Wednesday, December 31, 2008

WAS EVER WOMAN IN THIS HUMOUR WON? It's amazing that Dennis Prager wrote "When a Woman Isn't In the Mood: Part I." It's astounding that he published it. It's mind-blowing that, having published it, he didn't hop a tramp steamer to Vera Cruz and try to make a new life for himself. But reenforce your skulls with duct tape, because Prager's back with "When a Woman Isn't In the Mood: Part II."

His argument is that, to preserve the marital bliss of their households, women should have sex with their husbands whether they feel like it or not. We might call this the nut graf, were not all the grafs nuts:
The baby boom generation elevated feelings to a status higher than codes of behavior. In determining how one ought to act, feelings, not some code higher than one’s feelings, became decisive: “No shoulds, no oughts.” In the case of sex, therefore, the only right time for a wife to have sex with her husband is when she feels like having it.
And here's an analogy that should really win the ladies over: "Why do we assume that it is terribly irresponsible for a man to refuse to go to work because he is not in the mood, but a woman can -- indeed, ought to -- refuse sex because she is not in the mood?" That's why it's called a blow job, girls.

Even more disturbing than his argument is his sheer doggedness in pursuing it. I can understand begging, pleading, emotionally manipulating, and even dressing up nice, buying dinner, and pretending to be a nice guy to obtain sex, but writing two columns for Town Hall is where I draw the line. They're both as repetitive and incantatory as a bad 18th Century religious tract. It's as if Prager had heard the famously ugly womanizer John Wilkes' explanation of his romantic success -- "Give me half an hour and I can talk my face away" -- and decided: give me two essays and I can talk my penis into her vagina.

Someone should send him a bottle of Astrolube with a note explaining that it's not just for women.

Monday, December 29, 2008

LISTOMANIA. At the Voice I succumb to the classic end-of-year syndrome with a Top-10 list of stupid rightblogger tricks. Since you're the late-show real people, you get bonuses:

#15: Jonah Goldberg Handles Criticism. National Review's Jonah Goldberg kept close watch on the reviews for his book Liberal Fascism, and when he was not praised leapt to his own defense. "I knew I was in trouble when the interview just wouldn't end," he observed of his Jon Stewart appearance, "and I got the sense it wasn't ending because Stewart didn't feel like he 'won' so he had to keep going." Then he whipped out reader e-mails to prove he had actually triumphed over Stewart. Goldberg collegially called the Economist's dis "craptacularly lame," and responded to Newsweek's by quoting in his defense other bad reviews ("even The New York Times and Slate's Tim Noah conceded it's not what they consider an 'Ann Coulter book'"). He kept this up through Christmas Eve, denouncing an old New Republic pan of which its editors happened to remind him. We imagine in April he'll hold a little awards ceremony for himself using statuettes from Happy Meals.

#14: Striking a Blow against Political Correctness. "You're cowards. Not because you fear and condemn a single word. But because you feel that condemnation, all by itself, constitutes some kind of winning argument." The word is "niggers," which Old Punk did not use in a Huckleberry Finn context, but in reference to black people he didn't like. Memories of this brave resistance to the forces of liberal brainwashing may give comfort to its authors in these, er, dark days.

#13: Sarah Palin's Last, Best Hope. When questions of Vice-Presidential nominee Sarah Palin's experience came up, The American Scene's Noah Millman admitted "that she's totally unqualified to be President at this point in time," but proposed a possible future-retroactive solution: "If McCain were to die in February 2009, I hope Palin would have the good sense to appoint someone who is more ready to be President to be her Vice President, on the understanding that she would then resign and be appointed Vice President by her successor." The plan might have worked were it offered in the form of a tile puzzle and omitted both Palin's and McCain's names.

#12: Prop 8 Explained. An author at Ace of Spades relates his trouble with gay-rights protesters in Los Angeles: "The group attempted to block an intersection just as I was entering it. They ran in front of my car when they saw that I was almost past them. When I stopped, a couple of them ducked down behind my car out of my view. They were hoping that I would put my car in reverse so they would get bumped and become 'justified' in focusing their rage against me and my vehicle." We understand the Chinese government had a similar explanation for the unpleasantness at Tiananmen Square in 1989, with the significant exception that the Tiananmen Square incident actually happened.

#11: "B" is for Bullshit. When Pittsburgher Ashley Todd claimed that a mugger, enraged by her McCain bumper sticker, carved the letter "B" for Barack into her face, rightbloggers rushed to defend her story even when they weren't sure it was true. One said he deleted his "earlier notes of skepticism" because he was afraid "CNN will quote me when they say 'Even conservatives smell a hoax...'" Others just broke out the champagne over the "potential Pennsylvania Willie Horton game-changer." When it fell apart they drank the champagne anyway, but in a less celebratory, more unconsciousness-seeking spirit.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

THE TORTURE GARDEN. More tee-hee over torture from the Ole Perfesser:
“DON’T MAKE THEM LISTEN TO OUR STUFF — IT’S INHUMAN!” Rockers to Press Obama on Music Torture. Best bit: “And the BBC has reported on a particularly insidious practice: using the theme songs from Sesame Street and Barney to break the will of prisoners.” Okay, that is inhuman. At any rate, whatever limits on volume and duration are applied to Guantanamo should also be applied to public concerts...
Ha ha! Silly detainees tortured by rock and rap -- it's like a Dave Berg cartoon come to life!

The linked article refers to "hours of music played at deafening volume -- sometime for days or even weeks on end." Also, from the Transcultural Music Review:
A long New York Times story on March 19, 2006, described in detail “Camp Nama”, the headquarters of a multiple-agency interrogation unit at Baghdad International Airport; there, “high-value detainees”... were sent first to the so-called “Black Room," a garage-sized, windowless space painted black where “rap music or rock’n’roll blared at deafening decibels over a loudspeaker”... Read together, these reports suggest that the “deafening music” is usually delivered to a detainee who has been chained into a “stress position”, in a pitch-black space made uncomfortably hot or cold.
The article also discusses the usefulness of allowing soldiers to pick the music, not only because the Western sounds they favor will disorient the prisoner, but also because it helps the soldiers identify with the instrument of torture and thus feel righteous about applying it.

Making a joke out of torture is standard operating procedure for dehumanizers. It's the old Abu Ghraib thumbs-up all over again, revived by internet tough guy who are depraved enough to express pleasure at human suffering and wimps enough to pretend it isn't really suffering.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

THE UNBEARABLE LIGHTNESS OF ANN ALTHOUSE. "Oh, why give out prizes for art anyway? If you're at the level of handing out prizes, why not stiff the jerks? Even for decisions that matter, like voting for President, we stiff the jerks, don't you think? The nicer person wins. Why pretend otherwise?"


"I followed my 2 sons into B-Side Records, which was full of shoppers. I counted 15, all men. When did music shopping become such a heavily male activity?"

Next week: "Why shouldn't the rich get lighter prison sentences? Why should that be any different from the rich getting a nicer car or house than the rest of us?" and "Nobody wears ties to faculty meetings anymore. Why is that?"

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

PUTTING THE "X" BACK IN XMAS. Christmas always makes me think of my old Church, and lately also of Rod Dreher, for whom Roman Catholicism was one of the religions he went through on his way to wherever it is he's going. Like me, he retains a soft spot for Catholicism, and today he defends the Pope, who lately made some unfortunate remarks about gay people (he appeared to compare them to a blight on the rainforest):
It is a central paradox of our culture war that American liberals, as a general rule, judge most everything by whether or not it advances the sexual revolution -- yet accuse the Catholic Church (and more broadly, religious conservatives) of being obsessed with sex. You've probably read this week that Pope Benedict trashed homosexuals in a speech. Well, guess what? He restated the constant, entirely familiar teaching of the Roman Catholic church on homosexuality, but devoted only a couple of lines in his long speech to the subject. That's not how our media reported it.
It was just a couple of lines. If only Reverend Wright could have availed such an excuse! Brother Rod may also recall that only a few minutes of each Mass is devoted to the solicitation of funds -- just like in carneys -- but that doesn't reflect their true value, either.

Tomorrow is Jesus' birthday. I think he would want you good people to give each other the love and respect he's not around to enjoy. God rest ye merry!
A VERY JONAH CHRISTMAS. At The Corner on Christmas Eve, not a creature was stirring. Then Jonah Goldberg stumbles in and, after knocking over a garbage can and eating Santa's cookies, gives readers this Yuletide greeting:
Michael Tomasky reviewed my book for The New Republic. I say this with all sincerity: I thought his review was shameful, dishonest and just plain stupid. I used to think highly of Tomasky, but I thought his review (with the help of Leon Wieseltier's obvious meddling) spoke terribly of him and the publication. I haven't brought any of this up much because I assumed my friends at The New Republic were simply, and justifiably, embarrassed by it — and I had my say. But now they seem to think it was the "best of 2008."* So, for those who care, here's my response.
The latter link brings us back to Golberg's 3,547-word March bitchfest, containing such classic lines as, "This is the whole point of the smiley face with the Hitler mustache on the cover; fascism was popular, fascism is popular," and "As for Dachau’s organic honey, Tomasky is once again -- willfully -- obtuse."

Everyone else at National Review has long since knocked off and gone to the Opus Dei scourging party, but Goldberg burns the mid-evening oil to complain for the second time about an unfavorable review he received three trimesters ago.

However you're celebrating your Christmas Eve, be thankful that you aren't having whatever it is he's having.

*UPDATE. (My asterisk, not Goldberg's) Apparently the original link was defective and led to a spam site. It has been replaced -- let me know if there's still trouble.
UPDATE 2. Hmm. People are still getting jacked. Well, then just leave that link alone. I think you can tell without proof that even Tomasky trumps Jonah Goldberg.
A CRY FOR HELP. Despite reversals, the brethren are still looking for some way to blame Blagojevich on Obama. Ace O'Spades grows wistful:
Nothing legal will come of this. However, there might just be grist for the political mill. Not sure if I want to relive the endless scandals and endless farcical denials of the Clinton administration, but we may be on that track -- a long period of time when Obama is plausibly accused of lying and obstructing justice and yet there's never any resolution.
What Ace has described is pretty much all he ever does (except give odds on football games and moralize about his own pornography). Yet he sounds so gloomy about it that I actually feel bad for him. (Victory has given me the strength to be gentle thus.) We all get tired of our jobs sometimes, of course, but should he decide he really can no longer stand his, what else is he fitted to do?

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

It's funny you mention it. I've heard several (liberal) pundits say much the same thing now, and I had no idea what they were talking about. I've been busy with some other stuff, so I haven't followed the Warren debate too closely, but I assumed I missed some griping. And maybe I have. But to date, I haven't gotten a single angry email from a reader about this, and usually when conservatives are enraged by something, somebody emails me about it.
I should really put out a book of these, with pictures of puppies.

Monday, December 22, 2008

THEY TRY -- OH, HOW THEY TRY. And I was just talking about irrational exuberance -- Peter Kirsanow at The Corner:
Rod Blagojevich, $1 trillion "fiscal stimulus", Harry Reid, expiring tax cuts, Nancy Pelosi, socialized health care, Charlie Rangel, reinstitution of the oil drilling ban, Joe Biden, liberal judicial nominees, Al Franken (maybe), nuclear Iran, John Murtha, car czars, Dennis Kucinich, PC culture, Chris Dodd, entitlement explosion, Barney Frank, entitlement implosion, Barbara Boxer, card check, the Clintons, Russian adventurism.

If Republicans can't come back in 2010 they should be sued for political malpractice.
For those who are tallying scores in that alternative universe known as Planet Earth, Kirsanow's bill of particulars includes:
  • 13 people who actually exist, but whose negative campaign potential is about as well-established as, oh, say, Ed Meese's in 1988 (and one of whom, Al Franken, is presumed a liability merely because he may commit the crime of winning a close election) ;
  • Several things that were either done by the Bush Administration or have not, in point of fact, happened;
  • Culture war armament that died with Lee Atwater.
Why didn't he include Iraqi children giving flowers to soldiers? Seriously, it would have fit. And what about Ollie North's clean-cut good looks? He had everyone swooning that last time he was on national TV, which I think was on an episode of "Wings."

Well, why not? As long as it's only make-believe.
THE GRINCH THAT STOLE FITZMAS. I have a new Voice column up, looking at the sad holidays on the right. Most of it follows up on the latest Blagojevich news, in which conservative hopes for getting a nice Obama scandal out of it appear to be cruelly dashed. Now, for all I know the upcoming report could yet show Obama leaving the cell phone on his pillow so he and the Governor can talk each other to sleep, but so far the connection appears thin. Yet even with the phone records fading as a causus bullshit, they're still keeping hope alive ("Obama Not Releasing Some Emails Between Him and Blagojevich: Breaks Transparency Promise"). They think every Democrat is Al Capone, and tax evasion will do if nothing else sticks. And if nothing at all sticks, they can still tell each other the bastard's guilty.

A nice little thumbnail version is provided by the Ole Perfesser, who promotes a story about Andrew Sullivan's failure to contribute to the defeat of Prop 8, then acknowledges that Sullivan couldn't legally contribute because he's not an American, then links to a guy who says, well, if he's a foreigner then what right does he have to complain about this country anyway? The pursuit of enemies may sometimes take the form of the pursuit of justice, but the difference will be clear to most normal observers.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

CULTURE WAR PORNOCOPIA! Christmas comes early at National Review, with a series of stories on what we might can cultural matters. The themes are largely familiar. Mark Goldblatt is outraged that some kids still wear Che shirts. He informs whomever among them may be within reach of his voice that Guevara killed people and didn't show any contrition or discrimination about it. Sensing perhaps that he is not breaking new ground, Goldblatt throws in a challenge. "Why does an obsessive Nazi-hunter like Simon Wiesenthal get positive press," he asks, "while an obssessive Communist-hunter like Joe McCarthy is vilified?" Maybe because Wiesenthal hunted actual Nazis, while McCarthy was happy to tar citizens ranging from Owen Lattimore to Adlai Stevenson. But, as Goldblatt's subject might agree, when the cause is just contrition and discrimination must go by the board.

Dear, dotty Jay Nordlinger contributes one of his rambling columns about nothing much. He thinks reporters are not hard enough on Obama; hears that "During the campaign, you were a hateful, racist monster if you spoke Barack Obama’s middle name. But now it’s cool," referring maybe to an old Facebook stunt; denounces the free-market malfeasance of George Bush, which he thinks the liberal media is trying to cover up ("You sometimes have to wonder whether reporters are ignorant or malicious or what"); and reports that some people have, for reasons unknown, a low opinion of conservative thinkers. Also, some grammar notes.

Jonah Goldberg offers some Caroline Kennedy gotchas: how is this "Cinderella" more qualified than Sarah Palin for high office? He might have noticed that support for Kennedy is hardly universal among liberals, or even among New York State voters, but that would have deprived him of the chance to refer to the "self-indulgence of elite liberalism" as "bowel-stewing," an adjective Goldberg was born to invent. Predictably, he actually injures his case in referring to Palin as "designed by God for a Hallmark movie of the week" and rising "by dint of her dedication and almost naive fearlessness" -- an unconscious avowal that, as most American voters quickly grasped, Palin's nomination was an exercise in rightwing wish-fulfillment and that she was desperately out of her depth on a national ticket. He also offers some lovely examples of the baroque Goldbergian style ("There were valid criticisms to make. But that is quite a different thing than saying all of the criticism was valid"), as well as a breathtaking lack of awareness that, as one of American conservatism's most famous legacy pledges, he hardly has room to talk.

The jewel of the bunch, though, is Mona Charen's article on pornography, festively titled "'Tis the Season for Porn," which made me hope for a moment it would be a holiday shopper's guide. Charen begins by announcing her own martyrdom, predicting "I will be called names for writing this column," confidently stating that such taunts come from porn's "fanatical devotees," which suggests that more casual users will find nothing risible in her linkage of Zack and Miri Make a Porno to hardcore S&M websites. Her scientific explanation is that "pornography use breeds tolerance and the need for more intensity to get the desired result," which may be read as a convincing argument for increased participation in fetish sex to obviate the need for pornography. Alas, Charen goes another way, holding up Hugh Hefner as a poster boy for the Wages of Skin:
Hugh Hefner, the godfather of mainstream porn, apparently does not have normal sex with his many girlfriends. Despite the presence of up to seven comely young women in his bed at a time, he uses porn for sexual satisfaction. Think about that.
Maybe it owes to my constant, desensitizing exposure to culture-warnography, but I don't consider consider Hef an object of pity. Of course, I'm not as inclined as Charen is to believe a story clearly invented and spread by him to sell more copies of Playboy. As censors in any age could tell you, prudes are porn's best advance men.
MORE CONSERVATIVE IDENTITY POLITICS. The L.A. Times has an article about Team Sarah, a web entity which the Times portrays as a rallying point for "women who had never followed political affairs" who are attracted to Palin as "a conservative mother trying to balance family and career." Co-founder Majorie Dannenfelser lets us know early that this isn't just an anti-abortion front group, and rather seeks to "bring together a coalition of women who support Sarah Palin on a range of issues, not just the Life issue." The other co-founder is Jane Abraham, who is also General Chairman of the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List.

The American Spectator calls Team Sarah "the sort of spontaneous Tocquevillean activism that the conservative movement has been woefully lacking lately, and there is no other candidate for 2012 who has anything like it." (Dannenfeiser has written -- glowingly! -- about Palin at the Standard.)

There is a new wrinkle to this, though I wouldn't call it Tocquevillean. National women-centric political operations are usually focused on electing politically-appropriate female candidates, not on one person in particular. The two best-known such entities I can think of are both pro-choice: Emily's List (Democratic) and the WISH List (Republican). In the last election cycle Emily's List netted $33,401,859. WISH List took in $587,880. Abraham's Susan B. Anthony List Candidate Fund drew $690,165.

Speaking very broadly, it seems a gender-specific political appeal is more effective if your candidates are Democratic and favor abortion rights. Team Sarah is clearly hoping that Palin's popularity, such as it is, will change that. But thus far Team Sarah looks like a pink, candy-coated shell for hardcore anti-abortion politics, with the Team sending out alerts like "Stop the Abortion Bailout," and updating us on "Team Sarah at March for Life." Even if they admire Palin's Governor Mom routine, will women who are not already pro-life single-issue voters go for this?

As I've noted before, the rise of Palin has got some conservatives excited at the prospect of peeling off some of that hot identity-politics action from the left. About the most flattering thing I can say about it is that it's transparently insincere.

Friday, December 19, 2008

THE SAME OLD TIRED EXCUSES. I know I sound like an abusive drunk (and I am), but please accept my apologies again for not posting more. Duty calls, while holding my ear and beating me with a rolling pin. I'll try to jackpot some stuff this weekend, when I'll be snowed in. Meantime please enjoy this variation on an old alicublog theme, "The Five Most Miserable Christmas Songs."

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

SAY ANYTHING, INDEED. In recent days rightbloggers have been anticipating with relish that the Blagojevich scandal would take down some of their enemies in Illinois. Obama being a bridge too far, some of them focused on Jesse Jackson Jr. Say Anything declared on December 10:
[Jackson] is reported to be candidate #5. He will be outed at the guy who was willing to pay a million dollars to be appointed by the governaor to be the new Senator from Illinois. Senate Seat for Sale, and he was ready to buy. What level of corruption has the Democrat machine descended to?

If it’s true, and I believe it is THEN:. The Jacksons are shakedown artists and know how to be shaken down, Jesse Jackson Jr’s career is over. He will avoid Jail but you know full well that whomever runs against him next time will put up a picture of Jackson and Blago with a Million Dollar check between them.
Turns out Jackson has been working as an informant on Blagojevich for the Feds. In a better world, we might expect Say Anything to apologize. As it is, we just get a gearshift:
Did Jesse Jackson Jr. Help The Feds Bag Blago? If So, That’s Bad For Obama...

If Jesse Jackson Jr. reported Blago to the feds and Obama didn’t that essentially leaves Obama and his people knowing about Blago’s attempts to sell a seat in the Senate and not doing anything about it. Per the federal affidavit released with the complaint against Blago that led to his arrest we know that Blago apparently asked OBama’s people for favors and that Obama’s people apparently turned him down. From that we can conclude that Obama knew full well what Blago was doing.

And if neither Obama nor any of his people went to the feds...well...they’re essentially complicit in a cover up.
And other of the brethren flock to the talking point. Life as a unreflective political shark probably has the advantage of simplicity, but chasing every spot of light in the water with one's jaws open must get pretty exhausting after a while.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

GREETED AS LIBERATORS, PART 34,889. I see the guy who threw his shoes at Bush got his hand and ribs broken, along with other injuries, while in U.S. custody. Let's see what the rightbloggers who lately celebrated the dawn of due process in Iraq think about that:

"15 years and some broken ribs. Sounds about right to me." -- Flopping Aces.

"Cry me a river. Hey, you attempt an assault on the leader of the free world, don't be surprised if you get roughed up." -- Jammie Wearing Fool.

"Of course, this could have happened when he was dragged fighting, screaming and kicking from the press conference, too." -- Gateway Pundit. (Resisting arrest? I've heard that one before. Later GP praises Cheney's defense of waterboarding.)

"I, for one, hope that nobody did anything worse than, say, the Chicago cops would have done circa 1968. That might sound shocking, but you have to be realistic about these things... it is certainly a sign that Iraqis have greatly expanded their sense of personal freedom." -- TigerHawk.

"STFU, you retarded land ape." -- Blackfive.

I always suspected that when they were denouncing Saddam's torture chambers, they were just angry that they didn't get to say who got tortured.

Monday, December 15, 2008

NEW VOICE COLUMN UP about the hopeful coverage by some of our usual suspects of the Blagojevich scandal and Bush's trip to Iraq. I think Media Matters is clearly right: the attempted tarring of Obama with Blagojevich shows that the Clinton playbook is already back in use, and the go-to play involves many dotted lines leading to Obama from whatever malfeasance may have happened nearby. I just wonder whether the nation's collective memory retains a strong enough impression of this schtick that people may begin to resist it. Maybe this sort of thing only works when the nation is fat and happy, as in the Clinton years, and in our current turmoil citizens will be more attentive to the prospect of ruin than to the President's near occasion of sin.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

WHY MEGAN GETS BLU-RAY AND YOU GET A DOLL MADE OF STRAW. "The only good thing that I can possibly think of about this financial crisis is that it may break the rat race of constantly ratcheting consumption, which has surrounded most Americans with nice things that don't really make them happy." -- Megan McArdle, November 21, 2008.

This weekend Eloise at the Atlantic follows up with a "Holiday Video game guide" (Mario Kart for Wii is "like the distilled spirit of Christmas") and a "Holiday Gift Guide: Electronics edition" that includes Wii, the iPhone, a 50-inch television, Tivo HD, the Sony Blu-Ray Player, and several other top-shelf items. She does start by describing her list as "a nostalgic symbol of better times," but her recommendations are sufficiently effusive ("And the balance work [on Wii Fit] is good for nearly everyone, because unless you're a dancer or a gymnast, that's a skill most Americans never work on") that I'm sure her advertisers don't mind a bit.

I guess that bit about breaking out of the rat race of consumption was just meant for the littlebrains; presumably part of what makes alphas superior is their ability to engage consumer culture full-on without being spiritually damaged by it.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

ICHTHYS IN A BARREL. The Mexican edition of Playboy has a cover depicting the Virgin Mary in a state of deshabille. The Anchoress says she is undistrubed:
Is it vulgar and insulting? Sure is. Is it worth my ire? No. And I’ll tell you why.
Thereupon follow 595 words of her ire, including attacks on Madonna and Christopher Hitchens and a link to a Vatican document.

I wonder how they got through childhood without realizing that, the more they protest, the more they're going to get teased.

UPDATE. Commenter Dave puts it best: "When a wingnut sticks their finger in your face and says: 'And I'll tell you why.' bring a lunch. You'll be a while."

Friday, December 12, 2008

A PRINCIPLED STAND. Reason's Nick Gillespie is glad that the auto bailout seems to have failed in the Senate (though now Treasury is stepping up, which his colleague Jacob Sullum says is wrong and maybe illegal).
I'm glad to to see the auto bailout go down for this round (though I wish the same had happened to the financial services bailout in the version that passed). However, I find it troubling that Republicans are also interested in dictating terms to any business (the story says they would have passed it if they figured the deal would break the unions more than the passage of time already has). That just isn't Congress' job and it's been part of the problem in the U.S. for at least 80 or so years.
Gillespie should be pleased that, over in the financial sector, no "dictating terms" worthy of the name is going on; no one appears to be crimping AIG's fat bonuses (or, as they are better known in the industry, retention payments). Conversely, workers at the car companies were asked to take a shave before their bailout would be given.

In our giant corporate welfare state, libertarians can only hope for, and be pleased with, incremental victories -- which suits the people we call conservatives, who take it as an opportunity to enact double standards that reward their friends and screw their enemies, and call it restraint. What for Gillespie is half a loaf is for the Republican Senators the whole megillah. "Small government" isn't winning anything here; the government is just making sure its big ladle is serving one bowl more than the other.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

A HOLLYWOOD BOMB. Andrew Breitbart tells The Hill he's starting up a right-wing Hollywood site.
His strategy is to prod conservative Washington to start caring about Hollywood. Breitbart has already signed several big names, including House Minority Leader Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio), incoming Minority Whip Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and Reps. Thaddeus McCotter (R-Mich.), Mary Bono Mack (R-Calif.) and Connie Mack (R-Fla.), to post entries on the site. He has also landed former senator and GOP presidential candidate Fred Thompson, MSNBC correspondent Tucker Carlson and a slew of other conservative thinkers from the National Review, The Weekly Standard and Commentary magazine to contribute.

Breitbart is also eager to include commentary from Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh and other conservatives who have stirred up controversy in the past. “I don’t consider them controversial,” he says.
This Zhdanovite spectacle will offer endless amusement when it opens in January. We have been supplied with a press release, and here are some highlights of the first issue:

Amity Shlaes, author of The Forgotten Man, on how Frank Capra prolonged the Great Depression: "I was at first intrigued to learn Capra had made a film called You Can't Take It With You and hoped it would have conveyed a positive financial message that would get audiences spending to unleash the power of free markets. Alas, it turned out to be a celebration of non-conformists, clearly meant to make viewers comfortable with the alien philosophy of the New Deal. Capra also missed a valuable opportunity to have Mr. Smith, when he went to Washington. denounce Franklin Roosevelt from the floor of the Senate."

Rush Limbaugh on the treasonous legacy of Citizen Kane: "Folks, I am going to go out on a limb here. Every critic, marching in lockstep on orders from the cultural Kremlin, will tell you that Citizen Kane is a great movie. But how many of them have ever run a business? They just don't know what they're talking about. And Orson Welles, who was mincing around in spats and leotards since he was a baby, practically, didn't know either. So he libeled a great fictional businessman -- though everyone knows his model was one of my personal heroes, William Randolph Hearst -- by making him out to be corrupt and lecherous to stir up class envy. My friends, I've spent hours with business leaders like Rupert Murdoch and Donald Trump, and I can tell you, no successful leader has a fireplace that big."

A podcast by Fred Thompson on Frost/Nixon: "Now, the Dick Nixon I knew was a mahty man, the sort of feller who'd brush off a David Frost lahk a houn' scratchin' off a flea. I tell you it galled Nixon to have to sit there oan thet TV set an' tolerate those questions from a lib'ral Englishman with big ol' sideburns. But he did it so people would know the truth an' to this day I hain't seen a lick o' evidence that he didn't donate that big ol' check to the St. Jude Hauspital. But that's the kinda man Richard Nixon was."

Jonah Goldberg on The X Files: I Want To Believe: "Now there's still the politically correct angle of the pedophile priest. I don't want to get into the weeds debating the role of the Catholic Church. I can understand why people are angry about priests diddling little boys, though I wonder why no one examines the role of gay rights groups in this abuse, which I hope to address in a future column. But I Want To Believe is really about faith, no matter how much the filmmakers try to get away from it, and I think it's ironic that Hollywood is so adamantly against religion and yet they keep making these movies about people who want to believe. There's a tradition of this in science fiction that I hope to get to in my new book. The head transplant thing also addresses conservative doubts about science and where it goes when it's left unregulated -- though liberals are all for regulation when it comes to banks, you never hear them speaking out against this sort of thing."
THE WILDERNESS YEARS. This response by Cato's Michael Tanner to Billy Kristol's otherwise useless column about the limits of small-government conservatism (which I have to assume presages a new starve-the-beast movement, since everyone knows Kristol is always spectacularly wrong) reminds us what those dear, dead days of Reaganism have come to:
Kristol is undoubtedly right that resisting big government has been harder in practice than in theory. But that hardly means that conservatives should abandon their principles. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor political, nor popular — but one must take it simply because it is right.” The evidence suggests that reducing the size and power of the federal government would be safe, popular, and good politics. But, regardless, Republicans should stand for limited government and individual liberty simply because it is the right thing to do.
On the one hand, Tanner portrays beast-starving as an MLK-style human rights struggle that must be pursued on moral imperative in the teeth of wild dogs and fire hoses; on the other, he believes that it would yet be "safe, popular, and good politics." Only the flustering caused by defeat could get these contrary assertions bunched up in a single paragraph like this.

For true believers of the Cato Institute, I imagine the cause is rather Biblical. But the political reality has always been earthier: decades of simply offering voters more for less, a winning proposition in most commercial transactions. The ploy worked so well that the treasury was looted and the national infrastructure and local governments were wrecked, and now that the market has stopped paying off silver dollars we are forced to notice it. If Tanner really likes his MLK analogy, he might consider that his civil rights movement has lost its authority because of the misbehavior of some "prosperity pimps." But I suppose he wouldn't want to take even that much credit for Dick Fuld and the boys right now.

In the same forum John O'Sullivan paraphrases holy Hayek to the effect that "the idea of small government was vital even if there was no prospect of its ever being achieved." The religious tincture (O'Sullivan even refers to a "barrier" that "might even gain a quasi religious status over time") suggests not only unattainability, but also a fallback when things go wrong: if our starvation diet causes more problems than benefits, then we have only been overzealous in pursuit of a noble ideal. We have fallen out of the Edenic state of Reaganism by sheer willfulness and pride, and will be restored to it after much suffering.

While these guys are thus considering the present-day conscience of conservatism, the rest of us are bailing like hell to keep the water from rising over our heads. I can imagine the reaction if they stepped out of their meditation room to tell ordinary folks that they ought to set aside the buckets and wait for the Invisible Hand to sweep the tide away. Looking inward is sometimes just a nice name for keeping one's head down.

Monday, December 08, 2008

NEW VOICE COLUMN UP, mainly on the War on Christmas and related battles. That's what the holidays are all about -- lazy journalism!
NOT ROCKET SCIENCE. Ann Althouse is angry about the "fluorescent bulbs that Obama and his cadre of environmentalists are about to foist on us all," and at his notion that we can save money by using them in government buildings: "Light bulbs first. They're supremely important! They will save us all! Light bulbs!"

The Ole Perfesser agrees. "Sorry, but this kind of wonky no-sacrifice fixit nostrum reminds me of Al Gore, or Jimmy Carter’s sweaters, and I don’t think it’ll play well, or deliver as promised."

Even Popular Mechanics -- whose authority the Perfesser usually accepts -- testifies that the average American home would save $180 per year by switching to CFLs. Since we're living under oppressive big government, which must employ hundreds of thousands of lightbulbs, going to fluorescents to save money seems like common sense. But that's been unpopular with Althouse and the Perfesser for a long time.

Meantime Dr. Mrs. Ole Perfesser, a global warming skeptic, has been convinced by a report that pollution may be increasing female vs. male births -- and her own observation "that it seems like there are more girl babies and just girls in general wherever I go" -- to call for "more research and attempts to address this problem."

Once Obama establishes his Chief Technology Office I'm sure they'll be demanding a NASA-scale program for eternal life.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

WHERE'S THE OUTRAGE? As they're big on displacement, whenever some atrocity occurs wingers accuse liberals of showing insufficient outrage. It's not so much a policy prescription as an accusation of psychological unfitness because, though we agree that we would rather kill terrorists than let them kill us, we don't express it in blood-curdling howls. In the case of Mumbai, we've gotten things like "India Burns, Liberals Plan Tea Parties" from the wonderfully named Tygrrrr Express, which heeds us get into the proper spirit by watching a Batman movie ("I never thought that a movie about a comic book character would sum up something as complicated as terrorism so perfectly"). As to what government action we should take while thus emotionally stimulated, Tygrrrr asserts we should "kill terrorists, and turn over the ones we capture to India provided they promise to use brutality against them," which course of action he does not think to suggest to the present Administration, which is in a position to effect it and has in fact done it before, sometimes on carelessly chosen subjects. But I doubt he's really looking for Bush to do anything. He just wants us to know he's better than liberals because he can show anger more easily and voluptuously.

A kind of nadir is reached at Ace of Spades, where the proprietor tells us that, while it's admirable that Jon Stewart called terrorists "douchebags," he is unwilling to give the last full measure:
Would Stewart actually celebrate the death of a terrorist killed by US forces or a Predator drone, as we do here? Of course not-- that would be unenlightened, taking pleasure in the well-earned deaths of monsters.
Thinking back even to the golden days of Sid Caesar, I can't recall many TV comedy shows where the killing of even lawful combatants was inserted for laughs. Hell, I don't think anyone even got killed on "Hogan's Heroes" -- mainly they got humiliated, snarled, "Ooooooh, Colonel Hoooogaaaan!" and shook their jowls.

This sort of thing makes me think of John and John Quincy Adams (Gore Vidal has a beautiful essay about them and all the early Adamses), who presided over some of America's greatest foreign policy triumphs without pretending to be baboons. The elder Adams wished it put on his tombstone, "Here lies John Adams, who took upon himself the responsibility of the peace with France in the year 1800." John Quincy once responded to a toast of "My country, right or wrong," with "I disclaim all patriotism incompatible with the principles of eternal justice." No doubt Ace would think them, and Vidal (who served with the U.S. Army in the Second World War), sissies. We've come a long way since the Adamses, alas.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

THE SOUL OF MAN UNDER JONAH GOLDBERG. Ross Douthat takes off from Jonah Goldberg's idiotic post about how "The Wire" is a "conservative" show, and does much better:
It's a testament to the genius of the show that its depiction of Baltimore (and by extension, America) offers fodder for liberal, conservative, leftist and libertarian readings - much like reality itself! In this sense, The Wire is the rarest and most precious of beasts: A work of art that's intensely political but rarely devolves into agitprop. But to the extent that any specific political vision undergirds its portrait of contemporary America, that vision is radical and revolutionary - though shot through with despair - rather than conservative.
Naturally Goldberg thinks this exonerates him.
But I don't think anything Ross has thrown up contradicts what I wrote . . . and neither does Ross! Lots of great artists and filmmakers and television producers have incorrect, debatable, wrongheaded, or just plain idiotic political views. George Bernard Shaw had real artistic talent and he held profoundly wrong and evil ideas about politics. D. H. Lawrence proclaimed, "three cheers for the inventors of poison gas" and insisted that: "If I had my way, I would build a lethal chamber as big as the Crystal Palace, with a military band playing softly. Then I'd go into the back streets and bring them all in, all the sick, the halt, and the maimed."

Compared to these guys David Simon's a hero-saint with the wisdom of Solomon in my book. The relationship between art and artists is a rich topic of discussion, though hardly my strength. Suffice it to say the fact that Simon draws incorrect conclusions about the proper public-policy solutions for the world he describes gives me little reason to respect that description any less.
At least his awareness that Douthat's reasoning is superior leads him, however clumsily, to pretend that it was his own all along -- the tribute idiocy pays to intelligence. It was also a good idea for him to avoid going any further on the subject of art and artists (any post in which he announces, loudly, in the title that "I Don't Care" presages a bolt for the exits), though in touching on it he leaves an unfortunate impression.

He's right that artists will often have ideas that are much harder to love than their works of art. But his examples suggest that the art-making is completely divorced from the ideas of its makers -- he tips it when he mixes Shaw's Fabian socialism with Lawrence's misanthropic outburst, as if they represent the same thing because he doesn't agree with either. He seems to believe "real artistic talent" insulates the playwright from his plays as if they were cabinets, which may in inspired cases show some of the soul of their creator, but not really as overtly as, say Heartbreak House does Shaw's.

The thoughts and instincts of great artists are distilled in their works. If these works are more universal and accessible than their makers' ideas, it's because making art is like solving an equation: speaking very generally, you start with a problem, and have to make the thing "come out" so that it explains itself after you've walked away from it. That burns away a lot of dross -- usually the stuff that you can better explain by merely talking.

Though Shaw preached political systems, the people and relationships in his plays (though some of them preach too) are necessarily more complicated than his ideas -- or, for that matter, any idea. He created heroic capitalists and dim-witted socialists not because he thought that way about capitalism and socialism, but because he was sensitive and attracted to the complexities of life and knew that paradox more effectively captured them than diatribe. Goldberg probably thinks Shaw was masking his "profoundly wrong and evil ideas" for his benefit, but artists can't be held responsible for the density of some of their patrons.

Some artists really are political. Shakespeare believed in monarchy. It doesn't much interfere with my enjoyment of his plays, for some reason.

Monday, December 01, 2008

EXIT INTERVIEW. A digest of President Bush's interview with ABC News has been posted. I can't bear to watch the interview itself, but I found the excerpts fascinating.

Bush has been practically invisible lately. His highest public profile since the last State of the Union address came during his senior-week antics at the Olympic Games. There have been reports of him drinking at a recent summit. Who could blame him? He's been in the deep freeze for months. His authority has plunged with his approval ratings. McCain's political kabuki of running against Bush's policies probably didn't upset him -- he knows how the game is played -- but it did remind him why it was necessary.

Think of his position at the APEC summit where he was alleged to be boozing. Another tedious managerial function at which his presence was required and unnecessary; while the attendees plumped for optimism and reform, bankers and regulators were making real decisions back in the States. Drunk or sober, it has to have worn on the guy. Back at Crawford he could just lift some weights or take a nap.

In fact it's a marvel he's stayed focused as long as he has. Most of his Presidency, and most of his executive career, has been like that summit -- a decision is made, a PR program (usually involving lecterns and backdrops with slogans written on them) is executed, then back to the bunker to collect the data. His famous incuriousness about detail ("Alright, you've covered your ass") probably made the job easy, even fun for him most of the time. But now that no one appreciates the spectacular, graceful ease with which he does barely anything at all, maybe his customary senior-management walk-throughs have become a dreary ritual, like taking victory laps when no one is applauding.

We have been encouraged to imagine what the man of action who has been made expendable might feel: Wilson after his stroke, Johnson when the war had spun out of control. What might go through the mind of a MBA/CEO President who had comfortably delegated so much, who stepped up only when political exigencies demanded his cowboy act, when he comes to the end of two terms and finds himself so singularly disowned by the people he had, by proxy, led?

You might say that Clinton had found himself in a similar place -- certainly as irrelevant, his last term a long vamp of compromise. But Clinton had impeachment to keep him sharp. Scandal just invigorated his glad-handing skills -- it was probably the highlight of his second term. Bush is as capable as Clinton of summoning his political gifts to meet a crisis, but after the September 11 attacks, nothing much seemed to excite him. I really believe he failed to effectively lead the charge to reform Social Security, despite his claims of "political capital," because the subject bored him. It was wonk stuff, it was difficult, and at the end what would he have accomplished? No one really knew, and even if it succeeded no one would remember this brave act of... accountancy. Which is what accountants do, not Presidents. September 11, on the other hand, that was already in history books. That was leadership.

That was the beginning of the end for Bush. The Republican Congress stepped up to fill the void, and found the attention unflattering and eventually fatal. Bush now existed only as a red flag with which ambitious Democrats could enrage voters. Bush, no dummy when it comes to his own best interests, stayed out of the public eye.

Now here he is on ABC, wanly wishing the intelligence on WMDs "had been different, I guess," and calling Iraq "a do-over that I can't do," regretting his inability to guide his own party on immigration, regretting also that "the tone in Washington got worse" -- something that, despite the bipartisan advertisement of his Texas tenure, he never, ever attempted in any way to fix -- and weakly defending his Administration's attempts to "safeguard" a financial system that is plummeting toward collapse.

Why does he bother? Because it's done, and he's used to doing the done thing. Here too is a ritual that he knows he can execute. I've never heard of a CEO who really thought he screwed things up -- there are always exigencies, market conditions, and such like that made a mess of a helluva good plan. But I've seldom seen a CEO make a stink at the end of his tenure, either, however ignoble. With his fatalistic l'envoi, Bush is showing what, in his world, is class. He could tell us all what a shit deal he got dealt, but two-term Presidents don't kick. So he just reads the toplines and brasses it out.

He knows we're disappointed, and it's not that he wouldn't have preferred us to be proud but hey, he's not running for anything anymore except the exit. He never needed us to understand, he just needed us to cooperate, and if he has any fondness for the people he led for eight years, it's because we did cooperate, right up until it didn't matter.

Bush also told ABC that he thinks Obama won because people preferred to see him in their living rooms "explaining policy." Bush was probably thinking about all those televised addresses and speeches he'd made himself, and how relieved he was when these were finished and the secondary could take over. I'm not sure he knows that, when Obama finishes a speech, he probably goes back to work; were he informed of the fact, he would probably shrug and say, "worth a try." Or if he were of a more philosophical frame of mind, he might turn to the immortal works of Clint Eastwood: "A man's gotta know his limitations."
RETURN OF THE CULTURE WARS. I had worried that it would come to this. They did it so often when they were in power that I had reason to hope that, once they went into the ditch, they would concentrate on Conservatism 2.0 and other such innocuous hobby-horses. But like a bat out of heck comes Jonah Goldberg talking about how TV showz he likez is really conservative:
But look at ["The Wire"] through the eyes of a conservative. This is a Democratic city, run almost uniformly by liberals... Race relations between the actual characters are remarkably healthy, and nearly every mention of race as a salient issue is in the context of the political nonsense inherent to Baltimore, or rather urban, Democratic politics. To the extent many liberals try to explain all of the problems of poor blacks on racism, the show was a powerful rebuttal.
I forget whether the political parties endorsed by Tom Doniphon, Stoddard, and Cassius Starbuckle are made clear in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, but I'm sure these are central to Goldberg's point.

He's actually on the brink of something when he says "most [liberals] no doubt liked it in no small part for the same reasons I did: it was brilliantly written, wonderfully acted and almost perfectly directed." (I'd like to hear what, in his view, prevents the directing from achieving perfection. On second thought, I'd rather not.) If only he could follow that train of thought far enough to consider why people of different political faiths would be moved by the same work of art.

But Goldberg's so addicted to explaining why everything good in life is right-wing that he is moved to make nonsense statements like, "Sure, the makers of the Wire are for ending the drug war, but their vision of drug use is hardly the cheery nonsense you hear from some champions of legalization."

If he were engaging the show rather than trying to protect it from his own preconceptions, he wouldn't wind up in such preposterous rat-holes. Too bad no one can explain to him that the traditional critical approach requires much less grinding effort -- he'd be on it in a second.

He threatens to give "Deadwood" the same treatment. Gack. Expect a lengthy disquisition on how Hearst was the real hero of the show.
NEW VOICE COLUMN UP, about the "Conservatism 2.0" plan for world domination, which seems a lot like the old plan. Also took a quick read of rightblogger reactions to the Clinton appointment, which indicate that Obama is actually George Bush. If only we'd known! It would have saved a lot of time.