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 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'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.

Friday, March 14, 2008

SHORTER JAMES LILEKS: The goddamned liberals are calling me conservative again.

(Perspective for the uninitiated.)
WE'RE ALL DRIVING ROCKET SHIPS/AND TALKING WITH OUR MINDS/AND WEARING TURQUOISE JEWELRY/AND STANDING IN SOUP LINES. At the Wall Street Journal, Stephen Moore resurrects the Megan McArdle theory that the economy is doing great because we have the internet, cell phones, and other mod cons.

As borrowers must, Moore throws in some modish touches: the college brats he attempts to lecture are "almost all Barack Obama enthusiasts." And Obama complains that workers are getting screwed. But while Mr. Hope & Change talks about downers like pillaged pension plans and lost jobs, Moore looks on the the sunny side: "The single largest increase in expenditures for low-income households over the past 20 years was for audio and visual entertainment systems -- up 119%." And Drew Carey found a cop who has jet skis. And we have diet pet food and the damn students all have iPods ('Well, duh,' one of them scoffed, 'who doesn't have an iPod these days?'), case closed.

Moore picked a hell of a time to try this routine -- and a hell of a venue:
The US economy has already fallen into a recession, according to a majority of economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal published Thursday.

“The evidence is now beyond a reasonable doubt,” said Scott Anderson of the bank Wells Fargo. Anderson was among the 71 percent of 55 economists asked to assess the state of the economy who agreed it is already in recession.

The survey conducted from March 7 to March 11 demonstrated a shift in the views of economists from a survey that took place five weeks ago. The economists now believe the economy will only add an average of 9,000 jobs monthly over the next 12 months, down from 48,500 in a previous survey.

Twenty economists said they expect pay rolls to shrink.
Of course, as they desperately search through a decreasing number of job opportunities, the kids can avail the free wi-fi offered in many of our public parks.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

POSITIVELY THE LAST ELLIOT SPITZER POST. As the embers die on the Spitzer bonfire, I note that a lot of conservative commentary was directed at the ex-Governor's wife. None of it was enlightening, except as regards the authors (Favorite bit: "As [the former Mrs. Jim McGreevey] notes, standing by your husband through scandal is a difficult and personal decision that should not invite judgment from the public. Nonetheless...").

Well, we do live in an age of saturation coverage. Still I was reminded of this:
[CNN's ART] HARRIS: What is the tone of Monica Lewinsky?

[LUCIANNE] GOLDBERG: Sort of semi-hysterical when she's talking about him. You know, girl in distress.

HARRIS: Girl in love?

GOLDBERG: Yeah, I suppose. Yeah. Oh, yeah, she's in love, yeah.

HARRIS: Could it have been a fantasy?

GOLDBERG: No, absolutely not.

HARRIS (voice-over): Monica Lewinsky crying on the shoulder of Linda Tripp, who saw herself as a big sister.

GOLDBERG: The thing that Monica was going through with the president not seeing her and not taking her calls, and she just said to me, that poor girl, that poor girl, because this kid's heart was breaking. She was in love with a married man and talking to her girlfriend about how painful it was.

HARRIS (on camera): To be the other woman?

GOLDBERG: To be the other woman. And Linda felt very sorry for her.
Conservatives have been aching for a Clinton blowjob do-over ever since, but only such smaller game as Spitzer has been available. So they reflexively recreate the tropes of yesteryear in the rotisserie league. Maybe if the women attached to those powerful Democratic men could be turned, this time, something like a retroactive victory may be achieved. Maybe American women in general will at last see who their real friends are...

Alas, it doesn't work out. The cheater's spouse is chucked in with him on the pyre, and the ashes are bitterly stirred.

Meanwhile back in Washington, the more customary, less sexy malfeasance continues. Somehow I don't think we'll being seeing any deep-think pieces on the state of mind of Mrs. Christopher J. Ward.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

USEFUL IDIOT. Ferraro is out, and The Anchoress is displeased:
Hillary cannot criticize Obama because he is black and if she suggests that his achievements are given more weight because of his race than his impressive oratory, she will be called a racist.

We’re not “allowed” to say these things, to explore whether or not they may be true, because identity politics has made the questions toxic. the only antidote being to call the questioner an “ist.” A racist...
But Ferraro did say those things. She never disavowed them, and in fact went down swinging with them. No one disallowed her saying them, though she won't be saying them in an official Clinton capacity anymore, and the Clinton people aren't required by law or morality to retain her.

Still the Clintons, and probably Ferraro, got what they wanted: they put their poisonous idea into the conversation, and got a late show of sensitivity in the bargain. Politically it's the best of both worlds for their campaign: introduce doubt on a racial basis, then avail plausible deniability.

It would probably kill The Anchoress to recognize this, but she's really helping Clinton here. The idea that Obama gets all the breaks because he's black is ridiculous on its face, but may be entertained by people who are vaguely disturbed that a black guy has come so close to the nomination. They may not be able to defend their idea even to themselves, but they can be convinced that someone is trying to silence the idea, despite its reverberation across our discourse, and this gives them a something more powerful than the idea itself: it gives them a grievance, which is golden in American politics.

I don't believe that Clinton is trying to keep black people down, except for the one who's running against her. As for The Anchoress, I guess she's trying to say that racism doesn't exist except as a false accusation, which just shows why she was so easy to trick in this instance.
MISTY WATERCOLOR MEMORIES. The fine folks at Sleazegrinder publish a tribute to the Reverb Motherfuckers including an interview with Yours Truly.

If you look around the site you'll find plenty of hardcore rockism (one singer is compared to "Patti Smith without the prattle") and a whirlwind of energy. I once had a place in that world, now I'm just some dork with a blog. Hodie mihi, cras tibi.
NO SEX, PLEASE, YOU'RE BRITISH. The Spitzer episode has released some weird hormones in The Corner. John Derbyshire:
I'm afraid it is true, though, as the old saying goes, that every man nurses the dream of going to bed with a beautiful woman and waking up alone.
He wouldn't want to fuck her again in the morning? So much for the intrepid sons of Albion.

Kathryn J. Lopez objects -- "Men can admire female beauty (it's only natural) without wanting to take that beautiful woman to bed"; Jesus Christ -- but comes round when it is suggested that the woman is up "frying bacon and brewing coffee." "I encourage its political incorrectness," she says.

I'm not shocked to hear K-Lo prefers breakfast to sex, but if this statement of conservative principles gets around, the Democrats are going to take all 50 states.
UNRELIABLE NARRATOR. David Mamet says he's right-wing now. Good for him, diversity is our strength, and if it makes one culture warrior one degree less angry at the artistic community it has not been in vain (which is to say, it has). But I wonder about this:
I began to question what I actually thought and found that I do not think that people are basically good at heart; indeed, that view of human nature has both prompted and informed my writing for the last 40 years.
I'll say. He wrote American Buffalo, Glengarry Glen Ross, Oleanna, Homicide, and House of Cards before figuring out that people are not basically good at heart? That's a pretty amazing job of compartmentalization.

Well, he wouldn't be the first guy to snap while listening to NPR. His essay, which appears in the Village Voice (showing what a great job the liberal media is doing of silencing dissenting voices), is worth reading, but like most essays by most playwrights it won't give you much insight into his excellent dramatic work. I recommend to conservatives excited to have a big literary name on their side that they take in some of his goddamn motherfucking great plays.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

"ALWAYS BET ON BLACK" -- A CODED MESSAGE FROM OUR AFRICAN-AMERICAN OVERLORDS? Geraldine Ferraro suggests that Obama only got to lead the race for President because he's black. That's a new one on me. Let me look at the list of what's easier to do in America if you're a black guy: get heart disease... get arrested... get killed in a slasher movie... no, I'm not seeing "run for President" here. But the list seems to go back a good number of years.

This leads, naturally, to a blogosphere discussion on race, which also runs true to form. Sinbad recalls his role in one of Hillary Clinton's foreign policy adventures, which incurs the wrath of the Ole Perfesser:
Sinbad? Oh, right. He's mad at Saturday Night Live, too: '"My problem is -- you couldn't just temporarily hire a black man to play Obama? You had to put a white man in a black face? You couldn't find a light-skinned brother to play Obama?" Or maybe somebody like . . . Sinbad?
Now that he mentions it, "playing a black guy" doesn't show up on my list of what's easier to do in America if you're a white guy. And it's a very long list! Still, I hadn't heard much complaining about it from the Ofay-American community till now. But the Perfesser's just getting started:
UPDATE: A reader emails: "Let me see if I've got this straight: a white man is not allowed to portray a half-white man (Barack Obama) on SNL, but a black man is? Race relations in this country are a bigger joke than anything you'll see on SNL." President Clinton wanted a national conversation on race. Looks like they've got one going now.

ANOTHER UPDATE: "Is Obama black or white? Yes." I'm well aware of the one-drop rule. What's changed, though, is who seems most interested in enforcing it.
This is deft of the Perfesser. The first bit suggests Sinbad's comments were motivated by careerism, but this part leans more toward an accusation of racism against black people. They want Colin Powell, Julian Bond -- next they'll be demanding James Watson. Soon all we'll have left is Simon Cowell and John McCain.

The alarm spreads:


This blood libel that Kenya is part of Africa goes back to the dawn of Main Stream Cartography, and I'm glad to see that the truth squad is on the case. Hopefully it will keep them busy a good long while.

Monday, March 10, 2008

DON'T BLAME ME, I VOTED FOR JIMMY McMILLIAN. I told you folks in 2006 that "Anyone as proud of his prosecutorial career as Eliot Spitzer should be be moved further from, not closer to, government power." Like the loathsome Giuliani, Spitzer used the law to hunt and bag high-profile victims, not in order to fulfill justice but to build his reputation as a Tough Guy. It's bad enough that such disgusting people should exist, but that some of them should be Democrats just makes it worse.

Now he's brought low. I'm tempted to hope that he goes to prison, but that's the sort of thinking Spitzer himself represents, so I'll forbear.

One happy side-effect of the affair is that it spurs Jonah Goldberg to deep thought, which is to say it steers a fat kid in a Buster Brown outfit to a banana peel. The shifty, subject-changing style Goldberg developed to defend his idiotic Liberal Fascism thesis, we see, has become a tic: now he can't go more than a couple of paragraphs without dropping several irrelevant demurrers, and sometimes they come out in rapid spasms:
So let me concede, for the sake of argument, that Andrew is right that the law is an ass when it comes to prostitution (though if we are going to be loyal to Dickens, shouldn't that be "a ass"?) Let us also concede that it is something like a private matter for a married man to visit a prostitute (though obviously it isn't private for the wife and the kids — or for the prostitute if, as in many circumstances, she's forced into such work).
This prose is jumpier than a six-year-old with an ass rash and a full bladder. I especially like the LET'S NOT FORGET HUMAN TRAFFICKING! splurt with which Goldberg throws his gun after he's run out of bullets. And here are the garbage cans he knocks over behind himself:
Still, to say that something is a "private matter" is not the same thing as saying something is beyond the scope of our judgment. If Tom is a drunk, it may be a private matter but that hardly means I must approve of his "lifestyle." If one of my married friends was repeatedly visiting hookers, I might say for the sake of social peace that it's none of my business, but I would still think much less of him. And, if he became more and more brazen — and hence more and more humiliating for the man's wife and family — the more likely it would become that I would feel compelled to say something.

I fail to see why it should be different for public figures.
No, I don't know what he's talking about either. Something about not approving of prostitution, I think. Does he get paid by the word?
IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD, IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD, IN THE NEIGH-EIGH-BORHOOD. Some marvels of North Brooklyn: the playground across Bedford from McCarren Park is where a rough crew of grown men play baseball every summer, fueled by styrofoam cups of beer ferried over from the Turkey's Nest. I've watched them many times, making their diving catches on the unforgiving blacktop, from which they get up limping and belligerent. Today I walked by and saw them, in 36 degree weather, playing a spring training game in grey sweatpants and several layers of t-shirts, the top ones uniformly red. They were a little slow -- from cold or disuse I can't say -- but they were playing hard. When someone missed a play they lustily booed. They'll be more ready on opening day than the fucking Mets.

Up in Greenpoint, where Polish is the primary language, the store windows were festooned with posters for a light middleweight named Pawel Wolak who'll be fighting at Madison Square Garden on March 15. The undefeated (13 KOs) Wolak is, per NewsBlaze, "the 26-year-old grandson of Polish farmers and son of a carpenter who arrived in New York as a teenager," and will face Dupre "Total Package" Strickland at MSG. By "Brooklyn" and "Polish" they mean "Greenpoint," of course, and the hometown crowd is with him. It doesn't matter that they can't spell his nickname properly. They'll go drunk to the Garden with their red-and-white flags, and get more drunk, and come home absolutely shitfaced with their flags draped over their shoulders, as they do after World Cup matches. But they won't make much trouble. Brooklyn Polish drunks are the best-behaved drunks I've even seen.

Sometimes I miss Manhattan, but on days like this I feel like I got promoted.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

LATE-TERM REVIEW. Finally saw Knocked Up, the funny movie that was supposed to ban abortion. I kind of liked it, yet still endorse Roe v. Wade. How can it be? Well, I'm a little old to be making important decisions about life based on Hollywood movies, and have been since I was 12.

There isn't much to analyze. It's the old drunk-song of renewal, with a stoner chorus and other modern accoutrements. Chance hookup results in a child, entertainingly disparate parents have to come to terms. A good point of comparison is A Thousand Clowns. In that case the father was an uncle, the kid had long since escaped the amniotic sac, and the female factor came in the form of a social worker. Nonetheless, like the 2007 film, the 1965 film allowed us to savor the pleasures of nonconformity (though in the form of genuine wit instead of flaming boxing glove matches) before truckling to the middle-class values of its audience. And there was a bit more rue attending to the decision to straighten up and fly right for the sake of a child. The 60s really were a different time, though the mild undercurrent of misogyny seems to have survived intact. (Ben's smackdown of Debbie outside the delivery room is one of Knocked Up's surprisingly graceless notes.)

I can understand and endorse the popularity of Knocked Up on less depressing grounds. Katherine Heigl and Seth Rogen are hella charming as Alison and Ben. She has enough weird nervous tension under her glamour to suggest deeper needs than her plans can fulfill, which justifies her unexpected decisions. And he has real soul behind his goofball persona: from the outset of the meet-drunk romance, we see that he has the spark of life, and we also see that he's decent and capable. In fact we can see it more clearly than he does, which makes him interesting. (It was very bright of Apatow to have the lugubrious Jason second Ben when they approach Debbie and Alison in the club; Jason's not bad, in his way, but it's immediately clear that he lacks what Ben has, despite their outward similarities.)

Again, there's not much to analyze, but I have to add that the New Yorker's David Denby (who has grown more, um, thoughtful since the days when he was comparing Flash Gordon unfavorably to Robert Altman's "crankily personal" [!] Popeye in New York magazine) is mistaken to worry that Knocked Up "breaks with the classic patterns of romantic comedy" for a new "slacker-striver romance." Dude, Ben got a job. In terms of film comedy Knocked Up isn't "heading off into a brave and uncertain new direction" -- it's going back to basics.

That isn't entirely a bad thing, though the great romantic comedy filmmakers Denby cites do have, so far, an edge on Apatow: we can't be sure people will be watching Knocked Up with affection even ten years from now. I saw Sixteen Candles today. It sucks. I mean, it just sucks. "I can't believe I gave my panties to a geek" is kind of a funny line, but so is "I can't let you in cause you're old as fuck," and after 2012 who's going to appreciate it besides people who nostalgically associate it with their youth? If you ran The Lady Eve or My Man Godfrey today for a non-mouth-breathing crowd, they'd still get it. When Irene says the sponging pianist Carlo will give his concert as soon as he's strong enough, and her put-upon father remarks, "He could give a bang-up concert right now with a knife and fork," idiom would not prevent appreciation of the home truth,

I like to think that, years from now, the charms of Rogen and Heigl will still play. But what about the Paul Rudd-Leslie Mann subplot? Will some graybeard have to explain to younger viewers why Pete is a dick and Debbie is a bitch? Or why they sort of hate each other? Or why, despite all that, they're role models for Ben and Alison? I'm not sure I could explain it now.

But let us chill, dudes: now is now, and Knocked Up is fun. Let's fight over abortion and posterity another time. Or in comments!

Saturday, March 08, 2008

MORAL RELATIVISM WATCH. Over at Family Security Matters, an alicublog-approved vendor of high-end nuttage, Bob Parks tells us that maybe students who go crazy and shoot up their classmates and themselves are driven to it by the hostile leftist environment of the modern American college. After a familiar catalogue of campus complaints, Parks suggests:
Evil people don’t kill themselves [and others, apparently -- ed]. Desperate ones do, and at some point we must have an honest dialogue (if possible) about who is making these kids homicidal. And we should start by talking to those who spend more hours per year around our kids than parents do.

Some of you teachers out there have some explaining to do.
Assuming this isn't satire -- Candace de Russy of National Review Online and the Perfesser certainly take it seriously -- we would ask if Parks has similarly examined the root causes of suicide bombing in the Middle East. If not, I suggest he get on it; it would make a hell of a companion essay.
HE WHO FUCKS NUNS WILL LATER JOIN THE CHURCH. At Commentary Michael J. Totten, while admitting that Sam Power's A Problem from Hell was "hardly wishy-washy or leftist" (his highest rating!), says he's still glad* she was kicked off the Obama team for calling Clinton a monster. Go ahead, folks, try and guess his rationale -- no matter how smart or familiar with Totten's schtick you are, you'll still be way off:
If she thinks Clinton is a monster, what does she think about the dictators of Syria and Iran? She doesn't approve of them. That's obvious. But neither she nor Obama has ever been so "undiplomatic" as to suggest that they're monsters.
As with Farrakhan, Obama must not just disapprove, he must also denounce, deplore, double-dog dare and be disgustipated with! Otherwise he cannot be trusted with this nation's highest office.

As for the notion that using stronger words to abuse Hitlery Clinton than dictators is wrong, a quick tour of the blogosphere will show that the Obama campaign staff is far from the worst offender.

Once upon a time, Totten might have pointed this out himself, as proof of his reasonable moderation -- you know, back in the day when he was "defending liberals against attacks by conservatives who lumped them in with leftists," making "The Liberal Case for Bush," and portraying himself as a disgruntled Independent who was driven from the Democratic Party, for which he once allegedly felt a "sense of loyalty or affection," by such extreme SDS types as Oliver Willis.

Now Totten beats up liberals for the Podhoretz family. I would say that Totten was the only one who didn't see this coming, but I have a hunch that he did, too.

UPDATE. I doubt that the comments signed "Michael J. Totten" are really his -- Totten's traditional persecuted tone is missing, which suggests either fraud or extraordinary personal growth -- but they do offer what they call a teachable moment.

The commenter asks if we have read Power's book. The book is neither the subject of the post nor relevant to the case.

Why does he bring it up then? It's the sort of rhetorical feint you're left with when you can't justify your own reasoning, like saying, "Okay, so Mars isn't the furthest planet from the Sun, but I can touch my nose with my tongue."

Logic doesn't cease to be logic because you went to Iraq or read a book. Even if Totten had read the entire contents of the New York Public Library, his suggestion that Obama and Power are soft on dictators because they never called Ahmadinejad and al-Ashad monsters would still be an offense to common sense.

It's a small thing, but it relates to a larger phenomenon. I see a lot of my subjects engaging in rhetorical tactics that at first look merely flawed or inept, but which repetition reveals to be conscious and deliberate. The purpose seems to be to short-circuit logical argument; they're like anti-logic viruses. When I get around to taxonomizing right-wing propaganda tactics, I'll need to include an entry for the Argument from Irrelevant Authority.

*UPDATE II. I should note that Totten didn't say he was "glad" Power was fired. Also that I misspelled Power's name through this post, and have corrected it. I wonder if she's related to Cat?
UNLEASHING MY INNER CONSERVATIVE. Crunchy Rod Dreher summons the angels to deliver unto him an Obama parody: "You can't blame Barack Obama for these creepily worshipful viral video ads is doing for him, but they are so dead earnest that they're just begging to be mocked -- and Obama along with it."

He gets his wish from a National Review cats-paw. But it suuuuucks. I mean, it makes P.J. O'Rourke look like George Ade it sucks so hard.

"Where the hell is SPY magazine when America needs it?" cries Dreher, forgiving for the moment the curse words and anti-sharia cynicism that worthy publication favored.

24 hours later, Dreher wonders why some people mock him in the comment boxes. "I consider the possibility of ending this blog," he warns, "because it takes up so much of my time."

They really do want it all: nothing but mockery for their enemies, nothing but approval for themselves. Grown men and women, mind you, often with well-paying jobs -- which, despite the tanking economy, you (and they) know they'll keep.

They're the best argument I can think of for corporal punishment, as their Mommas and Daddies obviously didn't beat their asses hard enough when they were children. I suggest we avail the upcoming election to redress this shortcoming retroactively.
MANUFACTURING INSPIRATION. I was alerted by Ann Althouse to this attempted viral vid for McCain. Althouse thinks it's brilliant:
We see images from the past (intercut with views of the galaxy). Images of Churchill and Roosevelt seem to embody a mystical sense of tradition. Even though I was trying to look at this ad with a critical eye, I kept getting chills. At one point — TR looking out onto a crowd — I thought: This is the feeling of being conservative — it is a deep emotional sense that the past matters and flows into the present and makes sense out of the future.
The problem -- well, one of the problems -- with the video is that "being conservative" apparently means attempting the inspirational charge of Obama videos with some of the same technology but none of the actual inspiration.

I am sympathetic to the McCainiacs in this instance, as my own world view would be best represented by quotes from Carlyle's History of the French Revolution and Celine's Journey to the End of the Night, and the music of Roky Erickson. The McCain vid is no less hallucinogenic and hopeless as a firestarter.

It attempts to marry Churchill's "We will fight them on the beaches" and Theodore Roosevelt's "Man in the Arena" speeches with McCain's noble Vietnam sacrifice. But what gives Althouse "chills" will probably get a chilly reception from voters taught a mere four years ago by the then-powerful Republican Party to disregard John Kerry's Vietnam service. However much conservatives complain about disrespect for our fighting men, their 2004 Swift Boat campaign (and its dry-run, the 2002 campaign against Max Cleland) fatally closed a circle on Vietnam veterans: if liberals made their cause suspect, conservatives -- perhaps never suspecting that they would one day need to cash the chips -- made its servants untrustworthy for electoral purposes.

Conservatives have been aggressive about trying to dispel the smoke and smash the mirrors of the Obama media enterprise. I suppose they think that, because disillusionment has been so successful a part of their stock in trade for years, they will win with it one more time. Maybe so. But when they try to use for their own purposes the kind of media magic they've spent years debunking, they shouldn't be surprised when it doesn't go over.

They will be surprised, of course, or will profess to be. For them, media tricks are something only the other side uses, and when they appear to work, it's outright fascism. But their own media machine cannot be crying "fascist" all the time, and must attempt, when votes are needed, to manufacture inspiration. No wonder their efforts are so feeble. In the real world, when a client has cut its ad agency off at the knees, the commercials always turn out to be crap.

Friday, March 07, 2008

ANNALS OF LIBERTARIANISM, PART 3,488. At The Atlantic, Megan McArdle argues that public funding and use of fire departments is justified because it protects Randian Supermen from the possibility of stray flames from some damn free-rider's house:
We force everyone to pay into fire departments because fires have very bad negative externalities: if your house catches on fire, unless you live on a rural farm, there's a good chance that your neighbor's house will burn down too...

I'm persistently disturbed by the notion that most of our fellow citizens are intellectual children who need to be forced to do what is good for them even at massive cost to their liberty, and ours.
Presumably residents of low-density states like Wyoming and Montana, where widely-spaced homes may burn without affecting others, would happily opt out of this public service racket. Here's an opportunity for McArdle and her fellow big-brains to exploit the natural-born libertarianism of frontier state citizens! Ask them why, if they value their liberty, they pay fire insurance for paupers when they could, at reasonable rates and with money saved from taxes, hire their own personal FDs. The ensuing, untamed conflagrations in Shantytown will provide welcome diversion on dark Big Sky nights, and if your own private firemen fail to perform when the time comes (and what are the odds on that, free citizen? You're too smart to have accidents!), you (or your survivors) can take them, or the corporation that owns them, to court for damages, the way nature intended.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: imagine this woman on a lifeboat.