounds that he was washed up, and I had decided, after the glowing reports, that I wasn't going to make that mistake again.) The Lone Star had a very shallow stage, so JB hadn't a lot of room to work with. And he wasn't the wild man I hoped to see. But he was eminently theatrical, and his spins and lunges, though constrained, were sharp -- his will observably extended beyond his marks. He was in fine voice, too. His band was shit-tight, and you could feel his pleasure whenever he vocally or physically smacked into a hard beat they supplied for him. It wasn't the 60's Apollo, but it was a full measure of what he had to give, And yes, he did sweat. JB came to work. On black coffee, and a hard roll. Huhh.

And long after that, long after any of us thought or cared about seeing him again, there were those JB hits on Public Enemy records. HOO! Yeah! HOO! Yeah! Cut tight to the groove, appropriately.

No flowers. Just stop playing Justin Timberlake for a few minutes. Or at least think about what it meant to spin ten or twelve players on a dime, and try and get some of that centifugal force onto a record. Because Pro Tools, from what I've heard, can't give you that heave, that sense of great mass suddenly shifting at the sharp stoke of a bandleader's hand. Or maybe it can and you haven't found it yet. Till you do, you ain't bringing sexy back.

Monday, December 25, 2006

MERRY CHRISTMAS. I was making rather merry myself last night, and am a little sluggish on the uptake today, but I expect you all know that I wish you the best even when I am silent. Christmas puts a lot of people in a good mood, and those it puts in a bad mood have my sympathies -- I have suffered many festive seasons that way myself. But the way I currently see it, the winter festival has something for any of us, happy or sad, who can focus briefly on the fact that seasons change, and the cold earth will be warmed. The popular metaphors extended from that are a bit of a stretch, but I have believed in sillier things that were far less cheering. Whatever wets your wassail, I hope it gives you joy.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

THE JESUS AND MARY CHAIN. My holiday has been so busy that I almost missed Daniel Henninger writing about the Atheist Menace.

Henninger's new stock in trade seems to be the announcement of some non-existent threat to society, followed by assurances that we'll all get through this dark time somehow. Just last week he was saying that a new wave of "clean" comedy was going to save us from filthy-mouthed Hollywood. (He also admitted to enjoying old Eddie Murphy routines, which suggests a wonderful picture: Henninger, whose manner on "The Journal Editorial Report" is that of a funeral director with constipation, relaxing in a Barcolounger and, when Ralph Kramden tells Ed Norton to fuck him in the ass, clanging open his mailslot mouth to emit the old Mr. Machine shriek of pleasure.) Now he suggests, on the strength of one provocative book, that atheist scientists are coming to burn down our churches. Exhibit A: The Treason of the Bookstore Clerks!
When I asked a young clerk at Borders on lower Broadway if they had Richard Dawkins's best-selling atheist manifesto, "The God Delusion," he replied, "Oh, we'd better: It's a fantastic book!" He swept the quarter-mile across the store to make sure I got it. "Enjoy!" he said sounding, well, triumphal.
"Swept," eh? Must be a fag, too. Yet through the godless science of IVF, he will unite with Lileks' bete noir, the small-breasted, unsubmissive hair stylist, and spawn a race of monsters!

The trope is risible, but what's a culture cop to do? The post-Foley era has taken some of the zest out of his racket. "Conservatism: The Anti-Sex" can only sustain so many columns, and even some right-wingers are tiring of the drug war. So it's down to the stems and seeds of psychodrama for Henninger till a new Pat Buchanan emerges to re-energize the scam.

I look forward to forthcoming columns in which he accuses "American Idol" of leading an assault on the Second Commandment.

Friday, December 22, 2006

NEVER UNDERSTAND. From The Economist's third-hand report, it seems Frances Fukuyama has a reasonable view of the Iraq invasion and the preemptive war strategy that goes with:
...The problem with such a strategy is that it requires the United States to be able to accurately predict the future, not just in terms of enemy capabilities but also in terms of the complex calculations that foreign leaders will make years hence. “In Iraq,” [Fukuyama] said, “American knowledge of enemy capabilities — even its near-term capabilities with respect to weapons of mass destruction — was sorely deficient”...

According to Fukuyama, the primary lesson that America should learn from its travails in Iraq is ... that there are limits to what any nation can do in promoting democracy abroad. “No country has ever been democratized without the people doing it themselves,” he noted. The demand must come from within...

“Ultimately, democracy is spread by the prestige and moral credibility of countries that are democratic,” Fukuyama said, pointing out that the United States was a beacon to Eastern European countries throughout the Cold War because of what America represented, not because of the way it used its military power.
But The Economist's commentator takes exception:
Most of that is common sense, but I'm not sure about the conclusion.

If it was a matter of "prestige and moral credibility", why didn't the captive nations dream about Switzerland or Sweden? What they liked about America was the proof it offered that titanic military power could be reconciled with liberal and economic order. There was no necessary trade-off between a strong country and a free people, as the Soviet model presumed.

Fukuyama omits, too, the role played prosperity. It was the consumerist wealth of the West that made its model irresistible to threadbare communist states. So much so that the broad masses in Russia didn't much care what the model was, so long as the consumer goods came with it.

I doubt that American prosperity has quite the same tantalising effect on the Iraqi or the Iranian sensibility.

So actually, as far as I can see, the way that America uses its military power will be quite central to any spreading of democracy in the Middle East. If you can be victorious, kind and smart, then people are going to want to find out how you did it. And I can't see why Fukuyama would want to argue to the contrary.
Forgive the long quotes, but without them it's hard to see what the beef is -- or rather, with them it's hard to see it, too. Of course the Eastern Europeans admired our military power -- but those of them who expected us to use it to free their countries were sorely disappointed.

Still, the world turned and the Bloc was broken. Is the commentator suggesting that we should have stepped to the Soviets in 1956, as we later stepped to Saddam? If not, what is the problem with admitting that the Iraq invasion was a mistake?

Not that it is entirely clear that commentator doesn't think it was a mistake. But if so, he or she won't cop to it. The argument is simply pushed in an another direction: what's wrong with having big armed forces? As if Fukuyama or anyone else were suggesting we shouldn't. Not bloody likely!

This piece strikes me as part of the persistently messy thinking seen elsewhere: that as wrong as we have demonstrably been on Iraq, we must have been right in some way -- which will be revealed if only we keep digging. This tic can be amusing, but as the better-than-usually-spoken case above shows, it is disturbing, too. Because if you don't know that you went wrong, you have very little chance of going right.
A HOLLY JOLLY JIMBO! Today's Lileks is all about how he didn't like his hair stylist because she wasn't friendly and didn't have big tits:
My stylist was unpleasant. Usually I get a cheerful lass with a balloony bosom (displayed for all to see, so we can marvel at the tattoos) but this time I got a sullen minx who radiated indifference and self-regard...

Spare me the emails about how I shouldn’t have tipped her at all! It was a decent enough cut, and she has to make a living. I just won’t use her again. I’m North Dakotan that way. I’ll show the little snit what I think, and tip her exactly what the custom demands.
I may be reaching here, but I think that if there'd been an Eulenspiegel Society chapter in Fargo during Lileks' formative years, he mightn't need snow on his patio furniture to make him happy today.

Myrna Bluth: Christmas is about presents.

Carrie Lukas: Christmas is about school vouchers.

Jennifer Roeback Morse: Mine is the one true religion.

Jennifer Graham: Christ suffered, and I follow his example by cleaning up after an exotic pet.

Michael Novak: This Christmas, spare a thought for the truly unfortunate, like George W. Bush.

Jonah Goldberg: Rudy should take a black guy around the country and beat him up.

In this time of good will toward men, l thank the staff of the magazine, and all the other imbeciles and madmen who constitute my subject matter, for the hours of pleasure they have given my readers and me in this dwindling year. The best is yet to come!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

THE SELF-CORRECTING POWER OF THE BLOGOSPHERE COMPELS YOU! The Anchoress complains that she was misquoted by Eric Boehlert:
Writes Boehlert:

Warbloggers, stressing their contempt for the First Amendment — “The government needs to slap down the press,” urged The Anchoress — would prefer that information about the war in Iraq be disseminated only by the United States military, despite the fact the bipartisan Iraq Study Group just concluded that for years the U.S. military wildly underreported violence inside Iraq.

Well…that’s crap. First of all, what I wrote was, “The government needs to slap down the press and demand some accountability,” which is very different from “the government needs to slap down the press.”
Right. If someone said that I said, "I slapped down the bitch," when what I really said was, "I slapped down the bitch and demanded his money," that would totally misrepresent me, too.

Oh, and if you were thinking of looking for the implied follow-up to "First of all," don't bother. Or do. Keep fact-checking my ass!

UPDATE. The Ole Perfesser, perdictably, exhibits similar, basic reading problems, then says that the MSM is a-scared.
A CHRISTMAS MESSAGE FROM SUSETTE KELO AND ALICUBLOG. The unfortunate victim of SCOTUS' Kelo decision has sent a Christmas card to the people who forced her off her land so they could build some condos for yuppie dipshits. Per the Hartford Courant, her holiday verse reads in part:
Your houses, your homes, your family, your friends
May they live in misery that never ends
I curse you all. May you rot in hell
To each of you I send this spell
The Courant quotes some of the people who got Kelo's card. They are uniformly dismissive. One marvels that eviction from her longtime home would so exercise Kelo: "The things she's angry about were not done to be mean-spirited toward her personally."

In other words, if you fuck someone over for money, but with a heart unblighted by negative feelings, your victims shouldn't be angry about it.

Come to think of it, this seems to be the operating principle of much of our current government -- of both the official and permanent varieties. If you are dissatisfied with, let alone outraged by, the great job engine and war machine that has replaced the inefficient Republic of yore, you are thought to suffer from an attitude problem.

Recently our ruling class got a little whiff of the discontent their own actions have begun to provoke. May they receive much, much more of the same in the days to come.

Happy holidays and rot in hell from alicublog!
MORE CHRISTMAS TREASURES! Been to Dr. Mrs. Ole Perfesser's place lately? Her recent assertion that Republicans are "oppressed" by being called Republicans apparently signaled a blast-off into Althouse territory, where reality is an increasingly distant, shrinking object.

Last weekend she asked her readers why the 62-year-old lady in the ad on her own page is clad in fetishwear. "Feels good" would be my guess, but she might have thought to ask her own advertiser. Maybe Dr. Mrs. was just trying to stimulate a discussion; surprisingly, the one thus engendered in comments is less full of he-man woman hating than usual.

Then, back to oppressed Republicans: Lefty prof calls student a "white shitbag." Dr. Mrs. parries, "Now imagine the tables were turned and a white professor called a black student Democrat the same type of derogatory name in reverse?" In comments, General J.C. Christian, Patriot, engages, and Dr. Mrs. cries, "If you want to get into revenge from what happened years ago, then when will it end?" and later invokes Michael Richards, apparently as another white man oppressed by oversensitivity to ancient injustices. I wonder what percentage of Dr. Mrs.' time is spent outside her home, office, and car.

But the plum, my dears, is this:
I was sitting at the spa yesterday flipping through magazines and came across the December issue of Us Magazine. I know, I know, I should quit reading these magazines, but I am interested as a psychologist, in how pop culture affects the political thinking in our schools and society--so give me a break.
I know just what she means. As a social critic, I am very interested in the effect of hardcore pornography on both my society and myself. I don't know why people are always making inferences, or throwing me out of public restrooms.

This is the best Christmas ever!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

FULL METAL STOCKING. alicublog must have been good this year, because Santa has of late bestowed upon us a lot of Ralph "Blood 'n' Guts" Peters columns. Today's is a book review:
IF a prize were awarded for the most-improved government publication of the decade, we could choose the winner now: "Army Field Manual 3-24, Counterinsurgency" (MCWP 3-33.5 for the Marine Corps). Rising above abysmal earlier drafts, the Army and Marines have come through with doctrine that will truly help our troops.
What was wrong with the old drafts? "Too much 'peace, love and understanding' silliness," says the General. Hmm. Here is a pdf of one of those "early drafts"; my reading of it has not been thorough, but I can't be sure what parts Peters finds so hippie-ish. Maybe it's the references to "human rights considerations," "reconstruction efforts," etc. Maybe it's the declaration that the first military objective of counterinsurgency is to "Protect the population."

As we have seen, despite his occasional, probably tactical, professions of interest in the welfare of the wogs, Peters is nowadays less interested in democracy than in order, by any means necessary. Attend to one of his cavils with even the new, tougher manual:
The drafters cite the anomalous example of Malaya (while downplaying that campaign's violence), but ignore the same-decade example of the Mau-Mau revolt, in which the British won a complete victory -- thanks to concentration camps, hanging courts and aggressive military operations.
Where once the General was waxing sentimental about the aspirations of the fledgling Iraqi Republic ("More and more Iraqis are stepping up to build a better society"), he now speaks admiringly of the concentration camps and hanging courts installed by a dying empire. What a difference nine months, and perhaps a change in medication, makes!

Heedless cruelty is not really what makes a prize Peters peroration, though: it's teh crazy, and the General obligingly brings the batshit:
A huge gap remaining in the doctrine is that, except for a few careful mentions, it ignores the role of the media. Generals have told me frankly that it was just too loaded an issue - any suggestion that the media are complicit in shaping outcomes excites punitive media outrage.

To be fair, the generals are right. Had the manual described the media's irresponsible, partisan and too-often-destructive roles, it would have ignited a firestorm. Yet, in an age when media lies and partisan spin can overturn the verdict of the battlefield, embolden our enemies and decide the outcome of an entire war, pretending the media aren't active participants in a conflict cripples any efforts that we make.

The media are now combatants -- even if we're not allowed to shoot back. Our enemies are explicit in describing the importance of winning through the media. Without factoring in media effects, any counterinsurgency plan will go forward at a limp.
This is delightful. One imagines the tone of the conversation just prior to the moment when "Generals... told me frankly that it was just too loaded an issue": The MSM is the enemy! Wade into them. Spill their blood, shoot them in the belly. When you put your hand into a bunch of news that a moment before was your best face on a bad situation -- (sharp wave of the riding crop) -- you'll know what to do.

"Too loaded," indeed. Hope your holidays are equally festive.

UPDATE. Speaking of Our Enemy The Media, Commenter MSW144 points out this corker by previously proven culture war madman Stanley Kurtz:
...Media coverage of Iraq has been biased, and that bias has indeed helped to shape events there for the worse. At the same time, conservative distrust of the media’s very real bias has inclined us to dismiss reports about problems in Iraq that are real.

In the end, I think the media bears fundamental responsibility for this.
This conclusion is a duh-huh-wha? brain-freezer on the order of "And though I may be down right now, at least I don't work for Jews," but Kurtz' explanation is ever better:
Had they been less biased–had they reported acts of heroism and the many good things we have done in Iraq–I think conservatives would actually have taken their reporting of the problems in Iraq more seriously. In effect, the media’s consistent liberal bias discredits even its valid reports.
I guess we could have observed every precaution, and equipped all of our warnings that Iraq was a mistake with a little picture of G.I. Joe giving a chocolate bar to an Arab, thus encouraging conservatives to pay attention. Maybe eventually America will resemble Quebec, with bilingual road signs -- e.g., one might say DANGER: BRIDGE OUT, while the one for conservatives might say SUPPORT OUR TROOPS BY NOTICING THAT THE BRIDGE IS OUT! SEMPER FI! It would be a nuisance, but we're liberals -- we should be kind to retards.

UPDATE II. At OpinionJournal, Joseph Rago (didn't he co-write Hair?) hates blogs but hates the cursed MSM ever worse. How to reconcile? Rago breaks it down:
Certainly the MSM, such as it is, collapsed itself. It was once utterly dominant yet made itself vulnerable by playing on its reputed accuracy and disinterest to pursue adversarial agendas. Still, as far from perfect as that system was, it was and is not wholly imperfect. The technology of ink on paper is highly advanced, and has over centuries accumulated a major institutional culture that screens editorially for originality, expertise and seriousness.

Of course, once a technosocial force like the blog is loosed on the world, it does not go away because some find it undesirable. So grieving over the lost establishment is pointless, and kind of sad. But democracy does not work well, so to speak, without checks and balances. And in acceding so easily to the imperatives of the Internet, we've allowed decay to pass for progress.
If I understand Rago correctly, rightwing blogs ought to recognize that they aren't replacing the MSM -- rightwing magazines and newspapers are! So Rago and the newsprint boys will provide the "originality, expertise and seriousness," and you punks can do the Michael Moore jokes.

Early results indicate that the blogboys are clashing with the paperboys over this, each fighting for the right to take Pinch Sulzburger's throne, just as soon as the New York Times gets a clue that all those millions in paid circulation and advertising dollars are as nothing compared to the awesome potential power held by a bunch of assholes with free websites. Someday their girlfriends who are temporarily located in another state will show up, and then you'll all see!

The crisis will last until Jeff Jarvis chimes in, at which point everyone will realize it's bullshit.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

SHORTER GREG GUTFIELD: I'm working on as many BOOK and TELEVISION and WEB projects as I can schedule before Republicans find an even more self-loathing homosexual.

(This is my first exposure to Gutfield, and a great disappointment. I search in vain for that great contemporary right-wing satirist -- someone like P.J. O'Rourke, only good. Yet their nominees turn out stuff like "Hey!" says some guy I disagree with, "I'm a pretentious ass! Greg Gutfield was right!" Gutfield's a satirist like Mark Steyn is a sage.

Jim Treacher is about their best bet, but he chafes when I call him right-wing, so maybe we should just refer to him as "questioning.")

UPDATE. The selections currently seen at Treacher's site are not his best work, but he writes very funny emails.

UPDATE II. Many of my readers are lazy gits (frequently leaving comments to the effect of, "Jesus Christ, I actually followed the link -- I thought you were full of shit but etc"), so I guess I should reproduce a bit of Gutfield's I Can't Believe It's Not Satire:
Paris' gay Socialist Mayor Bertrand Delanoe, who was stabbed by an immigrant Muslim, is organizing the European contingency which features Limahl, Johnny Hallyday and Ciccolina. Whoopie Goldberg, along with Robin Williams will be hosting the kick off party at the Sheraton Riyadh. There will be refreshments and karaoke, hosted by David Hyde Pierce.
Surely you see the hypocrisy of Delanoe taking his stabbed-up ass to Riyadh where I bet they will stab his ass up!

I have to add a bleg, though. Where do you purchase the publication -- I assume it comes out at regular intervals, possibly daily -- cataloguing the most appropriate names to use when you want to signify "A-list" or, as Gutfield has done, Gay List? Not having had the literary advantage of a job as a gossip columnist, I cannot call these things easily to mind, and I can see where it might come in handy when you're writing "satire."

Monday, December 18, 2006

TODAY'S LILEKS LESSON. Early on he writes this:
The forecasts look barren, and most Minnesotans regard the weather with irrational trepidation. Oh. we’ll pay for this. Pay for it hard.
Later, he shares with us the contents of his typical breakfast:
...one sausage, squeezed dry; one container of yogurt...
I've probably said too much already. But I cannot refrain from observing that if you're going to write things like "...pay for this. Pay for it hard," you should not reveal on the same page that you breakfast like a fashion model.

This has been today's Lileks lesson.
ARTS ROUNDUP. Leslie Kritzer is Patti LuPone at Les Mouches. Being, as regular readers will know, an ineffably butch Budweiser-pounding mook with unmanicured nails, I don't take in cabaret shows much, but I was hauled to this one and I'm not sorry I was, despite the drink prices at Joe's Pub.

LKIPLALM is billed as a recreation of Patti LuPone's famously looney late-shows at the now defunct Les Mouches, done, presumably, to work off some of the scenery she consumed in Evita every night. Channeler Leslie Kritzer knows the spectacle of a hopped-up Broadway diva regaling gayest Chelsea with a bizarre mix of show tunes, "Mr. Tambourine Man," and mood-swing banter would be comedy gold, and she does get plenty of laughs -- e.g., mentioning her "brother Bobby", she waits only for the faintest hint of applause before throwing her arms out and howling "OH THANK YOU! HE'LL BE SO PLEASED!"

But Kritzer has a deeper game going, too. She sings the shit out of the songs, being well-equipped to do so, and commands the character utterly, so that even the weirder selections ("Heaven is a Disco"!), and the more byzantine vocal arrangements, wind up much more interesting than mere feats of parody. The strangeness of "Patti LuPone" is only coincidentally a comedienne's trick, and mainly a full-length portrait of a show-biz monster trying, with the powerful but ultimately limited gifts at her command, to blast through self-absorption into the hearts of an audience that she believes/hopes really Gets Her. Kritzer never pulls a gimp string to indicate this; she sticks to the script (accompanied by LuPone's original arranger!) and lets her performance do the talking. It's acting of the highest sort flying under the colors of chanteusery.

The Queen. One reason I'm not as much of an auteurist as I used to be is Stephen Frears. He cheerfully hops from style to style in deference to whatever text he is treating, yet has given me enough pleasure, from Prick Up Your Ears through High Fidelity, that I just can't relegate him to Less Than Meets the Eye. His may not be major films but they're smart and they work, and that's a lot these days. One can do worse than serve a good script well.

That cuts two ways, of course. The faults of The Queen are very plainly the script's, and maybe a more ambitious director would have overcome them. It's not just the apparently low budget that leaves the movie looking like an exceptional Masterpiece Theatre episode. Frears doesn't do quantum leaps -- he does good blocking.

I don't mean to carp. There's plenty of wonderful stuff here. It was a brilliant idea to treat the death of Princess Diana as a dramatic crisis of the British monarchy, and the pinched scale of the film well-suits the extraordinary point of distinction between this and, say, costume dramas like Cromwell -- Dianagate was, on the film's terms, a crisis not of the blood-and-thunder sort but of the television age, and the slightly shoddy look of The Queen perfectly suits it: Tony Blair doing PM business in a footballer's jersey and HRH in a Range Rover are fine visual equivalents to the absurd modernity of the situation.

The acting is just delicious. I was worried at first by Helen Mirren -- she seemed to be leaking a bit more sentimentality than I had expected. But this turned out to be a clever move: aside from some muted histrionics, her Elizabeth grows frostier in affect, though clearly more troubled in spirit, as the crisis overwhelms her. I love her. I love James Cromwell, too, and lousy dialect aside, his Philip is perfect in its petty imperiousness -- he might have been a humble burgher protected by lackeys (and his own thick skin) from all evidence of his impotence. Alex Jennings resembles a young Edward Fox, which adds a beautiful, old-England fillip to the lip-chewing desperation of his unloved Charles to find the correct sliver of space in which to hide and mourn.

Michael Sheen and Helen McCrory as the Blairs are lovely -- the first shot of them in their car, waiting for their first official visit to the Queen, is played, lit, and shot to make them resemble intelligent weasels curiously snuffling outside the Palace -- but they are put in the unlovely position of carrying the secondary theme: New Labour's first crisis as an overblown domestic incident ("It's not as if I have anything better to do!" cries the PM at one point). This is where the drama runs into heavy sledding: while it is fascinating to see how the political is made personal, it's sort of gross to see the personal made political. When Cherie plays devil's advocate in Tony's shifting feelings toward the Queen (even pulling a Freudian card), the tactic is stagey, neat, and evasive, and splitting Blair's cynicism off and onto a PR character really gives the game away. I think it might have been better, in the manner of those old costume dramas, to let Tony be more fully responsible -- not just constitutionally but dramatically -- for the forces arrayed against the Queen's stasis. Modern exigencies be damned: Blair v. Windsor is more crackling drama than Blair et alia v. the monarchical bureaucracy -- as the wonderful final confrontation of Tony and Liz shows.

Still, this is a vision worthy of dispute and even contemplation. I was annoyed, when I first saw it, at the (it seemed) ludicrous bit in which the Queen raptures over a stag that is later hunted down and butchered. Dramatically it is corn, or whatever Brits have instead of corn (Toad inna Hole, perhaps). But on consideration I think it has a proper Shakespearean resonance. The prefatory title card of The Queen quotes Henry IV: Uneasy lies the head etc. But this incident sent me to As You Like It: "What shall he have that killed the deer?/His leather skin and horns to wear." Jacques saw the deer's horns as "a victory branch"; his Lords took them as a sign of cuckoldry.

Caprice. Ronald Firbank was known to me only as a favorite of Auden's before I read this short novel. I can see why Auden liked him. Though it's full of conversation, Firbank's method is poetic; it takes several pages of dense language to ascertain that Sally Sinquier is an English girl from a country family of some standing who runs off to London in pursuit of theatrical fame ("'Somehow it makes no difference,' she murmured, turning toward a glass. To feign Ophelia -- no matter what!"). Once launched, her career -- in every sense -- is recognizable to any reader of Bright Young Thing chroniclers such as Waugh and Huxley. There are pretenders, there is deceit, scandal o'erhangs, defeat is imminent and then cruelly realized. But the charm of Firbank's language is unique, as seen in this description of the little theatre in which Sally, as yet on the cusp only of success, is obliged to sleep:
An absence of ventilation made the room an oven and discouraged sleep. Through the width of skylight, in inert recumbence, she could follow wonderingly the frail pristine tints of dawn. Flushed, rose-barred, it spread above her with fantastic drifting bars masking the morning stars.

From a neighboring church a clock struck five.

Miss Sinquier sighed; she had not closed her eyes the whole night through.

"One needs a blind," she mused, "and a pane --"

She looked about her for something to throw.

Cinquento Italian things -- a chest, a crucifix, a huge guitar, a grim carved catafalque all purple sticks and violet legs (Juliet's) crowded the floor.

"A mess of glass... and cut my feet..." she murmured, gathering about herself a negligee of oxydised knitted stuff and sauntering out toward the footlights in quest of air.

Notwithstanding the thermometer, she could hear Miss May Mant breathing nasally from behind the door.
One could go on for quite some time like this without much hint of plot, but Firbank has a good one and ties it up nicely in less than a hundred pages. It's a minor work affording major pleasure.