Monday, July 16, 2007

BAD FAITH. Ole Perfesser Glenn Reynolds opens Daniel Brook's The Trap: Selling Out to Stay Afloat in Winner-Take-All America, finds a passage about a gender studies major, and decides the book is about silly elitists being silly.

Like Reynolds, I haven't read the book, but I have a hunch it has more to do with the following:

"Consumer borrowing posted a hefty increase in May, reflecting the biggest jump in credit card debt in six months."

"Ratio of mortgage debt to housing value hits new record."

"According to the College Board, the volume of private loans taken by students has escalated by 27 percent annually since 2000-01, to a total now of $17.3 billion."

"Nearly half of all workers saving for retirement have savings that fall short of the $25,000 mark, according to the 2007 Retirement Confidence Survey by the Employee Benefit Research Institute and Matthew Greenwald & Associates... A full 25 percent, meanwhile, said they had no savings at all - retirement or otherwise."

I could be wrong, though -- maybe it's all about a small group of wacky artistes who for some reason don't share their fellow citizens' economic confidence. But common sense is usually a reliable guide in these matters.
SOYLENT GREEN IS PEOPLE! Just when, under the numbing spell of his Target travelogues and widdle-girl colloquia, you forget what you had against James Lileks, he comes up with this:
But it was Friday. And that’s pizza night. So I went to the freezer and pulled out the Manhole of Promise, something I’d found at the grimy grocery store the other day: Geno’s East. I don’t want to get into pizza wars here... But for decades Geno’s has been the Ideal, the very definition of pizza. I had my first in 1975 when I visited a friend in Chicago. He was Italian, too, so he’d know about these things.
You blink and stir, roused by the apprehension that he isn't kidding, and then:
It took 50 minutes to cook. It had a pop-up timer. Assuming as we must the diminished standards that apply to the genre, I have to say: worthy of the name. I almost wept after the first bite -- a thick lake of sauce, aggressive sausage, perfect crust. I had a vision of myself weighing 300 pounds after a year-long diet consisting of nothing but three of these a day, fat and sweating and glistening with grease extruded through the pores, shunned by all except the dogs that gather to lick my fingers after I have finished with the first pass, and I thought: it would be worth it.

Good pizza.
The guy who doesn't think Harold Pinter is so great is having an orgasm over frozen pizza.

You can't reason with people like this. Best to pull out of Minnesota now and let their warring tribes (The tribe of Frozen Geno's East versus the tribe of Frozen Tree Tavern, perhaps) fight it out for supremacy.

UPDATE. Gavin at Sadly No says This Shall Not Stand.
SHORTER JAMES G. POULOS. Better people should starve than be helped by unbelievers, who annoy me terribly.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

SOCIAL REALIST. I've said previously that I prefer artful documentaries like Fast, Cheap, and Out of Control to overtly propagandistic ones like An Inconvenient Truth. Some of my commenters in that instance made the sound point that there's a place for films that are in essence propaganda for under-acknowledged truths; my only answer to that was and is that whatever the social utility of such films may be, they don't serve the purpose of art. The preservation of the icecaps may take precedence over the preservation of aesthetic standards, but I like to think we can have both.

I think what Michael Moore does is sui generis and has aspects of both documentary forms. Clearly it's propaganda: Moore lets his opinions and prescriptions hang out. And he's not above pulling the gimp string to lead you to his conclusions. But he makes movies, not animated slide-shows. He talks causes, but he shows effects -- human effects that engage viewers on a level beyond the political.

Roger & Me, for example, is a great ground-level portrait of capitalism gone feral and the resulting disintegration of a community. The vignettes of depraved money-men and deprived citizens, and the gulf between them, comprised more than a object lesson; it was a story to break your heart. To say Moore's Flint, Michigan is a filmmaker's creation -- as much as was Capra's Bedford Falls and Pottersville -- is not to deny the reality of what happened there, but to acknowledge the success of Moore's art.

Up till SiCKO, I thought that Moore had been regressing a bit artistically. There's a lot to like in Bowling for Columbine and Fahrenheit 911, but the issues in each case are so large that the human consequences tend to get ground up by them. Even as I was moved by the anguish of Lila Lipscomb, and enraged by the obliviousness of Charlton Heston, I resented the use of them as ways of bringing it all back home, so to speak, at the climax of those films. It seemed to me as if American gun culture and the Iraq invasion needed so much explanation -- and they got compelling explanations in both cases -- that the people who suffered from them got short shrift. It was as if the scope of Moore's agenda interfered with his stories.

The American health care mess is another huge subject, and SiCKO takes the time to tell us what's wrong with it. But Moore has found an ingenious way to tell his story -- which turns out to be only coincidentally about health care.

There are the expected hard cases and historical background. We learn about people killed or doomed to poverty by our system, and the perverse financial incentives responsible. (And boy, just when you thought there wasn't anything more to hate about Nixon...)

But there aren't a lot of "gotcha" ambush moments. Instead, halfway through the film Moore seems to abandon the litany of despair to go to other countries where we meet people who are well-served by their systems, because their governments acknowledge that health care is a human right. And hearing their stories, and especially observing their lives outside the hospitals and clinics, we come to realize that health care is only part of the difference. What's remarkable (and sometimes infuriating) about these subjects' attitudes is that they take their superior care for granted. They expect more from their governments than we do -- and, the film implies, that's why they have it and we don't.

Even hostile reviewers seem to pick up on this. The claim by National Review's Rich Lowry that Moore is "the Riefenstahl of socialism" is hysterical but telling. Lowry is acknowledging the power of SiCKO's real story -- the story of a civilized world that, in some important ways, has left America behind, not by dint of socialism but by a different understanding of what the old Labourite Tony Benn calls by its right name: democracy.

SiCKO strikes me an inspired bit of Social Realism -- not my favorite genre (being an old-fashioned American, I prefer "me" stories to "we" stories) but at its best (Clifford Odets and Diego Rivera) it's got the force of true art. As to Moore's policy prescriptions, I leave it to him to defend them -- he clearly doesn't need anyone's help. But he did make a very good movie.

Friday, July 13, 2007

THE STUPIDEST THING EVER WRITTEN UNTIL JONAH GOLDBERG WRITES SOMETHING ELSE. Matthew Yglesias points out, rightly, that it was the actions of liberals, not of libertarians, that got the Civil Rights Act passed. Jonah Goldberg adjusts his toga and responds:
What's refreshing about this is that Yglesias is honestly and correctly admitting that liberals have no problem imposing their morality on others via a powerful and intrusive state. I wish that most liberals were as honest...

Liberals and progressives before them wrote the book on social engineering and even the most comstockish Republicans are pale imitators.
To restate, simply: Goldberg and his cheerleader Glenn Reynolds think that ensuring the voting rights of black people is "imposing morality," before which such conservative ideas as, say, making abortion and contraception illegal "pale" in comparison.

In the immortal words of Woody Allen, I don't think his spinal cord reaches his brain.
NEGROPHOBIA. NAACP invites Republicans to debate, only Tom Tancredo shows up. If they can't face down Tavis Smiley, how're they going to handle Osama?
OUR CHANGING WORLD.Ole Perfesser Glenn Reynolds on the firefighters who are fighting back against Giulianification:
RUDY GIULIANI: Not so much Swiftboated as Dan Rathered?

Between this and the silly stuff about Fred Thompson, Democrats are looking more nervous about 2008 than you'd expect.
A rightwing college perfesser denounces goddamn liberal firefighters! This is truly an age of marvels.

Neither the Perfesser nor his linkee indicates awareness that New York City firefighters do not need Hillary Clinton's help to hate the son of a bitch Giuliani. Background here and here.

Oh, and if anyone is prevaricating about the love of firefighters, it's Giuliani. As is so often the case, fluffers of conservative bully-boys grow most accusatory when they're chin-deep in their own bullshit.

Still, it is nice to see that just repeating the numbers "nine" and "eleven" won't get you into electoral heaven anymore -- not without a fight, anyway. And that's my positive thinking for the week! Enjoy the mood swing while it lasts!

Thursday, July 12, 2007

THEY'RE KIND OF CUTE WHEN THEY'RE MAD, LIKE THAT LOLCAT THAT SEZ "GET OFF MY LAWN"! Dean Esmay pleads with readers to help stock his library of snappy comebacks to anti-war questions:
After five years of repeating these facts, I've completely lost patience with doing it yet again for friends like Ali. Would some kind soul please, please, PLEASE sign up for this wiki and provide the documentation so I don't have to do it yet again???

Because I have a life, and problems of my own, and I just can't make myself do it all yet again. For the umpteenth time.

You've swallowed a bunch of Americaphobic garbage, Ali. Saddam was not our guy. We did not arm him. He was not our tool or our puppet. We didn't give him tons of money. And if you show me one more time (as so many have) how Donald Rumsfeld shook Saddamn's hand on one occasion, I'll give you 50 of Harry Truman and Franklin Roosevelt shaking Stalin's hand.
Because we didn't have anything to do with Uncle Joe during the Second World War. It was like he never existed. We just woke up one morning and found a receipt for Eastern Europe. WTF?
I'm tired of having to answer the Americaphobes. I really am. My patience for it is at an end.
And yet he goes on writing! That shows dedication, or something.
HMMM, MAYBE I'LL GO SEE THAT MICHAEL MOORE MOVIE AFTER ALL. Andrew Stuttaford (usually described as "The Second-Least-Mad One" in National Review's publicity materials) quotes a tipster's news report that "almost one in ten patients in Scottish hospitals is suffering from an infection such as MRSA, a survey suggested yesterday." Stuttaford titles the post "Sicko" (get it?) and his correspondent says that the socialistic Scottish hospitals compare poorly on this score with those in a privatized hospital chain.

I have an even better idea. Let's compare the Scot Soc hospital to our own free-market germ centers:
Groundbreaking Report Shows Alarming MRSA Infection Rates At U.S. Hospitals...

SAN JOSE, Calif., June 25 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Consumers Union called on hospitals today to take more aggressive steps to protect patients from Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infections in light of a new study showing that the superbug is much more common in hospitals than previous estimates had indicated. The consumer group also urged states to require hospitals to report their infection rates, including how many patients are acquiring MRSA during treatment.
(That's the differece between us and the Socialists, I guess: we hide, or don't trouble to find out, our MRSA infection rates -- which course of treatment, studies show, instills a feeling of security and well-being in our health-care industry.)
The report released by the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC) found that MRSA infections are 8.6 times more prevalent than previous estimates and that the antibiotic-resistant bacteria is found in all wards throughout most hospitals. The APIC study is the first nationwide analysis on the prevalence of MRSA in U.S. healthcare facilities. It is based on data collected from more than 1,200 hospitals in all 50 states...

Hospital-acquired infections caused by Staphylococcus aureus, or "staph," are among the most common and the problem is clearly growing. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 1974, only two percent of staph infections in health care settings were MRSA; by 1995, the percentage was 22 percent; and by 2004, nearly 63 percent of all staph infections in healthcare settings were MRSA...
Good thing Stuttaford didn't see this first, or he'd be telling us that MRSA is really no big deal and that anyone who tells you different is trying to scare you off capitalism.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

AND HOW COULD I EVER REFUSE? I FEEL LIKE I WIN WHEN I LOSE. Like all culture warriors, Ross Douhat likes to bitch about smutty pop art ("the next thing you know Aniston is parading naked through the apartment, showing off her waxed . . . well, you know... I think we're crossing a pretty significant threshold with the waxing phenomenon"). But he also has the temperment of a consensus builder, and takes pains to find anti-waxing allies among liberals, as when he praises Thomas Frank and "a left-wing assault on thongs and other pieces of slut-wear."

Working the other side of the street, Douthat is slightly more interesting. To his rightwing brethren, he has even made the sensible suggestion that "cultural conservatives would do well to roll up their sleeves and start writing some entertaining television shows and movies and books of their own. People will watch them, read them, love them, be changed by them..."

Alas, perhaps sensing that such an outcome is unlikely -- at least until the AEI starts giving grants to stand-up comics and playwrights -- Douthat devotes most of his choir-preaching to celebrating signs that the filthy-dirty culture yet contains nuggets of conservative truth, as when he posited "Sex & The City" as a testimony to "the resilience of poor battered old heterosexual monogamy." (One wonders how this revelation would impact Sex & The City tourism. Not much, I expect.)

This is Douthat's approach in his recent essay for the religious-conservative First Things. Rather than summon the faithful to develop conservative cable-TV shows, he tells his readers, first, to admit defeat in the small battle over nudity and obscenity:
Today those battles are all but finished, and the religious side has lost...

The result is the unrestrained and unrestrainable popular culture of today, where every concept, no matter how lowbrow or how vile, can find a platform and an audience...

Small wonder that America’s movies and music and television shows make us enemies in traditional societies around the world—and small wonder, too, that many cultural conservatives, despairing of their country’s future, embrace withdrawal from the world into a narrow, well-defended Christendom, where their families and their faith can be protected from the lowest-common-denominator swill that washes against the walls outside.
But hold, hold, the gnashing of teeth and rending of garments, for even among the swears and tits Douthat knows that his Redeemer liveth:
For all its profanity and blasphemy, the new culture arguably takes religious issues and debates more seriously than it used to in a more decent, less decadent era...

True, God has to compete with Paris Hilton and Family Guy for attention. But at least He’s in there fighting.
Thence comes -- along with citations of Samuel Huntington and the Holy Bible -- a rundown of TV shows that Douthat expects to please his co-religionists because they are, in his estimation, morally tethered. For example:
The Sopranos dares instead to explore the terrible banality of evil, depicting ordinary people held prisoner by their habits and appetites who choose hell instead of heaven over and over again, not with a satanic flourish but with an all-American sense of entitlement... The show offers a vision of hell as repetition, ultimately, in which the same pattern of choices (to take drugs, to eat and drink to excess, to rob and steal and bully and murder) always reasserts itself, and the chain mail of damnation—in which no sin is an island, and gluttony is linked to violence, sloth to greed, and so on—slowly forges itself around the characters’ souls...
As far as it goes, this analysis is not objectionable. But why, despite Douthat's use of loaded terms such as "heaven," "hell," and "satanic" (why the small "s"? Doesn't Douthat believe in Satan?), could it not be shared by someone who doesn't go to church, but still believes in right and wrong? What makes it an argument against a John Edwards Presidency -- or anyone else's? What is "The Sopranos" position on abortion, evolution, gay marriage, or anything else that interests the readership of First Things?

I should be giving Douthat consensus-building credit for expanding the definition of "cultural conservatives" to mean "everyone who likes popular TV shows." Only I expect that Douthat has it backwards -- that he takes "everyone who likes popular TV shows" to be "cultural conservatives," and that he also believes that these shows are part of Divine guidance toward a new Great Awakening.

As I have repeated unto tedium, the problem with ideologues who engage the arts is that they do not know what art is. They're like the Six Blind Men of Hindustan: they "see" it as a hammer for smashing their enemies, a barometer for judging the political climate, etc., and their interpretive ecstasies prevent them from appreciating its simple and essential blessings.
The struggle between good and evil, freedom and enslavement is, of course, an eternal literary theme. Still, one can't help but notice the astonishing manner in which Gordon Brown has taken a page directly from Harry Potter — and the just released film of Book Seven, at that. Specifically, Brown's strong desire not to call Islamic terrorism by name echoes the insistence of the head of the Wizard government, the Minister of Magic, Cornelius Fudge — to refer to their mortal enemy, Voldemort, as "he who must not be named." So, even greater kudos to J.K. Rowling, who understood back in the 90's that the world's youth needed a rousing tale of heroism in the face of evil...
Schiffren, it should be noted, is also the author of this classic 2003 article about Commander Flightsuit subtitled, "Women voters agree: President Bush is a hottie!" In other words, she is stupid for a living.
RAISING THE LEVEL AND TENOR OF DEBATE. The great minds at National Review's The Corner agree: gay people are teh gay. On the Democrats' upcoming GLBT debate, Lisa Schiffren observes that not all of the Party's constituents are down with the gay agenda, and then, seemingly unable to control herself, female-ejaculates: "How do you keep the coalition together when it gets this personal and icky?" One imagines she does not find, say, conflicts over nuclear energy policy "icky," unless the protons are having sex with other protons.

With two (count 'em two) posts Jonah Goldberg outdoes Schiffren, himself, and a think tank working tirelessly for years to develop a new kind of stupid.

First, Goldberg the Political Strategerist:
Whatever the merits of such a debate, isn't the rational hope of every partisan Republican that the candidates pander relentlessly to the audience. If they pander the way they did by at the black debate, there are going to be some precious soundbites left for the general election.
Yeah, folks are already up in arms that the Democrats were nice to black people, and if we get soundbites of them being nice to gay people, that'd be almost as sweet as chock-o-mut ice creams. Maybe one of the gay people should be Muslim! Is Donald Segretti still alive?

Next, Goldberg the Just Plain Asshole:
Not that I'm endorsing it, but how long until some blogger photoshops the Dem candidates into the guys from the Village People? I say it happens by lunchtime, if it hasn't already.
I wonder if, when he sees this sort of thing, William Buckley sighs and thinks of nights at Bohemian Grove with Malcolm Forbes.

UPDATE. Mark Noonan of Blogs for Bush cues the scary music: this debate is all about Dem lust for Chelsea Gold ("greed for the large amounts of ready cash the gay community can dispense for political campaigns"). In a surprising twist, Noonan offers manly man-love to the gay voter:
For my fellow Americans who are gay -- I just advise you how Bill Clinton treated your cause in 1993 after you went flat out for him in 1992. You will be betrayed again, if you are fool enough to back Democrats in 2008. True, we conservative Christians might not seem the logical home for you, but you do know where we stand, we are ready to compromise and we will never, ever betray you. You might want to think about that as you watch the debate, and make your donation and voting choices.
So here's the deal, faggots: you vote Republican, and in return we agree to stun you with a sharp blow to the head before throwing you on the bonfire. You know we're good for it -- whenever we screamed "DIE HOMO" at you, we were always 100% sincere.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

NEXT WEEK: THAT JACOBIN BASTARD JEFFERSON AND HIS SO-CALLED "RIGHTS." I see Pejman Yousefzadeh, like many another rightwing idiot in recent days, has become suddenly outraged by that bastard FDR. (Thanks to John Holbo for the tip.) Yousefzadeh's commenters have leapt in, full of Bircher brio ("Roosevelt was good at one thing, political machinations, aided by no limitation on ethics... even before Yalta..."); soon I'm sure the forum will resemble one of those Free Republic President's Day threads where Southrons and other assorted loons traditionally assail that bastard Lincoln.

My instincts tell me that this whole Roosevelt thing has been in the rightwing propaganda pipeline for some time -- that the plan was to start circulating a demonic vision of FDR as soon as there weren't enough Greatest Generation types left alive to refute it, thus removing one more cultural impediment to the corporate glibertarian paradise toward which all their labors are devoted.

But it is surely a tribute to the comic timing of the Universe that this meme was released just as Americans were starting to drift left on social issues, thanks to Republican incompetence. One can only imagine the reaction of citizens who -- having witnessed the unpleasant result of untrammelled conservative approaches to natural disaster, war, and social resources -- open their paper to find the same numbskulls who prescribed that poison medicine now declaring, "You know what was a bad idea? Social Security!"

BTW, I see another homo-hatin', childbirth-forcin', Republican cracker asshole has been caught with prostitutes. O Life Force, keep them cosmic jokes a-comin'!
DREAM FACTORY. I see Reihan Salam has amplified the old "More bad Muslims in thrillers" demand, waving The Sum of All Fears as his bloody shirt. It seems to escape the notice of such people that Hollywood is not a branch of the Federal Government.

No one has been able to explain to my satisfaction why the vast wealth of rightwing moguls cannot address what they imagine to be a crying national need. If Reverend Moon is still averse to moviemaking after Inchon, so much the worse for him. Let the folks who raised $360 million for Bush in 2004 dig a little deeper and finance the movies they want other people to make. Sam Goldwyn used to sell gloves, for crying out loud.

Whatever became of personal responsibility?

UPDATE. I see that Michael Fumento visited World O' Crap and suggested that WOC proprietor Scott, I, and a bunch of others who found him ridiculous "all split a gut laughing when those Twin Towers fell." No, asshole, as a New Yorker I did not find the slaughter of thousands of my fellow citizens humorous. And at first I treated ghouls such as yourself who battened on their deaths as objects of horror. But after a few years I learned to take you less seriously. How long can a man scream epithets in a cemetery before he loses the status of outrage and devolves into a figure of fun?

Sunday, July 08, 2007

SHUT UP AND EAT YOUR POPCORN. Andrew Sullivan and Matthew Yglesias have already addressed this latest call for "Hollywood" to make propaganda movies for the War on Whatchamacallit. I feel obliged to add that author Michael Fumento is hardly the first conservative to make such demands. And this bit from Fumento's article helps demonstrate the central fallacy of their reasoning:
If I'm mistaken and there have been movies in which Islamists where the bad guys, please let me know. (If so, I'll bet they went straight to video.)
Maybe Fumento believes there's a Hollywood Central Committee that sends all anti-Islamist films straight to video. In real life, films bypass theatrical release when they can't find the backing for it. People who put movies on screens expect to see a return on their investment.

If the wisdom of the marketplace means anything to conservatives -- and they constantly tell us that it does -- you'd think they'd understand that an absence of war propaganda films indicates that few people wish to bet money on them. Fumento notes that "Hollywood went to war" in the Forties, but that was a time of greater centralization in all areas of American life, with the government at the apex -- not generally a conservative idea of Utopia. Would Fumento enjoy a new Office of War Information with a Bureau of Motion Pictures -- or a new version of the Creel Committee of World War I? Not with a Democratic Administration in office, I'll bet.

So, instead of government-issue rah-rah, we get movies based on Disneyland rides and Hasbro toys. That's capitalism, comrade. If you want Fallujah Diary, get Rupert Murdoch or Richard Mellon Scaife to finance it for you.

Friday, July 06, 2007

SHORTER BEN STEIN: George W. Bush may be a friendless failure, but you have to admit that he helped his buddy evade justice.

(Lots of howlers in this piece of shit -- for a good refutation of Stein's absurd portrayal of the Libby case, see here -- but I especially love this part: "In a simple phrase, once again, [Bush] did the right thing regardless of cost." That "cost," as it always is with Bush, being zero.)
THE FUTURE OF GIULIANI MARKETING. Though they forgot to mention what a great husband and father he is.

SPEAKING OF KULTUR KOPS: "Less than a month after the dedication of the Victims of Communism Memorial in Washington, D.C., the National Museum of Women in the Arts is opening a new exhibit on Frida Kahlo. She was, of course, an unrepentant Stalinist... This isn't an art exhibit -- it's a shrine, to a woman in the thrall of a murderous ideology."

This latest hackwork is by National Review's John J. Miller, author of "The Top 50 Conservative Rock Songs."

I've said it before and I'll say it again: for these loathsome people, there is no art -- only propaganda they haven't spun yet.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

AND IF PRINCESS LEIA MET ME FOR REALS, I BET SHE WOULD REALLY, REALLY LIKE ME. Ridiculous Pseudonym at the Liberty Film Festival site recommends a new film with strong political content:
The films politics are decidedly pro-American, pro-military, and even *gasp* pro-freedom. [The director's] affection for the American military is obvious in every scene they’re in. They are uniformly portrayed as heroic, extremely competent, selfless, and even kind to Arab children. The theme of the film is spoken out loud more than once: No sacrifice, no victory...

...after all the relativist junk we’ve been suffering through, it does mean something to watch the fight for freedom portrayed with valor, good and evil distinguished, and the dreaded-until-needed military industrial complex save the day.

Am I complimenting the film’s politics because I agree with them? Maybe. Regardless, the world view presented in Tranformers is more than just one that I happen agree with, it’s...
No, that wasn't a typo. He's actually talking about that movie based on Hasbro dolls for boys as if it were Letter to Jane.

It may be that Ridic Pseud is playing a propaganda game: say that a sure-fire hit is pro-Bush, and then claim its inevitable success is a confirmation of Republican policies. That's the charitable interpretation. More likely, he's just the kind of guy who watches Citizen Kane with his fists clenched, outraged at its portrayal of big business.

UPDATE. John Rogers, Transformers screenwriter and proprietor of Kung Fu Monkey, tries to explain reality to the Liberty Film Fest guys, a noble if misguided effort.

UPDATE II.Ridic Pseud challenges Rogers and his fellow liberals to make the kind of movies Ridic Pseud wants to see, which would prove their patriotism. Pseud's commenters talk about how all liberals are traitors anyway, and there is an interesting debate about whether evil liberal filmmakers use shots of bad characters wearing crucifixes (aka "The Scene") to corrupt our youth, or whether the actors insist on wearing the crosses, a decision which directors apparently cannot override. One learns so much from these insider reports!

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

LILEKS GOES SURREALIST. After six post-Nineeleven Fourths of July, prairie content provider James Lileks is tired of fantasizing about dusky hordes coming here to blow things up, so he fantasizes instead about Englishmen going to Africa to blow things up.
There’s probably a statue of Cecil Rhodes somewhere. Who knows what instructive lessons could be imparted if they blew it up with a few hundred complicit Londoners, of course, just to put a period on the point. Surely they know there are a few score scribes in the West itching to pound out a bitter screed about Legacies Coming Home, and the fact that we bloody well had it coming.
I have no idea what this means. Nor am I so sure about this --
The future, however, contain a very big question, and it’s not one we haven’t faced before: together, or apart? Except now the terms have been redefined: “together” implies that we must throw our weight in with a portion of the world that seems intellectually incapable of apprehending the concept of a greater foe, and takes refuge in the dream of “disaffected” or “disenfranchised” physicians disconnected from a greater meme. “Apart” has come to mean we define our culture in opposition to another, and confront it with values we truly believe to be superior, and do so with full knowledge of our own flaws. Yesterday was the anniversary of Gettysburg, a day in which the divisions were horrible and bloody, and had to be hammered out to make the great experiment whole again. Rent apart, we had to work our way back to the whole. This is different. We have to come together, in order that we may stand apart, and defend the things in which we believe.
-- but I think he either means he and his buddies need to win a civil war against us liberals before they can go kill more Muslims, or he and his buddies want us to help them kill Muslims, and when they're all killed, then they'll kill us.

In any event, seldom have I seen a less enticing call for unity. Can't he at least say there'll be cake?
WORLD'S WORST SPEECHWRITER. "Armed Liberal" Marc Danziger writes the acceptance speech that he thinks the next Democratic Presidential nominee should give at the Convention. As you might expect from the Iraq War bitter-ender, it is hilariously wrong. Here is my favorite part:
I'm very concerned about nuclear attacks - especially one that can't be readily traced back - on U.S. soil, or on the soil of one of our Western allies...

I want to make it clear that any detonation or attempt to detonate a nuclear weapon on the soil of the US or any NATO or SEATO ally which involves a weapon whose origin we cannot readily trace will be considered to have come from North Korea or Iran. This is potentially an existential matter for the leadership of those countries.
The Democratic nominee for President basically tells the American people "Heads up for global nuclear war." I smell landslide!
LOOK, HERE'S MORE OF THE SORT OF THING I WAS TALKING ABOUT IN THE PREVIOUS POST. WHAT A GREAT COUNTRY! At National Review, Mark Steyn and Michael Ledeen celebrate Independence Day by moping over how foiled terrorist attacks don't seem to bend people to their will anymore. Steyn -- who perhaps, being Canadian, started drinking early -- delivers this stupendous graf:
The Arabization of Islam and the Islamization of Europe provide an ever bigger comfort zone for the bad guys to operate in. Substantial numbers of British Muslims share the same goals as the terrorists: they wish one day to live under Islamic law in the United Kingdom. The Gordon Browns of this world will huff and puff that they'll never give in to the "men of violence", while incrementally making the very same concessions to the men of non-violence.
Apparently these Gordon Browns are incredibly crafty: talking tough to criminals, but making "the very same concessions" (?) to people who have committed no crimes! Is there nothing this Prime Minister won't do to ensure dhimmitude? Next I suppose he'll be saying all citizens can vote!

Ledeen is even better, condemning Brown's "obvious intent... to reduce the whole unpleasantness to a policing problem, which is what they did with the I.R.A..." Yeah, Britain should have handled the RA like we did Nineeleven: by invading suspected suppliers of aid and comfort to their enemy, whose citizens kept slipping over their mutual borders -- namely, Queens, New York! I would have loved to see Representative Peter King with a pint in one hand and a shillelagh in the other, fighting off the Anglo pigs.

Then Ledeen actually (through the agency of a correspondent) reverts to a conservative pick-me-up that I haven't seen in some time: a scene from Dirty Harry, followed by analysis ("The Left doesn't get this of course because Marxist materialism denies belief systems altogether, so they therefore must assume that all human behavior is derived from economic determinism.")

I don't know why people are so worried about dhimmitude; dummitude is obviously the clearer and more present danger.
HAPPY FOURTH. Kathryn Jean Lopez conducts a forum at The Corner about whether or not today's Google masthead is patriotic enough. This sort of thing reminds me of why I love America: here, even the hopelessly retarded may find a place in the sun, and sometimes even a sinecure.

Thank God America is, as the old Heinz ketchup commercials uses to say, thick and rich! And may she remain so till the end of my natural lifespan. After that, I leave the mess to you folks and the robot Glenn Reynolds. (PS, and I plan to gobble up your tax dollars as I slide into blissful senescence, too, thanks to that statist bastard FDR! Libertarians, kiss my ass and so long, suckers!)

I will celebrate the Founding with some Vicodin and the traditional playing of my favorite patriotic music. Ready to go, willin' to stay and pay -- U.S.A.! U.S.A.!

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

GRIZZLY, MAN. As previously reported, a recent surgery has diminished my mobility, which will prevent my July 4 attendance upon Rescue Dawn. I'll get to it soon enough, I guess, but I would have liked to give Werner Herzog, hero of my youth, a box-office vote on the occasion of his first big-ticket American opening since Nosferatu. I have been astonished to see a TV ad, as well as a full-blown Hollywood website, employed on the film's behalf, and that both give the impression of a two-fisted adventure flick with lush, heroic music and derring-do -- especially as I understand Rescue Dawn to be based on the source material for Herzog's more modest Little Dieter Wants to Fly.

If this gets over, I look forward to many more transformations of vintage Herzog films into major motion pictures:

Kaspar, starring Adam Sandler as the lovably retarded Kaspar Hauser, whose discovery at a local shopping mall brings lessons in life and love to the inhabitants of a Southern California suburb. Kaspar confounds the local gentry with his whimsical observations, as when he tells a pompous professor (Gore Vidal) he's "kinda like a tree frog" and blows his cheeks out and farts. Drew Barrymore provides love interest; Tom Waits shines as Kaspar's piano-playing sidekick, and provides the theme song, "Rum Toddy Rum Toddy Rum Toddy Rum."

Heart of Cheese. Residents of a mythical mountain village that has lost its life-sustaining formula for ruby glass learn to create new lives for themselves as makers of artisanal cheeses, fabricators of granite counter-tops, and tour guides, under the guidance of a mysterious stranger played by Tom Hanks. Controversial ending reveals that the village is actually Scranton, Pennsylvania. Cameo by Lars von Trier as a derelict who runs around screaming angrily at everyone in Danish.

Buckman, The Wrath of God, starring Robin Williams as a zany suburban dad who loads his complaining family into an RV and takes them on a madcap trip to the depths of the Amazonian jungle, acquiring along the way quirky native guides George Lopez and Carlos Mencia.

My Best Fiend. Jack Nicholson as Klaus Kinski butts heads with John Krasinski as Werner Herzog, a hapless Gen-Y video director adrift until the holy fool Kinski gives his life meaning. Sample dialogue: HERZOG -- Come on, Klaus, this is crazy. I don't want to shoot you. KINSKI -- Yes! Oh, yes, that's EXACTLY what I want! Shoot me! Shoot me now, you stupid fuck! HERZOG -- Okay, look, you're acting just like like... KINSKI -- Like what? Like WHAT? Say it, you spineless little shit! Say what's in your heart! SAY IT! HERZOG -- OKAY LIKE MY DAD! OKAY? YOU WANNA BE MY DAD? WELL, THERE ARE TWO BULLETS IN THIS GUN, DAD! ONE FOR YOU AND ONE FOR THIS PRODUCTION! (breaks down, weeps) KINSKI -- (kisses his forehead) Okay! Oooooh-kay! I think I see some potential in you, Herzog! Now (claps him on the shoulder)-- let's get ourselves some syphilitic prostitutes!

Even Dwarfs Started Small, starring Wee Man, with the rest of the Jackass regulars performing with shoes attached to their knees. Pint-sized crooks have king-size fun tormenting the president of their institution, the Billy Barty Correctional Facility for Little Criminals, with shopping-cart races and human slingshots. Extra laughs come in the end credits, showing Herzog's leap into a cactus and subsequent death. Last words: "No, iz better zis way."
I think I'm giving up on FoxNews. The channel has become far too aggressively lowbrow, stupid, and carnival-barker-ish for my tastes. My tastes aren't exactly elevated, but I do have limits, and FoxNews has violated mine.

Almost every time I have the channel on I feel stupid, because it's so clearly chasing the stupid demographic. And I'm not part of that demographic, and do not wish to be treated as part of that demographic.

Maybe this is how it's been getting ratings all along and I never noticed. Well, I'm noticing now.
Next week, another illusion shattered as Mr. Spades steps on a crack, then calls his mom to see if she's alright.

Monday, July 02, 2007

HOPE FOR AMERICA'S FUTURE. Mark Krikorian, one of National Review's foremost immigrant haters, files a report on an anti-foreigner roundtable he attended:
We were talking about how schools no longer do much of a job of patriotically Americanizing anyone, American kids or immigrant kids. I noted that limiting immigration was necessary in such an environment because, however poorly the schools are doing in this regard, American kids at least inherit a certain amount of American-ness from their parents, whereas immigrant parents are bringing their kids to school specifically to be Americanized.
I like to imagine these immigrant parents picking their kids up after school and asking, "So, Little Majmuna, what did you learn today about America?" "I learned to fight the patriarchy," replies Little Majmuna, "and oral sex."
Linda Chavez disagreed, saying that the level of future immigration is irrelevant because, without rolling back multiculturalism and racialism in society in general and the schools in particular, the grandchildren of today's Americans will be no more American than the grandchildren of today's immigrants.
No more American than the grandchildren of today's immigrants? But we've got to have some advantages! I know: how about we be much, much bigger assholes?
THE FUN NEVER STOPS WITH THE FUN FACTORY. I'm recovering from ACL surgery, and so have time to retrace old steps. Wuzzadem, I thought -- haven't visited it in a while; is it still nuts? Why, yes, yes it is: here Wuzzadem correspondent "Mrs. R" denounces a movie (which she hasn't seen, natch, as per the Kultur Kop protocol) in which liberals save baby seals or something:
Redford, plays the wise and ruggedly denim-clad professor who does his best to dissuade a young student from leaving school to join the military.

"Rome is burning, son. The problem is not with the people who started this..."

"The problem is with us. All of us..."

"Do nothing."

Ah, yes, do nothing. Sound advice for any occasion, especially ones involving wild-eyed jihadists wielding meat cleavers and rocket launchers.
A quick look at the web clip which provides Mrs. R's sole point of reference shows that Redford says "All of us who do nothing." Regrettably none of her readers play Jane Curtin to Mrs. R's Emily Litella, instead joining in her full-throated roars against the filth shown at the Sundance Festival.

Later Mrs. R notices news of a carjacking and declares, "When the Rule of Law Breaks Down... The public is no longer safe. Period." Not sure what she means: Los Angeles is in a state of anarchy? Liberals hijack cars? Maybe the carjacker was on his way to the Sundance Festival. It's awfully hard to tell.

That was fun. Maybe later I'll drop by Roger L. Simon's place.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

BETRAYAL. In 2003, back when he was calling us all traitors, Andrew Sullivan suggested that Bush might be Winston Churchill:
The truth is and we may as well admit it: we have failed to convince the world, just as Churchill failed to convince the world in the 1930s. And as 9/11 recedes a little, we are even tempted to falter in this dreadful analysis ourselves. The difference between now and the 1930s, of course, is that we may now have Churchill in office - but before the world has become convinced of his rectitude...
(Sorry for the secondary sourcing, but it has become very difficult to find Sullivan's pro-war posts online.)

Today, Sullivan says Bush is "The [Neville] Chamberlain of Our Time," and that Churchill is "Bush's nemesis."

Bush's current unpopularity among his erstwhile fans is worthy of note. Only 61 percent of Republicans currently approve of his performance -- per Fox News, "the lowest rating ever among this group." But even more telling is the high-level defections among his top print and web supporters.

To take only the two most egregious examples, Glenn Reynolds, who still thinks the war's going great, seldom has a kind word for the man who made it happen anymore. In 2004 Peggy Noonan swooned that warrior king Bush had two testicles, but when it became clear that the Democrats would sweep in 2006, she accused him of betraying conservatism.

It may be that they understand something Bush clearly understands: reputation, legacy, all of that junk can go hang so long as the money rolls in.

Think about Colin Powell, once arguably the most respected man in the United States. In 2003 Bush sent Powell to the U.N. with a bunch of fuzzy pictures and a scary story to sell the Iraq War. That nonsense being now exposed, Powell's a joke. No one's ever going to talk about him running for President again.

Like a lot of other people, Powell has mildly turned on the Bushies. But like the late protestations of Sullivan, Reynolds, and Noonan, Powell's gripes count for nothing but a bit of post-facto positioning, a quick step into a doorway just as the dawn breaks.

Because no one involved in this chicanery is losing money. The War has been a cash cow for its instigators, as Halliburton Watch daily shows. Hell, even Katrina was a gold mine for Kellogg Brown and Root. The Administration's widespread privatization of what were once government services has made it easier than ever to line the pockets of pals and contributors.

Everyone knows this by now, and still the patty-fingers goes on, because no one has either the jam or the guts to really take them down. Cheney's legal dodges are now legendary, yet the Congressional Democrats stumble around them like the officers of Reno 911.

Americans will recall this Adminstration without fondness, if they remember it at all. But so what? The Treasury's been looted, and the government crippled. We don't remember George Bush the First fondly either, yet he and his son still have their fortune, and when the hurley-burley's done they'll still have Kennebunkport, or Paraguay, while Cheney will spend his remaining centuries cryogenically frozen in a man-sized safe, emerging only for septuple-bypass operations and quail hunts.

And their onetime enablers, journalistic or otherwise, will give them the Nixon treatment. They'll quietly accede to the general negative opinion, while striking up the band for someone exactly like them.
OH, DON -- MUST I REMIND YOU THAT WE'RE GODLESS? Don Surber notes that an Anglican bishop has called recent flooding in Britain "the consequences of our moral degradation, as well as the environmental damage that we have caused." (The padre also blames homosexuals, natch.)

Give Surber credit: You and I and a hundred monkeys typing for a thousand years would never come up with his analysis, "Will Gore and Obama embrace these religious leaders?"
Well, that makes as much sense as blaming someone who drives an SUV, flies in a Gulfstream jet or consumes 12 to 20 times the electricity a normal person uses — all of which Gore does.

Same principle: Man’s actions lead to global catastrophe. If there is one consistency over the millenia it is that doomsayers blame natural disasters on man’s self-indulgence.
Gore suggests that spewing pollutants into the air causes environmental damage; "doomsayers" suggest God is angry and is smiting us. That's a false equivalence a bright 12-year-old could tear to shreds without taking his eyes off his video game.

Amazingly, the post gets worse. Obama is cited because he's in favor of Democrats reaching out to religious people. No, I'm not kidding. Then Surber's analysis turns theological: "I suspect this won’t happen. There is a cafeteria approach to religion in America: I’ll take this edict, this commandment and that sin, but not those." So, it would seem, only the fecklessness of the faithful stands in the way of consensus between the Democrats and the Get-Ready Man. Finally Surber decides to drop some science on all you tree-hugging peaceniks:
By the way, the Sun’s activity is the biggest factor in Earth’s temperature. Lots of luck trying to stop solar flares and the like.
Ha ha! You fools! We're all doomed anyway!

Somewhere former Republican Presidential contender Pat Robertson is laughing his ass off.

Friday, June 29, 2007

NEO-RACISM. My favorite line in the Neo-Neocon post about the Supreme Court's resegregation decision:
I’m not suggesting we go back to the days of segregation, or that we ban legal immigrants. But...
You'll be hearing many such "buts" in days to come. You'll also hear a lot of references to the Robert Putnam study, mentioned by Neo-Neo and in this Rod Dreher post, which is interpreted by them to mean that people are uncomfortable with people who don't look like them and that's a good reason not to integrate.

In fact, the Putnam study may replace The Bell Curve as the Bible of folks who don't like to be around black people but are uncomfortable using the earthier explanations of George Wallace and Bull Connor. They'll take theirs with some social science, thanks.

PS -- Fans of the genre will recognize Neo-Neo's reminiscences of the Black Table in her college dining hall as a classic of the form. Maybe next time she'll touch on the condition of stores in a black neighborhood versus the condition of stores in Beverly Hills.

UPDATE. Rush Limbaugh weighs in:
I think the left is trying to destroy the distinct American culture, and I think all the forced busing and the race-based quotas, affirmative action, is designed to create agitation among people... So the idea, the whole premise here that diversity works, that diversity -- and you know that that's a huge liberal premise. They love this, because they love victims, and they love minorities and they want to punish majorities, wherever and whoever they are. And because the majority, they fear has the right to hang with who they want to hang with, buy what they want to buy, to do what they want to do, it's just not right. So they want them to have misery in their lives as well...
..."misery" meaning, it would seem, the presence of black people. One wonders why he neglected to modify "agitation" with "outside."
When [Gunter] Grass won the Nobel Prize in 1999, Slate's Judith Shulevitz said that the real question "is not whether Grass is a Soviet apologist. The question is, is he now or has he ever been a great novelist?" Maybe. But the second question necessitates the first, being that Grass is, more often than not, a political novelist, a Pinter-like political celebrity.
Someone will have to explain to me how Libertarianism became consonant with Zhdanovism.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

RACE WARS. A blow against Mescans, a blow against desegregation -- what's not for conservatives to like?

We'll see how it plays out, but first the immigration bill: there were plenty of problems with it, one of which I pointed out. Now we are thrown back onto the status quo, which will benefit the usual suspects. I wouldn't hold my breath for a wave of enforcement and DeMescanization. The Wall Street Journal crowd, for all their posturing, will yet have their cheap labor, and the rambunctious Right a scalp to play with for a while, till Michael Moore or some other bauble distracts them. Always bet long on the moneyed Right over their yahoo adjuncts.

The judgment on Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School Dist. No. 1, however, is more serious. It signals that affirmative action will soon be a thing of the past, broken by whatever similar new cases come before the Roberts Court (and, rest assured, they will). Some Volokh commenters disagree, based largely on Kennedy's opinion, but keep in mind that Justice Stevens is 87 years old, a Democratic Administration in '08 is far from a sure thing, and the lower courts are packed with Republican appointees for whom the overturn of any desegregation plan is as holy a grail as the overturn of Roe v. Wade.

This may come from too much recent exposure to Rod Dreher, but I judge from the tenor of the conservative blogosphere that the racial component in both these cases pleases them. Take, for one highly-placed and egregious example, Kathryn Jean Lopez, editor (!!!) of National Review Online, who reproduces a picture of presumptive Mescans who are wearing t-shirts and cheap pants instead of suits and declares:
I don't blame any American for wondering. Did you see the NYTimes picture of the illegal immigrants immigration-bill proponents brought to the Senate??

As a Senate friend said to me about it: "all they did was remind people what the problem is. These guys aren’t living in the shadows—they’re walking around unabated in the United States Capitol. Why, if you’re trying to make the case for amnesty, would you remind people of the local 7-11, where you sometimes can’t get to your car for all the day laborers? Dumb, dumb move."
The formalities require that I make a pithy reference here, but really, words fail me. I can only thank God there were no pictures of African-Americans outside the Supreme Court available for this awful woman to comment on.

Few such voices have been so full-throated on Parents yet. The Wall Street Journal, as in the Mescan case, follows the money ("Leave aside also the evidence that the best way to achieve greater racial diversity in schools is through the freedom to choose either public or private schools with vouchers, scholarships or tax credits"), while some of our better known racial obsessives ("lays claim to a more 'nuanced' view of the desirability of racial 'diversity' that will serve to keep alive its use as a compelling interest in some narrow cases [despite, I should add, recent research that shows the use of 'diversity' in social engineering schemes has had a decidedly unhealthy social impact...]) follow their own, exceedingly particular demons.

Maybe there's no need to make it obvious, or rather, a very deep need to keep it on the downlow. The brown folk, being more recent arrivals, get open contempt, while the black folk, having been imported for cheap labor centuries earlier, get a quieter kind of treatment. Still, I expect our conservative brethren cannot help themselves, and will respond with all deliberate speed.
SHORTER ANN ALTHOUSE: Ridiculous. Oh, please. Ridiculous.

(I apologize: it's not that much shorter. I mainly removed the quotes, the citation, and a paragraph of the sort of irrelevant huh-what that distinguishes Althouse's work. The commenters, with greater clarity, explain that Democrats are evil geniuses.)
SHORTER DAVID ADESNIK: The true purpose of film criticism is the making of Unpersons.
SHORTER GLENN REYNOLDS: I agree. Michael Moore is fat!

UPDATE. "I think the challenge is to ensure that liberals are the ones who are bashing Moore... You could say that it's mean-spirited to strategize about how to marginalize anyone..." Jesus. These people are like the morons in movie theatres yelling instructions to the characters on the screen. In fact, they probably would be those morons if they ever left their Barcoloungers.

P.S. The "shorter" format was invented by some guy a big long time ago and like who cares.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

SHORTER ROD DREHER: But you've got to admit that a man, right or wrong, has the right to want to have the neighborhood he lives in a certain kind of way. And at the moment the overwhelming majority of our people out there feel that people get along better, take more of a common interest in the life of the community, when they share a common background. I want you to believe me when I tell you that race prejudice simply doesn't enter into it. It is a matter of the people of Clybourne Park believing, rightly or wrongly, as I say, that for the happiness of all concerned that our Negro families are happier when they live in their own communities.

UPDATE. In comments, Dreher says he's afraid that homosexuals (aka the lavender jackboots mob) will take it wrong if he teases them about their homosexuality. The world is just full of perils, isn't it?

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!