Tuesday, June 02, 2009

RACE, TO THE BOTTOM. From the latest edition of Jay Nordlinger's pensèes:
Was on the subway two days ago (New York), and there was this woman across from me reading this little blue book. It had a silhouette on the cover -- Obama. And it was -- well, one of those “little” books. A little secular holy book -- Obamite devotions. You can overplay the creepiness of the response to Obama. But you can underplay it, too.
Translation: Nordlinger saw someone reading a book with a silhouette of a black person on the cover (Kara Walker?) and naturally assumed it was Obama, as Chauncey Gardiner in Being There assumed all the black people he met served the same function as his maid Louise. This Nordlinger found disturbing, but could not say why without using those words that make people mad these days, so he just got mysterious -- more mysterious than he meant, as his handlers did not explain to him that the people on the other side of the telescreen can't see him, so when he pushed in his nose, shoved out his lower lip, and stuck his tongue out, his readers missed the significance.

On the other hand, when he describes how he would like black people to talk -- "“Enough. Not for our sake; not in our name. Commit injustices if you must — but not for our benefit, thank you very much. Look to the individual, of whatever color. The time for 'compensatory discrimination' has passed" -- they sound very much like Jay Nordlinger. So we may assume that he would consider them equals if they turned into him, which while pathetic is better than I had heretofore expected of him.

He also tells one of those "Mrs. Krabappel and Principal Skinner were in the closet with the liberals and I saw one of the liberals and the liberal looked at me" stories and follows it up with "I have never been employed as a just-the-facts-ma’am reporter. But I have done such reporting -- and, you know, it’s not very hard." Eventually I realized he was referring to the preposterous story he had just told, which includes several sentences of imagined internal monologue ("What’s the point of getting the appointment and donning the black robe if you’re not going to strike blows for justice?"). If this is "just-the-facts-ma’am" journalism, I deserve a Pulitzer Prize for Spot Reporting. For this post.

I am grateful to Nordlinger, though, for explaining that "The People United Will Never Be Divided" is "an old Allende-ist slogan and song." I thought it was by Sham 69.

Monday, June 01, 2009

WHEN THE BOSS IS A CONCERN TROLL. The assassination of Dr. Tiller has led to much interesting commentary, but my favorite has been Megan McArdle's essay on why the one thing we should make sure not to do in response is more vigorously protect abortion rights, which would be provocative. "Well, it sure worked in Iraq," she mocks those who would do so. "I think Afghanistan's going pretty well, too, right?" It's an interesting analogy, and I'm sorely tempted to agree that if the people of Kansas don't want us there, we should pull out. On the other hand, I retain tender feelings for those poor citizens we would be abandoning to the Taliban, which I guess makes me a neoliberal. Say, this Iraq issue does become more complicated when you compare it to something it doesn't actually resemble in the slightest.

The best part of the whole essay is her announcement that she's pro-choice. It's like her endorsement of Obama during the campaign -- which her columns since the election have shown to be either the most quickly reversed decision in pundit history, or just a cheap way to buy cred. Pray God we don't have a rash of abortion doctor killings now, or McArdle will be forced to join Operation Rescue.

UPDATE. Holy shit there's more?
If you interpret this murder as a political act, rather than that of a lone whacko, than this should be a troubling sign that the political system has failed. So why do so many people think that the obvious answer is simply to more firmly entrench laws that are rightly intolerable to someone who thinks that a late term fetus is a person?
That settles it. Tomorrow I'm going to go out and firebomb a realtor's office because I believe the existence of such places makes apartment rentals prohibitively expensive, which I consider a serious human rights violation. Clearly McArdle will demand in response that the law be brought more in line with my homicidal fantasy. After all, I feel just as strongly about my god (his name is Sggzidrix) as the abortion nut does about his. And isn't that what both law and morality are all about?
NEW VOICE COLUMN UP on Sotomayor and the odd disqualifications on which her opponents has chosen to focus. Me, I thought her "wise Latina" bit was more of a character issue than a political one. I doubt she could have gotten far in her trade if she ruled as if the statement were an operating principle. I am more bothered by her tendency to lay out this kind of multicultural boilerplate gush at conferences ("My being Latina is the mucho platos de arroz, gandules y pernil -- rice, beans and pork") to advance her career. It smacks of lazy careerism. If she's going to lean on her racial credentials she should at least talk about something interesting.

Nonetheless rightbloggers decided this passing comment is an important indicator of Sotomayor's judicial philosophy. If I were strongly opposed to her, I'd be bitterly disappointed by this imbecilic strategy. Do they really think this is going to sway public opinion? Actually, I take the view that they're less interested in making a case than in working out some race-based angst of their own.

Also swept through the early Dr. George Tiller material. The consensus seems to be as Tbogg had it. In comments I'm getting the usual guff about reading comprehension from the Protein Wisdom crowd, who portray the doctor's murder as a valuable lesson about the unfairness of the left toward Sarah Palin. This is the sort of 3-D chess that gives college a bad name.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

WHEN LAST WE LEFT OUR HONKIES... Sonia Sotomayor continues to derange whitey. John Derbyshire replicates an alleged reader mail complaining that Sotomayor's is a "story of privilege" because the slum in which she grew up was located in "the capital of the world." (I have to visit the bank tomorrow and explain that, as I have lived over 30 years in the capital of the world, I am a solid risk for a six-figure loan. While I'm at it I'll apply for a full scholarship to Columbia, and head-of-the-class status. Last name's Spanish, you know.)

Said correspondent then tells a tale -- perhaps her own, perhaps wholly constructed -- of a "Montana girl of un-useful ethnicity who put herself through law school waiting tables, after being left with two young children when her Army husband was killed overseas." "Un-useful ethnicity" we have to assume means white (this is National Review, after all; no surprise Blackfoot supremacy may be expected), and since she later goes on about "her non-Ivy institution," we can assume that's also part of the complaint. You can't get anywhere in this country unless you're swarthy Ivy; white people from Ohio State are screwed.

If she is the heroine, she should be proud of her accomplishments. But she conveys no pride -- only bitterness that "such a person would never ever end up on any President's short-list." So either she has made the whole thing up or, if the story is real, the Montana girl (why not "gal," I wonder? It would have added some honky spice) takes no pleasure in her achievements because she has not risen as befits them, for which she blames people of "the precisely correct right race-gender two-fer for the moment" and their Negro enablers, not herself.

This is the lowest kind of racist horseshit, peddled for years by grifter-bigots looking for votes or blood: the White Deer kept low while uppity darkies usurp. The National Review crowd swoon over Derbyshire because he knows math and plays up the English eccentric bit, usually sounding like a cross between Enoch Powell and Commander McBragg. If they had any real guts they'd replace or supplement him with a someone who does the same bit in the voice of Larry the Cable Guy and see how that goes over. (I hear Don Surber is available.)
THE CONSERVATIVE COMEBACK PART 56,729. Ace O'Spades explaining the rightblogger "Dealergate" strategy:
Of course I want this looked into, of course. It's my guess it's a non-story, not my expert opinion.

But the MSM is so ridiculously biased that they make honesty a dangerous and politically counterproductive business.

The only way to even get the MSM to do their jobs and take a look is to pressure them by claiming Worst Scandal Eveh, even if we don't all necessarily buy that. But we have to claim that in order to spur any sort of media interest whatsoever. (That interest, of course, coming in the form of stories like Conservatives Now So Crazy They Think Obama Is Closing Chrysler Dealerships for Political Advantage, which isn't exactly the headline we seek, but that's the best we can hope for from the MSM.)
In other words, he has no idea if it's true, but he'll continue yapping about it so the newspapers will write about his yapping.

I thought blogs were the wave of the future, an unstoppable force that was going to destroy the tired old dinosaurs of the MSM by Tuesday. Apparently they're actually a public relations bureau for conspiracy theorists.

Bonus quote from Erick Son of Erick on how the purges are going:
Their typical means of ostracism is to condemn the rest of us for daring to say nice things about them. Reasons abound for this. Many of these weak minded fools are not really fellow travelers. Like a vulture flying in flock with swans, they benefit from the work the rest of us are doing to gain themselves credibility. The media plays along calling the vultures swans so others, they hope, see ugly ducklings around the vultures instead of swans.
It's like a six-year-old discovering the power of metaphor. I'm not the vulture, you're the vulture!

Long live the Judean People's Front.
TEXTBOOK. To close his budget gap, Republican Governor Schwarzenegger proposes cutting medical care to indigent oldsters. Don Surber reports, "There is your first taste of Obamacare. To save money, grandma will die of cancer." If you marvel at the volume of Surber's daily output, remember that he's basically working from a political version of Mad Libs.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

THE CONSERVATIVE COMEBACK, PART 56,728. "I think the term 'Vichy' is appropriate to describe ersatz Republicans like Colin Powell and Tom Ridge (thanks Eric). " -- WarEagle, RedState.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

BACK TO THE DRAWING BOARD WITH ROSS DOUTHAT. Ross Douthat's Times columns are barely worth the effort, but I suppose I have something to say about his latest. It's about a "provocative paper" that shows that women are unhappier since they got liberated. Douthat says we shouldn't make too much of it, though -- except to agree that women need more help raising their kids, and the best way to achieve that, he's sure we'll all agree, is to create "some kind of social stigma" for single motherhood, but a new kind that will work better than the old kind because it will "ostracize serial baby-daddies and trophy-wife collectors as thoroughly as the 'fallen women' of a more patriarchal age."

A stigma twofer! You can see the shoppers clogging the aisles to get it. The development of this improved stigma is a project on which "feminists and cultural conservatives" can collaborate "in the same way that they made common cause during the pornography wars of the 1980s." And we all saw how well that worked out.

(The Social Science Research Network doesn't seem to want to sell me the paper, which I will take as a kindness.)

Monday, May 25, 2009

NEW VOICE COLUMN UP -- the center ring of the circus is that stupid Nancy Pelosi Pussy ad, which begs the question I really wanted to get to: What are they trying to accomplish? I get so caught up in their offenses to logic, sometimes I forget to address the common sense angle.

The question applies to both the RNC and the rightbloggers. In the former case, their ad seems designed to work on bloggers, who represent 0.001 percent of the population and smell bad, rather than Joe Sixpack or Joe Bottledwater or Mr. Joe Pibb or whatever they're calling normal people now. So I guess their motivation with this is the same as their motivation for the seemingly-insane Rush Limbaugh stuff: to give a tonic to the troops, since they need badly to be braced up and no one else is playing attention.

But what makes the bloggers so anxious to defend this piece of shit? I consider "Two and a Half Men" by far the best show on television, but if someone challenged me I doubt I would go to the wall for it. I might try to make a case for the show -- but most of the RNC ad's defenders skip that step entirely, opting instead to yell about how the liberals did worse and first, which would be like me defending my show by yelling, "'How I Met Your Mother' sucks!" -- which is quite true, but beside the point.

In the long run it's a fish-gotta-swim, birds-gotta-fly thing. When liberal blog denunciation reaches a certain density on any subject, conservatives rush to counterattack. Liberals, of course, don't do that, because a.) we're non-joiners, b.) we're cowards and backstabbers and won't defend even one another, and c.) Satan told us to act unpredictable to confuse conservatives and make them think we're like Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight, which totally freaks them out.
THE GENERAL'S MODEST PROPOSAL. Like a star athlete of insanity, 5-to-the-infinite-power-Star General Ralph "Blood 'n' Guts" Peters keeps making us raise the bar. His latest essay at the Journal of International Security Affairs, to which we were tipped by Brad Reed (goddamn him), begins with several propositions which are bold but unexceptionable -- for instance, that the all-volunteer army has put added distance and tension between the military and civilian worlds. But even in his warm-up phase, the General shows an inclination to go off-track and head straight for the brain-baking desert. For instance:
Fifth, we have become largely a white-collar, suburban society in which a child’s bloody nose is no longer a routine part of growing up, but grounds for a lawsuit; the privileged among us have lost the sense of grit in daily life. We grow up believing that safety from harm is a right that others are bound to respect as we do.
Okay; we've grown litigious. Maybe we don't take bloody noses as stoically as we used to. Still, does the General really mean that in "daily life" we shouldn't presume a right to be safe in our persons? But the General has already sprinted far ahead:
Our rising generation of political leaders assumes that, if anyone wishes to do us harm, it must be the result of a misunderstanding that can be resolved by that lethal narcotic of the chattering classes, dialogue.
Apparently he sees no difference between the social order of Main Street and that of Mogadishu. If you don't accept daily life as a slugfest, you're going to wind up playing patty-cake with terrorists.

But this is only the General's ordinary madness, which divides the whole world into wimps and warriors. Our terrorist enemies are warriors, and the General respects them, but the pussies from the State Department down to ANSWER don't have what it takes to get inside their enemies' heads. They can't comprehend their homicidal religious mania, for instance, because they don't share it themselves, which the General finds a fault: "Even officials and bureaucrats who attend a church or synagogue each week no longer comprehend the life-shaking power of revelation, the transformative ecstasy of glimpsing the divine, or the exonerating communalism of living faith." If you're not incited to kill for your God, how are you going to handle enemies who are?

For the General, it's not a matter of simple preparedness, reacting coldly to present threats, and the reason why not becomes clear in the course of his essay: everyone is a threat -- not just the Islamists (who must be wiped out), but also the Chinese, with whom "we could find ourselves tumbling, a la 1914, into a conflict." And we must also consider the "unexpected rise of a dormant power." How do you war-game that? You don't; you just get pumped, ready to kill or be killed at a moment's notice.

And as is his wont, the General wants America to sharpen its talons on a homegrown menace:
Today, the United States and its allies will never face a lone enemy on the battlefield. There will always be a hostile third party in the fight, but one which we not only refrain from attacking but are hesitant to annoy: the media.
Though this is an old theme for the General, I've never seen him get quite this worked up about it. Maybe he had a vision, or heard the final trump. In any case the traitorous media are now more than wimps to him: "Rejecting the god of their fathers," he roars, "the neo-pagans who dominate the media serve as lackeys at the terrorists’ bloody altar." He invokes Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and the Book of Joshua. The rest of us nervous nellies may not be getting pumped, but the General sure as hell is! And here's his big idea:
Although it seems unthinkable now, future wars may require censorship, news blackouts and, ultimately, military attacks on the partisan media.
This will be an easy kill, as journalists tend to be unarmed; it will give raw recruit much needed practice; and it will show the world that we mean business. Best of all, it will finally get Michael Yon in Newsweek.

The Pentagon had better call him up fast; if they hesitate he may, like Coriolanus, grow disgusted with us and take his winning ideas to our enemies. Though I think his ideas will not be new to them.
WHY LIBERTARIANS SMELL. Here's a cute video about the "libertarian paradise" of Somalia, which I found at Wonkette:



Drew Carey was on vacation, so the libertarian community got this hippie to do the rebuttal:



He goes on for ten goddamn minutes, in which he refers to Reason magazine, and says that while he doesn't like Islamic law, "for them it gets simple things like labor contracts and contracts to trade commodity groups in their largely agrarian society to work." Also, Somalia is "in the top ten or the top twenty in the world with regard to pretty good cell phone and telecommunications coverage. Top twenty? The United States is not even in the top twenty anymore!" We have much to learn from these Somalis. Also, Leviathan, mirror neurons, and "anarchy is the default position... even in New York, you effectively have anarchy," which will come as a shock to Michael Bloomberg.

So, you see, there's an advantage to them going Republican.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

THE CONSERVATIVE COMEBACK: A STATUS REPORT. So far the early signs of the conservative comeback plan are these:

1.) Make Dick Cheney, Newt Gingrich and Rush Limbaugh the public three-headed dog of the Republican Party. The most interesting facet of this is the reanimation of Gingrich, whose whirlwind tour of the liberal media continued on Meet The Press this morning. The massive long-term failure of the Contract with America to scale back American government seems not to bother his persistent supporters in the movement, who only remember that it won them votes once upon a time. If you expect people to re-imagine the New Deal as a disaster, you can also expect them to remember the Contract as a success.

2.) Celebrate torture. You can see how deeply this has settled into conservative bedrock by viewing the account at The Volokh Conspiracy of Eric "Mancow" Muller's reversal on waterboarding after experiencing it himself, and then reading the outraged defenses of the practice offered by the conservative intellectuals who frequent this lofty site ("Would you rather be a live monster or a dead saint?"). The morons, of course, are even more excited by it.

These people aren't even pretending "enhanced interrogation" isn't torture any more, and it's not because they're just tired of lying. They've taken Obama's recent hard line against it as an opportunity to seize the willingness to torture as a sign of moral superiority. The hope is apparently that Americans will identify with that.

3.) Redefine liberty to exclusively represent rightwing talking points. This Classical Values post attacks the government's environmental policy ("This time, it's a real war. I say it's time to get the government out of all of our emissions, for good. Emissions are a human right!"), and muses:
Sometimes I wonder whether "getting the government out of our bedrooms" (supposedly accomplished by Lawrence v. Texas) wasn't just a ruse so people could imagine they were more free.

Yeah, I know that women are free to destroy their fetuses too. Getting the government out of wombs is also marketed as another ultimate form of freedom (based on "privacy"), but what I've never been able to understand is this: if "privacy" gives the woman a right to have a scalpel inserted into her body to cut out her fetus, then why doesn't "privacy" also allow that same woman to put whatever drugs she wants into that same body?
To put it another way: why worry about control over one's own body, however constantly threatened, when the government is forcing cars to get 35.5 miles per gallon by 2016? Forbid it, almighty God!

As for the drug reference, don't worry if you find it confusing -- you haven't missed any recent change in Republican or mainstream conservative policy. The idea is to for conservatives to associate themselves with as many libertarian ideas as they can possibly get away with (reproductive rights, as we have seen, doesn't make it), and to associate liberals with their suppression. The libertarians themselves are doing their part by running stuff like Reason's Greg Gutfield video, "Red Eye's Greg Gutfeld on Media Bias, Intolerant Liberals, The Stupidity of Bill Maher, And Why Drugs Really, Really, Really Need to Be Legal." You will wait a very long time for President Palin to advocate legalization -- and if her children are revealed to be stoners, history shows, she will just trot them out to explain that their example shows why weed must remain illegal. But the fond hope that Republicans will flip on the issue to lock up the crucial libertarian voting bloc is more easily indulged than the equally fond hope that Democrats will do it, because the Republicans are not in power.

After the revolution, they will celebrate the new Energy Secretary's jokes about environmentalists, and the promised commission to look into the abolition of the Department of Housing and Urban Development. A few months later they'll be asking each other how the sheeple could have voted for these monsters.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

TORTURE MEMO. The Obama speech expectedly offered to split the baby, with a reaffirmation of closing Gitmo and abjuring torture on one hand, and an acceptance of what amount to indefinite detentions on the other. The objections of Glenn Greenwald and Digby are well-taken. Like I said, I'm not fool enough to expect any American president in our national-security age to do the wholly right thing. The speech's primary usefulness was political, that is, deflecting the nutty pseudo-concerns of his opponents over the closing of Guantanamo and his Administration's generally not-as-bad detainee policies. He's very good at that, and it's too bad that he didn't try to do the same with the policies he has not, to his discredit, reversed.

Cheney's speech also was as expected, mainly beating his chest over the Bush security record and snarling at his opposition. I can hardly be shocked at his rhetorical excesses -- e.g., attributing to Obama a "we brought it on ourselves" attitude toward 9/11 -- because I never expected him to play good citizen once somebody else was in power; he has never acknowledged any authority other than his own, and thus talks, now that he is out of office, as if he were running a government in exile.

I did expect the usual suspects to react in the usual way, and they don't disappoint. Here's a lovely passage from Reliapundit:
Lincoln and Sherman and grant defeated the South and slavery by GOING ALL OUT. Ditto FDR and Truman in WW2. As Truman said -- If you can't stand the heat, then get out of the kitchen. And THE BUCK STOPS HERE.
Also, Tippecanoe and Tyler Too. He says Obama isn't "man enough" to approve torture. For Reliapundit the War on Whatchamacallit is like all other wars, but with no satisfying public explosions, so he must imagine brave deeds performed in hidden dungeons to achieve the proper ecstasies.

This misbegotten butchitude spills over to Tom Maguire, who talks about "The Small Boys, Joe and Ezra Klein," who "will swoon, elevate, transport, or whatever they always do after an Obama speech," though "Sully and Greenwald," being a different species of homosexual, "will fume." Cheney, on the other hand, "pounds the table," which is real manliness, done by two-fisted executives in old movies and toddlers displeased with their supper.

Don Surber is provoked to "giggle" when the President mentions the Constitution and what it requires: "what did any of this have to do with national security?" This encapsulates their general attitude. They're holding imaginary thumbscrews and cats-o-nine-tails and wearing red, white and blue hoods, and their vicarious thrills have been frustrated by some wimp who talks about the Constitution. No wonder they're hailing Cheney as the second coming of Rush Limbaugh. After months of stumbling in the wilderness, he's finally given them a cause they can not only believe in, but also feel in their loins.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

SITUATION NORMAL... The Democratic backpedaling on Guantanamo sucks, but provides a lesson in practical politics. Jennifer Rubin says Obama's plan to close the place is "hugely unpopular." That's not true. But the Republicans have framed the issue cleverly as bullshit about, as the numbskull Rick Moran puts it, "Not wanting terrorists released on American soil," as if Obama is going to help them off the back of a truck onto Main Street, USA. There is no indication that actual citizens think maximum security prisons are unable to hold terrorists (if they do, they should rethink their current accommodations for rapists and murderers), but the gutless Senate Dems are preemptively capitulating.

We'll see what Obama does next, but having been around the block a few times, I wouldn't be surprised to be disappointed -- the fantasies of Mary Katharine Ham and Victor Davis Hanson notwithstanding. They imagine people who voted for Obama will be shocked and demoralized to find their one-time candidate trimming. This is one of the comforts of exile, for which they prepped well back in the late campaign with all their yak about The One and Lightworker. In fact these people were talking about Obama as "Bush's Third Term" as far back as July and even as they were warning against his election. It was a psychological insurance policy, on which they are now making claims.

Most of us, however, were voting for someone who would deliver us from the imbeciles who had been mismanaging the country for eight years. We got that, along with some idiocy, both fresh and vintage. 'Twas ever thus. Reintroducing sanity to our governance was always going to be an uphill climb.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

SERIOUS AS CANCER, BUT MUCH FUNNIER. Some of us are happy to hear Ted Kennedy's cancer is in remission because we're human beings. And some of us are happy to hear it because they are Erick Erickson, Beastmaster of RedState, with the ability to make turn anything into a homily on the socialist menace.
The sad and tragic irony is that when Senator Kennedy returns to work, he will actively work to deny you the access to treatment he himself had.
What, he was treated by wizards? That must be it. Even I can see a doctor, which is what I thought Ted was doing, but I damn sure as hell can't see a wizard when I'm sick. Not unless he's in-network.

Actually I'm not that far off -- turns out Erickson's talking about an imaginary health care system:
Given media reports of Senator Kennedy’s health, we can postulate that, had Senator Kennedy had access to healthcare under the system he intends to design, he would not have gotten the treatment that put his cancer in remission.

We can also postulate one other thing — when Senator Kennedy does design the Democrats’ healthcare system, they will make sure people like Senator Kennedy are not subjected to it.
We can also postulate that this evil Obamacare will shoot lasers from its fingertips that will be designed specifically to attack pre-borns, elderly priests, and Iraq War veterans. And that it will be homosexual, and drive a Prius.

Coming up: When Ted Kennedy gets home, he'll have a nice hot meal -- the kind Americans will never get if Obamagriculture passes!

UPDATE. Turns out Kennedy's cancer may not be in remission after all. More proof that government healthcare doesn't work!
ON THE CONSERVATIVE TORTURE STRATEGY. I'm not sure how they expect to win with this. I can certainly see why conservatives would want to divert attention from the Bush Administration's record on detainee torture, and that the easiest route would seem to be the tergiversations of Nancy Pelosi. But while they're beating up the largely unpopular Speaker, Obama is reneging on a promise to produce photographs of Bush-era detainee abuses.

I would imagine there remain neocon moles throughout the Administration who could and would have tipped conservatives that Obama's reversal was imminent. I assume some of them were tipped. Yet they have still raced to get Pelosi, and hauled along with them even the most dedicated rightbloggers, who only make matters worse by their circumlocutions over the Speaker's modish reversal from post-9/11 war supporter to Obama-era reformer:
Secondly, we on the right are not mad that Pelosi kept quiet before. We would be just fine with her ignoring the whole debate now — and that would include not pressing the absurd idea of prosecutions of Bush officials today. She is a hypocrite on the issue not because she is lying about what she knew and when she knew it but that she is attempting to use the “torture” issue only now when she thinks it might pay her political dividends. If she was so upset over “torture” as she now claims to be, why did she remain quiet all this time until now?
Try to image reading this curley-q justification to normal Americans, whom the most conservative polls show are divided on the investigation of Bush war crimes. It would seem as if conservatives are forfeiting an opportunity offered by the President to make the torture issue a matter of bipartisan magnanimity toward the previous Administration, and demanding that the question be called, with themselves overtly defending their own party from prosecution -- which reasonable people who are not intimately involved with the partisan chair-throwing of the blogosphere (that is, to reiterate, normal Americans) might find self-serving, as opposed to the President's generous position.

I understand the impatience of Glenn Greenwald and others with Obama's take-it-easy attitude toward the torture issues that Dick Cheney is taking less easy. Certainly the mainstream media is playing up this alleged division between the left -- whatever that is -- and Obama ("Liberals 'Souring on Obama'?"). But I also see that Pelosi's disapproval ratings mirror those of the unfortunately availed keynote rightwing buffoon Newt Gingrich -- something the press monkeys see as a major downfall for Pelosi, but which strikes me as a great opportunity for, well, any President who might like to triangulate himself into a position of authority in the torture debate. Once we dispense with the sentimental idea that the President should always protect the Speaker, this seems like a great advantage for Obama.

What he does with that advantage, of course, will be telling. But I think where Obama has got himself is a great place for a Democratic President to be: the despised former Republican Vice-President and the ten-years-past-sell-by-date Republican Speaker ganging up against him, the current Democratic Speaker serving as a heat sink, and the titular head of the opposition party knotted by internecine gibberish ("How is kicking Colin Powell out or kicking Dick Cheney out or Rush Limbaugh in going to feed a child who’s hungry tonight?").

In any case, how the Right benefits from this I can't see. I doubt they can either. Much as I like to attribute great, evil machinations to them, they seem at the moment to be flailing. Maybe their next step will be a Torture Tea Party, in which speakers discourse on the founding fathers' use of torture to gain valuable information from the British.

Monday, May 18, 2009

SHAKE DOWN THE THUNDER FROM THE SKY. Here's a new Voice column about the Notre Dame speech and associated commentary. I had shunned the topic in disgust during the long, hectoring weeks running up to the event, when I mostly encountered it among the Opus Dei operatives of National Review, but in the last ditch it got interesting, what with the Jesus people calling for the brethren to seize the stage from the President, and several non-Catholic, unaffiliated gawkers cheering them on.

This is a presumption at which I marvel; as a former member of the Church I usually refrain from telling them their business, and can't see where they get the balls to tell 12,000 graduating students, the great majority of whom seemed happy to have their ceremonies so honored by the President of the United States, that they were destroying the Holy Mother Church. It may be a sign that all the old Religious Right component of the conservative movement's power to deliver elections grows increasingly suspect, they are hoping to reanimate it with Catholics. If so, as things stand they might do better to pitch it more down the middle, instead of at the folks who think the communion rail should be guarded by pollsters asking about abortion. The First Things crowd are already on board.
MORE OBAMA INAPPROPRIATE LAUGHISM! The Ole Perfesser at the Wall Street Journal:
At his Arizona State University commencement speech last Wednesday, Mr. Obama noted that ASU had refused to grant him an honorary degree, citing his lack of experience, and the controversy this had caused. He then demonstrated ASU's point by remarking, "I really thought this was much ado about nothing, but I do think we all learned an important lesson. I learned never again to pick another team over the Sun Devils in my NCAA brackets. . . . President [Michael] Crowe and the Board of Regents will soon learn all about being audited by the IRS."
Oh no -- he's not actually going to --
Just a joke about the power of the presidency. Made by Jay Leno it might have been funny. But as told by Mr. Obama, the actual president of the United States, it's hard to see the humor. Surely he's aware that other presidents, most notably Richard Nixon, have abused the power of the Internal Revenue Service to harass their political opponents...
The Perfesser offers no evidence that Obama has thus misused his power, but Tim Geithner got away with not paying his taxes on time, and if Obama will let a pal get away with that, there's no telling of what else he may be capable.

And on and on:
Mr. Obama has been accused of not appreciating the importance of financial capital to the proper functioning of the economy. But ill-chosen remarks like his ASU audit threat suggest that he also doesn't appreciate the role of moral capital. That, too, is essential to the proper functioning of a modern economy.
Jokes, it appears, are moral hazards, unless you say "Heh Indeed" after them. Then they're adorable.

Believe it or not, this is actually on its way to becoming a thing, as one Masked Marauder has also denounced Obama's joke. "But look at this another way -- what if it turns out that ASU President winds up in the dragnet of random IRS audits now?" he reasons. "Completely unrelated to the joke you understand, but still getting audited all the same! This gaffe by Obama actually would put him in a bad position were this to happen... A truly idiotic joke that really has no good defense or even a good excuse." Where were his joke vetters?

At least when the spam artists do this -- "Obama joked about holocaust. Want your babymaker to be hot and filled with blood again and again? http://meijcan.vigbobom.cn/" -- they have sound business reasons for doing so. This and their outraged reaction to the Correspondents' Dinner and Obama's Special Olympics joke have convinced me that conservatives have a squad devoted to explaining to America that the President is not funny. Thus they hope to neutralize Obama's humor advantage in time for the 2010 elections, when they will bust out more Magic Negro jokes and sweep the field. The program will pick up speed as soon as their reconnaissance teams report back on what human beings are really like.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

IGNORANCE IS BLISS. John Podhoretz asks: what good are film critics who actually know something about movies? I'm not kidding, that's his point:
Film criticism requires nothing but an interesting sensibility. The more self-consciously educated one is in the field -- by which I mean the more obscure the storehouse of cinematic knowledge a critic has -- the less likely it is that one will have anything interesting to say to an ordinary person who isn't all that interested in the condition of Finnish cinema.
He gets Rod Dreher to bite, too, and pretend that the breezier style of Anthony Lane (writing about Star Trek!) relative to that of the learned J. Hoberman proves his point.

It's a big wide world and raw talent will always find a way, but there are few practitioners of anything who would argue that training and education are drawbacks in their fields. Would Dreher and Podhoretz say so about their own current occupations? (Each refers to his own woeful career detour into criticism, and as someone who has read their reviews I am not surprised to learn they now disdain the craft, as they showed little interest in it when they were practicing.) Dreher will go on and on about the sad state of informed religion reporting, and Podhoretz can spool out conservative movement history. I doubt they'd tolerate someone wandering into their kitchens and saying, "Let me have a go -- I don't know much about it but I've got an interesting sensibility." (In fact, why should people bother with all the heavy theologians Dreher likes to quote, when Andrew Greeley and Dan Brown make easier reading?)

If they wouldn't indulge it themselves, why do they apply it to criticism? Partly it's an excuse to play populist -- lacking an opportunity to talk NASCAR and brewskis, they assure the imaginary common folk in their audiences that they don't get all that guff about mise en scene and deep focus neither. But I think they disdain criticism mainly because they think it doesn't count. As we have tirelessly (or tiresomely, depending on your POV) discussed here, anything having to do with the arts is for many conservatives some baffling voodoo that liberals like, so it must be insubstantial and easy to do; but they can't get much of a toe-hold in it, which must be due to some fancy-pants professor's trick. Still they feel they should try to take it over, because it represents, in their infertile imaginations, a source of cultural power. Maybe they think if they deride criticism, its existence will cease to trouble them.

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.