Monday, February 19, 2007

INCLUDING "AND" AND "THE." The Ole Perfesser has a laugh -- as does his advance man, Don Surber -- over a Democratic member of the Arizona House who was "trying to ban obsene mudflaps" of the buxom-babe-reclining sort. Lookit them prudish P.C. Dems, is the general idea.

Of course neither the Perfesser nor Surber tells the whole story:
It's still going to be legal in Arizona for trucks to have splash guards with racist terms and silhouettes of naked women...

Tempe Democrat Ed Ableser sponsored the amendment. He said he'd seen a splash guard that used a derogatory term for black children and said he wanted to make sure that people with hateful motives didn't inflict them on others.
I disagree with Ableser, believing that assholes who want to put "pickaninny" and other such verbal vomit on their trucks should be allowed to embarrass themselves that way. (Also, I approve of naked cartoon chicks, though I prefer Phoebe Zeitgeist to the mudflap model.) I just wanted to present you good people with yet more evidence that the Perfesser is a Hudson Sprayer of bullshit. Please spread the word. It is genuinely disturbing to me that so few people have caught on to him yet.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

A LINGUISTIC TRIUMPH. One thing most of us have in common with sitcom characters is a catchphrase -- something we say reflexively under even slight pressure, or to fill space. As Robert Barone said, "Raymond, Raymond, Raymond," and Archie Bunker said, "Stifle yourself, Edith," for example, I invariably find myself saying things like "You can't fire me, I quit," and "Fuck you." Among the cognoscenti these have become my signatures.

The Ole Perfesser, heretofore known for "heh" and "indeed" (for which, please God, may he be remembered in Bartlett's Quotations, that future archeologists may have a ready-made thumbnail sketch of our intellectual disintegration), has been working up to a more substantive catchphrase that reflects his darker nature. For a few years, "Not anti-war, just on the other side" was the best he could do -- all that law-perfessin' and bloggin' left him little time for personal growth -- but I think he's onto something here:
To some people, Vietnam wasn't a defeat, but a victory. To them, the right side won. And lost. Naturally, they're happy to repeat the experience.
That is brilliant, and not just because the inspiration is -- are you sitting down? -- Charles fucking Schumer.

No, it dazzles because it packs so much stupid into such a small package. True, it's longer than "Raymond, Raymond, Raymond," but it is amazingly brief for all that it conveys: not only a rat-brained misreading of history, but also of the present, and of human nature as well. And it is not much longer than "I'm goin' back to the wagon, boys, these shoes are killin' me," the catchphrase of another great Tennesseean.

It is a great improvement on the Perfesser's former slurs. While "Not anti-war...," for example, did clearly impute treason to the millions of Americans against whom the Professor used it, it was too quick, too slashing to completely override the impression that the speaker was unserious -- that this was not an earnest accusation of grave crimes, but mere name-calling. The new catchphrase lingers enough to change the tone completely, as a long, fixed stare can add to a street bum's rambling obscenities an air of menace.

And it perfectly suits the interesting phase we seem to have entered. "Treason," cried the New York Post headline over which this classic Ralph Peters disgorgement appeared, and the right-wing bloggers all echo the cry. Suddenly treason is the new black. And all because Congressional Democrats made a (typically feeble) show of acknowledging the anti-war sentiment of the voters -- which, you may remember, put them in the majority in the first place.

I expect the Perfesser will be working this one hard. He may try to condense it -- being essentially conservative, he may not want to tamper much with classical forms -- but I like it at the present length. With proper training, one can get it all out in a single breath, which would accentuate its incantatory quality, always a good thing for a piece of nonsense.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

WHAT THEY BELIEVE AND HOW THEY BEHAVE. By following a long (maybe it just seemed long) stream of posts by Professor Bainbridge -- originating in a discussion of Aflac's decision to let shareholders vote on executive compensation -- I learn that Bainbridge believes that
[a]nalysis must begin with the basic principle that shareholders do not own the corporation. Instead, they are merely one of many corporate constituencies bound together by a complex web of explicit and implicit contracts. As such, the normative claims associated with ownership and private property are inapt in the corporate context. (This is known as the nexus of contracts model of the corporation.)

...shareholder voting is not an integral part of the corporate decision-making apparatus.
It struck me as I read this that, while Bainbridge's conclusion may be perfectly supportable in contract law, it suggests that the people who put down their nickels, figuratively speaking, shouldn't have much say in what is done with the fruits of their investment. This would seem counterintuitive for a conservative author -- aren't they always complaining that Big Gummint is squandering our investments (that is, our tax money), and calling for greater accountability to the People?

But things became clearer as I read further:
The board's primacy has a compelling economic justification. The separation of ownership and control mandated by corporate law is a highly efficient solution to the decision-making problems faced by large corporations. Because collective decision-making is impracticable in such firms, they are characterized by authority-based decision-making structures in which a central agency (the board) is empowered to make decisions binding on the firm as a whole.
And then it hit me: for conservatives, to paraphrase Vince Lombardi, money isn't everything, it's the only thing. They strongly identify with corporations, and therefore endorse whatever hauls in the most money for them and their leaders -- populism be damned. Government isn't nearly so important to them -- not a lot of profit to be seen there -- except as the object of a hostile takeover, after which it can be plundered and sold off for parts, toward which end a little pretense at populism is acceptable (See Revolution, Republican).

They're pretty obvious when they're propagandizing, but their true nature is never more clear than when they talk about the thing(s) they love.

UPDATE. In comments Kia is inspired to expound on a language native to the Ivory Tower called Weaselese: "[Bainbridge is] talking about corporate law, but he's using the legal terminology with surprising vagueness considering that he's talking radically about these very technical matters. That is, his legal phrasings are more like jargon; they don't actually bring any evidence or persuasive argument with them, just reassuring noise." And I thought I didn't speak a second language! You can enjoy more of Kia's brilliance at Gall and Gumption -- if you lose the address, you can always find it on my blogroll.

Friday, February 16, 2007

TRAMP THE DIRT DOWN. Sometimes people go too far. Your idea of "too far" and mine are probably very different: if, for example, David Broder were photographed working his own asshole with a Kewpie doll while eating Japanese schoolgirl shit, that would only favorably revise my opinion of him.

If there were a formula for what constitutes "too far" for me, I guess part of it would read "insanity + tedium." Many of my favorite subjects here are plain nuts, but their spirochettes, like Shelley's, drive them to poetic arias of insanity. But sometimes they get stuck in ruts, and their previously entertaining madness devolves into depressing monomania of the sort suffered by the madhouse gibberers in old horror movies.

Rod Dreher has reached the end of my patience. Having already declared common cause with the Islamic nuts who want us all to live under sharia law, Dreher today says that when Falwell said God blew up the World Trade Center because of fags, he may have been onto something:
...In fact, as uncomfortable as it is to contemplate, no Christian or Jew can rule out the possibility that God will judge America, and judge it harshly. And perhaps is judging America. The Bible, particularly the books of the prophets, are full of examples of God calling Israel to repentance, and bringing her to ruin when she refused. That God used the Babylonians as an instrument of chastisement does not imply that He endorsed the Babylonian Way of Life...

...When Bush 41 said "The American way of life is not up for negotiation," he was expressing what I think many conservatives (and liberals too) believe: that we Americans are not under anyone's judgment. From a Christian point of view, that's dangerous and wrong. We are under judgment. Humanity is.
Dreher has been a fun toy for a while, but I fear he has entered the realm of smokehouse-dwelling end-of-days psychos. He only perceives culture outside his smokehouse -- that is, the place the rest of us call "the real world" -- as a chimera woven by the Devil to confuse or (in the case of chesty dead blondes) titillate him. If you could wave a hand in front of Dreher's face, the eerie fixity of his gaze would not waver.

He is lost to us, or at least to me. I am reminded of Harry Truman's judgment, in Plain Speaking, of the unfortunate President John Tyler, which if I remember correctly ends, "He wound up in the Confederate Congress, and that was the end of him."

Thursday, February 15, 2007

ACE'S HIGH! I've been pretty lame about posting lately. The play takes a lot out of me: though I have only a supporting role, my incompetence requires me to work extra long hours just to achieve mediocrity. (The rest of the cast is phenomenal, though, as are the direction and the play itself. So go! You can do a crossword puzzle or turn on your iPod while I'm stinking up the joint.)

But I'm never too busy to notice when some fellow scribe is absolutely on fire, and I have to give it up for Ace of Spades, who is having a great run.

First, he notices what even the dullest rightwing hacks cannot ignore: that Fox's new funny-conservative show looks a little shakey. Now, here Mr. Spades does something that, so far as my memory reaches, he has never done before: he gives the appearance, however briefly, of heading toward a defensible point -- that the show's writers ought to focus on being funny rather than on hitting the approved political targets. But apparently Mr. Spades' ignorance has a defense mechanism of its own, and it pushes him out of this territory and into all kinds of huh-what. There's a rant about Tina Fey ("liberals went ga-ga over her for her relentless didacticism"), an allegation that Greg Gutfield's show is actually funny (having seen some clips of that thing, I can assure you, it looks like someone just left a camera running in the break room at Dorks R Us), and finally an allegation that the failed funny of the Fox show is a liberal plot:
Material so weak, in fact, that one suspects the writers are all liberals deliberately sabotaging the show, or so horribly out of touch with conservative opinion as to have no real idea what a conservative might find funny, or -- likeliest of all -- convinced conservatives are abject morons who will not get a joke unless it's seltzer-down-the-pants woca-woca-woca sledgehammer obvious.
But wait, there's more! In an update, Mr. Spades, maybe after a visit from The Boys, says the show isn't really that bad. Then he starts pitching ideas: "The one good joke in the segement -- Barack Obama's 'A Life In Politics: My 18 Month Journey' -- could be expanded into a Ken Burns style documentary on his eventful life, with letters back and forth to his wife about just making it to the Senate floor in time for a bill to increase public awareness of the American cod fishing industry, for example. Playing into the Obama Messiah thing." I'm laughin' already! Does the wingnut welfare department have a branch office in Television City? We'll soon find out!

This post is reason enough to stand up and cheer, but thereafter Mr. Spades outdoes himself with a veritable Tourette's seizure of commentary:
  • On how no one likes Valentine's Day except "the frigging feminists" (by which I guess he means "women," or perhaps "women who won't fuck me even if I buy them dinner").
  • On how the real lesson of Tim Hardaway's anti-gay remarks is that "Blacks have been given a pass" from liberal political correctness because no one in the Librul Media is reporting those remarks except, oh, more than a thousand news outlets at this writing. And also, "there was an incident in the NBA about ten years ago when some New York Knicks said..." Way to run down a source, Mr. Spades.
  • On how Mr. Spades is really funny if he does say so himself. "What I realized in writing this was that there were a couple of parts to a sketch. The premise -- obviously, you need that..." Aristotle can rest easy.
  • On how when a black guy rapes a white girl, liberals don't care.
  • On how Christians make liberals cry ("... jaw hanging in disbelief, eyes welling up with angry tears...") with their Christianity because liberals are little girly girl types. (Of course, if you're an actual girl and you just laugh at Christers, you're a man-faced bitch). This one goes on for hundreds of words. Then Mr. Spades says he wrote it in defense of what sounds like an extremely tight-assed Muslim guy. Whoa, psych! Looks like Dinesh D'Souza isn't the only one who just has to give Islamic fundamentalists credit at least for hating the same people he does.
I could go on, but really, Mr. Spades shows no sign of slowing down -- or maybe of coming down... but let's not cheapen a historic run of asininity by suggesting it has been pharmaceutically enhanced: we all need our heroes, and somewhere a little boy who can't stop talking and thinks all the grownups around him are really stupid and has learned to like playing with army mens all by himself is only a mouse-click away from validation.

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.