Monday, July 14, 2008

NEW VOICE POST UP. Odds & sods -- Phil Gramm, Bernie Mac, etc. What? Hell yeah, it's worth reading! You read this, didn't you?
BEYOND SATIRE. It's pretty depressing* that some liberals don't get that the New Yorker Obama cover is satire. That conservatives don't even know what satire is would also be depressing, were they not ever and always blind to even the simplest aesthetic concepts.

I mean, Jesus:
IF OBAMA LOSES, THE CONVENTIONAL WISDOM WILL BE that it was because sleazy rightwingers portrayed him as a Muslim terrorist sympathizer.

When that happens, show 'em this New Yorker cover and remind 'em that The New Yorker is not generally regarded as a right-wing publication.
The Ole Perfesser then follows by sneering, "but it's satire!" as if satire were some ridiculously effete and rarefied concept which he couldn't possibly take seriously, like "conscience" or "humanity." That any piece of communication has value other than as propaganda probably doesn't even compute with him; his robot brain just perceives the images, goes "Beep beep, consistent with Obama TPoint 7A, promote to morons," and moves on.

Jonah Goldberg, as usual, is even worse:
Of course, if we ran the exact same art, the consensus from the liberal establishment could be summarized in words like "Swiftboating!" and, duh, "racist." It's a trite point, but nonetheless true that who says something often matters more than what is said — and, obviously, that satire is in the eye of the beholder.
Goldberg is very fond of categorical imperatives when it comes to nearly everything, yet he imagines satire to be "in the eye of the beholder," rather than the clinical term artists (and, indeed, anyone who graduated from a decent high school) know it to be.

It's understandable that anyone whose sense of humor misfires as often as Goldberg's would be motivated to confuse definitions relating to humor, in hopes that this may provide cover for him next time he really fucks up. What I wonder is: do his, and the Perfesser's, and all the other idiots' readers really think the same way? Do they also look at the New Yorker's frequent joke covers and, instead of laughing or scowling or any other human response, think, how can this be spun for my political candidate?
'Cause if they do, having to sell John McCain is the least of their problems.

*UPDATE. Sigh. Tom Tomorrow just tipped me to this comment from Drum's site, which reads in part, "Is your objective another Crystal Night, and trains of jews, gays, minorities, and other non-Aryans headed for the ovens?... This is not satire. It is race hate, religious hate, and political hate. It is an invitation to violence, lawbreaking, and cultural war." I'd like to think it's a plant, but alas, given what I've been hearing, it may be legit. Can't we let the conservatives be the crazy ones for a little while longer?

UPDATE II. Okay, this is more like it: minutes before defending the Obama cover, Megan McArdle humphs that August Pollak's lampoon of her proves that "the left has no sense of humor" -- at least, that's what her commenters and I think she's saying; it's one of her more mysterious, impenetrable constructions. Commenters, with all the philosophical heft libertarians traditionally bring to such topics, discuss the nature of humor ("Most humor relies on the propagation of general truths with a twist of absurdity thrown in") and Megan McArdle ("Megan knows that waiting for the iPhone and being a refugee are not the same experience"). Thank God someone's working to restore the balance of the universe!
THE REAL END OF COMPASSIONATE CONSERVATISM. If you're wondering what Phil Gramm was thinking with that "nation of whiners" crack, let me suggest that it may just be part of a new charm offensive from the right, at least if these bits from the weekend's New York Post are any indication.

"The baby boomers... have once again spoken. What they have said is, 'Waaaaaahhh,'" says Monica Hesse, who reads a Pew study showing boomers "worry that their income won't keep up with rising costs of living" and "that things don't look too good for their kids." They sound like most Americans of whatever age, but Hesse responds, "Oh, the drama! Oh, the anguish!" A separate study "found that boomers have never been happy," so there's no need to pay any attention to them now -- only Hesse does, and at column length, because "the rest of us are doomed to study them, analyze them, wave shiny objects around for them," though by what coercive mechanism she doesn't say. "BUCK UP ALREADY!" she shouts, or she may have to write another column about them, instead of one about "The Google Ogle Defense" ("'Orgy' might be a popular [Google] search term not because it's a popular practice, but because it's not. How do all those limbs fit together, anyway?"), or "Things that are 'awk-ward,' according to a group of University of Maryland students hanging out on the campus quad," or other topics of national importance. Trend reporting seems like an easy gig, even when the economy's in the toilet and some fossils are bitching about it.

Younger people get it -- at least the ones in Iraq, reports movie reviewer Kyle Smith, who pimps LiveLeak, "a destination spot for short war films that are awesome or disgusting, depending on your viewpoint." Smith's own viewpoint is clear: "LiveLeak is doing a much better job presenting the facts than, say, the latest foamy-mouthed drivel about corporate masters of war from the formerly popular actor John Cusack." The lead featured item at LikeLeak at this writing is "Man Shows Unique Ability To Put Hands Into Cauldron Of Hot Fat," but Smith seems to be talking about stuff like this:
...a clip of gunship attacks set to the metal song by Dope called "Die Mothe - - - - er Die." The video wasn't gruesome, though, since the enemy was well off in the distance and disappearing tidily under puffs of white smoke. One of the troops is overheard saying, "This was great. I need a cigarette. This was like sex." And a few more shocked grad students get some fuel for their eroticization-of-violence papers...
Actually it sounds like "Jackass," except instead of injuring themselves Johnny Knoxville and Wee Man kill other people from a distance. Smith believes "the primary message fired-up young men are likely to take from [these films] is that fighting for your country is a lot cooler than the mainstream media make it out to be. " One wonders why the Army hasn't dispatched teams of movie-makers to Iraq to do fan-film versions of Halloween and Saw, casting the natives as terrified teenagers, and release them with titles like Be Kind Re-enlist.

The gem of the bunch is of course by Umpty-Star General Ralph "Blood 'n' Guts" Peters. The General's been on a roll lately, and his opening here is a classic: "We all have irritants that make us want to reach for the revolver." Don't I know it! But what gets the General in a killin' mood is bumper stickers -- "One per car is OK, but anything more is public masturbation"; get it, maggot? -- people who call dissent patriotic, and Barack Obama. The dissent fans misquote Jefferson, who was of course against dissent, as shown by his accommodating attitude toward the Alien and Sedition Acts; as for the "last refuge of a scoundrel" thing, though the General admires Samuel Johnson ("I've got a huge two-volume replica edition [of Johnson's Dictionary] -- it's so heavy you could bench-press it"; real he-man writin'!), he reckons the Great Cham was just blowing smoke. "I'd rephrase the line," announces the General, "to read: 'Attacks on patriotism are the last refuge of the coward.'" Get some REMFs on it most ricky-tick, and then fetch the General a copy of the Constitution and a blue pencil!

But you know what really chafes the General around the chaps? Obama and that "Hope" bull-hockey. "Hope is the opposite of audacity," says the General. "It's passive, an excuse for inaction. Medicating ourselves with fuzzy hopes, instead of rolling up our sleeves and fixing things, has wasted countless lives and entire cultures..."

So, to sum up: Don't hope, don't complain, and enjoy your free war videos. It's the new conservative message! They must really be counting on those Diebold voting machines.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

A LOATHSOME DUTY, PART 2. As conscience dictated in the case of Mark Steyn, I must offer my sympathies to Harry's Place, whose proprietors are apparently being sued by Mohamed Sawalha for their interpretation of a statement by him.

Not being a student of Arabic, I don't know that their interpretation is correct. But Harry's Place noted, however incredulously, the British Muslim Initiative's response to it. If they're wrong, they've certainly made it easy for anyone who can read the language to figure it out.

Harry's Place is a nest of racial obsessives -- sort of Little Green Footballs for people who can process complex sentences -- but the proper reaction to their interpretation would be a countervailing interpretation of one's own, not the hammer of the Law, the use of which in this case may lead disinterested viewers to suspect that the object of the suit is not to shine the light of truth, but to intimidate opponents. Maybe that's how they do things in Blighty, but not 'round here.
SAVINGS AND LOAN SCANDAL II -- THIS TIME IT'S PERSONAL! More good economic news! Another mortgage lender goes down -- and an Administration factotum blames the whistleblower:
The director of the Office of Thrift Supervision, John Reich, blamed IndyMac's failure on comments made in late June by Sen. Charles Schumer (D., N.Y.), who sent a letter to the regulator raising concerns about the bank's solvency. In the following 11 days, spooked depositors withdrew a total of $1.3 billion. Mr. Reich said Sen. Schumer gave the bank a "heart attack."

"Would the institution have failed without the deposit run?" Mr. Reich asked reporters. "We'll never know the answer to that question."

Mr. Schumer quickly fired back.

"If OTS had done its job as regulator and not let IndyMac's poor and loose lending practices continue, we wouldn't be where we are today," Sen. Schumer said. "Instead of pointing false fingers of blame, OTS should start doing its job to prevent future IndyMacs."
Speaking of factota, the usual suspects rush to support Reich's spin. If only Charles Keating or Herbert Hoover had such a blogosphere to work with! True, it's a hard sell, but, like anything else for Republicans these days, worth a try.

UPDATE. The Ole Perfesser seems to have caught the memo, but not the enthusiasm: "Problems with the bank aren't Schumer's fault, of course, but publicity-seeking is a well-known Schumer flaw, and subjects like this call for a degree of discretion that he seems not to have demonstrated." Maybe he was pulled off-message by Schumer's evident willingness to fight back. I'm not overly fond of my senior Senator, but it's nice to see him show a bit of spine. Maybe he and his colleagues should try it more often.

UPDATE II. An L.A. Times blog says the accusation against Schumer is "an important angle in the IndyMac failure that may get lost in ominous headlines tonight and tomorrow." I don't see how, with the Wall Street Journal giving it prominent play and the rightbloggers shopping it aggressively.
OFF LINE. Instaputz deftly sketches the progress of the Atlantic Monthly from Julia Ward Howe and Nathaniel Hawthorne to Megan McArdle reporting on her iPhone campout ("I imagine this is what it feels like to be a refugee"). Worse is yet to come, though, when the Apple Store people ask McArdle for her papers:
While I was buying the iPhone, they pulled me aside for a credit review. Since I have good credit, this was shocking--and humiliating. For a middle class American, telling your two friends in the store that the AT&T folks are having second thoughts about giving you credit feels a little like confessing that you're a criminal.
McArdle shows some sympathy toward some people with bad credit -- she's known journalists and folks just out of grad school, apparently, who have had such problems -- but she ends with this:
Of course there are irresponsible profligates who borrow money they've no intention of repaying...

The worst part is that the profligates are immune to the shame (or seem to be). It's the decent people, the ones who were overtaken by events, who cringe when the store clerks motion them aside.
This puts me in mind of characters from Nelson Algren, Charles Bukowski, and The Life of Oharu; also, of real people who passed in despair from caring anymore whether they were playing by rules that, experience seemed to show, never gave them a chance to succeed on even the simplest terms, and who stood in line not for iPhones but for food and shelter.

It may seem in bad taste to mention such people in a blogosphere largely devoted to middle-class problems. Still, it's worth considering that they exist, and in greater numbers than a romp through these precincts would suggest. If your frame of reference consists entirely of the relatively fortunate, then you may naturally consider all credit problems to be the result of wickedness or, at best, poor choices to which you owe no sympathy. From a libertarian perspective, certainly, there's no reason to feel any differently. Which is one good reason why, even in a country that loves liberty, libertarianism hasn't caught on, and won't until citizens outside the citadels of privilege wholly lose their acquaintance with misfortune. And though most of our public discourse since the Age of Reagan suggests otherwise, that is not even close to happening.

Friday, July 11, 2008

SAY ANYTHING. From last week, but new to me -- a pamphlet by Hugh Hewitt called "A Letter to a Young Obama Supporter." Three-quarters of it flatters the YOS:
Because of your passion for the planet and your interconnectedness, you have already profoundly shaped the debate over climate change. Now you are poised to perhaps decide the 2008 presidential election. You are very engaged in the election, and leaning — by a large majority it seems-towards Barack Obama. Yet as with so many other things, your generation is very open to new information and arguments, and not at all self-conscious or stubborn when it comes to changing your mind when new perspectives arrive. So it seems that many of you will be keeping an open mind until you actually check a box or pull a lever.
Yes, Hewitt is getting you cozy, nubile voter. He also says that he knows other "well-informed young people with great parents and promising futures" just like you, and is "thrilled that so many young activists are interested in the campaign"; it's "a sign of political renewal and a rebuke to the cynics." As for the YOS' intended, he is "unconnected to the bitter political struggles of the last 15 years," "a brilliant, almost hypnotic speaker" (Wait -- did his hand just touch your thigh?), whose "success is a testament to the country’s long, uphill struggle to deliver on the promise of the Declaration of Independence’s radical statement that all men are created equal."

Now the gear shift:
It is entirely possible to be proud of the country for nominating Senator Obama, even as you work hard to defeat him...
It starts to dawn on the youngster that this isn't the sort of encounter it had seemed just moments earlier.
Indeed, he lacks even the barest minimum of life experiences needed for the job. Though his intentions will be good, his failure in the Oval Office is a near certainty because he is simply not ready - cannot be ready-to be president, and the failures that will certainly follow his taking the oath of office could - indeed, almost certainly would– devastate the country.
Hewitt closes with some bold-face questions -- "Is Barack Obama anywhere near ready to be President of the United States in a time of war and economic uncertainty?... What if he’s not and he wins anyway?" -- which we may suppose represents his technique for closing the deal.

All in all, not a bad effort from the author of If It's Not Close, They Can't Cheat: Crushing the Democrats in Every Election and Why Your Life Depends on It. But I still prefer the original.
HOW BULLSHIT WORKS, PART 56,309. Rightbloggers have discovered a Photoshop forgery of an Iranian missle launch, done by that Government to make itself look more powerful, presumably:

The bloggers' outrage, as it was when Adnan Hajj's altered war photos were exposed in 2006, is split between the offending parties and the shadowy "MSM," some outlets of which incuriously published the fake. Stop the ACLU is mad that the Main Stream Media isn't giving bloggers credit for discovering the fraud; Blackfive saw a more sinister MSM desire to "tailor anything to fit their narrative" -- in this case that America's enemies are 33% stronger than they really are.

Much less covered in those precincts (The American Thinker was a rare exception) was another bit of "fauxtography" from Fox News last week:
Below is a screenshot of Fox & Friends featuring the photo it used of Steinberg, with the original photo on its left. Comparing the two photos, it appears that the following changes have been made: Steinberg's teeth have been yellowed, his nose and chin widened, and his ears made to protrude further.

Fox News hadn't said much about this one before Bill O'Reilly recently retorted that the New York Times had once published some unflattering cartoons of him. Of course the doctored picture of Steinberg (and another, of Steven Reddicliffe) weren't drawn caricatures, but portraits offered as true representations of their subjects' appearance.

Experience, not to say common sense, teaches that we should always be alert to the possibility that war photojournalism may misrepresent the true situation, whatever its source. With some sources, though, you can't even trust the file photos.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

NO CAPISCE. Crooks and Liars wonderfully covers the wingnut drive to make Obama's call for foreign language education into a class "snobbery" issue. Amazing how they all suffer the same delusions at once, and so near the event: you'd think they were on some sort of mailing list.

Since Crooks and Liars is more about analysis than pathology, it did not include in its roundup the ravings of The Anchoress on the subject. Like her colleagues, she tumbles from a gross mischaracterization ("telling Americans how much better people in other nations are!") to incoherent rage ("Americans did not need to speak French to save that nation... twice. Americans did not need to speak German to save the lives of our vanquished German enemy," etc). But she also adds this delightful bit:
I'm all for people, especially when they're young, learning other languages. I'm doing a Rosetta Stone in Italian right now, myself.
Obama endorses an activity in which The Anchoress is currently engaged, and The Anchoress rails at his effrontery in endorsing it. We should not be too surprised. Very few top rightwing bloggers actually live in trailers, wear clothes from the bins of the 99 cent store, and subsist on hamhocks and Crisco; in fact they are as likely as not to display elevated tastes, as seen in the Ole Perfesser's frequent consumer reports on high-end products. Nonetheless, they're quick to set aside their top-shelf cocktails, artisanal cheeses, and boutique coffees to declaim on the snobbery of Democrats. What a racket! It almost makes me wish I'd thought of it first and had no conscience.

UPDATE. In commments JohnEWilliams points out a beautiful related story from Rumproast: "Lady Lynn Forester de Rothschild calls Obama an 'elitist' on CNN." Sometimes I think they do this kind of thing as an inside joke.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

RUN THROUGH THE JUNGLE. At first I thought Infinity-Star General Ralph "Blood 'n' Guts" Peters was going somewhere else with the title "INTELLECTUALS LIE, THE POWERLESS DIE" -- you know, toward a Treason of the Clerks sort of thing, in which the evil intellectuals of a particular nation sell out their particular people to a particular evil. The giant face of Mugabe that appeared with the article in the New York Post suggested that the General had tracked down some Zimbabwean professors who had enabled the dictator by teaching Women's Studies or something.

Turns out the General is just on a rampage against writers in general. Doesn't matter whether it's Paul Begala or Christopher Hitchens -- in the General's view, no fancy-pants scribble-boy is worth the sweat off a rifleman's ass:
THE greatest lie intellectuals tell us is that "the pen is mightier than the sword." That's what cowards claim when they want to preen as heroes...

While intellectuals wrestled with compound sentences, Darfur degenerated from selective oppression to savage anarchy...

Regiments of professors and pundits have bemoaned China's gobbling of Tibet for half a century...

Only when better men acted did the surviving victims of one of the world's worst dictatorships glimpse freedom...

There was a good reason the assassins of 9/11 attacked the targets they did, rather than steering those planes into Columbia University or Harvard Yard: They knew that the potency of the intellectual is illusory, that it dissolves at the first shot...
Later, "No elegant phrase has ever stopped a bullet," "a sword will cut off the writer's head," etc.

Really, that's pretty much it. Politics doesn't enter into it; anyone not a soldier is an ineffectual, puking pussy. This represents a new and promising frontier for the General. As we have seen, he has in the past been content to attribute unmanliness to Democrats and liberals, as part of a propagandist's job-o-work. Now it looks as if he has gone freelance, and answers only to the law of the jungle. Before long he'll spend his columns explaining how easy it would be for him to kill us all with the end of a rolled-up newspaper or a bottlecap, and his signature line will be "The horror, the horror."
ALLLIES. Iraq says, we hate to be inhospitable, but get out. The U.S. says, fuck you; John McCain seconds.

The Charleston (S.C.) Post and Courier editorializes: "The growing confidence of the Iraqi leadership is a clear sign that progress is being made and an end is in sight." The Wall Street Journal appreciates Maliki's "confidence" and is charmed to see him "playing hardball" like a big boy, but eventually has to firmly remind him that the grownups are talking: "Despite Iraq's impressive security gains, Iran can still do plenty of mischief through its 'special group' surrogates," it says, and counsels (or maybe we should say "notifies Iraq of") "a significant long-term U.S. presence."

Ed Morrissey will grudgingly allow for timetables, so long as they are not the treasonous Democratic kind ("Democrats wanted timetables for withdrawal in order to surrender in Iraq"). If he wants a Republican timetable, I'd suggest this one.
HYSTERIC WATCH. Victor Davis Hanson:
At first I thought the standard Obama warnings about crowd fainting when he started speaking were just peculiar, as was the bit about oceans receding and the planet healing. Then I noticed he has plans to move his speechmaking at the convention to a large outdoor arena, to allow the 'people' the right to hear him en masse. Now he negotiates to address Berliners in Kennedy/Reagan style (but weren't they already presidents?) in front of the Brandenburg Gate? Next? No doubt the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem.
At National Review, at the moment, you can see Obama compared to both Hitler and Jesus. Surely this must be some kind of first.
EMAIL DOWN due to some NetSol nonsense. Try me at meanwhile.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

THE PERSONAL IS THE POLITICAL. These days, when a conservative buffoon likes something, he will rush to tell you that the thing he likes is itself conservative -- even if it's something apparently non-political in nature, like a rock song, chase movie, TV show, or music video.

They don't limit this bizarre ideological narcissism to the popular arts, either. I've heard 'em say that their favorite wine varieties and football teams are conservative. But this one from a National Review correspondent may be my all-time favorite so far: it's about how men crying at It's a Wonderful Life is conservative.

The author's explanation for this breathtaking assertion does not convince, but I'm just surprised that he bothered to explain it at all. Soon they'll just start using "conservative" as a synonym for "good," e.g., "he makes a really conservative pot of chili," "I got a conservative deal on this muffler," "It's all conservative," etc. No one else will know what they're talking about, but so what? That's pretty much the case now.
HOW THE MIGHTY HAVE FALLEN. Obama suggests national service for the young. At National Review Jim Geraghty talks about the "Obama Youth," etc.
I'm wondering about the President using federal funding to coerce schools into requiring community service for middle and high school students. Community service is (often) a noble act, but Obama appears to be very close to echoing John Kerry's Orwellian call for mandatory volunteerism. Notice it's always those who are old who are calling for mandatory time and energy commitments of the young.
Later, Geraghty offers a veiled comparison of Obama to Hitler. This reminded me of something, so I went online and found an excerpt from William F. Buckley's Gratitude: Reflections on What We Owe to Our Country, in which the founder of National Review argues for something very similar, powered by incentives and "sanctions":
It is feared by many opponents of national service that the use of state power in whatever form, even in a voluntary program, is nevertheless an effort, even if half-hearted, in that direction: an effort to change the human personality, and for that reason to be resisted categorically... Milton Friedman, my hero, was quoted as finding in national service an "uncanny resemblance" to the Hitler Youth Corps.

This last occasions only the reply that by that token, all youth programs, including the Boy Scouts, can be likened in the sense that they have something in common, to the Hitler Youth program, plus the second comment, that because Hitler had an idea, it does not follow that that idea was bad. (Albert Speer is said to have reflected, soon before his death, that it was a "pity that Adolf Hitler disliked Picasso.")

...Some libertarians will never agree with the Founding Fathers that a responsibility of the polity is to encourage virtue directly, through such disciplines as service in the militia, reverence for religious values, and jury service -- the kind of thing Prime Minister Gladstone had in mind when he proposed "to establish a new franchise, which I should call -- till a better phrase be discovered -- the service franchise." Opponents of national service must establish, to make their case, that national service, unlike the state militia, or jury service, or military conscription in times of emergency, is distinctively hostile to a free society.
Funny, just a few weeks ago they were blubbering over the sainted Buckley. Now he's a liberal fascist.

I'm not keen on either Buckley's and Obama's proposals myself, but I'm less worried about them these days, thanks in large part to the influence of the Boy Who Cried Hitler. I suspect most normal people would react similarly.

Monday, July 07, 2008

NEW VOICE COLUMN UP. Jesse Helms this time. The impulse to speak well of the dead is fine, but I was stuck by the brethren's defensiveness about Helms' civil rights record, especially in view of their late and much celebrated reassessment of Strom Thurmond and Trent Lott in 2002. We might just say that those were different times -- that is, Thurmond and Lott were after an election, and Helms is before one.

UPDATE. Fixd tiepo, thanx boney.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

UGLY BEAUTY. Before attending Die Soldaten at the Armory Saturday night, I hadn't been to an opera in years. I usually plead budget, but I could always get rush or standing room tickets at the Met. Frankly, lacking much background in the form, I've chosen to cultivate a lazy indifference instead of a taste for it, to my discredit.

Die Soldaten got through to me, though, perhaps by brute force. For one thing, there's the 110-piece Bochumer Symphoniker blasting away at the obviously difficult 12-tone Zimmermann score. Then there's the grim story -- girl forsakes lover to make an advantageous marriage within the warrior caste; madness, rape, murder, desolation result -- with its class tensions and sexual panic starting at red alert and proceeding to full-on Sturm und Drang. And there's the Robert-Wilson-Meets-Pirates-of-the-Caribbean staging in the Armory's gigantic Drill Hall, with the actors spilling from an extra-wide stage down a 220-foot runway, along which the entire audience is sometimes slowly locomoted on railroad tracks.

It's all a bit much -- at one point the music is supposed to suggest thunder, and I was a little confused: hadn't the percussion-heavy score been thundering all along? And the everything's-awful modernism is pretty relentless: look, here's a ceramic bog -- I wonder how it looks on the side of the stage where the chorus is taking a piss! But the excess is mesmerizing, and often makes brilliant theatre: a rape scene in which assailant and victim are multiplied by supernumeraries who enact it in a savage ballet along the length of the runway; a bathhouse suggested by garishly-lighted holes; the slow march at the end of Marie's father into the distant floodlights, and of Marie the other way toward the frigid mountains of exile.

And all the singing and acting is great. If the music purposefully evokes ugliness, craft and commitment make it beautiful. In a scene featuring Marie, her sister, and the Baroness, their voices made me think of exotic birds trilling in a jungle above the roars and grunts of the other beasts. As Marie, Claudia Barainsky makes a physically specific progress from schoolgirl to climber to outcast; as her lover, Claudio Otelli nurtures his desperation into a sort of semi-catatonia that looks harmless to his intended victims and terrifying to us. And that band -- excuse me, orchestra -- is really tight.

Muscially I'm pretty unsophisticated, and an evening of serialist opera wouldn't normally be on my to-do list, but for me this production made great sense of the unaccustomed sounds. I don't know how much Die Soldaten educated me, or if I'll be better able to appeciate La Bohème or Schönberg or anything else because of it, but I'm certainly more inclined to pay attention.

UPDATE. A dissenting opinion from the Washington Post. "The vocal level was that of a respectable regional production" -- wicked burn! Clearly I have a ways to go before I know classical music well enough to be snobby about it; having fond memories of the days when I was that much of a n00b about everything, I will cherish every moment.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

DEFINING FASCISM DOWN. Roger L. Simon reacts to the news that Obama's Convention acceptance speech may be moved to a larger venue:
I’m not going to indulge in the obvious comparisons. But I am disturbed by this development. 76,000 people blindly screaming “Yes, we can!” in a giant stadium is not an image I relish seeing in a free society.
First some semantic notes. "I'm not going to indulge in the obvious comparisons" is a lousy preamble to an indulgence in comparisons. If he's going to obfuscate his intentions like that, he should start with a phrase like "Far be it from me" or "I'm not one"; the extra verbiage promotes deniability and helps confuse readers. You'd think a professional writer would know this. Also, the assumption that whenever liberals raise their voices the result is a "scream" is much overused and perhaps losing effectiveness; "shriek" is a little fresher, at least, and better supports the imputation of effeminacy. ("Bellow," "holler," and "roar" are more suitable to the Nuremberg analogy, but perhaps more butch than Simon would like. Someone at the central office should send him a backgrounder on Ernst Röhm.)

As to content, I've pointed out before that these guys have started using fascism as a synonym for popularity, especially now that nobody likes them. This suggests that they don't expect anyone outside of a hardcore cadre to read their stuff. Especially with an election coming up, I wonder that they don't try harder to reach beyond their base.

Adding to the humor, Simon posted this on July 4, when normal people are least likely to imagine themselves shadowed by fascism's heel. I hope you're all enjoying the blessings of liberty this weekend, and preparing to make more of them.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

The Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg, writing from the magazine's Aspen Ideas Festival, chaired a panel yesterday in which experts put the chances of a nuclear attack on US soil, probably on Washington or New York, in the next 10 years as fifty-fifty....

Do you ever think about it? I mean, really think about it? If Joe Cirincione et alia really do believe that chances are as high as 50 percent that terrorists will set off a suitcase nuke in DC or NYC, then why do they still live there?
Because it keeps us far away from pants-wetting little shits like you.
KEEPING IN TOUCH. Sometimes, if it's been a while since I've heard from them, I look up my old wingnuts. Whatever happened, I wondered this morning, to Kieran Michael Lalor? We first encountered this Iraq War vet, director of the Eternal Vigilance Society ("With the keyboard as our sword, Eternal Vigilance Society will work tirelessly to defeat those candidates..."), and yeller at protestors in November 2005, when he was complaining in the New York Post that Pace Law School was teaching him treason. We found this very funny, as Lalor had previously attended Pace Law School, complained in the Washington Times they were teaching him treason, gone off to war, then come back to Pace Law School to be taught more treason and to complain about it again.

Such wonderful memories. So I looked around and found that Lalor had not been letting the grass grow under his boots. He's been doing wingnut welfare make-work gigs, including contributions to The American Thinker, which holding tank for fledgling wingers we've noticed before. In March Lalor announced at the Thinker that "Democrat control must end for the sake of the nation's security," and that he had founded yet another group to that purpose: Iraq Vets for Congress. This coalition of Previously-Enlisted Congressmen and would-be PEC boldly stands for "Portraying our Troops Fairly and in a Positive Light," and "Advocating for Veterans and Their Families," though they understandably fail to mention Jim Webb's GI Bill.

And, surprise! Lalor's not just the founder, he's also a client. From an understandably elated Daily Kos:
Some great news. Local Republicans in NY's 19th District have now tapped wingnut Keiran Michael Lalor to take on John Hall in November, with the likelihood of a sweeping win by Hall...
I'll say. Any District that elected a former Orleans guitarist and anti-nuclear activist to Congress is not likely to dump him for a guy whose campaign strategy is to denounce Volkswagens, Susan Sarandon, Bonnie Raitt, and Pete Seeger and show off his thousand-mile stare. But who knows? I'll be watching the race with interest henceforth. And maybe later I'll go look up Melinda Ledden Sidak.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

NOW THEY GOT WORRY. Barack Obama is black, his opposition is relentless, and McCain could easily win this election. Still, it's pleasing when the wingers panic. From National Review, ladies and gentlemen, here to do his rendition of "Stranded in the Jungle," please welcome Victor David JoHanson:
It is not hard to see why and how the middle classes, the poor, and the union members would like to see larger government programs and greater taxes on the wealthy, but why are so many in the upper-upper middle classes so vehemently pro-Obama?
Oboy, rightwing intramural class war! Let's go to the Trans-Lux and hiss Bill Gates!
After talking to and observing lots of Bay Area affluent and staunch Obama supporters, I think the key to reconciling the apparent paradoxes is done in the following ways...
I can well imagine VDJoH's journalistic approach: "talking to" = VDJoH asking, "Are you crazy? Can't you see that that man is a ni?" and receiving an unsatisfactory response; "observing" = glowering at the stylish jeans of rich hippies.
Many enjoying the good life worry that their own privilege in some sort of way comes at the expense of someone else, or they fret that their present lifestyle in ecological terms is hardly sustainable. That concern does not translate into much concrete action. SUVs (Mercedes rather than Yukons) are no rarer in Palo Alto than in Fresno, while such progressives are just as likely, or more so, to abandon the public schools...
How dare they share VDJoH's privileges while rejecting his politics? Yessir, there's no class war like Republican class war.
Somehow an Obama sticker, sign on the lawn, or a lapel button has become the equivalent of a crucifix around the neck of a prosperous 16th-century burgher: easy fides of inner good and a valuable totem in reconciling the apparent irreconcilable.
And it's even better when they get so mad that they diss Christianity, too.

NatRev has run out of room, so let's sneak over to VDJoH's dressing room for some of the good stuff:
I spent some time speaking in San Francisco recently. In crude and exaggerated terms, it reminds me of H.G. Wells Eloi and Morlocks... smartly dressed yuppies, wealthy gays... What is missing are school children, middle class couples with strollers, and any sense the city has a vibrant foundation of working-class, successful families of all races and backgrounds...
So no one picks up the garbage? But the city looks so nice. Maybe when the wealthy gays come home from the clubs, they sweep. In contrast, VDJoH's hometown has a lot of farms, owned by such as VDJoH, and a lot of Mexicans, so we can guess how they git-r-done.
All in all, I got a strange creepy feeling that whatever was going on, it was unsustainable –- sort of like an encapsulated Europe within an American city.
And these doomed, encapsulated Europeans are funding Obama! With such quasi-foreign influences in play, the citizens of Hansonland will have their work cut out for them, rejecting Obamamania in favor of a continued Bush boom. Assuming, of course, they see it the same way as he.
INTRO TO GOLDBERG. National Review lists Jonah Goldberg as an "editor," but he doesn't seem to know what people with that title normally do. This post is a fine example of his argumentative style: aggressively desultory, like a Tasmanian Devil with its head stuck in a pail.
The idea that "science won't allow" absolute categories between animals and humans is pretty silly in its plain meaning. And I don't think you should show it as much deference as you do.
Follow the links back and you'll find that the real issue is animal rights, and whether they intersect meaningfully with human rights. Students of Goldberg will understand why he's grabbing such a uselessly narrow handle on the point: this is his version of "What's this on your shirt? Psych," a goofy opening gambit meant to confuse the enemy. Luckily for Goldberg, on the internet there's no one to grab his finger and pull it back till he cries.
Science has all sorts of absolute categories distinguishing between animals and humans. Vertebrates vs. Invertebrates, reptiles vs. mammals, phylum, kingdom, and all of that stuff amount to absolute categories of one kind or another. What Sullivan is really getting at, it seems to me, is that there are some areas where there are more similarities between some animals and humans that are less absolute than many think. That sounds right to me...
Sensing that even National Review readers won't put up with much of this semantic horseshit, Goldberg generously concedes the point -- or as they might say in Chocoholics Anonymous, the point as he perceives it to be. In respect for your delicate sensibilities, I have omitted a Goldberg parenthesis suggesting the horrifying possibility that he will write another book. Onward:
The idea that these things are on a "continuum" isn't all that profound by my lights. Aristotle and that crowd would have bought into that, I would think. The question is, so what? I mean ice and fire are on the same continuum of temperature, but they are very different things.
To recap, (1.) things can be the same in some ways and different in others, and (2.) fart, burp.

But what about animal rights? Goldberg's getting there, but he has to talk it through. You know, kind of like a batter has to step out of the box, adjust his gloves, etc. Except in the big leagues, a batter don't usually wind up in the press box with his bat up his ass:
Anyway, I should say that while I really dislike the language and logic of animal rights, I have no problem with conferring special status on gorillas or lots of other animals. My guess is 95% of Americans agree with me on that.
Again, generous of him, but I don't know why we were bothering before with the disciplines of biology and philosophy when Goldberg could just refer these questions to the will of the imaginary people.

Come to think of it, why does he even need them, when he has himself?
It should be a serious crime to shoot, say, a bald eagle. It should be a routine chore to kill a rat. Killing a dolphin is different from shooting a deer. Whether or not science will "allow" us to draw these distinctions is largely irrelevant because we will rightly draw them anyway and, besides, science has little to tell us about such things.
Stupid science! It's always telling Goldberg things that aren't true, like that his love of his wife is nothing more than "mere electrochemical signals." So why should he let neuroscientists tell him anything when he can just dish out some morality? But then Goldberg experiences another spasm of generosity, and concedes a little somethin-somethin to the whitecoats:
But, again, it's worth pointing out that "science" records all sorts of important differences between dolphins and deer, eagles and rats. Dolphins live in the ocean, deer don't. That's an absolute difference, I think.
I could go on, but life is short. Those who wish to examine the rest of Goldberg's thicket of unsupported assertions ("This is scientifically true, morally true, aesthetically true and politically true"), appeals to emotion ("reduce the relative worth of a staggeringly beautiful creature like a tiger by saying it's just as 'valuable' as a snail darter*"), and, of course, sudden reversals ("*Obviously, some ugly, brainless, species are valuable because of their role in the ecosystem") and the rhetorical schtick Goldberg pioneered, "central to my point" ("But this is just another example of how some species are more important than others"), go with God. Some of us come back from such journeys half-mad.
FRIENDLY ADVICE TO MY MORTAL ENEMIES. Tigerhawk, a gamer to the end, is trying to gin up outrage with a little movie about Obama's pals Bill Ayers and Bernadine Dohrn. Pessimist that I am, I can't see this having much electoral impact, if that's what he's going for. I seem to recall Jim Hunt trying to make hay of Senator Jesse Helms' ties to Salvadoran death squad macher Roberto d'Aubuisson, and that didn't work out so well. 1968 is in the punters' minds as far away and irrelevant as El Salvador. Helms' operatives did better calling Hunt "SISSY, PRISSY, GIRLISH AND EFFEMINATE." If you're going to go with the classics, go with classics that work!

P.S. Current rightwing laughlines like "question their patriotism" may not be understood by the wider population. You guys may enjoy applying phrases like "under the bus" to "the 'fist-jab'" and such like, but ordinary folks who do not begin their days, as we do, scanning the trades may not get the reference. (They don't understand my inside jokes, either, but I am working mainly to the hipsters at the late show.) Stick with tested tropes like "flip-flop," "San Francisco Democrats," "I have in my hand a list of 206 known communists," etc.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

MORE UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES. I see (and he sees) that Jonah Goldberg's Liberal Fascism is gaining some traction. Jeffrey Lord at the American Spectator:
SO LET'S SUM UP what America would look like in an age of Obama.

To start there would be no more driving SUVs. No more Rush. For God's sake absolutely no driving your SUV while listening to Rush. No more eating whatever you want. Definitely no keeping your home as warm or as cool as you prefer. No capital gains cuts because they are unfair. Your guns will be banned. And if you have a different opinion on global warming? All those lofty supporters of rights for terrorists are going to strip every oil executive in America of theirs in a heartbeat, live and in living color...

What do we have when the sole purpose of the government as run by the chilling principles of Obamaland is to "use the political process" to remove freedoms large and small one by one by one?

Someone needs to speak it plainly.

The word is fascism.
I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that the banning of SUVs, Rush Limbaugh, private thermostats, guns, etc, not to mention "a Nuremberg-style trial for oil executives," are extremely unlikely unless the power of the Supreme Court is severely curtailed. I guess that's something to worry about, as in recent years there has been a lot of talk about judicial overreach and proposals to term-limit its Justices and allow Congress to overrule their decisions.

UPDATE. How could I forget Ross Douthat and his proposed Supreme Court Supermajorities? The future of the Republican Party, ladies and gentlemen! Should bring the "Impeach Earl Warren Democrats" back into the fold.
I WANT YOU TO HURT LIKE I DO. Crunchy Rod Dreher is back from vacation -- which was not spent, as I had hopefully fantasized, scouting locations for the New Jerusalem, but in such normal yuppie pursuits as wine-tasting, restaurant-hopping, and driving an SUV. No sooner has he unpacked his cilices that he starts bitching about other educated white people whose attitudes perversely differ from his own.

See, while Dreher enthuses over Jesus and Montepulciano d'Abruzzo, some honkies choose to enthuse over what they call their "vibrant" neighborhoods "where blacks, whites, gays and Hispanics all live together." Dreher thinks they're just trying to make him feel bad:
White people who use the word "vibrant" to describe a piece of real estate on which ethnic or tattooed people live really want to make a statement about their own broad-mindedness or social progressivism (versus the supposed fear and closed-mindedness of suburban white people). This is why I'm so fascinated by the word. It's an elite white-people social marker, a sign that one-upsmanship is being attempted.
It's not that Dreher doesn't approve of or use the word "vibrant." He just doesn't like it when folks use it on multi-ethnic neighborhoods.

How then should we speak of these neighborhoods? Emulating Dreher's own example, we might speak of our Hispanic neighbors as a potential threat to our real estate values ("We are close, though, to a barrio... should I sell my house while I still can, or risk putting up with crime and the degradation of the quality of life in the neighborhood?").

Or of our gay neighbors as disgusting perverts ("I was amazed by how a city park in my neighborhood became a popular cruising grown for gay men seeking sexual encounters after dark... what are the rest of us supposed to think about gay male culture, and the degree to which it self-defines according to behavior that most people rightly find repulsive?").

To be fair, maybe it's not the racial or gender-preferential identity of specific neighbors that bugs Dreher. In a 2007 column he says, "the day will never come when we give [our children] permission to play unsupervised on our front lawn," because his neighborhood contains "halfway houses for sex offenders," "stray dogs," and "dodgy older teenagers from someplace else." Dreher laments that his urban nabe is not like the rural Louisiana hamlet in which he was raised.

You can understand why he'd object to "vibrant," or just about any other positive adjective applied to such places. Poor Dreher just plain doesn't like where he lives. He would prefer to live in Bumfuck or Coon Holler, so long as he could also have access to all the conveniences of a large city. It's bad enough that he can't have it all, geographically speaking. That some people who live in cities are content, even enthusiastic about where and how they live -- well, that just steams his vegetable dumpling.

I really hope he gets to exercise his Benedict Option, not just for the comic potential but also for his own sake. No man can serve two masters, and Dreher's unappeasable yearning to have the bright lights of the big city and the ol' swimmin' hole will eventually drive him crazier than he already is.

Monday, June 30, 2008

I'VE SEEN THAT MOVIE TOO. Wesley Clark suggests that life as a POW is not necessarily relevant training for the Presidency. McCain fan Andrew Sullivan, among others, angrily accuses Clark of "swift-boating" McCain.

To protect himself, McCain engages a "truth squad" starring one of the original Swift Boat guys, who still insists that "The Swift Boat 'attacks' were simply revelation of the truth."

This reminds me painfully of a scene from Costa-Gavras' Z, in which an indicted Greek fascist general is asked by a reporter, "Are you a martyr, like Dreyfus?" The General angrily replies, "Dreyfus was guilty."
NEW VOICE COLUMN UP -- rightwing blogwatch redux, with a Gay Pride teaser, post-Heller recoil, and the threat to America that is Wall-E.
SEVEN WAYS TO DRIVE YOUR TRAFFIC WILD IN WEB. Dr. Mrs. Ole Perfesser is really trawling here, but I am powerless to resist -- much like this fellow:
Can a Man Be Raped by a Woman?

Here is one man's story -- let's call him Mike -- (other identifying data has also been changed) about a rape that happened to him over 17 years ago that he still can't forget...
In the narrative that follows, "Mike" (a Marine!) goes to a motel to sleep off a drunk with his buddy's pregnant girlfriend, and
I woke up about 2 hours later -- still destroyed by the alcohol -- to find my clothes removed from the waist down and the girl on top of me wailing like a banshee and quite roughly enjoying herself. She had apparently brought me to erection -- not hard as I'm one of those men who can hold one for hours, awake or asleep, sober or drunk.
One would expect a Marine (particularly one who reads DMOP) to immediately extricate his entrenching tool with extreme prejudice, but what chance has the pride of the USMC against a pregnant chick who "sternly warned me to 'be quiet' and 'not be forceful' [! -ed.] and made it clear that she would cry rape if I tried to stop it." So he was forced to submit to the whole horrifying ordeal...

If you're wondering why I'm not yelling "Letters to Penthouse!" it's because Dr. Mrs.' readers beat me to it. Yes, the story is such bullshit that, even when plied with the sort of misogyny and invitations to self-pity that normally excites them, her usually docile fanboys rebel. Some, of course, keep their perfect faith in DMOP, and denounce the female man-rapist ("She could have masturbated; instead, she chose to play a power trip on that poor guy knowing he wouldn't do a thing against her"). Others believe the Marine, though they smack him for a "metrosexual" and tell him to "get over it." But a couple actually recognize that this absurd story is absurd.

For this bunch, that constitutes progress. But they're still a long way from the final breakthough: the acknowledgement that they are really being played for chumps, not by women, big media, society, or even the Marine, but by Dr. Mrs. Ole Perfesser. When that day comes, they are invited (after they stop crying) to join me in a class-action suit. For hasn't DMOP's irresistible scam injured us both -- by wounding their male pride, and wasting time I could have better devoted to Shorter Lilekses? This could be the mother of all men's rights cases! Hell, maybe we can get her old man to sign an amicus brief!

UPDATE. Someone claiming to be the Marine contributes to DMOP's comments. He tries to make the important point that real men seek therapy, and those who don't are pussies ("A real man [not an immature little wimp of a man-child like some of these posters] knows when he needs help rather than bottling it up until it explodes onto some innocent bystander..."). I wonder if this is how they do it in basic training now: "YOU HAD BEST UNLEASH YOUR FUCKING INNER CHILD, PRIVATE, OR I WILL UNSCREW YOUR HEAD AND SHIT DOWN YOUR NECK, AND THAT'S JUST FIGURATIVELY SPEAKING, THIS BARRACKS IS YOUR SAFE SPACE." "SIR, I HEAR WHAT YOU'RE SAYING, SIR!"

Using belligerent language to scare people into believing a weak story has long been a winner for these people, but when you can't convince punters on their own sites, the game may be up.
UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES. The New York Sun clues me as to my new rights:
Regarding gun carrying, Heller might, arguably, mean that New York City would have to follow a similar policy to Connecticut (and 39 other states): issue permits to carry a concealed handgun for lawful defense if the applicant is over 21, and passes a fingerprint-based background check and a safety class.
It pains me to admit this, but I've never been arrested. As far as anyone can tell, I'm a good citizen. I can't wait until this shit gets sorted out. I meet all manner of idiots in my wanderings, and a shoulder-holster full of firepower can only add to my advantage. Especially when I've been drinking!

I've been praying for anarchy to restore my City to its former glory, but it now occurs to me that I need not only dream of such a restoration; I can also be its agent. Rudy Giuliani isn't around to disarm me. In the name of Tony Scalia, let's get it on!

Sunday, June 29, 2008

NEW FRONTIERS IN THE CULTURE WAR. John J. Miller, the genius behind "The 50 Greatest Conservative Rock Songs," is digging harder than ever to extract political messages from popular music. His latest find comes from Sigur Rós album credits:
Anyway, I was distressed to see that parts of With a buzz... were recorded in Havana (along with New York, London, and Reykjavik). The band isn't especially political, at least not to my knowledge. I suspect they didn't know any better. When it comes to Cuba, Europeans tend not to. That's too bad.
Clearly he's a man on a mission, and it won't be long before he discovers a new band using a wah-wah pedal and connects it to the failed policies of the Carter Administration.

UPDATE. Fixed spelling, diacritical. Oh, missing word too! Also there was a nail sticking out of a floorboard so I pulled it out so no one would get hurt.

Friday, June 27, 2008

I'D LIKE TO KNOCK OFF EARLY TODAY... NEED SOMETHING EASY... LET'S TRY REDSTATE. One of the right's most serious advocacy blogs has identified the most pressing issue facing America today: Bill Delahunt's lame joke.
If you do not call your Congressman today and demand the House of Representatives, at the very *least*, censure Congressman Delahunt, well damn us all. We have no right to carry on our fight...

When you call your Congressman, you should make sure he knows an apology from Mr. Delahunt will not suffice. Delahunt clearly is lying about and denying his statement. "I'm sorry" would just be more of the same.
Commenters take the hint, suggesting resignation and execution ("There is a tree down the road from me mbeck where Major Andre met his end. Just thought you may like to know that").

Please please pleeeeeease go the Republican National Convention in great numbers and stand in front of the cameras in 18th Century costumes and scream about treason please please pleeeeeease.

I ought to devise some sort of Low Hanging Fruit Award for service to alicublog, and put these guys on permanent shortlist. See ya!
JUST AS LONG AS THEY SPELL THE NAME RIGHT. The tiresome work of heaping blame for everything on the media never ends. Today's weary shovelman is Patrick Ruffini. He claims that the "3-to-1 ratio" of Obama-only to McCain-only stories on Google News proves Routine 12, aka media bias in favor of Democrats ("the media made an in-kind contribution of tens of millions of dollars in 'free' media to Obama"), with an online-media-spend angle to add both a modish sheen to the old gambit and a hint of quid-pro-quo corruption.

Stories easily found at Ruffini's Obama-Google link include "Obama's policy pirouettes lead him toward the center," "Michelle Obama Receives Lukewarm Reception for Lukewarm Position on Gay Marriage," "Obama-Clinton joint appearance faces skeptics," "Muslim Americans Feel Shunned by Obama," articles that call Obama "opportunistic," and editorials by such devoted Obama supporters as Charles Krauthammer (who, hilariously, talks about how the press is giving Obama a free pass).

We should also consider that many seemingly neutral Obama stories, such as the ones about Obama's support for gay rights, may be perceived negatively in some jurisdictions (cue "Dueling Banjos").

If Obama is paying money for this treatment, I hope he also gets a heavy damaged-merchandise discount.

I don't begrudge Ruffini the Google journalism per se -- in fact, I've used it myself, when I pointed out that the top rightwing bloggers much prefer to talk about Obama than McCain. Clearly Obama is more interesting to everyone, including his mortal enemies, than the old fart he's running against. If that's media bias, Ruffini's next job should be to rip the mask off the press' corrupt bargain with Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt.
THESE ARE THE JOKES, FOLKS! Peggy Noonan seems to want another campaign job. In today's Wall Street Journal she pleads for the Republicans to release the real McCain, highlighting "the antic part of his nature, his natural wit... That's why the boys on the bus loved him in 2000. That's why the Republican base rejected him in 2000."

Well, that seems a mixed outcome at best, but maybe even the base will be won over by such sure-fire material as this:
[He] volunteered that Brooke Buchanan, his spokeswoman who was seated nearby and rolling her eyes, 'has a lot of her money hidden in the Cayman Islands' and that she earned it by 'dealing drugs.' Previously, Mr. McCain had identified Ms. Buchanan as 'Pat Buchanan's illegitimate daughter,' 'bipolar,' 'a drunk,' 'someone with a lot of boyfriends,' and 'just out of Betty Ford.'"
Ha... huh? "That's the McCain his friends love," Noonan confidently tells us, "McCain unplugged."

I have to ask, will these Friars' Club Roast routines be used only on friends, or are they also meant for the press pool ("Helen, you brain-damaged old whore! Remember when you sucked me off behind the statue of William Borah? I felt like the Lion of the Senate all day") and the debates ("Let's be honest, homes, if I may call you homes. Puffy Combs is still mad about J-Lo, and if he finds out you were tappin' that back in '99, you can stop worrying about white people for the rest of the campaign and perhaps your life. In fact, maybe you should just grab a Bronco right now and do an OJ, while you still have your balls")? That would be a bold move, certainly.

Or maybe McCain unplugged should direct his schtick toward the voters: "Yeah, you had a nice time drinkin' beers and clearin' brush with George Bush, didn't you? I notice Prozac consumption is up. Maybe if you pillheads could come down long enough to see what a mess this country's in, I wouldn't have to worry about you voting for the other guy because you thought he did a good job in Men In Black. See these medals? I didn't win them in a debate competition. You want a tongue job, we'll get the missus out here. That ain't my bag. You people are fucked and it's gonna take a crazy, half-senile old sailor to get you unfucked. Now, somebody tell that cunt to come up here for the grip-and-grin, or as we call it in my house, the money shot. Thanks, morons, and try the veal."

Thursday, June 26, 2008

THE MOSQUITO COAST. Erin Manning continues to fill in for Rod Dreher at the Crunchy Con blog. Today she considers the Benedict Option -- Dreher's notion of Christians going off the grid and starting their own autonomous communities, far from evil Western culture -- and finds a sticking point: lack of easy ways for neo-Benedictines to "[sustain] themselves and their families apart from the reality of 24/7 corporate employment, which in most cases is only located in or near major urban areas."
One possibility involves the presence of a university which would be a source of jobs and income for many in the community. Some small Catholic colleges in relatively rural areas have seen this kind of thing flourish spontaneously. But I think the key is that the community should arise on its own; the planned community of Ave Maria in Florida seems like something that could easily be a disappointment to those who choose to settle there, for reasons that are beyond the scope of a single blog entry.
If you follow the link you can see a few obvious drawbacks at Ave Maria: they've already contracted with the Publix supermarket chain and BP. Since these businesses market goods from the godless outside world, there's always a possibility that residents may find the near occasion of sin in a sexy magazine or tomato can label. And isn't consumerism part of the problem? Won't the bounty of big-time supermarket shelves corrupt the souls of the anointed?

For centuries "autonomous" communities sustained themselves -- and some monks, zealots, and survivalists still do. Why can't the Crunchies till the land, bake bread, fetch water, and read the Bible by candlelight, if this is what the Lord has called them to do?

The obvious answer is they don't really want to. From comments on this post, and the blog generally, there seem to be an awful lot of Crunchies who expect to keep a desk job in the New Jerusalem.

I look forward to the day when some fundamentalist billionaire gifts Dreher and his crew with some arable land. Within weeks there'll be big fights around the Talking Stick, as public relations executives and journalists explain why someone else should hammer nails. Eventually Dreher will have to announce that an angel has told him the location of some magic tablets or something. And the great thing is, there'll be plenty of knowledge workers on hand to document the collapse.

UPDATE. Commenter FMguru reminds us that "the traditional conservative Christian way to deal with this problem is to import menial labor from far away, transported in the packed, sweltering cargo holds of specially-built sailing ships."
I AM ONE OF YOU NOW! I AM SANE! I'm pretty happy with the Heller decision. As I have said many times, I long to return to the old, dirty, dangerous, and inexpensive New York of my youth, and this seems like a good first step. (Yeah, I know Mike Bloomberg is acting like it's no big deal. He's whistling in the dark.)

Also, I should like a gun to liven up my drinking binges and mood swings. I would give you good people a schedule so that you might avoid me during these episodes, but really, there's just no predicting when they'll occur.
DARK DAYS AHEAD! Gateway Pundit is unnerved by the BET Awards, at which Sean Combs converted his "Vote or Die" chant to "Obama or Die," and Alicia Keys shouted "Obama, y'all!" Gateway Pundit helpfully bolds these quotes, and includes this picture to help readers grasp the size of the threat:

"It does make you wonder what the inaugural ball will be like come January," says GP.

He probably imagines something like this:

I hate to tell him: Bootsy's already got his invite.

UDPATE. You gotta love that the Gateway Pundit post's first trackback is from Stormfront.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

...according to Obama, Johansson is lying about trading lengthy e-mail exchanges. "She sent one email to Reggie, who forwarded it to me," Obama said, referring to his 26-year-old personal assistant, Reggie Love. "I write saying, 'thank you Scarlett for doing what you do,' and suddenly we have this email relationship."

UPDATE: Groan. A reader suggests, "I did not... have... textual relations with that woman, Miss Johansson."
I think McCain should press his advantage and announce he's been having a 10-year affair with Bo Derek.
A LACK OF INSPIRATION. Someone questioned me the other day about my recent lack of attention to some traditional alicublog bêtes noires. I understand that longtime followers of this site like to see their favorite characters on a regular basis. But sometimes it's just out of my hands.

For instance: We've had some good fun here at Megan McArdle's expense, and someday, God willing, we'll have more. But lately, McArdle's site is like an endless series of climactic scenes from "I Love Lucy" episodes: after a while, her buffoonish 'splainin' that she didn't really mean the U.S. Army breeds rightwing terrorists, or that Rhodesia should never have gained independence, is more wearying than funny. And the station breaks are, as always, insufferable.

And I regret to say that Jonah Goldberg has also become a disappointment. Since his book came out -- perhaps because he considers himself above it all now, wears a beret, and has his Cheetos brought to him by interns -- Goldberg mostly amuses himself at The Corner with recycled internet gags, or such content-free musings as this:
The death penalty used to be constitutional for barn-burning, horse stealing, fairly minor thefts etc. I completely agree that our evolving standards of decency make that seem like overkill, pardon the pun. But is it really a sign of our evolving standards of decency that brutally raping a child is also on that list? Are we more decent because we don't consider that a capital offense? I don't really see it.
This sounds like something the average person might write if he had neither an opinion on nor an idea of what he was talking about. In fact, Goldberg sounds like someone who is being forced to write -- someone, that is, who isn't a professional writer and expected to come up to snuff regardless -- rather than the rubber-doll wrestler we have come to know and love.

This is one of the things we all hate about journalism: despite our best efforts to make it come out the right way, sometimes events fuck it up. Think of it like "ER," and try to develop relationships with some of the up-and-comers.
SOMETIMES IT'S JUST TOO EASY. Adar Kielczewski at the American Thinker:
Society is promoting an entirely new type of leader: the wimp.
Sigh, OK, what is it this time? Arugula? Knickers? The dolorous effect of Dear Abby?
Today's television hero doesn't have big muscles, wear a cowboy hat or fly. He smirks. NBC's popular series The Office reflects this trend quintessentially: promotion of the beta male. Jim Halpert, unofficial "hero" of the program, does little more than raise an eyebrow at the camera as he lives a day-in, day-out life of quiet passivity. His most aggressive action is the occasional practical joke. At last year's season finale, he turned down a managerial position. A man of action he's not.
I don't watch that much TV, but I know somewhere on prime time there must be a PI who doesn't play by the rules. Wouldn't he cancel out Jim Halpert? Also, cops. There's always lots of cops on TV. And Charlie Sheen! He loves 'em and leaves 'em. That's got to count, right?

Most of Kielczewski's essay is about that one show but, perhaps sensing the absurdity of denouncing society based on a single TV program (though I might have gone for it if he'd picked "The Two Coreys"), Kielczewski makes the big reach further down:
Who wants to promote hard work, leadership or taking a stand? Men are just as content to follow as to lead. We like the message of Napoleon Dynamite, Spiderman, Shrek and "The Office," because it tells us softly, "It's okay to be mediocre."
First of all, real men don't use italics and quote marks; it's like wearing a belt and suspenders. Second, WTF? Napoleon Dynamite totally kicked that chick's ass at dancing! And Spider-Man and Shrek totally kicked those guys' asses at kicking ass.
History provides role models such as Rough Rider leader Theodore Roosevelt, Prime Minister Winston Churchill and honest President Abraham Lincoln: men with ambition, guts, drive and notable character.
Even during the Second World War, if you attempted to fill an entire movie matinee with newsreels and patriotic biographies, I'm sure the fine young people in the audience would have gotten up and yelled, "We want Abbott and Costello!"
If history had put Jim Halpert up to commanding the men and the love of the Continental Army, or if the Declaration of Independence/British death warrant was waiting for the signature of one "Peter Parker," I think we would find ourselves in a much different nation.
Sure we would: with Spider-Man fighting for us, the Revolutionary War would have been over in about two hours. Because he has super-powers. Because he's a comic book character. And --

Wait a minute. For a moment I felt as if these people could be reached with common sense. In fact, I got so excited I swelled up, turned green, yelled "ROY SMASH!" and crushed a couple of beer cans. Yes, it's that important to have proper role models.

UPDATE. Commenter Halloween Jack suggests that Adar is not male but female, based on this evidence. Till I have better sourcing -- can we really trust an unaccredited Jesus school/compound to get a caption right? -- I'm going to stick with my original gender assumption. For one thing it's funnier, especially since "Adar" reminds me of the way Adore's mother pronounced his name ("Yuh wanna cry, Adah? Yuh wanna cry?") in The Day of the Locust. (You may recall Adore -- played by a young Jackie Earle Haley! -- was the belligerent, peroxided child-monster who got stomped to death by Donald Sutherland.)

Also, it's depressing to see the right is still finding new harpies and termagants who bitch out the menfolk for their lack of alpha. I suspect it's part of a COINTELPRO plan to discredit feminism by hiring shills to embody tiresome gender stereotypes in public.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

OILFIELD IN A COMA. I've often wondered how it could be explained that Iraq has been for months (and figures to remain forever) poised perfectly between surge-is-working-great and if-we-leave-they're-doomed. How can our Mission be on the verge of Accomplished, and Iraq such a basket case at the same time?

At National Review, Peter Wehner explains with a piquant metaphor:
Assume that a patient suffering from severe influenza is improving, thanks in part to antiviral agents. But the fact that the patient is getting better doesn’t mean the patient is completely well, nor does it mean it would be wise to prematurely stop medication and medical care.
By "piquant" I mean obscene, as Iraq's post-invasion hospitals are so horribly underequipped, a real case of the flu would probably not be treated with vanishingly scarce antibiotics or antivirals, but with prayers and imprecations against the Great Satan.

My suggestion to Wehner: try comparing Iraq to Terry Schiavo instead. It's a more appropriate metaphor (or would be, if Schiavo had been beaten into a coma during a home invasion). And it'll energize the base!
JOKE OF THE DAY. James Lileks faults George Carlin for... wait for it -- timing is everything... lack of self-awareness:
I never heard Carlin be as hard on himself as he was on his favorite strawmen. That wasn’t his job, of course, and you can’t fault him for the routines he didn’t do. But the more you confront and accept your own human faults the less outrage you find in the small mishaps of others, and I never got the feeling Carlin spent a lot of time interrogating his own character with the same confident derision he brought to things much greater than himself.
Next week at the Bleat: three Target clerks who didn't get Lileks' BSG references.
RACE PIMP. Normally the National Review's Victor Davis Hanson goes on about political correctness like a parrot who's been living in Hilton Kramer's apartment. Yet today he's complaining that there will be no shitstorm over Don Imus' latest race-related remarks.

One would think so stalwart a fan of untramelled speech would be pleased to learn the heat's off. But Hanson is more interested in blaming the media's unwillingness to make Imus a big story for the second year in a row on history's greatest monster, Barack Obama:
This time there will be no calls for resignation or furor. Why? Obama in his treatment of the far worse racial slurs of Rev. Wright already lowered the bar when defending Wright last spring by not calling for him to apologize or separate from Trinity, and thereby lost any high ground to voice concern about others.
If this is so, we owe Obama a debt of gratitude for sparing us another ridiculous media circus like the last Imus affair -- or, for that matter, the Reverend Wright blowout. And the current reaction, or lack thereof, seems consonant with the reason-over-rage message of the Obama race speech.

Wow, I like the Obama Presidency already! Certainly much more than I like PC, race-baiting crybabies like Hanson.

Monday, June 23, 2008

HOW HOMOSEXUALS RUINED THE "KISS OF PEACE." Erin Manning, standing in for Rod Dreher (who is presumably scouting deep caves where he and his brood might sustain life after the End Times), says just because she doesn't want to let 'em get married doesn't mean that she doesn't like --

Well wait. Let's be precise. Manning doesn't say she likes gay people, or anything like it, so let's not put words in her mouth (at least not till the costumes and sound effects are ready). What she says is:
In fact, I've had comment box discussions with gay marriage supporters who tell me that if I'd just get to know some gay people...
But as I've said on those occasions, I have known, and do know, gay people. I even have gay relatives, and my self-imposed rule not to talk about family members without their permission and consent ties my hands more than I can say. Suffice it to say that on my side of things, invitations have been extended and communication lines left open.
Invitations have been extended... communication lines left open. Sounds like she's addressing a Senate sub-committee, doesn't she? Do you know, or have you ever known, a member of the Homosexual Party?

The whole blinked-in-code thing suggests some interesting scenarios. Maybe in Manning's life gay folk are more felt than seen, like the Blair Witch. Or maybe it's more like a Baby Jane bonhomie thing:

"Hey, Aunt Faggot, care if I tell the whole world you suck cock?"

"Fuck off, bitch!"

(shrugs) "OK, I left the lines of communication open. See ya in camp -- from the other side of the barbed wire! (dancing) Oh I so bad, I so bad!"

Oh, right, I keep forgetting: "San Francisco Democrat" => crackers vote right way => wingnut welfare keeps flowing. I knew there was a simpler explanation.