Tuesday, June 26, 2007

IF I CAN DREAM. Ross Douthat defends Amity Shlaes' new book That Commie Bastard FDR from John Updike. Douthat says:
But one of the implications of Shlaes' book, which Updike is supposed to be reviewing, is that FDR could have given us the fireside chats and the rhetoric of government action and yes, even the stronger safety net without the counterproductive attempts at centralized planning and the relentless scapegoating of business...
"Even this stronger safety net"? Surely, in the ideal Depression of rightwing alternative history, nothing stronger than a free cup of joe on the way to the workhouse would have been offered.

That leaves the fireside chats, which would probably have gone something like, "We have nothing to fear but Stalin himself. So don't ask your government for a handout -- we're saving our few tax revenues for an invasion of Russia. Now I'm off to Warm Springs for my fifteenth vacation of the year. Work or starve, parasites!"

I look forward to Shlaes' next book, said to expose Thomas Jefferson as a syphilis-crazed Jacobin who should have listened to his wise Federalist opposition and retained the Alien and Sedition Acts, the loss of which caused 9/11.

The more obvious their failure and collapse becomes, the greater, it seems, their need for fantasy.

Monday, June 25, 2007

WHAT DO THE DRUMS SAY, RODNEY? Ho hum, another God Versus Fornicators post at Crunchy Rod Dreher's Beliefnet Blog and Traveling Medicine Show. But answering a charge in the comments that Winger Jesus doesn't seem to care about greed as much as sex, Rod drops this:
I perceive sexual disorder in society to be a more proximate threat to my family, for a variety of reasons, not least because we live in a part of the city in which the violence of fatherless, lawless males and the sex-mad culture from which they come is a direct threat to the civil order...
Who knew that suburban Dallas was like Mad Max? (Or perhaps an college athletic fraternity.)

Elsewhere Brother Crunchy writes:
People -- black, white, brown, rich, middle-class, poor, Christian, secular, etc. -- naturally want to be around people like themselves. Why is that such a bad thing?
In five years I expect Dreher will be living in a gated community called Alabaster Acres or Ivory Towers or something, and writing about which semiautomatic weapons models are the most environmentally friendly.

UPDATE. Also, Brother Rod hates fags, which hatred he expresses in a typical passive-aggressive mode, fretting that the "lavender jackboots mob" threatens his Jesusosity.

I would advise you wash this garbage out of your brain with some hardcore pornography, but your work computer filters may not allow it, so use Faithmouse instead -- the guy is every bit as bigoted as Dreher, but clinically insane, which is much more entertaining.
BLOOD BROTHERS. Professional fist-shaker Stanley Kurtz usually hates him a bunch of Islamicism, but in a recent Corner post he shows great sympathy toward one Ali A. Mazrui, author of a piece (pdf) that condemns Salman Rushdie and essentially approves (despite mild demurrers) the fatwa against him:
When Britain’s first Muslim peer, Lord Ahmed, recently accused Rushdie of having "blood on his hands, sort of" it seemed a clumsy and ill-thought-out indictment. That it was. But if you want to see the Cadillac version of Ahmed’s accusation, consult the section of Mazrui’s article titled "On Literature and Chaos." There are huge problems with the argument of that section: false moral equivalences, and the notion that books kill people. But...
There's always a "but" with these guys.
...I do think Rushdie’s book feeds directly into the honor complex. In a sense, the Rushdie fatwa is the license for an "honor killing" (a point I made in a different way when I discussed the Rushdie Affair at the end of "Marriage and the Terror War, Part II"). I also found Mazrui’s opening comparisons between Western notions of treason and Rushdi’s "cultural treason" very much on target.
If you read the Mazrui, you will find his argument is, from beginning to end, that of a religious maniac and a thug, and unworthy of engagement by any civilized person. Which I guess lets out Kurtz.

Culture warriors such as Kurtz have clearly decided that, however obliged they feel by duty or loyalty to keep beating the drum for the War on Whatchamacallit, their greater battle is against evil blasphemo-pornographers. Well, hopefully I can get my Second Amendment rights restored before that battle begins in earnest.
HEY RUBE. Prairie content provider James Lileks says Woody Allen isn't so great with his snobby Manhattan:
Listen, give me Gordon Willis as my cinematographer and Susan Morse as my editor, and I’ll give you an opening montage of Fargo that will make people weep.
"Chapter one. He adored Fargo. He idolized it all out of proportion." No, make that: "He tolerated it all out of proportion. To him, no matter what the season was, this was still a town that existed in sepia-toned postcards that he bought by the carload at nerdfests, and pulsated to the great tunes of Lawrence Welk..."

I would love to see Lileks make the film, but I suspect it would look less like Manhattan and more like Stranger Than Paradise.

UPDATE. You want Manhattan? James Wolcott will give you Manhattan.
FURTHER ARTS REVIEWS. I have been Netflixing my way through the final episodes of Deadwood. I have only seen the show in bits and pieces, which is fine, as it is regrettably an unfinished epic, and because it has given me sufficient distance to sometimes find it silly. Would ye agree, bein' a sober fuckin' judge of the lively arts, that the complex sentences of Al Swearingen, him bein' a wordy cunt with all the verbal appurtenances of a fuckin' Cambridge professer yet slathered with the mud of authentic pioneer argot, sing most sweetly when some doxy is suckin' his prick? For fair, I do.

I wonder how well it would work if they all talked like John Ford characters. Ford trod this ground, too -- the tension between ripe, untrammeled individualism and the need for community -- and though I give him him the nod over Milch, I admit that Deadwood's modern advantages -- the richly meticulous physical reconstruction of the camp, the shocking cruelty, and the long, profane speeches -- are pleasing. Milch can get too pleased with himself after expending his vital energy breaching perceived limits; NYPD Blue got tiresome very soon after he succeeded in exploding the boundaries of the cop show. But though some secondary characters were left hanging -- it was sad to see Calamity Jane reduced to a mascot -- Deadwood still showed jam enough when the tap was shut off. I am content.

I blush to admit I'd missed John Huston's Fat City before this weekend. I love late Huston -- well, pretty much all Huston -- and this one is top shelf. It doesn't look like he had much money for it, but the old genius knew he didn't need it. I love Raging Bull but the fight scenes in Fat City make Scorsese's look precious and mannered. I know Scorsese's fights are supposed to be mannered, but Huston's makes you ask why someone would bother. He had maybe three camera set-ups, and the fighters, broken-down and hungry, get quickly lost in the violence; so do we, and their outcomes are always a shock that makes sense. Speaking of set-ups, see what Huston does when Tully (Stacy Keach) goes back to see Oma (Susan Tyrell) and finds her old old man (Curtis Cokes) has moved back in: the two men have their stand-off, and Oma only appears momentarily as a head -- drunk, dishevelled, mocking -- from Tully's point of view. I can't think of a better, more heartbreaking way to show it.

The Stockton locations have great, rotted flavor, and a Bukowski spirit of noble failure pervades throughout. Huston came from New York theatre royalty, but every facet of the human condition he was called upon to examine he looked square in the eye, and figured out how to make it play. They don't make too many like him. They never did.
ANOTHER APPROACH TO REASON. Al Gore's The Assault on Reason means well, and does well by several topics, most of them having to do with the Bush Administration's mismanagement of the country, on the one hand, and its ingenious management of ass-covering techniques on the other. Being a detail-oriented fellow, Gore lines up a good bill of particulars; many of these are familiar to people who get their news elsewhere than rightwing blogs, but they have a salutarily disturbing effect when seen in a bunch.

The problem is the prescription. Gore is very concerned with the "one-way" nature of political communications in our era which in his view causes citizens to "disconnect from the democratic process." He sees TV as the main culprit, so naturally he is convinced that we should attack the problem by using recent innovations to circumvent television's power -- he has, alas, a modish faith in blogs -- and by legislation on the order of the old Fairness Doctrine. He talks about Attachment Theory and the amygdala and the hippocampus as if explaining the psychological and physiological roots of our enthrallment by the idiot box will shake us from it.

This allows an opening for unsympathetic operatives like David Brooks to dismiss Gore as a "radical technological determinist," which, in addition to being a slander, is a shame. Because there is an earthier explanation of the problem.

First, rich people with a strong interest in distorting the truth use their financial advantages in every communications outlet -- not just on TV, but in newspapers, magazines, and even on the blessed internet. Gore is clearly aware of this, especially when it comes to environmental matters, but I think his faith in governmental solutions misleads him -- if, as he suggests at one point, we achieved "full transparency in the funding of nonprofit organizations" (including the ones sponsored by oil and gas companies), the villains would simply find a new way to disseminate lies. If Fairness Doctrine II came to be, they would use all their considerable powers to override it.

Second, while the multiplicity of lying opportunities cannot be pared down, we can yet equip our citizens to better apprehend the difference between their asses and a hole in the ground. Gore actually says that "education alone... is necessary but insufficient" without a way of "catalyzing the formation of a critical mass of opinion supporting their ideas." I say, let's take it one step at a time. If, as Gore admits, our people have had their heads stuffed full of nonsensical ideas, would it not be wise to teach them how to think? It is rather shocking that, in a book that includes "reason" in the title, Gore would say of the Enlightenment that
The Enlightenment, for all its liberating qualities... also had a dark side... abstract thought, when organized into clever, self-contained, logical formulations, can sometimes have its own quasi-hypnotic effect and so completely capture the human mind as to shut out the learning experiences of everyday life.
Q.E. fucking D., of course, but when the problem at hand is a proliferation of gibberish, can we afford to be so worried about the threat of sophomoric reasoning that we disdain reason altogether at the user end? With public education itself increasingly under siege, it would seem that any progressive attempt to fight the tsunami of propaganda would have to include, if not start with, a serious effort to teach young people how to reason.

No Child Left Behind is in place, but for obvious reasons a boondoggle; if we are to have Federal education standards -- and though in the main I am against them, let us for the moment argue on Gore's statist grounds -- why not use the structure to require meaningful education in critical thinking? Get middle school kids to use Google to formulate arguments for both sides of issues suggested by current events. Hell, throw in rhetoric while you're at it. In the ensuing years of political argument over the efficacy of this plan, millions of schoolchildren will have at least seen that the necessary information is available to them, and perhaps learn to do something useful with it.

I like Big Al well enough, and would happily vote for him again, but I really think he's got this thing by the wrong end. The Assault on Reason and David Brooks' disingenuous rebuttal are both out there to be read, but for most of our citizens, they're currently just free-floating bits of intellectual jibber-jabber: give 'em a chance to properly engage both, and they may get something out of them. Or they may revert to their original assessment, which would be a sign of real progress.

Friday, June 22, 2007

SO THAT'S HOW THE KIDS ARE DRESSING. Very well. I go to be young with the young! But first, some Old Spice!

UPDATE. My friends say I can't pull off the collar, among other things. I'm going to go with this look. It goes with my tone of voice.
STALK THE PLANK! I have been saying for years that blogging is absurdly overrated. One valuable measure of its triviliality is to see what happens to a famous blogger upon contact with real journalism -- contact beyond the usual link-mining and fist-shaking, that is.

In fact, to make it interesting, let's make it mainstream opinion journalism, which is sort of like tying one of journalism's hands behind its back. And let's make it The Plank, the in-house blog of the New Republic, which is to say mainstream journalism embarrassingly dressed in hipster threads and trying to get into a club.

The Plank's Christopher Orr took notice of the latest Althouse insanity previously mentioned at this site. Althouse doesn't respond well to criticism, but something about that little sailing vessel woodcut at the top of the page drove her to new depths of madness, and she began to stalk The Plank. In a series of comments she assailed Orr for incompetence ("Really, why are you writing for TNR when your diligence and comprehension are at such a low level"), then demanded an apology for something Orr didn't say.

Orr came back in a tone more of sorrow than of anger ("She's demanded multiple apologies... I'm rather sorry to have engaged her at all. Readers can judge for themselves my diligence, comprehension, prissiness, etc"), and Althouse returned to comments, announced "I am aware that my writing is popular," and then laced into poor Orr with the sort of blogger's boilerplate we all know too well from countless chest-beating posts:
Finally, you say "I fear the best I can do is to say that I'm rather sorry to have engaged her at all." Ha! You'd prefer to slam people and have them silently take it, right? Bloggers don't do that. The comfy old days of MSM are gone. Thanks for admitting that you can't handle the new situation where the people you attack have a way of fighting back.
Admittedly, not every blogger who goes mwah-ha-ha over what he or she imagines to be the corpse of the "MSM" is the online equivalent of the Simpsons' Cat Lady. But if we are tempted to believe that blogs represent some kind of massive paradigm shift that changes everything forever -- that is, if we forget how foolish that sort of triumphalist blather almost always turns out to be -- we should remind ourselves: Just because someone is using relatively new technology does not necessarily mean that he or she is the wave of the future. The screaming fellow with the Bluetooth earpiece may not in fact be connected; he may in fact be screaming to himself, only using technology to conceal his madness from the world.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

THE RICH PRICK. Lots of talk now about a possible Bloomberg Presidential run. As I have said before, I hate the son of a bitch, but what are you gonna do? He doesn't care what I think, or what anyone else thinks, because a.) as the longtime operator of a popular news service, he knows exactly how much money it takes to implant a thought in the public consciousness, and b.) he has that much money.

When we imagine the archetypical Rich Prick, we generally think of vulgarian clowns like Donald Trump, but Bloomberg is a better example of that breed: he doesn't have to even stir himself to sneer. As we saw during the last Mayoral Debate, he effortlessly radiates contempt for anything that is not his will. When he gives press conferences, his manner is bland, because he knows there's nothing to get excited about: he is right, you are wrong, and he will prevail.

As Mayor he has blithely exercised his will, or his whim, on matters ranging from trans-fats to the razing of neighborhoods for private profit. And nearly everyone rolls over for him. All the major dailies endorsed him in his last Mayoral race. (He spent over $75 million on the campaign.)

No wonder he's interested in the Presidency. Experience has taught him that very little is beyond his grasp. So he will patiently go on accumulating power...

...until he is countered by another wealthy interest. Remember how Cablevision thwarted him on the West Side Stadium deal? Bloomberg folded then because Cablevision possessed the only authority he recognizes: money. (Silver and Bruno were merely cat's-paws in the event.)

That's why he probably won't get far in pursuit of the Presidency. It's too big a prize and there are too many other high rollers in that game. Eventually Bloomberg will decide it's not worth the effort, and go buy some other country he can run.

The papers find it interesting that we have the New Yorkers Giuliani, H. Clinton, and Bloomberg at the summit of our politics. I find it depressing. If they represented the New York of Billy Martin, Martin Scorsese, and Johnny Thunders, that'd be one thing. But they represent instead the New York of A-Rod, Judith Miller, and Larry Silverstein -- all power, that is, and no class. The poor and lower middle class once had a little somethin'-somethin' in this city, and they gave both steel and fire to its temperment, but now it's all about the most diseased exemplars of the filthy rich, yuppie dipshits and power-mad clowns -- which isn't a bad way to describe the city's current national candidates, come to think of it, and perhaps the reason why they are so popular with Americans these day.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

LIBERALS HAVE FAILED TO DENOUNCE, AND HENCE SUPPORT, THE POTHOLE AT FIFTH AND MAIN. Norm Geras on the Rushdie Knighthood: basically, two British intellectuals gave unsupportive responses to the knighting, for which Geras shakes his fist at liberalism in toto. Perfesser Reynolds hehindeeds: "FEEBLE RESPONSE FROM THE LEFT to riots and threats over Salman Rushdie's knighthood."

Sometimes I think The Left should just hire a clerk to issue routine denunciations of the many, many injustices that occur worldwide every day, just to head off this kind of bullshit. It seems every time someone's cousin Clem gets his mailbox knocked over, we hear conservatives announcing that The Left Is Silent and thus supports petty vandalism. Well, I guess it's easier than defending their own policies.

I often mock conservatives via the writings of just one or two of their tools, but only when the connection is obvious and admitted. For example, when I mock Ralph "Blood 'n' Guts" Peters' mad ululations in support of the Iraqi occupation, it is fair to let some of the contempt slop over to conservatives in general, who support the same cause, though most of them lack Peters' distinctive savagery of expression.

It makes far less sense to link the statements of these two guys with the attitudes of liberals in general. For one thing, uber-liberals like Susan Sontag and Harold Pinter were supporting Rushdie in 1989. For another, come the fuck on: We liberals are historically and axiomatically all about freedom of speech: How else could we put on the blaspemous plays and Vagina Monologues that conservatives are always complaining about?

But if I must...

FOR THE RECORD, PEOPLE, LISTEN UP: I think it's great Rushdie got knighted, fuck a bunch of Islamic fundamentalism, etc.

Now right-click the time-stamp on this sucker and put the link in your stupid blogs, wingnuts. I dare you!

Not fast enough! Why does The Right embrace censorship?

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

TENURED RADICALS PART 45,332. Ann Althouse on a Hillary Clinton video:
Bill says "No onion rings?" and Hillary responds "I'm looking out for ya." Now, the script says onion rings, because that's what the Sopranos were eating in that final scene, but I doubt if any blogger will disagree with my assertion that, coming from Bill Clinton, the "O" of an onion ring is a vagina symbol. Hillary says no to that, driving the symbolism home. She's "looking out" all right, vigilant over her husband, denying him the sustenance he craves. What does she have for him? Carrot sticks! The one closest to the camera has a rather disgusting greasy sheen to it...
Which of course made me think of Matt Taibbi, a progressive who is famously embarrassed by the "silly" American Left. I say that for all the "guys on stilts wearing mime makeup and Cat-in-the-Hat striped top-hats" Taibbi notices on the left, I see an equal number, at least, of Althousean clowns on the right, as this blog documents.

The difference is, no one on Althouse's team has the brains to be embarrassed by her.

UPDATE. Oops. Instaputz way frist!
NEXT WEEK: HOW MAXINE FROM SHOEBOX CARDS ROBS OUR SENIORS OF THEIR DIGNITY. I hope Father's Day was a joy for you all. Do spare a thought, though, for those angry misfits we call culture warriors, for whom all public holidays are merely occasions for blind rage and nagging.

Heather MacDonald of the Manhattan Institute didn't even wait for Father's Day -- she had her conniption at the freakin' card store:
For years now, as one stared with increasing despair at the studly stud, dirty old man, and bathroom “humor,” new categories of card were blossoming luxuriantly. “Celebrating your divorce” or “For my second stepmother” cards began popping up regularly among the “From the dog” or “Incompetent duffer” standards.
Don't start climbing the walls yet -- MacDonald's just warming up.
And this year’s display at a Manhattan stationer’s did not disappoint. In the small section devoted to Hallmark’s “African-American” line (of course there is one; it is called “Mahogany”), two card pockets advertised “For mother on Father’s Day” options...

With 70 percent of black children born out of wedlock, with marriage a moribund custom in inner cities, Father’s Day does pose a problem. Hallmark has solved it with aplomb.
She's being sacrastic, see! But not even her elfin wit can mask her seething anger at those bastards at Hallmark who abet black fatherlessness with their mindlessly thoughtful greeting cards:
A massive social services industry feeds off billions of taxpayer dollars directed at the consequences of that disintegration, to no effect beyond the employment of social workers. If Hallmark wants to make some money from it as well -- and, it would say, offer consolation and strength to those faced with the awkward irrelevance of Father’s Day -- that is its right. One can only hope that its product line for what it calls "'nontraditional’ family structures'" becomes a money-loser in the not-too-distant future.
When I was a kid, I used to give my Mom a card on Father's Day because my old man died when I was three. Did MacDonald ever think of situations like that? Oh, wait, I'm not black. Nevermind!

Thanks to Kia for the tip.
ROUTINE MAINTENANCE. Did some work on the blogroll. Me old pal Robert Schaffer, raconteur and sociopath, has started a food blog called The Gorilla Eats, and boy is he cranky! He doesn't even use paragraph breaks or spell check! But you may, or may not, enjoy his monocultural take on cuisine, as in the essay "Why Only Western Culture Understands Dessert":
I love Asian food, but what passes for sweets is mostly incomprehensible. Thick dry bean pastes, sweets with meat centers, huh? The Japanese are sneakier, they make desserts that look European until you bite into them, and reveal their non Western designs. One Japanese sweet looks like a ball of sweetened snot. Delightful. And Indian desserts, forget about it. My joke on Indian sweets is you take a Twinkie, put it in bowl of milk, let it sit on a windowsill for 3 days, then cover it in honey.
I will say that I don't agree with everything Bob says -- what sane man would? -- but he is absolutely correct that Katz' Deli isn't so hot and Frank Bruni erred grievously to rate it with the late, lamented Second Avenue Deli. Whatever became of standards?

Also added Glenn Kenny of Premiere who is sometimes cranky but mainly astute about the moving pictures, and has an eye for apposite frames, and is a fan of Loudon Wainwright III, which buys you a lot of cred round my way. And Northern Aggression, which recently posted a nice precis on the roots of our current geopolitical decline (i.e., money).

Finally, to make the whole thing even more shameful, I welcome the hamster dance of 2007, LOL President. Buttsecks!

Monday, June 18, 2007

WE SHALL OVERCUM. James Poulos calls himself a "Post Modern Conservative." What's that mean? A quick glance at his recent stuff offers a few clues. First, Poulos sees discontent among young liberals and young conservatives, and proposes a basis on which accomodation between the two tribes can be reached:
The only major gulf between these two groups is defined by the third vector among them of cultural libertarianism, which as I keep repeating is basically the question of sexual ethics. As young leftists recover a wounded common sense about the putative benefits of getting into an S&M relationship with the price-tagged, pleasure-pimped System in exchange for a golden ticket to being Sexually Active, they will grow more truly toward the Right...
If you're having problems navigating the metaphors, he means young liberals will stop wanting sex and then everything will be hunky-dory.

Oh yeah, and there's this:
Well, maybe semen suppressant is still a ways off, but now that we've conquered the period, delaying menopause is the 'natural' next step toward the complete and utter inversion of our sexual natures. Teenage slutpuppets that can't get pregnant and weepy cougars who want to be mommies after all, dammit -- I absolve you, I absolve you. Yes, this is Progress.
I think he's trying to be funny, though maybe in the postmodern world "funny" and "creepy" are synonyms.

This sort of thing actually makes me happy I didn't go for a postgraduate degree.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

CHILDHOOD'S END. Every year near graduation time, the seniors at Hendrick Hudson High School in Montrose, New York do a prank. This year they set a bunch of alarm clocks to go off at the same time and snuck them into the school. Now many of the pranksters are up on felony charges because nineeeleven Virginia Tech we're a-scared etc.

You can read about this case in the White Plains Journal News, which also mentions what appears to be a little epidemic of this sort of bullshit:
Three students at Haldane High School in Cold Spring also found themselves in trouble this month after they created chalk outlines of bodies splattered with red liquid to resemble blood. The students were hit with criminal trespass charges, but will be able to participate in the school's graduation ceremony.

An Internet search shows that news organizations across the country are reporting about senior pranks that turned out to be serious busts. In one case last year, armed guards and swarming helicopters responded to a senior prank at an Orlando, Fla., school. The threat? An annual toilet paper attack.
You can also read a thumbsucker about Hudson High in today's New York Times. It's Select, but don't worry, here are the ponderosity highlights:
And it’s leaving everyone mulling over the questions of what’s stupid fun and what’s just stupid, and where you draw the line between reaction and overreaction in a world that’s half “Jackass” and half Age of Anxiety...

...one of those Rorschach tests for an edgy age: Is it a case of kids — and their overly protective parents — who need to face the consequences of their own bad behavior, or is it a reaction way out of proportion to the threat?...
(Pause for another thoughtful draw on the briar, and an oracular clouding of visage)
...You could get both responses, and a sense that maybe the vogue for dumb behavior celebrated on the Internet and in shows like MTV’s “High School Stories” needed some brakes...
No. No, no, no, and no. This isn't a cultural litmus test and it has nothing to do with those wacky shows the kids watch on the teevee. This is just nuts. If every American morning for past six years had begun with a terrorist attack, I might just consider it a forgivable overreaction to be reversed immediately; but with the relative paucity of terrorist attacks since 2001, it's nuts.

It's too seldom mentioned that one of the most obvious bad effects of the War of Whatever has been the pressure it puts on young people -- or, rather, the excuse it gives to the sort of petty tyrants who always like to make kids' lives hell to go absolutely bonkers, as the Montrose authorities have done.

Kids can get suspended these days for their MySpace pages or for holding up a goofy sign. They can get arrested for drawing cartoons. I suppose some of the Hudson High students can expect to be spirited away to one of our secret torture prisons in Syria.

There is an upside to this thing: that, after years of this crap, some kids persist in acting like kids. Maybe their draconian punishments will scare the guts out of them, or maybe they'll just understand more strongly the appropriate message: that the people in charge aren't fit to run a hot-dog stand, let alone other people's lives.

Friday, June 15, 2007

ROCK BOTTOM. The latest trend in rightwing commentary: absolute gibberish. Here's noted god-botherer The Anchoress on some widdle girl whom Simon Cowell failed to insult mercilessly on TV:
I think of this child’s singing as a sword of innocence thrust into the psyche a fierce world world that has forgotten how sharp and bright is it’s guileless tip.
I don't know what's worse: that she mistakes celebrity judges for Biblical villains, or that she mistakes her own prose for English.

Meanwhile at National Review Jonah Goldberg burps out a response to some bullshit about secular voters:
Now, we can certainly argue about how "mass based" Communism was and to what extent its mass appeal reflected or contradicted the religious attitudes of its supporters. But here's an idea. Maybe now that Communism and the various isms in its orbit have been discredited, the attributes which made it appealing may in fact flourish. A couple years ago I wrote a piece suggesting that cosmopolitanism explained much of the passion for Marxism. Perhaps the same case can be made for secularism. Perhaps Communism did us a great favor by partially discrediting, or at least tamping down, the appeal of secularism and cosmopolitanism. As Ross notes, turned toward secularism in the 1990s. Maybe that's because is association with "Godless Communism" crumbled with the Berlin Wall? That might be too much of a stretch. But while I think Communism is in the dustbin of history, that doesn't mean we should sweep it under the rug.
My first impulse was to send a team of grammarians in there, but what would be the sense? There's nothing here worth saving.

I don't see how they can get any worse. Maybe they'll just start uploading mp3 files of their farts.
FORM FOLLOWS FUCKWIT. The new Peggy Noonan column at the Wall Street Journal is too lame to deconstruct -- it's the usual bullshit about how Bush betrayed her and all America longs for a Leader who is exactly like whoever will next pay Peggy to write speeches.

But as I keep angrily declaiming from the brass rail, it is by their usages that ye shall know them. (In my old age I'm turning into a cracker-barrel deconstructionist -- the corruption of language interests me more than the corruption of Senators, probably because it is less obvious and the damage more serious.)

One of Noonan's fave rhetorical tropes is the invented quote -- you know: "I bet this horrible person says to himself I'm a big stupid liberal and I hate the American people and love Satan," that sort of thing. Of course, we all do it, but it can get old very quickly (one tends to lose the distinction between the genuine stupid ideas and the merely attributed ones) and Noonan reeeeeally overdoes it -- in fact she has devoted whole columns to it, as when she channeled the late Paul Wellstone, whose consciousness was clearly incomprehensible to her, but whose usefulness as an object of Republican propaganda she understood all too well.

But this bit from today's column contains that schtick's equivalent of a Triple Lutz:
The White House is exploiting American alarm at uncontrolled borders to get its way. This of course has added to the sense of national alarm. They believe the alarm works for them: If you don't pass our bill we'll never control your borders--yes, "your"--and you'll suffer!
That's right -- in the middle of an invented monologue, Noonan actually stops to comment indignantly at the words she has put in someone else's mouth!

Though Noonan has many distinguishing neuroses as a propagandist, I think this one reflects a common tendency among her whole tribe: the ever-increasing certainty that one's straw men are in fact real people. It's sort of like what happens to some artists and the characters they invent, except, you know, totally evil.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

PURTY LADY NO TALK TO CAPTAIN? Captain Ed Morrissey has a complaint about Angelina Jolie and her involvement with the Daniel Pearl biopic. What, the informed reader will ask, is he still sore that they didn't cast Bo Derek? No, it has to do with her interview guidelines:
However, demanding that her answers never get used in any other context, and threatening reporters with restraining orders is not just unreasonable, but outright intimidation. It goes against the entire mission of Reporters Without Borders, and indeed against the notion of freedom of the press. I wonder if Jolie or her Hollywood friends would be as sanguine about these demands had they come from George Bush or Rudy Giuliani. Somehow, I think they'd be the first to demand a rush to the barricades...

Kudos to the reporters that told Jolie where to stick the agreement [!!! -- ed.], and raspberries to Jolie's self-important snit.
Sometimes I think that these guys aren't responding to ideas or arguments at all, but to endocrine storms and uncontrollable rushes of brain chemicals. I think the mere prospect of humiliating a purty gal and liberals in one blog post -- with a Muslim decapitation for added kink -- so excited the Captain that he was willing to spend nearly 500 words trying to achieve it. By the standards of journalism or even common sense, it is a dismal failure; but what of those? The heart wants what it wants.
YOUR MOMENT OF GOLDBERG. Jonah Goldberg notices a citation of sauerkraut being called "liberty cabbage" during World War I. The objective correlative that leaps most readily to his mind is:

a.) His fellow wingnuts' renaming french fries "freedom fries" because they were mad at France.

b.) Woodrow Wilson and the Progressives, because they "were keen on using food as a tool for political allegiance and organization." Also "today's environmentalists."

There's an explanation for this, but to find it you must join Porky in Wackyland.

I was thinking about doing at least one of these every day -- God knows there's always enough material -- but neither my readers nor I should risk that much exposure to Goldberg.
AS OF THIS MOMENT, THEY'RE ON DOUBLE SECRET PROBATION! Zillion-Star General Ralph "Blood 'n' Guts" Peters must have been a great hand-to-hand combatant back in the day. Just when you think you've got him down, he comes back at you with a surprise.

For instance, take the lede of his latest column:
WONDER what Iraq would look like if we left to morrow? Take a look at Gaza today.
One is inclined to laugh. Civil war and chaos if we leave Iraq? What have the past few years been, rehearsal?

Cornered, the General pulls out his Ka-Bar!
Then imagine a situation a thousand times worse.
Gasp! A thousand times worse? Now I'm scared! But I can't show it, or Peters will move in for the kill with Ten thousand times worse! Hundred thousand times worse! Infinity!

No worries, though -- eventually I'll pass out from the powerful fumes of the rest of his column. To encrapsulate: Arabs are sub-human and incapable of self-government, and our last hope of victory -- this month anyway -- is... (opens the envelope) "As fine an officer as we've got in uniform, Lt. Gen. Martin Dempsey." Start molding the statue!

Reading the General for sense is useless; persist if you must for his style, full of ripe analogies such as this:
Four years ago, the neocons fantasized about a post-Saddam Age of Aquarius. Now the Murthacrats insist that, once we bail out, Atlantis will rise from the Tigris and Euphrates.
I begin to suspect that Peters learned his trade -- the writin', not the killin' one -- from old police comics.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

BUT-HEAD. Perfesser Glenn Reynolds is leaning against the doorjamb of the British press, playing with matches and saying what a nice place it is and what a shame it would be if it got burned down:
I'm against Euro-style press regulation, of course. But...
Let me interrupt here to mention how little I am enjoying this recent rightwing revival of "I'm against cutting your throat, but... I think your throat should be cut" formulations.
...much of the British press has been even more shoddily political and dishonest in its war coverage than its Ratheresque counterparts here. Lack of patriotism and honesty, plus lack of self-discipline, are likely to lead to calls for regulation. And if it were any other industry putting out a similarly shoddy and corrupt product, the British press would be demanding government regulation, wouldn't it?

I'm sure that government regulation will be worse than press freedom, but...
Etc.

While the Perfesser thinks it only natural that "lack of patriotism and honesty" should bring calls for press regulation, he thinks quite another way about the same sort of thing when it's called the Fairness Doctrine.

I don't like to call anyone a hypocrite, but...

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.