Tuesday, February 13, 2007

KULTURKAMPFERS GONE WILD! Behold the latest ravings of Victor Davis Hanson:
Reading the self-righteous remarks of the Dixie Chicks reminded me of the Nobel Prize announcements, to the effect from one judge that Jimmy Carter had been likewise rewarded for his vocal opposition to the war in Iraq.
When do we get a live broadcast of the Nobel Prizes with Joan Rivers on the Commie-Red Carpet?
All this comes in the wake of the photo-shopped Reuters photos, the AP stringers misinformation, the Dan Rather memos, the Newsweek flushed Koran story, etc. So in an age where our national elites scream about Joe Wilson ad nauseam, most of us instead worry that major institutions-in entertainment, arts, news-not merely lean to the politically-correct, but do so in such a fashion to outweigh all else.
Hanson's sweaty head thrashes on the pillow. So many enemies! And they all have gala award ceremonies!
The result is that we can no longer be sure whether merit and truth are the primary criteria in bestowing awards or reporting news.
Not that, Victor! Please tell us the People's Choice Awards are still legit!
This is not partisan criticism, but rather evident from remarks of a judge on the Nobel Prize committee, Jimmy Carter himself, the Dixie Chicks, etc., all apparently unafraid to make explicit the connection between politics and recognition.
I'm not the Kulturkampfer, you're the Kulturkampfers!
In the short-term, all this posturing brings advantage, but in the long-term, Samson-like it is bringing down the temple of our basic institutions-hence the rise of grass-roots talk radio, cable news, the blogs that either offer partisan correctives or critique the bias of mainstream institutions.
Kulturkampfers never tire of finding ways to miss -- well, everything, including the simple perspective possessed by millions of Americans who would never dream of comparing Jimmy Carter with some stupid pop group just because they both possessed shiny objects.

Monday, February 12, 2007

CRUNCHY ROD DREHER DOUBLE PLAY! The guy just gets worse. In one of his last spasms of infatuation with Amanda Marcotte, he complains that the MSM isn't as enraged by her Virgin Mary jokes as he is, and approvingly quotes the Catholic League madman Bill Donohue:
Newsweek reeks of a double standard. In its December 11, 2006 edition, it said that Michael Richards had gotten himself in trouble for his ‘racist rant,’ and in the same article it recalled Mel Gibson’s ‘anti-Semitic remarks.’ On February 5, 2007, it said that Isaiah Washington got himself into hot water for making a ‘homophobic comment.’ In other words, when someone makes a racist, anti-Semitic or anti-gay remark, Newsweek labels it as such. But when obscene comments are made about the Mother of God or religious conservatives, it counts as mere criticism.
So in Donohue's and Dreher's mind(s), making fun of their imaginary friend is the equivalent of calling someone a nigger or a faggot.

But the cream of the jest comes later:
Many on the left can't see what the big deal is, and say that Christians who are offended by this wouldn't have voted for Edwards anyway. Really? My "Kingfish" gibes aside, I was interested in what he had to say about the economy, and populism. But now, forget it.
This is the same guy who suddenly decided last year that the Iraq War was a terrible mistake and that the Republicans were thoroughly corrupt, but concluded, "I don't think the country deserves the Democrats" -- largely because the Democrats might slow down the criminalization of abortion for which Dreher prays his knees off every night.

The Republicans could be running drunk and naked through the country setting fire to barns, and Dreher wouldn't vote for Edwards or anyone remotely like him. Jesus, don't these people have a whole commandment about lying?
REACTION FORMATION. In certain slants of light, the blogosphere looks to me like a series of specimen tanks. Very little in it is really original -- though most days I do find writing there that is so incredibly bad that it shatters all known precedents for incompetence, which I guess is a kind of originality. But crap can be instructive if not elevating, and there are plenty of good examples of bad reasoning to be found.

Here's a classic by Crunchy Rod Dreher having to do with critics of Christianity and how hypocritical and "suicidal" they are not to be critics of Islam:
This is how the left works: yell "bigotry" to silence critics who confront them with arguments they don't wish to have. In Holland, Pim Fortuyn -- an openly gay hedonistic libertarian with a wicked sense of humor -- ran for prime minister on a platform that in large part warned the Dutch that they were going to lose their liberal democracy if they didn't confront the growing forces of Islamic extremism within their country's immigrant population. The hysterical left -- which is to say, the media and academic establishments in Holland -- called him a fascist, and left it at that. Fortuyn was so far to the left he made Barney Frank look like the Queen Mother, but none of that mattered to the left-wing Dutch establishment.

I honestly don't get this. Shouldn't liberals be the most concerned about Islamic fundamentalism, given that the things they profess to value are the first things they would lose under Islamist pressure? It's hard to avoid the conclusion that this sort of liberal hates political conservatives and orthodox Christians more than he loves his own liberty. And he wishes to cling desperately to his own self-image as a defender of the poor, oppressed minorities, even when some of those poor, oppressed minorities would just as soon see him and his kind swinging from the gallows.
Well, y'all know I roll: Jesus, Allah, Moses -- they're all comic-book characters to me. Having courted fatwa in the past, I can claim consistency -- as can Dreher, in his own, very different way: he has actually made common cause with Islam against decadent Western ways --
I probably have, re: fundamental morals, more in common with the first 500 people I'd meet in Cairo, Damascus or Tehran than the first 500 people I'd meet in Park City, UT, during festival time.
-- and, further, agrees with the mullahs that homosexuality is an abomination --
...a gay Republican male -- very successful guy, well-dressed, in the public limelight, not at all a desperate troll -- told me that this was a pretty normal part of gay male culture. He told me that he used to cruise public toilets looking for sex, in part because the stench of those locales smelled like "nectar"...

...what are the rest of us supposed to think about gay male culture, and the degree to which it self-defines according to behavior that most people rightly find repulsive?
So Dreher is mad at liberals for failing to defend gay people, whom he condemns, against Muslims, with whom he sides against gay people.

If this seems a bit muddled, you have to remember that Ole Rod sure is mad at liberals. It's a Southern thing. The last part of his post -- in which the liberal "wishes to cling desperately to his own self-image as a defender of the poor, oppressed minorities, even when some of those poor, oppressed minorities would just as soon see him and his kind swinging from the gallows" -- reminds me of some of Dreher's other postings on "minorities," including this one, in which he decides that black folk who don't wish to sweat in the fields must be selling crack, and this other one, in which a black crime incident in New Orleans means that town is now "Mogadishu on the Bayou." Liberals must have done something to Dreher, or to his pappy, once upon a time, and he hasn't forgotten it.
SO SORRY. I had written a nice, long, time-intensive post to make up for my lost time here, and the new improved Blogger fucking destroyed it.

Death to Blogger.

Sorry.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

I JUST THREW UP A LITTLE IN MY MOUTH. I've said it before and I'll say it again: Stanley Kurtz is nuts.
Nothing says romance like conversion. Abraham leaps from polytheism to monotheism, and just look what happens to his wife -- at ninety years old, no less. What about Paul? He turns Christian, and pretty soon he’s writing history’s most famous meditation on love. Nope, nothing says romance like conversion.
Bear in mind that this effulgence relates to no prior post -- whatever spurred it (crystal meth body rush? a random glimpse of thigh at the think tank?) remains Kurtz' secret.

I have never quite understood why some people try to portray the Bible as sexy. Alex in A Clockwork Orange had that Biblical fantasy, but I wouldn't use him as a role model. These folks make a good case, but they're from Western Europe, where even the churchmen are de facto atheists. (I especially like the Kraut pastor's comment, which I imagine is enriched by translational vagaries: "It's just wonderful when teenagers commit themselves with their hair and their skin to the bible.") God knows religious people, whatever their other attractive qualities, tend to drive away one's thoughts of romantic bliss, sometimes by their physical appearance but more often by their peculiar way of talking dirty -- take, for example, The Anchoress' Bizarro-world Karen Finley act, in which she hollered things like "Can I get an 'arghghghghg' for Readi Whip and maraschino cherries? Arghghghghghg!" (That she associates suburban fetishes with sound effects from old Marvel Comics is almost more disturbing than the thought of her having sex.)

But Kurtz gets stranger still:
But when it comes to romance, political conversion is best of all -- particularly a move from left to right. After all, Romeo started out loving Rosaline, a woman who opposed free trade, yet ended up with someone against all such barriers. Abelard and Heloise? Admittedly, this couple practiced free trade at the start, succumbing to severe protectionism only later. Nonetheless, if Abelard was unconventional, he also combined the roles of professor and religious believer. In my book, that means Abelard ended up a conservative.
Especially after they castrated him.
So there you have it. Conversion from liberal to conservative politics: the ultimate aphrodisiac...
Just as you're looking somewhere, anywhere, for a sharp object to jab into your own eyes, or at least a bottle of Purell, Kurtz reveals that this is a promo for some stupid wingnut-welfare book -- published on "Simon & Schuster’s Threshold imprint (headed by Mary Matalin–a famous lover herself)." Well, there goes dinner. Do these people ever get laid? Maybe Kurtz should cease holding out for "the most potentially stable form of multi-partner union" before he starts metaphorizing Iraq as an ass-fuck that might have been wonderful but for the lack of sufficient lubricant, sensitive anal play, and consent.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

LIVIN' IN THE C.Y.A.. As regards the conservative position on Iraq, while there are yet many dead-enders hiding in spider holes with dreams of glory, some of the brighter bulbs (or more shameless careerists, depending on how you want to look at it) are now working on their excuses.

John Podhoretz quotes the Times' John Burns. Burns, you may recall, was the guy Andrew Sullivan was quoting all the time in the "Democracy Whiskey Sexy" days of post-invasion euphoria. Burns, who has been much in Iraq since before the war and actually knows what he is talking about, is today far less enthusiastic about the adventure.

Why does the Bush loyalist Podhoretz quote Burns' despairing words? The sections Podhoretz chooses to put in boldface explain: while "the American troops were greeted as liberators" (mumble mumble hubris disaster mumble) "I think that the instincts that led to much that went wrong were good American instincts: the desire not to have too heavy of a footprint, the desire to empower Iraqis."

This is a clever way for Podhoretz to suggest that his own tireless war cheerleading (which only began to wither in late 2006) was not because of arrogance nor of ignorance, but because he loved the Iraqis not wisely but too well. Podhoretz' colleague Mona Charen rushes to join his T-group, comparing her feeling for the Iraqi people favorably to that of liberals who were saying "let's not bomb Iraq" in 2003:
Liberals barely know the name of Iraq. For them, it's just another country name to slip into the Vietnam slot of their rigid mental architecture...

...[Burns] may be right or he may be wrong, but the sensibility he expresses — that our mistakes were honest ones (not wanting too large a footprint, hoping the Iraqis would handle matters on their own) — is such a relief.
I'll bet!
It pulls something into focus that I hadn't fully realized until this minute, namely that we have been giving ourselves a terrible pounding for the past 12 months. Not all mistakes are created equal. Our mistakes in Iraq have been well-intentioned ones.
Try to imagine Mona Charen wracked by self-doubt and nightmares about mangled Iraqi children until John Burns came along to tell her she is, too, a good person! Not bloody likely.

But I would sooner believe Charen capable of second thoughts (or of first thoughts) than I would believe it of the glibertarian Arnold Kling. Kling's essay is basically devoted to herding restive libertarians back into the GOP -- and so desperate is he to realize this mission that he's not only willing to reverse course on Iraq, he's even willing to blame the Iraqis for his change of heart:
On the war in Iraq, the National Review partisans demanded victory rather than defeat. I would love to see victory, but I do not know which side we are fighting on. At this point, I am fed up with the Iraqis. I see them acting like siblings who won't stop fighting, coming up to us saying, "He did it! Punish him!" Until they learn to act like adults, I see no point in fighting their battles for them.
In previous discussions, Kling suggested there was "no substitute for victory" in Iraq. Turns out that, for him, there is at least one substitute: utter capitulation.

Self-esteem building and surrender -- I thought that was supposed to be our gig.

Monday, February 05, 2007

STATUS REPORT. I recently apologized for the paucity of my posting, but actually, when I look at the right-wing blogs that usually spur my bloggage, I do so with the horrified incomprehension of an amnesia victim who has just been told by his doctor that, in his forgotten life, he was addicted to dogshit smoothies.

I mean, look at Ole Perfesser Reynolds at the present moment. He's still talking about spat-upon soldiers (no doubt as a reaction to the growing general realization that Joshua Sparling, conservative GI spit-model of the moment, has just been asking for it); he's still oohing and aaahing over army mans; and he's still mulling, at unimaginable length, over the quality differences among fucking light bulbs. In short, he is still a perfect hybird of a dick and a dork. (This is not to speak of his Global Warming magnum opus, in which he blames hippies for failing to portray conservation as a fun consumer offering like Club Med. With this article the Perfesser achieves something I had not dreamed possible: he makes Jonah Goldberg look like Isaiah Berlin.)

Then there's Lileks, whose red-blooded American response to the Super Bowl is this:
If Madison Av made a commercial about a homecoming vet, the [New York] Times piece didn't discuss it. And if they didn't make such an ad: I'm not a bit surprised.
Maybe he was just upset that Prince did the halftime show. <homersimpsonwhisper>Oops! Sore subject!</homersimpsonwhisper>

And at The Corner they're torn: which do they hate worse -- Muslims or fags?

How any of them can fart without suffering a brain hemorrhage is beyond me. Refresh my memory: Why did I start writing about them?

Well, I'm sure I'll eventually return to my previous level of attention to this gibberish. But over the next week or so I will be somewhat distracted by my involvement in a theatrical project: the world premiere of Julian Sheppard's Los Angeles at the Flea Theatre, directed by Adam Rapp. The cast is mostly brilliant youngsters; I'm on board mainly to ballast their freshness with Old Man Smell. You can buy tickets here. What? No, no punchline, this one is really, really good. It happens sometimes.

Friday, February 02, 2007

SERVICE ADVISORY. Regular readers may notice that posting here has lately been less regular than usual. All will be made plain, if not well, soon enough. I do regret that I haven't time enough to give such spectacular examples of sloppy thinking and writing as this the treatment they deserve. But you're a smart bunch -- you know that statements like "But Hirshman's real problem, of course, is that women who are liked by conservative men are not proper women" ought to be accompanied by some evidence that this is what Hirshman thinks, and that statements like, "I'm going to continue to taunt Hirshman about this, and I'll laugh when she fulminates about my lack of 'reason.' I'll laugh insanely," only achieve the desired humorous effect if your readers do not already think you are insane.

So write your own jokes. They're usually better than mine anyway.
SHORTER JONAH GOLDBERG. Playing the race card is deplorable, unless I'm holding the race card, in which case, boo-yah!

UPDATE: "Truth is a defense against slander, but is it a defense against bigotry?" He seems to be saying that Clark and Yglesias are correct, but no fair anyway because liberals get mad when Larry Summers says chicks can't add and subtract. That's the problem with racial obsessives: they think that everyone else shares their obsession.

If ordinary justice applied, I would rejoice that Goldberg wrote, "...ah yes, it’s those bagel-eating puppeteers in New York who are driving us to war with their piles of blood money..." because then I might expect him to stop bitching about black people out of embarrassment at least.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

CULTURE CLUBFOOT. TRex at Firedoglake (get well soon, dearest Jane) points out rightwing superhag Mona Charen's most recent exhortation to the Kulture Kops -- this one a little more forward looking than most:
When I travel around the country is when people say well you know how do we effect the country, how do we effect the culture, I will frequently say rather than have your kids be business men, teachers, lawyer—many other things—have them either be journalists or movie makers. That's where we have nothing in the culture…
Mona, Mona, Mona. That's not how it works.

Funnily enough, I've been reading a rather poorly written but still fascinating book on a subject of relevance to the topic. A Great, Silly Grin by Humphrey Carpenter is about British satire in the 1960s -- Beyond the Fringe, That Was The Week That Was, the magazine Private Eye, and that lot.

If you're familiar with late 20th century Brit humor high and/or low, you know that it was all over the place in terms of the usual political labels -- Labour got poked as much as the Tories did, and there's nothing a white English comic liked better than to pretend to be one of those silly African despots. ("Ah'm already consolidatin' mah effective position," said John Bird, grotesquely impersonating Kenya's Jomo Kenyatta, "as de first Negro Prime Minister o' Great Britain, an' shall soon be rushin' on to de assumin' o' even more gigantic powers as de Queen.")

Obviously these people were not so much ideologues as wreckers -- in fact, Malcolm Muggeridge denounced them as mere tyros for whom all "authority is a schoolmaster who, when his back is turned, can be pelted with paper darts and mocked with mimicry and funny face." Private Eye's Christopher Booker said he "gave up Liberalism as soon as it became fashionable," and his colleague Richard Ingrams alternately described himself as a Tory and as an anarchist.

If you pay any attention at all to the history of art, or to common sense, you will notice a problem with Charen's marching orders for heartland America to produce rightwing "culture." She thinks creativity is something the powerful can order up as easily as room service -- "Get young Jennings to produce us some satire, there's a good darkie!" She has no idea that culture is not created by sub-committees of political action groups, but by the sort of obstreperous, irreverent, fart-blowing people that she and her fellow winger dweebs would normally cross the street to avoid.

I've said it many times before and I will say it many times more: these pricks say they are at war for the "culture," but what they really want is to replace all vestiges of culture wih propaganda -- which is the only thing they know how to produce.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

DRUNKS WITH GUNS. The Ole Perfesser done wrote hisself (well, collaborated on) a paper, all about why Communitarians should hook up with the People of the Gun to make everyone, will-he nill-he, join a militia -- and not a statist militia-in-name-only like the National Guard, but something more like Boy's Night Out with shootin' ahrns.

It is strange that the Perfesser puts so much effort into reaching out to Amitai Etzioni and the Bowling Alone crowd. How many citizens out there proudly identify themselves as Communitarians?

One wonders why the Perfesser didn't tap into a more potent symbol of armed self-reliance: The Black Panthers of California. Back in the day they cheerfully exercised what was then the right of all Cali citizens -- open carry -- until Governor Ronald Reagan freaked out on whitey's behalf and signed the Mulford Act removing that right in 1967.

Oh wait, I'm sorry. One doesn't wonder at all.

There are all sorts of highlights in the document, but I especially liked the quote from an Andrew Lytle novel which the authors say "captures the spirit of community present in militias":
It wasn't long until riders from every section of the county came in, some of the younger and more spirited men shouting and taking on. But you'd see sober gentlemen of middle years, sitting straight in their saddles, ride by in a running walk as if they rode to musters every day. Those too poor to own stock, although there were not many of this condition, straggled in on foot.... Kin would meet that hadn't seen one another for a year or more; and the women would hardly run through the ailments of children and servants, with just a running start on the marriages and baptizing, when the musters came to an end. Such jollification you never saw. There were dinners on the ground, and red-mouth barbecue pits. The groceries knocked out the tops of their liquor barrels, and red whisky ran down gullets like rain after a dry spell.
Two things: first, it is amazing that the Perfesser, who is always going on about the latest electronic doo-dad he purchased (or had purchased for him by loving fans), would sigh over this low-tech, backwoods Arcadian scene. Were he transported back to such a time and place, he would probably go mad within days, holed up in his cabin trying to make a steam-powered iPod.

Second, if a combination of loaded semi-automatic rifles and whiskey running "down gullets like rain after a dry spell" is what the Perfesser is after, I say let him try it in Knoxville first. I am content to watch the fireworks from a distance.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

HOW BULLSHIT WORKS. There was an anti-war march in Washington yesterday -- par for the recent course, a big one. The Los Angeles Times reported it at 100,000 strong -- given how such reports go, we could easily add 50 grand to that. In any case it was a meaningfully large turnout.

How you perceived the event had a lot to do with the coverage to which you were exposed. For example, there's a little media outlet in Tennessee that spun it this way:
A REPORT from the Code Pink rally.

UPDATE: In Madison, Vive Saddam.
The first linked story in Perfesser Reynolds' report is headlined "Redeploy the Hippies to Cuba (and other thoughts on the Code Pinko Rally)," which tells us that, contrary to the hyperinflated police reports (because we all know how cops like to make protests look successful), there were "MAYBE 4000 people there. And there were MAYBE 8000 - 12000 protesters at the Capitol. The news media knows how to frame shots of signs close together to make the crowd look more crowded. And they like to crop pictures as well." (For a glimpse of the huge counter-protester contingent, see here, or consult your common sense.)

The second link is from the noted crackpot Ann Althouse, who on this day of massive protest focuses on some guy in Madison, Wisconsin "who is holding a sign that says 'Vive Saddam.'" Then she says, "let's critique the 'Bring them home' chant," and basically says that... oh, damn, you people deserve the full force of teh funny:
It's a chant that made sense for Vietnam, a war for which men were drafted. I very much understand the resistance and shock and desperation that was felt for the young men who were forced to go to Vietnam, feelings that would make many people say, quite simply, "Bring them home." But for Iraq, everyone has volunteered. Everyone who's there made a profound decision to do something. The chant "Bring them home," in that context, seems to be shouting disrespectfully in their face that they made a blunder. There are people who chose to do something and are working very hard to accomplish it. While it is true that our leaders owe them the right decisions about how to win the war, the individuals who volunteered deserve respect for the choices that they made. The chant omits the honoring of that choice.
So what I guess Professor Althouse is suggesting as a more appropriate chant is, "RESPECTFULLY, YOU GUYS REALLY MADE SOME SHITTY CHOICES -- BUT 'A' FOR EFFORT!" Or maybe what she favors is "I'M SORRY I PISSED CONSERVATIVES OFF LAST MONTH -- PLEASE COME ENJOY MY HIPPIE-HATING BULLSHIT TODAY!"

How these people wash their hair without their skulls caving in is beyond me.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

NATTERING NABOBS OF NEGROTIVITY. Not to belabor the white-conservatives-and-race thing, but Jonah Goldberg made a fascinating statement at NRO the other day:
Derb - You ask if anyone dreams of a colorblind America?

Well, I do. As do — I think — a lot of people. That they're often called racist or insensitive and that such a goal is probably an unachievable ideal shouldn't sully the ideal.
This was followed up by many correspondences from Goldberg fans who are either mad at black people or clearly wounded by their lack of cooperation with right-wing Whitey.

Here is one who sighs that he expected "that black Americans would stop voting monolithically Democratic as they became more educated and successful," but has been sadly disappointed. (Goldberg says hey, tell me about it, I get the same thing from Jews!) Another goes into a long, dreamy reverie about race-mixing (the author says he is/was married to a "[black] African" -- what an exciting relationship that must be/have been!) Yet another is "sure there are many blacks who feel the least they can do to maintain their authentic blackness is vote Democratic. You avoid an awful lot of arguments with your family if you do." (Why not just vote Republican and lie to your family, if you feel that strongly about it?)

Finally we get a "black republican" (why weren't they all black? The NRO letter-"receiving" team is getting sloppy) who's totally down with fighting the real enemy ("a white liberal can say really racist things about a conservative black," etc). Maybe that's why Goldberg decided to quit:
Lots of interesting email has come in, but I've got to run to a meeting. Either later today or tomorrow morning I'll post some follow-ups to some — I think fair —  complaints from liberal readers (some of whom happen to be black, Jewish etc).
In the Goldberg universe, of course, "Got to run to a meeting" means "Smell ya later, oh look a donut, score."

It may be due to my many years as a sharecropper on the liberal plantation, but I am struck, not to say thunderstruck, that this conversation is still going on -- let alone led, in this instance, by a guy whose obsession with black folk has always been a little creepy (read here under "Bye Bye Marion" for some real cold chills -- and imagine Goldberg and whatever sort of people would go out drinking with him making that request to a bartender).

That Goldberg would portray his bizarre attitude as nobly "colorblind" -- for which greatness of spirit the poor honkeys are called racist! -- suggests a slight but significant change in the race consciousness of white conservatives. While they were cheerfully winning elections with just a few percentage-points' worth of African-American support, the "how come they don't like us?" thing was just an idle bagatelle, like calling for a "Marion Barry" at the bar. But now that they have no majority, nor any immediate hope of one, I see this topic taking up much more of their ample free time.

Maybe at the next NRO Symposium, the Negro Problem will be discussed by Goldberg, John Derbyshire, Bill Bennett, etc. Maybe Deroy Murdock or Robert George will be there, but I doubt their contributions will be given any more weight than anyone else's -- that would be racist, right?

It gets clearer all the time that today American conservatism, as evinced by its most popular web avatars, is about displacement and projection -- they fuck up a war, then complain loudly that long-powerless liberals fucked it up; they lack black support, and lament at length the dysfunctions suffered, in their view, by black Americans -- because why else wouldn't they vote for the Party of the Southern Strategy? As Doghouse Riley is fond of saying, they really seem to be in their Ghost Dance phase.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

HEADS UP. I know the conservatives haven't been right about anything in a long time, but I think you should anticipate that the Iraq surge will have some kind of effect early on that will look like progress. Once the troops are committed -- and I suspect they will be -- they will certainly be instructed to kill some people and occupy some fractious districts tout suite. Our troops, being the world's best, will accomplish these missions, and the stateside cries of "boo-yah" and "liberal traitor" will return to 2003 levels as victory is proclaimed to be within sight.

Now, victory has been redefined. Before we were supposed to be saving the Iraqi people -- "Your enemy is not surrounding your country, your enemy is ruling your country" -- but now, as this recent snarl from Mark Steyn shows, we are only interested in dominating them:
It's very heartwarming when you see US soldiers with beaming Iraqi kids because they've just rebuilt the schoolhouse, but it's not what US soldiers should be doing... My favorite Foreign Minister, Australia's Alexander Downer, gives a lot of thought to this matter. Oz has several failed and failing states in its backyard and it's far more comfortable with the idea not just of sending in troops but of sending in judges and civil servants and the like to get the place on its feet. Sovereignty is not absolute, as Mr Downer likes to say.

They don't need to be running the joint. A while back, John O'Sullivan told me he'd once danced a foxtrot with the prima ballerina of the Royal Danish Ballet. As she took his hand, she said, I will lead. But I will make you look like you are leading. I said, Wow! That should have been our Iraq policy. Instead of Paul Bremer as viceroy, a lot of really great discreet Number Twos in the Interior, Treasury, Education and other ministries...
And so "Democracy! Whiskey! Sexy!" gives way to "Puppet Regime! Unsanitary Drinking Water! Ass Rape!" But no one remembers the old days and the fresh kills and captures will stir currently dormant bloodlusts. So war fever will rage anew until, months or years down the road, we realize that we have only taken hold of a different limb of the tar baby, and we play the game all over again.

I give you this heads-up only because some of my younger readers may be dispirited by the turnaround, not having seen, as we greybeards have, many such like before.
NOT THAT HE'S APPROVING OF STEPIN FETCHIT -- WHY, THAT FELLOW WOULD MAKE AN AWFUL CLERK AT TARGET. Did you catch James Lileks' passionate defense of olde-style Negro servitude?
The Steward was one of those peculiar archetypes of American apartheid – along with the Porter and the Maid. Unlike the domestic servant, though, he contained no sass. Think Uncle Ben: big toothy smile, yassir. Domestic servants, however, were allowed a great deal of sass – listen to the old Great Gildersleeve shows, and you get a perfect picture of the popular idea of this idealized relationship. Gildy is henpecked and outdone by all his domestic associates, but the only person who comes across with any degree of pride or level-headedness is Birdie, the servant, and Gildy’s relationship to her is one of kindness and deference. You could say that’s easy: she didn’t count, so it was easy to be nice to her. But that’s wrong. There was a fundamental decency and mutual affection in their relationship. Yes, yes, idealized depiction of inherent inequalities, etc. As the argument no doubt goes, the shows perpetuated inequality by pretending they really didn’t exist. But it’s instructive to note what the popular culture held out as the ideal. Equality, not subjegation. Birdie was fully integrated into the family, and shared the same values. Nowadays I suspect a sitcom with a Black servant in a middle-class family would milk the clash of cultures, not the similarities. Wanda Sykes would star.
There's something missing here.... something... oh yeah -- the wounded, pre-emptive dismissal of accusations!
I am now bracing for the mail that accuses me of missing the days of Jim Crow. Whatever.
That's how the pro wingnuts do it, folks! Next up: why the passing from the scene of Joe Jitsu harmed our relations with China.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

LONG STORY SHORT. Didn't see the SOTU -- busy working on a project (tell you more later). Did read the transcript.

What a bunch of bullshit.

First, the usual Santa Claus list of initiatives. (I always liked Clinton, but I am beginning to hate him for bequeathing this legacy.) Bush praises our allegedly rocket-powered economy, then asks for tons of domestic legislation to support it. Can't Alberto Gonzales just make it all happen sub rosa (Latin for "inside a burlap sack by the river")?

Then the war shit. When Bush mentioned 9/11, did the media pool show anyone rolling his eyes? I would have volunteered. The Sunni and the Shia are portrayed as two scrappy 19th Century immigrants (Mike the Mick and Tony the Wop, in short pants, their sacks of newspapers flung to one side) who have to be separated by Uncle Sam and his death squads. I can't believe they're still selling this crap. And what the fuck is a "Civilian Reserve Corps"? What do they pay? If I offer my services as a Singer of Songs, Gadfly, and Reprobate, will I get my own room, three squares, and a roll of drink tickets? I'm just desperate enough to take it, as I'm sure many of my fellow citizens are.

Then the special guest stars, and IS THIS A GREAT COUNTRY OR WHAT? THANK YOU GOOD NIGHT! I hope the band played the "Carol Burnett Show" Theme at the end.

To sum up: Rod Dreher was right, I hate this fucking country and want to see it overthrown by militant Islam, which totally rocks!
TRAITOR. Thanks to Nancy Nall, I see Crunchy Rod Dreher has struck a new low. Because some guy made a movie about guys who fuck horses, Dreher thinks the Taliban may be onto something:
...what do you say to Muslims abroad who'd genuinely wonder why, if this kind of decadence is the fruit of American liberty, they should welcome what we have to offer?
You say, "If you don't like it, go ahead and continue to live in your medieval desert shithole, dumbass." That's what you say.
I believe that we have got to fight hard to defend the West against Islamic aggression. What, though, are we defending? D'Souza is right about this: the kind of people who make and celebrate "compassionate" movies about people having sex with animals are civilization's enemies.
You can understand Dreher's distress. Not only does he have to fight suicide bombers -- he also has to fight documentary filmmakers! And by "fight" I mean of course "write columns about." Amazing he finds the time to grind his pesto!

Dreher says that "I probably have, re: fundamental morals, more in common with the first 500 people I'd meet in Cairo, Damascus or Tehran than the first 500 people I'd meet in Park City, UT, during festival time." But he won't move to Cairo, Damascus, or Tehran -- dammit! -- because "I do not want to live under sharia or cultivate affinity for sharia-based societies, whose values I find in particular instances to be perverse and inhuman." (Emphasis his.) He doesn't say which "particular instances" he finds inhuman, but I have a sneaking suspicion book- and movie-banning aren't high on the list.

I sometimes -- cur that I am -- make fun of those of my fellow citizens who live in Bumfuck, Alabama and other such rustic locales. But it would never occur to me to declare that, because I do not myself enjoy snuff-dipping or tractor pulls, that I am in sympathy with the folks who want to blow those citizens up for Allah.

Yet for the past five years I've been called a traitor while Dreher has been drawing fat wingnut-welfare checks for his shitty writing and spending them on arugula and hemp clothing. Sigh. Wake me when this spaceship has left Bizarro World.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

A HEALTH CARE REFORMER IS A CONSERVATIVE WHO GOT SICK. Cathy Seipp tries to explain why she complained about the shitty health care system that allowed her insurers to raise her deductible and refuse her treatment (until the State intervened on her behalf):
Yes, what is this terrible Republican woman doing complaining about an insurance company? Don't all Republicans side with evil corporate entities against suffering human beings? Isn't that... you know... a basic part of the platform or something?

But for some reason, the only politicians pushing expanded access to health care right now are Republicans: Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger of California and former Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts, who's just left his post to become a (mean old) Republican presidential candidate in 2008.
Fair-weather free-marketeers Romney and Woflcastle are for statist health care plans for the same reason Seipp is: because there's something in it for them. Romney wants to be president; Wolfcastle wants popular support for when he storms the Capitol, bites Nancy Pelosi's neck open, and declares himself dictator; and Seipp wants to justify her cafeteria conservatism sufficiently (and it doesn't take much, apparently) to keep her sinecure at National Review.

The two pols are at least crafty about it -- the plans they propose fall short of what liberals might propose, and anyway what do they care about the mess they may leave behind them in their rise to glory? But Seipp is just clumsy as hell. Instead of making a conservative case for state-sponsored health care (whatever that might be), Seipp just bitches out other people -- some liberal who won't immediately support the Wolfcastle plan, young whippersnappers who would rather bask in such luxuries as "living without a roommate" than buy insurance (or maybe Seipp wants the kids to pay for her procedures: her writing is so confused at this point, it's hard to tell), and people who eat burgers in her hospital waiting room ("Whatever was wrong with them, it certainly didn't affect their appetites").

This is lifestyle conservatism at its best -- conservative because the author feels herself conservative even as she calls upon Big Brother to rescue her.

But I'll say this for Seipp -- at least she is free to jettison, if only for the opportunistic moment, the bare-fanged cruelty of Cato Institute types such as Michael F. Cannon, who approves of the upcoming George Bush health-care proposal because, he cheerfully admits, it will cause Americans to seek less medical treatment -- not because they'll be less sick, but because they won't be able to afford it:
As it stands, the tax code also encourages Americans to consume more health care than they otherwise would. Employer-provided health insurance isn't taxed as income, so workers have an incentive to demand ever more generous health benefits...

The incentive to demand more coverage often causes us to consume more health care than we need -- which, in turn, drives health care prices and insurance premiums skyward.

The president's plan would encourage responsibility by limiting the amount of health insurance we can deduct from our taxes each year...
Yeah, Grandma's not likely to find another husband at her age, so why does she need that wen removed? And how do you know you can't live with your cancer until you've given it a try? Your stupid diseases are making the Invisible Hand feel bad!

"Don't all Republicans side with evil corporate entities against suffering human beings?" Sure, unless it interferes with whatever other scam they're running at any given time.

Monday, January 22, 2007

McCORMICK! McCORMICK! McCORMICK! McCORMICK! No sooner do I post fresh evidence that conservative culture cranks are getting way, way out there, than I find this amazing post at Chicago Boyz ("Boyz"! Jesus, and I thought my shizzolator needed an upgrade), in which the media are exorted to cover the Iraq War as if it were football:
...we do need media who recognize that they've got some skin in this game. That there are things that they do not need to know, immediately, under a system of representative government. That their role in life is not to undermine the effectiveness of the local team. Yes, we want to know the strengths and weaknesses. But winning the game -- not exposing how the game is to be won -- is what ultimately counts to the fans.
I don't know if I can even tell you why this is stupid, as I have not had to explain anything a five-year-old lately and may have lost the appropriate skills. But I will mention that this bizarre, apparently non-satirical post has gotten big ups from the Ole Perfesser, Ed Driscoll, and other rightwing blogbrethren.

And I must call out this line:
Thus my broader view for the day -- America will get the MSM it wants when America takes its national security as seriously as its football.
While I can see that the author, James McCormick, knows what kind of MSM he wants -- I envision something with headlines about "Oceania" and "Eurasia" -- I wonder why he thinks America wants the same thing. I guess this is a legacy of the old days, when blogs were just a few Jeff Jarvis columns away from taking over the world and people like McCormick were going to be the new opinion leaders -- maybe he still thinks all he has to do is run to the top of the hill, scream "LAMPPOST DOGSTAR I AM A TV SET," point his wooden sword westward and charge, and all his countrymen (who -- also in my imagining -- closely resemble him) will happily follow.

I sort of miss the days when they were content to inflame existing prejudices and mass delusions, instead of trying to make up new ones.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

YOUNG MAN, THAT'S THE FUNNIEST THING YOU'VE SAID ALL NIGHT -- SCREW THE IRISH! At "Islamophobic and proud of it" Gates of Vienna, "Baron Bodissey" covers a U.K. reality show tsimmis in which an Indian actress complained of racist treatment. At first he wasn't going far wrong, which in his case is a great achievement. The Baron finds the comments directed at the actress "boorish, tasteless, and unwarranted," notes that British lowbrow humor has long had a racist component that is probably not going to be easily ameliorated by "administrative fiat," and thinks it was a bit much for the Prime Minister to get involved in this case.

Agree or not, a reasonable reader might at least judge this response within the bounds of reason, which bounds, alas, can never long restrain the Baron:
It would be laughable if Britain were not facing a looming cultural disaster at the hands of Islamic zealots. When sharia takes over on the nook-shotten isle of Albion, Ms. Shetty will no longer have to endure the slings and arrows of outrageous racists on reality TV, because there will be no more reality TV, and no more shameless infidel women in their scanty outfits.
Then he completely misreads parodies of racist behavior by the Firesign Theatre and Ed Sanders. Then his helpmeet "Dymphna" amplifies on the topic with a takedown of celebrity culture. I, too, think celebrity culture is pretty silly, but as Dymphna warmed to her topic my mild nods of approval quickly turned to a Springtime for Hitler gape:
The [People] magazine was crammed with improbable looking women, all dressed and sculpted to look alike, their botoxed lips giving them a certain K-Mart Lolita air. The Stepford Wives have nothing on these creatures; they are merely messier looking versions of their legendary suburban foremothers. And the men? They all seemed to need a shave and a job and a trip to Good Will for some clothing.

Plumbing the depths of People didn’t take the pain away, but it did create a diversion of sorts as I attempted to figure out the ramifications of a culture of women with lots of money, ratty hair, and clothing that seemed to have been grabbed off the street from passing hookers.

I’m still working on this puzzle, though I did notice a central part of their belief system: repeated stays at drug rehabilitation center as a swinging door rite of passage. Their in-and-out-the-rehab-door-dramas brought to mind those clocks or barometers with little German dolls that used to lurch woodenly out of their tiny spaces to announce the time… or did they forecast the weather?
Here's the thing: I can enjoy, or at least tolerate, a standard-issue Jay Leno gag about skanky Hollyweird actresses. But were Leno to stick with the topic after the first wave of laughter passed, darkly warning of the cultural "ramifications" of all that drug abuse and thrift-store clothing, I think NBC would be cutting away to a commercial pretty fast.

This reminds me of something that those of us who cover conservative cultural criticism often forget: most such criticism circulates only within a closed loop occupied by outrage junkies. The number of citizens who see Paris Hilton as the Fifth Horseman of the Apocalypse is very small. We Americans can be weird about our pop culture, but few of us are that weird.

The thought is mildly reassuring. A clever demagogue, of course, can exploit our vague uneasiness about changing mores for electoral gain -- and it has in fact been done more than once with great success. But if Dymphna and the Baron represent cutting-edge rightwing thought, it may be that conservatives really are losing whatever populist touch they may have had.

Friday, January 19, 2007

UNIFIED FRAUD THEORY. I think this may be the perfect Ole Perfesser post.

First, he quotes Don Surber, who says
Big Pharma update. Big Pharma develops a vaccine for a virus that causes 70% of the cervical cancer in the world. Liberals in the West Virginia Legislature stop clubbing Big Pharma long enough to notice this development and to push for a bill requiring girls get vaccinated.

The conservative Daily Mail endorses the idea.

But liberals already are back to clubbing Big Pharma. It is Luddite liberalism.
In Surber's original post -- but not the Perfesser's replication -- we get a link that shows "Luddite liberalism" to mean this:
Without discussion, the [West Virginia] state Pharmaceutical Cost Management Council agreed Wednesday to a postponed deadline for drug companies to disclose what they spend on direct-to-consumer advertising and marketing to physicians...

The disclosure form has been a bone of contention for pharmaceutical companies and physician groups, since it would require drug companies to report any gifts, grants or other payments to doctors in excess of $10,000 a year.

Advocates of the disclosure form argue that the council needs to know how much pharmaceutical companies are spending to advertise and market brand-name drugs, in order to exclude those costs when negotiating for drug price discounts.
As this is plainly due diligence by a state agency responsible for negotiation with vendors, it would appear Surber has wildly exaggerated the Luddism. But at least he gave his readers the chance to, as they say, read the whole thing.

Here's the best part -- the Perfesser then quotes at great length a report on the development of a new cancer drug that sounds unambiguously wonderful, even miraculous. Then he comments:
I hope it pans out, but if it does people will probably find a way to bash the drug companies over it.
Because that's just like certain people, isn't it -- you cure their cancer, and they turn right around and smash your threshing machines.

We may well remember this as the day when Perfesser officially transitioned from propaganda to surrealism.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

SHORTER CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS: Bloody hell, Bush bollocksed the war! But I still prefer his dick to Clinton's. Glug, glug, glug, glug, glug.
LIFESTYLE CONSERVATISM. Like Megan McArdle's defense of being wrong, described in the previous post, the latest Lileks Bleat confronts reality with a rubber sword and a victory flag.

What sticks in his craw is a Times thumbsucker on the increase in unmarried women. Lileks cannot dispute that women who don't want to be married don't have to be, and some may even be happier on their own. But simple pursuit-of-happiness grounds are as nothing compared to Lileks-grade nostalgia! "To my parent's generation," he says, "divorce for no good reason was proof of moral failure." They also thought nuclear radiation was harmless, Jimbo. (Also, they would have considered a fellow with your fussiness about breakfast sausages and old matchbooks to be, erm, a mite tetched.)

And then comes that last refuge of a propagandist: prose poetry!
It's a consequence of the triumph or Romantic Love, I suppose; if you don't mesh at the elemental level, something's wrong. The notion of simply inhabiting the same road as you move towards the horizon isn't enough; you must both be fascinated by the same things. I prefer the model where one person is interested in the flowers that grow by the road, and the other discourses on the history of pavement, and you both speculate on the birds in the boughs above. But that's just me.
This is the sort of thing that makes me sorry I learned how to read.

Like McArdle's plaint, this is all about being right when you're wrong -- defending an indefensible premise (in which you're too invested to back off) by any means except logic, which has already been failed you. To this end, Lileks even avails the old trick of speculating, what if the thing I'm ranting about were actually something entirely different? ("Or would a Times piece by this author about surging rates of marriage -- especially among the young -- somehow communicate a sense of dread and regret, of oppurtunities lost?") This is known among nerds as a "thought experiment," and among regular people as bullshit.

Finally, though, one is left wondering: Why are the private beliefs and behaviors of other citizens so annoying to Lileks? Probably because what was once said of the left wing is now demonstrably true of the right: for them, the personal is the political. The marriage habits and bedroom behaviors of others obsess them; they obsessively judge the political content of movies, TV shows, and so forth. I guess when your politics are shown to be disastrously inapt for the country, what else have you got left?

UPDATE. For a more seriouser look at the single-gal issue, see here.
SOPHISTIC LADY. Megan McArdle's bizarre "20/20 Bias" post -- near as I can figure, it's about how just because she was wrong about Iraq doesn't mean the people who disagreed with her were right -- has already been appropriately dealt with on grounds of idiocy. But I would like to briefly address the fantasy aspects of it.

McArdle states that "What the doves would like to see the hawk's do" is make this statement: "I was wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong about everything, I am a stupid idiot, you are a brilliant figure with god-like omniscience." I think my regular readers know that I certainly wouldn't want anything of the kind. McArdle herself is too valuable a source of humor to lose that way, and her fellow hawks have been at least as hilarious. I look forward to chronicling their progress for years to come.

Also, McArdle says "I think the doves are crediting themselves with way too much analytical brilliance." Speaking only for myself -- as someone who is decidedly not a dove, but who thought this war was a bad idea from the beginning -- I make no claim to analytical or any other kind of brilliance. If anything, I just have a lick of common sense, drummed into me by my late mother, who did not trust fancy salesmen who refrained from showing their merchandise; this trained me to look askance upon a war against someone who hadn't attacked us, justified only by the assertions of untrustworthy Republican poltroons.

Devising paradoxes and logic puzzles to get around bald reality is some sort of a skill, but not the kind that pays the rent or keeps a nation out of unneeded difficulties.

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.