Tuesday, February 17, 2009

HISTORY WILL ABSOLVE THEM. The Alex Rodriguez press conference today about his steroid use was not very interesting to me but for some related thoughts it stirred later.

Though his manipulation of the evidence was completely cynical -- he portrayed himself not as a Major League ballplayer who injected steroids, but a mixed-up kid who'd never been to college and experimented -- I imagine that by his own standards Rodriguez really believes he's in the right. His strongest argument -- and, it seemed to me, the talking point with which he was most comfortable, though he used it sparingly lest it muddy his show of contrition -- was his own performance "foul pole to foul pole" in his post-juicing days. That's his proof that he wasn't making himself into something he's not. He is, to his satisfaction (and that of the reporters, from the way they danced around it) a great ballplayer. Steroids didn't get him there, he did.

If there's a moral issue in it for him, that's it. Clearly the stuff about letting down fans and colleagues and parents was something to be expected of any star obliged to duck a rap in public, like his professions of ignorance. But you'd have to be pretty sentimental to think A-Rod feels shame about juicing. His initial reference in the earlier Gammons interview to the "loosey-goosey" MLB environment at the time suggests that he has compartmentalized his drug use. The issue of breaking MLB rules is for him a nuisance, not an agon, and since Bud Selig rather than Bart Giamatti is running the show, this superstar doesn't have to worry much about getting bounced.

This came to my mind again when I read what Megan McArdle wrote today about shame. In brief, she supports it as a means of social control, in a way indistinguishable from those of professional scolds like Rod Dreher, whom she defends, but for one thing: she excludes behaviors in which she is herself engaged and of which Dreher et alia disapprove.

Here, as traditionally, McArdle lavishes scorn on those she does think need to be made to feel shame, specifically people poorer than her ("having a baby you know you can't care for") and people richer than her ("paying yourself a lavish bonus out of taxpayer-provided funds to bail out your crappy, insolvent bank"). She doesn't consider that these people may also be impervious to shame for their own reasons. For her shame is something that should be felt by those who are not Megan McArdle or close enough.

If she chooses to behave differently than Preacher Dreher will countenance, she is undisturbed and will yet drop a coin in his collection plate, because what he stokes in his hellfire she believes to be a useful commodity, so long as no embers touch her garment.

And why should they? She has a good job and a safely contrarian niche that allows her to talk libertarianism without getting dumped among the downscale Ron Paul people. And all this is the result of her own hard work. It's not like she knocked over a liquor store or spent beyond her means. Surely the Preacher won't disdain her coin; foul pole to foul pole, she earned her place among the elect.

Update: Sure enough, Preacher Rod endorses McArdle's essay. I get sick of being right sometimes.
TAKING IT TO THE STREETS. I wish my conservative brethren well with the street action thing. 150 people on a Federal holiday to protest the Generational Theft Act is a good start. Granted, back in 2003, at the dawn of what many leftists also considered, as today's Seattle protesters consider the stimulus, a tyrannical government intervention, a similar protest drew 50,000 people in Seattle. But the discrepancy may be explained in a number of ways:
For the past 8 years, you never saw a liberal organize a protest against spending by the Bush administration. They protested just about everything and anything, but never specifically government spending - unless it was directed at cutting military spending - the ‘slow bleed‘ campaign. Quite telling about the character of today’s liberal.
So you could say today's gathering was smaller, or that it was more discriminating.

I would attribute the modest turnout to other factors -- most charitably, that for Republicans activism usually means yelling on the internet or, at its most obstreperous, stopping a recount. It will take time, even if they're serious, to get the hey-hey, ho-ho thing going. Maybe Newt Gingrich can teach them about Twitter and revive flash mobs. Maybe they'll do better when the comrades have been centralized and made used to exposure to the elements in government work camps.

Or maybe they'll just do these things from time to time, compliment each other on their signs, and bitch about how the media didn't cover them. That would be too bad; I was looking forward to the riots, especially in the shopping districts.

Monday, February 16, 2009

NEW VOICE COLUMN UP, about the right's celebration of President Obama's shameful defeat on the stimulus bill. Ha ha, yes, that's just the teaser. Plenty of them are aware that the thing actually passed, and are entertainingly mad about it.

Being a suspicious sort, I am in some sympathy with their claims of a lack of transparency in the bill. But I figure, if it's really that much of an outrage, we can always impeach him, right?

Sunday, February 15, 2009

STILL MORE LEDEEN OMG FASCISM ETC. Michael Ledeen has published a second installment of his claim that the bailouts and stimulus mean "We Are All Fascists Now." First, a recap from part one:
What is happening now... is an expansion of the state's role, an increase in public/private joint ventures and partnerships, and much more state regulation of business. Yes, it's very 'European,' and some of the Europeans even call it 'social democracy,' but it isn't. It's fascism...

When Roosevelt was elected in 1932, in fact, Mussolini personally reviewed his book, Looking Forward, and the Duce’s bottom line was, “this guy is one of us.”
And then he wrote:
It is no accident that the campaign to drive religion out of American public life began in the 1940s, when the government was consolidating its unprecedented expansion during the Depression and the Second World War...
There's a lot of yap in there about Tocqueville, but we can summarize that FDR => smoking bans => stimulus => Hitler. There, I saved you ten or fifteen minutes.

The Wolverines howl in comments, and Ledeen feels obliged to step in:
I quite explicitly said that America is not on the road to fascism; it’s just that the economic porkulus that just passed is not, as Newsweek said, a socialist bill, but a fascist one.

Fascist economics, not politics. Not all tyrants are fascists, you know.
This fine distinction does not stop the baying, nor, I think, was it meant to -- it's just a little plausible deniability to keep him from being officially demoted to the lunatic fringe.

The blue-seaters are not dissuaded. Another brother cries, "We may be forced into a sort of Confederacy of opposition against this tyranny between now and a point of no return to save America," and Riehl World View says that failing the reelection of the Republicans, "nothing but an eventual collapse and near re-invention of American government offers conservatives much hope."

The Age of Obama seems to encourage this Jonah Goldberg schtick of imputing fascism right up front, then claiming as the chairs are being thrown that you really meant something else. It would be disturbing if the chairs were not virtual. While it's possible that some yokels might take it up a notch, at present it seems that for possibly the first time in his life Chris Muir may be onto something: the nerdoisie would rather let their avatars fight the New Revolution. Though, as I've pointed out, political blog posts share some resemblance with the Journals-Affiche, if their present-day authors had to go out in the night and paste them to walls, few would ever be seen.

But we may reexamine this if it comes to breadlines. Ledeen, Goldberg et alia have no stomach to fight the oncoming depression, but they are keenly interested in winning the spin on it once it's here.
THEY DON'T MAKE 'EM LIKE THEY USED TO. National Review's latest list of "conservative movies" reminds me of their first such adventure in 1994. Back then the magazine still employed respectable arts correspondents like D. Keith Mano and John Simon, and was less inclined than now toward identifying works of art by politics to brace up casual conservative consumers of culture.

But we had a hint of where National Review was going in 1993, when James Bowman proclaimed Rush Limbaugh "The Leader of the Opposition" in a cover story. "To a surprising number of conservatives," wrote Bowman, "there is a solemn appropriateness about Reagan's passing the torch to the 42-year-old former disc jockey and college dropout." Just so. After their long Reagan-Bush summer, the unthinkable ascendancy of Bill Clinton shocked right-wingers into recognizing that they hadn't destroyed their enemies with tax cuts and sunny patriotism, and they needed new ways to get the punters back on their side.

So they began to heed Pat Buchanan's call to "take back our culture" -- though, unlike Buchanan, they didn't expect to do it with National Guardsmen, but by appropriating existing cultural artifacts in their cause. At the writing of the 1994 list, the Gingrich uprising was still fresh, conservative populism was in season, and some of the brethren may have felt as if the tide could be turned back in their favor if they could just make conservatism look cool by associating with works of pop art.

We see what National Review has come to since then: you certainly don't look to it for serious arts criticism, but for essays on how Adam Sandler movies promote family values it's your best bet. In between imputations of liberal fascism, Jonah Goldberg yammers about the relationship of "Battlestar Galactica" to the War on Terror. Junior operatives are sent hunting after conservative messages in other TV shows.

And though the new NR list is graced by contributions from heavy thinkers as well as hacks, it's remarkably dumbed-down from the original. The 1994 list of 100 movies included films by John Ford and Wajda, Cavalier's Therese, There Was a Crooked Man, The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp, etc. These were in most cases woefully misapprehended by the editors, but at least they showed some interest in film history. The oldest films on the current list are 1984's Red Dawn and Ghostbusters. The Lives of Others, a favorite of William F. Buckley, is the lone art-house entry. Most of the honorees were originally released after right-wingers started mining movies for affirmation and have already been through the conservetkult's cultural appropriation mill, e.g. The Dark Knight, United 93, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, A Simple Plan, etc.

I don't blame laziness so much as a weary awareness, after all these years of similar work, that they are no longer breaking new ground. Real critics would be excited by any opportunity to reexamine film culture, but propagandists are more easily bored. As culture-war detail is only a part-time job for most of them, why re-invent the wheel? So they grabbed what was handy and did a quick, web-friendly Top Whatever list. Later on they'll get someone to write about the supply-side economic message in Confessions of a Shopaholic, and if it plays they can use it again later.

I notice that National Review is again calling Limbaugh the Leader of the Opposition. This suggests a switch on the old saying: If the first time was farce, what does that make the second time?

Saturday, February 14, 2009

F-BOMB (UPDATED). I see Victor Davis Hanson Michael Ledeen* has, in short and long forms, called the Obama Administration fascist. He takes off from Newsweek's declaration that Obama is the latest in a line of enablers bringing the country toward French-style socialism, which is just a mildly provocative observation based on apparent facts. Hanson's Ledeen's stuff, on the other hand, is based on Jonah Goldberg's hysterical revisionism, in which any government activism beyond mustering troops and delivering the mail (maybe) can be evidence of fascism, if the author finds it politically expedient to say so.

(*Update: In first writing this post I confused Ledeen with Victor Davis Hanson, an understandable mistake, as they both employ the same woe-unto-you-scribes-and-pharisees schtick that adds pomp, or at least pomposity, to Pajamas Media and National Review. I followed on with comparisons to Hanson's previous writings on the Wall Street bailouts, which don't apply to Ledeen, so I've removed them and will save them for a rainy day. Ledeen, a War on Terror obsessive, doesn't write much about the economy, so we assume his fascist comparison comes fresh from the crazy lab.)

The usual suspects are praising Hanson's Ledeen's courage. Ed Driscoll offers an interesting twist, claiming that Newsweek was afraid to admit that Obama is a fascist, and praising Hanson Ledeen for seeing through their cowardice.

It'll be interesting to see how many of them will take the bait. Obama's been President for less than a month. If they're already calling him a fascist, what's left for them? Maybe by spring they'll be comparing him to Satan, and after that they'll be making up fables about unimaginable evils in alternate universes to accommodate the ever-escalating scale of their accusations: e.g., Once upon a time in the Deruvian galaxy, there was an evil tyrant named Obamanous... Maybe this will lead to the conservative aesthetic renaissance that we have been promised for so many years. It's an ill wind that blows no one some good!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

DARWIN FISH. The Washington Times celebrates Darwin's birthday with an essay by Jonathan Wells. His theme:
For most people, science means testing hypotheses by comparing them with the evidence. For Darwin and his followers, however, "science" became the search for natural explanations...

Actually, Darwinism has always been more philosophy than science. Darwin called "The Origin of Species" "one long argument," and it took the following form: The features of living things are "inexplicable on the theory of creation" but fully explicable as products of unguided natural forces. Darwin lacked sufficient evidence for the latter, however, so he ruled out the former by simply declaring that only natural explanations are "scientific."
The difference between science and "science" is apparently that the latter, for willfully evil reasons, does not accept supernatural explanations, as they did in the dear old days before "scientists" started messing around in labs, observatories, and nature preserves.

Wells also tells us that "once in power Darwinism (like Marxism) tolerates no dissent" -- a hedge planted, as it were, so that if opponents mention that Wells is a zealous adherent of the Unification Church, whose messiah, Sun Myung Moon, also founded the Washington Times, they are just Marxistically trying to assassinate his character ("scientists and teachers who criticize Darwinism risk ostracism, character assassination and termination of their employment"). But some of my favorite people, and not a few evolutionists, have sky-gods and, being a generous soul, I am glad for Wells that he has a creed that helps him understand his place in the world, and a publisher/prophet who helps him get there.

The connection is more interesting for what it says about culture-war issues, such as Darwin has become, within the current conservative universe. These days you'll rarely find the more upper-class conservatives arguing that God didn't make them from no monkeys. Full-throated Darwin denialism is largely left to populist crackpots like Ann Coulter and fringe figures of the sort described by Alternative Tulsa. More thoughtful conservatives will try to explain to their backward brethren that Darwin is OK for conservatives, and often via the gambit that evolution is rationalist and therefore part of the Way of the West patriots must defend, or by the old dog-medicine-in-Alpo trick of telling them that Darwin is actually conservative.

You'll see a lot of this sort of thing tomorrow, as the Darwin birthday bandwagon rolls. Back when the first Bush bank bailout came, a lot of conservatives demurely dropped their free-market principles; now that the stimulus (philosophically consonant, alas, with the bailouts) has been adopted by Obama, you see them mouthing some of the old platitudes, but only as an obstructionist stunt. No one believes it, but it has to be done. As tools to rescue the economy, these things are clusterfucks, but as cultural totems they are only good or bad depending on what trench you happen to be fighting from.

Just so with Darwin. In their politically degenerate phase, conservatives can loosen up about him -- there's not much powder or provender there in the Age of Obama; no need to play dumb. When a stimulus moment arrives, they'll have the option of putting the masks back on, and you'll see Jonathan Wells and Ben Stein and all those guys riding on the top of the float again. It's sort of like the routine done at Big Hollywood and in other such conservative movie games -- denouncing film as a liberal plot at one end of the mood swing, declaring film a conservative phenomenon at the other -- but played out much more slowly over a longer period of time, as befits the evolutionary model.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

BACK TO THE DRAWING BOARD. Rod Dreher contemplates a challenge to write a pro-God bus ad:
Hmm. Mine would probably have to do with a conversation I was having with a friend this past weekend. I told him that I thought so much atheism -- not all of it, mind you, just a lot of it -- was built on an unconscious fear that God really does exist. If God exists, then we are not free to do what we want to do. The attempt to murder God is really the attempt to murder a sense of moral guilt.
I think someone has already designed his ad. Has to be made more horizontal, though.

Monday, February 09, 2009

FEELING THE LOVE. Nothing gladdens the heart like a Valentine's Day discussion at Dr. Mrs. Ole Perfesser's! The tone of DMOP's post is surprisingly mild. She does quote an apparent lunatic who sees men on Valentine's Day "wringing their hands, dreading this day... women using sex as a weapon; men living in fear..." Sounds like this cowboy's confusing the Feast of St. Valentine with Sadie Hawkins Day. But happily, DMOP is not herself going John Galt on the Perfesser this February 14: "I just try to go out and find a nice gift that my husband will like and I think he tries to do the same." Maybe she's just baiting the poor souls who hang around there, which raises her in my estimation.

"I like to give gifts," says By The Sword. "But I think V-day is just something that the greeting-card industry and florists use to make more money. If I give a gift it will be on my own terms." He must be fun at Christmas.

"Valentines day is a creation of selfish individualistic liberal culture and free market, which aids in commodification of romantic love," quoth qwerty. All these years in the struggle, and I never heard about this part of the liberal action plan. I must ask my man-hating feminist comrades about it.

"You mean that relic of chivalry still exists?" asks Rob Fedders. "What day do they celebrate it on?" I imagine Rob only acknowledges holidays mentioned in the World of Gor.

"Valentine's day is a trap for Beta males who have no grasp of a woman's psychology," huffs kmg. "The problem is, the woman has the power of the STATE behind her bullying." Wait 'til he gets a load of the upcoming Valentine's Stimulus, with its chocolate mandates!

Many of Dr. Mrs.' commenters are actually normal and appear to be in good relationships. But even some of the unenraged feel the need to declare their independence ("I refuse to kowtow to any person, male or female") as if it were under threat from the greeting-card industry. "And even if that's not what most women think," says Cavedog, "it's definitely what a lot of men think that women think. So there's pressure there anyway, and it's societal pressure, not relationship pressure." The crushing power of conformism is trying to make him buy some roses. Can he summon the Randian fortitude to resist?

This session has been a tonic. I came in thinking I was troubled by societal pressure, and came away feeling that my burden is light compared to others'. If I weren't such a parasite, I'd send her a fee.
NEW VOICE COLUMN UP about the extraordinary message discipline among conservative bloggers in their portrayal of Obama's rush to stimulus as a "fear" campaign. As you know I'm not a stimulus enthusiast and hardly equipped to speculate on its chances of success or failure. Neither are most rightbloggers, but they display a fierce certainty about the issue that is fascinating in an Angriest Dog in the World sort of way. On those rare occasions when they talk about alternative strategies, the fascination quickly turns to horror.


While it's probably for the best that genuine intellectuals don't run the show, in times of real peril the benefits of democracy are sometimes very difficult to see.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

THE NEW MICHAEL MOORE. The latest target of the Kulture Kops is Will Ferrell, who is having a very successful run on Broadway in a one-man George Bush show. At the New York Post Kyle Smith says, "Is it too much to ask for Hollywood's leading comic actor not to use the deaths of our troops in combat for a giggle?"

What Smith means by this bizarre accusation is: there's a moment in the show where Ferrell, as Bush, asks for a moment of silence for the troops, which is interrupted by the ringing of a telephone, previously announced to be a non-working prop. "Bush" later says he was afraid God was calling him. "The problem is," Smith says, "during what turned out to be merely a pause to set up the punchline, I actually was thinking about our war dead, and so were a lot of others." No audience interviews, unfortunately, are included to confirm this.

Smith judges that "Here, Hollywood is letting its mask slip." On Broadway, yet. Maybe Smith originally blamed this treason on the Hollywood/Broadway/Off-Broadway/Off-Off-Broadway/TV/musician/mime/sidewalk sketch artist conspiracy, but it was cut for space.

Smith demands Ferrell excise the bit, thereby flexing the muscle of the New York Post arts section, and Macsmind makes a meme of it:
Which is why, as the leader of a South Florida Veterans organization we will create boycotts of any endeavor that Will Ferrell participates in from here on out. Mock the President all you want. Mock Christ if you dare, but spit on the graves of our fallen comrades and will we kick your lanky ass. Since doing it physically is illegal, we will do it monetarily.
At this very moment, Talladega Nights II is being reimagined as a vehicle for Johnny Knoxville.

Even worse, the show includes an alleged photograph of the former President's penis, which enrages Freedom Eden: "They're obviously giving New York libs exactly what they want," she says. Well, yes, that would be the target market. Studies show that rightwing bloggers tend to eschew Broadway satires of George Bush, so there was no need to accommodate their tender sensibilities. I thought conservatives were supposed to understand the free market.

Nonetheless Say Anything avails the customary what-if: "Can you imagine a comedian’s effort to mock Barack Obama’s penis getting any sort of attention from a publication like the New York Times?" Doubtless it would get attention of some kind -- but say, what a great idea for an alternative entertainment for the rightblogger market! They could do it at Branson.

Theatre critic Wizbang says, "What a farse [sic]." Also, "It's so bad I really believe he'd portray Hitler in a better light." The critic does not say whether he or she has actually been to the show, but as we know they don't have to see these things to have strong opinions about them.

"Nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of Manhattan people," chortles Don Surber over at the general store before moseying over to the flat-footin'; also, them city folks lives all on top o' one another, and they cain't skin a muskrat nohow.

Please, nobody tell them that the new show with Angela Lansbury in it was written by a homosexual.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

THE CONSERVATIVE COMEBACK, PART 3,411.
My Latest Safari into American Pop Culture [Mike Potemra]

I just learned, from a magazine in the drugstore checkout line, that Jessica Simpson is now considered too fat. (I found a link here.) You read that right: Jessica Freakin’ Simpson. The worst part is, American women buy into this crap.

UPDATE: A friend e-mails me that President Obama made an ungallant reference to her weight. Shame on him! It’s almost enough to convince me not to vote for him next time.

FURTHER UPDATE: A reader makes the persuasive case that President Obama was not mocking Jessica Simpson’s weight at all, but merely reading out the headline from a magazine that claimed she was in a weight battle. (I didn’t watch the video, I just read accounts of it.)

02/05 05:23 PM
Just to see what would happen, I am sorely tempted to tell Potemra that Border Angels is fighting for eagle rights.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

A CAP IN THEIR ASS. Obama's half-million-dollar salary cap is, as they say in the old joke about 5000 dead lawyers, a good start. It does inspire a childish hope that a lovable deadbeat dad played by Kevin Costner can be employed to manage Citigroup as effectively as Vikrim Pandit at a fraction of the cost. As to its actual effectiveness, we can also hope that it does to these geniuses what it has already done to Nicole Gelinas who, clearly shell-shocked, suggests that Treasury is trying to get "these companies to sell off their salvageable assets to new private owners as quickly as practicable, even at fire-sale prices." That is probably not Treasury's idea, nor the best idea, but if the attention of CEO-humpers like Gelinas can be so quickly and powerfully concentrated by the salary cap, there is some hope it will do the same for CEOs, too.

As I noticed over at the big house, rightblogger reaction shows some confusion. It's as if their Morning Memo simply read, "Sorry, folks, you're on your own." Some of the more rabid among them have at this writing played the news very low-key. I'm guessing they don't want to buck the populist tide too much.

Of course it's more fun when just let it all hang out.

There are some straight-up shouters ("Executive Pay Capped at $500,000: Liberty Just Died in America"), but I prefer the ones who think they have a clever response, like Hindrocket at Power Line. He says the cap is unfair because "a number of banks were forced by the federal government to accept TARP funds that they didn't want." Likewise, they were forced to take FDIC insurance; government nannies are always making these brave rebels follow their stupid rules. Then he quotes a "reader" who says why don't they put a salary cap on PBS, hmm? There's a lot of this sort of thing going around as conservatives try to redefine "bailout" as "any government spending we don't like." I half hope it catches on, so I may suggest that the government stop bailing out churches, faith-based organizations, the military, etc.

Over at the Heritage Foundation, Andrew Grossman asks, "$500,000 per year, while a large amount, is hardly extravagant. Think: Is someone like Steve Jobs at Apple worth that much? The market seems to think he’s worth billions to the company." Indeed it does, but probably because Jobs isn't running his company into the ground, which is more than we can say for the TARP babies. "And," adds Grossman, "even if the brilliant types stay on at lower pay, they may not put their all into their work. After all, once you’ve maxed out compensation for the year, why bother putting in 12-hour days and working weekends?" Why indeed? They were doing that all the way up to collapse; clearly a radically different approach is needed, one that might involve spending time with their loved ones. Let bankers' hours be bankers' hours! Then maybe we can all work less, like the French.

Finally, Grossman worries about
the end of job-exit as a signal. In economics, 'signaling' is how individuals convey information to others, often through their actions... On Wall Street, talent walking out the door signals that your firm is in big trouble. But with pay caps, there’s little reason to exit so swiftly.
First, it's a little fucking late for "signaling," and second, they don't need pay caps as a reason to stick to their jobs when there's a looming depression already in place --which happens to have been largely caused by these bright boys -- to convince them not to take their chances on what's left of the open market.

Always a good pick to close out a Rule of Three post is The Anchoress, who photoshops (or perhaps MacPaints) an "OBAMA TO NY: DROP DEAD" newspaper cover. Normally The Anchoress shows much less affection for our godless Sodom, but pretends concern now because a newsreader told her the cap "Could Seriously Hurt New York" -- though, the newsreader admits further down, a precisely opposite impression "dominated among those CBS 2 randomly spoke with on city streets," and pretty much everyone else she spoke to except for a flak from Partnership for New York, "a membership organization comprised of a select group of two hundred CEOs ('Partners') from New York City’s top corporate, investment and entrepreneurial firms." (Among the member organizations of this club are Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, Yankee Stadium, HSBC, and other fans of government largesse for the right kind of people.) The Anchoress clearly believes Jesus didn't mean for her to read beyond the second graf, and to trust to Him that no one else would, either.

Then The Anchoress descends, as is her custom, from ignorance to paranoia: "We all know that once the government learns they CAN get away with doing this, they’ll try to expand it to include others, not just the bailout recipients." Yeah, that's the word on the streets -- first they came for the TARP recipients but I was not a TARP recipient -- Attica! Attica! In the muddle that follows, she suggests that Obama "should hire someone like me, a real person," to advise him on financial matters. Among her real-person advice:
"What? You wanna do what? Don’t you realize you’re just exacerbating the problem when you mandate something that lowers tax receipts and blows the mind of an already half-psychotic market? The market has a psychology and so does the populace..."
I have to tell you, I've never heard a real person talk like, and I know some real windbags. Maybe she's thinking of characters in Kevin Smith movies.

Though, as I've said, I have doubts about the effectiveness of the salary cap, I encourage Obama to pull more populist bullshit just to get a rise out of these people.
THE CONSERVATIVE RESURGENCE PROCEEDS APACE. Mona Charen does an article about Nadya Suleman's octuplets and how awful it is that she had them. Actually she thinks it's awful that anyone has them or, it seems, any multiple births promoted by "fertility drugs," but never mind that. The real problem for Charen is that Suleman is unmarried and thus had the babies as "a kind of self-expression." Aside from backwoodsmen who raise young'uns expressly to chop firewood and continue their feuds unto the next generation, "self-expression" might describe, however uncharitably, most people's procreative impulse, that being a mystery most of us choose to portray more poetically, particularly this soon after the Miracle of Childbirth. But most of us are not rightwing harpies looking for potential welfare queens to cluck over.

I do agree with Charen that, though I wish Suleman all the best (actually that's not our point of agreement -- nowhere does Charen express it), she would have done better to arrange for adequate support before increasing her brood to 14. So we might expect that Charen's next test case -- Linda Sanchez, a presumably well-fixed U.S. Representative from California who is having a child out of wedlock -- would receive her approbation. Or we might if we didn't know who we were dealing with. Charen responds to Sanchez' modest assertion, "I don't know how it'll be received," thus:
Yes, well, she needn’t have worried. Everyone was totally understanding. No marriage yet either.

People think the old stigma about unwed childbearing was all about sex. It wasn’t. It was about children and what’s best for them. Of course some women want babies the way others crave shoes, but babies are not, or at least shouldn’t be treated as, consumables. Badly done all around.
At The Corner, Charen reveals that Representative Sanchez's communications director had the nerve to remonstrate with her baby shower gift of bile. Charen claims she didn't compare Sanchez with Suleman, which is self-evident bullshit, and tells her that Sanchez and all unwed mothers are "irresponsible to purposely bring a child into the world in those circumstances when you can avoid it."

Then Ramesh Ponnuru and Charen chuckle over the staffer's use of the term "unofficial fiance," and Lisa Schiffren joins them around the cauldron to suggest that the term "will be fully explicated in the upcoming movie, He's Just Not That Into You." Then she gives Bristol Palin a hard time, too (as she has elsewhere) and adds, "I have an uncomfortable sense that the younger ones value the wedding itself -- and the dress, which won't look as good if you're preggers -- more than the fact of the marriage. But that doesn't explain the older, wiser, Sanchez -- whose entire rationale is that, at 40 she is approaching the sell by date for those eggs."

This harshing on new and expectant mothers must be part of some very deep plan to win popular support to the conservative movement. These horrible people keep bitching that they should be allowed to run Hollywood, but what they really need is a gossip magazine.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

A LITTLE CLOSER TO UNDERSTANDING. We've considered the case of General Ralph "Blood 'n' Guts" Peters at length here, yet while we have gotten a full load of his mania, we have not learned much about the man. His peroration in today's New York Post, though, offers clues.
A FUNDAMENTAL reason why our intelligence agencies, military leaders and (above all) Washington pols can't understand Afghanistan is that they don't recognize that we're dealing with alien life-forms.

Oh, the strange-minded aliens in question resemble us physically. We share a few common needs: We and the aliens are oxygen breathers who require food and water at frequent intervals. Our body casings feel heat or cold. We're divided into two sexes (more or less). And we're mortal.

But that's about where the similarities end, analytically speaking.
It will come as no surprise to regular readers that the General finds opposing life-forms inhuman and "more divergent from our behavioral norms than the weirdest crew member of the starship Enterprise." But he also reveals something of where he got this perspective. No, he doesn't mention whippings by his father or his time in that special CIA program where he was broken and rebuilt, but he does tell us this:
I was an effective intelligence officer. Why? In junior high, I matured past the French Existentialists and started reading science fiction. The prose was often ragged, but the speculative frameworks offered a useful approach to analysis.

Begin with the view that all opponents are aliens from another cultural planet. Build your assessment from a blank slate. What do the alien collectives desire or fear? How do they perceive the galaxy? What are their unique weaknesses?
Son of a sea cook! The General's a libertarian!

Monday, February 02, 2009

NEW VOICE COLUMN UP, about the Pajamas Media debacle. Dan Collins of Protein Wisdom has already complained, so I consider it a success. I misread the identity of the specific Protein Wisdom buffoon who updated a post. I hate to do that, because wingnuts are trained to respond to such minor errors as if you had identified Jerry Lewis as the President of France ("Can we request a little bit of accuracy, here, please?... I mean, do you read this stuff, or does what someone actually says matter at all to you?).

Nonetheless I responded as graciously as I could. I should follow more the example of The American Thinker's Rick Moran, who raved astonishingly for several paragraphs that "Google Blocks Conservative Website" ("The potential for this gigantic corporation to game the free flow of information to suit its own ideological ends is frightening") before learning that the 40-minute glitch affected all Google results regardless of ideology. His indignant response when corrected is a thing of beauty:
To all in the comments who are critical of me posting this item, perhaps you care to address the other points in the post about "Google bombs" and the other many, many, many, instances of conservative sites being harassed, put at a disadvantage, or otherwise gamed by Google.

What's that? Cat got your tongues?

Thought so.
Now there's a cowboy who calls his fleshlight "bitch."

Friday, January 30, 2009

STEELE TRAP. I have to say that, quite apart from its race-barrier-breaking, the election of Michael Steele to chair the Republican National Committee is the smartest thing the GOP has done in years. During last year's primaries he was one of the most eloquent and least insane party spokesmen I saw on television. I saw him less frequently during the McCain campaign, which may have just been my inattention, or the GOP's stupidity, or else it is further proof that he's not crazy. He does have a wacky side, but is probably smart enough to keep it in check now that he's not running for anything. Even the GOP's lunatic fringe seems comfortable with Steele (though he wasn't their first choice), and what they don't like about him other people will.

The question is: what will this change? It does put a charismatic face on the obstructionist policies of Republican officials. This hasn't been a role for the RNC chairman for some time, but Steele might encourage it -- I doubt he'll want to leave this job as the pinnacle of his career -- and the elders may recognize that Boehner and McConnell can't do nearly as well. This increases their chances of being listened to, which they badly need.

If they go this way, it changes something else. Heretofore there's been a lot of talk about the Republicans being in a laboratory phase, whereby different figures in their political wilderness would try different approaches and thus develop a new indentity and leadership for the party. (You see some of this in The Next Right's two posts called, "We Don't Need a Chairman. We Need Leaders.") Giving Steele a big public role would give the Republican Party as it is a stronger, coherent voice -- and would lock it into association with its current bunch of national political leaders. There'll be less opportunity for anyone to come out of the wilderness and take over. Howard Dean retreated from the personal political advantages he'd gained in 2004 to rebuild the party apparatus. Do you see Steele doing that?

Thus the Republican Party may, so to speak and in keeping the times, be nationalized, which would probably mean a long steady lift for a central-committee-approved candidate like Sarah Palin and less chance for anyone else. Given the uncharted territory the country's in, it might just work. But if it fails it will leave the Republicans right back where they started.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

IN THE CONTINUING SPIRIT OF COMITY. In one of those bones she periodically throws the punters to prove she's no elitist, Megan McArdle sniffs that churlish New Yorkers like to make fun of bankers. But "then," she says, "there would be a recession, and everyone in New York would realize that all those overpaid weasels were, um, paying our bills." She doesn't say what we did in such cases; I can tell you from experience we didn't weep and beg them to get rich and waddle around with cigars again (though maybe she did). First of all, that's the Mayor's job; secondly, we are intrinsically ungrateful; and thirdly, our ancestral memory recalls that it was the willful destruction of manufacturing and other bases for a healthy lower-middle-class that made us so reliant on the financial sector in the first place, and we retain an institutional resentment about it.

The Ole Perfesser links and fantasizes, "NEW YORKERS ARE SUDDENLY APPRECIATING those Wall Street 'leeches.' Now that they’re not spending all that money in New York..." Then he sets in his li'l ol' home theatre with a jug of cider, snapping his suspenders and chortling about them city fellers what think they's smarter than him.

McArdle's commenters for the most part play the parts of rustics tingling at our imagined comeuppance.
As much as a tax hell as it is, one can only shiver at the thought of a New York State/City without an enormous and enormously profitable financial industry.
He must have a great imagination, as this state of affairs has not been much seen since the founding of the Republic. But he does well to shiver because, as recent events have shown, fluctuations in our markets have great effects all over the country.
"one can only shiver..."

No, one could also look at that outcome with a wolfish, anticipatory grin.
And so we do! My wilding skills are little rusty, but I'm told it's like riding a bicycle. The subject next turns to why anyone would want to do business in New York:
...there would still be the little fact that you're paying $100,000 to hire a New Yorker when you could hire a guy in New Jersey for $80,000 or a guy in Ohio for $50,000.
The commenter is forgetting to include the cost of teaching the Ohioan to read, write, and cipher in preparation for his employment.
I think New York is headed for some really hard times and will in ten or twenty years no longer be an important city but instead be just another Disneyland for the rich the way Paris or Rome are.
But New York is already such a Disneyland. That's why lowlifes such as myself include in our evening prayers a wish for rapid decline and the dawn of a new era

Shannon Love spins an elaborate tale in which the people who "provide luxury goods to the wealthy i.e. theater, fine dining, arts, writers, new-age consultants, health food stores, etc." subsist off the largesse of hardworking brokers. She says "in trying to dominate and take from the economically creative, they create conditions under which economic creation is impossible," and predicts the flight of footloose financial industries (such as have not already left) to Bumfuck, leaving all us arty-foodies to starve while people with real jobs such as Shannon (a theorist) doubly prosper. This fantasy is so ancient as to be almost charming. But why wait, Love? Do a John Galt and boycott those lefty service providers altogether! Have your own servants put on shows in the drawing room, and record them in your home studio like a podcast. Starve the beast!

Best of all, at the bottom, there's Kim du Toit -- yes, the author of "The Pussification of the American Male" (full essay here) and other two-fisted tales -- who adds his own typically insightful comment:
The writing on the wall came some time ago, when longtime NYC institutions like American Airlines, J.C. Penney (to Texas) and the Joffrey Ballet (to Chicago) decided that the oh-so desirable NYC address just wasn't desirable anymore.

Just wait until Wall Street moves to Greenwich CT and see how much "food and culture" will be left in Manhattan.

NYC has always operated on the assumption that no matter how much they fleece people, there'll always be more coming.

It's not a good long-term strategy. We're not in the 19th century anymore, nor even the 20th. Money can be made anywhere -- NYC certainly won't have the monopoly much longer.

Oh, and by the way: this rube from Flyover Country thinks that Paris kicks Manhattan's ass when it comes to food, culture and standard of living (I've just come back from an extended stay there).

If I were forced to choose between the two, NYC wouldn't get a backward glance.
"Forced to choose between the two" means, in du Toit's case, "not having a credit crisis of my own that prevents me from leaving the Motherland." (Unless the Du Toits' poorhouse claims were bullshit, and they have visited the continent again since their last bankruptcy Grand Tour.) But the real joy here is du Toit praising France, America's traditional enemy and a near-socialist state, to attack the confiscatory taxes of New York. Maybe he wants to go back to Paree in hopes of attending one of their frequent riots and getting into fights with Muslims. Don't worry, buddy -- if all goes according to plan you'll be able to come here and do the same thing.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

CRAP SANDWICH. The stimulus barrels along. I didn't like the first version, when it was for the banks, and I see that a lot of the money we gave them to stimulate the economy is still sitting in vaults. Governments have much more incentive and inclination to spend what they're given, but when they start pumping I have no idea what the result will be.

Of course the Republicans offered only an incredible alternative, and their current strategy appears to get on record as opposed and wait. That's fine; we couldn't have reasonably expected more from them. Transterrestrial Musings reiterates the R.S. McCain argument (also reiterated by R.S. McCain himself, BTW) that the conservative people would rise up and storm Washington in protest except that they, unlike Obama voters, have jobs. A commenter calls instead for a "Virtual March" instead -- a delicious idea, in which I like to imagine them lofting Wii picket signs -- but in fact that's what's going on already: a pixel protest meant not to change anything -- because the train has pretty much left the station -- but to abdicate responsibility for what happens next.

Again, that's fine. Michelle Malkin calls the stimulus a "crap sandwich." But crap has been on the menu for a while. With the economy in free fall, there was never any chance of evading it. The Administration was hired to stanch the flow, and it's all on them if they can't. Maybe the more clearly this is demonstrated to them by their opposition, the more powerfully their minds will be focused on their task, and the less inclined they will be to trim their sails for some imaginary bipartisan benefit.

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.