Tuesday, January 27, 2009

THE PERMANENT CAMPAIGN. Michael Goldfarb was interviewed at CJR about his experiences as a McCain campaign blogger. Throughout the course of the thing, it's clear he thinks he did a great job. When a political flak's cause fails as badly as Goldfarb's did, you'd expect he would think up ways he might have done it better, at least to show prospective employers that he isn't committed to losing strategies. But maybe winning this election wasn't as important to him as it might seem.

Goldfarb portrays his disastrous appearance with Rick Sanchez, in which the CNN host had some sport with Goldfarb's inability to say the name Jeremiah Wright out loud, as a "mistake" but also, astonishingly, a moment of glory:
I was summoned to the office of the campaign manager and given a slap on the wrist. We had a clear directive that we were not to discuss the name of Rev. Wright, and I tiptoed right up to it but I wasn’t allowed to cross it. But when I walked back into the communications room I got a round of applause. There was a lot of support among the rank and file; I think it was obvious to anyone that seriously followed the campaign what was going on there. I can’t tell if people were being willfully ignorant or if they generally don’t believe that [Obama] associated with those kinds of people. But that was a mistake from a communications standpoint.
Why were his colleagues so pleased with his mistake? Perhaps because the playbook Goldfarb was following had nothing to do with getting McCain closer to the White House. Here's what I noticed when I looked at Goldfarb's blog in its early days:
...promising on its June 6 launch to "provide quotes and information you won't be able to get anywhere else," the McCain Report has by this writing posted a video of McCain denouncing Obama, a video of ABBA (McCain's a fan), a Weekly Standard denunciation of Obama, a video of Obama headlined "Everybody But Obama" accompanied by a Weekly Standard denunciation of Obama, and, finally, a post devoted to praise — of [Obama primary opponent] Hillary Clinton ("it's clear that John McCain and Hillary Clinton respect each other — and there is a genuine affection for her here at McCain HQ").
Attacks are part of any campaign operation, but even in sunny June, Goldfarb was more interested in getting Obama than in talking up his candidate, who'd secured the nomination three months earlier and might have benefited from some good getting-to-know-you publicity.

At the end of the interview Goldfarb says, "it was something I was good at. I was a cudgel. I pissed off the media. They were furious about it. That was the effect the campaign was looking for." Really? Piss off the media was the strategy? Presumably if they'd gotten Katie Couric to foam at the mouth they could have declared victory and quit early.

This isn't the behavior of people who are trying to win elections. It's the behavior of culture-warring true believers whose real job (as Goldfarb's overtly is, out of election season) is not to build up or bring down a candidate but to defame an opposing political philosophy. When a serious operative would have tried to push the ball forward, Goldfarb was pursuing his own permanent agenda. This is not a moral issue -- if the McCain campaign was dumb enough to keep him on, they deserved what they got -- but a sign of how far off the beam conservatives have strayed.

No wonder that now, as the country waits nervously for Washington to do what it can with the economy, they focus on getting contraceptives out of the stimulus package and who's going to replace Billy Kristol at the Times ("The choice to replace Kristol should indeed be someone who drives liberals 'crazy'"*). They have entered, as Doghouse Riley likes to put it, their ghost dance phase; they chant and spin and pray to the Great Spirit for restoration as the world transforms around them.

*UPDATE. In comments Aziz Poonawalla reminds me that his full quote goes, "The choice to replace Kristol should indeed be someone who drives liberals 'crazy' - but not in the Limbaugh sense, as Ruffini would have it, but rather as Kevin Drum (a liberal) says 'because he makes such compelling and hard-to-refute arguments for conservative ideas.'" I was just grabbing for an example, and would have done better to pick this or one of a hundred others. I regret even the faint implication that Poonawalla is as crazy as they are.
MORE OSCAR STUFF. The Dark Knight. I can see why this film was so popular with culture warriors -- it is quite literally insane. An endless series of moral double-crosses by brooding, butched-up quasi-characters is meant to demonstrate that humanity is so corrupt, yet deserving of salvation, that the heroic Batman must become a fugitive in order to preserve order. Of course, to make it work, a cosmo burg like Gotham City must be subjected to Iraq-style chaos at the hands of a terrorist who is also, in Heath Ledger's performance, a disaffected youth who hates his father. It's as if Sal Mineo in Rebel Without a Cause became the scourge of humanity.

At least the action sequences are lucid, which has been a problem in the past -- contra Dennis Lim (and his excellent slide show), Christopher Nolan handles the smash-'em-up segments far better than some recent Oscar nominees. I could follow the fight scenes much more easily than the shifting attitudes of the filmmakers toward the proper placement of right and wrong. Sometimes the mob is mindless, and sometimes moral; sometimes we are encouraged to cheer the philosophy of total war, and sometimes it's just a ruse by The Joker to kill innocents. The logic, such as it is, is that of a hormonal comic book nerd convinced that everything is rotten and that a magical being could set things right, were it not for the interference of Muggles, for whom the nerd yet retains some affection when they're not yelling for him to come out of the bathroom already. This kind of fantasy has been much tried in our era, but with the possible exception of Tim Burton's moody and unpopular Batman Returns never gets anywhere near the Mabuse films of Fritz Lang, which for all their paranoia are more firmly based in what grown people would recognize as reality.

Ledger's a gamer. The Joker is one of the great creations of comic art -- a Lord of Mischief like Loki and Puck turned sinister. I still like Cesar Romero's the best: a real clown, as unmodulated and unaware of his affect as a funhouse gargoyle. Jack Nicholson was obliged to be more of a head case, but was still able to rise to the required mania and weave it into some dazzling filigrees. (I'm unfamiliar with Mark Hamill's well-regarded cartoon vocal performance.) Ledger, a more thoughtful actor, can't match their brio, so he makes his Joker a plain psychotic with a high tolerance for pain and a gift for getting into his targets' heads. It's a rigorously psychological performance, and he was right to go that way: you can imagine even a good actor playing the same hammy lines for pure affect and making a horrible botch of them. Ledger gets inside the Joker and lets the cleverness of his verbal inventions tickle him into rancid pleasure. His performance is at bottom as dour as the film, but much more serious. If he had to go out, this was a good way for him to go.

UPDATE. Comments on this have been especially good, even from CG. I have a strong prejudice against comic book movies (though when they make The Lockhorns orAndy Capp I'll be there opening day), so I'm not the best audience for this one. I was struck by Chris Wren's remark that "It's a man... who dresses up a bat... and goes around beating up criminals. That's all Batman can EVER be." I think he may be right, and that serves what may be this movie's purpose; all Batman's meaning is impressed upon him from the outside, making him the sacrificial goat for the sins of Gotham. But what are its sins? Not wanting to get killed? Thinking about sacrificing others before not going through with it? There's only one sin you can pin on them: not being Batman. It's an adolescent rejection and retribution fantasy with a $185 million budget.

Monday, January 26, 2009

NEW VOICE COLUMN UP, rounding up rightblogger coverage of the Inauguration, and contrasting that with the odd meme that conservatives are being pretty chill in the Age of Obama. Needless to say my own coverage reveals rather the opposite -- and this time I stuck with relatively big-time bloggers like Malkin and RedState, leaving out the tasty small fry. A guy raving to his twenty readers about Obama's birth certificate is fun, but when you have major venues like Protein Wisdom still yelling about Bill Ayers (and tying him to Eric Holder and family planning), you don't have to sweat the small stuff.
OSCAR COUNTDOWN BEGINS. As I unaccountably do every year, I've been catching up on the big award-nominated movies, and will start here to give my impressions.

The Wrestler. It's a neat trick to criticize the American experience, or facets thereof, without being snotty about it. I'm not sure how affectionate Darren Aronofsky really is toward the New Jersey working-class world of crappy jobs, hard rock, and fleeting glories depicted in The Wrestler, but what he knows and shows about it proves he understands it, and understanding is tribute enough. He also knows what's absurd about it: broken-down wrestler Randy "The Ram" Robinson keeps on the small-time sham-fight circuit because it's the only thing that gives him joy, and it gives him joy because it's a form of self-punishment that exalts rather than debases him, unlike love and less spectacular forms of employment -- which he nonetheless gives another shot. If you get this, and also feel the thrill of the Ram's "comeback" in a slightly less seedy than usual arena when everything else has failed, you get the whole, very sad joke.

Some of Robinson's adventures outside the ring are mismanaged -- the attempted reconciliation of Ram with his daughter plays like a series of botched improvisations. But most of the scenes -- playing with the kids in the trailer park, shopping for a present for his daughter with his stripper almost-girlfriend Cassidy (Marisa Tomei, very fine aside from some moments when she seems to get self-conscious), waking up alone in a county hospital, trying not to say the wrong thing to an asshole boss -- are nothing but the cold truth, as is Mickey Rourke's performance.

I never liked his acting before; I thought he tried too hard to be charming. And as I'm even less a fan of sentimental promo than of Rourke, the oft-noted similarity between his character's "broken-down piece of meat" status and his own wins no extra points from me. But Rourke just nails it: even the maudlin moments aren't about special pleading from an actor, but a simple man trying to say what's in his heart. It's also a smart performance; I'm especially impressed by his restraint when he tells Cassidy about his heart attack. (And by Tomei's, in her reaction.) And yes, he's charming, too. For real.

Frost/Nixon. The trailer had me worried: did they really think these interviews were "the trial Nixon never had"? Regrettably, yes. This results in talking-heads bullshit and Sam Rockwell freaking out about Cambodia and such. It also begs us to take the struggle to make money off a celebrity TV appearance more seriously than we otherwise might, which is unforgivable dramatic fraud.

There are two real stories. One is Frost's alleged growth, in the process of doing the interviews, from glad-handing presenter to serious journalist. But it's a shabby journey. Frost is motivated mainly by fear of blowing his chance, and is stiffened to action by a late-night call from Nixon that merely focuses Frost on the possibility of winning the battle, not on any larger stakes, personal or political. He's no more interesting or likable, nor indeed changed in any important way, at the end than at the beginning. He's just more successful.

The other story is, yet again, the fall of Nixon, which is always going to be interesting, if not illuminating. Apart from Oliver Platt's blessedly funny performance, the canny Nixon dialogue and Frank Langella's performance provide the only real pleasures in the film, and Nixon's late-night drunk-dial to Frost and the final interview have real juice in them, mostly because Langella has a clearer conception of Nixon than Ron Howard has of Frost/Nixon. His Tricky Dick is large and physically awkward, capable of wit and charm (though only in his own defense), and genuinely sad -- Frost's girlfriend, an otherwise useless appurtenance, tells Frost at one point that he has sad eyes, but Michael Sheen's eyes only betray fatigue and panic; Langella's, at the appropriate times, have the shallow, frozen glaze of old pain.

The Nixon theme has a more pointed dramatic payoff, but not a larger one. Unless you buy that Nixon's qualified admissions had a wider effect than on the fortunes of the main characters, what was won and lost? A TV star made a disgraced president look bad, and thereby promoted his own career as... a celebrity interviewer. If Nixon were Satan himself, and I admit there are some similarities, this wouldn't be enough to justify the film.

Friday, January 23, 2009

WHEN LAST WE LEFT OUR HERO... Jay Nordlinger, after calling my post partly about his inauguration ravings a "piece of filth" and telling me to "go to hell," continued to be troubled by Newsweek, and then, unsurprisingly, by others:
There is a website called “Gawker,” billed as purveying “Manhattan Media News and Gossip.”
It is accessible by a device called a "personal computer," to which Nordlinger's correspondent has lately alerted him. Apparently the lad has been transcribing the messages Nordlinger has been commanding dispatch'd to the copy desk, and putting them on the "internet."
And it published this:

“Jay Nordlinger, for example, hated [Obama’s] speech because it was so mean to Bush, and therefore it was insulting to every white person who voted for Bush.” (The entire bit is here.)

Long, long ago, I left the Left, and the Democratic party, because these people were incredibly wrongheaded, malicious, and so on.
Yet somehow we recently won an election without his assistance.
They were particularly alarming on the subject of race: Race had seemed to addle their brains and curdle their souls. They couldn’t think straight on the subject.
Here are some examples of Nordlinger's straight-thinking on race:
He was so new, they had not yet quite gotten the hang of his name: whether he was “Obama Barack” or “Barack Obama.” He was just a state legislator. But they were so very excited, particularly on racial grounds: He was the one who would break through. He already had a hint, a heavy hint, of holiness about him... If you vote for McCain-Palin, against Obama-Biden, will you have to wear a big scarlet “R,” for racist?...

In any case, I was thinking: “What in the world in McCain’s record or speech, or in Palin’s record or speech, would lead one to think that either person were racist?” The answer, I believe, is nothing — except that some people think that Republicans or conservatives are bad. And that which is bad is racist. Ergo, “McCain + Palin = Racist.” (Oops, forgot the exclamation point: “Racist!”)...

But, thanks to affirmative action, the Jayson Blair case has to be a racial drama, in addition to a personal and institutional one...

Reaching his lowest, [Bob] Shrum unleashed an ad that smeared Sauerbrey as a racist, with a "shameful record on civil rights." (Just to be sure, he also blanketed black communities with a flier that did the same.)... The ad, however, worked its terrible magic. It apparently frightened black Marylanders, boosting their turnout and putting [Parris] Glendening over the top. According to Campaigns & Elections magazine, this was the "Most Brutally Effective Attack Spot" of the year. Today, Ellen Sauerbrey warns that the Bush campaign [of 2000] had better be prepared for more of the same...

I remember I must have written five pieces about race and the Lewinsky affair, during those short years. (The president made masterly use of race.) Color simply infects everything....
Etc. Nordlinger writes ceaselessly on the subject of race, and his theme is always the terrible injustice it does to mostly white Republicans. He usually adds something about how black people or Democrats are obsessed with it. It's always dicey to accuse an opponent of projection, but Nordlinger is the poster boy for it. And he has an amazingly thin skin about it, which is probably why he has become such a popular subject of ridicule.
LET US CLASP HANDS ACROSS THE BLOODY CHASM. Now and again I am compelled to do this, so give it up for Geert Wilders (and, to keep the bipartisanship flowing, Crunchy Rod Dreher):
This is an outrage: a top Dutch court has ordered Dutch parliamentarian Geert Wilders to stand trial for "inciting hate and discrimination" over his harsh public criticism of Islam and Muslims...

This is appalling. You can be criminally prosecuted in the Netherlands for "harming the religious esteem" of others (although I think we can be 100 percent certain that nobody will bring charges against atheists for criticizing Christianity -- nor, it should be obvious, should they). This is all about Dutch political correctness and dhimmitude. And it is a complete outrage that a free nation of the West would do this.
Hear, hear. Wilders is a wretched bigot, but here in the states we let them rave. That's how we win. Now let me introduce you to our President, Barack Hussein Obama. Fuck you Dutch pussies.

Of course, Dreher's kind of an asshole too:
Thus does contemporary liberalism's neurotic preoccupation with multiculturalism and assuaging hurt feelings of the Other undermine liberalism's classic defense of civil liberties, including the right to free speech.
Oh, stow it, Mary, and get back to obsessing over scat porn and tramp stamps. We're Americans and prefer our free speech, and our free-speech-hating buffoons, with healthy servings of sexual content.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

WHAT'S ALL THIS TALK ABOUT GIVING EAGLES RIGHTS? Reverend Lowery's benediction on Tuesday contained an amusing and crowd-pleasing reference to some old, well-known street rhymes:
Lord, in the memory of all the saints who from their labors rest, and in the joy of a new beginning, we ask you to help us work for that day when black will not be asked to get back, when brown can stick around -- (laughter) -- when yellow will be mellow -- (laughter) -- when the red man can get ahead, man -- (laughter) -- and when white will embrace what is right.
At National Review, Lisa Schiffren is confused:
Was the Reverend Lowery's little race rhyme racist? I don't know. I personally found it more than a little jarring—because of where I had previously heard a version of same. During various water shortages in California in the 1970s signs appeared in public bathrooms with the conservationist suggestion: "If it's brown, flush it down. If it's yellow, let it mellow." Yes: yuck, gross, ick. Flushing toilets always seemed like a reasonable use of water to me. I understand that there is some cultural debate about this. Actually, the original jingle was a personal favorite of former California Governor Jerry Brown—an early 'conservationist.'
A nice, chewy wingnut cluster, that -- raising the specter of racism when the opposite was clearly meant; the scare quotes around "conservationist"; and, most of all, the ignorance of a piece of (as the crowd's response shows) common knowledge.

Even better, Schiffren apparently "googled" the phrase and
I now understand that there is a longer history still involving the capacity of septic systems and/or common practice in rural areas during extended power outages.
She can't have googled very hard.

Tomorrow, Schiffren will tell us she's heard of a song called "Wake Up, Niggers" by a "rock group" called The Last Poets, and that it proves liberals are the real racists.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

OUR CONTRIBUTION TO THE NEW POST-PARTISAN ERA. Dropped a note at the Voice about early rightblogger reactions to the inauguration, and one of my japes drew the ire of Jay Nordlinger, who seems to think I was calling him a racist in the old-fashioned sense. I figured it would too much inside baseball to explain at length to Voice readers what Nordlinger's real stock-in-trade is, though I did link to this Nordlinger quote:
A quick comment on the Rush business -- on the quarterback business. [Limbaugh had said sportscasters overrated Donovan McNabb because he's black -- ed.]. I’m reminded of something that I’ve discovered in recent years. I work in Conservativeland, and I’m used to speaking freely. I’m used to not having to abide by a speech code or any other restriction of political correctness. And then sometimes I leave Conservativeland, and continue to speak freely--and sincerely--and then find that I startle people. They’re not used to hearing it.

Now, it seems to me that what Rush said is rather obvious: that people root for the black player, in whatever field, to succeed. That’s not necessarily wrong, incidentally. It may even be admirable. But it’s so...

[snip description of other silly liberals doing other silly things]

Rush considers himself a free man, and said simply what he thought was true. And I imagine that what he said is, in fact, true. And this is a great man, as can be judged, in part, by the quality of his enemies.
Nordlinger's world divides between those who are pleased to see members of minority groups succeed, and those (such as himself) who consider that to be "political correctness." As these things go, it's not Bull Connor. It's just the sort of defensive imputation of reverse racism that we've been hearing for years, and apparently haven't seen the back of even with the election of a black President of the United States.

UPDATE. Now Nordlinger claims himself wronged by Newsweek. Why doesn't he just write letters to the editor? But I am happy that this post brought "Conservative Guy" back to the comments boxes. Welcome home, prodigal son, we will kill the fatted calf.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

FALSE START ON THE DEFENSIVE LINE. New Voice column up, about rightblogger reactions to the many commercial tie-ins to the Obama Inauguration. They aren't upset by the commercialism, but that it shows Obama to be popular. Their response is boycott, burbling, and accusations of fascism.

The blessed event is hard for them in so many ways. Attend Patterico's denunciation of Obama's letter to his daughters: "It's not a letter encouraging children to work diligently at their careers, it's a letter telling them to make a difference in their neighbor’s lives," which Patterico finds distasteful and an example of how "some liberals see America as a glass half empty rather than a glass half full." In some awful future America, a Singularity robot Patterico, given access to some Democratic President's every move via telescreen, will tell us how insufficiently patriotic he finds the President's nite-nite tuck-in.

Meanwhile sworn Obama enemy TigerHawk makes believe he hopes the end of Obama's honeymoon "is a long time in coming" for a couple of ridiculous reasons, and seeks to sustain this honeymoon by complaining of Pepsi's Obama-ish advertising ("If Pepsi did not taste a little like vomit before, it will now"), suggesting ways the Republicans can exploit Obama's Blackberry dependence, etc. The Ole Perfesser links and says, "I predict that the honeymoon will end first on the left." What honeymoon?
SHORTER OLE PERFESSER. The election of Obama was a mass delusion. The Hudson River landing tells Americans the story they really need to hear, which is that they suck.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

MORE GOLDBERG VARIATIONS. The recent Supreme Court decision in Herring v. United States weakens the exclusionary rule that forbids use of improperly obtained evidence in court. National Review's Jonah Goldberg doesn't know much about anything, but he knows what he doesn't like, and so emits a column that portrays the rule as a "get-out-of-jail-free card" for "the scum of the earth."

(He is eased in his task by a column by the Ole Perfesser that seems to defend the rule, but really just uses it as an opportunity to gripe about all the rules the rest of us are obliged to follow, the rebuttal of which extraneous argument allows Goldberg to also skirt the issue of the exclusionary rule's relevance to citizens who are not the scum of the earth, but nevertheless find themselves subject to fishing expeditions by cops and prosecutors looking to nail them for whatever they can find.)

Goldberg brags on his shoddy work at The Corner, inviting comment, some of which points out that weakening Fourth Amendment protections seems an odd mission for professed conservatives. Goldberg cheerfully responds that his illustrious National Review forebears also disliked the exclusionary rule, and Miranda warnings as well.

Understandably this doesn't satisfy his critics, and some direct his attention to the salient point. Now Goldberg has the option of bailing out, an option he frequently avails, but he's feeling bold and decides to tackle the issue head-on.

He begins by trimming shamelessly:
First, for the record, I'm not sure I would throw out every law and rule that falls under the heading of the exclusionary rule, never mind throw them out over night. I think Rehnquist was right to come around to supporting Miranda, for example. So I'm open to practical arguments about what to keep and what to reform or chuck in the garbage.
Apparently the scum of the earth, and the rest of us, yet have hope in the Republic of Jonah. He also seems dimly aware that other citizens have a right to these protections, and more keenly aware that he has to humorously minimize them in order to come out of this in one piece: "Cops shouldn't be able to kick down the doors of mattress-tag-rippers, even if they're sure of the perp's guilt."

Goldberg then wheels around from his walk-back and finds he doesn't have much left to defend, and is sufficiently dismayed that he resorts to tricks that have not worked well for him in the past. First he characterizes his opposition unflatteringly as lawyers and scriptwriters:
But lots of people, particularly defense attorneys, get very passionate about fudging the distinctions between justice and process. This sort of thinking is omnipresent in the culture, particulary on TV.
Maybe Goldberg has seen enough "Law & Order: We'll Get This Skel Yet" episodes to realize this is an unpropitious line of attack, so he turns to a poorly-thought-out metaphor:
It reminds me of complaints from teenagers who think their parents have "no right" to punish them if the mother or father found out about a particular transgression by invading their kids' privacy. If my kid shoplifts and I discover it by snooping around her room, the issue for discussion won't be the unfairness of my snooping, it will be what the appropriate punishment for her crime will be. Likewise, if a cop lacks the right paperwork...
So much for the nanny state! The denouement is, to paraphrase internet kids, an Epic Flail:
Now, of course, if a maximalist exclusionary rule is the only way to protect the rights of the innocent, then I'll hold my nose and take it. But I'm unconvinced. For starters, that argument pressuposes that every modern, just, society has an exclusionary rule. I know no such thing (but would like to be educated on the subject)...
Finally he retrenches to his original argument: "If a cop wrongly breaks down my door, I should be able to sue." Goldberg is clearly unaware that citizens can sue on those grounds. But, as actual libertarians never tire of reminding us, the high court has actually been making it harder, not easier, to win such cases. The energy has all been flowing in the direction of police discretion, which is why reasonable people worry about Herring.

Goldberg gives up and redirects readers to a colleague who argues that the exclusionary rule is itself the poisoned fruit of that dangerous radical Louis Brandeis.

The libertarian role in the future of the Sarah Palin party is clear.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

PLUMB CRAZY. The other day Joe The Plumber said, in so many words, that the media should not be allowed to cover wars, and was mocked for it. This calls for some first class spin. So The Plumber's handler, Roger L. Simon, reached out to JD Johannes, the normally reliable operative at Outside the Wire, who had expressed some annoyance at The Plumber's statement. "Evidently I've stirred a few things up," Johannes began his apology, and graciously updated his post.

Johannes says, "Roger gave me the back story," which was that The Plumber was mad, as any regular Joe would be if he were, like The Plumber, shipped off to Israel and put in proximity to people who made their living covering foreign wars. "An observer who is unfamiliar with the media battlespace would probably throw up his arms and say screw this, none of you should be here." You good people may not imagine you would react similarly when introduced to professionals in a field with which you were unfamiliar, but that just proves you're traitors. The Ole Perfesser pimps: "It seems that Joe’s remarks on war embeds were generally misunderstood," adding parenthetically, "Had said 'misreported' originally, but that wasn’t really right," a grudging acknowledgment that his client had been condemned out of his own mouth, and as if that had ever stopped the Perfesser before.

Later Simon and The Plumber made a YouTube for their many followers who can't read. The Plumber explained, "I came over here to talk to average Joes," and said that he was only talking about "the bad media, who seem to be agenda-driven," then explained who that was: "If you're gonna cover the war, cover it, don't sit there and just keep on talking 'the death toll, the death toll,' you know, 'Israel won't let us in there to cover it...'" So if you're one of those reporters who are interested in how many people died in a battle, or are inclined to let readers and viewers know that a country has blacked out your coverage, Joe isn't apologizing to you. "Let's hope you can be more objective than Reuters and AP when they publish those Hezbollah-doctored photos in the past," adds Simon, in case his auditors have forgotten why they were listening to a plumber talk about the war in Gaza. (The Ole Perfesser agrees: Rick Sanchez is arrogant!)

In case the pretense of reasonableness has not swayed some of the punters, Bill Whittle charges in with the shouters' edition. First he reiterates to the hometown crowd that The Plumber was not talking about two-fisted characters such as themselves: "I cannot imagine for an instant that Joe was referring to common citizens like J.D., Mike Yon, and Mike Totten who -- like me and like Joe himself for that matter -- are simply regular people called to try and fight back against the tide of bias and outright deception we see in the media." To underline the point, he catalogues the crimes of professional journalists. For instance, "TV crews don flak jackets and Kevlar helmets for a news segment, only to remove them the instant the cameras ceased rolling," in contrast to The Plumber, who as a regular-people foreign correspondent wears the same jeans-and-t-shirt costume with which he earlier presented himself as a regular-people political correspondent on TV shows during the last campaign. He's like Bruce Springsteen or John Mellencamp that way, only rightwing and without any actual talent.

Whittle's post is full of beauties, but this is my favorite and, I would suggest, the most emblematic:
Like Lincoln’s plain manner of speaking, Joe’s commentary is still unvarnished; it still “has the bark on” as the phrase was applied to Lincoln. And if anyone reading this immediately jumps to the conclusion that I am comparing Joe Wurzelbacher to Abraham Lincoln, you have a perfect example of the dynamic I am talking about.
It's hard to know what other conclusion one is meant to jump, walk, or sidle up to. If I told you, "Like St. Francis, I am kind to animals," you would be within your rights to say I was comparing myself with St. Francis. But with Whittle, we are outside the realm of simple logic. He knows placing The Plumber alongside The Railsplitter will make the necessary impression on his yahoo readership, and they will so dimly perceive the trick that's being worked on them that, when he follows by denying the trick and attributing all devious intent to his enemies, they'll join him in reviling them for it. That's the method behind this whole Joe The Plumber thing -- and, really, behind everything they do.
SWEATIN' TO THE OLDIES. At the Corner they're celebrating Vince Foster's birthday. You will be relieved to learn that they don't believe that Bill and Hillary rubbed him out.

Of course, as they say in the bullshit business, questions remain. Byron York:
But there's no doubt that Foster was deeply distraught over the Travelgate scandal. He believed — correctly — that it would result in several investigations. He was worried about his reputation. He was under a lot of pressure from then-First Lady Hillary Clinton...

Hillary Clinton -- who the independent counsel concluded gave "factually false" testimony on the Travel Office firings-- is going to become Secretary of State. Her husband is an international statesman. John Podesta runs an influential think tank and has orchestrated the Obama transition. George Stephanopoulos is sitting in David Brinkley's chair at ABC News. And Vince Foster has been dead for 15 years. Make of it what you will.
Time to bring this little guy out of retirement:



Jonah Goldberg, as usual, is here to make everything more fudgy:
Byron - I agree with you that it was a suicide. I did pretty much from the start. But I also alwas agreed with Bill Safire and others that the handling of his "suicide note" and all that was very, very suspicious. Any thoughts on that front?
Why, yes, Jonah, he does: "I didn't intend to rekindle the old Foster-suicide questions... But I do agree that the Clintons did everything in their power to make it look suspicious." Is there no end to their perfidy! But of course they had a lot of help.

Soon they'll start talking about fluoride in our water again.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

WARNING! THE LIBERAL ARTS ARE ABOUT TO GET LIBERALLER! There's been a movement afoot to get Obama to appoint a "Secretary of the Arts." Earlier this month ArtNet ran a gossipy item suggesting that "the buzz in art-and-politics precincts has the new administration seriously considering the idea of an official White House Office of the Arts, overseeing all things having to do with the arts and arts education." That's news to me, and as you know I run with a pretty artsy crowd (minces limp-wristedly, rolls eyes). From the item and Adaptistration's discussion of it, the idea seems to be better management of those lucky devils who get government arts grants and such like, and the "creation of an 'artist corps'" which sounds like the New Deal's federal arts projects. Well, if some of us can paint murals instead of three coats of green for our supper, great.

OK, you've heard what I think. Let's bring out our special guest, Warner Todd Huston of RedState. (Band plays "Dueling Banjos"; Huston enters, glares.)
Where is the outrage that a president dares imagine that HE should be telling artists what to do with his little “art czar”? Where is the “artistic integrity” of these purported artists who so often wish to claim they are free of coercion or control by government and should remain so? Why is it that they don’t seem to mind The One taking control of their world of art?

Ah, but that is just it, isn’t it? These so-called artists really HAVE no principles. They love them some Obama and that is all they need to turn around and paradoxically cast their general disdain of government out the proverbial window. Of course, wait until the next Republican gets in office and see them suddenly remember that they want their freedom from oppressive government, eh?

But, for now, the silence from the “art” community is deafening.
Boy, that takes me back. In my copywriting days I often felt then as if I were selling out to The Man, and in fact I was. (Now that I'm a journalist I have no such worries -- second shift at Starbucks would be a step up, socially as well as economically.) The Man was not, in is this case, an elected Democratic official, but I still had to do what he said, at least while at the office.

In truth, anyone holding a bourgeois "job" with its "rules" and "goals" and "sexual harrassment policy" is to some extent putting his talent at the service of he who pays the shilling. That, as we used to say in the warehouse, is why they call it work, and why so many novels are written after hours.

Maybe Huston feels let down that even such creatures of tinsel and glamour are subject to these mundane constraints. (He did contribute to a book called Americans on Politics, Policy and Pop Culture -- actually it just says he "appears," so maybe they used his headshot as a dingbat.) Oh, I'm just being mischievous: Huston is the sort that perpetually seethes about those artists (alternately, "purported artists" or "so-called artists" or "'art'ists" -- the only real ones are Mel Gibson and Dennis Miller) in their berets and leotards who giggle over their absinthe about stupid Republicans. And now they've got the nerve to take hypothetical government money for their so-called purported "art" that could be going to churches!

Where is the outrage? Huston sucked it all up and there's none left for the rest of us, at least until we find out the new Obama Theatre Project wants us to do Cymbeline in an Iowa barn. (And no craft service -- Maw will fix us some vittles, and we can foam our milk straight from the udder.)

If Huston is too upmarket for you, you can go to FreeRepublic and hear them roar about "Obama’s Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda," "Purveyors of bullwhip in anus and crucifix in urine art," etc. I think it's safe to say their concern that Big Gummint will control the arts is feigned. If jackbooted arts commissars demanded production of a thousand neo-Soviet realist novels it's unlikely they would notice; they've already been told, endlessly, that the arts are all run by a liberal cabal anyway. There's a whole website all about it! As long as Obama doesn't take "Deal or No Deal" off the air, it touches them not.

In other words, they don't yell about the arts and the people who make them because they appreciate them, but because they've been trained to hate them.
POURNELLE SPEAK! People sometimes ask where I find the people I write about here. Very often I find them via the Ole Perfesser. Here he has a link called "WHEN DEMOCRACIES DECIVILIZE." And here's some of what you would find, if you were fatally curious, at the other end:
We are busily destroying the basis for our consensus of right and wrong in favor of some kind of pluralism and diversity. Not in favor of rational discussion; indeed, that is suppressed in the name of preventing hate speech.

Of course the federal structure of the nation was intended to accomplish something like diversity while preserving the union: by leaving as much as possible to the states, the largest possible numbers would live under governments they had assented to. In addition, by leaving most economic matters to the states, there would be competition: competition to have lower death taxes thus luring the wealthy to move there before they died. Competition to have lower sales and business taxes to lure the enterprising to come live in the state...

But make no mistake about it. To secure real rights, governments are necessary. We can agree on that without deciding how to choose a government. Both Heaven and Hell are rumored to be absolute monarchies with a hierarchy of officials...

There was one really galling paragraph in Atlas Shrugged: the judge who has retreated to Galt's hideaway at one point says that he has written a book on law that would save the Earth, but he isn't going to publish it. I will leave it as an exercise for the readers to discern why this so upset me when I read it that it pretty well spoiled the rest of the novel. Miss Rand did not want to comment on that paragraph, which she remembered as soon as I brought it up; I have often wondered if it bothered her as much as it disturbed me. I confess I did not dare ask her why Ragnar the pirate would be so eager to rush to her rescue; but then having met her, I didn't need to ask.

And enough. It really is time for bed.
I would ask whether the Perfesser, a ward of the state, might be more usefully remanded to another, more rehabilitative state institution, if I thought he really believed half the crazy shit he links to.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

IN WHAT THEY HAVE DONE AND IN WHAT THEY HAVE FAILED TO DO. Sarah Palin complains that the Anchorage Daily News harrassed her with questions about Trig Palin's true birth mother, which led to a story that... was never printed. The Daily News laboriously fact-checks this accusation, and others made privately by the Governor to the paper. This is the very model of what would normally be called media transparency, and acquits the paper well, especially their patient explanation that fact-checking is part of their job, and that the Daily News did not publicly assert a claim that anyone but Sarah Palin bore Trig.

By and large Palin's complaints are, as we say in the lower forty-eight, bullshit. Yet rightwing factota defend them. Hot Air's Allahpundit takes a novel tack: that the Daily News had previously published photos of Sarah Palin looking pregnant and alleged actual-mom Bristol Palin looking unpregnant, and a doctor's letter referring to Palin's pregnancy. So the story, in his estimation, was proven false, and the paper sinned by asking her questions about it -- which would never have entered the public record had not Palin revealed them.

It should not shock us that Allahpundit believes true journalism is about not asking questions, when the questions do not favor his side. After all, many of Hot Air's incurious first impressions have not turned out so well. ("I agree with people in the comments who say that [Ashley Todd's] beating and maiming were political, and obviously so" -- Let's see Dan Rather get away with that!) Rightwing bloggers float insane stories all the time, yet make sinister news of Sarah Palin's complaint that someone asked her a question and accepted her answer. But this is not about a search for truth, but the furtherance of spin. Palin wanted to promote her image as a hate object of the media and, without any genuine cause but with the help of Allahpundit and others, got what she was looking for. Claims of liberal media bias are mostly overblown, but it is observably true that the media will always give a platform to any celebrity who claims victim status.

Monday, January 12, 2009

NEW VOICE COLUMN UP, about the current, two-pronged rightblogger strategy. Prong one is revealed by their Al Franken reportage (i.e., yell "Thief!" and hope no one asks questions), and prong two by Big Hollywood. One might call it "Gun and Run" -- shoot bullshit at available targets, then retreat to a happy place where they are simultaneously persecuted and triumphant.

Speaking of culture war, Ronald Radosh reports that the guy who killed Hattie Carroll -- the subject of Bob Dylan's "The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll" -- was actually a graduate of "the Sidwell Friends School in Washington, DC. Yes, folks, the same moderate lefty school that Chelsea Clinton graduated from and that the children of Barack Obama are now attending!" So that means the Obamas are racist, or something. "Conservatives would be wise to find their own Hattie Carrolls," says a commenter, though surprisingly she does not mean they should find someone to beat to death with a cane, but instead, "individuals that have been abused by liberal excesses. Joe the Plumber comes to mind." For what that brain-damaged individual has been doing with himself lately, or allowing to be done to him, see here.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

THE END OF BIOGRAPHY. Ed Driscoll* has been dipping into H.L. Mencken, and likes him. That's the kindest thing I've ever said about Driscoll, so let's pause to savor it. Now to Driscoll's qualifications: he thinks Mencken's "deep cynicism and Nietzsche-inspired nihilism... does start to wear after a while." And this reminds him of a put-down of cynical Hunter S Thompson by... James Lileks, who also doesn't like nihilism, perhaps because without faith Target seems less of a Valhalla.

And Driscoll doesn't like that Mencken's tone "was the model for newspapermen since. And really is his tone that mattered, because they didn't pay much attention to his content, aside from his writings on the Scopes trial." Mencken didn't like FDR and other Democrats any better than he liked the backwoods booboisie, which consistency of outrage Driscoll finds lacking in modern journalists. Not that Driscoll approves of that consistency either: Mencken's notion of "permanent opposition in politics" dissatisfies him because "half the time it involves contrarianism for its own sake," as opposed to contrarianism for the sake of Republican candidates. Then back to complaining that you won't find this contrarianism among present-day Menckenites such as... Andrea Mitchell and Tavis Smiley.

Driscoll does approve "the writings of Mencken's mid-century successor," whom a link reveals to be... Ayn Rand.

Sometimes I think culture warriors approve of literature because they don't know what's in it.

*UPDATE. I originally attributed the article in question to Jules Crittenden. Driscoll and Crittenden are of course very different writers. For one thing, Driscoll has never been known to make an intentional joke, whereas Crittenden is capable of at least childish taunts. Also, Crittenden does not much bother himself with cultural issues (and a good thing, because even so pellucid a text as a racist anti-Obama poster gives him trouble); Driscoll frequently addresses sophisticated cultural subjects, usually with the same success seen here.
TO BE BLUNT ABOUT IT. The Ole Perfesser links to a Michael Silence screenfart about Erin Brockovich, whom they both apparently hate because she once helped some poor people. The Perfesser elbows his patrons in the ribs with, "what movie star does she resemble in the second photo?" The punchline is revealed in Silence's comments section, where like-minded souls suggest Woody Allen, "Gary Busse [sic] in drag," Andy Dick, etc.

Later on the Perfesser's hate-boner returns:
GETTING THE RESEMBLANCE: Yeah, I saw Garth from Wayne’s World in that picture, too. Certainly not Julia Roberts.
It's useful to be reminded sometimes that, in addition to having really terrible ideas and weak arguments, these people are scumbags.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

HOLLYWOOD SQUARES. As you might expect, if you know his work, filmmaker Kung Fu Monkey finds Big Hollywood -- the would-be movie ministers of propaganda considered here earlier -- "a garden of crack pinatas." It sure has been; but two days in, it's already getting tiresome.

How many posts that say "the Hollywood culture that overwhelmingly favors the left and demonizes conservatives is a huge problem for conservatism, but not a hopeless one," can one bother to eviscerate in any given working day? How much pleasure can one take in answering "No one watches the Academy Awards any more" with the fact that the Oscars continue to draw massive global viewership? And as comical as the headline "Top 5 Conservative Characters On 'Lost'" undoubtedly is, what sane person would dig far enough past it to mock the contents, knowing that every day henceforth until the end of the internet will be filled with similarly risible gibberings?

With the Obama ascension we've entered a bizarre era of rightwing web commentary. Conservatives are pimping social media as their internet comeback device. But on the internet as it is, Big Hollywood represents their actual strategy: the usual culture-war guff with a new splash page. Their other new-media innovations are Joe the Plumber in Israel and reruns of Sarah Palin versus the press.

Endlessly they talk about the death of old media, but their new media options seem to be celebrities and show biz, and without nudity. How is that supposed to increase market share?

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

SHORTER MICHAEL J. TOTTEN: You shouldn't suck Juan's dick -- he has cooties. In fact, you know what you should do? You should suck my dick. Because that would make Juan so mad!

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

MAJOR B.O. Hollywood had an all-time-record year at the box office, so what it obviously needs is a rightwing website explaining what Hollywood is doing wrong. In the inaugural post of his newly-launched Big Hollywood site, Andrew Breitbart decrees its purpose: "to change the entertainment industry. To make Hollywood something we can believe in -- again. In order to give millions of Americans hope." But hope of what? More, longer, and interactive Scarlett Johansson nude scenes? Bigger explosions? Transformers sequels in 4-D? Read on, pilgrim, and they'll tell you what to hope!

Breitbart himself offers a column that declares, "Except for the election of an antiwar candidate, 2008 was a great year for the pro-war side." Even that hollow electoral victory, you see, will be denied the traitors as staunch Republicans like Hillary Clinton flood Obama's cabinet. Now Obama -- whom Breitbart told us scant months ago "promised hope, but mostly delivered hate" -- can get down to his real agenda: to "do what a Republican president, especially one vilified in Hollywood, could not: sell the war." In fact, he can do it better than Bush, whose Defense Department informed a shocked and unnamed pal of Breitbart's that it didn't "do propaganda"; for, as every conservative knows, liberals love propaganda, and now they can put their evil habit to good use. Though Obama is "poised to disappoint the zealous anti-warriors," they'll still do whatever he says, maybe because he's black, like many Hollywood stars. Thus "Hollywood and the Democratic Party can be redeemed" in a way that making money and winning elections can never hope to equal.

To get Hollywood's propagandists in the mood, Melanie Graham tells them that they "all incorporate themselves to avoid higher taxes but expect everyone in Rube State America to pony up," PowerLine's Scott Johnson tells them they've been commie dupes since the 70s at least, Orson Bean says that "they went to college and were taught that their country is wrong." This is the kind of nagging that forges alliances.

Some film reviews, or something like film reviews, also appear. Ben Shapiro (!) explains why Body of Lies failed in America while Waltz with Bashir made money in Israel: because Americans are patriots who reject the treasonous premise of the action picture, while Israelis hate themselves: "Since 1948, Israeli film has been heavily focused on undermining Israelis’ patriotism – and Israelis have bought into it." (Shapiro must have long lead times.) They're doomed, but "In America, it isn’t too late... Eventually, Americans will demand to see movies that champion America." At present, they demand to see movies about cute doggies, but just you wait, Big Hollywood's only getting started.

John Nolte does criticism on the more traditional tip: "Laden with subtext referencing the daily headlines exposing the Catholic church’s disgraceful sexual abuse scandal from a few years ago, Doubt does those victims a disservice." Well, that's all I need to know.

To be fair, Nolte does one of Revolutionary Road that actually reviews the film, and Greg Gutfield is so bold as to engage in actual satire, spooling off a list of "conservative rockers" that grows increasingly ridiculous ("[Public Enemy's] song '911 is a Joke' served as an indictment of the left, or more precisely those who refused to take the attacks on the World Trade Center seriously"). Unfortunately, if expectedly, this confuses Big Hollywood's commenters; some argue that the picks are wrong, some just go BAR HAR HAR! STOOPID LIBERALS! and some think Steve Albini is actually talking to them.

There's plenty more, including an actor who comes out as a conservative, despite warnings that They'll get him like They got Mel Gibson and Bruce Willis ("I'm told I’ll hurt my career if I continually spout off about Liberalism — which I see as a growing cancer in our society"), and ends by challenging his readers to a fistfight, and Hey'dja Ever Notice thumbsuckers, etc. But you get it already. It's the usual Zhdanovite schtick: claims that Hollywood is destroying the country, except when the country is destroying Hollywood; wounded self-presentation as an oppressed minority deserving aesthetic affirmative action; and above all projection of the widescreen variety, in which artists who resist their call to propagandize are the real propagandists, and can only become genuine artists by making movies that suit the prejudices of a bunch of rightwing web operatives.

It's all good, though; they get a sure-fire audience of likeminded folks who believe John Wayne will come back to life if they click hard enough, and I get a new, entertainingly low-budget serial to watch while I eat my popcorn.

Monday, January 05, 2009

PLEASE STAND BY. Comments have disappeared. I'm waiting on further instructions. Apologies, hope to have it cleared up tomorrow.

UPDATE. Fixed now.
NEW VOICE COLUMN UP, still following conservative bloggers on Blagojevich and adding late demolition derby entrant Bill Richardson. One thing that's hard to figure is the effect all this fierce and relentless spinning of the pre-Presidency has on normal people. They seem favorably disposed toward Obama, and certainly want him to do well so we don't all die in poverty. I wonder if they even know that Commerce is a cabinet office. Nonetheless I'm sure the rightbloggers are storing this one up in their cheeks for the day something terrible happens, so they can say, see, we told you that when Obama hushed up the murder investigation of Bill "La Cucharacha" Richardson on the orders of Tony Rezko, it showed Obama's true colors.

I'm just sorry I didn't get to include this analysis by Jonah Goldberg:
I haven't followed the allegations that are causing Richardson such trouble. But, I must say I'm not surprised. With the exception of Bill Clinton, it's difficult to think of a major politician who has been plagued more persistently by troubling rumors of all sorts. When I was in New Mexico not long ago, it felt like I was visiting Little Rock in the way everyone had a sketchy story, theory or little-known fact. Some was very vague, some of it was clearly over the top, and some of it was quite plausible.
Plus both Clinton and Richardson are called "Bill." Liberals might say, ha! So is William Kristol. Sorry, he's "Billy," not Bill. In my experience Williams who are called "Billy" are more trustworthy than the ones who are called "Bill." Now some liberals, my editor has just told me, will probably bring up Bill Buckley, but around the office we actually never called him "Bill." (Mentions pressing appointment, flees.)

Friday, January 02, 2009

HARDBALL AND SPITBALL. Rightbloggers are still pumping that Blagojevich thing for all it's worth and then some. Jennifer Rubin at Commentary:
Really, it’s fascinating how one crooked state pol can ensnare both the new presidential administration and Congress. The Obama team is lawyering up, the Senate will be sued, and the grand jury in Illinois will spend months reeling in more witnesses who, in turn, may implicate still more politicians. It’s hard to recall a single figure who has caused as much consternation and litigation.
If you were to take this version of events seriously, you might imagine Obama on the verge of pre-impeachment. For those readers who might actually have followed the story and question its impact on the incoming Administration, Rubin sprinkles some more fairy dust:
The lesson here? Don’t associate with corrupt pols, don’t take their calls or make deals with them (even without an explicit quid pro quo)...

[E.J.] Dionne is wrong to praise “Obama’s patented approach to problems -- wait and think to see what develops before acting.” It is precisely the benign toleration of Blago and the unwillingness to move swiftly to cut off his power of appointment that created this mess. It is a warning for the President-elect and his party: cut off corruption before it devours you.
It's like Watergate all over again, if Nixon had been pressured to resign in January of 1969.

Meanwhile there's another tsimmis over the seating of a maybe-Senator, Al Franken in this case. You can observe the Republican message discipline at work in TPM's analysis: the Franken team's expression of confidence ("I think we're on track to win"), which is the default attitude of any political contender, is described as "falsely declaring victory," as if it were a form of perjury, and the prospect of Franken's seating is described as "unprecedented," which is not true.

This is the sort of thing that sufficiently muddies the water that allegedly nonpartisan or even Democrat-friendly outlets buy into the spin. The About.com correspondent on liberal politics, California Democrat Deborah White, says, "If Franken prevails, as seems the likeliest outcome, he will start with a tarnished image. And Democrats will be embarrassed by association." Apparently Democrats are supposed to lose close elections or rule with heads hung in shame.

Presumably Coleman should be equally ashamed to win, but you know he wouldn't be, just as Bush wasn't in 2000. The consensus is that rules are for pussies and Democrats.

In related news: "Some Conservatives Fear Obama Advisers Lean Too Far Left."

Thursday, January 01, 2009

SCIENCE FICTION. Erstwhile Conservative candidate for New York Mayor George Marlin has found a heretofore unrevealed agenda of the Obama Administration. He cites a New York Times article about behavioral economists interested in the "underlying consumer psychology" behind phenomena like the mortgage bubble. "In this year’s campaign, Mr. Obama signaled an interest in the field by surrounding himself with advisers who were quite sympathetic to [behavioral economics]," said the Times. "Of course, this was before the financial crisis became so serious that it overwhelmed everything else. Today, it’s reasonable to ask whether the Obama administration will still have time for behavioral economics."

Here's what Marlin makes of that:
It should come as no surprise that the 1970s radicals taking over the Federal Government in January are promoting this brand of economics because the hero of their youth was the leader of America’s behavioral revolution, B.F. Skinner. Skinner, who, in the early 1970s, made the cover of Time magazine and whose book Beyond Freedom and Dignity hit the Times bestseller list, proudly proclaimed to his adoring public, “We not only can control human behavior, we must!”
Marlin then goes on to detail the philosophical crimes of Skinner ("Accordingly, there is then no essential difference between modern 'objective' psychology and rodentology, or between man and rat") and warns that these as-yet unhired social scientists will put us all in Skinner boxes: "If behaviorists have their way, man will be dehumanized by the planning and redevelopment of the cultural, economic and social system by government overseers. What a scary intellectual basis for Washington’s forthcoming managerial revolution."

Dad29 boils it down for the folks in the cheap seats: "But now, ALL of us can be rodentologized under the Great Obama." (Later, in comments: "No, I don't claim that O has 'embraced' Skinner's theory of behavior modification. But practitioners bear watching.")

Let's hope that no prospective Obama economic advisors have been associated, either through thesis papers or book club memberships, with the work of H.G. Wells, or it will be suggested that he wants to feed us all growth serum.

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.