Saturday, December 22, 2007

YOUR CHRISTMAS PRESENT. Blogging will be infrequent to nonexistent here for several days in observance of Kwanzaa. Umoja, y'all!
THE REASON FOR THE SEASON. Ross Douthat and Rod Dreher celebrate the birth of their Lord by bitching about a black lady on welfare with a big TV. Douthat's item is headlined, "The 'Myth' of Welfare Queens"; Dreher's, "Of Welfare Queens and Wilbur."

Tuesday's birthday boy is alleged to have said, "Give to every man that asketh of thee." I'm not a Bible scholar, though, so maybe I don't know about some later passage where he took it back.

I'm not sure our tax dollars should be paying for the lady's big TV, but I'm not that worked up about it either. Maybe if I believed passionately in Jesus Christ I'd be mad at her too.

Friday, December 21, 2007

THE COME-TO-MOLOCH MOMENT. A few years back, Peggy Noonan was saying "God is Back," seeing "the face of the Evil One" in the falling World Trade Center, and calling for the Democratic Party to join her in festooning America with creches and the Ten Commandments ("Confound them, Terry [McAuliffe]! Come forward with a stand. It is the stand that is the salvation, not mysterious words or codes or magic messages").

Today she calls Mike Huckabee's cross-enhanced Christmas message "creepy," chides Republican evangelicals for over-sensitivity, and even manages to simultaneously compare Huckabee with evil Bill Clinton ("Like Mr. Clinton, he is a natural, charming, bright and friendly. Yet one senses something unsavory there, something not so nice") and denigrate Huckabee's religious certainties ("...it is not a philosophy that allows debate. Because it comes down to 'This is what God wants.' This is not an opener of discussion but a squelcher of it. It doesn't expand the process, it frustrates it").

A few weeks back, she discoursed on the Christers' "problem" with Romney's Mormonism, spoke up for atheists (!), and announced that "we've bowed too far to the idiots."

She's come a long way from the days when I called her the Crazy Jesus Lady. I never entirely trusted her religious effusions, but I have to admit I didn't think she'd go this far. But I never expected Huckabee to get this far. Neither did she, I guess, and that's why she has suddenly snapped to secular statism. Jesus Boy is off the reservation, apparently. Who knows what Republican funding streams would suffer from his possible nomination? Maybe Noonan's new boss had a talk with her.

I'm certainly not against any efforts enlisted against the dangerous buffoon Huckabee. And I take some pleasure in seeing the GOP's business interests openly at war with the Jesus folk. But I mourn this large loss of seemingly principled insanity among the chattering class. I worry that next The Anchoress will escape her metaphorical cell and become just plain old Daffy Suburban Rightwing Lady, and Rod Dreher will hang up the End-of-Days talk and become just another aging hippie who loves granola and hates homosexuals. The salt of blogging will then have lost much of its savor, and who shall savor it again?

Thursday, December 20, 2007

THE PERSISTENCE OF MEMEORY. At Minding the Campus, U.S. News & World Reports columnist John Leo addresses a recent Princeton incident in which a rightwing student apparently beat himself up and blamed gay-rights activists. Leo talks a lot about hate crimes faked by leftwing students, and gives the impression that conservative correspondents acquitted themselves well in this case.

If he means that they backed off their earlier credulity when word got out about the hoax, he's right. And that's a good thing.

You have to wonder, though, whether that's because conservatives are more sensible about this sort of thing, or because more people are paying closer attention. In 2004 I looked at the Foster Barton case, in which a returned Iraq serviceman was beaten up in a parking lot and numerous citizen journalists rushed to blame the John Kerry campaign. It turned out Barton was beaten up by another former serviceman after the two had "exchanged insults about the other's military unit."

It looked fishy to me from the start, considering that the event outside which Barton had been jumped was a Toby Keith concert. But if you look at what persists on the internet about Barton, you'll find very little about the post-election upshot. No doubt there are plenty of conservatives out there who remain convinced that back in '04 a soldier was beat down by Kerry peace creeps, and recall the incident as another example of "Liberal Violence on the Rise."

That feverish election season is over, of course. But another is hard upon us. I wouldn't be surprised if some other poor souls then find themselves prepared to pay any price and bear any burden to put their opponents in an unflattering light. The question is, will the famously "self-correcting blogosphere" be on duty?

UPDATE. Maybe this answers my question: "I'm not saying it's true, Jill. I'm pointing out that the blogosphere is going wild over a rumor and noting that the Enquirer pulled down its story. These are events." Keep digging, citizen journalists!

UPDATE II. You do realize that, months from now, they'll be saying "Remember that guy in Oklahoma who totally banned Christmas?" as if it were really real. This really is a magical season!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

LIE HARDER. Rudolph Giuliani's pals at the National Review are worrying about him. After a June GOP debate, Rich Lowry said, "If any pro-choicer can win the Republican presidential nomination, it's Rudy Giuliani. His abortion answer was bad, but what people will remember is his joking around about getting struck down by lightening during it." Apparently Lowry now thinks the lightning is getting closer:
Over the weekend, Giuliani went to Florida to try to relaunch his campaign with a speech focused on his forward-looking “12 commitments” as president. He didn’t mention the one about reducing abortions... Huckabee’s rise shows that social conservatives are still animated by their traditional issues, and Giuliani has little to say to them.
Meanwhile Giuliani spoke in Durham, New Hampshire, apparently hoping to pick up a little ground in an early-primary state he'd taken for granted (he's only now opening an office there). The result was predictable. "At Durham Event, Former Mayor's Swagger Is Gone," reported the New York Sun. Giuliani told local reporters, while pledging fealty to the Second Amendment, that he "used the gun laws aggressively in New York" because "I had to" and "it worked well." A gun-owners' group official sniffed, "If Giuliani's gun control agenda was really limited 'only' to big cities, that would be disturbing enough..."

Clearly his big-city rightwing friends had earlier advised him well to finesse these issues while on the hustings. In the lovely Live Free or Die town of Durham, pop. 12,664 -- the lead news item of its website currently states that "The chiller tube replacement" at Churchill Rink "is complete, there is a good foundation of ice, and the rink is now OPEN" -- Giuliani might have done better to explain that as Mayor he ruled over eight million snarling degenerates much like the ones his auditors saw on TV cop shows, and had he not disarmed them, they might have murdered him and his ex-family. Self-defense is an argument they would have understood.

Likewise, when Giuliani talked to the L.A. Daily News about his bizarre Pat Robertson endorsement, he shouldn't have just said Robertson believed "I would be the best in appointing judges" and left the abortion angle hanging. He should have brought and fingered a scapular, or perhaps a rosary, and denounced the slaughter of millions in the womb. Had the News reporter tried to pin him to policy specifics, he could have talked about his close personal relationship with Jesus Christ. That usually shuts them up.

Given that he competes against world-class fraud artists for the nomination, and isn't such a stickler for truth himself, I don't know why Giuliani hasn't dropped this "what you see is what you get" routine yet. Maybe he's waiting for Easter, or Super Tuesday week.

Monday, December 17, 2007

WAIT, RUN THAT PART BY ME AGAIN... Our old friend Michael Totten is doing the Iraq citizen-journalism thing for Commentary. His latest dispatch starts with rich promise of the sort of MSM smackdown wingers love, targeting in this instance one Ali al-Fadhily of the Inter Press Services. But I wonder how their smiles of anticipation fared through this section:
Some of what al-Fadhily writes is correct. The economy and infrastructure really are shattered. Unemployment is greater than 50 percent, as he says. It’s true that most Iraqis – in Fallujah as well as everywhere else – don’t have access to safe drinking water.
After this breathtaking admission that, even after four years of US peacekeeping, most citizens of Iraq -- including Fallujah, one of our great "successes" -- can't get fucking clean water, who cares what Totten's charges are against the IPS journo?

But for shits and giggles: al-Fadhily says Fallujah is under "siege," Totten says nonsense, there's actually just a "hard perimeter around the city manned by Iraqi Police who prevent non-residents from bringing their cars in." I agree that's not a siege: in fact, it's a pretty normal situation -- for walled cities of the Middle Ages.

The rest of it's pretty much like that. al-Fadhily says "seventy percent of the city was destroyed during Operation Phantom Fury." Totten counters: "I saw much more destruction in nearby Ramadi than I saw in Fallujah." If you're beginning to wonder if Totten is a liberal plant, he eventually does stick in the sort of good-news nuggets his audience goes for: the old standard Marines-distributing-food-and-schoolbooks, of course, as well as more fashionable, cutting-edge leading indicators, e.g. "Solar-powered street lights" and "Low-interest microloans."

We've reached the point with this war where what ordinary people would regard with horror and revulsion is perceived by its fans as great news. Of course, as ever, they're not nuts, we're nuts. "If peace arrives even in Baghdad," sighs Totten, "...somebody, somewhere, will complain that Iraq has been taken over by the imperial powers of Kentucky Fried Chicken and Starbucks." I say, send Starbucks now: their product tastes like foul water, too, but at least it's been boiled.

UPDATE. As is apparently dictated by our latest style guide, comments are brutal. I don't understand it, since I'm such a goddamned ray of sunshine myself.

For added humorous effect, Totten sends his readers to alicublog, urging them to "please be nice to those who live there even though they do not deserve it." A nod's as good as a wink: "What you're missing math_mage," writes one, "is that we should've just left Iraq in the hands of an atheistic murderer who kills simply because they pray to Allah. That's the kind of leader these leftists can get behind." Boy, Godwin didn't know the half of it.

UPDATE II. math_mage says he's thinking of starting his own blog, practices by posting more epic comments here. I keep threatening to ban people, but I haven't yet brought myself to do it. Well, Bill Buckley let Joan Didion write for him, after all. I wonder if she was this surly about it, though.

I welcome Michael Totten back to the fray. Apparently he has changed his mind about unmoderated comments, so long as they're mine. In the immortal words of Black Bart, I'm getting to be a big underground hit in this town.
ALL RIGHT! WE'LL GIVE SOME LAND TO THE NIGGERS AND THE CHINKS -- BUT WE DON'T WANT THE IRISH! Gates of Vienna correspondent from Scandinavia lectures America on losing its whiteness:
I see no indication that ethnicity is irrelevant in the USA. On the contrary, I see indications that the importance of ethnic rivalries is growing within the US along with mass immigration from non-Western countries. The reason why this haven’t had serious repercussions yet is because the white majority clings to the idea that ethnicity doesn’t matter. But as the white majority grows smaller and eventually disappears, these ethnic rivalries could potentially grow a lot worse as there would no longer be a stable majority group in the country.
The author cites as a proof point a survey that says "US minorities don’t trust each other." We've seen this sort of thing before. All I can say is, as a resident of culturally diverse Brooklyn, I have had much occasion to hear complaints from neighbors of varying ethnicities about "those people" -- Poles, Italians, Puerto Ricans, Dominicans, Arabs, etc. Yet my neighborhood is not engulfed in flames. It actually functions very well.

How can this be? We will, I'm sure, have many occasions to discuss it at length as other racial obsessives roll out other studies proving that we all can't get along despite the fact that we do. For now I have to get to work, as do a lot of my other neighbors, which may be an explanation in itself. I will say that I sort of miss the days when liberals were doing all the racism research. Then, at least, you got the sense that they were looking to reduce racism, rather than exacerbate it.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

OPPORTUNITY KNOCKS. Joe Lieberman's expected endorsement of John McCain offers a great opportunity that the Republican Party may be too fractured to avail. McCain is the least absurd of the current pro-war GOP contenders. There are many things I don't like about him, but he was saying from the beginning that the war would require far more effort and cost than the Administration was letting on. And unlike most of his fellow GOP contenders, he doesn't consider torture a fun way to rouse the yahoos.

In a better world this would have made McCain a more formidable candidate long since, but the Jesus people and many hardcore rightwing operatives actively despise him. These folks are negligible in a general election, but hard to get past in the primaries. The Lieberman endorsement is a great way to signal to relatively sane pro-war voters that McCain might their best bet. But in the current environment, who knows how many of them exist?

Saturday, December 15, 2007

YOUR MOMENT OF DR. HELEN. Dr. Mrs. Ole Perfesser throws more bait to the poor souls who have despaired of finding love in this cold, cruel, gynocracy. "Men are being told not to get married because of the bias in the courts there and are, with good reason, reluctant to get married," says the Doc. But as usual, the pre-comments content is barely relevant. At this point I don't know why she doesn't just use a dog whistle. The stuff we get in her comments is par for the course. Take the first one:
Some people are wildly unrealistic. I have a friend who got fleeced online thinking that a Siberian super model 15 years his junior had chosen him of all people in the Western Hemisphere to fall in love with. This guy is not stupid, far from it. But when a complete stranger asked him for money so that “she” could get a visa to visit him in the USA, he was blinded by a picture. Men are more easily governed by their vices than their virtues.
Yyyyeah, well... that's too bad, friend. Next!
Most men are simply priced out of the marriage and dating market. If you dropped a mere $100K in the yearly bank account of those lonely, "shy" men women would be all around and over them. Because the men would have higher RELATIVE status. Which would make them sexy instead of losers.
A "mere $100K"? Sounds like homeboy has a hard target. I dream, I plan, I can!
Let's face it, there's also blame & shame at play here! All of our media now specialize in blaming and shaming males. That effects how males behave in dating & marriage.
I hear you, pal. I was doing all right with this girl, and then I suddenly remembered that Subway commercial where the guy acts so foolish. Totally blew my cool; I started talking about my hunting knife collection and she went to the ladies' room and never returned.

Some commenters do break the mold a bit:
The modern woman harbors all manner of contradictory desires. She lives in a state of perpetual dissatisfaction. By satisfying one desire, she is logically bound to leave the other unsatisfied.

Common female contradictions:

“I want equality, so treat me special just because I’m a woman.”
“I want an assertive guy, who always does what I want"...

Let women figure out their own shit. Have lots of sex with them in the meantime.

If I was writing a relationship book for men here would be the thesis: don’t have them.
This laddybuck has suggested a bold new direction. It should work out fine for him, so long as he can find willing partners, which would be facilitated by keeping his mouth shut about what he really thinks of them, which, I'm guessing, he will find difficult to do.
The sex before marriage is not worth it with them and after marriage it will be non-existent. Why? Well sex makes you happy if reasonably well done and moderately frequent (2-3 times a week). What is the down side for a such a woman with that? It ruins her life story. It kills the narrative. It also ruins her status at pity parties. Way more important than being happy or keeping a husband.
I think I saw this one on Everybody Loves Raymond. But at least he's better off than the guy whose wife decrees that "the sex is over when she has an orgasm."

The reductio ad libertarian:
BTW men have the internet now.

It is not as good as sex with a competent woman but it is a heck of a lot cheaper and you get Instapundit, Dr. Helen, IEC Fusion Technology, and Power and Control at no extra charge.
I like your thinking, broham! May your message spread throughout the internets, and keep the pussy surplus at optimum levels for the rest of us. Oh, wait; it already has.

UPDATE. Accidentally took this post down last night -- was going to say something related to the troll infestation that it engendered, but I'll get to that later...

...actually there isn't much to say about it. We have a guy in comments doing the standard supervillain impersonation, including the old "Are you projecting a bit? Do YOU think that a woman also becomes a castrating bitch , etc." switcheroo that he probably learned from "Law & Order: Criminal Intent," and calling female posters with whom he doesn't agree ugly. He also identifies himself, in some of his aliases, as a liberal, which wrinkle I'm sure he prizes as his own personal Jedi Mind Trick.

I suppose it was good to deprive him of a forum for awhile, so that some other shiny surface might attract him away. But eventually we may have to avail the expedient of banning. Yeah, a misogynist teenager who thinks he's George Sanders is probably going to count that a perverse victory, but at this moment I judge the devotion of a gazillion posts in one comments box to the care and feeding of a single disturbed COINTELPRO volunteer to be too much charity work for this blog.

Friday, December 14, 2007

BLOWING THEIR COVER. Alan Keyes has been a prominent conservative for a long time. Ronald Reagan ("I've never known a more stout-hearted defender of a strong America than Alan Keyes") appointed him to the UN and to the State Department. The National Review used to be cool with Keyes, too: he has been interviewed and even written for the magazine.

In 1999 Jonah Goldberg called Keyes "the most intelligent, articulate, impressive guy to run for president in any party in years." It is interesting to see how he qualified this statement:
But I just can't shake the notion that he'd bring back the guillotine. As a friend of mine put it, if you drew a venn diagram of crackpots and great political minds, he would be one of the few people in that area where the circles overlap. Still, I find it befuddling that I can't articulate why he isn't getting more respect.
Back then, for this crowd, a Republican could be a "crackpot" and a great candidate at the same time. Why not? The GOP had Congress and Reagan Revivalism was in the air, and if some of its avatars were raw like Rush, that only added a fun frisson of political incorrectness to the proceedings. (Later Goldberg praised Keyes because "He doesn't believe that an idea or a fact is more or less true depending on whether it will make a feminist cry.")

But this year Keyes got on Wednesday's Iowa Republican Presidential debate, and spouted much the same gibberish as usual. This time the National Review crowd is incensed. "I Wish the Des Moines Register Had One More Republican Debate This Cycle," says Kathryn Jean Lopez, "so I could demand a place on the stage. It makes as much sense as Alan Keyes being there." Rich Lowry said Keyes "shouldn't have been on the stage." Mark Hemingway suggested Keyes be pushed off future debate stages with sticks.

Only Goldberg tried to maintain to old-school funtimes, saying "I kind of dug Alan Keyes' crazy guy on the bus routine." Elsewhere conservatives were uniformly angry at Keyes' presence, despite his commendations from the Gipper.

What changed? Well, for one thing, the Republicans aren't doing so hot, so the hijinks of olden times have to be kept on the down-low. The "mainstream" Republican candidates, knowing what a tough slog they have ahead of themselves, are making strenuous efforts to look and sound normal for the cameras. Conservative commentators play gamely along, talking about their debates as if they were business as usual, though were a soul innocent of the current GOP's bizarre standards of normalcy to happen upon one of these scenes, it would probably fill him with confusion and horror.

But most of us are not so well-protected, and are by now kind of inured to the Jesus-infused, torture-happy madness of Republicans. Their best chance is to keep a straight face over the course of the remaining 732 debates, and get us all acclimated to their insane ideas once more. Then Keyes comes along frothing at the mouth. Under ordinary circumstances, his competitors might see this as an opportunity to look more normal by comparison. But their supporters, at least, are wrapped too tight at the moment to see it that way. They see the rampaging id of Republicanism let loose upon their stage, and they are terrified that his mania might be catching. They had just learned to live with Ron Paul, and now this!

No wonder Keyes drives them bonkers. He's blowing their cover.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

CLASS WAR. The Wall Street Journal editorializes against large, rich institutions that aren't giving back their fair share. Sounds strange? Relax. The institutions they're talking about are colleges.
Faculty members are paid more to teach fewer hours, and colleges have turned their campuses into "country clubs." Princeton's new $136 million dorm, according to BusinessWeek, has "triple-glazed mahogany casement windows made of leaded glass" and "the dining hall boasts a 35-foot ceiling gabled in oak and a 'state of the art servery,' " whatever a servery is.
The doorty rich swine! How will an appropriate wealth transfer to the Common Man be effected? The Journal proposes that colleges start spending out more of their endowments. Do they mean tuition rebates of the sort Harvard just put into place? Irrelevant, says the Journal; we must cut back "government handouts." Do they mean the sort of federal moneys regularly given to University researchers? The editorial doesn't mention that; it is instead concerned with the pernicious effect of indirect funding of Big Edu in the form of... financial aid to students:
Tuition has risen about three percentage points faster than inflation every year for the past quarter-century. At the same time, the feds have put more and more money behind student loans and other financial aid. The government is slowly becoming a third-party tuition payer, with all the price distortions one would expect. Every time tuition rises, the government makes up the difference; colleges thus cheerfully raise tuition (and budgets), knowing the government will step in.
In fact, the whole concept of needs-based financial aid smells fishy to the editorialists:
Mr. Vedder wonders why universities should get to ask the income of their students before telling them how much they'll be charged. That sounds like price discrimination: If a car dealer tried to make you fill out the form students have to fill out for financial aid, he notes, "you'd run to a consumer protection agency."
So dis-endowment must happen, but not in the form of tuition remission. The government should stop helping people get into colleges. Presumably then Big Edu will have to charge less.

A market-based solution! We should have seen that one coming. Of course the Journal never tries this kind of thing on companies like, say, Wal-Mart, which uses its own considerable resources to avail various tax breaks and government subsidies. In fact, when legislators push back against Wal-Mart, the Journal predictably comes to its defense -- and only denounces the corporation when it capitulates. Last year the paper's Brendan Miniter praised Maryland Governor Robert Ehrlich for vetoing a bill that, on the grounds that Wal-Mart's poor health care plans were stressing the state's Medicaid rolls, would have forced Wal-Mart to spend 8% of its payroll in the state on employee health insurance.

(Miniter said this veto, and "Erlich's defense of marriage and Christmas," meant the Governor was in "a strong position to win re-election this fall." Five months later, Ehrlich lost by seven points. This February, when the Wal-Mart CEO seemed, understandably, to warm toward a national health-care plan, the Journal likened it to "Stockholm Syndrome.")

This is to show, not that it needs showing, that the Journal is not normally given to proletarianism. But academia is a favored rightwing villain, and any means to decrease its power may be used, even class-war pictures of mahogany and serveries. The sad thing is that higher education is too expensive, as is made clear by the monstrous debts now incurred in its pursuit. Alas, this end of the equation the Journal treats lightly:
Though academic standards have certainly fallen, college graduates still, on average, make about twice as much over the course of their lifetimes as people with only a high school diploma. So if the government got out of the higher education business, a lot of families might decide to make the sacrifice anyway, even without the tuition aid. But they might also decide that they can live without the mahogany windows.
Mahogany windows are the least of their concerns; as I have said before, a degree is for most of our citizens just a way of getting over, and in the current environment many of them perceive the stakes high enough that it is worth even an astounding debt-load. The Journal seems to think its readers won't mind maintaining that onerous status quo, so long as the big boys -- the gowned sort, that is -- take a hit. They really ought to leave class war to the experts.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

READING TOO MUCH INTO IT. Ann Althouse seems to think the Times' Zev Chafets (rendered "Zeve Chafets" by her) had it in for Mike Huckabee:
The reporter, Zeve Chafets, portrays Huckabee as rather sly...

Earlier in the article, Chafets also references the devil — who, I think, appalls most NYT readers not because they fear Hell but because they fear those who concern themselves with the famous old supernatural malefactor...

Is Chafets trying to get readers to think that Huckabee is more benighted than a Liberty University professor?...

Damn! Why won't Huck give Chafets the religious nuggets he so craves?
And so forth. She may be working from her traditional assumption that all Times writers (Brooks, Tierney et alia excepted) are liberal agents out to make evangelical Republicans look bad. Chafets is actually an erstwhile Jewish World Review and New York Post scribe who has said that he is "no longer convinced" that "Most American Muslims are peaceable, law-abiding, terror-hating folks," and recently lacerated "'Bananas' Jack" Murtha. He is also the author of one of the craziest things I have ever read: a New York Daily News column in which he urged readers fight terrorism by refusing to watch scenes of atrocities in Afghanistan on the TV. ("You have a weapon that can help win this war... It flows from a piece of high-tech weaponry: the TV remote control... your living room is the combat zone, and the dirty work belongs to everybody.") And he has a book out called A Match Made in Heaven: American Jews, Christian Zionists, and One Man's Exploration of the Weird and Wonderful Judeo-Evangelical Alliance.

These were probably the sort of bona fides that got him access to Huckabee, and his access got him in the Times, an aspiration of many journalists who are not motivated by a hatred of organized religion. Whatever inspired his take on the candidate, it probably wasn't any animosity toward his evangelism. Maybe Huckabee really is that much of an ass.
WAVE OF THE FUTURE.
LAS VEGAS - Assailants shot six young people Tuesday who had stepped off a bus coming from a high school in a midday attack just blocks from two elementary schools, authorities said.

Clark County Sheriff Doug Gillespie said the incident appeared to have been sparked by a fight at a high school earlier in the day. The fight, which is believed to involve a girlfriend, resulted in three arrests at Mohave High School, he said.
Following current conservative thinking, it's clearly time to allow schoolchildren to bring guns to school. Or, better yet, make it mandatory. Expect Giuliani to get out in front on this issue.

UPDATE. The Rising Jurist says in comments, "No, no; school children aren't old enough to lawfully own handguns. It is the teachers who should be allowed to carry."

School children not old enough to lawfully own handguns? In America?

When the Founders were the same age as these brats, they worked from sunup to sundown, drank a jug of hard cider every morning, had fathered at least three children, and kilt injuns. And how did they kilt those injuns? With guns, that's what.

It says something about our nation's moral decline that even a prominent rightwing buffoon cannot think this thing through to its logical end: arming the teachers merely increases the power of the Nanny State, leaving our teenagers soft, weak, and prey to hip-hop and baggy jeans. We need to start instilling a sense of personal responsibility in these young people, and fast.

Children who are not left on hillsides to die should start shooting squirrels by age seven at the latest. Those who haven't killed a man -- preferably in a duel or episode of vigilante justice -- by age twelve should be sent into the woods to live on their wits.

I say: old enough for purity balls, old enough to lock and load. If we're going to have this gun suffrage thing at last, let's have it full force and all at once. The ensuing carnage should depopulate enough southern states to ensure a long string of Democratic victories after the next Census.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

GLORY BE TO GOD FOR DAPPLED THINGS. William H. Dutton quotes Ted Nelson:
To the best of my knowledge, the first rock musical was performed fifty years ago today. No, you probably haven’t heard of it; it ran as scheduled for two nights at Swarthmore College, near Philadelphia. I wrote and directed it in my Junior year, when I was twenty. There is even an LP.
There is indeed; I own a copy:


And I hate to dispute the esteemed Nelson -- an infotech pioneer -- but there aren't any rock songs in it. The score of Anything & Everything is a (to me) highly entertaining pastiche of many different styles including dixieland, Broadway, old school songs and college yells, contemporary radio pop, folk, and the sort of influences that I expect excited bright young things in that era (the Theatre de Lys revival of The Threepenny Opera and the songs of Flanders & Swann, for instance). The tone is modishly disaffected, with gentle swipes at the Organization Man, campus radicalism, sexual license and so forth. Sample lyric:
Everywhere between the sexes
The seat of cathexis is the solar plexus
I just feel like bein' in love, anything will do
'Cause I just need a gentle shove to fall in love with you
The closest thing to rock in it is the climactic "Do The Rock-a-Doodle-Do" ("The kit and kaboodle/They're doin' the Rock-A-Doodle/So why the heck can't you?"), though it's really closer to a narcotized shuffle (except for the Highland fling break), whether by design or interpretation I can't say.

It's weird, though, and fascinating to music pervs like me. I'm glad to have it. A few years back, moving from one tiny rattrap to a tinier one, I had to discard most of my vinyl, keeping only a few dozen specimens, including sentimental favorites (Tonight's the Night), records of my own material, and oddities that I surmised would never be issued digitally. Lou Reed's Metal Machine Music has made it to iTunes, and you can get a box set of the original recording of Leonard Bernstein's hallucinogenic Mass (though without the groovy picture-book), but in some cases I predicted accurately. My LP of the Stephen Foster Carillion Tower playing lumbering versions of "Old Black Joe" etc. will probably never see publication in any other form; neither will Woody Woodbury's First Annual Message From the President of the Booze Is The Only Answer Club. And I suspect Anything & Everything will remain safely restricted to the mouldering discs of a few Swarthmore alumni and myself.

There are probably far fewer analog audiophiles now than there were once upon a time. That battle has been lost by attrition. When I first heard Raw Power on CD I thought it was crap, and maybe if I still had the LP and a really good sound system I'd still think so. But I don't, and digital is what there is. To what extent was the ass-kicking power of "The Real Me" from Quadrophenia through my college roommate's maxed-out shelftop stereo a superior experience to whatever digitally remixed version we're on now? Was it the grooves, or the time and place? I can't tell you and I don't have thousands of dollars to try and recreate the experience. Maybe we were all better off with Edison cylinders.

But the recesses of our cultural memory are an archipelago where vinyl certainly rules. Things were caught on wax that, with rare exceptions, no one will bother to digitize because there's no money in it, or because no one cares, or because they just plain suck. These artifacts have the same value as any unobserved details of life: they are either worthless or a treasure trove, depending on how much faith one has in the obvious, or patience for that which is not obvious. Like bookstall remainders, garage-sale handicrafts, photos found in the trash, or conversations overheard on the bus, or anything you might happen to attend that did not call attention to itself, they are part of a secret world that is larger, and often more interesting, than the consensus reality we half-awakenly inhabit, and to which we can only abandon ourselves at great risk to our souls.
TRAITORS UNMASKED. Some days back Ace O'Spades called Huckabee a Democrat. The insult is being mainstreamed: Power Line, National Review, and the Ole Perfesser have taken it up. Each cites political similarities to Jimmy Carter, though the casual reader may be forgiven for thinking they refer to Huckabee's growing popularity with voters.

I dearly hope the tactic snowballs and makes it to the Republican Presidental debates. Romney has already been compared (albeit unfavorably) to JFK by Maureen Dowd -- maybe Giuliani can extend the slur. Romney could respond that Giuliani is the second coming of Al Smith (which would be a neat bit of jiu-jitsu, as Romney has already been compared to Smith himself). Ron Paul certainly has the standing to compare everyone else to Woodrow Wilson. Then someone can drop the FDR-bomb, and fists will start flying.

Monday, December 10, 2007

DIMINISHING RETURNS. Conservatives have been thumping the low approval ratings of the Democratic Congress as a way of offsetting the lousy standings of the Republican Administration. Now the destroyed CIA torture tapes has been quickly followed by leaks showing that some Congressional Democrats supported waterboarding in 2002. The usual suspects have made much of it:
Lots of people who were talking tough back then subsequently changed their tunes -- out of either a sudden flowering of scruples or an unprincipled desire to go after the Bush Administration with any weapon that came to hand. But, you know, if you're going to say "it was different back then," it really has to be more than just an all-purpose excuse for politicians. It's also a reason not to hang people out to dry for doing what politicians, and the public, wanted back then, when things were so "different." Your call, but Jules Crittenden notes: "Next thing you know, someone’s going to say the Clinton co-presidency thought Saddam had a nuclear program and backed regime change."
For a Party standing squarely against moral equivalence, they expend a lot of energy telling voters that the Democrats did it, too.

I wonder if it will work. We are closer to the 2008 elections than we are to the 2006 elections that put Pelosi and Reid into power. All deserve whipping, but given the choice, whom will the voters seek to punish next year -- the Party of the wheelman, or the Party of Mr. Big?

Some Democrats are forced to say they were wrong to support the Republicans, and some Republicans happily admit that those Democrats were wrong to support them. Sometimes, when you try to reframe the issue, you find that the issue is actually framing you.

Friday, December 07, 2007

HACKWORK FOR THE LORD. As I am not into hobbits or gremlins or witches or wardrobes or any of that CGI guff, I certainly won't see The Golden Compass. I am intrigued by the weird negative criticism of the film at National Review. I don't mean it's weird that the criticism is negative -- such a result was preordained, as Compass twits the Holy Mother Church, and the Review is pretty much an Opus Dei front organization. But I thought they'd at least use actual film critics to review it. Instead, they enlist Gina R. Dalfonzo, editor of Charles Colson's ultra-Jesusy online mag, and a Review "editorial associate" (intern?) named Emily Karrs. Neither of them seem to know or care much about movies, which is probably why they were picked for the job.

Dalfonzo's employers are clearly up in arms about the movie. Colson's "director of strategic processes in the Operational Advisory Services team for Campus Crusade for Christ" -- wonder what his uniform looks like; lots of gold braid, I expect -- warns the flock that children are being taught this filth in schools and "Christian parents ought to stand guard on behalf of the next generation." And Dalfonzo cites another colleague's "take" which is basically a rundown of Compass' Bad Thoughts.

That's mainly what's on Dalfonzo's mind, too. In her Review piece she complains that the plot gets confusing, but she likes some of the acting. And that's it, as far as aesthetics go -- just enough to convince somebody (if only Dalfonzo) that it's criticism, just like in the newspapers, and not a hit piece. But most of the text is about Philip Pullman's "appalling moral relativism" and general lack of Jesus.

As for Miss Karrs, her critical method relies too much on negative adjectives, and too little on explaining what exactly went wrong:
...Scenes in the books are shuffled or invented out of whole cloth and characters are rearranged and renamed. Many of the questions that are posed by the variety of moralities among species of conscious beings in the world are swept away in the script, so the film focuses on CGI rather than substance.

Ineptly cannibalizing its own themes in a hope to be all things to all people, the film ends up an exercise in vapidity rather than a great new epic. Such is the price of seeking to adapt a book that propagandizes for an unpopular philosophy into a major motion picture. The landscape is breathtakingly beautiful, the conversation of the computer-animated daemons sparkling, and Kidman nearly shatters the screen with her icy glamour as the deliciously wicked Mrs. Coulter. Yet despite so much technical richness, the film still feels empty.
I'm still waiting to hear what was wrong with the film as a film -- That it's different from the book? That it has too little blasphemous philosophical discussion to hold a teenager's attention? -- as opposed to what her priest would think was wrong with it if he saw it.

Why not use critics who could actually explain these things well? Because, for the most part, their reactions aren't predictable. They might perversely enjoy the film, or dislike it in a way that isn't sufficiently contemptuous. And they certainly wouldn't have the appropriate talking points memorized, nor would they be inclined to devote 80 percent of a review to them.

Again, for such people art is nothing but an opportunity for or threat against their power.
A LOATHSOME DUTY. As I have frequently observed here, Mark Steyn is a useless piece of crap, a chest-thumping buffoon and a racial obsessive. But even Steyn doesn't deserve this. Such prosecutions have no place in a free society, and Steyn should be free to peddle his ignorant racist bullshit without government interference.

I feel ever so righteous, standing up for repulsive free speech! First the Danish Mohammed cartoons, now Mark Steyn. I'm a regular Nat Hentoff. Andrew Sullivan should name an award after me.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

ANNALS OF GLIBERTARIANISM PART 439,062. The Perfesser approaches gun rights from the back end:
I HEARD NEAL BOORTZ holding forth on the Omaha mall shooting this morning on the way to work, and I realized I haven't posted on it. I don't really have anything to say that I haven't said before. But it's worth noting -- since apparently most of the media reports haven't -- that this was another mass shooting in a "gun-free" zone. It seems to me that we've reached the point at which a facility that bans firearms, making its patrons unable to defend themselves, should be subject to lawsuit for its failure to protect them. The pattern of mass shootings in "gun free" zones is well-established at this point, and I don't see why places that take the affirmative step of forcing their law-abiding patrons to go unarmed should get off scot-free. There's even an academic literature on mass shootings and concealed-gun carriage.

Perhaps we need legislation. If it saves just one life, it's worth it.
About.com spells out the gun laws in effect in Nebraska:
State requirements:

Permit to purchase rifles and shotguns? No.
Registration of rifles and shotguns? No.
Licensing of owners of rifles and shotguns? No.
Permit to carry rifles and shotguns? No.
The Perfesser being a libertarian, shouldn't he agree that weapon-enabled citizens of Nebraska who wish to tote their shootin' ahrns to shopping venues have a choice to avoid gun-free zones? If such citizens enter such zones, aren't they voluntarily taking a risk upon themselves, much as frontier gamblers who agreed to "check your guns at the door" did?

Yeah, I know: I'm assuming the Perfesser actually believes something he professes to believe. I am too childish-foolish for this world.
MORONI BALONEY. After days of anticipation pumped up by bored/desperate political reporters, Mitt Romney has told America why they needn't be scared of electing his Mormon ass to the Presidency. It pretty much boils down to this: Catholic, Protestant, Mormon -- it's all "different shit, same Deity." Let's fight the real enemy -- godlessness!
We separate church and state affairs in this country, and for good reason. No religion should dictate to the state nor should the state interfere with the free practice of religion. But in recent years, the notion of the separation of church and state has been taken by some well beyond its original meaning. They seek to remove from the public domain any acknowledgment of God. Religion is seen as merely a private affair with no place in public life. It's as if they are intent on establishing a new religion in America - the religion of secularism. They are wrong.
Damn! They found us out! Well, it was about time: I knew that when we turned that church into a disco, we were asking for trouble.

More serious critics have suggested that Romney was just trying to deflect attention away from his own crazy religion. If so, I think he missed an opportunity. Why didn't he just offer a watered-down version of Mormonism, of which no one need be scared? It sure worked for the Catholics. It might be said that the ground for JFK's election was laid by Going My Way; by 1960 most Protestants probably thought Catholics were just like themselves, only with endearing Irish dialects and funny hats, rather than the blood-thirsty death-cultists they once imagined, and which I knew from my childhood.

Romney should have taken the opportunity to forge a bland counter-narrative. No massacres, no White Salamanders -- just a bunch of nice white people doing wholesome things, like the Camp Fire Girls. In fact, Romney should have just ripped off the Camp Fire Girls, entirely. He should have sung the song: "Sing around the campfire/Join the Mormon Church!" He has a nice deep voice and could have really sold it. He could have told us that Mormonism is all about wo-he-lo, work, health, love. Who'd know the difference? If anyone tried to point out that there was more to it than that, he would have been shouted down as a bigot -- not just by hopeless apparatchiks like Hugh Hewitt, but also by decent Americans everywhere. Having adopted the Disneyland persona of the other big religions in America, Mormonism would be beyond criticism.

All would derive benefits. We'd see lots of Mormon Christmas specials on TV, like "Santa's Magic Underwear" and "The Mormon Tabernacle Choir Meets the Phantom of the Park."
A MATTER OF TASTE. Ace O'Spades, no fan of Mike Huckabee, declares that "MSM ♥ Huckabee" and that if he were to declare for Huckabee, "I think I might as well declare my party as 'Democratic' while I'm at it. Why not? Why not cut out the middleman?"

Huckabee, we remind our readers, is against universal health care, gay marriage, and abortion, and is an Iraq bitter-ender. But Mr. O'Spades supports Fred Thompson for the nomination, so Huckabee is a de facto Democrat.

As I've said before, the old lefty slogan, "The personal is the political," has been adopted wholesale by the Right. Whatever they like -- movies, football teams, choc-o-mut ice creams -- is conservative, and whatever they dislike is liberal. That makes it hard to take them seriously when they write, for example, that liberalism is fascism -- it basically just means that they think liberals, and fascists, are like some band they think is boring or some girl who frosted them at a party. The tragedy is, if they restricted themselves to suitable topics, both they and we would probably be more content.

UPDATE. In comments, Chad says that liberals do the same thing. He means the first part -- the damning of insufficiently-pure Democratic candidates as Republicans manques. I have both seen and done something like that in respect to our hated Hillary.

But to get a real equivalent to O'Spades' complaint, you'd have to find somebody who thought Dennis Kucinich isn't anti-war enough because he doesn't use the debates as opportunities to whip out a gun, take Hillary Clinton hostage, and threaten to kill her if the troops don't come home. And was a supporter of Chris Dodd.

As to the second part, I always want to believe the worst of my fellow man, but I don't see liberals doing the everything-I-like-is-liberal thing so much. I don't see Matthew Yglesias making lists of Top Ten Liberal DJs or Scott Lemieux giving space to any embarrassingly burned-out and incoherent celebrity just because of the celebrity's liberal cred. But prominent conservative outlets do this sort of thing all the time.

UPDATE 2. Q.E.D.: The Perfesser points to "December movie trailer reviews." A normal person would be hoping for something like this. Seasoned readers of the Perfesser, alas, will have their low expectations met:
No Country for Old Men - By all appearances, a twisted but well-made movie with a deficit of moral fortitude, more or less in the vein of Pulp Fiction. Which is to say, it will probably win multiple Academy Awards from Hollywood liberals.
The rest of it is basically the guy saying, "That looks good, I think I might go see that." More grist for the Konservetkult style guide.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

FIXED. Interesting coverage by The Consumerist of a Senate hearing on credit card rates:
9:37: Levin is most incensed by the retroactive nature of rate increases. Take a consumer whose debt jumps from 15% to 27%. That new rate applies not to new debts, but to all incurred debts.

9:41: Bonnie Rushing has two Bank of America cards. One is associated with AAA. Both cards had an 8% rate. BoA bumped the AAA rate from 8% to 23% because Bonnie's FICO score fell. It didn't matter that her payment history was perfect. Bonnie isn't sure why her FICO score dropped, but she thinks it may be because she opened a store-branded card at Macy's to receive an immediate 10% discount on a purchase, unaware that it would affect her FICO score.

9:43: When Bonnie received the rate-increase notice, she opted-out and closed her account. BoA tried to pressure her to keep the new, higher rate, but after she complained to state and federal authorities, BoA let her close her account. BoA's president will testify today.

9:44: Capital One raises rates by looking for accounts that haven't been bumped in three years—but they don't use FICO scores.

9:44: One consumer was hit by three rate increases in three months. Oftentimes the rates doubled or tripled. The consumer was able to reduce her rates by calling and fighting the credit card companies.

9:46: Levin: "If you shop with a credit card, as most consumers do, dangers lurk."

9:46: Most people don't realize that their FICO score drops even if they approach—not exceed, approach—their credit limit.

9:47: The Committee asked who determines a FICO score, who determines when a rate jumps because of a FICO score. The answer: computers.

9:47: Issuers don't know why a FICO score drops. They have four "reason codes," generic statements like: "balance grew too fast compared to credit limit," or "balance on bank cards is too low"...
I think we should regulate the credit card industry into next Sunday, but I eagerly await rebuttal from Megan McArdle, who will probably think I just want to keep poor people from having credit.
THEY GOT WORK TO DO AND THEY DO IT. ONLY THEY HAPPEN TO BE THE BEST IN THE BUSINESS! Rupert Murdoch, patron of the Page Three* Girls and "Temptation Island," has bought Beliefnet. Rushing with open arms to greet him is Beliefnet's Rod Dreher:
This is good for Beliefnet, trust me. Murdoch is an Internet visionary, and his deep pockets will only allow this website to diversity and improve its content. I have absolutely no fear at all that Team Rupert will in any way dictate content. Murdoch's core ideology is capitalism -- for better and for worse.
Shortly thereafter, Brother Rod returns to railing at our godless "commercial culture" and expressing horror that some people hope "Muslims will be vanquished by ingesting the same degrading toxins that have so weakened the West."

To add to the hilarity, Dreher elsewhere hears a story about someone who "was prone to be stubborn and enthusiastic, take a stand, and revel in the battle," and observes, "Boy, can I see that in myself. I am prone to mysticism, ritual and aesthetics, as well as moral rigor."

If there is one person on the face of God's green earth who is the anti-Christ of Crunchy Conservatism, it's Rupert Murdoch. His commercial endeavors are a perfect synthesis of the values of what Dreher himself called "the Party of Lust" and "the Party of Greed." Yet Dreher calls him "Uncle Rupert." It's enough to shake one's faith in modish rightwing movements. Next we'll be hearing that metrocon thing was all bullshit.

Like Dreher, I look forward to Murdoch's improvements of Beliefnet content: the "Who Would Jesus Do?" photo-features, and examinations of the theologies of Jack Bauer and Peter Griffin, etc. With any luck Dreher will be commissioned to write them.

*UPDATE I haven't seen the Sun in ages and forgot where they put the topless women. Thanks, readers, for the correx. Comprehensive BBC story about the phenomenon here.

UPDATE 2. Both Dreher and Andrew Sullivan protest that Murdoch never tells them what to write. I don't see why he'd feel the need, but I am in some sympathy with their argument, having labored for people who didn't share my views many times. (There was, for example, the restaurant manager who thought I should wash my shirt, or at least the cuffs, more often because I was serving food. What an asshole!) On the other hand, Dreher affects to believe that we're in the grip of an epochal struggle with sexed-up capitalism. Were he serious about that, I would expect him to revile Murdoch, relocate to a cave, and send his messages via grainy videos filled with scriptural commentary and threats to resume film criticism if his demands are not met. As I don't expect a new Great Awakening anytime soon, maybe I'll live to see him take his beliefs to their natural conclusion.

Monday, December 03, 2007

APOCALYPSE NOW. Today, The Anchoress:
I really don’t mean to keep writing about Hillary Clinton - I really want to start thinking about Advent more...
I would use the Anchoress' "Our Hillary" tag to guide you to the treasure trove of Clintophobia at her site, but to her everything is Hillary. For example, here's a post that started out with the Big Bang Theory:
More funny money situations for Hillary, but of course, they don’t matter. The press is incurious and disinterested in these matters. they do not seem to care that the Clintons seemingly have a really interesting relationship with CNN, and Hillary, afterall, has a D after her name, which means only good news rules.

Can you imagine how different her life would be if she had an R after her name, Like Condi Rice? No magazine covers and glory, then, babe, sorry. And no money bundling problems tolerated, and hushed up, I’m sure. Yes, it is pretty tiresome. And staggeringly scandalous, if you think about it, which no one seems to want to. There is a willing suspension of disbelief, or something....
The tags on this are "Serving up hot links" and "America." It's when you start hiding bottles that you know you have a problem.

Of course, should The Anchoress and all other similarly afflicted souls decide to avail a support group, there wouldn't be a church basement in all the land big enough to hold them.

Like a surprising number of evil traitors, I don't much care for Hillary Clinton myself. A Presidential race between her and Rudolph Giuliani would be a good reason to flee the country. Yet if such a nightmare befell us, in the likely event that I am still trapped in this godforsaken hellhole, I will, with the demented glee of Christopher Walken blowing his brains out in The Deer Hunter, pull the Democratic lever. Because, with our Republic on the verge of certain extinction, there will be nothing but vengeance on my mind. I know that, before Queen Clinton 44 sends us all to concentration camps, there will be many prominent Republican suicides -- I don't see, for example, how Paul Weyrich could stand to draw breath in such a world -- and that many more such will perish in the doomed resistance of the Red Dawn Militias to the occupying forces of the United Nations. It will be some comfort to remember, as I lay dying of malnutrition in some lice-infested barracks, the look on the Ole Perfesser's face when the Blue Helmets burst into his McMansion, and his final "Heh? Indeed?"

Alternatively, we could nominate and elect some other Democrat, and spare ourselves all this drama. But, being Godless and all, I will take what I can get.

UPDATE. Commenter monkey dave: "She's not much of an anchoress if she's got a big screen TV with Fox News blaring in her hovel. What gets done is what you spend time doing, and it's her own decision to spend her time thinking about Hillary Clinton. Is there a conservative anywhere who actually takes responsibility for his or her own actions?"
JUNGLE FEVER. Ed Driscoll punctuates one of his War on Christmas ravings with this apparent non-sequitur:
(Don't miss this comment by one of Jules [Crittenden's] readers, which puts the Cold Civil War and its northern front into sharp perspective.)
And if you click over you see this:
Let me see if I understand all of this correctly. We are supposed to remain silent about a predominately black culture that romanticizes treating all women as “hos,” advocates murder, especially of police officers...
There's nothing in the Driscoll post that obviously relates to the "predominately black culture." But he lunges for it anyway, as if he can't help himself.

In my experience, this is how it usually goes with conservatives and racial matters: they'll be going on about something else, say Truman Capote and the death penalty, and suddenly, out of nowhere come the jungle drums:
Could it have something to do with who Perry killed? He killed a father, a mother, a son, and a daughter. Your basic social building block. Well, we got spares. If he’s shotgunned four Black women, would we have so much sympathy, so much abiding interest in the possibility of love between the killer and his literary confidante? No. Well, you could argue, that would be a racist act, a hate crime; killing the Clutters had no ideological component. I suppose not, although enough has been made of Perry’s own horrible family life to imagine that he might have been filled with rage at people who’d gotten it right. I'm not stupid enough to suggest that "Capote" and "Infamous" are dismissive of the Clutters because they were white and represented the social norm lib'rul Hollywood hates and wants to replace with pagan vegan polygamists - please. No. But...
...but what if they'd been black, huh? Then you liberals would get mad because you love black people.

Where does this stuff come from? The depths, friends. Many of these guys just don't have any significant contact with black people. I'm not sure that Lileks has ever seen a black person except on TV. But they know liberals love 'em, which makes black people (like France, lattes, Chardonnay, and deodorant) a thing to abjure.

Of course, they can only go so far with this. They are prevented from using racial epithets outright (that is, to the extent that they do refrain) by the etiquette of the time (and, to be fair, by whatever vestigal wisps of soul they may possess). Like all "political correctness," this bugs the shit out of them, but they can't break loose from it lest they be Lotted. So it festers deep in their souls until one day they're talking about something else and suddenly -- Jumanji!

And they go on as if nothing happened, probably remembering nothing and hoping it wasn't too bad.

Of course some of them can't let it alone. We call them "pro-science conservatives." We need not bother about them, as they inhabit their own island far, far from the mainland.

UPDATE. Brian C.B. in comments: "And, how is it that when I went to the Ninth Ward in New Orleans to help out homeowners in the Holy Cross district, and when I work with homeowners of modest means in my own town in an effort to fix up historic properties, and these folks happen to be African-American, they turn out to be grateful, polite, hard-working, well-mannered, devoted to their families, church, and community, while also being pretty sure that they deserve exactly the same treatment as what us white folk get, no more or less? Has the GOP so completely alienated itself from people of color that they construct a whole demonic culture from iTunes?"

Sunday, December 02, 2007

NOT THAT AGAIN. Billy Hollis at QandO thinks Congressional term limits is a good issue to revive. It sure made a big impression in 1994 when Newt Gingrich got Congressional Republicans to commit to it. But in later years many of the Congressmen who Contracted with America to create a term-limited "citizen legislature" decided they would just as soon stay in Congress beyond the 12-year window.

I know my fellow citizens have short memories, but I can't imagine they would greet new term-limit pledges with enthusiasm. They might instead wonder what kind of suckers the pledging candidates take them for.

I keep hearing bold ideas meant to rescue the Republicans, like Douthat's and Salam's "Sam's Club Republicans" scheme ("Above all, [the Republican party] needs to think as much about meeting the concerns of working- and middle-class Americans..."). The main problem with these programs is that you have to keep people from snorting in derision when they hear about them. In this regard the Republican candidates are currently at a great disadvantage, which is why they keep going on about immigrants and Islamofascists rather than proposing Contracts with/Morning in America. (Giuliani does offer such a contract mostly comprised of mush -- e.g., "I will increase adoptions, decrease abortions, and protect the quality of life for our children" -- but without Bernie Kerik to lean on people to sign, I doubt it will have many takers.)

Destroying Americans' faith in government worked wonders for the Republicans for a long time, but it has left them without much standing to inspire us. That's why they can't shake Ron Paul: He's the only one of them who seems to believe in something besides his own electability.

Well, actually, Huckabee seems to believe in Jesus. Maybe they'll nominate him.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

BLOGGING THE ATROCITIES. More crime scene reporting from Ann Althouse:
Is that what you want in a President? Someone who feels extra confusion because she's a mother?

But I don't believe that for one minute. I think that was just what was considered a good script. I don't happen to think it is a good script, because I don't want a President to roil into a mommyesque ball of emotion when a few people are in danger. Yet that's not Hillary. The only question is why she thought a statement like that was a good one. She probably wanted to make sure not to confirm the widely held belief that she's unemotional, and, while she was at it, delight all the ladies out there who lap up emotional drivel.
Apparently Althouse thinks she's watching a TV show called "America's Next Top Democratic Candidate." If Clinton gets shot, she'll tell us it's a ploy to bring some of the old Kennedy magic to her campaign.

I've been hanging around this echo chamber a long time. I wonder what normal people think when they stumble upon this sort of madness? Say Joe or Jane Six-Pack mistypes an URL and comes across Ann Winebox (or even Roy 40-oz). What do they imagine they're looking at? Maybe they have to read a whole issue of People to get back to normal.

And we wonder why no one is interested in politics.

Friday, November 30, 2007

SHORTER ROD DREHER: See how introspective this nice Chinese millionaire is! Why can't our Negroes be like that?

(Number umpteen in a series. )
AMERICA'S LOVE OF CHOCOLATE ICE CREAM DOOMS DEMOCRAT. Tom Maguire follows the hostage drama at a Clinton campaign office:
Setting aside the human toll, my instant guess is that the political impact of this will be bad for Hillary in a way that would not be true for another candidate. This may all change when we get the perpetrator's story but right now Ms. Clinton carries the heavy baggage of a huge favorable rating and this incident will remind people that she is the candidate that enrages a sizable slice of the public.
More pathetic and politically inert details come in. Maguire's take:
It's bad for Hillary.
Interesting colloquy in the comments:
It's bad for Hillary.

I'm not sure I agree with this. I don't think it matters one bit. It looks as if this is just a poor soul and has no effect on Hillary. At least it doesn't change my view of Hillary either way.

I guess I just don't see it.
...

You don't see because you don't want to see.

Hillary is bad and therefore everything that involves -- or doesn't involve -- Hillary is bad. Bad for Hillary.

Hillary drove that man to drink and caused his life to become meaningless.

Tom understands.
I'm glad someone else has a sense of humor about this; I was beginning to think the world had gone mad, again.
NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN: ADDENDUM. Sometimes I worry that my film reviews may not be up to snuff, so thank God Jonah Goldberg occasionally steps up to make me look like Manny Farber:
For example, I'm kind of surprised that the movie left no lasting impression on Steve Sailer. First and foremost it made me want to read the novel.
High praise indeed. I wonder if Goldberg has ever read Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex But Were Afraid to Ask.
But more importantly, I think you can find some very rich commentary on the American character and predicament in the movie (as Ross suggests in his review in the magazine but, I think, doesn't explore enough). The fatalism, determinism (philosophically speaking), the rejection of cant and the waving away of nostalgia, were all powerful ingredients of the film, at least for me.
Determinism, philosophically speaking! No Country For Old Men is an excellent chase film with twangy talk about the persistence of evil inserted at puzzling intervals. Something that's more like what Goldberg is imagining is John Huston's The Asphalt Jungle. Everyone in it speaks a mannered pulp argot, which gives them enough rhetorical headroom to comment in high style on their own "predicament" whether at rest or in action. This keeps the highflown thoughts wedded to character and threaded into the plot.

In No Country, Chighur's conversations are a little in that vein, but the pronouncements of Sheriff Bell and Ellis are closer to the tedious lecture Commissioner Hardy gives the reporters near the end of The Asphalt Jungle: an insertion that is supposed to radiate meaning onto the action from the outside. In Jungle this comes off as a quick gloss or a way of getting around the Hays Office, and is followed by a more appropriate, though downbeat, spurt of narrative; in No Country the Hardys just hang around the periphery being premonitory until near the end, when they surge to subsume and kill the story. This is the real "dismal tide": geezers talking about good and evil (and what do they say, exactly, besides good sure is good and evil sure is evil?) till their chatter drowns out a perfectly good action picture.

Of course Goldberg ends with his own dismal tide:
Anyway we can revisit later. But one last quick point: I've been surprised more people haven't compared it — favorably or unfavorably — to A Simple Plan which I've long argued was one of the most conservative movies made in recent times. The plot alone is remarkably similar (though hardly identical).
Like anything that made Goldberg forget his popcorn for a moment, it has something to do with his politics. I wonder why he goes to the movies at all: doesn't he have a "Star Trek" boxed set and a microwave?

UPDATE. Today's No-Prize goes to Scott C.: "For Goldberg I believe [ars gratia artis] translates literally to farts for farts' sake."

With respect to the Coens, I must say it is rather cheap of me to associate cosmic readings of No Country with Goldberg. For a much worthier essay, see Glenn Kenny.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

BACK IN MY DAY... James Poulos on some new movie where a shrink convinces several young stars to get it on:
What’s a blogger to say? Forget gay marriage, frazzled Christian soldiers. This is the door to doom. The pathetic and preposterous conceit of having therapeutic authority set this ‘plot’ into motion is, of course, unnecessary, as many of the LA Times’ own readers must know... Now the authority of monstrosity has been replaced by an authority vacuum. Our orgies today are lame attempts to patch up the cracks in the psyches of damaged little emotional orphans by collective ‘friend incest’. The latchkey aesthetic reaches its nadir...
I admit I am so confused by this passage that I had to check three times to make sure it wasn't written by Reihan Salam. I can say with some certainty, though, that Poulos has never heard of The Harrad Experiment. But doesn't he even remember the porno film Travis took Betsy to see in Taxi Driver ("My parents were very strict...")? The therapy-driven sex romp seems to have endured as a cinematic form. Aren't conservatives supposed to revere tradition? God bless America, I say, and bring on the nubiles!

UPDATE. In comments, ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© wins Spot the Reference. I go hot and cold on the Stranglers. Here's my favorite, via a video in which Cornwell kind of looks like Hugh Laurie:



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THE NEW FRONT. Greyhawk at Mudville Gazette:
This is not to say that Iraq is a safe place - just that it is fast becoming one. But make no mistake about it, if the troops were brought home tomorrow all hell would break lose, in a manner as yet unseen even in this part of the world.
So that's what victory looks like! He goes on:
The next crucial step in creating the world where many of those troops can come home is exactly this - a steady inflow of folks with skillsets other than combat arms who can help create an environment where fewer guns are needed. We are at the entry point of an upward spiral; increased security sets the stage for improved quality of life for Iraqis which means less need for security forces to maintain that quality of life; without despair people have less incentive to sow chaos.
Guess what specific "skillset other than combat arms" he's talking about in this post? Diplomacy.
I admit that when I first heard the stories (recounted by many of my fellow milbloggers, in fact) of [Foreign Service Officers] wetting their pants at the thought of serving in Iraq I was deeply concerned - but one thing I reminded myself at the time is the ability of journalists to find exactly the one quote from some maladjusted member that isn't representative of the majority of the group to which he can only pretend to belong and trumpet said quote as exactly that which it isn't. After all, they do it to the military all the time.

Actions from folks like Brian Heath confirm my impression, and give me renewed hope that we can and will make that charge.
First, it is strange to hear Greyhawk admit that his "fellow milbloggers" are as credulous as other journalists when it comes to the treasonous meme of the Wet-Pantsed Diplomat. Second, I look forward to the exiting combat troops and the entering diplo corps reenacting the final scene of Battleground, with added dialogue:

"Awright, you diplomugs, we done our part -- now it's up to you!"

"Agreed in principle; we'll draft a preliminary resolution. Where's the tennis court?"
NO THIRD WAY. I've been too busy to climb ladders and must content myself with low-hanging fruit. Gates of Vienna is always easy pickings. Here's a review of Robert Spencer's Religion of Peace? What Christianity Is and What Islam Isn't, which review, before it gets to the attacks on Islam any fan of the blog may expect, takes a good deal of time to dispense with some unfortunate myths about Christianity. The reviewer repeats the Goldbergian story that the Church was actually very nice to Galileo all things considered. Our Gater can't let bad enough alone, and goes on to say that the Spanish Inquisition was also pretty mellow:
The Inquisition wasn’t a proud chapter in Christian history, but it should be remembered that its number of victims has been wildly exaggerated, and pales in comparison to the evils of modern totalitarian movements...
One thing you have to understand about these guys is that they don't even really like Ayaan Hirsi Ali -- because, notwithstanding her frank condemnations of Islamic fundamentalism, she's an atheist with an understandable aversion to all religious schooling, including the Christian variety. One of the Gatesians has even gone so far as to say that Ali be denied Dutch protection from local Islamic thugs, ostensibly on the grounds that her cooperation with Theo van Gogh's Submission invited such thuggery ("Actions have consequences, and this one is hers").

That defenders of the satirical Mohammed cartoons would abandon Ali to lynching seems odd until you consider that the Gaters really do think we're in a "clash of civilizations." But it's not about the West vs. the East. In their view the combatants are Islam and Christianity, period, and they expect the unchurched to either take up the cross or go down with the other heathens. No wonder they're working on a new spin for the Inquisition.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

UNCLEAR ON THE CONCEPT. Ken McCracken says the fact that John Ashcroft was willing to be waterboarded proves that the practice doesn't constitute torture because "no one ever volunteers to undergo real torture."

I assume he believes being nailed to a Volkswagen or having one's hand roasted isn't torture either. And that suicide proves there's no such thing as murder.

Why do these people have such difficulty with the concept of consent?

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

ANOTHER SUCH VICTORY AND I AM UNDONE. The new idea is that the War in Iraq has been won. Actually that war was won in May of 2003. The subsequent occupation has been a dicier proposition. This too is supposed to be going much better, but we can see the problem in one of the victory declarations:
Do the Iraqi’s like us? Hard to say, but so long as they’re not killing us, let’s be thankful for these small victories and let's pray that the trend continues.
The emphasis, here and elsewhere, on the Iraqi citizens' turn toward the U.S. Armed Forces for protection from militants does not suggest a state of democratic equilibrium, but a Mexican standoff.

It is certainly good news that fewer people are being killed. But Petraeus wants to withdraw the surge troops by July 1. We are still down for a lengthy and (thus far) slow reconstruction, and Administration supporters are downplaying the role of democracy in keeping the lid on. How is that supposed to work?

The aforementioned author says: hearts and minds, and let's take it to Afghanistan (where, we are informed, things ain't going so hot). It seems strange to put such faith in propaganda when the only demonstrable positive effect so far has been achieved by increased force of arms, especially as we are preparing to reduce them.

The Vietnam echoes that Bush resurrected when he announced the surge persist. No one wants a helicopter rooftop scene, so we adjust troop levels, first higher, then lower, in hopes of finding a Goldilocks mean. Conservatives are enraged by the Archbishop of Canterbury's assertion that the U.S. just isn't very good at imperialism. There's a backhanded compliment in there, but I'm afraid the fiddlers of our occupation don't know how to take it.

Monday, November 26, 2007

IN PLAY. Hillary Clinton isn't my favorite candidate but Jeez. Even the nice rightwing college boys are going for the lesbian laughs. The Perfesser plays the angle shot, per usual. Further down the evolutionary scale, the bare notion of celebrity girl-on-girl stirs wistful contemplation of female sexuality among the Acettes:
Do women bother doing that? I never thought of women as having much use for paid escorts.
...

Yes, powerful, driven women have their lusts -- and better sex toys. I would bet Hillary gets off as much as we do at the thought of having someone beautiful pleasuring her.
...

I was in Kenya in 1984 and there were plenty of older German women running around with young men. Strapping young men...

As an aside, that's when I found out that topless beaches are not always that great. Sure, there were some hotties, but there was also Cellulite Woman and a lot of grandmothers who.....

I'll stop there.
M-m-m-me too. Forget "Are we ready for a woman President?" or even "Are we ready for a lesbian President?" The real question is: can we establish some Federal standards for sex education? Because I know a bunch of guys who could benefit from being "taught to the test," as it were.

UPDATE. The barrel has no bottom:
You read it at Atlas first here back on Halloween. Drudge has it now. I am not reporting it because it is a lesbian thang, I am concerned and distressed that a Muslim raised in Saudi Arabia would have such intimate access to a would be President.
Can't they extend the submission deadline for the Republican YouTube debate? As entertaining as the expected question about whether black people are as smart as white people will be, a question about what, as President, the candidates would do about Islamosapphic terrorism might just get people interested in politics again.
ROSEBUD. I keep trying to tell you kids what it was like back in The Day. Here's a little nugget from the pre-Giuliani era: Da Willys at what I believe is the old Crystal Palace on the Bowery. You could buy Night Train over the bar, and put it in a bag and take it outside. On the other hand, we didn't have as many condominiums or cops as we do now. You tell me which Apple you prefer.


Sunday, November 25, 2007

MONGOLOID, HE WAS A MONGOLOID, ONE CHROMOSOME TOO MANY. Chuckling observes the state of creationist play:
Today’s New York Times Magazine has an interesting article about a new breed of scientists who firmly believe that the earth is eight thousand years (or so) old. They believe this because they have read the bible and added up the lives of the biblical characters. It’s not as easy as it sounds since some of those ancients lived as long as 900 years. You see? Honest scientists may disagree. The planet could be 7990 years old. It could be 8010. More research is needed. All reasonable people agree.

According to the Times, this new breed of scientists are a heroic bunch. Like cowboys, “laconic but certain” and “deeply committed.” these intellectual outlaws, outlaws in a good outlaw kinda way of course, are “taking on the central tenets of the field” by “resisting mainstream science.“ Beyond that, they are hung like Harvard: “a gathering of elites, with an impressive wall of diplomas... master’s or Ph.D.’s in the sciences from respectable universities.”

You know the type. Total dumbasses.
Indeed I do, which is why I am adding Pharyngula to my blogroll, and about goddamned time.