Tuesday, June 12, 2007

SHORTER JOSHUA TREVINO: The real tragedy of Tony Soprano is that his kids will vote Democratic.

(Next week, Trevino will examine the Rousseauian/Jeffersonian dialectic in "Two and a Half Men.")
COME ALONG. WE'RE GOING TO THE TRANS-LUX TO HISS ROOSEVELT. Today the Wall Street Journal approves Amity Shlaes' attack on that bastard FDR. Highlight of Alonzo L. Hamby's review: "One question that Ms. Shlaes never quite answers is just what Roosevelt should have done to beat the Depression beyond practicing a Coolidge-like passivity." I shouldn't wonder!

Jesus, these fuckers never stop. Next week in the Journal: Magna Carta and FISA -- which was worse?

Monday, June 11, 2007

I'M ALL FOR WOMEN'S LIB, BUT THESE BRA-BURNING KOOKS, HALF OF THEM COULDN'T LAND A MAN ANYWAY ETC. Commenting on a gay marriage/free speech contretemps, Don Surber announces that he is a supporter of gay marriage, which surprised me till he dropped the other shoe:
I have to wonder why I am supporting gay marriage when one group of gays and one federal circuit court contend that “marriage” is a profanity that should not be uttered at work.
Here's a test, friends. You believe in religious freedom, don't you? Good. Now imagine yourself saying, "I have to wonder why I am supporting freedom of religion when some religious people are doing something I disagree with."

Can't see yourself doing that? Neither can I, much as I dislike obnoxious Jesus freaks, because I actually support the principle, and am not just declaring my support of it so I can use it as some sort of veiled threat against people who benefit from it. Yet Surber treats gay rights like car keys he's not sure he should give his kid if he's going to act like that.

In just about any Surber post on stories in which homosexuals are in conflict with anyone else, Surber sides against the homosexuals. (He actually writes things like "You know, I am all for gay rights. Let them marry. Let them serve on juries. Let them vote. All that. But...") He only comes to their defense when he's trying to work a contrarian schtick against Democrats -- as when Max Blumenthal pointed out the irony of anti-gay-marriage Republicans relying on gay men like Jeff Gannon and Matt Sanchez, and Surber spun it that Blumenthal was persecuting gay folk for being conservative. "I wish someone on the left had the guts to call Blumenthal the homophobe he is," sighed Surber.

If I knew someone who said he was my friend but never sided with me except to serve his own unrelated purposes, I'd have to say that fellow was full of shit.

So why does he even pretend? It could be that, like the sad case considered here last week, Surber just wants people to think him tolerant. But I think more highly of him than that. I suspect Surber's true intention, and that of other conservatives who occasionally and awkwardly express support for gay rights, is to modernize the image of the movement -- vote for us, we're no longer bigots!

Now, if all things were equal, I might endorse his strategy -- it's a step up from what we got from these people before, Lord knows. But for me, the overriding principle is that bullshit begets bullshit, and they could actually resist gay rights more successfully from "I'm all for gay rights but" position than from a "grrroot, I hate faggitts" position. In fact, that might even be the main idea.

Sunday, June 10, 2007


AU HASARD, CONEY ISLAND. Went down to Coney today. I had my softshell crab at Nathan's, bumper cars, skeeball, wade on the beach, and drinks at Ruby's, as per usual. And I enjoyed also the vicarious company of Coney's faithful, for whom the place is an oasis: the hipsters and tourists, but mainly the poor, who wandered the boardwalk and soaked up the negative ions, clams and corndogs, loud noises, and other cheap thrills. As Puerto Rican Day paraders filtered back to Brooklyn a little circle was formed on the Boardwalk within which speakers blared salsa and drunk Boricuas danced, some as obscenely as possible. Kids screamed on the cheesy rides and wolfed cotton candy and regarded their garish surroundings with obvious wonder, as if this ramshackle amusement park were the greatest place on earth.

I don't know how long any of us will have this opportunity:
Joe Sitt’s Thor Equities bought the Astroland site late last year to level and build a $2-billion Vegas-style amusement-condo complex.

Thor’s theme park would include movie theaters, beachfront luxury condos, a 150-foot waterslide, a multi-level carousel, and first new roller coaster since the Cyclone was built in 1927.

To build his Xanadu, Sitt needs a city rezoning — one that city officials have been reluctant to give, though negotiations continue. Neither Sitt nor city officials would comment on those talks for this article.
As anyone who follows City development might have guessed, the developers have not been idle: a fat strip of amusements has already been torn away. Some sideshows and snack-shops are gone, as are the batting cages and the miniature golf course.

I mourn these, but I am especially sorry to have lost the go-kart tracks. Many of us New Yorkers don't drive, and appreciated the go-karts, outfitted with absurd fiberglas Formula-One shells, as our best chance to indulge in a reckless simulacrum of same. We revved the noisy lawn-mower motors, bounced off the tires that buffered the hairpin turns, and engaged in joyful and ridiculous combat with the other Speed Racers, some of them laughing out loud at the absurdity of it, some fixing a dead-eyed gaze on the scrap of daylight for which they were competing. What's left of our little arena, the late International Speedway, is pictured above.

Other photos of the devastation are available at the Gowanus Lounge. As one of the commenters puts it, "There will be only condos in Coney Island. Thor wants to kill Coney Island, proof is in their fences which their permits proudly proclaim they will only be there for this summer season and will disappear right after labor day. Why make Coney look like crap for the summer season? To drive business away."

I think that's right. Business was a bit slow for a relatively nice Sunday, and the Parade may have been the least of the anti-attraction. Everyone knows the fix is in. When the West Side Stadium was defeated, it was because another corporate behemoth, Cablevision, pushed against it. But there's no well-heeled sugar daddy sticking up for old Coney now. Its disposition is totally in the hands of the developers and the City, which is to say that the developers will win, with some fiddling around the edges as a sop to civic interest -- "a circus, an inflatable slide and movies under the stars."

Well, as Jack Lemmon sighed in Save the Tiger about jockstraps made from the American flag, maybe it's terrific. I don't live at this end of the F train: maybe the community's interests are indeed best served by condos and circuses. The spread of money in this City is relentless, and while Coney would seem at present a bridge too far, who am I, an unmoneyed interest, to dispute the wisdom of real estate? It may be there is jam enough in the housing boom to magnetize wealth into this far-flung neighborhood, and I can't in good conscience hope against it; though my thirty years' experience of local booms and busts tells me that a developer's long-odds crap shoot often ends with the City (that is, us citizens) covering his tab, I must pray for a positive result -- especially since, things being what they are, there's no chance of stopping the game.

I cannot mourn too much. Coney's pleasure palaces of yore, Luna Park and Dreamland, burned and faded from the grasp of those who loved them before I came onto the scene; now I, in my turn, must accept that the Coney I know is also passing away. It may become something like South Street Seaport, or Battery Park City. Or it may become a speculator's loss, like Columbia Gardens in Butte, Montana -- about which I was told by Stephanie Cannon, a Montana native who was my companion on today's outting, and for whom I won a stuffed tiger on the Midway. Columbia Gardens was a children's amusement park dedicated, allegedly in perpetuity, by 19th Century copper king W. A. Clark. In 1973, it was destroyed by the proprietors of the Berkeley Mine in the vain hope that more copper could be extracted from the ground beneath it, and soon became a rancid Superfund site: a pit of fetid water and the corpses of local wildlife.

We have lingered in the chambers of the sea/By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown/Till human voices wake us, and we drown.

Friday, June 08, 2007

YOU AND YOUR RACIST FRIEND.
This long spring, I started reconnecting with old gay friends...
Well, good for you. (The writer is at ChicagoBoyz, a site dedicated to reconciling bullshit libertarianism with conservative bullshitism.)
I've been struck by how many of them have become politicized, beset by BDS.
Why gay friends no like Bush? A thousand voices -- perhaps even the ones in her head -- leap to answer, so the author hastens to explain:
The long history of marriage is of an institution that raises the next generation and transmits the community’s values...
Tempted to go, "Oh, great, here it comes," and run away? Abide yet a while, friends, because God made wingnuts as different as snowflakes, and this one has her own piquant ways. Let us therefore celebrate our diversity, and get a load of this:
It is easier to believe others tempt us than within us are desires we must (and with difficulty) control. To many, the shift from the Old Testament to the New may be theologically one of grace, but is also from the tribal to the universal, from the external to the internal. Whether this is the lesson of the Bible or of the slowly modernizing world, it is clearly one that restrains us in ways that those who see temptation in a right angle can not understand and leads to quite different understandings of guilt. The man’s lust, we believe, not the woman’s clothing, causes rape. This and so much else is the mark of a value system internalized and assumed universal. We think it is right. Sure this assumption of a certain universality may impose upon others, but it is more practical than narrow: it is also the only way that people with varying beliefs can easily live beside one another.

And thanks to Jewish psychologists, we began to find words for this internalization...
I can hear you, through the double glass, screaming, "Please get some of those words the Jewish psychologists found, or even words found by Bratislavian librarians or Eskimo meter-readers, and substitute them for this dreck!"

I apologize. I just wanted to give you an example of the sort of word-fog some educated but very confused people throw up when they are stuck with a dilemma they can't even acknowledge, let alone solve.

The author's real point, made somewhere in the first hundred paragraphs, is that homosexuals should shut up about Bush because he protects them from Muslims. But she finds it at least as important to explain -- with endless slabs of convoluted prose as evidence -- that she is well-read and even a bit artistic. This is meant to signal that she is not a mouth-breathing faggot-hater, but someone who is tolerant -- which is to say, she tolerates both her gay friends' continued existence and her colleagues' continued discrimination against them.

This is usually the case with conservative converts of the sort described by Michael Berube with the phrase "I used to consider myself a Democrat, but thanks to 9/11, I’m outraged by Chappaquiddick." They like to think that, because they broke away (assisted by stark fear) from an old orthodoxy, they have become true free-thinkers. But when issues of discrimination come up, they find themselves compelled to defend their new wingnut friends and their bone-deep prejudices.

In reality they haven't broken free, they've just switched gangs -- and have to live by the new one's code, including the by-law about No Poofters. If they want to face their old friends, they have three options (besides sanity, of course, which is out of the question):

They can swallow whole their new friends' lunacy and bravely assert it to all comers;

They can try a it's-for-your-own-good defense, pleading the necessity to accomodate moderate Muslims or red-state voters until such time as we can afford luxuries like civil rights;

Or they can plead the ties of friendship and remind their old friends of how they used to discuss Henry James until "dawn lightened the windows."

The intractable bigotries of the American Right are offensive to all thinking people, even to those who were traumatized into joining it in 2001. Yet no major candidate in either party will stand up for gay marriage. I think they realize that if they did take up the cause, they would be greeted, not by just the small clutch of angry misfits whose heads swim with homo-hatred, but by them and a much larger group they've convinced to come along in solidarity.
ANOTHER PERFESSER'S PROBLEM. Ann Althouse is forced by weather to actually go into a movie theatre and watch Paris J'Taime, an omnibus film of ten-minute shorts:
So let me while away a few more minutes and say the film anthology was swell. The films were so short that I didn't get too impatient -- my usual problem.
So that's why she hates fiction movies and novels -- she's got the worst case of ADD in recorded history. Even in my childhood years, stoked by sugar and pheochromocytoma, I could sit through a damn movie. In fact they tended to calm my stimming.

And she went to law school? That racket must be easier than I thought! Had I but served Mammon with half the zeal I served Truth and Beauty... but this is about her tragedy, not mine. How come her fellow rightwingers can't get up a drive to provide Althouse with the daily firehose stream of Ritalin required to bring her down to earth? They probably realize that if she ceased to tweak for more than a few minutes, she might realize what a bunch of crap she's been writing, and they'd be shy a baying voice come the next full moon. Fucking enablers.
ON THE OTHER HAND, HE IS VERY SENSITIVE TO DIFFERENCES IN DIGITAL-CAMERA QUALITY. Ole Perfesser Reynolds doesn't much talk about the poor, so he is especially revealing when he does:
Also, on a not entirely unrelated subject, Paul Collier's The Bottom Billion: Why the Poorest Countries are Failing and What Can Be Done About It. Overall, the world is getting richer, even most of the world's poor. But there are still a lot of dirt-poor people out there, and that raises the risk of disease outbreaks.
I'm not suggesting that Reynolds thinks of the poor exclusively as agents of disease. He also thinks of them as punchlines and, of course, as future rich people.

When you have to tell future generations what Instapundit was, just give them a copy of Babbitt and say "He was like this guy, only without the self-awareness, and with computers."

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

ART BRUTE. Kia has pointed me to the Roger Kimball stemwinder "Why the art world is a disaster," which uses an expired art show at Bard College as a launchpad for rage against -- well, plenty, including yuppie naming conventions and high tuitions (no arguments there) but mainly contemporary art. Kimball is an amusing writer, and I would rather have this sort of thing done amusingly than tediously, as is the custom with rightwing cranks, so credit where credit is due.

The thinking is less interesting than the writing -- moneyed philistines corrupt art, it's all politically correct, lobby signage and catalogue copy is shit, etc. I share Kimball's distaste for many of the current big names he cites (Cindy Sherman is fine by me) and for much of what gets shown nowadays.

But I stopped nodding at this:
...it has been a long time since shock value had the capacity to be aesthetically interesting—or even, truth be told, to shock. Decades ago, writing about Salvador DalĂ­, George Orwell called attention to, and criticized, the growing habit of granting a blanket moral indemnity to anything that called itself art. “The artist,” Orwell wrote,
is to be exempt from the moral laws that are binding on ordinary people. Just pronounce the magic word “Art,” and everything is O.K. Rotting corpses with snails crawling over them are O.K.; kicking little girls in the head is O.K.; even a film like L’Age d’Or [which shows among other things detailed shots of a woman defecating] is O.K.
Kimball does not pause here, but I had to. Bunuel's L'Age d'Or? L'Age d'Or is lovely. I still view it with pleasure, as do many others, and it's 77 years old -- certainly old enough for its modishness to have subsided. If it still shocks, and I think shock is the least of it, it is for its genuine, audacious inventiveness, not for what once may have been seen as cheap thrills. (BTW, I don't recall the crapping scene -- does memory fail, or did Orwell have the Director's Cut DVD?)

Orwell may be forgiven his disgust, bless his proletarian soul, but it's a little weird that Kimball lets it pass. Maybe he's never seen the movie. Or maybe he has passed a point of no return, after which anything lively and irreverent, notwithstanding its merits or vintage, is to be condemned as part of some era-spanning conspiracy against good taste. And past that point is pure crankishness. No wonder he's so angry. He's no longer responsive to the artworks, but only to the Dylans and Heathers and Marieluise Hessels and Leon Botsteins and all the others who have made the world, in the immortal words of Doc from West Side Story, a garbage can.

This modern world is full of shit masquerading as art, so you, too, might think that criticism is a waste of time. But as Ted Sturgeon said, ninety percent of everything is shit. And I think Sturgeon was understating the case. Still, if you cease to look, you won't see, and there's none so blind as that.

A few weeks ago, while biking in Brooklyn, I happened upon a show of photographs by John Barnard. This show, too, is closed now. The subject was local nannies, mostly black, caring for their little white charges. Thematically this would seem to be agenda-driven, too, but if you can't get past that, you'll never know whether the artist did. Most of the photographs weren't so hot, alas, but a few were really fine. My favorite, as I recall it, showed a muscular woman in jeans and a shirt who had slung a toddler over her shoulder to carry him into a fenced playground filled with ugly plastic slides and tubes. All was dark but the child's face, blankly regarding the camera. It wasn't Atget or Weston, but it was worth contemplating and remembering. And all I had to do was look.
SHORTER ANN ALTHOUSE: If I could get to meet Larry David I bet he'd rilly like me.

WARNING: Do not go into the comments section unless you have industrial-strength brainwash (80 proof at least) at hand. Jesus Christ. I haven't speculated so much on what TV stars are really like since I was eight years old. Now I only speculate on figures from antiquity. For example, I think if we brought the Roman playwright Terence back from the dead and showed him Ann Althouse, he'd say, "Remember when I said 'nothing human is foreign to me'? I take it back."
FRAGGING. Like the boys in the Fuhrerbunker during the Fall of Berlin, some of our war fans continue to draft grand schemes for the post-war world even as the buildings topple overhead. At TCS Daily, Robert Haddick revives the rightwing demand that war journalists stop telling treasonous truths, and even adds an interesting twist: if the journos won't serve Uncle Sam out of patriotism, they should serve him out of fear --
According to [Reporters Without Borders'] website, eleven journalists were killed in Iraq in May alone. Since March 2003, total journalist casualties in Iraq are 181 dead, 14 kidnapped, and 2 missing.

The targeting of these journalists, the vast majority of them local Iraqis, indicates that the various factions in Iraq place a high value on controlling the flow of information, and denying that flow to the enemy. What journalists are learning from these chilling facts are that they must only live and travel under the heavily armed protection of a particular faction; there is simply no other way to survive for long in the country as an active reporter of the war.

Naturally that protection will come at a price to be determined by the faction providing the protection...
Cut to Haddick ominously tapping his palm with a baseball bat. He acknowledges that, currently, embedded American reporters are protected by the soldiers among whom they are embedded, but that sort of relationship can't last because "in the future those American conventional combat formations will not spend much if any time fighting in long, drawn-out and controversial counterinsurgency campaigns. Reporters can embed with these units, but they won't leave the barracks very often."

See, we'll be in a new kind of war -- as we always are, in the reckoning of rightwing cranks -- and it will have to do with information and "short, high-speed, and high-intensity combat operations" where no one will get killed, except perhaps that dinosaur of the pre-new-type-o'-war era, the independent journalist, who will have to dig for actual combat stories among "local proxy and militia allies of the U.S.," which folks "are unlikely to have much sympathy for the needs and traditions of Fourth Estate." Haddick does not overtly state the expected fate of this sort of journalist, but he tips it heavily in the closing:
The only journalists that will survive will be those that choose a side. The classic independent war correspondent who once floated across a war will be, literally, dead.
To be fair, Haddick's article is such a mishmash that it is hard to isolate the argument, but his attitude toward journalists who don't toe the line is, literally, palpable.
RISING TO HER LEVEL OF INCOMPETENCE. At her website, Michelle Malkin usually contents herself and her readers with regular blasts of hot, formless spume, like Old Faithful. Alas, in today's New York Post she has stepped above her pay grade, handling a compare-and-contrast structure in much the same way that General Mapache handles the gatling gun in The Wild Bunch: with enthusiasm but no sense of direction.

On the one hand, says Malkin, we have the appallingly young students of the famous Palestinian Jihad Mouse, who learn to celebrate war and suicide bombing; on the other, we have Western children, who are taught to value peace and harmony. If you are familiar with Malkin's work, you can see the problem already: Malkin doesn't know who to root for. She clearly despises the Palestinians, but she also seems to despise the milquetoast tots of the West:
...In New York City, one nursery school dragged 3-year-old toddlers to the office of Rep. Eliot Engel (D-Bronx/Westchester/Rockland), where they sang "It's a Small World" around a 12-foot "Tree of Peace."

The New York Press reported last week: "The handmade tree, crafted by 17 children during pre-school class time, was a statement against American troops remaining in Iraq, and a call to pursue peaceful paths to end all world conflicts...

The children's teacher, Valerie Coleman-Palansky, defended the stunt thusly: "I think it's appropriate for 3-year-olds to know that the world needs to be a peaceful place for everybody to live in and a safe place for everybody to live in."

Perhaps it's time for Coleman-Palansky to acquaint herself with the Palestinian Mickey Mouse. The chant of the little jihadists drowns out the Disneyfied reverie:

"What is your most lofty aspiration? Death for the sake of Allah!"
In case you imagine Malkin's objection is to the intrusion of politics into the classroom, she amplifies:
I have a pet peeve. It goes beyond the antiwar indoctrination rampant in American schools. At the playground and at the mall, I see 5-, 6- and 7-year-olds walking around with pacifiers in their mouths. Kids old enough to feed and dress themselves. Kids old enough to figure out the remote control and cell phone. Standing upright, suckling on brightly colored binkies.

Where are the parents to yank the rubber from their mouths and force them to grow up? When did child pacification usurp the responsibility of child-rearing?
So the problem isn't politics -- it's that American children are soft! They don't need binkies, they need a punch in the gut! They need Barney to stop prancing around like a Kansas City faggot and start barking motivational slogans like, "You had best unfuck yourself before I unscrew your head and shit down your neck."

In other words, they ought to be more like the kiddie killers of Palestine. Malkin probably doesn't even know she's making this point. That's why she and and her similarly unskilled colleagues should refrain from attempting to make points more complicated than "Hulk smash!" or "Pretty flower" until a slot opens up in the writing program at their local Sylvan Learning Center.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

TALK TALK. For me the highlight of Sunday night's Democratic debate was when the candidates, spurred by Clinton of all people, began to push back at Wolf Blitzer's ridiculous hypotheticals. I would have immediately sent a check to whoever got up and pushed Blitzer off the lip of the stage -- Mike Gravel, are you listening? -- but I guess we have to take what we can get.

Of course this not-answering can get out of hand, and I winced each time a direct question was answered by an only mildly relevant stump speech. The Times transcript runs about as long as the Unabomber manifesto, and there was plenty of mouth-running, but some genuinely interesting stuff happened.

Edwards' "bumper sticker" comment provided a good deal of blog grist, but it's notable that he didn't try to backpedal or qualify it -- on the contrary, he owned it. I guess he figures that after all the attention paid to his haircut and house, there's no point worrying about being misconstrued.

And he may be right. Maybe for the moment there's less need than usual to fear the rightwing noise machine. They'll still ferociously spin everything into accusations of treason, but even American voters, dim as they are, may at last have seen through that particular grift.

Speaking of grifts, he seems to have worked out a nice deal with Obama; it was fun to watch them shoot professions of admiration and respect at one another, especially as they had to shoot them through Hillary Clinton.

Other observations:

Clinton is full of shit -- she didn't need to read the NIE because she felt "thoroughly briefed"? By George Tenet? -- but that shit is tight: she's the most confident campaigner in either party at present. She may or may not be electable, but it's impossible to say that she can't cut the mustard.

I'm glad Dennis Kucinich is getting some time to talk at these things. While the frontrunners addressed health care with measuring spoons and deferred payment plans, he stepped up and said that people are driven to bankruptcy because of health care costs that are driven by insurance companies, and this has to stop. He also reminded everyone that the if they wanted to stop the war, not voting to fund it would be a good start. The Party will shove him to one side soon, but at least we can pretend for a few months that it's a progressive party rather than the last hope of a desperate nation.

God bless Joe Biden and his righteous indignation over Darfur etc. The poor man is difficult to follow when he is being genial, but extremely lucid in his bursts of anger. Fortunately or not, that isn't the kind of behavioral mix voters trust with the football.

How did Bill Richardson ever get elected to anything?

Monday, June 04, 2007

THE KNOCKED UP NERDFEST IS ON! Top kulturkampfers talk about how awesome it is that a Hollywood comedy will overthrow Roe v. Wade. The usual loons are not so amusing as the dissenters, who want their pro-lifery without tits and fart jokes. Here's National Review's Kathryn Jean Lopez:
This is what conservatives in Hollywood should be doing, making funny movies that no one would ever ghettoize as conservative –- really engage the culture.

That said, I walked away from the movie worried about the loser housemate guys who feature prominently in the movie. There’s something way too normal about their loserdom. These guys aren’t Sonny Koufax. If mainstream 20something male loserdom is Ben and friends in Knocked Up, that’s something for we’ve got to think about too. I found myself walking away worried: Is this what a War Against Boys has wrought? It’s just a movie, but after a string of similar big-screen winning losers, I had to walk away a little disturbed.
God, what a lot of fun it must be to go to the movies with Lopez! I bet after Pirates of the Caribbean she spent the whole night talking about the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.

I don't suppose it's worth mentioning that Hollywood blockbusters make terrible teaching tools. I mean, when I was a Catholic schoolboy, they loaded me onto a bus and took me to the UA Trumbull to see The Sound of Music. By currently popular brainwashing theories, I should be wearing a three-piece suit, smoking a Meerschaum, and trading Chesterton quotations with a bunch of other dorks. Instead, of course, I became an atheism vaporizer, spreading unbelief to all within the sound of my sneer. Unintended consequences, people!

Next week will be about how Hostel II wins new support for extraordinary renditions.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

STEVE GILLIARD 1966-2007. He wrote trenchantly and well, and he pissed off idiots. In person he was agreeable and well-mannered, which made perfect sense to me, though I think it might have surprised his enemies, some of whom have taken this opportunity to make even bigger jackasses of themselves than previously. It's good to know Steve is still making them bray.

Friday, June 01, 2007

MORE FUN WITH CHRISTERS & SODOMY. Ho hum, more fag-bashing from Rod Dreher, who thinks straight people ought to be able to keep homosexuals out of public accomodations if they want. When challenged in comments, Crunchy Rod helpfully explains:
Two points of view were expressed in my post: 1) that there's an offensive inconsistency of gays demanding full access to hetero activities/places (to the point of filing a lawsuit), while also demanding the right to exclude heteros from gay activities/places; and 2) that the idea of creating "safe spaces" is a rhetorical ruse concealing a different agenda.
Similarly, it's offensively inconsistent for women to demand full access to male preserves -- such as barrooms, political clubs, and many other organizations were, once upon a time -- while also demanding the right to all-chick domains such as Curves Fitness Centers, ladies' rooms, etc, from which hiding places they no doubt plot man-bashing jihad! Which explains why Rod's always banging on the bathroom door, yelling, "Honey, you all right in there?"

Maybe these people were born without a common-sense gene.

Bonus hilarity in Dreher's undercover report from a gay youth meeting, full of Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom observations like "The trio went on to explain that lesbians could indeed experience sexual bliss through rubbing their clitorises together..."

That's why I don't like hanging out with Jesus freaks. I can't possibly spend so much time talking about sex without having some.
NO, YOU RULE. Why don't I do posts that are just linky-links more often? They're certainly easier than writing (he said, throwing the back of his wrist against his forehead).

Let me say D at LGM has a sharper nose than I for culturewarbling of the rightwing-desperate kind. In this case he finds Nineelevenism convert Neo-Neocon turning her keen political analytics upon... Ferdinand the Bull.

I shoulda had that one. Damn!
FINDING HIS LEVEL. Jonah Goldberg on Fred Thompson:
And Fred Thompson just seems so darn competent. Whether he’s the ideal president or just plays one on TV remains to be seen. He’s certainly typecast himself as the cocksure, wise, hands-on type in almost every movie role he’s had and as the district attorney on Law & Order...

We don’t know the man very well, but we know the character. And as long as he stays in character, it’s unlikely his ratings will drop anytime soon.
When I read this it struck me: Though Goldberg the Public Intellectual is by now a widespread joke, the guy has real promise as a copywriter. The prose is imbecilic, yes, but purposefully imbecilic -- like the yammerings of a carnival barker or the mumblings of a priest who walks condemned prisoners down the Last Mile, it overrides thought and keeps the line moving.

While an obvious embarrassment to the pages of an allegedly serious political journal, it could serve with real distinction as copy for a Thompson pamphlet handed out at fairgrounds, or as the speech with which some local alderman introduces Hollywood Fred at a Kiwanis dinner. Trust me, in my twenty years of paid freelance hackery, I've done much worse.

The thought makes me almost sorry for the guy. I imagine it was the desire of his mother, a down-and-dirty political operative, to see her son rise to a station grander than her own, that forced Golderg into his current role, to which he is clearly unsuited. Perhaps, while pretending to take notes at National Review meetings, he dreams of a life he should have had, churning out cracker-jack copy for cryptofascists, then running out and knocking over mailboxes!

On second thought, if you put Goldberg out in a meadow with a bell around his neck it would probably not alter his level of contentment.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

OVER THE BORDER. In a previous post I made light of the immigration question. It's easy to do when so much nonsense has been written about it.

But I wasn't joking when I said that I could understand concerns with the current bill. That's why I'm glad it is being debated in the Senate instead of, say, out back of Fred's Texaco. This is still a Republic, everyone will have an opportunity to see the sausage made, and we may entertain a faint hope at least that the attention of the public will inform, if not enforce, the decisions of our elected leaders.

The voice of the people, however, is not the only and certainly not the loudest in this event. John Derbyshire, lately mocked here, achieved an odd moment of clarity in a recent post, in which he characterized the virtually-open borders position of the Wall Street Journal editorial board:
I thought Ramesh's response to that clip of the Wall Street Journal editorial conference was basically sound.  I'm just amazed that Ramesh stayed so calm all through it.  Me, I was...  well, no, not foaming at the mouth, but gaping in wonder at such a concentration of smug rich-guy arrogance on display all in one place.

What color is the sky in these guys' world?  I've modified a trillion or so pixels scoffing at the Left's blithe indifference to actual human nature, but Gigot & Co. take the biscuit.  It's pretty routine now to mock the WSJ editorial crowd for believing that there is no such thing as a nation, only an economy.  Well, there it is.  You saw it.  That is what they actually, literally believe.  We kick around phrases like "arrogant elites" pretty carelessly, but here they are, out in the open, brazen and unashamed.
Derbyshire is a lunatic, as the rest of the quoted post (like many others by him) amply demonstrates. But he is poignant in moments like this, when he recognizes that the savage god of conservatism which he has so long served does not give a shit about anything but money.

While Derb, alas, is mainly concerned with the declining whiteness of his adopted homeland, those of us who do not share his mania may also acknowledge that among easy-immigration advocates there is a constituency that, while small in number, is rich in capital, and thereby powerful in the debate. That's why our current policy is a mess -- confusion has well-served their purpose, which is to keep the low end of our labor market flooded with cheap workers, as the fate of the Dorgan-Boxer Amendment shows.

Competing pressures add to the confusion. One may argue, as Nathan Newman does here, that other domestic factors do more to depress wages, and that "immigration is a distraction, cooked up by conservatives to take the focus off of their opposition to the minimum wage, their cuts in jobs programs and training programs, and from their ruthless tax policies that have driven inequality." A fair argument, but good luck getting it heard by voters who have been conditioned to worship "free markets," which have been defined over decades to preclude any government action other than tax cutting. What they will more easily perceive is that they are the people who, in the popular Bill Clinton phrase, "work hard and play by the rules" -- and that cynical gaming of illegal immigration makes those rules a joke.

Conservatives have perversely reframed our debates in a number of harmful ways, pitting national security against constitutional liberties, economic competitiveness against environmental safety, and so on. Their double game on immigration -- love the guest worker, hate the Aztlan hordes! -- may be their most poisonous gambit yet, and the short-term damage it's doing to the Republican Party is a sign that the poison is so powerful they can't even control it themselves. Humorous as the short-term effect may be, we have reason to worry about the long term.
HOW NICE FOR YOU. Rod Dreher, speaking in anticipation of loving Knocked Up, the new comedy by the maker of slightly-better-than-average fart-and-swearing-granny comedy The 40-Year-Old Virgin:
I think about how snotty and cruel (but funny) my own writing used to be before I had kids, and I just shake my head. It's fatally easy to make fun of everything when you don't have a stake in it.
I've been reading Dreher since Rupert Murdoch inflicted his worthless film criticism on New York Post readers, and in my experience he has never written an intentionally funny line in his life.

It bugs me when newspaper and internet gasbags rhapsodize on the changes these blessed events allegedly wreak on their consciousnesses, because one almost never sees evidence of these life-altering epiphanies in their actual writing. Take for example this John Podhoretz essay about how 9/11 made him realize "the antidote to horror is love" and drove him to propose to his girlfriend and make a baby tout suite. One would expect this realization to have a major impact on his thinking, yet there is absolutely no sign on this in his work: Podhoretz was a right-wing fist-shaker before, and he is a right-wing fist-shaker today. (To be fair, maybe he saved up all the philosophical stuff for his magnum opus, Can She Be Stopped? Hillary Clinton Will Be The Next President of the United States Unless...)

Similarly, when Dreher was childless he devoted his film criticism to tiresome cultural crankery, and, post-enlightenment, that remains his stock in trade. For all his writing reveals, he might as well have spent his time between assignments in a sealed cleanroom.

I don't think that they're lying about their feelings; rather, I think that the sort of writing they're doing (popularly known as propaganda) doesn't have anything to do with their feelings or anyone else's, except perhaps those of the publishers and think-tank presidents who employ them. In either case, it's just one more reminder not to confuse their work with anything important, and that perhaps none of us is as open to transcendent experiences as he likes to believe.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

SHORTER PETER BERKOWITZ: People don't know how smart we conservatives are because they don't read our books, and only know us by the way we run the country, which makes us look like total morons.

UPDATE. Over at The Corner, Jonah Goldberg amplifies:
Peter Lawler asks whether it's really true that Kirk, Strauss and Hayek constitute conservatism's Big Three. That's a toughie and I think the folks with the most interesting answer to that question would be Hayek, Strauss and Kirk themselves. Isn't influence a more diffuse phenomenon? Lots more folks were probably directly influenced by, say, Tom Sowell, George Will and William F. Buckley than those Big Three, but Sowell, Will & Buckley were in turn deeply affected by them.
Or, as the standard English translation has it, farrrt farrrrrt fart faaaarrrrrrt. From what I can see, by far the best Big Three candidates would be Stone Cold Steve Austin, El Duce from the Mentors, and Screech from "Saved By The Bell."
PRETTY UGLY.God bless Michelle Malkin. When I have trouble finding teh crazy she's like a big, screaming lighthouse guiding me to the rocky shoals of psychopathology.

Today she quivers with rage over two slights to our national honor. One is a few years old but, like 9/11, should be Neverforgotten: Mexicans chanting "Osama" during a football match with the U.S. Malkin doesn't get out among sports fans much, does she? Please don't tell her about "Hextall... Get a Porsche!" or she'll be convinced New York and Philadelphia are in a state of war.

This weekend, the "America-haters" were back, says Malkin, and their target was... Miss USA!
Throughout the week-long festivities leading up to the Miss Universe pageant last night, Miss USA, Rachel Smith, was booed and heckled. First, at a national costume event (half-way into the news segment)...

Ms. Smith, who fell during the evening gown competition but recovered gracefully, was subjected to hatred again last night during the Top Five interviews, when hecklers in the audience launched into chants of "Mexico, Mexico" and disrupted her entire interview. The two hosts of the pageant, Vanessa Minillo and Mario Lopez, did nothing to chastise the crowd for the rudeness shown to their fellow American.

At least the hecklers didn't yell "Osama." Or maybe the microphones just didn't pick it up this time.

Meanwhile, as Heather Mac Donald points out, the White House continues to attack opponents of mass amnesty as "nativists."

Yeah, we're the nativists.
One wonders how this drama is recreated in the lurid diorama that is the inside of Malkin's skull. Are the haters ordinary beauty pageant fans -- that is to say, nuts -- who let their enthusiasm for their favorite candidate get out of hand? Or are they hard-bitten jihadists whose plan for global domination includes Zoolander-style walkoffs?

Next week: people who prefer Cheddar to American cheese on their burgers are Britcaseofascists!
MOVIE NIGHT. Saw two late Herzog documentaries at the Film Forum this weekend: Christ and Demons in New Spain and Bells from the Deep. The former is about poor Guatemalans whose Christianity is suffused with ancient paganism, though it is hard to tell whether the Christian or the Aztec Mayan part of their devotions is weirder -- like most people who got their Catholicism from Spain, they are morbidly obsessed with the agony of Christ crucified, but they also perform rituals that involve smoking huge cigars and spitting liquor on each other. The latter is about Russians whose devotions are no less strange, and include throat-singing, faith-healing, a Jesus impersonator, and pilgrimages to a miraculous city that is alleged to exist under a frozen lake.

Both films are discursive and poetic, like reality TV shows made by Luis Bunuel. In both his fiction and his non-fiction films, Herzog is obviously fascinated by primitives, though in his view primitives may be found practically anywhere (in Stroszek they are found in Wisconsin, performing the ritual of chicken tic-tac-toe). Herzog seeks not only to document their rituals and behaviors, but also to approximate the rhythms of their lives. This last feature may be what saves these films from cheap exoticism: these mini-civilizations, so detached from our world that they might as well be on different planets, are for him objects of contemplation and reverence, and he doesn't seek to project himself, or us, into them -- in fact, these places seem unlivably hellish to the likes of us. This is my kind of multiculturalism: a healthy respect, terror, and disgust for all the cultures of the world.

Monday, May 28, 2007

BUT HE LEFT OFF THE CAPTION: "Already I feel the power of the nanobots coursing through my veins! Soon I will be fit to sire a race of immortal robot lawyers."

Good for him giving blood, though. The doctors told me that they freeze blood, and therefore did not need any that was already fortified with preservatives.
MEMORIAL DAY. The words that ring in my ears this Memorial Day are not from a Memorial Day speech. They're from FDR's proclamation of Bill of Rights Day, December 15, 1941, in honor of the document's 150th anniversary.

A week earlier, America had declared war on Japan, which was followed by Germany's declaration of war against America. Roosevelt alluded to the new national crisis, and to the sacrifices it would entail, in his proclamation:
Those who have long enjoyed such privileges as we enjoy forget in time that men have died to win them. They come in time to take these rights for granted and to assume their protection is assured. We, however, who have seen these privileges lost in other continents and other countries can now appreciate their meaning to those people who enjoyed them once and now no longer can. We understand in some measure what their loss can mean. And by that realization we have come to a clearer conception of their worth to us, and to a stronger and more unalterable determination that here in our land they shall not be lost or weakened or curtailed.

It is to give public expression and outward form to that understanding and that determination that we are about to commemorate the adoption of the Bill of Rights and rededicate its principles and its practice.
Our current Administration, prosecuting its own, very different war, does not often nor so eloquently allude to the liberties at the heart of the American experiment. Yet out of all the other spurs that drive us to war and sacrifice, these "privileges" are the most meaningful. Without them we would be just another clan fighting to keep, or increase, our land and possessions. That might be worth a barbecue, but it wouldn't be worth a single soldier's grave.

But if we believe America is more than that, and that the principles of its founding are still our principles, then those who have died in its wars will command our special respect. Whether they served because they were patriots, or because they wanted to prove themselves, or because they were drafted; whether we agree with the individual mission -- whether they agreed with it, or even thought about it; whether they fell at Anzio, or at Cinfuegos, or at Khe Sanh, or at Fallujah, they served under the flag of the United States of America, whose cause is ours, and died for it.

Whether the dead themselves can benefit from the consolation of remembrance is a theological question beyond my abilities. Following FDR, though, I would say that it can do us some lasting good to remember the object of their sacrifices.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

MOVIES ARE STILL YOUR BEST ENTERTAINMENT. I'm beginning to believe that, as Doghouse Riley likes to say, American conservatism is in its Ghost Dance phase, summoning the power of myth to bring new life to its people. We have recently seen an American Spectator howler claiming that "a different cut of Star Wars would have become a rallying cry for Thatcherites." Now Reihan Salam, ostensibly reviewing a DVD of an old Chevy Chase movie, tells no doubt saucer-eyed Slate readers that their favorite funny movies are paens to Reaganism:
So, why is Fletch such a failure? It could be that—like it or not—hipster liberalism just doesn't mesh well with screwball comedy. Animal House, the ur-text, pits the lovable ne'er-do-wells of Delta Tau Chi against the duplicitous and icily priggish Dean Wormer, and we know from the start whom we're rooting for. Or take the more recent smash hit Wedding Crashers, in which a pair of charming scoundrels square off against the privileged scion of a great American family. To the extent there's any political subtext here, you might think it's simple, straightforward egalitarianism: You can't let some two-bit tyrant ruin all your fun, and you can't let some J. Press preppie bastard get the girl.

But there's more than a passing resemblance between this narrative and classic right-wing populism. Like "Bluto" Blutarsky rallying his fraternity to ruin the homecoming parade, crafty conservatives have been riling up middle America for decades against champagne-sipping limousine liberals. The boys in Animal House aren't, say, fighting tooth and nail for a living-wage ordinance. These mostly privileged young men are fighting for their right to party—a libertarian cause if there ever was one. And consider that the villain in Wedding Crashers is a Kennedy clone, a cultured environmentalist who hides his woman-hating ways behind earnest platitudes.
Regrettably, Salam does not address the burning issue of whether The Flintstones was a rip-off of The Honeymooners.

That this argument is being made in a major online publication, rather that through clouds of bong smoke in a dorm room, demonstrates that the jazzed-up leftists who used to tell us how mainstream movies and Madonna singles were "subversive" have passed their jingling fool's-caps and motley to conservative culture warriors. Such are the uses, and perhaps the necessity, of fantasy.

Friday, May 25, 2007

SOON THE OTHERS WILL BE THE MAJORITY. There's a lot to be said about the current immigration bill. I can understand how people of goodwill can disagree over it. And I am sympathetic to my friends down South who worry about unregulated immigration.

On the other hand --



I'm sorry. I know it's wrong. But every time some honky at National Review freaks out about Mescans, I feel compelled to crank Black Flag.

You soy un hombre malo.

¡Happy Memorial Day, amigos!

UPDATE. Anything that provokes the bitter tears of John "Mescans Will Strangle Me In My Old Age Home" Derbyshire is de facto double plus good. ¡Vota para la Reconquista, Senadores! ¡Andale, arriba!
DEFINING LIBERTARIANISM DOWN. When I heard Ross Douthat declare that Ron Paul and Rudolph Giuliani
...demonstrate just how much two candidates can diverge on policy matters and still both be cast as the "libertarian" in the race...
my neck snapped and I fell to the floor, dead. Well, almost. Rudolph Giuliani a libertarian? The man who confiscated over 90,000 guns? The guy who enforced a dancing ban in New York bars, chased porn out of Times Square, and at the recent Republican Presidential debate talked lovingly about how much don't-call-it-torture he would allow?

Douthat explains:
Giuliani, by contrast, is a libertarian of results alone, and only on certain issues. He wants to maximize "reproductive freedom," for instance, and doesn't care if doing so involves ceding enormous authority to unelected judges; he wants taxes to be low, but doesn't question the principle of income taxation (as Paul does), and so forth.
I'm guessing the quotes around "reproductive freedom" refer to Giuliani's speech to NARAL in 2001, and Douthat means to show Giuliani as a brave champion thereof. In the here and now, of course, Giuliani spends most of his abortion spiel saying how much he hates abortion and how as Mayor he tried to "reduce abortions" and "increase adoptions." If he's a libertarian, so's Bill Clinton.

As for "wants taxes to be low," yeah, that's some fucking distinction for a REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE. I remember George Bush and John McCain in 2000, competing to see which of them could yell "I'll tax your asses off!" louder.

I'm still chewing over "and so forth," though. That may prove to be the crux of Douthat's argument.

Douthat concludes that "a libertarianism that's pro-choice, pro-growth and pro-'enhanced interrogation techniques' is the only libertarianism that has any mass appeal these days." Similarly, tofu will sweep the nation as soon as we find a way to give it the flavor and consistency of choc-o-mut ice creams.

Douthat isn't worth thinking about, but I had been wondering what had become of his erstwhile partner Reihan Whatshisname since Douthat joined the Atlantic Monthly. Bouncing off the walls, shrieking rap lyrics and other gibberish as horrified passersby fled to safety, I imagined. I returned to the American Scene of the crime and found this new post about how Ghostbusters is right-wing and Real Genius is left-wing and if you go to family reunions to meet women, you might be a redneck. Which is to say, I had guessed correctly.
ONE TRAITOR'S VIEW. We seem to be in the middle of another rightwing rev-up of the notion that the Iraq occupation is going great and anyone who says different just wants America to fail. (I could just link to the Ole Perfesser's entire site here, but history demands that I be more specific.)

Having followed with a jaundiced eye this whole Iraq adventure from the outset, and remembering when the statues were toppled and the flowers were strewn and "Democracy! Whiskey! Sexy!" was proclaimed the New Coke of Iraq -- only to be swiftly supplanted by the classic formula, "Aiieeeeee! My leg/arm/torso!" -- I have to say that shifts in trends, real or merely reported, do not mean that much to me.

The problem remains what it was: we dug ourselves a very deep hole in Iraq, with no idea as to how it might be filled. If Iraq were sufficiently pacified that John McCain could walk through the Green Zone without body armor and a couple of Apache gunships at the ready, this reality would persist. We took command of a gigantic slice of earth and millions of people, and after five years the net effect (besides thousands killed, with Saddam and his miserable allies only a fraction of them) has been a spectacular loss of popular support and continued, if not exacerbated, turmoil in the region.

When war enthusiasts resort to claiming that the U.S. Armed Forces have been too "PC" in enforcing order in Iraq, you know that, despite the current boomlet in propaganda (might we call it black-optimism?), a pooch has clearly been screwed. The current surge may vitiate the effects, but it will not unscrew the pooch. Over time we may forget -- as many have already forgotten, perhaps willfully, and are endeavoring to make the rest of us forget as well -- that things might have been differently and better handled. One might argue that it doesn't matter -- the horrifying reality is what's left for all of us to deal with. But I would rather that we did remember, so that we might know better than to make mistakes like this again. Imputing treason to those who knew better is not the way to go.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

AS BELOW, SO ABOVE. People sometimes ask me why I don't engage wingnuts who have more intellectual cred than the feebs and dimbulbs who comprise my normal subject matter. So I read this Joseph Bottum essay at the schoolly First Things. The essay is 300,000 words long and tells how evil San Francisco liberals want to get as far away from corpses as possible, whereas highly moral conservatives like to keep theirs hanging up in the smokehouse or something.
In its way, San Francisco’s turn against graves provides a nice synopsis of the twentieth century, all the forces of modern times pushing toward a single end. So, for example, whatever politicians may have thought they governed, American cities were actually driven, for much of the twentieth century, by the juggernaut of city planners and public-health officers, their eyes gleaming with visions of Tomorrowland’s immaculate metropolis. So, too, the great engine of modern finance put enormous pressure on real estate—skyscrapers! bank towers! the downtown office!—in narrow urban spaces such as the Golden Gate peninsula.
Somehow I missed the giant Necropoli dominating the landscapes of Salt Lake City and other highly moral Red State cities. Nor did I know that the terms of Burke's famous partnership between the living and the dead required that we actually hang out with the dead.

Mostly I am confused to encounter, in so famously intellectual a publication, the crackpot idea that liberalism is defined, not by its historical advocacy for expanding human freedoms, but by its alleged opposition to timeless realities such as grief and mourning. I'm more accustomed to hearing this crap from blog dummies than from lofty dons.

Speaking of dummies, at The Corner they're all talking about "Lost" -- having worn out their higher minds over the preceding week with rages against Mexicans.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

THE SELF-PITYING BOOK OF BLUBBERING "NO FAIR" FOR BOYS: Stop me if you've heard this one: guy goes to a graduation ceremony, notices that many of the women graduates are covered with honors -- 31 of the 41 "distinguished scholars" are women, 21 of 27 National Honor Society designees are women, and 16 of the 24 International Baccalaureates have gone to women.

Guy says, holy shit, men are being preju-ma-diced against! No, really:
If this local pattern is the national norm, we are in the midst of creating a generation of male failure.

Apparently it is getting to be the norm. A 2005 NPR interview quotes a Pell Institute scholar who found that by the late 1970s women had caught up to men in high school graduation rates, and by the early 80s they had caught up in college graduation rates. That’s the good news. The bad news is that since then, men have lost even more than women gained. Two years ago American colleges awarded 200,000 more degrees to women than to men.
When the rich get tax breaks, these people tell us that a rising tide lifts all boats; but when females start to excel, we're told that success is actually finite, and the more women get of it the less is left for the guys.

Linked by The Ole Perfesser, of course, who in a related essay calls for "affirmative action for male [degree] candidates." Wake me when this trend reaches my neck of the woods, and I can bitch that female executives have been promoted ahead of me, not because I spend my days playing YouTube videos and making paper airplanes, but because bitches are preju-ma-diced.
BOOK CLUB. I have heard some enthusiastic talk about The Dangerous Book for Boys. Apparently it teaches lads how to make bows and arrows and slingshots, and the Ten Commandments. Sounds like ripping fun. I wonder how it's doing in Washington Heights? I rode my bike up to Fort Washington Park this past weekend, and there saw young fellows playfully trying to hit each other with their fists, while others played baseball with a small toy soccer ball and a tree branch. What these youngsters need, I found myself thinking, are some bows and arrows and slingshots. Also the Ten Commandments, or at least Mr. T's Commandments. Boys demand order, and if you break the rules, God help you, fool, you got Mr. T to fear!

I expect the book is doing best among suburban parents eager to fight the sissifying scourge of political correctness. All well and good, but I expect the Boys' Movement will soon devolve into a junior edition of the Men's Movement, with the inevitable drum-beating and hugging. At least it will help prepare them for their teenage years.

I notice that this book is fighting it out for top spot among non-fiction books with another example of wishful thinking, The Secret. I understand its popularity and embrace its message. At this very moment I am telling myself that my fridge is full of beer, and I know it will be so, for I have some dollars left in my pocket and the deli is still open. Mirabile dictu!

Monday, May 21, 2007

TRUE SON OF LIBERTY. Garance Franke-Ruta follows up on her famous call for new laws against consensual nudity:
Others liberals, finding the present raunch culture wanting, posited a need for an even more sex-saturated media environment. “If the brain-damaged idea of sex as explotation [sic] is the problem, I say let us militate against that idea,” wrote thespian Roy Edroso at Alicublog. “Let us have wide and unapologetic dissemination of sexual imagery."
Son of a gun, she's right: There are two i's in "exploitation." (Also, it should be "other liberals," shouldn't it?)

GFR is also right, in a way, about the sex saturation thing, though I must say it is not my goal, but rather a thoroughly acceptable means to a noble end.

As I said before, the problem in our current plague of dirty-mindedness over sex is not the sex but the dirty-mindedness. "Girls Gone Wild" is not a hit because tits are a hit -- why, tits may be had by the bushel from any self-respecting internet pornographer! -- but because it combines tits with trickery, which indulges the sad conviction of many, many customers that tits do not spring easily and happily from their hiding places, but must be lured with snares (in this case, the promise of cheap fame and beads).

GFR's attitude -- eternal vigilance over breasts under 21 is the price of female empowerment! -- feeds into that gnarled and tragic world-view. I would much prefer an everybody-wins scenario, whereby the ubiquity of hardcore pornography makes the very notion of Girls Gone Wild and all such sniggering simulacra ridiculous. It may take a couple of generations, but I'm willing to see it through.

I doubt this clarification will persuade GFR that I am not in fact a "leering lout eager to ogle 18-year-old girls and transform society into a deregulated libertarian paradise where low-income women are routinely exploited," but, really, whatever would?
THE LOST CAUSE. David Brooks (TimesSelect, sorry*) has an plan to revive the Republican Party: "A Human Capital Agenda." The basic idea: imitate George Bush back before everyone hated him:
In fact, it was Bush in 1999 who single-handedly (though temporarily) rescued the Republican Party. He did it not by courting Republican interest groups, but by coming up with something new. On July 22, he delivered a speech in Indianapolis in which he explicitly distanced himself from Washington Republicans and laid the groundwork for compassionate conservatism.
After brushing off the "substantive problems" with the old comp-con agenda, Brooks proposes a new round of social program perscriptions that he believes will fire the imaginations of voters:
It means increasing child tax credits to reduce economic stress on young families. It means encouraging marriage, the best educational institution we have. It means a national service program, so young people can experience the world.
None of these ideas are new. In fact, versions of them -- permanent child tax credits, $1.5 billion for staying-married lessons, and the USA Freedom Corps -- have been tested, and found wanting, at least as political firestarters.

The real problem is that, when Bush pulled the compassionate conservative dodge, he was working to negate the natural Democratic advantage in social issues. Today, thanks to the gross incompetence of the Bush Administration, no one believes that Republicans, at the Federal level at least, can be of any assistance at all in such matters, except perhaps to help us drown faster during national emergencies.

Our current crop of Republicans candidates recognize this, and only briefly allude to the sort of social programs that define compassionate conservatism, instead using their bully pulpits for actual bullying: endorsing torture, threatening double-Gitmos, pledging to protect us from Mexicans, etc. I doubt that most voters think these candidates can achieve much in those areas, either, but their battle-cries may invigorate a certain class of Republicans that turns out for fundraisers, rallies, and primaries.

Under such circumstances, I doubt any candidate will dare a shift toward a Brooksian Human Capital Agenda. In fact, I expect they will go further in the other direction. Witness the most credible unannounced candidate, Fred Thompson (R-TV), who ladles boob bait even more generously than the others in "viral" videos such as this one, in which he flourishes a big cigar and appears to threaten Michael Moore with incarceration in a mental institution.

I fully expect that, when the next debate rolls around, the standing candidates will bring their own stogies, or suspenders, or golf clubs, and lean into the cameras to promise rough justice to Jimmy Carter, Barbra Streisand, et alia, leaving social uplift to the Democrats, who do it much better.

*UPDATE. Thanks to Stephanie who points out that you can get Brooks' column here for just the price of your attention. Which is still too much, but that's the world we live in.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

MOVIE NIGHT. Finally saw An Inconvenient Truth. It's a nice primer for the mainstream POV on climate change. It goes down smooth enough, and I am very impressed with Big Al's voiceover skills. But admirable as it is as a presentation, as a movie it's not much. Maybe my standards for the documentary form are too rarefied, but the ones I admire -- Nanook of the North, High School, Harlan County U.S.A., God's Angry Man, Fast, Cheap, and Out of Control, et alia -- have something in common with my favorite fiction films: they carry a wealth of meaning that can't be conveyed by talking points. In An Inconvenient Truth we learn a lot about environmental science and about Al Gore, but there's no room to wonder about either. Even the details of Gore's life, nicely rendered as they sometimes are, lead us only to expected conclusions, as any campaign bio or convention speech might. It's nice that they want to save the planet, but I don't think I'll be taking in An Inconvenient Truth or Dare or whatever they call the sequel.
SHORTER ANN ALTHOUSE: Schools should get serious and stop teaching ridiculous, new-agey subjects such as Literature.

UPDATE. While it is amusing to take this as, in Amanda Marcotte's pithy phrase, "a novel idea for [Althouse's] endless quest to make everyone else as small-minded and stupid as she is," it may also be the harbringer of a new culture-warrior strategy. Rather than just bitch about how awful liberal artists are, they may shift to bitching about how awful the arts themselves are. From that POV, literature's a good place to start: for one thing, it is more civilizing and intellectually strenuous than, say, video games, so neither they (with the possible exception of Richard Brookhiser) nor their followers would ever miss it.

Althouse's claim that fiction offers nothing that can't be had from technical manuals or textbooks would be sad -- betraying, as it does, a heart immune to transcendence -- if she were not so well rewarded for her ignorance with an academic sinecure and waves of wingnut approbation.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

AMERICAN PRIMITIVE. Here is a post by Ace O. Spades about how "liberal men are simply too pussy to get chicks." Here is another post by Ace O. Spades about a feminist who enjoys sexual domination, a phenomenon apparently brand new to Mr. Spades, who becomes quite excited by it ("dirty filthy whore... dirty filthy whore... Amanda Marcotte...").

In between, a post about beating off.

I don't understand why Mr. Spades posts 90,000+ words a day when he could communicate his thoughts just as well with a handful of sound files from 300, I Spit On Your Grave, and One Million Years B.C..
FORGET FALWELL, LET'S BEAT UP GOLDBERG AGAIN. I'm ready to say bad things about Falwell now, but why bother, when there are so many living, breathing imbeciles sticking up for him? The expected winner of the Most Fartalicious Fallen-Falwell Fluffer is of course Jonah Goldberg, who defends the late Reverend's insane claim that Tinky-Wink of the Teletubbies was designed to promote Gay Pride:
The liberal media loves — loves! — casting evangelicals as sexually hung up prudes. It should not detract from the basic unfairness of this bias to also concede that some evangelical leaders have supplied their enemies with ample ammo in this regard.
Try it this way: "The liberal media loves -- loves! -- casting Mars as the fourth planet from the Sun. It should not detract from the basic unfairness of this bias to also concede that the Earth is third from the Sun, Jupiter is fifth, and Mars is between them." I sometimes get the impression that Goldberg learned how to argue from a roomful of Furbys.
The problem with all of this was that Falwell didn't get the idea from watching the show, he got the idea from gay people. Tinky-Winky was a campy icon of gay clubbers in London and New York long before Falwell even knew who Mr.(?) Winky was. At least according to sources such as the Washington Post.
I'm suspicious. For one thing, I have been a New Yorker for nearly 30 years, which makes me an honorary homosexual -- hell, for all I know it may make me an actual homosexual, albeit one who uses frequent sex with women to conceal his true identity -- and I never heard of such a thing. But even if it were so, does that mean that all icons associated with gayness were designed to be so? Was that really why Mervyn LeRoy made The Wizard of Oz? "We gotta make America love fags! Get me a confused young woman I can make into a pillhead! It'll take decades for the caper to pan out -- but it'll be worth all the trouble if only my children's children can suck cock!"

I used to think Goldberg was just intellectually lazy -- that he just couldn't be bothered to do anything so hard as thinking. But consider: While most rightwing guys are just stubbornly insisting, against all evidence, that Jerry "9/11 was Punishment for Fags" Falwell was a great American -- which requires nothing more than a thesaurus and a lack of normal shame -- Goldberg pretends to have a point, and even fashions crude simulacra of arguments to enhance the fantasy. That takes real effort, or maybe the sort of genius that I thought passed from the world with the death of Junior Samples.
DEAD DRUNKBLOGGING POST-DEBATE. Round one

McCAIN: We're fighting them over there so we don't have to fight them blah blah blah. Iraqis are disappointing.

THOMPSON: I too believe Iraqis are disappointing.

ROMNEY: Iraqis should do what I say.

BROWNBACK: Iraqis and Democrats should do what I say.

GIULIANI: Democrats and Republicans should do what I say.

TANCREDO: I agree with Bush.

PAUL: I agree with Reagan.

HUNTER: The Iraqis agree with me.

HUCKABEE: Gotta get it right the first time, that's the main thing. Wo ho, wo ho, wo ho, wo ho ho ho-o-o ho.

GILMORE: America, whattaya think about Iran?

Round two

ROMNEY: I won't raise taxes.

McCAIN: Here's a joke! (laughter)

HUCKABEE: Here's a crazy idea, and a joke! (laughter)

GIULIANI: I cut taxes in New York, and they're all commie bastards.

BROWNBACK: Biofuel will defeat Hugo Chavez.

THOMPSON: I did 1,900 vetoes, and I'll cut into that useless agency, the Centers for Disease Control.

PAUL: I'll cut everything.

GILMORE: I'm a conservative. You other guys, not so much.

HUNTER: Fuck China, help American businesses, especially war profiteers.

TANCREDO: I'll cut everything too.

Round three

GILMORE: Giuliani loves abortion, Huckabee hearts taxes, Romney loves health care for God's sake.

GIULIANI: Well, at least I'm not a liberal.

McCAIN: I was in Vietnam.

HUCKABEE: I actually cut taxes. I'm doggone good and I have a moniker.

ROMNEY: I hate the state I used to be governor of.

BROWNBACK: Yay Reagan, boo Mexicans.

THOMPSON: Yay stem cells, boo destroying embryos.

GIULIANI: Abortion? Goddamn New Yorkers. What could I do?

HUCKABEE: Giuliani celebrates death, I look for lost boy scouts.

BROWNBACK: If you're raped, you should have a baby.

ROMNEY: I am recently and totally pro-life.

TANCREDO: I hate Mexicans. These guys love Mexicans.

McCAIN: Well, at least Mexicans aren't Muslims.

ROMNEY: Mexicans shouldn't get a special pathway. Or doorway. Citizenship! (applause)

McCAIN: Why's everyone looking at me? Abortion!

GIULIANI: I'm not soft. I'm hard! I'm America's Mayor! We need tamper proof IDs! And a fence!

HUNTER: I built a motherfucking fence.

PAUL: We really fucked up in Iraq. (applause)

GIULIANI: 9/11! 9/11! (cheers, gunfire)

PAUL: Fuck you.

McCAIN: I'm sorry about the Confederate flag, but not as sorry as you should be for asking me about it. (cheers, "Dixie")

HUCKABEE: That murderer? Everyone makes mistakes. If I'm elected, no one will go free.

TANCREDO: Global warming is bullshit. Ron Paul is a traitor! (cheers)

Round fucking four

McCAIN: I'm against torture. I was tortured myself. (No applause)

GIULIANI: I'm for torture. (applause) 9/11!

ROMNEY: More imprisonments without trial! Fuck habeus corpus! (applause)

THOMPSON: Colin Powell! Confused you, didn't I, bitches? Asking me about Africa! Sheeit.

BROWNBACK: Fuck the U.N.!

HUNTER: Whatever I did, I wouldn't think about it, thinking's for pussies.

McCAIN: I'm still against torture, despite your invitation to get with the program.

GILMORE: 9/11, Virginia stylee! Fuck the U.N., but with foreplay. I was a prosecutor!

HUCKABEE: Bush said "keep shopping," which was great, but let's all pretend we're making sacrifices, and voting for me would be a good first step.

PAUL: Forget taxes, let's talk torture. I mean, let's get Bin Laden. (deafening silence)

TANCREDO: Jack Bauer! (cheers)

Bullshit minority afterthought

GILMORE: I like black people.

ROMNEY: No Child Left Behind is good for black people.

I don't even know what this is supposed to be

HUNTER: Expanded trade with China may not be an unmixed blessing.

Conclusion: This country is fucked. Our only hope: THROW BATTERIES!

UPDATE. Andy McCarthy says, what does that pussy McCain know about torture? Ace O. Spades sez "Fuck Ron Paul. If I ever see this cocksucker in person, I'll take a swing at him." The Reasonoids go another way. That Big Tent seems to be leaking some air.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

THE GENTLEMAN FROM JASPERWOOD, PART ONE. The Gentleman from Jasperwood -- neither at Minneapolis St.Paul International Airport nor at Orlando International Airport could any one recall his name -- with his wife and daughter, was on his way to Disney World, where he intended to stay for one whole week, solely for the pleasure of it.

He was firmly convinced that he had a full right to a rest, enjoyment, a long comfortable trip, and what not. This conviction had a two-fold reason: first he was rich, and second, despite his forty-eight years, he was just about to enter the stream of life's pleasures.
Not to spoil the story, but having spent four days in the realm of the Mouse, you could cut my wrists and I’d bleed Disney Kool-Aid. Because that’s how much I drank. This is going to take a few days, so let's begin.
Of course, it was first of all himself that he desired to reward for the years of toil, but he was also glad for his wife and daughter's sake.
If you have any doubts about anything in the world – the purposes of money, the transience of joy, the point of it all, frankly – it is swept away the second you watch your daughter running barefoot through the grass in the dusk to see the fireworks burst over the lagoon.

It’s the best place ever she says, awestruck.

It’s Disneyworld...
The manner of living was a most aristocratic one; passengers rose early, awakened by the shrill voice of a bugle, filling the corridors at the gloomy hour when the day broke slowly and sulkily over the grayish-green watery desert, which rolled heavily in the fog. After putting on their flannel pajamas, they took coffee, chocolate, cocoa; they seated themselves in marble baths, went through their exercises, whetting their appetites and increasing their sense of well-being, dressed for the day, and had their breakfast.
It’s clean. It’s so clean and perfect you wonder why everything doesn’t look like this. But why is it clean? You see no one picking things up. Maybe the very fact that it’s spotless and pristine makes people hesitate to ruin the perfection. Then again, you placed a small piece of paper on the ground and walked away a few yards, just to see what happened. It vanished in a puff of smoke.
Immediately, life at Orlando began to follow a set routine. Early in the morning breakfast was served in the gloomy dining-room, swept by a wet draught from the open windows looking upon a stony garden, while outside the sky was cloudy and cheerless, and a crowd of guides swarmed at the door of the vestibule.
We stopped at the Port Royale food court, and got something to keep us from falling over. My wife selected an Oriental salad; I chose a small, pre-packaged salad, and Gnat had a small bag of chips.
Next on the day's program was a slow automobile ride along crowded, narrow, and damp corridors of streets, between high, many-windowed buildings.
Monorails. Sigh. part of you thinks this is so cool and part thinks this is so lame. The rails themselves, with thier pylons and stained we concrete, have a deadening effect on the landscape, but the moment the cars slide past they look cool again. Then they leave, and the rails look like an abandoned aqueduct.
While the steamer was anchored at Space Mountain and Frontierland, the situation was more cheerful; but even here the ship rolled terribly, and the coast with all its precipices, gardens and pines, with its pink and white hotels and hazy mountains clad in curling verdure, flew up and down as if it were on swings. The rowboats hit against the sides of the steamer, the sailors and the deck passengers shouted at the top of their voices, and somewhere a baby screamed as if it were being crushed to pieces.
Gnat was a little unnerved by the preliminaries, and held my hand quite tightly. This from a kid who took Space Mountain without blinking. We shuffled down a dim corridor, lined with amusing symbols of Victoriana; apparently for all time, the late 19th century domestic style is fixed as the preferred model for haunted homes. As I’ve said before, it’s like waking up 70 years in the future and discovering that the post-war rambler is now the standard model for domiciles cursed by the dead.
A wet wind blew through the door, and from a wavering barge flying the flag of the Hotel Royal, an urchin kept on unwearyingly shouting "Welcome! Foolish Mortals! To the Haunted Mansion! . . ." inviting tourists. And the Gentleman from Jasperwood felt like the old man that he was...

We were crammed into a dim octagonal room with 70 other damned souls, and the doors were closed. It appeared that there weren’t any doors at all, and there had never been any door.

Then the lights went out.

I think this is as good a time as any to reveal that I am severely claustrophobic.

(Text from Ivan Bunin and James Lileks.)

FALWELL DEAD. And my first reaction to that was pretty much like this.

But I feel bad about that now. I make it a rule to try and muster a little respect for any man at the point of dying, even if I despised him in life. In the Church in which I was raised, we were taught that no man living knows the disposition of departed souls. I have abandoned most of the paternostrums the Catholic faith bestowed upon me, but I have retained this one because I think it has a nice tinge of existentialism about it.

For one thing, I believe in doubt, and death is the certainty that concentrates doubt most powerfully. The undiscovered country, from whose bourn no traveler returns -- the Bible may be more certain than Shakespeare, but it is nowhere near as convincing. I can tally up costs and make judgment upon lives, and have; but at the very moment the portal opens and sucks out a soul, the chill wind it leaves behind dispels all judgment. I can't say then which of us was right -- only that we were both born to die:
It was in the reign of George III that the aforesaid personages lived and quarrelled; good or bad, handsome or ugly, rich or poor they are all equal now.
For the time being, Horseman, pass by.

Monday, May 14, 2007

LET'S YOU AND HIM FIGHT. For quite some time, religious conservatives have complained that Democrats do not show them enough respect. Now apparently some religious conservatives are angry that "secular conservatives" do not show them enough respect -- so angry that they take a mild joke by the Perfesser as an occasion for low dudgeon:
Three of the most murderous men of the last century — Pol Pot, Hitler and Stalin — were all atheists/occultists. Should we start expecting effette latte-drinking Utne reader types to start engaging in terrorism if they don’t get their way?
"Start expecting"?
...secular humanists constantly conflate Pat Robertson with the Taliban thereby demonstrating that they don’t get it, and most of our pundits and most of our major bloggers obviously don’t understand it either. Our dominant strains of voluntary ignorance may literally kill us.
This time the threat is merely mutual extinction. Next time, maybe, the author will remind the Perfesser that when that holocaust comes, he and his kind will descend into Hell.

The brawl crashes through a thin partition into Ace O. Spades territory, where one Jack M ("I am this site's resident 'social conservative'") declares:
...the Secular Cons often make no bones about their disdain for the Social Cons, going so far as to adopt the same sneering rhetoric as the militant left in deriding the very people without whom the secular cons would have no viable national platform at all. It's one thing to constantly confront outright bigotry from the left; it's quite another to have to brook it from people who are ostensibly on your side.
Well, now he knows how us Nutroots feel!

This is too good to last, I'm afraid. It is a symptom of the Rudy dilemma, whereby fundamentalists have been horrified to see widespread support going to a Republican who won't read the anti-abortion script with sufficient enthusiasm. But I expect soon enough secular cons and social cons will unite, mindful of their mutual devotion to the greatest con of all: the continued gutting of the Federal Treasury, and guns for everyone! Yeeee-haw!

Or it may be that the Lord takes pity on America, and allows the brawl to rage unabated in the Big Tent as horrified non-combatants run for the exits.
HOPE FOR AMERICA'S FUTURE. I know it doesn't count as journalism, but surely I have employed some sort of skill (shared with Ed Norton, who referred to himself as a "subterranean engineer") in digging through The Anchoress and Sigmund Carl & Alfred to get to a new and wonderful lunatic: "educator" Mamacita, who tells of life on the front lines of the teen sexual revolution, which -- despite everything you may have read in such Evil MSM outlets as Beliefnet -- is apparently raging out of control:
My last few years in the middle school were spent largely chasing kids out of the bathroom of the opposite sex. Blowjobs were all the rage. It was all they could talk about. They even drew pictures and diagrams, of kids ‘doing it,’ or ‘how to do it’ for the uninitiated.

Unpopular girls became suddenly popular. Early-developing boys were chased down the halls and solicited. It was sick. A time or two someone was actually caught in the act, but our principal had a hard time believing such things could happen at that age, and we had a really difficult time convincing her that yes, it was happening two or three dozen times a day. Nothing was ever done, because ‘the teacher must have just misinterpreted the situation and assumed the worst.’
Yes, it happened like that over and over. The parents were our worst problem, because they simply refused to believe their innocent child could possibly do that, and they became furious at the implication.

And the middle school kids were giving, and getting, blowjobs all day.
As a great man once said, bliss it was in that dawn to be alive, but to be young was very heaven.

I spent my adolescence and young adulthood in the 70s, which era is generally considered to be the apotheosis of sexual license, but this shit has my shit beat cold!

The good news doesn't stop there:
Maybe if people realized that all of these under-thirty girls who are hooking up with old men are someone’s daughter. . . . . it could be YOUR daughter. . . . is that really what you want for your child? To be the mistress of a dirty old man?
Did she say "all these under-thirty girls?" Looks like I should postpone my gun-in-a-roominghouse "retirement" plan! Let me roll down to the bodega for some Paco Rabanne, Zima, and Just for Men.

The fun doesn't stop there. Alright, class, whenever a wingnut says "blowjob," what proper noun may we expect to hear?
I know that people are tired of blaming Clinton for the rise in blowjob popularity, but it can’t all be a coincidence. When the President is able to rationalize his propensity for uncontrolled activities right within the White House walls by resorting to “I can’t help it; I have a problem; I’m an addict,” I believe the door was opened for a lot of other people to rationalize their behavior with that same pathetic excuse.
I don't remember Clinton referring to himself as a sex addict, but I might have just missed it: I'm sure I haven't spent as much time investigating him as Mamacita has.

If you want to go straight to the crack rock, you may click through to Mamacita's own site, though I must warn you it contains unironic references to Harry Potter and Les Miz. I won't follow, though; I've done my part.