Monday, August 03, 2009

NEW VOICE COLUMN UP, about the state of birther play. The immediate surge of comments from people convinced that the President is an alien suggests a high level of message discipline. One writes, "I think I've figured out why Obama won't release the actual birth certificate, thus stoking the fires of the 'birther' movement. It's so that pathetic lefties, to whom the most important thing in the world is to believe that they're smarter and cooler than middle and working-class white people, will have something they can sneer at, day after day..." I figured they'd catch on eventually, yet it doesn't seem to have convinced them to try another strategy. Maybe all of us just want attention.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

OBAMA PENIS OF SCANDAL! Atlas Shrugs suggests conservatives fight lies about Sarah Palin with "legitimate stories" about Barack Obama. For example, "why not tell the truth about Obama and his reported strange sexual predilections? My question is, it is well known that Obama allegedly was involved with a crack whore in his youth. Very seedy stuff."

In come some wonderful reader offerings:
It's not like one must dig very far to witness his predatory weirdness.
Here in an official White House photo, BO proudly displays his chubby after touching Crowley's thigh. Yuck...
Amazingly, no one mentions Cheney's dick, though another reader says, "In body language terms, the only one showing off his manhood is Crowley. His legs are wide apart... Crowley is the only 'man' in the group." Also:
and, as far as his chubby goes, please, everyone, do not forget the series of photos of obama chasing a woman reporter down the aisle of his campaign jet, clutching an obvious hard on in his trousers.

the series of pictures shows a disturbance at the front of the plane where he is talking on the phone, an aghast woman reporting retreating from obama down the aisle from where she was sitting in the seats next to him, and obama grabbing and flaunting his obviously hard dick.

pamela should be able to come up with the series of photos, because i believe that she ran them here.
The post turns up ("The man lifts his leg, pivots, and thrusts his pelvis"), but the original YouTube video has been removed by the user. Clearly the user was clubbed into submission -- but with what?

Once these get out, no one's going to pay any attention to that birther shit.

Saturday, August 01, 2009



THEIR BARREL HAS NO BOTTOM, AND THEY'RE STILL GOIN' DOWN. The White House released this nice photo of Sgt. Crowley helping the hobbled Henry Louis Gates down the White House steps while Obama walks in front of them. When I saw Rich Lowry's ridiculous caption in The Corner -- "Who Would You Rather Have a Beer With? The conscientious guy, concerned with helping those around him? Or the oblivious guy, striding majestically alone?" -- I checked the source and thought, hmm, American Thinker -- Lowry's really bottom-feeding this afternoon.

Later I read the AT rant: "Barack Obama, heedless of the infirmities of his friend and fellow victim of self-defined racial profiling, strides ahead on his own. So who is compassionate? And who is so self-involved and arrogant that he is oblivious?" When his fellow-travelers began to link his post, he puffed out his chest even more: "I think this photo constitutes another major Obama blunder."

Before you could say "Obamaracist blundergaffe", the photographic evidence of Obama's hatred for his own kind, unwittingly leaked by White House publicists who are normally so good at covering his evil tracks, became a full-blown Thing among the brethren. A number of them gathered 'round the photo, and divined portents and meanings therein. "Obama looks like he’s ready to get these two and the awkward situation they represent out of his house," says Jules Crittenden. "Skreeeee skree muslin skreeee," says Atlas Shrugs.

Wake Up America compares this photo of Obama not helping someone to a photo Bush helping someone, and believes it proves something, which he invites his readers to fill in (pushes in nose, pushes out lower lip, sticks out tongue). This becomes a popular favorite in his community.

Dr. Melissa Clothier, Ed Driscoll, and others get in on it, as does the Washington Times, which calls Obama walking down the steps a "gaffe."

Mark Steyn appears at The Corner to apprise his colleague Lowry that the photo has "has gone around the world, and has been generally considered to be worth the proverbial thousand words" -- that is to say, now resides in the scrapbooks of rightwing diehards alongside their pictures of Obama as a bushman and "Ashley Told the Truth" posters.

Clearly Obama should have wrestled Crowley for the right to help Gates, like Tony Randall did with that Boy Scout in the credit sequence of The Odd Couple.

To call this dog-whistle politics does discredit to dogs, who have good instincts.



(Above: Photo of Negro soldier playing "Goin' Home" at FDR's funeral. That none of the other mourners offers him a Kleenex proves Democrats hate black people.)

UPDATE. It just occurred to me: have you ever noticed how many pictures there are of Tina Turner smiling in the presence of Ike Turner? Using the rightblogger standard, this proves she was lying when she said he used to beat her up.

Friday, July 31, 2009

OBAMA'S MEDAL OF FREEDOM TREASON. Did a short roundup at Runnin' Scared of rightwing reactions to Obama's Medal of Freedom picks. I see they're still mad at Desmond Tutu's unfortunate cracks about Jews. Well, 'twas ever thus -- who doesn't recall the ceaseless re-examination of Bill Cosby's extramarital affairs when he won the Medal in 2002?

Anyway, when it comes to anti-Semitic honorees, Walt Disney -- class of '64 -- will always be my favorite, especially as described in this delightful White Power site article ("It is easy to envision the 'hick' from a Missouri farm recalling all the stories of Jewish treachery and perfidy he had heard in his Midwestern upbringing"). It may not be strictly the truth, but then, neither was Pocahontas.

Debbie Schlussel's is by far the cream of the crop; she doesn't even like the breast cancer fighter lady and thinks Jack Kemp was a fake conservative. Schlussel must wake up excited every morning. She's like that kid in Reagan's "there must be a pony" anecdote, but instead of looking for the pony, she's always looking for the shit.
SHORTER JONAH GOLDBERG: Liberal scientists want us to die, so they're wasting time on this global warming baloney when meteors are the real menace. Here, intern, put in some P.J. O'Rourke-type similes and send it to TownHall. But don't make them too good -- we don't want anyone to catch on. (h/t wonkette)

Thursday, July 30, 2009

BIRTHER -- WITH AN EXPLANATION. We have officially entered the age of the crypto-birther. Andrew McCarthy livens the pages of National Review -- where birtherism was allegedly debunked but, we can see by now, is merely the birthplace of its new cover story -- with new schtick. The first part of McCarthy's con job -- a yap about how Barry wouldn't let us call him Hussein even though he's a big fat Muslim, what a liar -- is almost like a primer for the New Birtherism: it's not the (we're not saying it's a) crime -- it's the cover-up! And then, the literal nut graf:
The editorial desire to put to rest the “Obama was born in Kenya” canard is justifiable. The overwhelming evidence is that Obama was born an American citizen on Aug. 4, 1961, which almost certainly makes him constitutionally eligible to hold his office.
Almost certainly! But -- QUESTIONS REMAIN! Later, "This certification is not the same thing as the certificate," etc.

Some of the brethren hear the dog-whistle loud and clear: Marathon Pundit, while affecting distance from the conspiracy ("I believe that Obama was born in Hawaii"), nonetheless is convinced by McCarthy's penetrating analysis to demand, "Okay, Barry, cough it up. Let's see your birth certificate."

See, he's not one of those nuts: he has the good sense to quote the magazine that rebutted the birthers before going birther himself.

You can have the bow-tied twit version from Roger Kimball who, while declaring himself "sick of the Obama birth certificate wheeze," gets quickly to the "and yet, and yet..." His alleged concern is Obama's mendacity -- proven by third-hand accusations that Obama inflated his resume regarding his job at Business International Corporation; why, he was merely a "junior copyeditor"! -- which leads Kimball to assert that Obama has "consistently misled the public about his personal history." I mean, if a man will lie about his first job out of college, what won't he lie about?

I think Doghouse Riley said it well in comments to the last post on this:
"Full of shit" doesn't cover it. The phrase suggests a world in which being full of shit would be contraindicated, where anyone of sound mind would avoid it, in which "shit" would lie in opposition to "gold," or "delicious snack cakes," or, metaphorically, Facts, and where one would try one's damnedest to avoid being filled with shit... That is, it's a real-world phrase, and Real is not the world these people inhabit, and hasn't been for a long time.
They're hard at work on a sort of homemade mind trick that will allow them to simultaneously denounce and disseminate fraudulent information. It's thoroughly transparent to normal people, but at least it will help hold the thicker fellow travelers who are either embarrassed by birtherism or wondering why the White People's League hasn't stormed the White House with a rope.

UPDATE. Someone named Mark Joseph has turned this nonsense into a Zen riddle: "The only thing weirder than the Birthers are the anti-Birthers, who blame the Birthers for being conspiracy theorists yet actively feed the conspiracy by refusing to call for President Obama to release his birth certificate." This is very symmetrical, and suggests the obsessively concentric artworks sometimes created by mental patients. He also claims "most Americans" are "beginning to wonder why the president doesn't put this one to rest once and for all" -- a fond hope, certainly, which regrettably comes without polling data -- and compares Obama to Mark Sanford. Do these guys even know any normal people?

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

AS NIGHT FOLLOWS DAY. At National Review, which yesterday allegedly "bailed on the birthers," Mark Krikorian:
The whole birther thing is lunacy, and I'm glad NRO smacks it down so thoroughly. But Glynn Custred of Prop. 209 fame elaborates, in an e-mail, on a point briefly mentioned in the NRO editorial:
The question of Barack Obama's birth certificate has provoked a surpisingly aggressive response from the White House and near hysteria from Obama supporters. If the question is so crazy, and especially since conservatives have joined the Obama supporters in their condemnation of those who asked them (Bill O'Reilly, Ann Coulter, the National Review), why all the fuss?
Promoted by the Ole Perfesser, of course. Soon the world will know who the real villains of the birther story are -- and it's not the people who believe in it and promote it!

I knew they were full of shit, but I really thought they'd wait a few days before proving me right.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

THE NEVER-ENDING STORY. It was strategically necessary for National Review to abjure the birthers. They have been giving their movement and the party to which it is attached some bad publicity, which Democrats had been exploiting. In its current, fragmented state, the conservative movement cannot be said to have leadership, but National Review at least has a historical place in it. Though Rush Limbaugh plays with birtherism and Lou Dobbs stumps for it, the magazine's demurrer allows critics like Alex Koppelman to say that "the right bails on Birthers."

You'd like to think so. But these ideas, if we can so dignify them, don't die, but merely hibernate. They were declaring FDR a socialist in the 1930s; after a blessedly long interval, during which this was only whispered in their salons, they have taken to declaring FDR a socialist again. As someone once said, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die.

You can see it burrowing even in the hour of birtherism's alleged defeat. National Review takes care to mention that, as far as they know, the birth certificate story "originated with a Hillary Clinton supporter." It's one of the many knocks on Democrats the authors use to help their readers take the pill, but it's also something they can come back to when they're reassessing the evidence. After all, it didn't come from their labs, so there might be something in it they've missed; and didn't Henry Waxman tip his hand once in an unguarded moment? There are no coincidences, people.

Their movement colleagues are less clever. Macsmind suggests that Clinton may be behind the present birther movement and "may very well be working somehow behind the scenes to sink Obama’s plans." He also mocks the validation of "Hawaii’s Health Director, and Barack Obama supporter" who "has 'certified' his birth certificate. 'It’s there I saw it!' Guess that settles that." Eventually he says, "who cares," which preserves his plausible deniability, and when it all comes back he can show off the quotes around "certified" as proof that he was never really taken in.

There remain plenty of folks out there -- including the esteemed Tom Maguire -- who have no need for such games, and will keep hope alive. They may not enjoy a full birther Restoration, but this will stay in their bag of dirt -- along with Kathleen Willey's cat, the Whitey tapes, and other such detritus -- to be sprinkled at the margins when the next big push comes around. Count on WHERE'S THE BIRTH CERTIFICATE signs at the 2012 Republican Convention, at Palin revival meetings, at Tea Parties, and everywhere else the boobs may take the bait.

Monday, July 27, 2009

GOLDBERG RETURNS! Jonah Goldberg is back from a European vacation, where I imagine he made Clark Griswold look like Bernard Berenson, to bring some life to The Corner with a breathtaking series of inane posts. There's one in which he compares the Henry Louis Gates case to the Tawana Brawley case -- the only evident similarity between them being that the principals were black -- and concludes that liberals don't care about the truth. There's another in which he says Obama's taste for golf betrays a "double standard," though the only clue as to what he might mean is that "poppa Bush's golf outings during a very minor recession hurt him terribly in his reelection bid," which would make the holder of the double standard the U.S. electorate.

I would be embarrassed to mention his admission of germ paranoia if he hadn't brought it up himself. Be warned; it leads to a series, ending with reader reminiscences about how they couldn't get enough wiping paper in foreign countries. There's a psychology paper in this somewhere.

Eventually he is made to focus on the current events analysis that has justly made him famous. John J. Miller comes in complaining that from what he's seen, the new G.I, Joe movie doesn't have enough American military uniforms to suit him, not to fulfill Hollywood's historic mission of "public diplomacy of creating goodwill abroad." (I should think they'd be grateful to us just for the loud, ugly crap to watch on dates.) You know Goldberg couldn't resist this, and gasses about the commies in Hollywood trying to make our fighting men look bad, and in so doing makes a passing comment about the Bourne movies that spurs a reader to remark that the anti-American content is present in the Bourne novels as well. Another reader says Hollywood totally anti-Americanized the property. This puts Goldberg into a fog, from which he is stirred by Jonathan Adler, who asserts that "There's plenty of evidence Hollywood leans left, but the Bourne movies are not among them."

Goldberg grasps the nettle, which is on a rose bush in an entirely different county:
Jonathan - You write: "There's plenty of evidence Hollywood leans left, but the Bourne movies are not among them."

To the extent I understand your argument, it seems to be that because they made a good movie from a good book, and despite the fact it is a leftwing interpretation of the book, it cannot count as proof that Hollywood is left-leaning. How does that work?
As Goldberg is a legacy pledge, and because they are both talking gibberish, Adler is obliged to respond with the slightly exasperated deference of bearded doctors in Three Stooges shorts ("My point [perhaps inartfully made] is that the decision to make the Bourne movies is not evidence of Hollywood's ideological leanings..."). Fortunately for him, it's getting late and Goldberg has a date with the director's cut of Road House.

I'm glad to see him back. The Corner is pretty tedious without comic relief.
NEW VOICE COLUMN UP about the Gates controversy, which in the Bizarro universe that is my beat is all about the racism of Henry Louis Gates and Barack Obama, and the necessity of absolute deference to authority unless you're Tea Partying, in which case it's all groovy revolution. Since I wrote it I see that the 911 caller in the case has denied making a racial classification of the suspect, which leads Legal Insurrection to suspect intimidation: "Whalen has been pilloried by the blogosphere as being a white racist neighbor (actually passer-by)... So it is natural, but unfortunate, that Whalen falls into the trap of playing the skin-tone game." Thus do our liberal racists thwart conservative attempts to get beyond race. Jack Dunphy does his bit by explaining to Obama and his "Ivy League pals" that if "you're running your mouth about your rights and your history of oppression and what have you" to a cop, you're likely to get shot. Somehow I think they already knew that.
I'VE SEEN THE FUTURE, BROTHER, IT IS MURDER. As farewell addresses go, Sarah Palin's won't make people forget George Washington's. She praised her own truncated term of office, and the troops, whom she used to attack the media. She also attacked Hollywood, which enlists "delicate, tiny, very talented celebrity starlets" in their "anti-Second Amendment causes," against which "patriots will protect our individual guaranteed right to bear arms." She warned against "enslavement to big central government," because "it can't make you happy or healthy or wealthy or wise," which comes instead from "God's grace helping those who help themselves." She portrayed her resignation as another way of guarding Alaska "like that grizzly guards her cubs, as a mother naturally guards her own." She also encouraged supporters to "enjoy the ride."

This sent me back to the transcript of her resignation remarks. I don't think I've ever seen an official transcript with so many words rendered in ALL CAPS. ("I wish you'd hear MORE from the media of your state's progress and how we tackle Outside interests - daily - SPECIAL interests that would stymie our state.") She praised Alaska, her performance on energy management and "bi-partisan Ethics Reform," and claimed to have "slowed the rate of government growth" -- in fairness she has reduced the state's ranking from largest corporate taxer to fifth-highest. Also, "we broke ground on the new prison." She complained of her legal bills and the media.

I fully expect her to be a major force in the Republican Party, and that her jumble of resentments and uplift will strongly inform its national political approach.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

IN THE GHETTO. There's a book out called I Can’t Believe I’m Sitting Next to a Republican! Christian Toto enthusiastically reviews it:
Nearly every field features liberals unwilling to consider “evil Republicans“ as peers. Conservative TV scribe Burt Prelutsky tells the author that liberals don’t “have to listen or discuss. They’re the good guys, and there is no other side"...

School administrators won’t leave their ideological perches, but it’s a parent’s duty to fight back if only to prevent the problem from worsening.

Conservative professionals not named Limbaugh or Hannity risk plenty by speaking plainly about their political ideas, according to Stein. Right-leaning psychiatrists get ostracized by their fellow doctors. Professors seeking the fast — or even turtle-like — track to tenure better plot out a Plan B.
I thought these guys were populists, yet they mainly discover prejudice against their kind while toiling in academia, TV, TV reviewing, and psychiatry. We also hear of the indignities they suffer in Hollywood and in journalism, and at "cocktail parties." There are no reports of abuse from sawmills and factories. Are they treated well in such places, I wonder, or have they just never been to them?

Toto concludes:
What Stein wants is a world where liberals respect conservatives enough to break bread with them without trotting out the “fascist” label. Sounds like a modest request, right?

We may be years away from such a place in society, if it ever comes to pass. But for now conservatives can take solace in the fact that they’re not alone. Stein does a credible job of illustrating precisely that with enough humor to cushion the pain.
I'm trying in vain to recall any equivalent tales of woe, book-length or otherwise, from liberals during the Reagan and Bush years. When Republicans ruled the earth, I'm sure a few of us must have felt misunderstood and isolated. Yet we never managed to make an industry out of complaining of it.

Of course, conservatives also complain when they hold power. The poet laureate of the style during the reign of W was Alan Bromley, who seemed never to go anywhere without encountering torrents of liberal abuse. Peter Berkowitz and the genius behind Mallard Fillmore have done some fine work in this vein, too -- but I better pull back now or we'll be here all night. (I will say that other authors in the genre find also that liberals like to beat up other liberals. What hateful people we must be! It's a wonder anyone talks to us, let alone votes for our candidates. Yet here we are.)

How this wallowing in victim status may effect their electoral chances I can't say -- though I do observe that nobody likes a whiner -- but it can't be good for their tender psyches.
ROD DREHER'S IMAGISTERIUM. Former film critic Rod Dreher hears about a movie (by the auteur of "one of my favorite Catholic movies," yet) and starts talking censorship. But with an explanation! First:
Unlike in the US, censorship is legal [in Britain]. You may not believe in censorship -- and please, let's not have that fruitless debate here, American readers; the US government is effectively powerless to censor anyway, so it's not a real issue -- but consider the moral point the critic is making here in his essay...
You'd think that were that as far as the c-word is concerned. But hold on, Brother Rod's comin' round again:
As I said, in the US, we haven't got censorship in any effective way, so I see this debate for us as being one about what we choose to censor -- that is, to treat as completely incompatible with civilized discourse and bounds of art.
It's as if he didn't have a dictionary, or the "c" section had been ripped out of it.
The American version of the critic's point would go something like this: In America, discussions of a film's moral qualities, with regard to declaring it "obscene," comes down to the feeble principle that if it doesn't harm children, there are no grounds to judge it so harshly.

What happens when a society loses the will and the capability of condemning "art" of this sort? What happens when there are no grounds to ban snuff films, or at least pornographic films that simulate raping and then murdering a victim, depicted onscreen for pure pleasure. What happens to that society?
We get the mail, go to work, to the mall, pay taxes, raise families... sorry, what was the question again?
We are a civilization that lacks the courage to condemn. We lack the vision to see clearly, and the spine to damn what is damnable. This is not going to end well for us.
We've been hearing this since the turn of the last century and somehow we managed to win World War II. As to this whole proposed discussion about what movie the brethren would choose to censor (none of them take the bait, though one offers a hilarious condemnation of the "Catholic movie" Dreher starts by praising), he might as well have asked them what underage movie star they'd like to fuck. The ensuing debate would have been as bootless, but a lot more interesting.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

MORE PREDICTIONS OF SUCCESS, MODIFIED FOR NEW REALITIES. Joel Kotkin has an essay about the failure of the blue states and the prospect therefore of red states surging to bring Republicans back to power. To the surprising extent that it relies on long-term data -- that "red-state strongholds such as the Dakotas, Idaho, Texas, Utah, and North Carolina, dominated the list of fastest-growing regions recently compiled for Forbes," versus the "decades-long meltdown" of blue states -- one might ask why this historic growth did not elect John McCain and a Republican Congress in 2008. Kotkin briefly mentions "the failure that stuck to Republicans in the wake of the Bush presidency," but with becoming reticence doesn't say anything more about it, except to predict the same thing happening to Democrats, presumably for the same reasons.

The future is unwritten and anything can happen, but if you're going to mine demographics for electoral gold you might take a moment to consider why they failed you in the last test. Part of the reason, which Kotkin misses, is that the red state growth of which he speaks has not been limited to villages and hamlets, but largely occurred in and around cities, some of which grew less red in consequence. One of the fastest-growing urban areas in the U.S. in recent years is Raleigh-Cary, North Carolina in Wake County. Wake went mildly for Bush in 2004, but strongly for Obama in 2008 -- enough to turn the state.

Kotkin shares the tendency of many political demographers toward wishful thinking. Back in 2004 some of them thought the GOP could get a lift by splitting Texas into five states. A look at the map showed that some of those new states would be Democratic, and while the Republicans might have gotten a few new senators out of the scheme, they would have given up some electoral college votes in the process. It was schtick, but pleasing to the sort of people meant to be pleased by it. As I said, anything can happen, but these games, while encouraging to the Outs at any given moment, tend to have less impact than the state of the nation when the actual polls open.

There Kotkin has a better chance, as the economy may well suck in 2010 and 2012. But on that head he relies on standard Republican class-war rhetoric about "media pundits and café society": that Democrats favor a "creative class" solution (which is somehow also supposed to fatten the "public-sector unions" -- maybe he thinks the Freelancers Union and the Writers Guild are public-sector), which in his view cannot work, and that if the economy does recover, one of his sources tells him, "People will compare and move to the places that are affordable and don’t have the fundamental tough tax and regulatory structures." You have to wonder why they wouldn't have done that already -- especially since Kotkin keeps telling us that they have. But he is prepared for that: "a generation of out-migration may be slowing down temporarily due to the recession," he says -- an odd note of discouragement against his many claims of ever-burgeoning red-state vitality.

Part of the problem has to do with the purpose of exercises such as Kotkin's, which is not so much to lay groundwork for a genuine Republican resurgence as to predict one so that Republicans will feel better about themselves. Just before the last election, Kotkin was going on about the "new localism," in which the recession would make "individuals and corporations look not to the global stage but closer to home, concentrating and congregating on the Main Streets where we choose to live -- in the suburbs, in urban neighborhoods or in small towns." As part of this pitch was the reliance on extended family -- "This clustering of families, after decades of dispersion, will spur more localism" -- you might easily have gotten the impression Kotkin was expecting citizens to cling to their traditional homes. Now that politics demands a different interpretation, he posits us as atomized seekers after financial opportunity, ready to blow off Mom and Pop for the sunny vistas of Scottsdale, Arizona.

Prediction is a mug's game under the best of circumstances, but if you keep dishing out visions while working a slide rule, there's always a chance that fortune will provide circumstances that make you look good. But that's not the same thing as having a good argument.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

WHY LIBERTARIANISM IS BASICALLY A WHITE THING. Jonah Goldberg of National Review on the Henry Louis Gates thing and his alleged reader mail about it:
About half the readers think Gates is hilariously in the wrong. The other half, give or take, think that the cop was transparently to blame for the whole mess. That's a gross generalization of several dozen e-mails, but I think it reflects how conservatives, like Americans generally, are of two views when it comes to cops. One side is inclined to distrust them, see them as potential abusers of authority — mere men with badges and guns...
Goldberg doesn't provide any examples of conservatives who back Gates, which just shows how lazy he is, since such "examples" could be easily produced if Goldberg would unclog his piehole long enough to order an intern to create them. (Needless to say, Goldberg himself does not back Gates, whom he thinks was "trying to bully the cop.")

If Goldberg had to mine the blogosphere for examples, though. this would have been much harder to manage. I have been all over the rightwing blogs and have seen very, very few conservatives who thinks Gates was in the right (Tigerhawk is about the best of these). A few reluctantly accept that Gates might be telling the truth. (Goldberg's colleague Robert VerBruggen accepts that the arrest was absurd, but sourly adds, "Now, I'm sure, Harvard will be holding all sorts of special counseling sessions for everyone to whine some more," as if Gates were pulling some mau-mau bullshit by being in the right.)

Most of the brethren take the attitude of American Power -- that Gates should have been grateful that the police were diligent enough to arrest him, and that his complaints prove that he is racist against white people. VDARE agrees: "if anyone was being a racist here, it’s Gates." When they hear another famous black person is involved, they really go crazy ("Big Mouth Al Sharpton Has a New Friend").

BitsBlog goes further and asks if Gates is actually a scholar. He is angered that people refer to him as "the nation’s pre-eminent black scholar," and (for want of a better word) explains:
Adolf Hitler was purposed to have dismissed Albert Eintien’s Jewish Theory of Relativity, as if atoms recognized ethnic bounds. Like atoms do not recognize ethnicity, neither does scholorship. If a person is indeed a scholar there no need to preface ths distincton. It is not like truth is the least biet dependant on race.

So when the Associated Press describeS Henry Louis Gates Jr as a black scholar, you have wonder about Gates scholarship.
No wonder the cop found Gates' Harvard ID insufficient.

Many conservatives also mention they never would have said such harsh things to officers of the law as Gates said, which sort of conflicts with their self-image as tea-party revolutionaries in the mold of Nathan Hale.

As a general rule, you may on occasion see these people speak against official overreach if their own kind is subject to it. But it is rare that you see them deliver any of this libertarian, anti-statist love to a liberal -- and vanishingly rare that you see them give it to a black person, for some reason I just haven't for the life of me been able to figure out.

Monday, July 20, 2009

NEW VOICE COLUMN UP, considering reactions to the Sotomayor hearings. As usual, the upshot is a victory for the right -- either in that Sotomayor had to pretend (or really be) less lefty than our communist President really wanted, or that she will inevitably overstep when on the Court and finally awaken the sheeple. Ron Schenck says it's no big deal: "She will be a reliable pro-Roe vote, but she may disappointingly surprise some of her most ardent supporters when she gives a little bit to the other side," and "she is not the worse we could have gotten; and she replaces one of the worst on the Court, so the balance won’t change." He is referring, of course, to William O. Douglas. Nonetheless Schenck counsels his compatriots to call their senators and to "Pray! I do believe prayer changes things -- even Supreme Court justices!" This is an opposition strategy I can thoroughly endorse. It should be noted that Schenck is something of a moderate, and more radical factions may have other plans.

Friday, July 17, 2009

WALTER CRONKITE, R.I.P. First I have to credit those rightbloggers who have been gracious about Cronkite's passing, or have observed de mortuis nil nisi bonum.

Naturally there have been plenty of assholes. MacRanger announces, "Pinko Cronkite Bites the Dust. And good riddance. The original 'surrendercrat' is dead. Walter Cronkite along with congress caused us to lose in Vietnam." That the guy thinks Cronkite helped lose the war because of an anecdote about a President who, far from being influenced to bug out of Vietnam, slipped from office and left it to his Republican successors to bollocks up, would alone justify discounting his slur if his whole career hadn't already; to paraphrase Ray Collins in The Magnificent Ambersons, if he weren't so thoughtless we might think him rather offensive.

Not much less thoughtless but offensive nonetheless are John Podhoretz and Say Anything, who suggest that Cronkite could learn a thing or two from bloggers, of all people. "There are no Walter Cronkites any more, and while I bear personal animosity to Cronkite himself, good riddance to that era," says the latter (I assume no slip). "But to have a big, giant, sloppy mish-mash of information available for the public to pick through than a carefully managed stream of news being spoon-fed to us by talking heads on television who became so trusted nobody dared question them."

From that last sentence fragment I guess that he means the mish-mash is better. While I enjoy the big scrum as much as the next guy, as my coverage ceaselessly shows, it is also full of bullshit, and there are disadvantages as well as advantages to the caveat lector approach, particularly considering the dangerously elevated public relations and permanent campaign components of the blogosphere.

But let's not forget what these people are discounting: the career of a man who did local reporting when there was no internet, and barely phone service, to assist him; who went to North Africa and Europe to cover a hot war (and, in his middle age, Vietnam); who anchored a news organization which, whatever else you want to say about it, went everywhere for news; and whose work won the respect of real journalists. This blog thing we're doing, it's okay, but what Cronkite did was on an entirely different level. It's amazing that, in the face of all evidence, any of these pissants have the nerve to claim they've surpassed it.

Read this, basement boys. You have anything that compares? Kerning, perhaps?

UPDATE. Ain't no death-dis like a Christian death-dis -- The Anchoress:
After his retirement, I would read profiles and interviews with Cronkite, and I found myself thinking of him – even when I was still a “liberal Democrat” – as something of an elitist.
Yuh don't say.
So, RIP, Mr. Cronkite. I will not blame you for the media excesses we will have to endure for the next week to ten days.
Because what would be the point? She will blame instead Hitler/Obama.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

NEXT WEEK: HOW FREE CONCERTS IN CENTRAL PARK SAP THE NATION'S WILL. At City Journal, Myron Magnet denounces not only that bastard FDR, as is the style these days, but also that bastard Fiorello LaGuardia. He attacks the "European-style New York" Roosevelt and LaGuardia engendered as anti-democratic and destructive of self-reliance.

When it comes to actual negative results from our "struggling under the accumulated burden of eight decades of 'progressive' government" in New York, though -- and eight decades should be enough time to produce a good dystopia, I think -- he mainly tells us that it's expensive, and that rich people pay too much for it.

He does claim that New York's "public services, even vital ones like the subway, work badly" -- compared to what? Public transit in Tucson? -- "because they operate less for the convenience of their users than for the sake of their unionized, overpaid employees," and because we have "no democratic levers of change, such as voters’ initiatives and referenda." But he fails to tell us where public services work significantly better, probably because New York doesn't compare well with other places. He might suggest low-tax New Hampshire, for example, but even the most conservative governance is not going to make us resemble that sparsely-populated, rural state in any case (though I like the idea of Town Meeting Day). And Magnet is presumably too smart to offer as an example that Valhalla of "voters’ initiatives and referenda," California.

You can just imagine his exasperation that New York no longer has the high levels of crime and grime of previous decades. Then this would be so much easier to put over! Oddly, the name "Giuliani" does not appear in his essay. Maybe Magnet denounced him, too, and the editors cut it out; or he started to praise the former Mayor, but realized that this would fit badly with his chronicle of decades of urban degeneracy.

So Magnet retreats to rhetoric ("As opposed to FDR’s immense governmental machine throbbing mightily at the end of history, how much grander is Edmund Burke’s vision of society," etc.) and warnings of future perils and further shores. Our allegedly socialistic regime will yet destroy our democratic spirit, he warns -- "Once you start talking about government’s equitable distribution of wealth... you have begun to leave democracy behind" -- just as it has in ruined Europe's, such as it was. He has plenty of horrible examples of genuinely anti-democratic behavior from there -- such as "France prosecuting Brigitte Bardot, and Switzerland and Italy prosecuting Oriana Fallaci, for anti-Muslim statements" -- but no convincing argument that they're coming to pass here. Couldn't he have mentioned our bicycle lanes? They've got to be will-sapping, somehow

The worst part is when he describes, at great length, the insufficient fighting spirit of Dutch and British soldiers. You can tell he wants to say that we're catching it, too. But to paraphrase Bogie, there are certain sections of New York, Magnet, where I wouldn't advise you to try and pontificate.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

IT'S BIRTHERIFFIC! The tale of the soldier who refused to serve in Afghanistan on the grounds that Obama was born on foreign soil and is therefore not President -- an evasion of duty the soldier apparently had a right to pull as a reservist, which fact he initially concealed in order to drum up publicity for his cause -- has done us the favor of drawing out some heretofore unrevealed birther bloggers. I didn't know, for instance, that Tom Maguire of Just One Minute was one of them, but I may be forgiven for missing that as he's obviously trying to have it both ways:
AS TO THE BIRTHER CONSPIRACIES: I have no idea what the current state of play with the birther conspiracies might be (and I am not sure I want to find out), but the I will reiterate the one idea I might be able to pass off as original - Obama's mother and maternal grandparents would not have been cooking the paperwork on Obama's citizenship status in 1961 in order to preserve his Presidential viability in 2008; they would have been doing so in order to enhance their own chances in a custody scuffle with the Kenyan father...
Maguire's not like those nuts -- he's got an original conspiracy theory! And one with which he harasses poor, sane David Weigel at the Independent ("In his comments section Dave Weigel implicitly accedes to the notion that the Dunhams had a powerful motive to fudge Obama's citizenship... My follow-up comment is being blocked there, at least for now..."). This is a great way to show the world that you're not nuts, though maybe Maguire should march around outside Weigel's apartment with a sign that says "RELEASE THE MAGUIRE COMMENTS" to really cement the impression.

DirectorBlue has an even more wizardly fake-out: "Well, I'm certainly no conspiracy theorist when it comes to Barack Obama's birthplace, having done my best to help debunk the birth certificate controversy. But this article, from Ghana's leading newspaper, certainly won't help dull the outcry any."

Riddlemethis at The Astute Bloggers is more forthrightly in for the big win. Learning that the recalcitrant soldier had lost a Security Services gig with the DOD, Riddlemethis roars, "Is this what can expect from our DOD and the Obama administration: intimidation, termination, and bullying. Seems that Obama has a very large problem on his hands and has really got to show the birth certificate and everything sealed for that matter." Obama's really stepped in it this time! Riddlemethis will now watch developments with his nose that much closer to the screen, and a rag handy to wipe away the fog his breath leaves on this glass.

Not all of them are crazy in precisely this way. This Ain't Hell don't buy this birther crap nohow -- which is why he's mad that "the Obama Administration renews the paranoia from the birthers." Why would Obama sic the dogs of birtherism on himself? Maybe just to show off, like Houdini. When This Ain't Hell finds out that about the soldier's prevarications, he adds, "That still doesn’t let the Left off the hook, though." Jesus, everybody's in on this conspiracy to protect Obama by attacking him.

This story, today's insane jabber about Obama's pitch at the All-Star Game, and their other deranged obsessions further convince me that they're not even trying to argue against Obama to their fellow citizens anymore, but are just constructing an alternate reality in which to ride things out for a couple of terms.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

NANNY STATE DIARIES. Rod Dreher, back at the porn trough:
[A high-school teacher] said he worked in a counselor's role there as well, and routinely dealt with students who were seriously messed up by their porn habits. For example, he said, he believed that many of the guys he worked with had no idea how to relate to women in a healthy way; the power of pornography, working consciously and subconsciously, caused the men to have badly distorted views of women, views that stunted and even paralyzed the men emotionally.
Taken in isolation, that statement is not objectionable -- in fact, it could be seen as admirable. Pornography has its uses, but it's a very poor video-game substitute for human relationships, which is why we try to restrict it to adults, teenagers being presumed insufficiently mature to take porn in stride.

But this is Rod Dreher we're talking about here, and this is his very next line:
My wife brought up the story of a handsome, popular Southern Baptist pastor in Dallas who, back in the 1980s, confessed to being the serial rapist who terrorized an apartment complex here.
And, brothers and sisters, it was the demon porn that set him off! Suddenly we've abandoned the protection of pre-adults and moved on to the hoary idea of porn as insidious demonic force.

Then, Lord love us, Dreher starts talking about Ted Bundy.

There are a few reasons why Dreher always spins off this way. One is his traditional rejection of feminism. "Feminism was supposed to raise the consciousness of men," he says elsewhere, "but it has made so many women just as raunchy and sex-obsessed as many males." This in an article about Bratz dolls, which he admits feminists probably wouldn't like, though he forebears to say why -- probably because it might have to do with their peculiar equanimous ideas about gender relations, which conflict with the ones Jesus taught him, rather than general sex-hatred. (At the same time he's creeped out by lesbian separatists. No pleasing this guy.) The idea that women might require respect outside of a restrictive religious context blows his mind.

The other has to do with Dreher's idea of life in general. He's alarmingly sympathetic to plural marriages between/among nymphets and middle-aged men in a religious context. But the notion of sexual fantasy nauseates him. With God, all things are possible indeed: if a grown man picks the right faith he can live like Humbert Humbert minus the guilt, but if he or anyone looks at Miss November not only is he doomed, but so is society.

Since the topic is naked ladies and gents, the normal reaction is to laugh it off. Still, it's worth remembering that these guys -- a major factor in our national governance till recently, and champing at the bit to get back into it -- actually think this way about everything. Because it's really the thought that a human mind might, with the merest provocation, be spurred to thoughts Dreher can't control that rattles him.

Nonetheless, as usual, his commenters are a joy. "Softcore 'porn' is indeed everywhere, including the pews in front of me at church all too often (especially during the summer)," says Zach Treed. " Few things are as mortifying to the eyes as approaching holy Communion while following behind an intermittent parade of hardbodies who can't, or won't, dress any differently for Mass than a stripper dresses for the start of her dance." Where has this church been all my life? h/t Nancy Nall.

Monday, July 13, 2009

NEW VOICE COLUMN UP. Bored with Palin, I was delighted to find that Going Galt is still a thing. Regrettably, I missed that Tea Party Nation promises "on July 30th, Conservatives are 'Going Galt'":
On that date, we are asking Conservatives all across the nation to "Call in Conservative". On July 30th, Conservatives will not work, we will not buy. Instead, we will spend time with our families and friends. We will show President Obama and Congress who REALLY drives this economy.
To be fair, they've been frothing nonstop since the election, and could use a day off. I'd say it will be a relief to all of us, but have a sneaking suspicion they'll be blogging with more than usual fervor that day. So it really is a net loss. But we already know that even if we pay them off with votes or tax relief, they still won't shut up.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

POSITIVE SPIN. Legal Insurrection has a post today called "If Palin Were President Now." I expected the next line to be, "She would quit." Alas, the professor who runs the site, launched unto internet fame by his obsession with President Obama's mustard, is not joking. But neither is he serious. Among his assertions:
If Palin were President, we would not have:
  • A debt and deficit rising so far out of proportion to historical norms as to threaten the near-and-long term viability of the country's ability to service the debt without destroying the value of the dollar, and passing on to our children and grandchildren unsustainable burdens.
  • A stimulus package filled with pork and giveaways to political constituencies, pushed through under false and fraudulent claims of job creation, and exaggerated claims of immediate economic disaster which themselves hurt the markets, in a process so disgusting that not a single Representative or Senator read the bill before voting.
There are within these and his other points numerous links, mostly to other Legal Insurrection posts, all of them about Obama's malfeasance and none of them about what Palin would do to correct it, though at the end he bothers to tell us that Palin does not have a "Master of the Universe complex" like Obama, and that "at least Palin understands how to put the brakes on government power," an assertion which could hardly be extrapolated from her record. So the general argument is that Palin would be better than Obama because Palin is Palin and not Obama.

The professor's lack of positive arguments is understandable. It is difficult to say how the governor of a state largely dependent on revenues from oil, corporations, and federal largesse would apply that experience to the economy of the United States. As for the foreign policy angle (Palin would not pursue "a foreign policy which strong-arms allies such as Israel and Honduras, while paying deference to enemies such as Hugo Chavez and Mahmood Ahmadinejad," the professor says), his proposition is so muddled with mischaracterizations of Obama Administration policy that he might as well say that Palin would not bomb Tel Aviv and claim that as an advantage.

It's also understandable that he would offer something with at least the form of a positive argument. Nearly all the arguments being made on Palin's behalf have to do with her spunkiness, the loyalty she engenders among rightwing Republicans, and above all her alleged victimization by mainstream media outlets (which she nonetheless floods with access), talk show hosts, and the guy who knocked up her daughter.

The professor may have perceived that some readers would not be satisfied with qualification by complaint, and come up with a title that promises a positive case for Palin. If the words that appear under it constitute nothing but further complaints, so what? Maybe someone will see the title and remember that the case has been made, by somebody and in some way, as they return to barricades to denounce Conan O'Brien or Charlie Rose or whoever the next target of outrage is.

Friday, July 10, 2009

THEY DON'T MAKE LIBERTARIANS LIKE THEY USED TO. Megan McArdle:
A Democrat of my acquaintance, who makes something, but not a huge something, over $200,000 a year while living in Manhattan, was recently grousing to me about the surtax. "My taxes on a marginal dollar are going to go up almost 1000 basis points!" said he.
(There is some dispute as to what 1000 basis points amounts to in this case; a commenter works it out to about $800, but it could be more.)
This is true, I agreed. And just what, I wondered, had he thought was going to happen if he elected Obama? Not clear. Our subject had listened to Obama talk about taxing people who made more than $250,000, which seemed entirely reasonable; he hadn't realized that being single, his tax hikes would start much lower than that--that he, too, was "the rich". Mentally speaking, the rich don't live in eight hundred moderately roach-infested square feet in an unfashionable neighborhood of New York.
By the way, here's what 800 square feet looks like. The "moderately roach-infested" is added, I would guess from precedent, to dog-whistle to the outlanders who seem to comprise most of McArdle's audience that New York real estate is grimy as well as expensive. (And of course it works.) I marvel that she didn't add something about muggers, panhandlers, or people who use their hands when they talk.

I do not come naturally to sympathy with the Democrat of McArdle's acquaintance, as I make a fraction of what he makes and live in a smaller apartment, though my neighborhood, swinging Greenpoint, is very fashionable, or so the magazines tell me. But if the loss of $800, or even a couple of grand, to fees for government services is of such pressing concern to someone who makes over $200,000, he must be an even worse money manager than I am, and my heart goes out to him. Maybe he should fire his accountant, or take a smaller room when he vacations in Cozumel.

McArdle's sympathy, expressed in comments, is much greater:
The problem is, in New York, it's really easy to be so tapped out on $200K that you do, indeed, notice the extra missing money -- his average tax burden is already in the 40-50% range, as mine was when I lived there. It's just not comparable to anywhere else. And it's no good saying that they chose to live in New York -- most people living in New York couldn't earn their "fabulous" income anywhere else.
That seems a strange attitude for a libertarian like McArdle to take about it. Isn't this guy supposed to vote with his feet, or Go Galt, or something? That would sure show the rest of us parasites.

Yet she talks about him as if he were a migrant farm worker about to be driven into the barren wastes. I've stopped minding all their jabber about how sorry we'll be all when they've left, but it's really annoying to hear from them how badly they'll suffer if we drive them out.

(By the way, didn't McArdle say she was voting for Obama? Or did she back off that? Like many of my class, I'm too shiftless to look it up.)

UPDATE. The invaluable Susan of Texas demonstrates to us in comments that McArdle didn't vote for Obama because she forgot to register to vote. This makes a great deal of sense. First, it's obvious from McArdle's blog that politics doesn't interest her very much. Second, why would such a Randian superperson as she trifle with voting? The fact that a bum like me gets as many votes as Alan Greenspan proves that voting is a levelers' ruse to promote the Reign of Witch Doctors. When you get as much franchise as your gold bars will buy on the open market, that's when she'll remember to fill out a registration form. And when Detroit makes supercars designed by Howard Roark, that's when she'll learn to register a car.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

THE AIRING OF GRIEVANCES. If you're having trouble understanding the depth of conservative commitment to Sarah Palin's ridiculous assumption of martyrdom, John Derbyshire offers an instructive sidelight at The Corner. He starts with a typical "The Fuhrer was sweet, the Fuhrer was kind" defense of Pinochet, but gets to his bigger fish: a new film by "Chilean commie film director Pablo Larrain" called Tony Manero, which sounds like an American Psycho-style knock on the Pinochet years (I haven't seen it, and evidently neither has Derbyshire).
That's bad and silly enough. What lifts Larraín's feeble bit of ComSympery to the level of outrage is the particular cultural icon he picked on as the target for his venom. It is none other than Tony Manero, the character played by John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever. Larraín's wretched, filthy movie is in fact titled Tony Manero.

Is there no decency any more? No restraint? No respect for our cultural heritage?

Chile had a narrow escape from Marxist-Leninist tyranny. We should never cease to remind the Left of that, if only because it annoys the hell out of them. Pinochet, with all his many faults, was a patriot who saved his country. We should keep saying that, too; and Pablo Larraín's absurd movie gives us the opportunity. It might all have gone unmentioned for another year or so if not for Larraín; but, as Tony Manero says to the customer in the paint store: "You brung it up."
I charitably assumed at first that Derbyshire was making a subtle joke, but as the screed wore on I realized that he was genuinely enraged that an art film few Americans will see trifles with the sacred images of Tony Manero and Augusto Pinochet. Even stranger, he found this cultural offense a suitable launching pad for new and louder defenses of the murderous dictator, to which most Americans are likely to respond, "Who are Pinoshay and Ayendi?"

It was unavoidable and understandable that, with conservatives largely out of power, they would spend more time complaining. But so much of their time these days is spent raging at irrelevancies. It's as if they believe their rage itself is incandescent and, if allowed to burn brightly enough, will attract voters like moths. The Palin eruption, in which her abandonment of the responsibilities of office is portrayed as victimhood, is only their biggest such bonfire of vanities at the moment.

This compares badly even with the conservative culture-warring of olden times, for which I find myself growing almost nostalgic. They make Pat Buchanan look like Isaiah Berlin.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

CULTURE OF COMPLAINT, PART 83,992. At The Corner, Mark Hemingway is incensed that Obama joked in a speech to Moscow students, "I don’t know if anybody else will meet their future wife or husband in class like I did, but I’m sure you’ll all going to have wonderful careers." Michelle and Barack went to Harvard Law at different times, though Obama was at the time a student doing his summer internship at Sidley & Austin, where she mentored him. Newsweek calls the comment "a wee bit off," which is not good enough for Hemingway, who calls the publication Obamaweek.

"The statement is just wrong," Hemingway continues in a blind fury. "There is no 'technical' justification for it having any veracity that I can tell — 'in class' is quite specific. Next time you husbands embarass your wife publicly by not remembering a significant relationship detail. I bet you wish a major media organization would step in and spin it for you. Alas, you'll have no such luck." Because Obamaweek loves Obama and hates you ordinary people, whose casual statements Obamaweek will parse rigorously in order to embarrass your wives. And Obama clearly must hate his wife, too, to humiliate her thus.

Elsewhere at The Corner Jay Nordlinger flips out because a conductor at Lincoln Center said that he and his fellow Britons were "very pleased" at how things were going in America now, which Nordlinger took as a slur on George Bush. Despite a recent poll showing Obama much more popular with Brits than Bush, Nordlinger disputes the maestro's imputation: "There has been a new awkwardness in Anglo-American relations," he asserts. "Beginning with the return of the Churchill bust, continuing with DVD-gate, etc." Maybe the only Britons he knows are named Windsor. And, Nordlinger adds, "the administration has thrown cold water -- strange cold water -- on the idea of a 'special relationship.'" Strange cold water? Perhaps Obama imported it from Treasonstan.

Nordlinger finds this further evidence that there are no "safe zones" left where a decent, Obama-hating citizen can enjoy himself in peace. If you can't evade mildly liberal sentiments among artists at Lincoln Center, where can you evade them?

And they say liberals are touchy.

UPDATE. The Ole Perfesser catches Nordlinger's outrage. "I’m sorry," he says, "but the only way to fix this is to be an asshole, complain loudly, and make things even more unpleasant for the perpetrator than for you." This of course has been the Perfesser's modus operandi for years. He and the Missus must be a real ornament to the local arts scene. Maybe we should all pitch in and send them to a Decemberists concert.

Monday, July 06, 2009

THE RIGHT ARE VERY DIFFERENT FROM YOU AND ME. Legal Insurrection finds a Reuters photo captioned, "Supporters of ousted Honduras' President Manuel Zelaya, one of them with a shirt covered with blood,.." Turns out the guy wiped the blood on his shirt, which is no shock, since in the photo he is standing and gesticulating, something he would not be able to do if his chest had been blown open. Nonetheless, Legal Insurrection calls the accurately captioned photo "fauxtography," etc.

A commenter points out that the caption matches the reality of the scene, and one of LI's shills steps forward:
Caged, Reuters does not deal in truth but in innuendo and slant. The slant here is that someone was injured while protesting the ousting of Zelaya. That slant is false and Reuters deserves to be called out. Try Google sometime. Many compilations available of established Reuters fauxtography.

What kind of Useless Idiot defends Reuters or any MSM entity, anyway? The Astroturf kind?
It's like something out of a psych textbook. The patient, unable to completely deny obvious reality, tells you how his enemies are twisting everything to make it look bad, don't you see, and when his explanation fails to convince either his audience or himself he lashes out in rage.

I've spent six years explaining the strange folkways of American conservatives, but since their forced migration from power they've entered a phase that is new and a little spooky even to me. They've been risible before, even ridiculous, but in this new age of the Victorious Palin Resignation it's as if they've entered some kind of mass hallucination. The sad thing is, if they ever catch on to that, they'll think it's because Obama drugged them, and that I'm writing about it as a kind of double-blind to cover Obama's tracks, etc. Well, if they start screaming call the ambulance.
NEW VOICE COLUMN UP, following on the reaction of rightbloggers to Sarah Palin, particularly her threat to sue reporters and writers who "defame" her. Needless to say they think that's great. I remember a time when these guys were all about defending blog scribes from the attacks of the powerful. Of course, that was before Palin became their professional victim, someone who may be cast as the underdog in any encounter despite her position and privileges.

Ross Douthat's column today about Palin follows the general strategy of talking about her as a symbol rather than as a politician. He talks about what sort of person he imagines her to be, and what sort of person polls suggest she appeals to, which relieves him of the need to consider her disastrous national political career as something for which Palin might at least share some responsibility, and leaves him free to fantasize a Republican mythology in which a Palin figure who has no characteristics except a noble common touch, the love of hardcore supporters, and female genitalia is harried to destruction by the demons of the Left because of them. The actual story, of a local pol who fared badly in the national spotlight, is too painful for him to contemplate. Though she proved a turkey on the ticket, Douthat will no doubt treat her inevitable reemergence as the resurrection of a phoenix.
SHORTER ANDREW BREITBART: Bitches! If I say this often enough, maybe women will finally start voting Republican.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

PUBLIC ENEMIES. Maybe I just have a bad chemical reaction to Michael Mann movies. I can barely remember The Insider or Heat, though I recall there were things in them that I liked; they just seemed lumpy and unfocused and their ponderousness overwhelmed even the very good acting (though Christopher Plummer's Mike Wallace, a professional trimmer with good excuses, sticks in my mind. Plummer was a fine actor in his younger days, but his late performances are sublime).

Public Enemies is no improvement, though since I saw it Friday I can recall it a little better. The first bank robbery was a nice how-to, but after that I lost interest in them, and I suspect Mann did, too. Actually most of the scenes, even when competently handled (and Public Enemies, like many recent action pictures, has bang-bang episodes where you can't tell who's doing what), just sort of lie there. As has elsewhere been noted, Johnny Depp and Marion Cotillard never get much of anything going, and after a short while seeing how Dillinger is going to get out of jail or get the money or get killed is no longer a matter of pressing concern.

The major problem is that Dillinger isn't interesting -- not in this telling, anyway. (I've heard good things about the Warren Oates version.) His signal qualities are professionalism, loyalty to friends, and a refusal to admit defeat; the movie would have to have more on its mind than showing this off to carry the day. As it is, he's just an admirable thug with a girlfriend. I think Johnny Depp's decision to play Dillinger quiet and heavily internalized is probably smart star-image-wise -- filmgoers want to see him play a soulful hero once in a while, in between weirdoes -- but disastrous for the movie. Being encouraged to admire a killer and bank-robber hasn't been a fresh trick for decades, and Depp's Dillinger doesn't reward our attention with anything else.

Context doesn't add much. A lot of effort is devoted to social portraiture around the edges; this is well-done but mostly futile. The J. Edgar Hoover and Melvin Purvis characters are meant to show the corruption of the law -- self-righteous in the former case, self-tortured in the latter. But that provides no reason to view Dillinger more kindly. In fact, this kind of comparison -- the crooks are bad, but the G-men are bad too -- is so lazy in the film as to become annoying. Worst of all is the segment where a lawman beats up the girlfriend and Purvis has to step in and rescue her -- mainly because we're supposed to feel for Purvis and it helps put him on the side of the good-bad guys, and maybe because someone figured the girl has to suffer some damage to raise the stakes.

All gangster-hero movies have to get out of these problems; the old black-and-whites usually did it will verbal pizazz and a morality that was just as bogus as Public Enemies' but lighter on the special pleading. Gable's exit in Manhattan Melodrama, of which we see a little in Public Enemies, is the flip side of Cagney's in Angels With Dirty Faces -- a moral conclusion that puts the weight of the downfall on the crook, not his environment. New-Hollywood movies like Bonnie and Clyde and Thieves Like Us were more interested in the hoodlum's environment, but also showed his relationship to it so we could at least get where he was coming from. Also, these heroes are ultimately losers. Dillinger is already a success when we meet him, and his relationship to Depression America is that of a star to his public, waving gamely from the back of a police car. Whatever happens, he's a winner. He has nothing to tell us but how he gets out of trouble, not how he got into it, or why.

There's some good acting in there -- Billy Crudup puts a nice crust of malice and authority on Hoover, and as Red Hamilton Jason Clarke has some scenes with Depp that suggest another, much more interesting movie about their relationship.