Tuesday, April 08, 2008

A PROMINENT LIBERTARIAN JOURNALIST ON HER PROFESSION. Megan McArdle returns from wherever, and spectacularly relieves her Youth Brigade of thumb-up-the-ass detail with a three-part self-embarrassment:

It starts with Glenn Greenwald's observation that our media would rather report Barack Obama's bowling performance than the John Yoo memos which essentially declared President Bush above Constitutional law as regards torture and extraordinary renditions. McArdle says of course, silly -- Obama is more famous than John Yoo! "Readers buy more papers with headlines about Jamie Lynn Spears than they do with headlines about Alphonso Jackson or John Yoo," she explains, and as Obama is also a celebrity, there's no market reason (that is, no reason at all) why newspapers shouldn't cover him the way they cover a popstar's relatives, nor why they should cut into this frothy coverage with icky torture news.

Greenwald, making the fatal mistake of assuming McArdle to be educable, tries in a follow-up to explain that Yoo's memos "legalizing government torture, declaring presidential omnipotence, and suspending the Fourth Amendment inside the U.S." are important news, because they "became the official position of the entire Executive Branch of the U.S. Government." McArdle responds that "Mr Greenwald's anger at the establishment power structure seems to be rapidly transmuting into anger at the non-Glenn-Greenwald power structure." While readers are puzzling that one out, she describes her own difficulty in getting her stories printed:
Now, some of my readers are arguing that we journalists have a duty to give the public what they don't particularly want. Okay, well, you really should know how to calculate a bond duration...
So why should the suspension of the Fourth Amendment get more play than selections from McArdle's economic primer? "The public doesn't know because it doesn't care," says McArdle, "not because the journalists don't want to tell them." If this doesn't convince, McArdle also calls Greenwald's assertions "bizarre, even lunatic," compares him to the Ron Paul "rEVOLution," etc.

As word gets around about her dazzling logical display, McArdle returns for an encore:
Almost every journalist in Washington came here wanting to cover the kinds of things Glenn Greenwald wants written about; almost every editor here was one of those reporters, and assumed their current job hoping to break these kinds of stories. They are simply limited by the tastes of their readers.
Apparently Washington is the new Hollywood -- a place where fresh-faced writers go full of big dreams, only to be worn down by the demands of the marketplace, eventually (with some bitterness, perhaps, but also with some consoling paychecks) churning out stories about Bush's flight suit, happy new homeowners, unstoppable economic growth, and other feel-good stories. I would credit McArdle for a fresh insight here, but she seems to think that this is the way things are supposed to work in journalism -- no doubt because, as a libertarian, she must endorse whatever dollars endorse in any situation.

It's a good thing she hasn't got a job better suited to her talents, such as coal-mining: were the canary in her mine to drop dead, she'd probably just complain that she missed its singing and ask for a heartier one to be sent down.

Monday, April 07, 2008

SHORTER ROD DREHER: None of this Crunchy Conservative stuff is meant to supersede hatred of liberals, of course, nor uncomfortable chairs.

(I seldom pause to note, as the Sadlynauts always do, that the ‘Shorter’ concept was created by Daniel Davies and perfected by Elton Beard, but it bears mentioning.)
DERANGEMENT SYNDROME. This electoral season, the Democratic Presidential candidates have been cleaning up. They're running hugely ahead of the Republicans in primary voter turnout, fund-raising, and registration.

To find dark linings to this silver cloud, you have to be creative and intellectually bankrupt at the same time. Fortunately the Politico has Ben Smith:
Anti-McCain groups lag in fundraising

Democratic talk of an early, hard-hitting campaign to "define" and tar Arizona Sen. John McCain appears to have fizzled for lack of money, leading to a quiet round of finger-pointing among Democratic operatives and donors as McCain assembles a campaign and a public image relatively unmolested.

Despite the millions of dollars pooling around Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton, anti-McCain funds have fallen far short of the hopes set in November...
With, of course, a link from the Perfesser, which is kind of a Good Housekeeping seal for rightwing bullshit.

For years conservatives told us that Democrats suffered from "Bush Derangement Syndrome," and were sabotaging their party's chances just to indulge their hatred for the President. Well, now the Democrats seem to have taken the lesson, devoting more resources to attracting voters, donors, and enthusiasm for their candidates, and less on attacking the GOP standard-bearer. Now, of course, conservatives portray this as a sign of weakness.

Expect in the near future articles telling us that even the Democrats' enthusiasm for their candidates is a harbringer of defeat. Oh wait -- they've been running those for months. Isn't a little early in the campaign for them to be running out of bullshit?
OBOY, LILEKS IS BACK! Let's see what the lovable scamp has been up to:
Went to the Paradise Valley Country Club (satellite view) for lunch and basting... I did not see Leslie Nielsen this time. I did, however, wander into the men’s locker room by mistake – I was looking for the loo, but mistook the clubhouse for the ordinary restroom – and I was in a different world.
Nothing can follow up on the promise of that passage, and neither does this.
I love Phoenix. It’s a 21st Century American City. You want the future? Here you go.
So, in the future there'll be no black people?
It’s new. It’s rich. It’s poor. It’s low and flat, it’s high and barren. It has broad new freeways rising high over barren canals, great empty stretches punctuated by high-tech office buildings holding dozens of incubating companies. It remakes itself with a speed that makes LA look like Paris. This is the future, but somehow when people want to capture the soul of America they go to Cleveland and film a shoelace factory that closed in 1982.
I don't see what the hippies want with those boring old buildings when they could be living in an office park in the middle of the desert.

Absolut Mexico ad stirs patriotism, or actually just hatred of Mexico for its lack of office buildings and freeways:
To order an Absolut in such a place, surrounded by things Mexico could have never be stirred itself to accomplish, would have seemed ungrateful. I went with the Reyka. From now on I will always go with the Reyka.
Lileks fights corporate insensitivity and lazy Mescans with vodka choice! And no wonder. He's looking at houses in Scottsdale; clearly he's already thinking like a native. There's no way the Mexofascists will make it into Arizona without the crucial support of the Swedish vodka cartel. And his new friends will let him know what other businesses to boycott.

UPDATE. In comments, Jay B rejoices: "L.A. is Paris, motherfuckers." Nancy Nall is puzzled by rightwing Absolut rage: "Why do they get all of Ann Coulter's quips, and nobody else's?" And R. Porrofatto links to a cautionary tale about Maricopa, Arizona, from whence Jimbo may soon find new, resentful underclass neighbors who aren't even Mexican.
THE FUTURE AND ITS ENEMIES. Even conservative operatives get tried, apparently, and so they have started handing off their anti-Obama scripts to libertarians. Virginia Postrel has Rev. Wright, Rezko, John F. Kennedy -- the works. The spiel rolls so smoothly off her tongue that (like that other famous libertarian, Penn Jillette) she pauses in the middle of the act to explain how her trick is done:
Where optimists fill in mystery with their hopes, however, pessimists project their fears. The flip side of glamour is horror: the vampire, the con man, the femme fatale, the double agent. These glamorous archetypes remind us of how easy it is to succumb to desire and manipulation. What, ask his opponents, is Obama hiding?
And now for the wow finish! Her wrapup on "the flip side of glamour" is an intriguing novelty:
Obama must have an inkling of these perils. He knows glamour better than most people, having grown up enchanted with the glamorized image of his distant father, an image shaped by his mother’s stories and his own yearnings. “The brilliant scholar, the generous friend, the upstanding leader—my father had been all those things. All those things and more, because except for that one brief visit in Hawaii, he had never been present to foil the image,” he writes in Dreams from My Father...

That image was false. Despite his early promise, Obama’s father died a bitter, lonely minor bureaucrat, leaving a fractured family to fight over his tiny estate. “All my life,” concluded the young Obama when he learned the truth, “I had been wrestling with nothing more than a ghost!” By then, however, the glamour had done its work, providing meaning and purpose to the son’s formative years. At the risk of bitter disillusionment, perhaps Obama hopes to do for the country what his father’s image did for him: provide a noble lie that tricks us into self-improvement.
I guess she thinks Obama's act is similar to her own, but even more diabolical: Obama has, like a Shakespearean villain, laid out in monologue the grudge that motivates his nefarious plot. Beware the ides of self-improvement! For it might not work, and then we'll all be mad at him.

It's a strangely defeatist POV for a self-proclaimed Dynamist, but improvisation will only get you so far when you're working with such crappy material.

UPDATE. I had forgotten about this bit from an interview Postrel did when she was publicizing her book The Substance of Style:
Take, for example, Kente cloth. Some people would say that it's inauthentic for white people to wear Kente cloth. But by that logic it's actually, in some sense, inauthentic for anyone in the United States to wear it, and even for anyone in Africa to wear it who's not from the aristocracy. Traditionally it had a very specific use. But it's evolved over time. It's beautiful; African-Americans see it as reflecting their ties to their ancestors in Africa, and to their sense of identity—even if no one in their family would ever in a million years have been allowed to wear this cloth. It's taken on another meaning, and that meaning, I would argue, is just as authentic. It's come out of a different experience, and it reflects the authentic pleasure and meaning of the people who wear it.
But now Postrel is concerned with the inauthenticity of Obama's childhood admiration for his father. Can't the experience have just "evolved over time" for him, and "taken on another meaning"? Also, for a preview of Postrel's inevitable Clinton hit piece, see the part where she doubts Hillary really liked doing her hair.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

CHARLTON HESTON R.I.P. He was a bit stiff, but so were some other leading men of his time -- Glenn Ford, Rod Taylor, and Rock Hudson come to mind. Heston was usually a little more interesting. The other stiffs could be powerful and forthright, but they were seldom as galvanic as he, because his commitment onscreen was unrelenting.

Consider Heston as Moses in The Ten Commandments. The movie's kind of hilarious, but Heston isn't. And he should be, especially when he's describing Passover while extras make horror-movie noises offscreen. Even his superb voice, chiseled features, and Biblical makeup should not distract us from wondering how the Moses bit would play on a busy street-corner in Fresno. What puts him over? Probably the absence of anything like nuance. He's too busy executing the role, which he treats as a sacred trust, to trifle with humanizing touches. It's not because he's stupid, but because he has an abundance of that actor's gift of absolute concentration, which is deaf to absurdity and can resemble stupidity.

Of course you wouldn't call the performance intelligent, but this is clearly a circumstance in which an intelligent performance would spoil everything. Leading men often find themselves in such circumstances, which may explain Heston's success.

He didn't have a lot of gears, but he could surprise you. He's terrific in Ruby Gentry as a guy who knows better but can't keep his lustful eyes off Jennifer Jones. He's actually pretty sexy in the role, even sinuous. I can still hear him rasping his beloved's name ("rrrrROO-BEEeee!") through the door she has closed on him.

And for a ham-hunk of the old school, he took acting very seriously. He mounted a stage production of Long Day's Journey Into Night so he could play James Tyrone. He tried to get DeNiro to do Shakespeare. He always spoke highly of the talent of Vanessa Redgrave, who was politically his polar opposite. He took his own politics very seriously, but he knew to check his guns at the door of the temple of art.

UPDATE. Commenters come to the defense of Rod Taylor and Glenn Ford. My experience of Ford's and Taylor's oeuvres is limited, so I defer to their judgment.

But some commenters are mad at Michael Moore. In Bowling for Columbine Heston willingly and unnecessarily answered the bell as a credentialed representative of the People of the Gun. This wasn't a mugging, it was a press opportunity. If we profess to respect Heston for opening himself to Moore's blows, I should think our respect would prevent us from blaming Moore for landing them -- unless we're looking for a fake fight with pulled punches, to be applauded because it nurtures the old man's self-esteem. None of that P.C. crap for me, thanks, and I suspect for Heston.

Shall we also go easy on Bush because, as a dry drunk (or a real drunk -- reports vary), he is too emotionally fragile to defend himself from our criticism? And do watch out, because they'll be pulling this shit with McCain soon: "How dare you question his mental integrity! He's a very old man!"
NEW REALITIES. At American Digest, more stuff about the Inevitable Death of the New York Times. This is as much a rightwing blog evergreen as the Dirty Hippie, Our Fighting Men, and Hillary is a Bitch stories; On a slow day, hand-rubbing over the impending doom of the hated MSM's biggest cell will always fill the blog hole.

One thing I wonder, though, is what they'll do when the Times croaks. Technorati currently lists "1,620,071 blog reactions to nytimes.com." That's even more than Instapundit gets. In fact, Instapundit frequently links to the Times (recent example), as do just about all the other conservative blogs -- and not mainly to criticize it, but more often as a source.

Despite all the grand claims made for the groovy blog revolution, the phenomenon is still basically parasitic. Few bloggers do primary reporting. Why should they? The doomed dinosaurs do it for them, and all the bloggers have to do is link to them, occasionally adding some variant of "I call bullshit."

Were the Times to fold, and all the other big pubs to be drawn down into its maelstrom -- a consummation devoutly wished by wingnuts everywhere -- these bloggers would have nothing left to talk about except one another, and reports from large rightwing publications which would presumably, as honorary non-members of the MSM, survive.

You can get a glimpse of this gruesome future at Confederate Yankee, whose mania for media criticism sometimes leads him to attack to treasonous misreporting of... Fox News. Try to imagine him in a post-revolutionary environment. Deprived of liberal media outlets to scourge, he and his comrades would -- after a brief celebration of Rupert Murdoch's new unipolar status -- devote themselves to parsing conservative outlets, and each other, for signs of incorrectness. Every blogger would look upon his brother and see Andrew Sullivan, and denounce him as disloyal to the cause.

Mere opposition to government health care will be seen as accommodationist, and arguments will rage as to whether city hospitals should be merely privatized or closed down to discourage sickness. Each federal bailout of a troubled financial institution will lead to heated debate as to whether the firm's executives should be compensated in gold or Euros. Even the milbloggers, who would be the only source of war coverage in this bold new age, will turn on one another, each declaring the other's account of the latest glorious victory insufficiently enthusiastic, and photos of local youths handing flowers to servicemen will be scrutinized for dark clouds or unconvincing smiles, which will lead to accusations of Photoshop.

Of course, things are pretty ferocious as it is, and if you're of a really cynical turn of mind, you might suspect it's because our current consensus media reality is already exceedingly narrow. But if the evolution of the blogosphere has taught us anything, it's that things can always get worse.

UPDATE. The Ole Perfesser defines his position on the media:
...at the moment [the press is] playing their usual pre-election gloom-and-doom game in the hopes of helping the Democrats.

Which doesn't mean that the economy is necessarily doing better than they say, since their bias is exceeded only by their laziness and ignorance. As I noted some years ago about their Iraq reporting, the fact that they're transparently playing up bogus bad news doesn't mean that there isn't genuine bad news that they're not reporting, because reporting that would require knowledge and effort. So you can't just apply "Kentucky windage" and assume that things are better than the reports say. They may actually be worse, just in a different way than is reported . . .
Or, as Megan McArdle would say, the bad news is only true in "some trivial sense." If the Pope were this good at convincing followers of his infallibility, he wouldn't have to make personal appearance tours.

UPDATE II. Q. Ever-Fucking D.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

SCENE REPORT. In case you were wondering why we haven't treated the Megan McArdle case recently, she apparently went away for a while and left her blog with a bunch of young wingers of the libertoid persuasion, with Daniel Drezner as a ringer. For the historical record:

Jim Henke establishes his libertarian cred at the outset, declaring that he is "not a fan of music... It just doesn't seem very interesting to me... why should it be unusual that some people just aren't touched by music?" Henke's liberty-love extends to an unjustly remanded government prisoner and to confederate flag-wavers -- though he seconds Matthew Yglesias that they should find "some less provocative emblem of Southern folkways" to celebrate (perhaps a jug with three x's on it, or Junior Samples), he feels that "opponents of the Confederate flag and Confederate History Month ought not reflexively cry 'racism' and demand penance... So long as each side chooses to be antagonistic, however, they will get the fight they expect." I wonder if it ever occurred to him that antagonism is the point?

Movie reviewer Peter Suderman repeats the old bloggerz-rool schtick, claiming Tocqueville in evidence. "After all, isn’t the internet the 21st century’s New World?... Indeed, it seems to me that much of the same frontier spirit that he saw as characterizing the birth of America now characterizes the birth and continual development of the internet." I smell sitcom! "So you see, grandsire, in many ways I am like you, traversing great distances in search of liberty." "Is you a gal? 'Cuz if you is, go fix me some vittles."

Such a show would have trouble finding its natural audience, though, in Suderman's perfect world: "I tend to think that there's no reason to subsidize access to broadcast TV in the first place." But for those who have the requisite latinum bars, there will be plenty of awesome entertainment, shown (in keeping with the customary libertarian aversion to traditional mass entertainment venues) in alpha movie palaces.

In their world, there are vacations, but no relief.
REDUCTIO AD DREHER. Rod Dreher wrote two days ago that he just wants to be nice to his fellow-creatures. Perhaps he was then temporarily mellowed out by some organic, artisanal weed. Since then he has been shaking his fist at everything that moves. I should have known he'd eventually turn his wrath on that pregnant guy:
In the consumerist utopia that we've built and are building, the individual's desires are God. Nothing is more important in this world than what Thomas Beatie wants. Thomas Beatie creates his own reality, heedless of the things that are. And we bless this tyrannization of nature as liberation.
In comments he clarifies:
I'm not saying that we don't have the right to change anything in the natural world. Were that the case, we'd all still be living in the jungle. But as the pope indicated, it has to be developed according to its intrinsic nature. It is not wrong (in my view) to eat animals for sustenance. It is wrong, though, to pervert their nature by raising them in conditions that do not allow them to live in some basic sense by their nature.

If you don't believe there is an intrinsic nature in the created order, then there's nothing wrong with what Beatie is doing. But nor is there anything wrong with what factory farmers are doing, or the scientists busily creating new forms of life by mixing animal and human DNA.
Godless humanists will see the problem with his thinking: factory farming affects other living creatures in a real way, physically and against their wills. Thomas Beattie only affects Dreher's idea of how everyone else should think and behave. Even if you are tempted to cut him some slack when he complains that swears on the TV are making our children into savages, you may have trouble understanding why a guy having a baby drives him nuts.

We might speculate: maybe Dreher is worried that someday society will make him squeeze out a young'un himself. Or that he might one day encounter a male mom at a PTA meeting and be socially obliged to treat him civilly, and isn't sure he has the stones to rebuff him as the Little Colonel did Silas Lynch.

But really, no one need be harmed, not even Dreher, for him to react this way. To that extent, this particular rant is revelatory. Usually, when he talks about "culture," he has at least the thin excuse that other people might be harmed -- by poor education, by poverty, by STDs -- because of whatever malfeasance he describes. Here it's all about the God Dreher worships and whose prescriptions he insists upon: "As goes the culture, so, in time, goes the civilization," says Dreher, "betrayed by pride and rebellion."

For Dreher it's really all about obedience. He'll try and reason with you sometimes that it's for your own good, but when he's on a jeremianic roll he will let you know it's because God said it, he believes it, and that settles it.

Of course, this leaves a lot of column inches to fill. Relieved of the necessity (or perhaps the advantage) of spending paragraphs explaining how this may affect you here on this temporal plane, he'll instead populate the space with jabber about "the things that are." If you don't get it, don't worry, he isn't talking to you. He's talking to the folks who will not be cast into everlasting darkness at the Final Trump, when he and they and their pal Jesus no longer have to make up reasons for you to believe them.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

TRY, TRY AGAIN. Oh brother:
Obama Lying To Reporters About His Smoking Habits?

So...does this matter? Normally I’d say that something like a smoking habit doesn’t really matter as it doesn’t speak to the candidate’s policy stances, but smoking is risky behavior health-wise for someone Obama’s age and if the New York Times can make an issue out of McCain’s melanoma surgery from nearly a decade ago we can talk about Obama’s smoking.
At this stage in his life, I think if McCain gets out of a chair too fast it's cause for concern. As for Obama sneaking cigs, that just makes me want to go out and campaign for him.

At least The American Conservative has a sane approach. At Reason Jacob Sullum twits Obama for supporting the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, which is indeed a little nannyish but not hypocritical as it mainly seeks, from what I've read, to toughen labeling and additive standards, which may result in smoother, more flavorful smokes for Obama and the rest of us.

(Regrettably the bill currently requires user fees, but hopefully tobacco lobbyists can get them taken out.)

*UPDATE.Thanks to Commenter GeoX for correcting me: "flavorful" is the word I was looking for. I might also add: outstanding, and they are mild.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

SYMPATHY FOR THE DEVIL. Another day, another Rod Dreher jeremiad:
The prohibitions ("remissions" in Rieff's terminology), both internal and external in our culture, that used to guide us and help us form the character of the next generation, are mostly gone. The culture, as Flanagan observes, is the enemy. The disorders of the age are spreading with the relentless efficiency of a killer virus. As a friend of mine put it to me wisely just now, you can't fully protect your kids, not in this culture. You can only inoculate them, and hope it takes. There is enough goodness in this country, and in its people, and enough liberty and imagination, to provide for those who resist. Somehow, we've got to keep working to find each other, and to help each other to redeem the time. We can't despair -- not as long as we still have freedom to act.
Etc. I guess this is what he thinks he's doing, writing a blog and editing the Dallas Morning News. It sounds as if he thinks only a handful of the elect will make it through the Dark Time, and he must lead them toward the light. He's using the machinery of evil mass culture to achieve his own ends. Clever of him; I wonder if Rupert Murdoch, owner of Beliefnet, is aware of it.

Of course he is. Murdoch knows that millenarianism is a market to be scooped up with the others. If he foresees a cataclysm, he probably expects it will be economic, not moral, which would explain why he is buying media to pick up dollars, rather than doing good works to obtain brownie points with the Almighty. Come Armageddon, a nice fortified compound would be a worthier investment than the respect of monkish moralizers.

I have some admiration for that, not because I prefer wickedness to righteousness, necessarily, but because it strikes me as a more human and ultimately more hopeful, and even more genuinely moral, way of looking at the world than what Brother Rod preaches.

Dreher professes affection for humanity, but he has given up on it, and expects a hard core of saved fellow zealots to reconstruct it after it perishes, this time the right way. Murdoch deals with what is, however cynically, feeding appetites that he must believe are lasting and intrinsic to man -- for who would invest so much in mere fads? Though his motives may be selfish, there is a certain humility in the way he gives the punters what they want. He does try to push them toward his favored political candidates, whom I generally dislike, but if they don't come around he still continues to feed them their sugar-candy and does not scold.

I'm not fond of Murdoch, and in my own millenarian fantasies he swings from a lamppost, but he certainly seems to have more on the ball than his employee. (If Dreher is really only bluffing about all this to keep himself employed, I offer him my apologies and a pat on the back.)
MY FAVORITE CARTOON SUPERVILLAIN. Jonah Goldberg's having a banner day. In this column he pulls what I'm sure he thinks is a brilliant reversal: people who complain about Geert Wilders' repulsive Fitna, which portrays Muslims are homicidal maniacs, are guilty of "hypocrisy" because they put Darwin Fish on their cars, which suggests that Christians... don't believe in evolution. Brushing aside (or, we should with more poetic aptness say, lurching into without realizing) the fact that imputations of crazed murderousness are far more explosive and dangerous than imputations of simple backwardness, Goldberg, clutching the piscene symbol to his heart (to warm it up before devouring it, one imagines), objects that "similar mockery of a cherished symbol would rightly be condemned as bigoted if aimed at blacks or women or, yes, Muslims." Before we can ask why Muslims should not object to the stronger treatment Wilders gives them, Goldberg has fled the scene...

...and entered NRO's The Corner, where he smears stupid everywhere. On comparisons of Kerry and McCain: "John Kerry's attempt to run as a war hero struck lots of people as preposterous even before the Swift Boat Vets went to work on him." Actually Kerry's three Purple Hearts, which would traditionally indicate war-hero status, were about the only thing most citizens knew about Kerry before the Swift Boaters got hold of him. Perhaps sensing our distrust (but hoping we're only giving him that look because we smell the fish-oil on his shirt and chin), Goldberg adds, "More importantly, the voters who are swayed by such things are not evenly distributed between the two parties... the audiences they're appealing to are very different." Before we can ask how that benefits McCain -- seeing as the last great Democratic-vote-poaching GOP candidate, Reagan, never saw a day of combat, and other obvious reasons -- Goldberg has fled again...

....further upstream, where, having been mildly challenged by Derbyshire on his Fish tale, Goldberg launches into a preface --
Oh My Stars and Garters Derb, I had no idea I would elicit so much angst from you on this one. There is much food for thought in your response. But I think as you worked through your feelings and thoughts on the issues you wandered a bit far afield...
-- that would be at home in the mouth of precocious eighth-grader who has read a lot of Booth Tarkington but still can't explain why that pie is missing from the fridge. And is followed by more gibberish.

Later, Goldberg tries to make it up to Derb with "an opportunity to forge consensus between us... an absolutely hysterical (literally!) essay from some potty-mouthed feminist about Firefly." Imagine! An intellectual going on about pop culture! Hee hee hee hee faaaaarrrRRRRRRrt. And now pie and fish are everywhere.

There's so much more, but my lunch break is not endless. Were my character not so strong (and my boss not so meddlesome) I might find the Goldberg vortex more seductive than the Althouse variety.
MAU-MAUING THE FLAK CATCHERS. Always looking for that silver lining, that James Taranto:
If Obama is nominated and loses in November, we can expect a surge in bitterness from liberals and blacks who attribute the result to American and Republican racism... But if Obama is denied the nomination, that bitterness will be directed against alleged Democratic racism.

For more than four decades, blacks have been the most reliably Democratic constituency in American politics. Democrats have encouraged this by portraying both the GOP and America as racist. If blacks came to perceive the Democratic Party as racist, what effect would it have on their partisan loyalty? You can see why so many Democrats do not want to risk finding out.
That's how we lost the black vote to the Republicans in 1984, when "that cracker-ass Walter Mondale" became a curse on black America's lips. How's we get them back, anyone remember? Was it an ad campaign, or did we pay reparations?

Taranto gets extra credit for his last line, which suggests that Democrats are being intimidated into nominating Obama, as a terrified woman might be intimidated into handing her purse to a mugger. Expect this theme to be visualized in a McCain ad this fall: a dark alley... ominous footsteps... and then relief as the Maverick comes into view, perhaps with the rest of the Keating Five dressed as Guardian Angels.

Monday, March 31, 2008

JONAH GOLDBERG SWINGS FOR THE FENCES! At the Canadian National Post, John Moore defends prostitution -- puckishly, to be sure (the author is a talk-radio host) though he does take time to provide a few examples of happy sex workers to support his point.

At National Review Online, Jonah Goldberg is stirred to combat! The noted historian commences:
I find this amusing for several reasons...
(Like what, Goldberg doesn't and probably couldn't say, but he's just setting up the killer follow-through:)
...but the most glaring is that the argument is really stupid.
We could stop right there, but both Goldberg and I have column inches to fill.
In formal debate you'd call his opening an "appeal to authority."
Well, that's a slight stretch of that term, but let's allow it, and (even better) let's allow Goldberg to explain it:
This is like arguing "The U.N. is necessary because Henry Kissinger says it is." But in this case instead of Henry Kissinger, the authority in question is a two-bit gigolo actor who drops to his knees for a part and can't even imagine why he wouldn't since he already does it for free so often. The other authority — and his only actual example — is a single mom who whores herself out to make time for "volunteer work" and raising her daughters. No doubt Mr. Moore thinks Mrs. Brady-by-day, hooker-by-night, is a perfectly representative example of a "sex worker." And we know she's not being demeaned because she never has to dress up like a school girl. Because that would be repugnant! But servicing even dirty old men is just a straight-forward business transaction.
And so Moore's argument is proved fallacious because his authorities are pervs. They know what they're talking about, but what they're talking about is gross. And if Goldberg had called this an argument from example instead, he wouldn't have been able to bring in Henry Kissinger, which is funny because his name has a "K" in it. Also, he'd have to line up unhappy sex workers as counter-examples, and that would kill the buzz.

But Goldberg's rhetorical arsenal is not yet depleted -- in the last ditch he avails the argument from geography:
But I suspect that there's another variable at work here. Moore's Canadian. And as I discovered years ago, lots of Canadians have weirdly amoral views toward prostitution, perhaps because being "judgmental" is just so American.
Killer logic like this has kept libertarians happily yoked to the conservative coalition, and Goldberg gainfully employed, lo these many years. It's like the Enlightenment never happened. If you need a chaser, take up Goldberg's homage to Eric Voegelin.
TINKER TO EVERS TO FAT CHANCE. The Perfesser quotes an allegation of "hemming and hawing" and "life in a cocoon" against Obama, links to the quoted source, which amplifies on the charges ("shocked that [reporters] should demand answers," "When everyone you come in contact with agrees with you, and fawns over you to boot," etc.) and links to the actual video, which reveals the commentary to be somewhat overcooked. (Even the video host uses the odd adjective "semi-heated" to describe the exchange.) I don't know how much "uh" is too much for the general public, but the placeholder has been a prominent feature of Obama's manner of discussion from the beginning, and to my ears indicates more thoughtfulness than trepidation -- especially when he does, in fact, answer the question. A little stammering didn't hurt Jimmy Stewart, either.

But I'm prejudiced, of course. This daisy chain shows both the strength and the weakness of our vaunted internet transparency. You can get to the source more easily than in earlier days, but as the web is not C-Span, you'll generally get there via a few layers of deliberate framing, and that's if you take the time to get there at all. That the Perfesser said it, and that a source exists somewhere, will be good enough for the majority of his readers. (Not mine! You guys are unstoppable!) The internet has given us a lot, but I see no evidence that it has made us less lazy.

UPDATE. Thanks to commenter MFS for correcting my headline.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

THE MAN WHO WASN'T THERE. There's a lot of talk about the ongoing Clinton-Obama race, much of it from operatives taking the opportunity to make Republican hay of it. "This race is different from every other Democratic race because it's about race and gender, ultimately, and personality," says David Brooks. Presumably Brooks is bothered because he still thinks Presidential races are supposed to be all about religion, as he told us in 2004.

Brooks insists that the protracted fight is "going to make the party look pretty bad," and imagines voters asking, "Are these people going to really manage the entire health care system?" This last bit is jarring, as it mentions an actual campaign issue.

While the Democrats are hogging the spotlight, the McCain campaign has been thrown into deep shadow. This would seem an excellent chance for him to go around shoring up his finances and whatever base he actually has, but that doesn't seem to be going so well. I notice McCain's only significant endorsement in the past three weeks has come from Nancy Reagan. His public policy pronouncements have stirred few ripples, at least of the positive sort. Recently Republican Senator Mel Martinez said of McCain's housing-market prescriptions, or lack thereof, "I would give Senator McCain an Incomplete."

You have to wonder how people who are not Republican Senators feel about this and other issues. We know that people like McCain, but we have yet to see what they think of his policies, or the prospect of seeing them put into action in a McCain Administration. When the Democrats get a nominee, we will get a better idea of this, and we'll also get a better idea of who's really trying make the election "about race and gender," and why.

Friday, March 28, 2008

REVIEW: GEERT WILDERS' FITNA. Ugly shit from the Koran, World Trade Center attacks, another bomb, crazy Arabs, dead and bloody people, more ugly shit from the Koran, antique Arab, little Arab girl indoctrinated against Jews, Mogadishu, London bombing, more indoctrination, more ugly shit from the Koran, Theo Van Gogh, some other crazy Arabs, still more crazy Arabs, guy getting his head cut off, more ugly shit from the Koran, still more crazy Arabs, Ahmadinejad saying something rather mild, more crazy Arabs, even more crazy Arabs, "The Netherlands under the spell of Islam," "No ban on the burqa," graph of Muslim population in the Netherlands, graph of Muslim population in Europe, more crazy Arabs, "The Netherlands in the future?" with more crazy Arabs. Page appears to be torn from Koran: "The sound you heard was a page being removed from a phonebook." (Pussy.) Long scroll of stuff ending with "Stop Islamisation, defend our freedom." Danish cartoon with bomb animated to simulate explosion. Credits. Storm/bomb noises.

Uh, so he seems to be against blowing things up and crazy Arabs.

Big whoop. I already did my part, and mine was aesthetically superior. Blow me the fuck up. Better still, just blow me.

Rod Dreher: "I would call this film propaganda, certainly, but it doesn't operate on hate. It operates on fear, which is a different thing." Stop Crunchy Conservatism, defend our sanity.

UPDATE. I've been hard on Spaghetti Happens in comments, and probably misunderstand him. It's not that I think there's no threat, only that this little movie is pretty much the polar opposite of a useful counter-measure. Fitna doesn't overstate the viciousness of our enemies, but it does overstate their power -- disastrously, I think, for its own alleged purposes. It's designed to strike terror in the hearts of Westerners, when it isn't terror that's needed, but confidence.
SHORTER THEE ANCHORESS: All these irreverent seculars making fun of Our Lord! Attend the healing words of Ace O'Spades! No, not that Ace O'Spades -- no, not that Ace O'Spades -- no, not that Ace O'Spades -- no, not that Ace O' Spades -- no, not that Ace O' Spades -- no, not that Ace O'Spades -- this one! Jesus Fucking Christ, what have I gotten myself into!
REMAIN CALM! ALL IS WELL! One would expect an article entitled "Who Do Iraqis Want to Be U.S. President?" to include some quotes. Yet Omar Fadhil at Pajamas Media provides none, maybe because anyone he might ask is terrified that he or she would be killed for answering him. Nonetheless Fadhil has strong opinions on the matter, hilariously expressed:
If I were to try to predict their feelings, I’d start by restating the fact that most Iraqis are concerned first and foremost about their living conditions — economy, security, water, electricity — and they care primarily about coming up with solutions to these problems. Iraqis have also come to realize that their problems are essentially domestic...
I wonder how people without running water and electricity came to realize that their problems were essentially domestic? Maybe the same way people who have to "decide between buying a gallon of gas or a gallon of milk" do. Only with more dysentery.
...I believe there’s wide agreement that Iraq still needs America’s commitment to the democratic project in the country. Perhaps this belief is more prevalent among ordinary people than it is among politicians, particularly those who aren’t sincerely interested in the idea of a unified state. Those politicians, while still more or less silent, view the American presence as a restraint to their ambitions in the long run.
Not only the people but also the politicians are silent. It's a wonder Fadhil's editors chose that headline -- oh wait, it's on Pajamas Media. Boy, they have a lively sense of humor.
Visits like [McCain's to Baghdad], with the absence of similar visits from Democrats, have two dimensions: first, they push the political process in Iraq in order to achieve stability there, which would help the Republicans in the elections. Second, it makes Iraqi politicians and the public understand that a change in the administration does not necessarily mean abandoning Iraq and the immediate withdrawal of troops from the country. The Iraqi government has to work on these basics instead of standing by idly and wasting precious time.
Here's how the Iraqi politicians have been wasting precious time:
Iraq's Parliament holds an emergency meeting to discuss how to end violence in Basra and Baghdad. Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has imposed a three-day curfew in Baghdad, where insurgents have attacked the Green Zone. U.S. diplomats have been ordered to take cover.
I don't know how Fadhil's story failed to include an anecdote about children giving flowers to U.S. servicemen. Maybe it was a lapse on the part of Pajamas Media's editors. Assuming, perhaps unfairly, that they have any.

UPDATE. In comments, R. Porrofatto explains Pajamas Media policy: "At PJM, they're all editors, i.e., they've privatized the profits and socialized the ineptitude."

Thursday, March 27, 2008

PICADOR. At the Wall Street Journal, Daniel Henninger condemns "the blog-driven media Scream" (aided and abetted by "YouTube, the galaxy-sized video archive") that has caused nervous campaigns to fire operatives whose partisan gibes attract too much unfavorable attention. He worries this has made our political discourse "artificially civil."

Whom is Henninger shitting? In just the past few weeks we've had imputations of racism both for and against Jeremiah Wright's most famous parishoner, and endless variations on "bitch" aimed at Hillary Clinton. Even the relatively invisible John McCain has been accused of senility by Brit Hume. These people are not officially connected with any campaign staffs, but neither was James Callender. If there's a problem with the current election season, civility, artificial or otherwise, ain't it.

The main change would seem to be, in Henninger's reading, that some highly-placed people have lost their jobs over gaffes Henninger thinks would have earned a mere "trip to the woodshed" in the Arcadian past. But why would the defenestration of Geraldine Ferraro and Sam Power trouble him?

Henninger has previously decried the pernicious effects of YouTube, though in that case he was mainly concerned that the viral video vendor was making Republicans George Allen, Conrad Burns, and Rick Santorum look bad. Now he affects some sympathy for Democratic campaigners who are also caught in the great maw of citizen journalism. Knowing Henninger's history, we may be forgiven for wondering if this is a tactical ploy.

Henninger works for the Journal's editorial department, which practices a slightly different kind of advocacy than that practiced by bloggers and video guerrillas. True, they sometimes go in for small-bore character assassination; indeed, they might be considered the forefathers of the method now favored by top political bloggers. But in the main they prefer big-picture essays -- ponderous examinations of (to use Henninger's own contributions as examples) the death of diversity, the impossibility of empathy, the necessity of religious myths, etc. Their approach is not so often specific as miasmic; while they sometimes endorse candidates and policies, they are much more comfortable promoting a world-view that makes their opponents look morally confused, devoid of "guardrails," and philosophically unfit to run the country.

In short, they are culture warriors -- or, more properly, culture picadors, who weaken their prey with many cuts so that the matador of any given electoral season may more safely apply the coup de grace. Theirs is an unglamorous but vital role; they may not get glory, but they make glory possible. And they face limited danger in the arena. Among our pundit class there has always been one thing bigger than politics, and that's job security.

From their perspective, then, there may be something unnerving about the example of other supporting players who have lately taken a sword between the shoulder-blades. Henninger may have noticed that in our new media age, even some journalists have been known to take a fall. The threat remains distant, but why take chances? If Paris was worth a Mass, surely a Journal column is worth the odd profession of interest in civility, however far-fetched.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

SHORTER JAMES LILEKS: Flowers disturb me. You goddamn hippies probably LOVE flowers, because you're divorced from my nobler, purer reality. As I said, I love flowers, but only because they are inherently beautiful, not for reasons. Flowers just are. Like skyscrapers! Hippies don't like those either, because they don't have the guts to oppose capitalism. And another... whew, I thought they'd never leave.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

WHOOPS! BACK TO THE SLAUGHTERING BOARD! Five years ago the Fourth Estate gave all its respectful attention to people who thought the Iraq War was a great idea, and none to those who thought it a mistake. Now, the mainstream media are willing to consider that the war wasn't the no-brainer they'd assumed it was, but still won't listen to any but the same idiots who bamboozled them in the first place.

As Tbogg has pointed out, Megan McArdle has previously defended her own Iraq wrongness on the grounds that her heart and methodology were in the right place and her opponents are mean, and darned if she isn't doing it again. Give her credit, though: in her follow-up, she has actually found a way to make her argument simultaneously more abstract and more viscerally offensive:
My discussion of failure in the context of the Iraq discussion is part of my broader beliefs about innovation...

To succeed quickly, he said, what you want to do is fail. A lot. Failing eliminates wrong answers faster than any possible analysis. I was reminded of the famous Thomas Edison quote: asked how it felt to have failed to invent an electric lightbulb, Edison said "I haven't failed! I've discovered 10,000 filaments that don't work."
By this point McArdle has segued to the economy, but those of us who can remember two whole paragraphs back are thinking: did she just defend the death of 4,000+ Americans and countless Iraqis on a "try try again" basis?

Why, yes she did, and I'm sure she doesn't even know what's wrong with that, except that certain mean people may insist on making a big deal of it.

I've changed my mind about the First Amendment. I want to ban Ayn Rand. Let's not lose another generation. Our dorks should be fiddling with computers, not applying their hideously deformed ethics to matters of life and death.

Monday, March 24, 2008

“I charge the the white man.” This incendiary speech, opening the film Malcolm X and culminating with a burning American flag resolving into the letter, encapsulates the anger and fear surrounding Barack Obama’s association with Rev. Jeremiah Wright...

Obama is unlikely to become president unless he can explain Malcolm X ...
I predicted they'd get on Obama for Richard Pryor, but this is almost as ridiculous. So I'll up the ante, and predict that they will next demand Obama answer for Fat Albert, whose self-destructive abuse of carbohydrates for years set a negative example that has done so much to hold black people down.

I can see it now: The Ole Perfesser quotes a citizen journalist who says Obama was observed laughing at a Fat Albert episode. (It'll turn out that it was "Roots," and he was weeping, but there'll be no retraction.) Perfesser notes that Obama himself is quite thin; isn't this, he asks, some sort of a double standard? Then he'll quote some guy who calls Obama an "obesity pimp."

Everyone will go "heh" except the conservative spokesman of the moment, who will gleefully shake the bars of his cage and rasp, "Ah kin calls 'em niggers agin?"

Well, as I also said before, I was only in this thing for the riots anyway.
CHANGING SHIFTS. I'm trying to correct my sleep habits, and so can no longer stay up till 3 am waiting for James Lileks to walk the halls in a nightshirt and stocking-cap, holding his arms out in front of him and wailing "Buy War Bonds." So I checked out that buzz.mn thing he does in the daytime.

Here he reports that the film Leatherheads was not made in Minnesota because the state didn't offer the filmmakers a big enough tax break. Lileks seems on the verge of complaining about corporate welfare before recovering himself and targeting instead the Hollyweird non-interlopers: "Why them, and not every other company that wants to set up shop here? Is it just because they’re pretty?" (Answer: What other company that wants to set up shop there? Wastelands R Us?)

Next post, still-steaming Lileks makes fun of Renee Zellweger's face. Fortunately there are hippies onto whom he can offload his rage: Lileks commences a series of photo-posts about some 1970 protest, within which he promises readers will find "a lovely irony." And what is the irony? That hippies smell! Haw haw! And that the stupid hippies were protesting one chain restaurant but not another. Moral: complaining is useless, unless you can get a newspaper to pay you a hundred thousand dollars a year for it. Then it's awesome.

Daylight doesn't do much for him or me. Back into the shadows!

UPDATE. Oh, wait; I can read Bleats when I wake up! Here we go: "I’ll gladly hand over six Carnegie libraries for three 60s coffee shops." I'm going back to bed.
ALSO: 78% OF AMERICANS PREFER CHAW TO DIP. Rod Dreher says McCain will win the election. How does he know? You may be amazed to hear he did not receive the information directly from Jesus. Actually maybe he did: he's kind of cagey about the source, but he does say his prediction is "based in part on various in-person and e-mail conversations I've had over the long weekend":
...there are quite a few whites who are pleased to see Obama, the great liberal hope, suffering because of the same rules of public discussion of race that liberals have used to punish conservatives who deviate from them. I've been hearing a strong "sauce for the gander" sentiment from whites who believe Obama is asking to be held to a lesser standard than whites. These feelings run very deep.
Quite a few, eh? And they're all within Dreher's circle of communicants. Using a similar polling method, I can safely tell you that Rose McGowan will be the next President (of my dick) and that the new breed of crystal meth is more powerful than the old but "Tina" is a stupid name for a drug even if gay people thought it up.

I can imagine how Dreher's fact-gathering was conducted:
DREHER: Have you heard about Reverend Jeremiah Wright?
ZEBULON, a rustic: Whuh?
DREHER: You know, the preacher at Obama's church.
ZEBULON: Obama whuh?
DREHER: Obama. Barack Obama, that black fella who's running for President?
ZEBULON: Whuhhuh nigger Preznit whuh? (laughs, mimes tying a noose)
DREHER: (takes notes) Now, see, when I lived in Cobble Hill, folks were too politically correct to tell me that. Did I ever tell you about the time they gave my job to a minority?
He still could be right about McCain, of course, because, as Dreher often reminds his readers, Jesus hates us.

PS If you feel you haven't gotten your money's worth from Dreher, go back one post and hear him accuse the makers of Horton Hears a Who of prejudice against homeschoolers. I swear to fucking God.

UPDATE. Fixd mor speling errers.
AHA! At RedState, Pejman Yousefzadeh is displeased that his former Constitutional Law professor, Doug Kmiec, has endorsed Barack Obama. Yousefzadeh has a secret weapon with which he hopes to sink Kmiec's credibility with his fellow conservatives. Kmiec, it seems, had previously endorsed...

(The heart palpitates. Jesse Jackson? Huey Newton? Shirley Chisholm?)

...Harriet Miers.

A former Reagan and Bush I AAG who went to the mat for an unpopular Bush II Supreme Court nominee now supports Obama. This presents an opening! Previously Yousefzadeh counseled, "the best way for McCain to win it is with the same devil-may-care, nothing-left-to-lose attitude that has helped him succeed in ways that pundits and reporters did not think possible as little as nine or ten months ago." So McCain should now present Kmiec's advocacy of Miers as one of George W. Bush's many stupidities that would be avoided by a McCain Administration.

I have already suggested a similar approach, but despaired of the Republicans availing it. I see now that they are warmer toward such a strategy than once they were. Shall we live in hope? All men, I hope, live so.

UPDATE. Fixd speling misteaks.
ANNALS OF LIBERTARIANISM PART 56,440. SLA radical Sara Jane Olson was paroled, then taken back to prison after five days because the board discovered a "clerical error."

Whatever you think of Olson, this sort of take-back makes our criminal justice system look worse than it already did, at least from what we might laughingly call a libertarian perspective.

Surely our friends at Reason are all over this? Let's check:
Click below to check out reason.tv's three-minutes-and-change take on last week's anti-war protests. More hippies than Woodstock! More questions about health care than the first two years of the Bill Clinton admin!
Oh yeah, anti-war protesters are dumb. Sigh. We ought to devise a political orientation based on maximum freedom under Constitutional law. Any ideas as to what we should call it?

UPDATE. The Powerline/Ole Perfesser take on the Olson case: "This story is almost enough to give you warm feelings about bureaucratic incompetence." But: "A vote for Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton is a vote to put these people in charge of your health care." Again, do you folks have a new name? Because "libertarian" really doesn't mean shit.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

STILL ANOTHER NEW LOW. Obamanation accelerates with a wingnut calling black people niggers. No, he's not being ironic; it's not part of a script in which he imagines someone else using the slur. He's using it like they did in the old days, and still do in some dark warrens, with no fancy-pants intellectual pretensions -- though he does offer plenty of excuses, which we may take as a sign of progress.

P.S. Please note that I have been scrupulous about the link, so this post affords an even flimsier pretext than usual for attacking Obama through third parties. Not that this will stop those so minded.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

FLEMMING ROSE RESPONDS to bin Laden's latest threat. “What kind of civilization are we… if we refrain from mocking and ridiculing bin Laden and his followers?”

A pretty sorry one. Which, I fear, would suit some people fine.
Experience suggests that by "some people" the Perfesser means liberals, not because there's any proof that liberals support Muslim extremism at the expense of free speech, but because everything bad is liberal and vice versa. Any other ideas? (Besides that he's an asshole, I mean.)
IT GNAWS ME! IT GNAWS ME! Ann Althouse's tribute to the late Paul Scofield:
Here's the lawyer's favorite scene from "A Man for All Seasons"...

ADDED: Actually, I've never seen "A Man for All Seasons." I was around in 1966 and went to a few movies in those days, but that wasn't one. It might have interested me back then. It must have played around campus in the years went I was in college (1969-1973). In those years, we went to see every movie we had any interest in, because we never knew when we'd get another chance and assumed it would only be on TV with commercials messing it up. But "A Man for All Seasons" was the exactly kind of movie we shunned and scoffed at then.
The quote in the post title is from "Egotism, or: The Bosom Serpent" by Nathaniel Hawthorne. Now if you'll excuse me, I am going to drink this bottle of whatever this is in front of me.

UPDATE: Apparently that really is her in comments. She reframes the debate, gets all Dwight Macdonald, then runs back home and calls me nerdy. Whoo! Is it hot in here or is it just me?

UPDATE II. 100+ comments! And the thread has spooled so far away from where we started that I have no relevant response to offer. Since I cannot address it logically, I can only take it personally, and I'm flattered to blushes, as any gentleman would be.

Friday, March 21, 2008

YET ANOTHER NEW LOW. You know, it's amazing to admit that I "expect better" from National Review on -- well, anything. But Mark Hemingway's link to a bottom-feeding winger site -- by which Hemingway seeks to demonstrate that Keith Olbermann's girlfriend is a "hypocrite" because ZOMG HERE ARE PICTURES OF HER DANCIN LIKE A SLUT -- seemed to me at first like something even they wouldn't do.

After a few moments' thought, though, I realized: what's to stop them? Buckley's dead -- not that they paid much attention to him anyway -- and Kathryn J. Lopez, the publication's putative online editor, does not to any observable degree provide oversight (aside from policing Star Trek references). There's no indication that NRO actually has standards -- just a general instinct as to what they can and can't get away with. And as they seem to be getting some traction, or at least a hard-on, from the whole white-people-rise-up-against-black-racism thing, it's no shock that they would be feeling a little expansive right now.

By the election, it'll be like Ace O. Spades without the elfin wit, or maybe this without the dissents.
SHORTER ROD DREHER: P.C. has gotten so bad, if you talk honestly about niggers and faggots at work you'll get in trouble! No wonder Obama's finished.
PROS BEFORE HOS. In her recent Obama column in the Wall Street Journal, Peggy Noonan slaps the main stream media, then disingenuously describes herself as a "proud member since 2000." In a way, that's quite true; she wrote speeches for Reagan, fatally setting the tone for what we still describe as the liberal media, which has done nothing since then but cosset her old boss, amplify and exacerbate every half- and quarter-baked scandal-story about Bill Clinton, and treat subsequent Democratic Presidential candidates as if they were third-party radicals. In that sense there is no one more mainstream than her.

So let us in this instance give Noonan the credit she deserves as a big-time operator. Her praise of Obama, before the knife-twist, is almost as syrupy as her Reagan encomia from back in the day. She does not tip her hand too soon, as this well-regarded amateur does. Executive summaries of the sort he offers ("While I was impressed by his argument, I could not help but return to the central question of his candidacy...") may impress other right-wing internet essayists, but Noonan has been to the Show, and knows to keep the forkball hidden until it's time to release it. Her depth-charge is truly deep:
But "a similar anger exists within segments of the white community." He speaks of working- and middle-class whites whose "experience is the immigrant experience," who started with nothing. "As far as they're concerned, no one handed them anything, they've built it from scratch." "So when they are told to bus their children to a school across town," when they hear of someone receiving preferences they never received, and "when they're told their fears about crime in urban neighborhoods are somehow prejudiced," they feel anger too.

This is all, simply, true. And we are not used to political figures being frank, in this way, in public. For this Mr. Obama deserves deep credit. It is also true the particular whites Obama chose to paint -- ethnic, middle class -- are precisely the voters he needs to draw in Pennsylvania. It was strategically clever. But as one who witnessed busing in Boston first hand, and whose memories of those days can still bring tears, I was glad for his admission that busing was experienced as an injustice by the white working class. Next step: admitting it was an injustice, period.
I have already mentioned the "You already admitted black people have prejudices, now insult some black parishioners" approach of such as Andrew Sullivan, but Sullivan is a mere columnist, and not so accustomed to dishing the poisoned treacle as a practiced operative like Noonan.

Sullivan could never find room in his columns for a call to revival of the Louise Day Hicks doctrine. He has staked too much on his "post-racial" angle. To call for Obama to revisit and renounce busing would harsh Sullivan's modish and studiously-established cross-cultural mellow.

Noonan, on the other hand, is old school. She recalls the ancient racial wars, and knows from long experience how to make segregation look reasonable to white people. Though in the current state of play it would look bad to endorse white mobs screaming at buses full of black children, Noonan knows she can, in the cacophony and confusion attending to Obama's speech, reframe that disgusting episode as a legitimate white grievance. And she knows that no one on her side, least of all Sullivan, will raise a demurrer.

I have to say Noonan's rancid, racist gambit is well-played. I only wish there were someone with establishment credentials and balls to refute her, or to plainly state why they won't.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

YOU WANT TO KNOW WHAT'S WRONG WITH THIS COUNTRY? Once upon a time, when you gave rock musical instruments to agoraphobic suburbanites, you got The Shaggs. Now you get this.

Much more of this level of degeneration and Al Qaeda will just walk right over us. Death will come as a blessing.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

THE QUINTESSENCE OF WTF. At The New Republic, Adam Sternbergh criticizes the humor site Stuff White People Like. His item is a little overbaked, but fair enough ("But it's much funnier and, at least on its face, more original to say 'White People' rather than 'Yuppies.' I mean, if someone sent you a link to a blog called 'Stuff Bobos Like,' would you even open it, let alone forward it to all your Bobo friends?").

Ann Althouse has a different approach. After wondering why the subject deserves "a whole TNR piece" (see this for Althouse's idea of editorial concision) and failing to find anything noteworthy in SWPL herself, she hits upon the real reason for Sternbergh's concern:
Aha! #8 Barack Obama!

Immediately, I suspect Adam Sternbergh of being an Obamaton and this is his real grudge against the blog. Does this hit a little close to home, Adam?
Sometimes people ask me why I don't write about Althouse much any more. I usually shrug it off by saying she hasn't been that interesting lately, but that's just an evasion; the real reason is existential dread. When I encounter one of her synaptic fireworks displays, I begin by wondering how such a thing could possibly exist, and soon proceed to wondering why blogs exist, then why writing does, and finally I am reduced to grim contemplation of the meaninglessness of all existence. I choose not to stare into the Althouse, in other words, lest I find the Althouse staring back.
PROGRESS REPORT. John F. Burns on Iraq in the International Herald Tribune. His conclusion:
Opinion polls, including those commissioned by the U.S. command, have long suggested that a majority of Iraqis would like U.S. troops withdrawn, but another lesson to be drawn from Saddam's years is that any attempt to measure opinion in Iraq is fatally skewed by intimidation. More often than not, people tell pollsters and reporters what they think is safe, not necessarily what they believe. My own experience, invariably, was that Iraqis I met who felt secure enough to speak with candor had an overwhelming desire to see American troops remain long enough to restore stability.

That sentiment is not one that many critics of the war in the United States seem willing to accept, but neither does it offer the glimmer of cheer that it might seem to offer to many supporters of the war. For it would be strange, after the years of unrelenting bloodshed, if Iraqis demanded anything else. It is small credit to the invasion, after all it has cost, that Iraqis should arrive at a point when all they want from America is a return to something that they had under Saddam, stability. For America, too, it is a deeply dispiriting prospect, promising no early end to the bleeding in Iraq.
Burns also uses the Q word. Conservative commentators are prone to mood swings when it comes to Burns; I guess this will send their needle back to "traitor" again.
THE STUPIDEST THING EVER WRITTEN UNTIL GOLDBERG WRITES SOMETHING ELSE, PART 455,093. "I am not one to underestimate Barack Obama's skill at constructing cathedrals with his words," says Jonah Goldberg, demonstrating his skill at erecting rickety outhouses with the same material. Another choice metaphor:
Democratic politicians have carried the baggage of black victimology and white guilt for generations. Whenever Republican candidates have tried to advance our politics without such baggage, Democrats have yelled, "Here, catch," and crushed them with it.
By "crushed," he must mean "lost most elections to." Then:
Obama proved he's capable of dropping the baggage of yesteryear. But he also proved he's even more adept at picking it back up.
Baggage that crushes Republicans can be lifted by the Incredible Barack! Barack crush! Later:
The old baggage has been replaced with shinier suitcases, but the contents are the same as ever.
That crushing load, now transferred to suitcases? Even with his colossal strength, Obama will have trouble getting his fingers through all those little handles. Presumably when the Democrats try to crush Republicans with these suitcases, the Republicans will just hire the porters of prejudice and the redcaps of racism.

As this metaphorical luggage, near as I can figure, represents "a huge expansion of the welfare state," I suggest we offload their contents into thousands of Fendi bags, representing our popular yet vain and expensive policies. Thus may we wreck the country and look fabulous doing it.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

LET THAT BE A LESSON TO YOU. LifeSiteNews reports "Doctor Seuss's 'Horton Hears a Who' to Raise Pro-Life Questions." If you know my attitude toward hijacking films for political purposes, you may be surprised that this doesn't bother me much (though it apparently bothered Dr. Seuss). The story of "Horton" has achieved the status of a fable, and we all use fables promiscuously to illustrate our points. Horton and the Whos might as well be the Fox and the Grapes. Aesop and Seuss may have had other ideas, but it's out of their hands now.

I think some antiabortionists sensed this lack of friction, and so chose not to leave it as a matter of interpretation:
All hell broke loose at the Hollywood premiere of "Horton Hears a Who!" today when a group of pro-lifers infiltrated the screening, then chanted anti-abortion slogans after the flick.

The theme of the movie is based on the motto: "After all, a person is a person, no matter how small." So the pro-lifers thought it was a good idea to use this theme to their advantage -- even though their complicated message was falling mostly on the ears of children.

The stars in attendance included Victoria Beckham and her three kids, Jim Carrey and Jenny McCarthy, Steve Carell and all 12 contestants from "American Idol."

After the chanting ended, the group put red tape over their mouths that said "Life" on them, and paraded around the event.
People, you don't want to morally confront Jim Carrey. Remember The Majestic? If he makes another one of those, it's on your head.

Besides, you may find that the power of the fabulous is not yours alone:
Oh, The Places You Will Find Us!

Before I forget, check out Horton Hears a Who. Amazing with a wonderful queer subplot if I ever saw one.

I remember when I first came out as gay. Filled with residual shame and still believing all the myths about LGBT people, I hated the idea of being part of the gay world which I assumed had at the center of its universe a bar (a smoky bar at that filled with catty drag queens and drug addicts.

I have been fortunate though and have experienced all sorts of LGBT people throughout the US, Canada, Europe, West Africa and the Caribbean and have discovered that I need never enter a bar to meet up with brilliant, interesting and thoughtful LGBT people...

I can meet LGBT folks at book clubs and film festivals, in cafes and at poetry jams, gay bingo, and at community centers, in churches, choirs, theater productions, anti-war rallies, food pantries, orchid societies, gay soccer teams, softball and bowling leagues, conferences, colleges, hiking clubs, camps, resorts, cruises, and LGBT bookstores...
How's that old moral go? It's an ill wind that blows no one some good.
HOPE-A-DOPE. After days of pummeling over his pastor, Barack Obama gives a speech. As you may have heard, he's very good at that. But to see how good, you should survey conservative reactions to this one.

Take Obama's reminiscence on his grandmother:
I can no more disown [Rev. Wright] than I can disown the black community. I can no more disown him than I can my white grandmother -- a woman who helped raise me, a woman who sacrificed again and again for me, a woman who loves me as much as she loves anything in this world, but a woman who once confessed her fear of black men who passed by her on the street, and who on more than one occasion has uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe.

These people are a part of me. And they are a part of America, this country that I love.
At National Review, Amy Holmes: "Meanwhile, in an effort to lay blame everywhere, Obama called out his own grandmother for admitting to her, now, not so secret fear of young black male strangers." Backyard Conservative: "omg Obama's white grandmother is still alive--and he exploits and shames her before the world. What a shameless, nasty thing to do--to get himself out of a tight spot. That is a personal betrayal." Red State: "Then he got to Reverend Wright and his grandmother, throwing them both under the bus..."

Though reading comprehension is always an issue with these people, even someone not accustomed to their peculiar ways can clearly see that their misapprehension is in this case willful, purposeful, and fearful.

Like the quoted portion of it, Obama's whole speech emphasizes common ground between white and black people, not just by addressing the commonality of our hopes but also acknowledging the divisiveness of our fears. We should treat the fears rather than the people as the problem, he suggests, because "if we walk away now, if we simply retreat into our respective corners, we will never be able to come together" to take care of the other pressing issues of the day, from which these fears are an unneeded and (he also suggests) intentional distraction.

You may find this eloquent or cunning, or both. But you have to parse it beyond all reason to get what these tormented souls got from it. You have to be painfully anxious to blunt its effect to interject, when Obama talks about "the Christians in the lion's den," that "Daniel was not a Christian" (necessitating a long explanation afterwards: "I'm well aware that Christians were fed to lions in Roman arenas. But Daniel was the one thrown into the lion's den..."). To shrug it all off by saying, after endless prior vivisection of Obama's words, that you can't believe what he says anyway because he's so good at saying it, you have to be the Ole Perfesser.

To answer Obama with quotes from Chris Rock and Bill Cosby, you have to be one of the people Dave Chappelle ran to Africa to get away from.

Another alternative is to be plain nuts, as the speech has clearly (and easily, I would imagine) driven the Review's John Derbyshire, who offers his own, very different reading of the sort of cringe-worthy comments Obama heard from his grandma:
In observing American racial attitudes and politics, the interest is in the variety of ways white Americans smother their despair. Some, of course, don't. They are the kind of people whose groups you find on the Southern Poverty Law Center's "hate" list, though many of them are not noticably hateful, only, as they would put it, "realistic."
(Pause to point out that these are the sort of Klans, Fronts, and Prides to which Derbyshire refers.)
It's always there, though, and in all but the toughest (i.e. most liberal) cases, put me in a room with a white American for a couple of hours and I can work them round to the point where they are telling me about their last mugging, the last time some black DMV clerk insulted them, or whatever. And when you get your white American to that point, the mixture of relief and rage with which it all spills out is like a boil bursting.
Whatever else you can say about Derbyshire, you can't say he didn't get what Obama was saying. He knows how racial hatred festers. But the solution he prefers is to "retreat into our respective corners," where he and his fellow-sufferers can lance their boils and celebrate their own private kind of racial unity.

As usual with these guys, it's easier to see what they're really getting at once they've snapped.

Monday, March 17, 2008

THE HITCHENS DOCTRINE. Slate baits Christopher Hitchens into defending, yet again, the Iraq adventure. Hitchens points to America's history of meddling in Iraq, beginning with "the role played by the CIA in the coup that ultimately brought Saddam Hussein's wing of the Baath Party to power" in 1968, leaving us -- morally I suppose he means -- with only "the option [of] continued collusion with Saddam Hussein or a decision to have done with him." Later he goes much further:
There is, however, one position that nobody can honestly hold but that many people try their best to hold. And that is what I call the Bishop Berkeley theory of Iraq, whereby if a country collapses and succumbs to trauma, and it's not our immediate fault or direct responsibility, then it doesn't count, and we are not involved. Nonetheless, the very thing that most repels people when they contemplate Iraq, which is the chaos and misery and fragmentation (and the deliberate intensification and augmentation of all this by the jihadists), invites the inescapable question: What would post-Saddam Iraq have looked like without a coalition presence?
I Imagine Hitchens is being generous in assuming for the sake of argument that Iraq was "not our immediate fault or direct responsibility", because his premise suggests that it is (though he is much less generous in demanding that opponents of the invasion take responsibility for the mess they were trying to avoid in the first place).

But Hitchens is especially and extraordinarily generous with American blood and treasure. Hitchens' anti-Berkleyite position sets an alarmingly ambitious agenda for a nation that is currently spending billions, if not trillions, on one country it has already blown apart and is attempting to piece back together. America has left her prints on a lot of countries. If things get crucial in Venezuela, maybe our history of involvement there -- from the Olney Interpretation to the 2002 coup -- will make it morally necessary for us to invade to oust Chavez once and for all.

Or we may go back in time and consider how differently America's Southeast Asia adventure would have gone if the Hitchens Doctrine had then been in effect. Maybe we'd still be nation-building in Vietnam, Cambodia, and who knows where else.

Maybe we should just give restitution for slavery and declare ourselves too broke for any further payback, foreign or domestic. Might's well get our national bankruptcy over with in one shot instead of stretching it out over a series of wars.
SHORTER JAMES LILEKS: The Bear Stearns thing fills me with confidence -- unless the Democrats take power, because history shows that they can really ruin a good depression.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

LET'S SEE, WHAT TO CALL THIS... OK, HOW ABOUT "RACIST BULLSHIT"? Obama has cut Reverend Wright loose. Conservatives are uniformly unappeased. Sample:
Here is a man he has had a close association with for 20 years... his friend, his mentor and the man who baptized his children.

And Barack Obama was completely unaware that this man is a raving lunatic.

How then will he fare as president, when he will have to gauge the true nature and intentions of foreign governments, our allies and our enemies?

How can we trust this man to make the right call, if he can't even determine the true nature of a man who has been so close to him for over two decades?
Liberal handwringing continues. While even under the best circumstances I am no goddamned ray of sunshine myself, I don't think it matters at all -- though for ordinary, depressing reasons.

Obama's defenestration of Wright is what is known in political parlance as a "Sister Souljah Moment" -- a denial of extreme rhetoric on one's own side of the Great Divide that is supposed to elevate the Momentizing candidate. On its face, this Moment qualifies. But conservatives say -- indeed said ahead of time -- that it won't do.

Apparently, among this crowd, Sister Souljah Moments are only for white people. Bush I parties with Sun Myung Moon, Bush II goes to Bob Jones University, John McCain accepts the endorsement of John Hagee, and it slides. Barack Obama renounces Rev. Wright, and we are told that the taint is indelible.

The sliding scales of political prognosticators may be laid aside. This incident couldn't actually convince anyone that Obama isn't fit to be president unless he or she were predetermined to think so, and on grounds that are impervious to logic. The magic number is yet to be determined, but it will be revealed soon enough. For though the hardcore have already announced themselves, there are some who wait for the last possible moment -- for whatever drama of self-regard to play out, we can only guess -- to reveal themselves.

Then we may take alleged Obama supporter Andrew Sullivan, who calls the Wright renunciation "classy" but is still not satisfied, as a bellwether:
But a more forceful explanation of why and how Obama rejects Wright's most inflammatory sound-bites would be helpful at some point. A bigger speech reiterating his own rejection of racial resentment would be even better - soon. Why not in a black church?
Count on it: even if Obama goes to the Mahalia Jackson House of God or some such and tells the congregants how awful they've been to white people, Sullivan will at some point be disturbed to learn that Obama once laughed immoderately at Bicentennial Nigger, and demand Obama admit publicly that Jeff Foxworthy is much funnier.

When, inevitably, Sullivan finds Obama's pace in the gauntlet of racial obeisance unsatisfactory, and comes out for McCain, you may then take the measure and put a cap on the irreducible anti-Obama vote. Long and tragic experience shows that whatever you think it is, the real number is certainly higher.