Monday, May 11, 2009

PADDING THE MATERIAL. That Ben Shapiro thing made me go to Big Hollywood, dammit. And now I'm stuffed with low-hanging fruit.

A fellow named Stage Right complains that not enough Tony nominees were big movie stars, and suggests altering the rules so that more of them can be included, thus increasing the event's appeal. It's not a brilliant idea, but blessedly free of the culture-war gibberish that characterizes the site.

Until:
I know that none of this seems to follow a “Right versus Left” storyline that many of you may be used to here at Big Hollywood, but hang in there with me for a few more thoughts. The fact is, the left on Broadway (meaning the vast majority of actors, designers and staffers in the production offices) relish the fact that they give a big “up yours” to the Hollywood types who dare to come to Broadway. In this context, the Hollywood actors are “rich” and the New York theatre people are the poor, starving artists giving up riches for their craft. They want to see the Hollywood star fail. It’s classic class warfare, just like it is played out in the political world of America.
So the Broadway liberal elitists have declared class war on... Hollywood. Like Stalin vs. Trotsky! It's a wonder these two commie camps were able to settle their differences long enough to foist Obama on America.

Like I said: Very forgiving standards.
CONTINUED FALLOUT FROM OBAMA'S LAUGHISM! Many of the brethren in comments to the previous post bring up Ben Shapiro's column, in which he gives Wanda Sykes a hard time for not doing his material, which is all about how Obama doesn't support gay marriage. In another context, Shapiro would consider such an in-your-face attack on a gay marriage opponent an example of gay intolerance. There's no pleasing some people, and thus no reason to try to please them.

I preferred James Taranto's version in which he details Sykes' offenses: among them, that by suggesting Limbaugh be waterboarded, "she makes light of a form of interrogation that some people consider torture," which you have to admit is pretty fucking ballsy of him. Also, "She makes fun of the disabled (Limbaugh's past addiction to painkillers would entitle him to protection under the Americans With Disabilities Act)."

I'm going to assume it's a parody. Taranto is, after all, the same guy who said:
It reminds us of a movie we enjoyed a great deal: "Team America: World Police," in which the creators of "South Park," using puppets rather than cartoon animation, imagined Michael Moore as a suicide bomber and had various other Hollywood morons die horrible yet hilarious deaths.
So I can't imagine he means his "smug look of a man who enjoys seeing his critics dehumanized" crap to be taken seriously.
I GUESS THAT "SOUTH PARK REPUBLICANS" THING IS REALLY DEAD AFTER ALL. At the Voice today, a column on the White House Correspondents' Dinner and resulting mishegas. The Dinner doesn't usually interest me except for comedy purposes. This weekend's event, however, got rightwingers to talk about how Not Funny it all is now that treason occupies the White House. And as you may imagine, conservatives insisting something is Not Funny is as hilarious as any other figure of unearned and unjustified authority insisting something is Not Funny. But don't worry: soon they'll go back to telling us that conservatives are all about punk rock and South Park. Which will, of course, be even funnier. Conservatism, it turns out, is like The Aristocrats: a joke that gets more obscenely hilarious as it goes on.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

DAWN OF A DUD. How goes it in the culture-war think tanks of the Right? S.T. Karnick considers at Big Hollywood several edu-macated theses on the popularity of zombie movies. But this is all padding, and Karnick eventually sweeps it aside for his own theory:
No, none of these explanations gets to the essence and explains the enduring appeal of this cultural phenomenon over the past four decades.

I think the causality is the other way around. Both the zombie appeal and the swine flu fears are caused by two things: the news media’s increasing use of scare tactics in trying to lure audiences, and the socialists’ continuous use of fearmongering to press for political power.
Should readers wonder at the notion that Shaun of the Dead and such like are meant to stir citizens' deep, secret fears of the philosophy of Charles Fourier and Eugene Debs, he explains he's talking about fear of Alar in apples, nuclear war, the "housing 'crisis,'" and global warming, which are all equally ways in which "the socialists and their media satraps continually raise fears of everything conceivable." This is "sufficient to account for the dominant sense of unease and constant fear one can see among much of the contemporary American public." Clearly the man has never read a week's worth of the New York Post.

If you're still not clear on what this has to do with zombie movies, here's Karnick's kicker:
The irony is that for the public to give in to this scam would be the one sure way for the zombies to win.
To recap, Karnick starts with an alleged attempt to understand why people like zombie movies, and ends with him characterizing his political opponents as -- well, not zombies, since his opponents, following his logic, cause zombies; maybe he means the mysterious zombie pathogen. Maybe he means people are afraid they'll be bitten by Al Gore and begin to believe in global warming.

Or maybe he doesn't mean anything at all except that zombies are a bad thing and he is thus excited to associate them with socialists (that is, liberal Democrats), and Big Hollywood has very forgiving publication standards.

To make matters worse, he drags Mencken into it:
In their neverending quest to wrest more power by creating what H. L. Mencken correctly characterized as an endless series of hobgoblins requiring a socialist elite’s powers to destroy, the socialists and their media satraps continually raise fears of everything conceivable...
Naturally he doesn't link; this is from Mencken's In Defense of Women, and the passage from which it comes doesn't mention socialists at all, and is explicitly about the starting and conduct of modern wars, which Mencken attributes to modern civilization "especially under democracy." But I don't think Karnick was purposely misleading his readers; he clearly lost the thread back when he was asking, "How many words do you want?" Culture warriors don't have to think too hard about metaphors; free association is what they're all about.

Friday, May 08, 2009

IRONY-POOR BLOOD. American Power responds to my mockery, and others', of ridiculous rightblogger posts about race by saying that we're the real racists. My title, "Black Comedy," is apparently some sort of slur, perhaps one that suggests people of color are a sub-genre of comedy and satire. And Tbogg's Sambo picture really ticks him off. Nobody ever show this guy Blazing Saddles, or he'll be calling for hate crimes legislation.

"Note too," AmPow thunders, "yesterday's leftist bigotry in Matthew Yglesias' slur against heterosexuals as 'breeders.'" I didn't know Matt was gay! I'll have to stop sending him pictures of Megan Fox, then.

"The truth is that leftists don't care about the advancement of minorities," says AmPow, "they care about the advancement of their own power." I'm afraid he misreads us -- or maybe just me; you guys might be attracting job offers from high Administration officials with your aperçus and japes, but my phone never rings. I'm only in it for the laughs, and I thank American Power for keeping them coming.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

BEN & JERRY'S OPPRESSED MY RIGHT TO HAMBURGER ICE CREAM, AND OTHER TALES OF MODERN CONSERVATISM. At RedState, Dan McLaughlin demonstrates that conservatives don't approve of all the blessings of the free market. Take, for example, a billboard company that refused to host a sign saying Obama is pro-abortion. The company made the Christers change it to "pro-abortion-choice," which would seem a caution to avoid arguable slander -- like saying Roosevelt caused men to die by sending them into World War II, rather than saying he was pro-death. Not the way everyone would play it, but that's capitalism, comrade: their boards, their choice.

McLaughlin is incensed, but though his rage draws him into the subject, he seems to realize that he isn't going to get far with a column about how unfair it was that a company exercised content restrictions on its own properties. How then to express his anger without also seeming to attack freedom?

His solution is ingenious: ignore the company that refused to raise their billboard, and instead yell at liberals as if it were their fault:
You may remember the flap over the Secret Service limitations on where protestors could set up near George W. Bush, and the wailing about “free speech zones” being an unconscionable restriction, etc. I have yet to hear anybody (1) complain about the Secret Service’s policy since Obama took over or (2) explain how the policy changed, as I suspect it has not. Like so many routine government activities, it’s only objectionable when it’s Bush...

The same people calling for displaying graphic photos of interrogation of detainees or who want soldiers’ coffins on the front page of the newspaper without the consent of their families are the ones who are horrified by the idea that any image should be displayed of abortion, the ones who even recoil at showing pictures of live unborn children in the debate.
Or maybe he's saying that abortionist hippies now run the American billboard industry. It's hard to tell.

Bonus points to McLaughlin for reviving the old illegal-vs.-immoral argument in a new and breathtakingly clumsy way:
A digression: when Sarah Palin talked recently about the choice to keep her youngest child, liberals argued that this was a concession - isn’t it wonderful, some of them argued, to live in a country that allows such choices? Um, no. Using cocaine and driving drunk are illegal, but we still speak of not doing them as being moral choices. If a teenager from a bad neighborhood refuses to join a gang, we can celebrate the positive moral choice without saying, “isn’t it great to live in a country where teenagers get to choose whether or not to join violent, drug-dealing street gangs?” No, it’s a tragedy.
When it comes to abortion, "choice" is just a crime for which we haven't figured out how to arrest you yet. Yessir, conservatives are going to pick up a ton of support from women in the next election. Keep rebuilding, Trike Force!
DOES ANYBODY REMEMBER LAUGHTER? Legal Insurrection explains how his obsession with Presidential mustard tells you all you need to know about Obama and liberals. He also uses the phrase "thou shall not mock Obama's mustard." Joining the fray is RedState Moe, who explains that people who make fun of him automatically lose, because -- well, just because.

This is a great example of what makes these guys fascinating. They're so humor-averse that when someone mocks them, they never, ever think about joking back -- they either sputter in outrage or launch windy explanations of why it is in fact you who are ridiculous, and then retuck their shirts. It's like they all grew up thinking Frank Burns was the hero of "M*A*S*H."

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

BLACK COMEDY. RedState is reaching out to black people. Don't believe it? Here's the proof:
Dear American Blacks:
Unfortunately they're doing it at RedState, so very few African-Americans will read it. Which may be just as well...
Sometimes — no, actually always — the true friend is the one who tells you what you don’t want to hear. The one who does not indulge you, the one who will neither promise you nor give you candy and other bennies. Instead he tells you to sit down and eat your green beans and spinach — and if you want that nice car, then quit whining, get an education, earn a good job, and earn that nice car.
...because they sound less like their friends and more like their parole officer.

The subject is a D.C. school voucher program which Democrats have opposed. This they portray as a fulfillment of said Democrats' desire to keep black people down. Having proved this by assertion, they continue to talk turkey to their imaginary black friends:
I ask you to consider, why is it that you hate Republicans so much?
Apparently they expect their friends of color to forget about decades of Southern Strategy and concentrate on what appears to be a Terry Southern Strategy, though in their case the satire is probably unintentional.
Republicans do not know how to approach you. Democrats and the Democrat-dominated press have misled you and stoked up your wrath to the point that you will not listen to us.

So I propose this: how about listening? How about listening to what Republicans have to say, instead of what the Democrats say we say? How about listening to what we have to say before booing us out of the building?
Black people have apparently been very unfair to them, yet RedState continues to reach out:
We received not one ounce of gratitude from you, but we did it anyway. And we will continue to do what is right for America, for whites, for blacks, for Latinos, for Republicans, for Democrats, for today, and for the future.

Join us. Consider it, anyway.
There. Now they can say they tried. Let it be on their heads.

Unsurprisingly, the commenters seem in the main to be white people, full of explanations for black recalcitrance ("Blacks have had generations to figure out that they are to come to heel when the Democrat master blows his whistle").

But there is one "Unrepentant African-American nationalist, Unapologetic African-American conservative" who suggests that "the segment of the Black community that preaches and practices most the conservative ideas of self-reliance, entrepreneurship, economic opportunity, and strong families and morals is what is termed the 'militant' segment of the community." He endorses "the positive self-help message and practices of Louis Farrakhan."

This excites the brethren, and if they were at all serious about this we might expect them to bring their case directly to the Nation of Islam and with them make common cause. Then they could engineer a hybrid of the Million Man March and a Tea Party. It would be even better if, as Black Panthers used to do before Reagan made them stop, they carried guns.

What a pity it is that they're not serious; our politics would be so much more interesting.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

ANOTHER BLOGGER ETHICS PANEL. Amity Shlaes, author of a book about the wretched failure of the New Deal, starts her new Bloomberg column by complaining of leftblogger incivility aimed at such blameless targets as Michele Bachmann and Eric Cantor. I have to admit, I was excited to see this. I have toiled lo these many years documenting the abuses of the rightwing blogosphere, and would have liked to compare notes with someone from the other side.

Alas, Shlaes only leads with three examples, and then moves on to her real theme, which is how bad the Obama is and FDR was. But she drags the bad-blogger schtick through the whole thing ("So here’s a new motto: more leadership, less bloggership"), to suggest it is evidence that the present Administration "isn’t comfortable yet at the summit of political power," and hence must order Josh Marshall, Matthew Yglesias, and Allison Kilkenny "out on a mission of distraction, trying to prove that everyone else is too far to the right."

It's noteworthy that, at this late date, people like Shlaes think bloggers are only making fun of them because the Obama Administration directed them to do so. We've been razzing them since before there was an Obama Administration. But Shlaes has made a good living for years as a conservative operative, and has only rarely acknowledged the less-credentialed voices out there -- as in this 2005 column of hers, in which she discourses on DNC Chairman Howard Dean: "Howard the Hound goes for blood, and his party values him for his following among bloggers." That's not very civil, but then she didn't feel she needed to be: her column goes on to explain how Blue Dog Democrats are going to destroy Howard the Hound's liberal dreams -- "rescue the party," in her terms -- and send him and his wretched bloggers into deserved obscurity.

Clearly things haven't worked out for Shlaes, and now in the ruins she senses that Howard the Hound and his bloggers have pulled a fast one on her. So she rails against the coalition that, she imagines, hectors her and her buddies to this day. Though she has disappointed me, I'd be a churl not to thank her for placing my kind near the center of the groovy socialist revolution. It's as close to power as we are likely to get.

Monday, May 04, 2009

ARLEN SPECTER WRAP-UP over at the Voice. The rightbloggers still think it's a great thing for their cause. A big part of the reason is that they're accustomed to see everything as a great thing for their cause. But though I am tempted to dismiss this, like many of their puzzling sentiments, as a brain chemical issue, I sense a plan forming: they're really thinking realignment -- Goldwater '64, perhaps, or Jeb Davis '61; they consider the Republican Party too liberal, and are content to reduce it to a rightwing rump in preparation for a a big takeover. Everything depends of Obama washing out completely, and as we've seen they're full of faith that he will.

Of course counting on happy accidents hasn't been working too well for them lately, but the great thing about fatalism is that it is eventually always rewarded, if rewarded is the right word, one way or the other.

Friday, May 01, 2009

ADWEAK.


00:03: Obama's voice through a pitch shifter and several layers of Kleenex.

00:10: Obama's gnarled, left-handed treason-signing technique.

00:14: Examples of Obama treason from treasonous MSM sources.

00:22: First bald white guy harshing on Obama while Obama looks around like duh-hey?

00:27: Spooky monochrome footage of Arab Democrat jihadists.

00:35: Another bald white guy.

00:48: Blowdried quiff.

00:57: Closeups of WORDS! On a PAGE! Out of which crawl MUSLIMS!

01:07: Obama BOWS!

01:08: Obama laughs with fellow traitors.

01:09: Biden laughs at Silas Lynch's Obama's joke.

01:10: Obama fist-bumps Hugo Chavez.

01:11: Obama listens with his hand over his mouth (which no real American does except when he burps in the presence of ladies) to some guy who is probably a traitor...

01:13: ...and in consequence a flag is burned.

01:12: A thing blows up.

01:13: Scary man in mask with rocket launcher.

01:14: Something on fire.

01:15: "Do you feel safer?" Hell no. Someone call Janet Napolitano.
WHERE IS YOUR GOD NOW? Crunchy Rod Dreher was on a roll. First he was excited by redistributionist proposals, so long as they are pro-family. Then he was excited by the swine flu, which may hasten the End Times for which he clearly pines.

But then his fellow Xtians let him down:
Here's a shocker: a new Pew poll finds that Christians support torture more than non-believers do. What's more, Evangelicals are more pro-torture than white mainline Protestants and white non-Hispanic Catholics -- but that Catholics and Evangelicals are more pro-torture than average Americans.

And get this: the more often you go to church, the more pro-torture you're likely to be!

What on earth are these Christians hearing at church?!
The entire history of his cult from the Crusades onwards seems to have escaped his notice. Clearly Brother Rod must go amongst the brethren with some artisinal Christianity, and focus their inchoate hatred on homosexuals instead of detainees.

I thank God every day for Brother Rod. In the darkest hours he has helped keep the thorns under my pot crackling.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

TEA INFUSION. That's strange. I don't seem to remember insisting, when Bush was at the height of his popularity, that he was a goner and that the people would soon overthrow him. Maybe that's what we did wrong.
Despite President Barack Obama's early personal popularity...
That's Arthur C. Brooks of the American Enterprise Institute, writing for the Wall Street Journal another of those ah-yes-everything-is-going-according-to-plan pieces conservatives go in for these days.
...we can see the beginnings of this schism in the "tea parties" that have sprung up around the country.
I also don't recall thinking that the enormous anti-war protests of 2003 or the giant demo at the 2004 Republican Convention were going to sweep Bush out of office, either.

It's interesting to consider that those protests were in response to things that were actually happening, as opposed to the speculative destruction for which tea-partiers preemptively blame Obama. Despite their laughable protestations of bi-partisanship, my own experience, along with casual observation of their own behaviors and common sense, shows that the tea people are mainly committed right-wingers whose main target is the Democratic Administration. Obama's budget hasn't even been signed and they're raging like they were already living in Hoovervilles. We may speculate on the weird brew of prejudices that animates them, but it clearly has nothing to do with actual events.

Brooks is happy to play dumb, though, and claims their anger is a form of "ethical populism" in favor of raw capitalism -- AEI's stock in trade! -- that policy wonks such as himself "have a constructive role" in shaping:
As policymakers offer a redistributionist future to a fearful nation and a new culture war simmers, we must respond with tangible, enterprise-oriented policy alternatives. For example, it is not enough to point out that nationalized health care will make going to the doctor about as much fun as a trip to the department of motor vehicles. We need to offer specific, market-based reform solutions.
He's clearly got the pulse of the nation: the rubes fear a less enjoyable trip to the doctor's office than what they currently enjoy, and he's going to focus their anger with position papers.

What's he doing is what they're all doing with every scrap of evidence or anti-evidence: retro-fitting them with a thesis that explains what the protesters are really angry about, which in every case exactly resembles whatever their policy shops have been churning out for years. They're like a rightwing version of ANSWER. Of course those same theses were extant when Bush was steering the economy onto the rocks, but never mind: it is important that, when the Great Rebellion comes, these guff merchants have lined up early enough to be at the front of the parade, waving their essays in triumph.

Yeah, it's all a fantasy in any case, but what else have they got?

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

MEANWHILE IN THE GALTERNATE UNIVERSE. Going Galt hasn't been the bust-out success he's been hoping for, so the Ole Perfesser has lowered the bar:
READER MICHAEL RONAYNE SUGGESTS “GOING GALT” WITH YOUR NEXT CAR:
Has anyone considered the opportunities for Going Galt with our car purchases? All we have to do is not buy any General Motors or Chrysler products? And just not new cars, let the old clunkers sit on the car dealer’s lots as well; the used parts business is a very locative revenue stream for the car industry. Don’t buy any socialist American cars. Don’t support the looter socialist state!

What percent of the population would have to support us for this to be effective?
Given that most people will be understandably skeptical about these cars on simple practical grounds, I’d say two or three...
Given their lousy balance sheets, I'd say GM and Chrysler customers went Galt a few years ago. But if people continue to not-buy their shitty cars, the movement can claim a retroactive victory. At this rate the Perfesser will soon be crediting galloping Galtism with the destruction of pets.com.

Dr. Mrs. Ole Perfesser does her part, predicting businesses overburdened by Obama will "decrease hiring and expansion, and/or 'go John Galt.'" This is a confusing construction, but I think she means that an economic slowdown will prove she has hordes of powerful minions. Again, given the current recession, this is a game she had won before the league drew up the schedule. But we've all used that ruse, haven't we? Me, I keep saying that Obama's victory in November and high standing in recent polls mean America wants him to succeed. Craftily, I also count the black voters.

Cosmic Conservative has some other surefire ideas: "Take advantage of any 'incentive' program which forces the government to spend money. Need new windows? Make sure you get government subsidized windows." Also: "When nationalized health care is instituted, push it to its limit. Visit the doctor for any conceivable allowable reason." And "Apply for any government hand out that you can conceivably qualify for." Then the nanny state will take notice! They may even cut the budget for those ad campaigns they sometimes run to make sure you're getting your food stamps.

I could go on all night, but I will leave you with a wonderful product from Free Market Underdog -- the children's book "An Island Called Liberty," which they describe as a "cross between Dr. Seuss and Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged." Here's a sample page:



Kids are going to hate Compassionate Flo! She wears too much socialipstick. As you may imagine, her regulatory fervor crushes liberty in its cradle, and children are taught a valuable lesson about progressive taxation and industrial policy. I have lost the URL, but the excised pages are even better. One, from the original happy ending, goes:
Then the De-Regulators all got on the phone
And they De-Regulated each Savings and Loan
They returned every one to its free-market state
And the Big Wealth Producers said, "This is all great!
The doors are wide open! The money keeps flowing!
Here's our I.O.U. for all the assets we're owing!"
Then they took bags of cash to their mansions afar.
Thus the suckers got suckered -- 'cause that's what they are.
AFRICAN-AMERICAN EXCEPTIONALISM. Now Byron York is saying that Obama's popularity has a suspiciously "dark" component, if you know what I mean. His commenters hear the dog whistle: "When your personal financial support consists solely of a government provided check, the economy is never bad, it's simply irrelevant." "The only conclusion one can reach is that blacks don't have a grasp of any of the issues." "Now that we have a (6.25%) black president, we will suffer under OJ Syndrome." "The majority of blacks pay no income tax. Why wouldn't they favor Obama's tax and spend policies?"

I never thought I'd say this, but the National Review crowd could take a tip from the tea partiers on this. Every so often the tea people put up a "Look, we have some black people!" post. It's transparent, but it shows some cognizance of the fact that normal Americans aren't really looking for a white people's party. Hell, the last election should have taught York that much.

Dave Weigel does a fine job of tearing up York's bullshit. And in the same paper similar-looking papers in D.C.!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

LIFE'S LITTLE PLEASURES. Now is a good to remind ourselves that things can go horribly wrong. I've seen good times, I've seen bad, and the latter tend to be more prevalent and more lasting. So I suggest we savor every drop of the Arlen Specter thing. It's true, as The Poor Man and Glenn Greenwald have pointed out, that Specter isn't much of a get, and will likely take a 2010 nomination that should go to a more progressive candidate.

Well, Obama isn't much of a progressive, either. I don't care. In these few years I have left, I just want to capture some enjoyable memories of wingnut anguish that may bring some comfort to my charity hospital bed.

Recall, if you will, the days when conservatives told anyone who would listen that Democratic liberals were only hurting themselves by giving the wetter members of their coalition a hard time.

"They have now morphed into Taliban Democrats," said Cal Thomas in 2006, "because they are willing to 'kill' one of their own, if he does not conform to the narrow and rigid agenda of the party's kook fringe... Taliban Democrats have effectively issued a political 'fatwah' that warns all Democrats not to deviate from their narrow line, or else face the end of their careers through a political jihad." James Pinkerton talked about liberals' long heritage of finding "heretics" and "infidels," and of resorting to "ideological cleansing."

Thus also sprach many putative liberals, like our old warblogger friend Armed Liberal, who complained in 2004 that an authentic liberal like Jeff Jarvis (!) "gets piled on for being 'inadequately liberal'. And that's a pisser. First, and foremost, it once again wraps up the smug 'I know better than you' that the Democratic Party has become associated with -- and which lots of people, including me, find amazingly offensive." He predicted that the Taliban Democrats "are going to lose a lot of political power."

Those seem like distant times, but Joel Kotkin was talking about the impending "Democratic Party civil war" last month. The Taliban Democrats theme was not a finding based on observation, but one of the magic charms conservatives and bullshit liberals rubbed in their pockets to remind themselves that their opposition was hopelessly divided.

Conservatives have hated Specter forever, but in victory contented themselves with loud grumbling. This year, in their defeat and disarray, they plumped a challenge by Club for Growth president Pat Toomey, who decried Specter's "betrayal" on the stimulus bill. Suddenly, far fewer of them were talking about "ideological cleansing" as a bad thing.

"Specter must be sent out to pasture," cried Conservative Wahoo. "We can finally be rid of the two-faced, backstabbing, ear-marking political opportunist who shamelessly clings to power," said Mike Netherland. "Specter has been a cancer that has continuously sold out the Republican Party countless times," said the ever-classy B.S. Report.

When the NRSC chairman John Coryn spoke up for Specter, the American Spectator warned, "the Republican base has gotten smaller and the remaining conservatives may have had their fill of Specter." Their commenters rose to prove it: "GOP still backing Specter -- sounds about right. Things humming along without interruption while Hussein Obama is busting America," "This is the kind of thinking that got the GOP thrown out in '06," etc.

The Bear Creek Ledger roared, "No wonder no Republican wants to donate to the NRSC! What a bunch of tools." My favorite bit of outrage came from Matt Lewis, who said at TownHall that Coryn's pronouncement "clearly demonstrates the NRSC is not in the business of electing conservatives, but rather, Republicans."

In this Jacobin environment, Specter did what he had to do. For me, the great legacy of this moment comes not from the shock of the Republican operatives who were caught flat-footed, but from the joy of the wingnut dead-enders who think this is great news for their movement ("Only by ridding itself of the lowly likes of Specter will Republicans reemerge as the party that can rebuild the country by upholding the principles that made it great"). Like I said, Specter's not my favorite, but I'll always be grateful to him for what he accomplished today.

Monday, April 27, 2009

NEW VOICE COLUMN UP, mainly a miscellany but loosely tied to the latest iteration of the "liberal bloggers are uncivil" theme. I'm afraid I can find no new and intriguing thesis for this periodic pearl-clutching act; they pull it in both good times and bad, seemingly at random. Bloggers on the left, of course, complain about rightbloggers' stupidity and ham-handedness all the time -- why, it's my very stock-in-trade! --but I find that, for the most part, our team doesn't usually get so ostentatiously ruffled about swear words as theirs does. (I still recall with pleasure the conservative drive to measure the obscenity production of liberal blogs -- and the great larks we had twitting them with it.) It doesn't bug me so much anymore to be called an asshole, especially by assholes. But I do get riled when they call Obama a fascist, so who knows; maybe that's my version of a swear word. If I were in a hectoring mood, I might draw a parallel out of this, but it's too nice a day for that, so let's just enjoy the sunshine and teh stupid.

Friday, April 24, 2009

ROTTING FROM THE HEAD. A perfect wingnut storm, straight from the Old Perfesser and his imaginary friends:
ANOTHER UPDATE: A New York reader emails:
Govt demanding shareholders be kept in the dark . . .was a hot topic at a *parents* meeting at my daughter’s school tonight. Moms who are, well, moms, were talking about how the crowd in Washington “is a bunch of damn socialists”. It ain’t just the finance crowd.
Interesting. There seem to be a lot of upset moms out there.
And cab drivers! I suspect this scene was actually enacted by Dr. Helen and bunch of dolls.

It goes on:
MORE: Reader Fernando Colina writes:
Upset moms are a formidable force. Salvador Allende’s government was essentially brought down by a bunch of upset mums banging pots and pans every night in the streets of Santiago. Obama may want to take notice.
Kissinger and Nixon had something to do with it too. But as is the trend in wingnut-land, the tea partiers get all the credit.

Accusations of socialism, threats of an Allende-style assassination... the Perfesser really seems to be losing his robot cool.
BACK TO SCHOOLDAYS. Kathryn J. Lopez is pimping the hell out of a very old list of 30 books William "Book of Virtues" Bennett once promoted as a mandatory reading list for American high school students. (Some of the Cornerites plead for the inclusion of science fiction. Christ Jesus, what dorks.)

I don't know what fit came over the poor woman, but as a former amateur pedagogue, as well as a former high school student, I have something to say about this. First, I approve of the general idea (and of the listmakers' prejudice for Shakespeare's tragedies over his comedies, as the comedies are much too hard). Most students will neither apprehend nor enjoy the books, but I think they should get some of them down, as they do (or once did) times tables and key historical dates, as an introduction, however awkward, to the world of ideas.

Even if they are frog-marched through Crime and Punishment, they will at least retain some vague memory of it into adulthood, and with any luck it will resonate when they brush up against even informal discussions of right, wrong, justice, religion, free will, alienation, etc. It might prompt a shock of recognition that they have not been entirely left out of the conversation that the smart people are having. Also, just getting through big books, even if they test badly on them, may be a point of pride for them, and give them the salutary notion that they are not dummies after all.

If this sounds harsh -- if you think students should be inculcated with the joy of reading, rather than frog-marched through big books -- please take a moment to gather your memories of high school, and not just your own experience but also those of your classmates, as you perceived them. Then, consider: at which are schools better -- at instruction, or at enlightenment? If your mind was awakened in high school, congratulations, but chances are it would have awakened in any case, whether you had school or not. But you were less likely to have learned on your own polynomial equations, how to write a paper, historical analysis, or other such building blocks of intellectual life. I didn't want to learn these things, but I was taught them nonetheless, and I'm grateful for the experience.

In fact, the frog-march approach has an even more serious advantage when it comes to literature.

This approach would make sure that these books are not apprehended, as Bennett's Book of Virtues sought to have simpler works apprehended, as "a reliable moral reference point that will help anchor our children and ourselves in our culture, our history, and our traditions." This is not to say that I have anything against that culture, history, or traditions. But, for one thing, I doubt Bennett and myself have quite the same idea of them as I do -- or, for that matter, as the authors of these great works did. Works of literature are more elusive than any political operative's talking points.

Can you imagine Bennett's lesson plan for Moby-Dick? It would probably have something about Ahab's sin of pride. Okay, let the kids run with that; they won't have time, certainly, to think much about it as they slog through the endless pages and references to whaling arcana. Let them get the story, details, and characters straight, and then let them be haunted through life by it. Maybe they will spend years wondering, as I have wondered, about the sky-hawk that goes down with the Pequod, held by the hammer of Tashtego, "his whole captive form folded in the flag of Ahab." Later they can come to stuff like this, which is fun for grown-ups but would in their first reading only interfere.

Remember, a whole generation of American progressives was educated with "The boy stood on the burning deck" and stuff like that. They were no less propagandized than we are, and their teachers were no better or worse than ours. But their rote education gave them room to think and dream.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

HIGH ROLLERS. At Pajamas Media, Jennifer Rubin tells the troops that Obama is losing it with the voters. She cites in support of her argument no poll data, but the attributed feelings of a former CIA director, David Brooks, Alice Rivlin (whom Rubin non-quotes seriously out of context), and "editorial boards of major newspapers." She also has PowerPoint slides to illustrate her points ("Problem: Obama may have swapped his newly minted image as a sober commander in chief for the mantle of netroot bomb thrower"). Eventually she generously allows that "None of this is to say that Obama does not enjoy a high degree of personal popularity or that Republicans have recaptured the hearts and minds of all their countrymen."

Rubin was, of course, a McCain dead-ender, and claimed in mid-March that Tedisco might sweep into Congress in his heavily Republican district with the help of the AIG fracas (At last count Tedisco is behind and trying to sue his way into office). Even among conservative columnists she's a cheerleader.

But it's still a bit early in the game to be making these kinds of claims, isn't it? Obama's been President three months. I realize we are in the days of the permanent campaign, and these are eventful times for the nation, but it would seem that, with a disastrous defeat still smoldering behind them and any real elections far in the future, they might be focusing not on predicting Democratic collapse, but on sharpening up their own act. (I did notice their recent rebuilding phase went horribly awry, but that's a reason to try again, not to give up.)

Rubin's bit reminds me of something RedState's Moe Lane recently wrote about the deployment of the ever-popular Dick Cheney to do battle with Obama:
When it comes to the decision of how to prosecute the GWOT, the dispute was never between the progressives and the neoconservatives. It was between the neoconservatives and the outright Jacksonians. Which is why the progressive position is still being ignored in this debate, even though they thought that they had actually won an election or two.
It's an odd enough claim to make as people are actively debating the torture memos of the previous Administration. But "thought that they had actually won an election or two"? It's of a piece with the jilted-lover scenario I brought up earlier: they are full of faith that the country is theirs by right, and will come back of their own accord sooner than later.

The tea parties have been fun and invigorating for their cause, but I seriously think they have one serious drawback for these guys: they reenforce for them the impression that they don't have to do anything except call the faithful to arms. You could say the same for their recent Twitter enthusiasm. Getting names on lists and organizing events is important political work, but so far their only message is We Hate Obama Too, and its success presupposes an utter collapse that even failed Presidents don't always achieve, as the second terms of Clinton and Bush demonstrate. Power always has a trick or two up its sleeve.

In my cynicism I am tempted to say that they are less interested in winning than they are in feeling like winners. And that's an attitude the house can work to their disadvantage.
STAY CLEAN. Normally, being a helpful sort, I go for the value-add, but here I'm just going to link to Michael Tomasky's Guardian story about the promulgation of yet another malicious rightwing fairytale.

Oh, and I will add this: as I have a good impression of Tomasky, I almost did not trouble to scan the 60-page judicial decision he took the time to read to prove that the bogus story Newt Gingrich and a mllion wingnuts are peddling is indeed bogus. But my conscience wouldn't allow it, so I gave it a riffle. So far I don't smell a rat, but if any sane justification can be found for Gingrich's claim that Judge Hamilton wants to ban prayers in the Indiana House to Jesus but not to Allah, I would be interested to hear of it.

I go to such trouble because if I didn't, I might turn into one of them.

UPDATE. Comments are especially instructive; Doghouse Riley has a good Indiana House backgrounder.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

THE CONSERVATIVE COMEBACK, PART 5633. If you're an ordinary American liberal type, winding down your day with a Gardenburger and PBR and listening to some Cat Power, and you hear Dr. Sanity referring to "The Left’s Romance with Tyranny and Terror," you probably assume she's* talking about a different Left -- maybe the Left two houses down, or the Left over by the gas station.

But no: if you find Janeane Garofalo pretty MOR, or don't think it's a big deal that Barack Obama shook hands with Hugo Chavez, or think "green jobs" sound okay and approve of the reduction of greenhouse gases, you are the Left he means. She thinks that you're "so nonchalant about terrorism and the threat of Islamic jihad" because you see yourself "on the same side politically." She thinks you have rubbed your hands with glee as "a majority of Democrats have been slowly sliding toward a preference for tyanny over the last decade," and are happy to have a President who "never liked America much to begin with" and is eager "to demonstrate his willingness to submit to Islamic bullying."

Dr. Sanity not only believes all this, but has taken the time to create a handy chart, which she has disseminated to her friends, so they may better understand how you are plotting to destroy the country. Expect to see it mounted on a two-by-four and held aloft at some upcoming tea parties. It's part of the new patriotism, which is much like the old batshit-craziness, but with more froth.

*UPDATE. Now they tell me Dr. Sanity's female, so I had to change the pronouns. That's just another facet of our Marxist revolution: sexism!

Monday, April 20, 2009

NEW VOICE COLUMN UP about tea parties, teabagging, and the healing power of laughter.

The whole fuss over the teabag language is silly, but you'd think rightbloggers would learn that nothing promotes mockery better than outraged insistences that it's not funny. As a large amount of their signage last week was devoted to crude jokes, it's clear they like a cheap laugh, too. As well they should -- it's one of the benefits of being almost totally out of power, as liberals well know. Hell, we've spent years yukking it up from the cheap seats. But they retain from their glory days a belief that they are entitled to the utmost deference and respect even when they're wearing a crown of soggy teabags.

In fairness, some of them are making an effort with jokes about how Janeane Garofalo is Ugly. I can't see this spreading too far among the sighted community, though. Aren't they interested in reaching a wider audience?

Sunday, April 19, 2009

KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK. Professor Bainbridge hauls out an old Chicago Tribune cartoon, which denounces that bastard FDR as a free-spending commie who, assisted by "pinkie" Ivy League aides, is driving America into a dictatorship -- just like Obama!

His analysis is seconded by the Ole Perfesser and, as is often the way with these things, appears near-simultaneously at Freeperland ("Well, we saw the outcome of that last one and the socialist president in the office then").

Oh please, please, please, rightwing nuts, please keep this up!

This theme of Franklin Roosevelt as History's Greatest Monster has been running around conservative circles since -- well, since Roosevelt. It got a revival during the "Jobless Recovery" fad of the early '00s. And the counter-historical books of Jonah Goldberg and Amity Shlaes gave it a big lift among the faithful during the last election, when conservatives prayed for a Herbert Hoover revival.

Ordinary American haven't heard much of this up till now, but maybe the Bainbridge/Freeper item portends it as the new rightwing talking point: Having dazzled the populace by gathering thousands of ordinary people to carry "Obama is a Socialist" signs, perhaps they think the time is right for some Great Depression Trutherism.

Keep it up, fellas. Please inform the American people that one of their best-loved Presidents was a communist who destroyed the country. Please instruct them on how America remained a ruined collectivist hellhole throughout the years of its greatest growth until Richard Nixon, or perhaps Ronald Reagan, made it the Valhalla we see today. Agitate to have the shameful presence of Roosevelt's monument (and that of his greatest boondoggle, World War II) removed from the D.C. Mall.

We'll do what we can to help spread the word. Vaya con dios!
A MODERN ENCOUNTER.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

THE PATRIOT GAME. The Tea Party organizers did a fine job this time, not least in tamping down the loony rhetoric of the first one I attended. The speakers at Wednesday night's New York event went instead for more ordinary conservative palaver with just an edge of hysteria, including patriotic symbolism, odes to the storied past, and tax populism of the old school -- not so much Boston 1773 as Orange County early 1960s.

As I mentioned in the Voice item, some in the crowd were a little on the edgy side. Contrary to the brief feints at bipartisanship on the dais, the sub rosa comments I heard were almost uniformly anti-Obama -- socialist, fascist, teleprompter, Michelle is ugly, etc. He was clearly their hate object, and they roared with anger on those occasions when his name was mentioned from the stage. But those occasions were more rare, this time: the duplicitous actor was less focused on than the duplicitous act -- that is, their betrayal.

Speaker after speaker talked about golden days of yore, whether the age of lower taxes or the age of muskets and tricorners, and how those glories had been taken away from them. They couldn't bring themselves to say that this had been done by a majority of American voters in the last election -- the election was not an election to them, but a supernatural disaster engineered by shadowy forces who did not have the country's best interests at heart. So they stressed, over and over again, that they were the People, they were America, and they were going to take their country back.

When I was growing up in Connecticut, we had a little shop called the Patriot Bookstore that sold books by Robert Welch and William Buckley, records by John Wayne and Walter Brennan, pamphlets, flag decals, etc. The motif was colonial, bunting and eagles and all that, but the thinking was pure Goldwater. I had some relatives who were Birchers, and they swung the same way. They too were America, not because they had attained an electoral majority -- in fact, you see much more of these people when they're in defeat -- but because they were able to imagine themselves at Bunker Hill, fighting Communists.

I'm sure the protesters also want to keep more of their paychecks; so, for that matter, do most of us. But the animating force of these events is not tax policy -- that's not how you get crowds going. The uniting force is grievance. For some the betrayal may have first come at Yalta, or in Dean Acheson's State Department, or by eggheads or outside agitators or limousine liberals or hippies or San Francisco Democrats, or some combination thereof. But the overarching theme on Wednesday was that somehow they (who were America) had been disenfranchised -- whether by greed or by the Comintern or by 192 Electoral Votes, it didn't matter. It's very like real patriotism, in that the motherland is within one's bosom. But it is not necessarily anywhere else.
THE BEST MEDICINE. I see the new rightwing rapid-response talking point is that their own unfortunate use of the teabagging nomenclature is the liberals' fault because they laughed at them.

American Conservative Daily says that when patriotic Americans hear "teabag," then "the images of Boston Harbor, taxes and American history immediately come to mind." Of course, they're only thinking of those things so they won't get a boner. "In the marble bosom of the socialist salon," scoffs The Next Right, "teaparties would seem to be the stuff of humor." Conservatives, on the other hand, laugh when bums are set on fire, and at "Home Improvement" reruns.

Don Surber is enraged that Anderson Cooper made such a joke -- and expresses it under the headline "Anderson Cooper Gags." He also says something about "report the news straight." Well, at least he knows what a joke is when it's not directed at him and his fellow yokels, and he does grasp that Cooper's jest "played on an oral sex reference in tea bagging," which shows he sometimes ventures outside of West Virginia, where the practice is known as the Family Reunion Dinner.

Infinite Monkeys denies all humorousness and insists that it's "tea party," not "teabagging," which is rather like Harvey Korman insisting "It's not Hedy, it's Hedley" in Blazing Saddles.

They remind me of a few other things, too: scolds who complain about "inappropriate laughter"; Frank Booth in Blue Velvet hissing "Don't you fucking look at me!"; and pretty much any other humorless dink who can't stand the disrespectful attention of others because he takes himself so damned seriously.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

STUPID HIPPIES. Hey, man, I see the pigs are trying to co-opt our groovy revolution with some kinda study whatchamacallit. They're trying to make us look like the oppressors! But don't worry, man -- some of the brothers dodged the pigs long enough to get the word out.

Jonah Goldberg is like playing it cool ("I'm taking a nap or launching cocktail hour"). He's gotta take it easy, you know -- if they catch on that he's not really disabled, they might take away his wingnut welfare. So we got brothers and sisters from off-campus backing him up in solidarity.

But Andy McCarthy is totally heavy, man! Check him out: "The only conceivable surprise is that it is so blatant and has happened so soon." Yeah, man -- it's going down right fucking now! Helter Skelter! Then he quotes himself from an earlier thing called "Obama's Assault on the First Amendment" -- y'see, this fascist Obama pig was like assaulting the First Amendment before he was even inaugurated -- that's how big a fucking fascist pig he is!

I know the squares aren't digging us right now, man, but just wait till they check out our demonstrations on Wednesday -- when they see us taking it to the streets, they'll be down for the whole thing! Remember: They got the numbers, but we got the gun nuts! But, psst... just make sure to bring the "tea" tomorrow, okay? Because I wanna get my head straight for when the shit goes down.

(Aaaaaannnd.... scene. Really, I envy them their mental youth, and if I thought any of them were actually going to get stoned and laid, I'd say they should go for it. Since that's unlikely -- though I'd be happy to hear otherwise -- I just have to ask: you guys do know how this story turns out, right? And don't tell me this time you have the internet -- all that does is make the music worse.)
EITHER MARY MAGDALENE GOES OR I DO, JESUS! Marilyn Chambers has passed, and Jesus fan Rod Dreher rushes to denounce her. Some of the brethren mention that this is less than Christian of Crunchy Rod, and he esplodes:
There is nothing wrong with judging the lives any one of us have lived. I cannot know Marilyn Chambers' soul, but from the evidence of her life, it was wasted. Anybody who spends his or her life as a porn star has wasted it... If you hate Christians like me, I wear your cheap scorn like a badge of honor. Funny, though, how you keep coming back to this blog.
He's right -- I do keep coming back; but only because, when it comes time to release the lions on these people, I want to remember why I needn't be sentimental about it.
SHIP OF FOOLS. How has the Right adjusted to the post-pirate reality? Can Democrats get a little respect from the bloodthirsty brethren for blowing some pirate heads open? Let's check in with one of their preeminent crackers:
The pirates are teenagers. Yes, and we all know that when you are killed by a teenager you are not as dead. Lefties will now begin caterwauling over how there are no job opportunities for them and they are “forced” to sell drugs, er, hijack ships...
If Obama took to dragging the corpses of the pirates behind his limo, Surber would declare that he wanted them close by because he likes to hug and kiss pirates. Then Surber would cry, "I'm goin' back to the wagon, boys, these shoes are killin' me," and exit to traveling music.

Oh, I'm not missing the whole black thing, either, but with these gomers it's so customary as to be hardly worth mentioning.

We should have gone with my plan, which was to have Obama announce, without their foreknowledge, that he was giving an expeditionary force of rightbloggers a letter of marque and one of the old ships from South Street Seaport to sail over to Somalia for some privateering.

Monday, April 13, 2009

THESE ARE PEOPLE OF THE LAND. THE COMMON CLAY OF THE NEW WEST. YOU KNOW... MORONS. As someone who's actually been to a Tea Party, I can tell you that they're fascinating events and you should try to attend one in your area on April 15. You've probably heard that these parties are dependent on often shameless shilling of major rightwing organizations. They are, in part -- but not entirely.

That's easy to forget, because of the appalling bad faith of the phenomenon's promoters. High-traffic political operatives like Glenn Reynolds and Michelle Malkin have for months been selling the Tea Parties like telemarketers in heat, and at the same time declaring them "grassroots" events. (Reynolds placed a particularly ballsy example of this in Monday's New York Post, claiming tea partiers "aren't the usual semiprofessional protesters who attend antiwar and pro-union marches. These are people with real jobs" -- as if union people don't have jobs [that's why they call them labor unions, Perfesser], or the millions who protested the Iraq War in 2003 are still out there with placards, semi-professionally protesting or waiting at the shape-up for a gig.)

But it's not a total con. People come to these things, sometimes in great numbers. They're not zombies summoned by Glenn Beck, but real people with whom the tea party idea resonates.

And if past events and present promotion are any indication, on April 15 what they'll be hearing is that the President of the United States is a socialist and/or a communist who ignores the Constitution and must be resisted as a usurper with revolution. There'll be complaints about high taxes, of course, but everyone complains about that. The main message is that Obama is an illegitimate leader, and that the folks holding the signs, notwithstanding the electoral results, are the true voice of America.

I'm not cherry-picking, folks. This is how they talk. You won't read about it in the promo pieces, but if you go among tea partiers, that's what you'll hear.

You can see why the high-level operatives spend most of their times talking about grass-rootsy authenticity of the tea parties -- how they's all jes' folks, includin' the perfessers, newspaper columnists, and former members of Congress -- rather than about the message. They want people who don't attend these events -- that is, most Americans -- to know that they draw crowds, because that suggests power and gets respect. But if Malkin, Reynolds, or the rest of them went up front and said, "We represent a national movement that believes the Muslim pretender Barry Soweto to be a fake President, believes the rich should hole up in a gulch with a perpetual motion machine until the poor cry for them to rule (unless the rich want to rule socialistically, in which case never mind), and wants paupers taxed the same as billionaires," they might receive a different kind of publicity than they've been getting.

In other words, the reason to oppose them is not because they are somehow not real or summoned under false pretenses; the reason to oppose them is that they're nuts.
NEW VOICE COLUMN UP about the Somali pirate story and its uses by the rightwing blog community. While we are always impressed with the brethren's ability to bellow catch-phrases and do other political goon-squad business, they are also capable of more scholarly approaches, even rabbinical attentiveness to philosophical details.

Thus, where the ordinary reader would be mainly pleased for the captain and proud of the Navy, with Obama very far down the list of people of whom they would even think, rightbloggers sought painstakingly to establish Obama's lack of a role in the victory (or his many malfeasances within that victory) and to build little twisting logic-bridges to lead readers to the conclusion that the success of this mission proved the feebleness of the President's piracy policy, which just this week became one of the nation's many pressing concerns.

One of my favorite bits, for which the column had no room, was Michelle Malkin's terse dispatch, in which she quoted a Vice Admiral to the effect that "Washington had rejected negotiations with the pirates" and followed up, "Would have been nice to hear those words directly from the commander-in-chief." Maybe he says patriotic things his tongue catches fire or something. Of course, if the President went on TV and performed such chest-pounding as Malkin prescribes, we would have heard that he was trying to hog the limelight. It's a deep game and may convince dozens.