Monday, April 30, 2007

TURNABOUT IS FAIR PLAY. You have to hand it to Newsbusters. Who else would have imagined that the proper objective correlative to the current DC Madam story would be the liberal media's brutal suppression of the 1996 Dick Morris story?
ABC pounded the word "tabloid" in all of their coverage (even though Hume noted no one in the Morris or Clinton camps denied the Star story). But now ABC is the "tabloid" outlet on the Call Girl beat. Ross touted his scoop on Monday's Good Morning America about a State Department official who resigned in disgrace, even putting on a prostitute's lobbyist to denigrate him...
I and everyone I know must have been incredibly plugged-in back in the 90s, because we all knew that Morris was consorting with prostitutes and improving his status with them by letting them eavesdrop on his conversations with Bill Clinton. And all we had to do to obtain this suppressed information was occasionally pick up clandestinely-published samizdat such as the New York Times and Newsweek.

I kid. Newsbuster's angle is not that the MSM spiked the story -- who could claim that? -- but that they took a different tone about it, talking about it as if it were tabloid-sourced, which it was, and surprisingly undetrimental to Clinton's standing in the polls, which it also was.

What is Newsbusters trying to show here? One interpretation might be that Clinton suffered little from the Morris affair because the MSM had his back -- that we all heard the story, including the salacious details, but were hypnotized into ignoring it by Peter Jennings' Jedi mind tricks. Of course, Clinton had long been associated with sexual scandal by that point -- thanks to vigilant reporting of his imbroglios by the press -- and it may be that citizens were simply relieved that it was a Clinton flack, rather than the Big Dog himself, who got caught with the prostitutes. While, in the current case, the first disgraced party is a celebrated promoter of abstinence from America's Party of Moral Uplift, and his exposer claims to be sitting on a fat batch of further revelations.

That agents of the mainstream press may be manipulated by political spin doctors is a proposition accepted by people of all political philosophies. But nothing cuts family ties in that community like a nice, juicy scandal. Whether a newsreader arches his left of his right eyebrow while reporting such tawdry tales, his audience will still be focused on the savory (or unsavory, depending on your point of view) details -- the stained dress, the cigar, Leaves of Grass, and so forth.

It may be that our famously horny former President got away with much more than Randall Tobias ever will because, somewhere along the line, the Democrats were established as the sexed-up Party, while the Republicans were cast as defenders of Values, Guardrails, and Christian Revivalism. I don't think it's unfair to note that, if this assignment of roles involved mind-tricks, they did not originate with Peter Jennings. That a number of Republicans have of late been discovered with their pants down, and that many of us find this appallingly funny, may have less to do with the prejudices of reporters than it has to do with the law of unintended consequences.

Friday, April 27, 2007

SHORTER ACE O. SPADES: (through angry, helpless tears) Why don't you stop picking on someone your own size?
UNQUALIFIED. Eugene Volokh on a columnist who complained about St. Rudy Giuliani's Vote-For-Me-Or-Die-in-a-Terrorist-Attack bullshit:
Now Giuliani's speech may well be unsound; I'm not a Giuliani partisan, and I have no desire to defend it on the merits. But I'm puzzled, as I often am about such arguments, by the claim that "milking one's 9/11 reputation for crass political gain is, obviously, despicable"...

Imagine a surgeon who, in the wake of some disaster, does what many see as a superb job of saving many patients. He then goes to hospital managers and says that the hospital's patients will do better if he (rather than his rivals who he thinks haven't shown such skills) were given a promotion to an even more responsible surgical position.

Would we fault him because "milking [his] reputation [formed during a deadly disaster] for crass [careerist] gain is, obviously, despicable"?
Well, this analogy holds only if the surgeon's record includes the following:
  • A spotty performance including some exceptional saves and many incredible bonehead errors, costing the hospital millions of dollars every year.
  • Alienated the hell out of nearly the entire hospital staff, patients, benefactors, etc.
  • On one exceptionally trying day, found the super-special operating room he'd built (at great expense to the hospital) for such days was completely useless; still, performed his duty as dictated by his office without shitting his pants.
  • Tried unsuccessfully to avoid mandatory retirement by strong-arming the doctors who were in line for his position.
  • In applying for a more prestigious hospital leadership position, declared that an operating room should be run every day the way his was on that Great Day when it was blown up -- that is, in crisis-triage mode, with lots of fear, panic, and running around. Also let it be known that he no longer believed in any of the shit he pretended to believe back when he was at that other hospital -- except for the part where he was hailed as America's Surgeon.
Also, if I were Volokh I'd be careful about defending Giuliani with the image of an angry, lisping duck.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

MISSION ACCOMPLISHED. Back from DC now, with no bad Von Hippel-Lindau-related news at present. Thanks for all the goodwill. I did less sightseeing than usual, mostly strolling and working on my sunburn and taking drinks at the rooftop bar of the Hotel Washington. There I met an heiress of indecipherable middle age whose family, she claimed, had once owned the hotel, but had sold it for ready cash. She drank Irish Coffee, though it was after midnight, and said she no longer bothered with doctors as they had poked and prodded but never done her any good. Well, you can't argue with success.

I did have dinner with Thomas Nephew, who's a prince -- smarter and better educated politically than I by several orders of magnitude, as his weblog daily demonstrates, yet still willing to engage my bilious, jejune prattle. He happily maintains a wife, child, and pets, and also an easy-going sense of humor and perspective, despite his proximity to the thrumming engines of government that comprise much of his subject matter, which would drive me madder than I am -- I wonder how he does it? He matched me beer for beer, so I doubt that he takes sedatives. Remarkable fellow.

Also saw the Jasper Johns show at the National Gallery. The exhibition was full of studies and multiple versions, which added to the impression that any subject, however silly, may be elevated by talent and obsessive hard work. It's just amazing how much energy is still in those paintings, even when they're so thick with scrawls, smears and impastos that the lines of force seem to be cancelling each other out. It's like the subjects -- targets, cans, compasses, legs, and assorted gee-gaws -- so mesmerized him, simple as they were, that they became mysteries that he had to paint his way out of.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

OCCAM'S RAZOR TO THE RESCUE. Andrew Klavan at City Journal:
The thing I like best about being a conservative is that I don’t have to lie. I don’t have to pretend that men and women are the same. I don’t have to declare that failed or oppressive cultures are as good as mine...

Of course, like everything, this candor has its price. A politics that depends on honesty will be, by nature, often impolite. Good manners and hypocrisy are intimately intertwined, and so conservatives, with their gimlet-eyed view of the world, are always susceptible to charges of incivility. It’s not really nice, you know, to describe things as they are...
Man, if I had a dime for every ill-mannered little shit who believed that the cold stares provoked by his bigoted drivel were proof of his incorruptibility and his hearers' intolerance... well, I might have enough money to be one of those little shits myself.

Klavan has overthought the sitiation. If he's not "the sort of person you want to be seen with," it's probably not because he's "the sort of person willing to speak the truth" about Muslims, poor people, etc.; it's probably because he's an asshole.

(Hat tip to Sven)

Monday, April 23, 2007

In the wake of the Virginia tech murders, there has been a lot of editorialising about gun control and mental health interventions. But I haven't found a single editorial addressing one factor we know creates these mass murders: reporting on the mass murders. In the next few weeks and months, even over the next few years, expect to see copycat killings inspired by Cho's actions. The more saturated the media coverage, the more such events we are likely to get. But as far as I know, few papers have taken to advocating that we cut down on news coverage of these events.
Funny, I was just talking about bullshit libertarians, and here we have someone named after a fucking Ayn Rand character who thinks free markets, while good in their place, just don't apply to news.

I don't want to hear any more crap from these people about how I hate freedom because I want to use tax money to give medicine to sick paupers.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

SERVICE ADVISORY. I had a discussion with Editor Martin the other day. He's down in Georgia working with the CDC on public health issues. He marveled at the CDC's effectiveness, and especially marveled that the incompetence that emanates from the Bush Administration like stink lines from a cartoon skunk had not damaged the CDC as it has so many other Federal entities. We speculated that perhaps even the Bushies balked at imposing their maladministration upon agencies of public health -- and then we thought of the FDA and Walter Reed Hospital.

Well, who knows. CDC is perhaps both good at its job and good at holding the line. I suspect the same of the National Institutes of Health, which I visit every year as a subject in their Von Hippel-Lindau study. Their facilities are amazing, their staff top-notch, and they accomplish amazing things.

I hope I'm of some help, though my interest is not entirely altruistic. The good news is, if they find tumors in you, they take them out, and they're very good at it. The bad news is, they sometimes find tumors. I've had a few pheochromocytomas out, and for ten years I've been running on only a tiny sliver of adrenal tissue. Pheos tend to recur, so chances are one of these years I'll come back from Bethesda an Addisonian, like JFK. Again it's a good news-bad news situation -- your face gets puffy and you have back problems, but you get to run the country and ball Marilyn Monroe (or, I am assuming, her contemporary equivalent).

Tomorrow I'm off for four fun-filled days in Medical Disneyland, during which time posting will be light.
BRING BACK THE BLACK PANTHERS! Gosh, the Perfesser sure is laying it on thick with the gun posts, isn't he? Columbine in the New River Valley really put the zap on his head.

Clearly the poor man is suffering from Posse-Comitatus-itis, a disorder characterized by itchy trigger fingers. As long as the fit is on him, we will never hear the end of his plaintive cries for universal gun ownership -- by force if necessary.

Fortunately I know the cure:

Bring back the Black Panthers! In the 60s there was no more outspoken group of gun-rights enthusiasts. The Panthers marched in state capitols, bravely brandishing their firearms in defiance of those that would take away their Second Amendment rights.

No swifter cure for Posse-Comitatus-itis has been found! Soon open-carry laws were shutting down all over the place -- including California, where the sight of black folk with firearms worked so effectively on Governor Ronald Reagan's Posse-Comitatus-itis that he signed the Mulford Act.

Displays of armed negritude will work like lightning on the Perfesser's condition, and on the cracker community he serves.

Then we'll only have to think of ways to get him to shut up about everything else.

Friday, April 20, 2007

THIS WAS SOMETIME A PARADOX, BUT NOW THE TIME GIVES IT PROOF. "[Glenn] Reynolds describes himself as a libertarian, specifically a libertarian transhumanist." -- Wikipedia.

"As a libertarian myself, I'd love to see the nation run under small-government principles..." -- Instapundit.

"A LOOK AT WHO'S TAKING AID AND COMFORT from Harry Reid's statements." -- Instapundit (link is to Eugene Volokh, often cited as a libertarian but undeclared as such, who says that Senator Reid is "strengthening the enemy's morale as well as by weaking our own soldiers'" by saying that the Iraq War is lost).

Here Perfesser Reynolds denounces NBC for encouraging "copycat mass shootings" by running its freely-obtained Cho footage.

Here is Jane Galt/Megan McArdle, another libertarian, explaining why the overthrow of Roe v. Wade would be a good thing, using an internationalist argument ("The restrictions that could actually be passed at the Federal level would probably bring our abortion law roughly in line with the rest of the world's").

We could go on and on with this, but why bother? With all props to those brave souls who cleave, come what may, to a coherent libertarian line, in the broad swath of public discourse "libertarian" is not a philosophical affiliation at all, but a grace note one adds to one's conservatism as a distinguishing feature (or, we might say, marketing ploy) to gain a wider audience, mostly consisting of people who are vaguely ashamed of current American conservatism.

This is why, despite my predilections, I try not to refer to myself as "libertarian-leaning" -- not out of contempt, but out of respect. Words should have meanings as specific as reason can make them, or all hope of using reason to dig out of the mess we're in is lost.

UPDATE. I made two little changes: in the penultimate graf, I changed "philosophy" to "philisophical affiliation," and I removed "the word" from "the word 'libertarian.'" Because how can a word be a philosophy? I mean really! My only excuse is that I post these things shit-ass drunk, just to test my skillz.
SHORTER DAVID KAHANE. For the Virginia Tech massacre, I blame the liberal moral relativist Alfred Hitchcock.
RIGHT WING "MEDIA CRITICSM" EXPLAINED. The Ole Perfesser, back in ole times, razzed "Big Media" for not showing video of terrorists sawing off Nick Berg's head. But now NBC shows some footage of Mad Dog Cho -- in which he does not saw off anyone's head -- and the Perfesser starts dropping Kaus turds and other effluent to tweak Big Media for not shielding the public from the grisly spectacle of a guy posing with guns and knives.

Similarly, but as always more spectacularly, Ace O. Spades is outraged that NBC showed the Cho footage ("They might as well be inviting the rest of the idiots in the stands to take a lap around the basepaths"). Then he goes mad with rage that the Em Ess Em hasn't given heavy play to a gruesome rape/torture/murder story. (Mr. Spades believes liberals are covering for the rapists/torturers/murderers because they're black -- which brings up an interesting question: If we're spiking that case solely to protect African Americans, does our heavy Cho coverage mean we're attacking Asian Americans? Or is it all about getting Whitey, whose votes we presumably do not need?)

When you read anything by these awful people that has to do with what should and should not be covered, please recognize that they are not trying to inform you. For them everything -- news, art, science -- is propaganda. There is no aspect of human life which they do not see an opportunity for partisan advantage.

That's why I'm so hard on them -- not so much because they're wrong on the issues, but because they're twisted freaks who seek power, and that sort always needs resisting.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

SHORTER BYRON YORK: I don't acknowledge a difference between reality and make-believe.

SHORTER JOHN DERBYSHIRE: PC liberals won't let you say this guy was crazy! Let us celebrate my great courage.

SHORTER KATHRYN J. LOPEZ: I'll be at this party, and I will have had a lot of beer.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

GUNS DON'T KILL PEOPLE -- WORDS AND PICTURES DO! Crunchy Rod Dreher finds the real Virginia Tech culprit:
This is what you get too from a society that tolerates all manner of lurid, explicit violence in its visual art, and forbids nothing except the impulse to forbid. I don't think for a minute that everyone who watches slasher films, or who plays violent video games, or who reads sadistic novels, or who listens to violent music, will turn out to be Klebold, Harris or Cho. Clearly that's not the case, and it would be stupid to claim that. But... no taboos... nihilistic... culture of death... moral imagination... gurgle...
When his commenters are less than respectful, Dreher says, "Do I really have to explain that I don't think Goya or Shakespeare are the same thing as Nine Inch Nails or the collected works of Cho Seung-Hui -- even though they all depict violence in their work?" Watch out, Trent -- God-Boy's a-gunnin' fer ya! Even the love of a few other wingnuts won't protect you from his fully-engaged moral imagination!

Since ten seconds after the VT massacre, every conservative in existence has jumped to inform us that whatever else we may think about it, we must not blame guns. But, boy, are they concerned about ink and pixels! The very idea that NBC might publish some of Cho's ravings has them flipping out.

It says something about their reasoning that they think we can handle semi-automatic weapons, but not words and pictures.

UPDATE. MSNBC is running the Collected Works of Psychonerd:
You had everything you wanted. Your Mercedes wasn’t enough, you brats. Your golden necklaces weren’t enough, you snobs. Your trust fund wasn’t enough. Your vodka and Cognac weren’t enough. All your debaucheries weren’t enough. Those weren’t enough to fulfill your hedonistic needs. You had everything.
I'll be durned! Cho Seung-Hui was a Crunchy Con!

Oh, and folks? If you're forced to commit mass murder now, please don't tell anyone where you read this.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

HE WAS A BIT OF A LONER... JUST LIKED TO WRITE THINGS ON HIS COMPUTER... Ace O. Spades wonders aloud why no one ratted out the VT Shooter as a potential mass murderer, then answers himself (unsatisfactorily, of course):
We've been conditioned since infancy with thousands of morality plays that just because someone seems weird doesn't mean they are weird. Or bad. Or dangerous.

The trouble is that weirdness has a pretty high correlation with badness and dangerousness. If someone has a dysfunction that prevents the normal sort of interaction and empathy with one's fellow human beings, well, that's not likely to be a person that's otherwise well-adjusted....
This made me think: what would happen if Mr. Spades were a student, and someone sent the authorities a link to his website? What would they make of Mr. Spades' weird amalgam of self-loathing porn ("The first click is safe, it's the second click -- the click once you get there -- that has a very, very big content warning on it... [splorch]... something has gone seriously wrong with our culture"), misogyny ("they're fucking guys so quickly guys hardly have a chance to catch their names"), numerology ("9/11 3/11 7/11 ...? How about 8/11? I know 7/7 doesn't work.."), and irrational violent rages ("When he dies... I hope his son slaps this stupid fuck right in the face")?

If we lived in the kind of world Mr. Spades favors, he'd be in a nuthouse quicker than you could say Preventive Detention. For the moment we live in another kind of world, and one which I prefer -- though it's nice to know that, once that other world comes around, it will have an upside.
ALSO: THE KILLER WAS RIDDLED WITH STEM CELLS. The blood is barely cold, but Carol Iannone knows what caused the Virgina Tech shootings: co-ed dorms and English Literature.
And I'm sorry, some will really think me foolish, but I don't think dorms should be co-ed, so that crazed, jealous boyfriends can enter their girlfriends' dorms and kill them and the innocent young men who come to their aid. If it had been a single-sex dorm, the killer might not have been able to enter so readily. There aren't enough difficulties getting young people through college these days so that we have to deal with "domestic disputes" in their dormitories as well?

And, sorry again, but thoughts also arise on the killer's being an English major and on the spiritual emptiness of much education nowadays.
He better not have been reading anything by Noam Chomsky! Or French!

Bonus hilarity:
Once a student erupted in rage at a colleague of mine and the administration excused it as a sign of "stress."
And that little boy grew up to be.... CHARLIE MANSON!

Is clinical insanity a requirement at National Review, or just a nice-to-have?

UPDATE. Meanwhile, from Cockslapper Jeff, another 87,000-word version of "I'm not intellectually dishonest, you're intellectually dishonest." Mass murder really brings out the worst in some people.

Monday, April 16, 2007

FROM MY COLD DEAD HANDS TO YOUR COLD DEAD HANDS! A gun massacre seems like a bizarre occasion for a Second Amendment pep rally, but the Perfesser was never known for his good taste.

Tbogg picks up the projection racket going on this subject at Protein Wisdom and other bullshit clearinghouses. And the Perfesser continues to help out. As a Second Amendment sympathizer, I say, go ahead and flood the South with guns. We can start with the Perfesser's own campus! It may turn out that the libertarians are right -- more freedom really is the solution to all our problems!

UPDATE. In a transparent attempt to class up his coverage, the Perfesser puts up a little VT flag at half-mast. At first I thought it was just another product he'd wheedled out of some corporation -- maybe a sexual aid or something. I was looking forward to that review: "When I applied it to my perineum, nanobots of pleasure ran up my spine." Also, the Perfesser says,
...a lot of the sports bloggers are observing a moment of silence for Virginia Tech. That's a nice gesture, and I'll do the same.
How does one observe a moment of silence on a text blog? I like to think the he means that he shut off the techno version of "The South's Gonna Do It Again" that's been playing in his skull since late 2001.
CONSERVATIVES SAY THE DARNEDEST THINGS 2. Jonah Goldberg, 9:55 am:: of the things that astonishes me when I visit college campuses is how successful the 21 age limit [on drinking] has been.
Jonah Goldberg, 11:08 am:
But your post gives me a good excuse to clarify one thing: I was not saying that the 21 drinking age is effective (one reason why I'm for lowering it is that I think it isn't).
One day his posts will all just go like this:
Faaarrrrt, faaaaaarrrrrtt. FART. FA A A A A A A A ARrrrrrrrrt. Frt. Fr. F A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A RRRRRT! Phoot.
And his colleagues will still say "Jonah's point is interesting" and then shift the topic.
CONSERVATIVES SAY THE DARNEDEST THINGS 1: "That's why the Post story upsets me. It intimates a 'Screw you' to the socials that is very far from the Rudy I know."

Perhaps what Andy McCarthy means is, the Rudy he knows wouldn't say "Screw you," he'd say "Fuck you," or maybe "Fuck you, bitches, up the ass with a nightstick." That's just the sort of warm. lovable guy he is.

The whole NRO hard-on for Giuliani is hilarious, anyway. Obviously, like me, they expect Saint Rudy to start full-on pandering to the social conservatives any second now. But he keeps holding out -- probably just because he loves giving the back of his hand to people who need something from him -- so the NROniks keep making excuses for him: He didn't mean to hurt you! Not the Rudy I know!

Again, I expect the son of a bitch will eventually reveal that the Virgin came to him in dreams and told him to repeal Roe v. Wade, if this is the cost of the nomination. But I have no stake in his conversion, so it troubles me not.
SHORTER ANDY McCARTHY: Don't call it a lie -- say it was something that could conceivably have been true.

(Then, later, bitch about moral relativism.)
SHORTER OLE PERFESSER: Climate science and the survival of future generations are not as important as my hatred of liberals.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

THANK YOU FOR HOLDING ME UP. Finished the run of Los Angeles last night. After three months' involvement with this project, I feel a bit lonesome now that it's done. Mostly I'm a writer, and normally detachment is something I cherish. But working on a play pulled me much further out of myself than I'm used to. For weeks, crowding into a little box stage right, waiting for my cue with a bunch of actors -- have you ever eaten with one? -- was a major annoyance. Now I miss it.

That's one of the amazing things about theatre: it breeds massive egos yet relies upon collaboration. To be part of it, you have to amplify yourself sufficiently to be seen and heard above the common run of humanity -- and then subsume yourself in the shared vision of a play. We were lucky to have a grand vision, and we all worked hard to realize it. Everyone in the show labored to elevate his or her colleagues -- and in so doing we were all exalted.

All that's left now is the kudos, so: If you want to see good theatre, The Flea is always a safe bet; if you want to follow an exciting new playwright, Julian Sheppard is well worth trailing; Adam Rapp is a gee-nee-us; and, if you ever get a chance to play a scene with Katherine Waterston, take it -- it's like playing Horse with Michael Jordan, if Jordan conducted you into the lane and boosted you up on his shoulders so you could dunk. These people lifted me beyond my talents because generosity is included among their talents. May you, in whatever field of endeavor you choose to contend, come across such like.

Friday, April 13, 2007

HELP. alicublog seems not to be loading properly. Or, in some cases, at all. I haven't done anything to it except add last night's post. Other blogspot sites seem fine.

As you know, blogger is useless dogshit when it comes to assisting its constituents, so I turn to you. Any helpful hints?

Thursday, April 12, 2007

AN OLD FART WITH HIS PALL MALLS. I heard a bunch of people today who said they read Kurt Vonnegut when they were young. So did I, tons of it. It's easy to form the impression from this experience that Vonnegut, who passed Wednesday, was a YA author: simple prose, outlandish premises, and what seemed to me then a clever fatalism that fit well with my other early and ill-digested experiences of literary despair. It's easy to forget that Vonnegut's best-known works were written from a mature perspective; he was a 47-year-old World War II veteran when he created Slaughterhouse-Five.

But I picked a copy of Jailbird out of the dollar bin a few years back, and was surprised and delighted to be reacquainted with his prose, which is indeed simple, but also sturdy enough to support all kinds of fantastic conceits -- Tralfamadorians, Ice-9 and so forth. It also supported a world view which was not, in retrospect, so much despairing as accepting, and at times wise.

Not that Vonnegut didn't recognize the absurd and unjust -- he just saw the humor in them. And his wasn't the common kind of black humor, either, with which most of us seek to neutralize our outrage when it becomes too much to bear. In fact, the absurdities and injustices that were his great subjects -- war, world annihilation, the plight of unrecognized innocents, and the decay of age -- called for something much larger than the gesundheits with which we normally brush away our little glimpses of these things. It required an epic imagination, which Gore Vidal noted in his post-mortem remarks: "He was imaginative; and our generation of writers didn't go in for imagination very much."

I see what he means: while James Jones, for instance, gut-punched his way through the feelings that the War left him with, Vonnegut wove fantasies from them -- fantasies of what might be behind the worst things in human experience that made them, well, part of the human experience. A Nazi in the afterlife, for example, from Happy Birthday, Wanda June:
It was almost worth the trip--to find out that Jesus Christ in Heaven was just another guy, playing shuffleboard. I like his sense of humor, though--you know? He's got a blue-and-gold warm-up jacket he wears. You know what it says on the back? "Pontius Pilate Athletic Club." Most people don't get it. Most people think there really is a Pontius Pilate Athletic Club.
He then figures that he should get a warmup jacket ("we got very good tailor shops up here") bearing the name of the man who killed him. This is utterly fantastic, but that a Nazi might react this way to Christian forgiveness is very easy to believe.

Much later, when age oppressed him, Vonnegut wrote books like Jailbird, in which an old man who, despite his best intentions, finds himself a convicted Watergate felon, muses on the grand caprices of fate as he watches a dog at play:
I observe how profoundly serious Nature has made her about a rubber ice-cream cone -- brown rubber cone, pink rubber ice-cream. I have to wonder what equally ridiculous commitments to bits of trash I myself have made. Not that it matters at all. We are all here for no purpose, unless we can invent one. Of that I am sure. The human condition in an exploding universe would not have been altered one iota if, rather than live as I have, I had done nothing but carry a rubber ice-cream cone from closet to closet for sixty years.
He may have been brought to this understanding because of the outrageously grim twists in his own fortunes, but his epiphany comes from a dog with a rubber ice-cream cone. This is absurd but, I think, more dignified than most absurdism. It is an insight into the universal via the particular, which is the business of first-rate writers.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

THE MILLION-MAN SCRUM. Sick as I am of the whole Imus business, I feel it necessary to address this:
And, in a particularly sinister misinformation campaign, key leftists are now trying to portray Imus as a conservative! That's despite his endorsement of John Kerry in the 2004 presidential race and past tirades against the Bush Administration from a decidedly leftist perspective.
With, naturally, an InstaHeh.

Whatever else we can say about Imus, I don't thing we can say he's particularly partisan. I'm surprised so few people (well, Digby, but he's exceptional in so many ways) have recalled this 1996 Radio and TV Correspondents' Dinner, at which the I-man said stuff like this in the presence of President Clinton and his wife:
...the President was at Camden Yards doin' play by play in the radio with John Miller. Bobby Bonilla hit a double, we all heard the President in his obvious excitement holler "Go Baby!" I remember commenting at the time, I bet that's not the first time he's said that. [Turns to President] Remember the Astroturf in the pickup?
Then, some gags about Whitewater. A bunch of conservatives got their equally-offensive lumps, though none of them was President and placed directly in his line of fire. Since his Billy Sol Hargis days, Imus' patch of media turf has ever been wild outrage, and whether you find him, as Digby does, a "spoiled, petulant bully with an incoherent worldview" or an amusing diversion is a matter of taste.

But now the guy is just another ball contended for in that million-man scrum that is our discourse. It had to come to this. In the blogosphere, people embroiled in scandal eventually become mere signifiers for one political team or another. 'Twas ever thus. It even happened in the big Trent Lott affair of '02, recalled fondly by blog triumphalists as a bi-partisan victory for sweet reason, but in fact just another bone of contention, as I remarked at the time:
Trial balloons were floated, bearing the idea that liberals were insufficiently outraged by Lott's remarks, based partly on Tom Daschle's mild, collegial reaction, and, perhaps, on faith that the Right's zone-flooding strategy would, by sheer force of volume, render outside opinion irrelevant. "Either the Democratic Party is appallingly inept, by dropping the ball on this issue, or it's appallingly cynical...I guess 'inept' wins either way," mused InstaPundit. "Where's the New York Times?" cried Andrew Sullivan. "Howell Raines is so intent on finding Bull Connor in a tony golf club that when Bull Connor emerges as the soul of the Republican Senate Majority Leader, he doesn't notice it."

Word was also spread that Lott was never a friend to the Right at all: He was a weak and inefficient Senate majority leader who had effectively given the hated Clinton a pass in his impeachment trial. "He is only for the status quo," wrote Arthur Silber, "stunningly lackluster and uninspiring...tin ear and vacuous mind" In fact, after the GOP's victory in 2002, Capitol Hill Blue reported, "a Republican consultant I know threw up his hands in disgust" (pause to digest this counterintuitive image) "and said 'Christ, this means we'll have Trent Lott as the leader again.'" One wondered how Lott got the job in the first place--till Robert George told us (via another blind Republican quote), "Trent Lott survives because the ex-frat boy puts on a good kegger."

As always happens when conservatives are in high dudgeon, comparisons to Clinton were hauled out. Quoth National Review's Rod Dreher, "Ol' Trent is just following the example of his fellow Baby-Boomer Son of the South, William Jefferson Clinton." A parody at Transterrestrial Musings had Lott, in his BET appearance, announcing that, as "Bill Clinton was the first black president," he was "the first black Senate Majority Leader." Get it?
Things haven't improved since then. In the pro-am pundit community, Imus will be torn at until the game gets old, and then someone other object will serve.

This is not meant as a defense of Don Imus, but as a reminder that the real discussion is about something entirely different.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

HONKY, PLEASE! Libertas on the Don Imus case:
“Nappy Headed.” I had no idea that was a slur. No idea whatsoever. Do you know how many times I’ve heard that term used affectionately or comedically between black people in movies or on television? Thankfully, I’ve never called anyone “nappy headed,” because I didn’t know what it meant. But how am I supposed to know it’s yet another “N” word when no one tells me? How am I supposed to know it’s offensive when black people use it all the time as a punch line?
Also: "I’m used to the double standard that allows black people to call each other what they want." And: "Or, is it African American guy? Or Afro-American guy? Or People of Color?"

I feel bad for the guy. I grew up in a white working-class neighborhood where the preferred word for black people was "niggers," yet somehow I eventually figured out how to deal respectfully with people of different races. It helps to be more interested in people than in preserving, indeed cultivating, one's outrage over Political Correctness, rap music, etc.

I guess Culture Warriors don't find that trade-off worthwhile. Their loss, I'd say.
WELCOME WAGON. The moratorium on Elizabeth Edwards criticism has been cut short because she publicly disapproved of her neighbor, one Monty Johnson. Hear, for example, The Anchoress:
Elizabeth Edwards seems to have embraced her inner Rosie. A few weeks ago, we had Rosie O’ Donnell lecturing us on how using a word like “terrorist” de-humanizes terrorists. O’ Donnell apparently has never figured out that when she says things like “Christian Fundamentalists are as dangerous as Muslim Fundamentalists” she’s “de-humanizing” a lot of people, too. And now, this Edwards woman - a true Rosarian, it seems - is characterizing someone as “rabid, rabid Republican” and suggesting that it’s perfectly fine and good to dislike people you’ve never met - to decide before you’ve ever tried to meet them that you would not be civil (I assume she means “civil” when she says “nice,”) to them.
There has been a bit of coverage on Johnson, including this corker from the Carrboro News, which includes a photo of his domicile, which features a boarded-up window and is strung with barbed wire. As a paranoid, I approve of Johnson's approach -- if not the Bush/Cheney sticker -- but I can imagine why Mrs. Edwards is troubled by his proximity. In another interview, Johnson says, "[Edwards] claims to be for the poor people... He don’t care about us. I see him jogging. He doesn’t pull over and say, 'How are you doing?’" This is hardly surprising as, in addition to giving out several interviews denouncing Edwards, Johnson has also been seen stalking government agents on his property with a gun.

Again, as a paranoid I approve of Johnson's Cold Dead Hands approach to gummint interference; I may move to his neighborhood myself someday, as it seems tailor-made for folks with my attitude toward society and indeed socialization. But I can also see how Mrs. Edwards, who has a husband running for the Democratic Presidential nomination (and children as well), would be apprehensive about having a belligerent, armed rightwinger living across the way. The Anchoress may see this as unChristian, but I see it as common sense.

Monday, April 09, 2007

THAT JOKE ISN'T FUNNY ANYMORE. The front page of Sunday's New York Post was devoted to this story:
City Hotel Man Opens the Door to Dem Upset

April 8, 2007 -- Bryant Park Hotel doorman Gregory Smith campaigned door to door for Bill Clinton in 1992, he voted for Hillary Rodham Clinton in both her Senate elections - but last week he went online and gave $25 to Barack Obama for president.
He says he has dumped the Clintons for the upstart Democratic senator from Illinois, whom he calls "a needed breath of fresh ideas and openness."

The doorman told The Post that Hillary Clinton's flip-flop on the war and her earlier coyness about her presidential ambitions have turned him off her - probably forever...
You can read the whole thing, but it all boils down to this: a doorman changed his choice of Presidential candidate. I know about Breslin and the gravedigger, but come on. The election is many months away. The conventions are many months away.

It has long been the conventional wisdom that we "gotta love the New York Post" for its ludicrous front-pagers -- "Headless Body in Topless Bar" and all that. I respect the tabloid writing style, and the Post editors who come up with fresh, snappy heds on a daily basis. But for me the Post's cuteness has long since worn off.

The turning point may have been this front page, in which the French and German Ambassadors to the U.N. were shown as weasels, to demonstrate the paper's contempt for those Ambassadors' lack of susceptibility to Colin Powell's U.N. slide show, which was alleged to prove that Iraq was hiding WMDs in smudgy boxes identified as mobile bioweapons labs. I suppose it might have been mildly amusing if you really believed that Colin Powell was telling the truth, and hated the French and the Germans enough to find Der Sturmer caricatures of them clever. But you have to admit that the joke hasn't aged well.

Chacun à son goût and all that, but to me this sort of thing falls into the same category as Don Imus' gag about the Rutgers Women's Basketball Team. I strongly disapprove of his suspension -- let a hundred stink-weeds bloom, so that we may not be spared knowledge of what we have become. And, in the name of the Republic, leave those who find this sort of thing funny free to laugh their fool heads off over it. It's just not my thing.

UPDATE. My editor has corrected me as to the specific object of Imus' slurs in this instance.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

SELLER'S REMORSE. Michael Ledeen notes the latest mayhem in Iran, blames unnamed liberals:
But, just like women stoned to death in Iran, or the mass starvation of the people of Zimbabwe, these horrors are greeted with the silence that racists reserve for the less-than-humans who behave in an uncivilized way. Their unspoken attitude is, well, what can you expect of these untermenschen?

And anyway, it's all Bush's fault.
The Ole Perfesser concurs:
"UNTERMENSCHEN:" He's right. That's how they seem to think.

UPDATE: Reader Ted Clayton emails: "Perhaps you could specify who "they" refers to. "

As you can see from reading the linked item, it refers to those allegedly-progressive Westerners who refuse to hold non-Westerners to the same moral standards applied to, say, America and Britain. That should be obvious to, well, anyone who's paying attention.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Drew Kelley writes: 'I am shocked, shocked, to find prejudice among our "best and brightest'." The descent of the "progressives" into racist double-standards is an old story, but it's still one that bears pointing out now and then.
I'm sick of this shit. First, conservatives called for the invasion of Iraq, with the welfare of the Iraqi people one of their flimsier pretexts. And since the whole DemocracyWhiskeySexy business went south, it's conservatives we most often hear talking about what a disappointment the Iraqis have been.

General Ralph "Blood 'n' Guts" Peters, for example, has said he wants an end to "'peace, love, and understanding' silliness" in Iraq, and cites as a better model for pacification "the Mau-Mau revolt, in which the British won a complete victory -- thanks to concentration camps, hanging courts and aggressive military operations." And, he has also said, "if Iraq's Arabs choose to backslide into the regional addiction to corrupt governance, it's a lick on them, not on us."

John Derbyshire has said that while he supported the invasion as a "psychic shock to the whole region" -- which "It would have done, if we’d just rubbled the place then left" -- he came to realize that "we have submitted to become the plaything of a rabble, and a Middle Eastern rabble at that."

Another rightwing erstwhile warfan, Crunchy Rod Dreher, now says that "I hate that a single drop of American blood was shed for these people."

John Podhoretz says "If the Sunnis and Shiites really go at it, it's hard to see what exactly we can do to get them to stop."

Even Rich Fucking Lowry, author of the notorious "We're Winning" National Review cover story, has said that "The problem with Bush’s freedom rhetoric is that it appears to not be true... All around the chaotic and violent Middle East, human hearts are yearning for many things, but freedom isn’t high on the list."

Yet Ledeen and the Perfesser persist in saying that those of us who predicted that their invasion would result in a shitstorm are the ones who look down on the Iraqi people.

I'd say they suffered from guilty consciences, if there were any indication that they had consciences of any sort.

UPDATE. Commenters point out that The Good Glenn got there first with more. How could I have forgotten the Perfesser's "more rubble, less trouble"? I guess that's why Greenwald is at Salon and I'm wearing a cardboard belt.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

ACE O. SPADES, HETEROSEXUAL. The blogosphere is a gold mine for writers. I don't mean you can make a ton of money doing this -- I mean it in a figurative sense, which is the only sense in which most writers, online or off, will ever see much gold of any sort. That is, you can observe certain human behaviors under glass -- the glass of your monitor, in this case -- in much the same way Ibsen used to observe the behaviors of that scorpion her kept in a beer mug on his desk.

Let us follow the tail-swishings of one Ace O. Spades:

5:03 pm: Mr. Spades declares a member of Monty Python who is leftwing unfunny. "Now, I didn't want to go into all that, because even as I pump up John Cleese as the greatest performer and writer on Python, it turns out he's a bit of a New Age left-liberal space-case prick himself. Still, he's not as loud about it..."

9:00 pm: Terry Gilliam isn't funny either! "Terry Gilliam Renounced His American Citizenship Due To Bush's 'Brazil'-like Persecution of Charismatic Rebel-Terrorists... Brazil? Fey, precious drivel. Boring. Not funny, and I don't care how many people insist to me that it is funny... 12 Monkeys. Okay -- that movie I liked a lot. No compaints on that one. Still..."

4:14 am: Wonkette isn't funny, they're only pretending they are -- their japes at Michelle Malkin and Karl Rove were, despite all appearances, deadly serious, and they only pretended they were funny because they were bad at the investigative reporting for which Wonkette is known. Plus they're gay: "boychiks pretending to be 15 year old high school girls... creature of indeterminate gender identity... for a guy who's had more cock in and out of him than a Purdue regional distribution center, you'd think he could manage to lay off the constant gay/transexual 'jokes' for five minutes... This too-gay-even-for-Showtime act is growing thin," etc.

Mr. Spades admits that he was wrong about the Belgian BBQ tax story that had previously incensed him, which means he was "punk'd," which is not the same as being gay.

5:28 am: Ace considers an actress' appearance on Letterman, and a related link, which he's pretty sure is a joke, but which has "naked pics. A lot of naked pics. And a movie of naked chicks which is, yes, officially pornographic." Rosie O'Donnell joke appended.

1:08 pm: British hostages released. "It's about time Feminists invested themselves into knocking the nuts off our enemies for a change."

1:40 pm: New Die Hard movie coming out! Things will blow up! "Presumably John McClane will see through this scam early on, to reassure the few liberal members of the audience that we're not questioning their patriotism."

2:25 pm: Grisly Australian murder story repeated. "Wonkette's about to run a picture of Karl Rove toting the bloody head under his arm, suggesting it's a good tip while tossing in a couple of exclamation points to demonstrate they're not quite vouching for its accuracy." Because Wonkette is serious, and gay.

2:54 pm: Lengthy discussion as to whether Serenity is better than Star Wars. "Dorks" appears in headline, so no fair making fun.

7:28 pm: Essay on Dr. Mrs. Ole Perfesser link about how guys don't like for women to ask about their position on abortion. No data or even anecdotes about such queries cited, but Mr. Spades is incensed:
If moonbattish political conformity is important to a woman, so much so that she really isn't interested in getting to know a guy unless he voted for Mondale whenever he's had the opportunity (if he changed residences in 2002 just to vote for Mondale in his last Senate bid, bonus points!), then, hey, it's better to find these things out early...

It may be superficial to ask about politics as if that's the measure of someone's character, but 1, to a liberal, your politics are indeed the sum and entirety of your character...

...BTW, the answer to this question is always, "Yes, she's a One Week Wonder; they all are." Maybe not just a week, maybe a Golden Fortnight; maybe not even a full week. But yeah. Pretty much... Rosie O'Donnell...

...most guys are quite a bit more conservative than women, and when a woman says she wants a really liberal guy for her man she's usually thinking "I'd like nice gay shopping buddy that will occassionally cuddle with me, like I've seen on television"...
...which is something they'll never think about Mr. Spades, by God! Now, if only he could get one of them to have sex with him, he might not have to spend so much time writing about Firefly, Star Wars, and Rosie O'Donnell.

Thank God he can't climb out of that mug.

Monday, April 02, 2007

TOO CHILDISH-FOOLISH FOR THIS WORLD. The Ole Perfesser plays The Ole Foolosopher, striking what I suppose passes among conservative propagandists for a contemplative attitude. As we have come to expect from such people, the tone is wounded, and the approach entirely self-justifying.

First, after noting that yet another of his stories has turned out to be full of shit, the Perfesser prints a note from some guy telling him how great it is that the Perfesser stooped to correct the item. Then he muses:
Well, a polite email always counts for something, especially in the blogosphere these days. As I note in the FAQs, I don't promise never to link to things that turn out not to be wrong (no blogger could do that) only that I'll try to correct the error if I find out about it. Rein's email is certainly nicer than some I received about the Ware story, though I think I got about as many from Dartmouth alumni complaining -- correctly -- that I shouldn't have called it Dartmouth University in my New York Post column. Well, nobody's perfect.
So not only is the Perfesser a real sport to print the sort of retraction he is constantly demanding of newspaper editors; he's also not responsible for all those other, interesting-if-true tales that he just leaves lying out there -- like dirty hippies beating up a soldier -- for, though they advance an alternative version of reality that exactly conforms with the Perfesser's own, they are innocent mistakes, like getting a name wrong. And those impolite bloggers (not anti-civility, just on the other side) who think otherwise can be dismissed with a hearty "heh."

Incivility bothers the Perfesser a great deal. After hailing James Taranto's Matthew Dowd damage control, the Perfesser presses his knuckles to his brow and ponders:
I've never felt that degree of attraction to, or affection for, Bush -- you never saw the kind of praise for him here that you once saw for him elsewhere. Mostly, I've just felt vaguely sorry for him, and hoped he'd manage to do a decent job under difficult circumstances. On the other hand, I haven't had the same over-the-top response to disappointment with him, either. But I try to keep the political and the personal separate, something that seems increasingly old-fashioned these days.
"I try to keep the political and the personal separate" -- brother, is that rich! Because the whole schtick of these rightwing blog kingpins is about reducing politics to lifestyle choices and personal tics.

There is, for example, Jim Lileks, who has reinvented himself as a 21st Century Babbitt. (In today's episode, he hollers about the damned artists and hoteliers who have ruined his beautiful Roger Smith Hotel, as if the many midtown lodges that draw customers with arty touches were responding to orders from the Third International rather than the demands of the market.) Column after column, Lileks presents conservativism as something that arises less from argument and assessment than from a longing for the Goode Olde Days, when men were men and matchbooks were matchbooks and nobody talked with a filthy mouth, proving that, if Lawrence Welk were plying his trade today, he'd spend most of the show talking about the life-affirming philosophy represented by Champagne Music and the Beatles' spiritual debt to Josef Stalin.

There is Ann Althouse, now in the final, gruesome throes of dementia, for whom all issues are literally all about Ann Althouse, and the most convincing side of any debate is the one that sends her the most mash notes.

And there is the Perfesser. As we sometimes demonstrate here with the Ole Grey Perfesser Test, he is a fairly doctrinaire conservative, with just a little socially-liberal trim added to differentiate him from the currently overstocked pool of Bill O'Reilly impersonators. The Perfesser tumbled early to right-wing market realities: for example, that while Rush Limbaugh's politics was a factor, it was his self-presentation as a callous, self-satisfied douchebag that reminded suburban burghers enough of themselves that they made him a god. But the crafty Perfesser has aimed slightly higher: between newsy bits, he rattles on about high-end coffee-makers and hand dryers and cars, portraying himself very convincingly as exactly the sort of shopaholic dink he wants to draw to his site. They're a demographic bonanza, after all -- moneyed, acquisitive, and fundamentally insecure.

This persona requires another innovation on the Limbaugh formula: while Rush's white dreamers of disenfranchisement relate well to authority, the Perfesser's target auditors are a little more urbane and feckless. So while rightwing politics must stay in the mix -- one cannot dispense entirely with authority, nor with the narrative of liberal betrayal, lest the audience drift away -- it must be a cooler version of rightwing politics, less beefy-faced and sweaty, more accomodating to people who, in the depths of their soullessness, really just don't give a shit about anything except their own personal comfort and primacy.

In answer to that need, the Perfesser and his peers embed their rightwing talking points in a creamy, formless mess that we might call I Can't Believe It's Not Politics. Its apotheosis is -- was, I guess I should say; who takes this shit seriously anymore? -- the "Anti-Idiotarian" concept, which held that old ideas of "Left" and "Right" had lost all relevance, and the real litmus was now whether you agreed with the Perfesser's right-wing ideas, or were an idiot. This is politics with no fuss, no muss -- that feeling of resentment the Perfesser's hehs and indeed have stirred in you are all the sign you need that you're in the right church.

When the heavy lifting involved in reasoning and comparing has been done away with, the politics goes down smooth, so long as the host maintains an entertaining line of patter. And so their readers increasingly perceive politics as something that has to do with Ann and Glenn and Jim and their affection for them. Any other relevance of politics to their lives would be a drag to think about.

Well, they have a right to make a living too, I guess. But let us not pretend that they aren't making the political personal, nor that this is an improvement.