Thursday, September 29, 2011

DON'T LAUGH, YOU'RE NEXT. The whole ridiculous beef over The Onion's Congressional hostage joke is about this: the Internet is overstocked with miserable people whose miserable mission in life is to turn everything into the lowest kind of politics -- not the kind we have fun with here, but what the serious people call retail politics -- which is a great term for it, if you imagine these guys as telemarketers whose bosses have drilled them to never promise anything, to never take no for an answer, and to never go off script.

These people are as carefully trained as guard dogs, and they don't take well to humor. For one thing, it interferes with the sales pitch. They have their time-tested script, and they've learned how to react to every possible response -- but then some joker makes fun of it, and suddenly their logic is uprooted. Some of them may have the wit to roll with it, but generally the kind of person who gets hired for these gigs doesn't. (Maybe they had it coming in, but a few years of following the script will take it out of you.)

When they see a joke that rouses some political controversy, they're more comfortable. Because that's not this messy ha-ha stuff that interferes with business -- this is something that can be turned to their advantage, like a recent news item about some poor girl who would be alive now if only she'd had their product.

This kind of joke has a place in their decision tree. Does it make fun of the competition? That's good for business, and if someone squawks about it he's just being [see card G] politically correct. Does it make fun of the product? Then leverage the controversy. There are other emotional cues they can work -- outrage, sensitivity, concern. Are they fake? Hey, buddy, they just work here -- if the suckers buy it, it's as real as a paycheck.

Look, you know what kind of people these are. They have websites all about how Hollywood is trying to destroy America. They're constantly telling each other that the people on the TV are trying to sap their moral will. They read about street crime in a distant city, shiver in their Barcaloungers, and think: Obama is rousing the blacks against us! When they talk about their children, their homes, their encounters with friends or strangers, or anything at all, even something as simple as a joke, they're still giving you the pitch.

Because the pitch is all they know. Everything they see, whether it's from the front page or the gossip column or the street, they turn to their purpose. For them nothing in this world is merely what it is; everything is, must be part of the pitch.

And you? To them you can be someone they're trying to sell, or someone they're trying to recruit. But make no mistake: to them, that's all you are.
DORKUS MALORKUS SPEAKETH. Attend Maximus Super Victor Davis Hanson as he sayeth the sooth! Well, it's soothing if you know how to take it. As is his custom, VDH bids us ware the Ides of March, then Delphically describes an America recognizable only to old cranks who spend their evenings with a glass of port and a volume of Heroditus open (in a place where visitors can easily see it), wailing that we are just like old Rome in her decline, except for our endless wars, which are great (though we really should be spending less money on them, and more plebes' lives).

VDH is full of stories, but sometimes he wanders:
Somewhere around 1985 in California I noticed that my students were hoping for a state job first, a federal job second, a municipal job third — and a private one last.
And this at the height of the Reagan era! We were told in those days that the kids had all become little Alex P. Keatons, high on trickledown and entrepreneurial as fuck. So either Maximus Super speaketh bullshit, or in '85 his young charges, having grown up under Governor Reagan, got an early whiff of the fraud and were opting out. (Or maybe they thought, "Jesus, if he can teach at a state school, I could be a fucking Dean!")

VDH also Sphinxes out some riddles:
Why is it more moral for a federal bureaucrat in a state-supplied SUV to shut down an offshore oil rig on grounds that it is too dangerous for the environment than for a private individual to risk his own capital to find some sort of new fuel to power his government’s SUV fleet?
Answer "what's morality got to do with it, cloth-ears?" (rather than the correct "You got me there, Senex Gloriosus!") and VDH will not let you pass, but will block the hallway and forcibly regale you, no matter how badly you say you need the bathroom, with his proposed solution to our nation's low, mean state: Tax the Poor ("Their noncompliance bothers the foundations of our society far more than that of the stingy, but minuscule, number of grasping rich") and restore "a different popular culture that honors character rather than excess," presumably by throwing non-Christians to the lions.

On and on it goes, with awkward modern correlations ("the elite have responsibility to use their largess wisely and not turn into the Kardashians") and stretches of senile dementia ("In our strange culture, that someone drives an overpriced BMW apparently means that our own Toyotas don’t have air conditioners or stereos" -- what?). You may wonder how he gets published. Well, they can't all be bellowing goons like Chris Christie or Mr. Reasonables like David Brooks -- sometimes the avatars of the New Feudalism must have a schoolly look, so that the half-educated may look upon them and think, aha, the rage I feel when I see impertinent minorities and nubiles on TV is not just a gut reaction, but the judgement of history!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

THE FAT MAN SINGS. I could have sworn it was just a crazy dream:

Judging from Christie's speech today, he's willing to milk this thing for all it's worth, lining up his union-busting reputation with Reagan and the air traffic controllers ("I cite this incident not as a parable of labor relations...") and even, ridiculously, with international affairs ("What we say and what we do here at home affects how others see us...").

Whether Americans at large will agree that yelling at unions is good training for the job of Commander of Chief in the War on Whatever, or that the absurd slogan "Leadership and Compromise" makes any more sense than "Rice Krispies and Beer," is moot. American politics has changed a great deal since William Jennings Bryan stormed the 1896 Democratic convention and swept the field, and even with a head start Christie would be sailing into a (you'll pardon the expression) big fat wind if he took this thing seriously. A lot of money has already changed hands, and the entry of a few new rich guys into the game isn't going to much change the outcome.

I'm rooting for him, of course. Not only because I love the idea of Rick Perry fluttering around in some conference room, petulantly asking his advisors why he can't use the jokes he brought in about lettin' out his drawers. If the GOP field is really listing into such chaos, it may encourage the ever-opportunistic Sarah Palin to come in and regulate. Then the debates, heretofore merely risible, will resemble the scene in Monty Python's Life of Brian where all the messiahs gibber simultaneously in the market. Panderfest will become pandermonium! If we're really going down the tubes at least we should have some laughs along the way.

Meanwhile we can get pleasure enough from classic messianic guff like this from Daniel Foster:
Christie absolutely owned the Reagan library tonight, a point made most clear during the Q& A by the earnest, trembling plea from a woman who begged, on behalf of her “daughter and granddaughter,” that Christie reconsider running for president.

“I know New Jersey needs you, but I really implore you — this isn’t funny — we can’t wait another four years,” the woman said. “We need you. Your country needs you to run for president.”

Christie responded: “I hear exactly what you’re saying and I feel the passion with which you say it and it touches me.” But Christie also said that the decision to run “has to reside inside me.”
Try to imagine Phil Gramm or Paul Tsongas in the lead role of this passion play! A few years hence it'll be just as plainly absurd.

UPDATE. Commenter Glen Tomkins makes an excellent point:
Not that I believe that Christie wants in, or would not stumble for other reasons, but I don't follow your point that the late start putting him behind the power curve with big donors would be a show-stopper.  
We now live in a post-Citizens United world.  The fact that a lot of big donors and aggregators have already placed their bets no longer carries the weight it once did.  A lone crazed billionaire could step in, and for chump change compared to other business expences, single-handedly finance a major effort by any late entrant simply because their crazy happened to vibrate on the same harmonics as his own, much less whose policies promised an excellent ROI.
But that's one of the blessings of freedom, comrade: the market for buyable politicians is now wide-open and entrepreneurial, so rich bastards who once amused themselves by purchasing a basketball team and pitting it against his fellow rich bastards' basketball teams may now do the same with Presidental candidates. I just wish that crazy bastard Ted Turner would get into the act and pay George Clooney to run. What? He can still do cameos and cartoon voices.

Monday, September 26, 2011

PUNCH & JUDY. Oh look, it's an affirmative action bake sale:
UC Berkeley 'Racist' Bake Sale Demonstration Sparks Outrage

In protest against an Affirmative Action-like bill awaiting Gov. Jerry Brown's signature, U.C. Berkeley College Republicans announced plans to host a satirical Increase Diversity Bake Sale, selling racially price-adjusted pastries on campus, SFGate reported. The bake sale is scheduled for Tuesday morning at 10am.

The announcement, posted on the group's Facebook page, advertised a pricing structure, ranging from $2 per pastry for white men to $.25 per pastry for Native Americans, with a $.25 price break for women.
What isn't mentioned in the HuffPo story is that this bake sale schtick has been going on for years -- at DePaul, Wesleyan, Bucknell, and elsewhere. (Here's a report on them from 2003.) The routine has been to set up one of these things, go fishing for outrage, and alert the media, and I'll be damned if it doesn't work. And it works especially well when everyone pretends it's never happened before.

I'm not averse to bread and circuses, but the bread is running out and our circuses really suck. No wonder these guys were so excited by James O'Keefe. At least he was pushing the envelope.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

NEW VOICE COLUMN UP, about the Rick Perry fade and the resulting enthusiasm for Chris Christie. The GOP debates haven't been good for anybody, which is why I sort of sympathize with Don Surber's desire to reform them, i.e., remove all extraneous candidates and opportunities for unscripted moments:
What Mitt Romney and Rick Perry need to do is tell MSNBC, CNN and Fox News that it is over. No more games. No more audiences applauding death or booing gay soldiers. Mitt Romney and Rick Perry have given them their time, now they and the networks should move on...

These debates are a farce and a detriment to the electoral process. All they do is open Republicans to mocking by a liberal-biased media. To hell with the debates because they do not serve Republicans at all.
That whole Tea Party, power-to-the-people thing really caught on, didn't it?

Friday, September 23, 2011

SHORTER THE ANCHORESS: Someone expressed the perfectly Catholic sentiment that homosexuals are disgusting and should be kept out of sight, and would you believe it, the filthy homos were rude to her! Is there no end to our persecution?

UPDATE. "If she watched the last GOP primary debate," comments Brazilian Rascal, "she likely got a heartwarming glow from the booing and hissing of a gay soldier that should get her through a few hard nights, though." Yes, but some people have complained about the booing and the hissing, and that's repression and oppression -- just part of the anti-Christian onslaught that started with gay people publicly flaunting a disgusting new practice called "fighting back."

Thursday, September 22, 2011

THE GREAT MAN SPEAKS. Elizabeth Warren delivers an awesome riposte to all that glibertarian why-should-I-pay-for-anything yak:
You built a factory out there? Good for you. But I want to be clear. You moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for. You hired workers the rest of us paid to educate. You were safe in your factory because of police-forces and fire-forces that the rest of us paid for. You didn’t have to worry that marauding bands would come and seize everything at your factory — and hire someone to protect against this — because of the work the rest of us did...
It's so good that conservatives have sent to refute it their greatest intellectual champion -- Jonah "How Come They Don't Make Shrek Go-Gurt in Adult Sizes" Goldberg.

First, the classic Goldbergian set-up:
It’s a nice little riff, but I’m not sure it’s nearly as powerful an argument as the progressives who are hearing what they want to hear think it is.
You can almost hear Goldberg painstakingly stacking up the time-wasting words ("as powerful an argument as... the progressives who... are hearing what they... want to hear...") while his Mom dashes in with the talking points, and see him furtively gesturing for his action figures (or, as he calls them, "interns") to chortle dismissively.
First of all, the factory owner already pays a hunk — a big hunk — for the next kid who comes along. The “rich” already pay a very disproportionate share of that freight. Warren makes it sound like that’s not happening now, which is of course bunk.
Will it surprise you to learn that there are no links to supporting evidence in this section? Here's some background; bottom line, the Goldberg view is that rich people can pay as little as they want and still be victims, especially if you put quotes around "rich."
Meanwhile, if you listen to Warren closely, she could just as easily be making the case for if not a minarchist government, then something pretty close. Defending factories from marauding bands is an important function of government, but it doesn’t really take up much of the budget. Ditto fire departments... I very much doubt this mythical factory owner has much objection to paying for any of that stuff. So far all of her verbiage about the social contract is pious misdirection.
Warren's big mistake was not listing every service government performs -- for example, "#424: providing the rich factory owner with live employees by making sure everybody doesn't die from poisoned water supplies." But even then she couldn't win, because every time she named another such service, Goldberg would go, "No problem with that, minarchist," and when she finished, he'd go, "Minarchist says what? Farrrrt."
Of course conservatives believe in a social contract, albeit a more bare bones version than the one liberals believe in. Insinuations otherwise are a red herring.
As we tirelessly chronicle here, the conservative idea of a "bare bones social contract" is a social contract like Barebone's Parliament was a Parliament. On the very Corner pages wherein Goldberg burbles, the boys are talking about how eager they are to get rid of Social Security entirely ("I’m very surprised by your claim that Social Security’s designers and perpetuators have not attempted to perpetrate a fraud"). In the libertarian press -- which is the meth lab of modern conservatism -- they're already talking about doing away with public roads, and think the fire department shouldn't save your house if you don't pay them a fee.

In short, every time they see a taxpayer-funded service that does not exclusively benefit major Republican donors, they cry Big Gummint and seek to get rid of it. That's all they really stand for; the stuff in the smaller tents (like "culture war") are just sideshows to draw more rubes, so they can occasionally win an election and get back to pillaging the treasury.

Goldberg's close is a thing of beauty:
I think she’ll have to try harder if she wants to persuade people who don’t already agree with her.
Actually, a shit-ton of people already agree with her. I wouldn't expect Goldberg to consider it the other way around, though: the very thought of him trying harder would probably throw him into a cataleptic nap.

UPDATE.Ole Perfesser Instapundit and his Facebook friends take their own, rather sad shot:
you hired workers the rest of us paid to educate; No, you did not educate them. You babysat them for 12 years. Then I hired them, taught them how to be responsible and show up for work...
...paid them minimum wage, then fired them before unemployment kicked in and hired some other suckers. Freedom!

The forces of evil society are further denounced in a graphic, in which the Wealth Producers complain that the fire department "want to shut you down for violating some inane fire code." Sometimes I think the libertarian movement is just one big agoraphobia support group.
HE'S JUST SAYING WHAT THEY'RE ALL THINKING. Remember the GOP Tea Party debate, when Wolf Blitzer asked if a guy should be allowed to die of his illness if he doesn't have health insurance and a bunch of the distinguished yahoos in the audience bellowed in the affirmative? Most conservative chatterboxes have wisely kept them mouths shut about it.

So give some credit at least to John Hawkins of Right Wing News, who has stepped up and blown their cover with an article called "I Agree With the People Who Yelled 'Yes,' We Should Let Him Die at the Debate." He doesn't appear to be kidding.
First of all, as per usual when dealing with the Left, the actual question here is regularly being taken out of context. In Blitzer’s question, he wasn’t referring to someone who couldn’t afford insurance. He was talking about someone who had the money and just decided to spend it elsewhere.
So it's like the fable of the Ant and the Grasshopper. Surely you remember the ending, when the Grasshopper was slowly strangled the death by his diseased lungs?

Aside from the justice of allowing the sick and imprudent to die, Hawkins has an actuarial (if not actual) angle, too:
If we tell people, “Whether you buy health insurance or whether you don’t, we’ll still treat you and then, if you get too far in over your head with the bills, we’ll let you declare bankruptcy” — well then, millions of people will do just that.
It probably never occurred to Hawkins that the free rider problem is directly addressed in the Affordable Care Act, so that we can provide care to the needful without putting an undue burden on society (and in that regard it's already starting to work). In fact, that's a big part of the reason why we have the ACA in the first place.

But that's beside the point, isn't it? The real point is, why would anyone take seriously a guy who writes a column called "I Agree With the People Who Yelled 'Yes,' We Should Let Him Die at the Debate" and isn't going for Swiftian irony, but either a.) actually thinks we should let sick people die because they don't have the money or b.) just wants us to think he feels that way because he thinks it's butch or something? Behold John Hawkins' vision of America:
At some point, churches, foundations, or wealthy Americans would probably step in to provide clinics to try to give those people SOME help, but there would be people who fall through the cracks. That’s the downside of having a truly free society. However, the alternative of having an all-powerful government that tries to control every aspect of our lives to make sure we all “do the right thing” is much worse.
Usually people who take the freedom-isn't-free angle are talking about soldiers who die in wars to defend it; Hawkins thinks freedom requires that we leave some people to die because they crapped out at the health insurance casino, and if we healed them it might discourage others from putting their money down.

This man is on the blogroll of Ole Perfesser Instapundit and a member in good standing of the rightblogger top tier. I wouldn't bother calling for "decent" members of this lunatic's movement to denounce him, though -- not because that's an ancient, obnoxious rightwing trick and they can have it, but because I have no reason to believe the rest of them feel any differently.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

BOOK NOTES. Look out below:
The Atlantic's libertarian entrepreneur-turned-business writer and blogger Megan McArdle's PERMISSION TO SUCK, a look at how risk aversion is sapping America of its core strengths and how we have to embrace the possibility of failure - which she experienced when she was fired and dumped in the same week - if we want to find our passions, land the right job, and succeed in life, to Joy de Menil at Viking, in a pre-empt, by Gail Ross at the Ross Yoon Agency.
No free link -- thanks to whet for the info.

I hope these chapters are included:
  • The unintended consequences of giving money to bums -- they eat, sure, but also fail to upgrade their cardboard signs in ways that enrich our street life.
  • The real tragedy of the financial crisis: it gave Big Government an excuse to interfere with the production of wonderfully risky financial instruments.
  • The inspiring story of an enterprising chemist who developed a new kind of granite from which to make countertops.
  • How I bought the wrong $400 saucepan but learned how to make an omelette!
RETITLED NOEMIE EMERY: "Republicans are waiting for 'A Dick' for 2012."

No really: Though Emerie suggests Republicans combine Mitt Romney and Rick Perry to get "'Mick,' their dream of a candidate," she's clearly more turned on by the penile Perry:
Mitt is the head and Rick is the heart; Mitt is Al Gore, and Rick is Bill Clinton; Mitt is Clean Gene, and Rick is Robert F. Kennedy; Mitt is Ashley Wilkes, and Rick is Rhett Butler. (Who would be Scarlett O'Hara remains to be seen.)
(I think I see her batting her eyes at Big Rick, though, to signal that she needs to be caucused, and often, and by someone who knows how to do it.)
Rick could scare people -- a valuable trait in a world with Iran and al Qaeda.
The bad guys aren't the only ones who need to be feeling it, either:
If Obama looks like a student, and Romney looks like a substitute teacher, Perry looks like the headmaster who comes in and brings order. Whoever coined the phrase "Wait till your father gets home" had someone like Perry in mind as the father.
America needs an ass-whoopin'! Some to git, some to watch! In the end it's a thrill for all. Perry may be dumb as a box of home-schooled rocks, but for a certain type of voter he's the Midnight Rambler. Well you heard about the Boston -- CHANK! (Goddamn!) Well honey, it's not one of those -- CHANK! (Goddamn!)

I see less chance of synthesis than of a Jekyll-and-Hyde scenario. And given the character of the GOP base I think I know which way they're going to swing.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

FANCY TALK. American Thinker seems to encourage the use of academic cred to promote wingnut doctrine -- as seen in the contributions of Robin of Berkeley, a psychotherapist who regularly attributes policies she opposes to the mental illnesses in which her training has made her expert.

Today's AT intellectual is Paul Jacobson, who tells us that Democrats are "The Postmodern Party." He chooses an interesting path to this conclusion. Rather than correlate Democratic beliefs to postmodernist precepts -- say, the Affordable Care Act to the works of Martin Heidegger -- which he perhaps intuits will bore and frustrate his readers, Jacobson skips to the McCarthyite phase and tells us that the postmodern menace is everywhere upon us:
... academic postmodernism has long been reaching out from its lofty eyries via its "educated" acolytes, who have been busy for decades quietly worming their way into American life from top to bottom, including not just politics, but education at all levels, entertainment, journalism, corporations, foundations, even churches -- everything that affects you and me. Postmodernism is much more than a philosophy; it is today's foundational cultural driver.
And here's his proof point:
If you doubt that expansive claim for postmodernist influence, consider the poll results published almost a decade ago by the Barna Research Group, an organization that does polling for Christian organizations. You'd expect evangelical Christians to hold to a cornerstone belief in an absolute (Biblical) standard of good and evil, right? Wrong. Barna's poll showed, astonishingly, that an overwhelming majority of evangelical adults (68%) cleave instead to postmodernist moral relativity.
I anticipated testimonials from Bible-beaters who were right with God until they found some of that Jack Derry-da in the corncrib, whereupon they commenced to fornicatin' and other forms of moral relativism. But the linked Barna report doesn't mention postmodernism; the firm's George Barna suggests such results arise because "people are left with philosophies such as 'if it feels good, do it,' 'everyone else is doing it' or 'as long as it doesn't hurt anyone else, it's permissible.'"

In other words, what scolds of an earlier, simpler time would attribute to rock 'n' roll, pornography, birth control, short skirts on the womenfolk, etc., Jacobson attributes to postmodernism -- the real root cause of sin. Let ignorant preachers flap their scriptures; for bigbrains like Jacobson, the devil is de trop, and Foucault rules in hell. (Jacobson does eventually move on from fundamentalists to Democrats, also blaming postmodernism for "the SEIU thug who bit off the guy's finger," as if political violence didn't happen before eggheads started telling everyone that language is a virus.)

This is far from the first pomo putdown seen at AT. They address other high-flown menaces, too -- in their current rotation you'll also find "Social Darwinism and Barack Obama."

It's become standard procedure for the pointier heads in the rightblogger world to lecture their readers on such obscure ivory tower terrors as The Frankfurt School, whom they portray as the godfathers of Social Security and ACORN. Andrew Breitbart's gotten deep into the act, and devotes a section of his book to it. And of course there's Alinsky, now an all-purpose rightwing swearword.

I can see the appeal. You don't see George F. Will doing much of this stuff; the big-time rightwingers are still shaking their fists at old-school demons like Keynes, and they rarely get schoolier than a solemn reference to Hayek or Chesterton. The new conservative intellectuals have to distinguish themselves from their mentors somehow, other than by their even greater mendacity and worse writing, and a new cast of supervillains is as good a way as any. After all, what does it matter what they call the enemy, so long as everyone knows to hate him?

UPDATE. It's late to notice, but comments are a joy, particularly the artistic ones, like BigHank53's memories of Jonathan Sokol and The Postmodern Lovers, and whetstone's evocation of Meredith Willson --
Are certain words creeping into his conversation?
Words like "gnostic"?
And "interlocutory"?
Well if so my friends,
You've got trouble...
Also Kia does a fine rundown on the real postmodern menace, i.e. posemodernists.

Monday, September 19, 2011

NEW VOICE COLUMN UP, about Obama's proposed tax plan and how awful it would be if taxes were raised on the rich. I regret that Megan McArdle had yet to open her yap on the subject when I wrote this, but there's plenty of pro-rich stupidity on display nonetheless.

UPDATE. As of 3 pm McArdle has yet to weigh in on the subject but, a commenter points out, she has compared Netflix to Medicare, for no good reason except Netflix fucked up, which gives her something new and bad to point to and say to Medicare, "See that guy over there? That's what you look like." So we can't be too disappointed with her.

All the other wingnuts are huffing and puffing as expected. At National Review, Veronique de Rugy:
First of all, let me note that there is something unseemly about the idea that a super-millionaire like Warren Buffett should be setting tax policy, no matter how talented and successful he is as a businessman.
It's almost funny, in a pathetic way, to see a toff like de Rugy pressed to act the populist. Especially when -- disguised in overalls and a newsboy cap, and trying to carry herself like she's seen her gardener do -- she tells the boys and girls how persecuted her rich masters are:
The president spends a lot of time talking about the fairness of the tax code. The question here is, “Do the rich pay their fair share in taxes?” The top 1 percent of income earners pay 38 percent of income taxes and earn 20 percent of income, which is highly progressive...
As long as we're turning fairness apples into fairness oranges, we might also point out that the top 1 percent also control two-thirds of the national net worth, earn 24 percent of America's income, etc. Fairness-wise, I think we should just squeeze them till they poop gold coins.

Friday, September 16, 2011

BLACKMAIL. The Postal Service is having money trouble, and the conservatarian line is that this is due to Big Gummint socialism so the USPS should be privatized:
Congress hasn’t been able to bring itself to allow the USPS to close 3,000 of its 30,000+ retail locations, so it’s hard to imagine that it will allow operations to come to a halt. Therefore, the important question is what sort of relief will Congress ultimately provide?

Let’s start with what it won’t do: consider privatization...

...if the USPS is to operate solely on the revenues that it generates, then it needs the flexibility that comes with private ownership.
Other such people admit that small-market citizens would find their service drastically curtailed by a new, profit-hungry privatized postal service (indeed, USPS is already talking about shutting thousands of POs to save money), but screw them because "there is no good economic reason to subsidize people who decide to live in remote areas"; they propose phasing in a new leaner, meaner mail service that will at first merely "charge double postage for mail to or from designated remote areas and... terminate Saturday mail service to and from those areas," then cut the rope and let the free market rule.

The thing that's most dispiriting about this is, the Postal Service isn't the brainchild of Barack Obama or FDR or Teddy Roosevelt, but of Ben Franklin -- it's explicitly mandated by the Constitution, and one of the services that for centuries was thought indispensable to any government worthy of the name.

But our leaders are so completely drunk on privatization doctrine that even having a goddamn local post office is thought to be too good for us. For years the USPS has been trying to serve the people while simultaneously meeting the business model that the free-marketers thrust upon them, and the inevitable telling of this strain is now being used as proof that, see, government doesn't work -- even in ways the Founders expected it to.

This is a milestone on our journey to a neo-feudal age. They're already taking about doing away with public roads. Soon enough everything will be market-driven, and you'll find indigents begging for water next to privatized reservoirs. And there'll be a little army of idiots in tricorners dancing around, convinced that this is a restoration of the original vision of America. It's a restoration, all right -- yea, even unto the Middle Ages.

UPDATE. Among many brilliant commenters, Alan points out Alison Kilkenny's article about the disastrous effect on USPS of the Postal Accountability Enhancement Act of 2006, which would seem to have been the set-up for the current crisis.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

SHORTER TIMOTHY P. CARNEY. There is a "small but growing trend toward free-market populism in Republican rhetoric, if not action" -- or, in plain English, a new line of bullshit. But it's important that I pimp this bullshit, because it will help elect Republicans, who will loot the treasury via favors to contributors, as per usual, while "we free-market populists take whatever drippings we can get," e.g. gigs with the Washington Examiner.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

TURNER DIARIES. The rightwing rap on Turner-Weprin in NY-9, as exemplified by John Podhoretz's post on the subject, is that Jews hate Obama because Israel, and in consequence are -- as conservatives have been wishing for decades -- abandoning the Democratic Party:
No one is saying a majority of such Jews are going to pull the lever for a conservative Republican like Rick Perry in 2012. But a more significant minority than usual might, and others, disgusted by Obama’s behavior toward the Jewish state, just may stay home.
You might expect the Hasidim to boycott the schvartze Obama, but Podhoretz says the NY-9 Jewish Turner voters are not necessarily Orthodox -- merely "older, heritage-proud, and were bathed from youth forward in Zionism."

But is it, as Podhoretz suggests, their Zionism that turned them? Maggie Gallagher of the anti-gay National Organization for Marriage thinks not:
NOM has a new poll coming out later today. We’ll have a chance to see how big an impact David Weprin’s “I’m an Orthodox Jew and I support gay marriage” speech had on voters in the district. Nobody appears to know how many Orthodox Jews there are in the district, but we hope to have some data on that, and on how many voters said gay marriage was an issue for them.

But really when 40 Orthodox rabbis tell their people its against Torah law to vote for Weprin, that has to be big.

Democrat Ed Koch’s endorsement of Turner was a huge factor. But so was [anti-gay] Democrat Dov Hikind’s endorsement and [anti-gay] Democrat Sen. Ruben Diaz. Both did robocalls for NOM to voters and so did a very prominent apolitical rabbi, Zachariah Wallerstein. Huge.
The "apolitical" Wallerstein thinks gays cause hurricanes and earthquakes.

If Gallagher's right, the course for Republican outreach in Jewish districts is clear: convince voters that gay marriage threatens the state of Israel. (In Israel itself, that would be a tough sell -- gays have served in the Israeli military for years and most citizens approve gay marriage -- but American Jews are often in the dark about how the folks in the homeland really think on major issues, so the scam could work.) GOP Jews might compare their Democratic opponents to Ernst Rohm, for example, or complain that Boy George stole their look.

If this race shows anything, it's that Republicans won't scruple to inflame ancient prejudices to win, and when times are tough this is more likely to work.

UPDATE. Some readers wonder what else was going on there. The ever-astute Liz Benjamin read some tea leaves and sorted some influences. To my mind: the economy sucks; Turner ran a campaign that soft-pedaled national GOP messages (unlike earlier local GOP candidates); the district liked Weiner but had no overriding cultural loyalty to the Democrats; and the economy sucks. Also gay marriage.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

AND IN CONCLUSION, FARRRT. At last night's GOP Tea Party debate, Michele Bachman attacked Rick Perry for immunizing them Texas gals agin HPV, and then claimed someone told her that the vaccine had made her little girl retarded.

The whole thing is a nightmare, but there's no nightmare that can't be made worse by Jonah Goldberg. His examination of the controversy is so stupid that through most of my reading of it I just lazily picked out examples of egregious mental flatulence, sort of like when kids play that license plate game on long drives:
I can’t make up my mind over this whole controversy. I think I’m torn because both sides are making good and bad arguments. [Farrt, "The book that I am doing my report on has many good things in it, and also many bad things, and now I have 73 words to go in this book report." ]

I think the charge of crony capitalism against Perry is valid generally and looks on target in this case in particular. [Farrrrt, I saw the Wall Street Journal had something about this but was too busy lining up Bon Bons on the sideboard and then pretending to be Pac-Man to read it, so I'll just "generally" accuse Perry of serious charges that "look on target."]

...I think his argument that he did this because he will always “support life” is dangerous hogwash. He mandated government inoculations against STDs because he’s a pro-lifer? It takes some pretty circuitous reasoning to get there [faarRRRrrRRRT, it's not like there's a direct link between HPV and cervical cancer, oops my intern just told me there is, well anyway government is the problem not the solution so how do you know government doesn't cause cancer huh farrrRRRRRrrrt.] and in the process you’ve conceded the case for pretty much every other kind of health-care intervention by the state up to and including Obamacare. [FARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRT VACCINATIONS ARE THE THIN END OF THE OBAMACARE WEDGE, HITLER VACCINATED EVERYBODY I AM PRETTY SURE FARRRRRRRRARARARARAARRRTsquirt] ...
My reverie was only interrupted by stupidities so gross they required a hard reset of my brain -- e.g., Goldberg's prescription regarding the claim of vaccine retardation ("I think Fox or some other news outlet should investigate"), and his closing:
I’ll keep noodling.
When I read that, I suddenly envisioned Goldberg lying belly-down on a conference room table, making flippers of his arms, and wriggling face-forward into a seven-pound gob of pasta salad while singing the theme music from Jaws. (Punchline: After he made it to the end of the table and stuck the belly-flop, Goldberg found he had left the lens cap on the camera. Farrt.)

UPDATE. All honor to commenters, with special thanks to Ray Stantz for his Shorter Jonah Goldberg: "I sense that soon the Party will denounce either Perry or Bachmann, but don't know which, so I am hedging my bets."

1.) When Wolf Blitzer asked if, when an American who has no insurance gets very sick, "society should let him die," a cheer rose from the audience, and Ron Paul's response was that we should encourage, in some unnamed way, "alternative medicine."

2.) The big news from the debate had to do with government administration of an HPV vaccine, about which Michele Bachman and Rick Santorum gave Rick Perry -- Rick Perry! -- a hard time. None of these worthies will suffer from their opinions on the subject, because the Party has become so crazy that vaccination against a common disease is considered by Republicans to be a violation of their civil liberties.

3.) John Huntsman, Rick Perry, and Mitt Romney all bragged on their ability to create jobs in their home states, but were not asked how as President they would raise jobs across the nation instead of poaching them from one state to another. The sad fact is that under any Republican administration, jobs will be poached from jobholders whom the corporations who own the politicians think are making too much money, and given to the jobless at rates of pay just high enough to make them eligible for credit cards.

4.) Ron Paul said something sensible about our endless occupations of foreign countries, and Rick Santorum and the mouth-breathers in the audience treated him like Paul Krugman.

5.) Perry is a retard, and he may suffer from his imbecilic answers in tonight's debate, but he will probably go on to win the nomination from the retards who decide such things because he has the manner of a ex-jock car salesman who is fucking their wives and making them like it, and has expressed a willingness to kill people.

6.) This county is not merely fucked, it is ass-fucked. Pursue at a minimum dual citizenship.

UPDATE. In the (uniformly brilliant, as has become traditional) comments, Fats Durston is inspired by the candidates' views on public health to compose this colloquy:
"Maw, Maw! The city man with the sticker is here again. He says it'll keep away the Ague what took Dickie-Ray to God."

"Shoot him, Wilburn, then finish your Orange drank afore you get the Grippe."
Commenter Chad proposes a new Republican slogan: "Neither bread nor circuses." Just so. The candidates are in a remarkable position: the economy is in collapse, millions are going broke, and the GOP's shock troops are convinced that what Americans need is less government assistance. How much easier this makes things!

For all the Republican Reagan revival talk going on, none of these candidates need play the Great Communicator now (which, given their skills in that department, is a lucky thing for all concerned). The affirmative roar the Gomers gave when Blitzer asked if the sick man should die, like the one they gave during the last debate when Perry's inmate-killing record was mentioned, suggests that the candidates will need only stand there and look as cruel as possible while the Gomers themselves provide the rhetoric -- that is, the baleful cries of rage and bloodlust. Forget the Gettysburg Address, forget even "Tear down this wall"; the progress of the modern Republican Party is the progress from "You lie!" to "Let him die!"

Sunday, September 11, 2011

NEW VOICE COLUMN UP, about rightbloggers' 9/11 reminiscences. They were downright nostalgic. Among the outtakes:

In a long essay, Roger Kimball informed us that "many illusions were challenged on September 11. One illusion concerns the fantasies of academic multiculturalists, so-called." Kimball named some of these multi-cultis, though he apparently couldn't think of many living ones: "Figures like Edward Said and Susan Sontag, Harold Pinter and Noam Chomsky continue to bay about the iniquity of America, the depredations of capitalism, and so on," said Kimball, but thanks to 9/11 and the great success of our subsequent wars, "the spurious brand of multiculturalism that encourages us to repudiate 'dead white European males' and insists that all cultures are of equal worth may finally be entering a terminal stage."

Kimball cited no evidence for this alleged turn toward monoculturalism, but he did let readers know how deep his contempt of multiculturalism ran: he reproduced a 1910 assessment of the typical native of Afghanistan as "unscrupulous in perjury, treacherous, vain and insatiable, passionate in vindictiveness... by breed and nature a bird of prey," and pronounced it "refreshingly frank." One wonders why America bothers to liberate such people.

Much of the essay's remainder was devoted to snarls against the liberal media et alia, who in Kimball's view "had been waiting for a repeat of Vietnam" in Iraq and Afghanistan, which hope "the Bush administration disobliged by giving them a conflict in which America was in the right and was winning." Though Kimball's reminiscences reach back to the Periclean Age, they stop well short of the present, in which Americans are sharply divided as to the efficacy of those wars. Maybe multiculturalism is making a comeback.

UPDATE. I tried insofar as possible to avoid all the 9/11 X ballyhoo, for a couple of reasons. First of all, with due respect to the very good writers who have tackled the subject, I have not read a blessed thing this month that has illuminated 9/11 -- as history, as event, as a social or political phenomenon or anything else that would make such an account worth reading.

People have said good things about New York magazine's Encyclopedia of 9/11, and it's a nice approach, but I mainly learned from it how information workers, some of whom were kids when the towers fell, have risen to the challenge of writing something linkworthy about 9/11. Irony is dead! No it's not! Well it sort of is and sort of isn't! And this is not to speak of other reminiscences that egregiously stink. ("Without 9/11... I would not have started blogging; I would not now be a journalist." As if the attacks weren't tragic enough!)

Between the people who wrote about it because they or their editors felt they ought to, and the people who wrote about it as a therapeutic exercise (and who seemed to think, as the people on reality TV shows do, that therapy works better if it's done in public), 9/11 X just dumped a more dross onto what was already a mountain of it.

Maybe you've seen something really good, but before you recommend it to me, please ask yourself: Is this just a clever bit of magazine prose for which the MacGuffin is 9/11? Basically if it isn't Voltaire on the Lisbon Earthquake I don't want it.

All honor, though, to alicublog commenters on the less exalted topic of my column and its subjects. Angry Geometer, for example, offers an unexpectedly convincing endorsement of Don Surber's Hibernian hate-on:
I think it's no coincidence that they're the only ethnicity, aside from American Indians and Vikings, that are deemed worthy of sports mascotdom. The reason is because they are terrifying. Besides, we saved their soda bread eating asses in Dubya Dubya Eye Eye, so Bono should shut up if he's not also going to mourn Chappaquiddick, the real Irish 9/11.
On a more meta note, Jeffrey Kramer observes, "Every time we toast the Founders for creating an open, tolerant society dedicated to equal protection under law, we gain five Freedom Points. When we collect fifty Freedom Points we can trade them in for a secret prison camp for torturing Muslims."

Thursday, September 08, 2011

LIKE NOBLESSE OBLIGE, BUT WITHOUT THE GENEROSITY. George Will no longer cares whether anyone is listening except other wingnuts, so he celebrates aloud at the Washington Post that the more vicious sort of glibertarians are into "a robust new defense of a 1905 Supreme Court decision that liberals have long reviled," the Lochner decision:
An 1895 New York law limited bakery employees to working 10 hours a day and 60 hours a week. Ostensibly, this was health and safety legislation; actually, it was rent-seeking by large, unionized bakeries and the unions. Corporate bakeries supported the legislation, which burdened their small, family-owned competitors. The bakers union hoped to suppress the small, non-unionized bakeries that depended on flexible work schedules.
Lochner put a stop to that, and to many other worker-protection laws, which is why Will has a boner for it.

Lochnerism suffered many reversals during the New Deal era, which Will mourns, and he hopes we will join him in cheering its revival and the demise of "progressivism’s statism and paternalism."

But the average person reading Will's column probably won't see it that way; he'll probably see "10 hours a day, 60 hours a week," and recognize that it's just the sort of thing bosses love, because it can be used to whip their workers unto the ever-accelerating productivity on which 21st-Century profit margins depend.

Will's readers may also intuit that Lochnerism will be the airy, "freedom"-tinted justification they will hear when they protest being made to work 60 hours or more (or having their hours cut till they can't live on what they pay), or forced to sleep in tents in some remote location, or to buy certain needed items only from the company store, or whatever other outrages America's coming neo-feudal age will force upon them. Because in a depression and an era of eroding entitlements, "freedom of contract" won't mean much more than the freedom to starve.

Lochner cheerleader David Bernstein is already giving such justifications:
Of course, the Supreme Court did invalidate federal laws attempting to adopt national child labor rules, though these cases were decided on federalism grounds, not freedom of contract grounds. One could almost forgive various academics for confusing federalism concerns with liberty of contract concerns...
You can just hear the pedantic sneer: Pish, little man, you're confusing Tweedledeeism with Tweedledumism! But then what do you know of the law? Now run along and work until you collapse into the gears of your machine, secure in the knowledge that legal scholars have vetted your misery.

UPDATE. From comments, gil mann: "I keep waiting for the Washington Post to change the name of that section from 'Opinions' to 'Modest Proposals.'"

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

SHORTER ELIZABETH SCALIA: It's awfully sinful of this dying suffering atheist writer to want to go out "sitting in a chair in my own garden with a glass of brandy in my hand and Thomas Tallis on the iPod." But maybe if he gets feeble-minded enough we can put a tube down his throat and bring him to Jesus.

UPDATE. In comments Doc Amazing observes: "From Pratchett to Schiavo: the Anchoress's Reign of Terry."

UPDATE 2. It's late, but MR Bill's reflections in comments on some terminally ill people he's known are well worth reading.
DREHERMANIA! I love Nancy Nall but I'm not sure I can ever forgive her for notifying me, in a giddy and openly baiting note, that Rod Dreher is blogging regularly again, this time at The American Conservative. It's like having a huge mosquito you thought you were rid of in October find its way back into your house in February.

Oh, I'm just kidding. When Dreher seemed to be under some kind of interdiction by his masters at the Templeton Foundation, though there were plenty of other nuts to occupy my attention, I found I was missing Dreher's particular blend of Christian viciousness and modish epicureanism, like Seth Pecksniff in a Whole Foods apron. When I found he'd been returning to circulation I was actually pleased.

The new blog may be too much of a good thing, though. He's been posting up a storm. In one item he brags on the weight he's lost since escaping the black-robed Da Vinci Code harriers of Templeton -- well, actually he doesn't mention Templeton, he just reports that wife signed the family up for a YMCA membership so the kids could have swimming lessons and a pool to play in for the summer. She’s been nagging me nagging me for years to exercise for my health, but I’ve never done it. But I’d just bought an iPad2, and decided maybe I could stand the crushing boredom of exercise if I sat on the recumbent elliptical trainer and watched “30 Rock” on Netflix streaming.
Thus nagging- and tech-toy-enabled, Dreher got fit, and the penchant for sudden enthusiasms that has led him to two religious conversions now has him "waking up every morning at 4:30, 5 a.m., and driving out to the Y to exercise for an hour and a half."

And what does Dreher make of this new means of feeding his endorphin addiction?
Philosophically speaking, it seems to me that without really understanding what I was doing, I was living out a conservative principle of taking personal responsibility and making hard but necessary changes to live within my means.
Maybe a third conversion to the Church of Christ, Personal Trainer is in the offing. He can take a pew with the BlogProf.

I may not be able to keep up. Another of his posts actually begins "On his blog, Steve Sailer introduced me this morning to the essays of Paul Graham..." which was enough for me, thanks. As for his maiden life-in-Philly post, I did read it all, but hardly know what to say about it except "gaaaaaaack." It contains passages like this:
I’m pretty sure that most of the people we associate with in our neighborhood would be horrified to know what we really believe in. Nevertheless, it’s a pretty secure place to live in terms of comfort and peaceability. It’s strange, though, to feel so alien in such a nice place.
Believe me, context doesn't redeem it. The upshot is that Dreher's discomfort at living in a liberal enclave where he is nonetheless well-treated is relieved by returning to his favorite Robert Putnam study, which he takes as proof that people are just natchurly meant to stay with their own kind. And here's the punchline:
With the nation in for a long stretch of hard times, I find within myself an urge to be around people like me.
I've envisioned such a scenario before, and hope Dreher attracts enough adherents at TAC to make it so.

UPDATE. Fixed a spelling error -- thanks, M. Krebs -- but you'll have to see comments to find out what it was. Not that it isn't worth your time to visit anyway, especially with Roger Ailes (additional lyrics Mr. Wonderful) fitting new, Dreher-specific words to the Village People's "Y.M.C.A." ("Rod Man, there's a place you can go/ When your wife nags about your flabroll...")

UPDATE 2. While you're here, let me ask: I see my <target="blank"> tags aren't working anymore. Anyone know why?

Monday, September 05, 2011

HAPPY LABOR DAY, from Robert Reich:

In your Labor Day obeisances, please spare a thought for Ronald Reagan, who got this downward spiral going, and for his heirs, who think we haven't spiraled down far enough.

UPDATE. You might also enjoy the tribute at Daily Caller of one Robert Morrison, who's into puns:
Labor unions claim credit for being “the folks who brought you the American weekend.” That’s largely true. But today, organized labor also brings us America the weakened.
V. funny, but weakened how? Morrison explains:
That’s because liberal labor union leaders have too often ignored their members’ values as they’ve pressed for abortion-on-demand and the ending of marriage...

So this Labor Day, I want to pay my tribute to organized labor. That is, the labor organized in millions of homes by millions of married couples. Those mothers’ labors — labor in childbirth, in making homes, in training children — are indispensable.
And the best thing about these home laborers, from a Morrisonian POV? You don't have to pay them. A rightwing model for all labor, going forward.
NEW VOICE COLUMN UP, about the claims that Republicans are anti-science and the rightblogger response -- namely, that it's actually science that's anti-Republican, and so much the worse for science.

Some material about the dumbness of Rick Perry is included. I will only add here that when Politico ran its "Is Rick Perry Dumb?" article -- which basically answered itself, "So what? He's put stars in our jaded eyes for sure!" -- the whole conservative world called Politico "left-wing." I know they've done it before, but I still marvel at it; it's such a useless bit of bullshittery, because nobody who actually pays attention to that opportunistic publication could possibly believe it. Maybe they just do it to keep in practice.

Friday, September 02, 2011

MARXIST LUTHER KING, EXPOSED! American conservatism has entered a very weird phase. We've talked here about their recent revival of racist tropes (or as I like to call it, the old Ooga Booga). Obnoxious as it is, it has another extraordinary feature; it represents a sharp departure from normal rightwing practice. Though they have always had obvious racists like Pat Buchanan amongst them, conservatives have also (at least since racism became somewhat uncool) maintained certain "I'm no racist, look at this non-racist thing I do" gambits. You may remember, for example, how they've bragged on the few black people at Tea Party rallies as proof that theirs is an Afro-friendly movement.

A longer-lived staple of conservative anti-racist cred has been their effusions over Martin Luther King, Jr. Yes, back in the old days they hated King ("For years now, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King and his associates have been deliberately undermining the foundations of internal order in this country" -- National Review. More here!). But when things got a little hot for them, bigotry-wise, they shifted to declaring King a good conservative; on every MLK Day, in and among their many confused tributes, you'll see many that insist King's vision of a color-blind society is exactly what conservatives have been trying to do all along. Then they grab parasols and handkerchiefs, burst into "When The Saints Go Marchin' In," and dance around. It's a grisly sight.

But that may be changing. Get a load of this editorial by Jeffrey T. Kuhner in the Washington Times, the Moonie wingnut paper:
Undoubtedly, King deserves much praise...

Yet, there was a dark side to King and it should not be ignored. Its effects continue to plague our society. Contrary to popular myth, the Baptist minister was a hypocrite who consistently failed to uphold his professed Christian standards. His rampant adultery...
Boy, nobody tell Kuhner about Jack Kennedy, that doorty Irishman! These ancient accusations are the sort of thing white supremacists like to play with, but which leave most of us who are under 80 cold, so Kuhner moves on to the sort of thing everyone in 2011 is worried about:
Moreover, King was a radical leftist. He promoted socialism, pacifism and the appeasement of totalitarian communism. He opposed the Vietnam War...

At home, he called for heavy public spending, urban renewal and a cradle-to-grave nanny state... racial quotas... affirmative action and billions in welfare assistance... identity politics...
This is the point in the peroration where a less self-possessed demagogue might start yelling about welfare queens and Cadillacs. But we're not there yet, brothers and sisters (and Jeffrey T. Kuhner may not get there with you, though not for lack of trying); instead he goes here:
King’s leftism ultimately betrayed his original civil rights creed.
Because affirmative action, set-asides, etc. Also, "King’s socialism also convinced many blacks to adopt welfare liberalism."

Gotta give Kuhner credit: This bit about civil rights hurting black people is wingnut SOP of long standing, but it takes some stones to suggest that Martin Luther King is the real racist.

But conservatism has gotten crazy enough that you can try something like that, it seems. Any day now we'll see them burning effigies of Alexander Hamilton because he sold us out to the mercantilists (substitute "Jews" in some jurisdictions). Or maybe Lincoln -- I mean, what was that Civil War about? Statism and giving black people a new bunch of so-called "rights"! The boys at Free Republic have been all over that shit for years; they used to be considered fringe, but compared to what's coming, they're Rockefeller Republicans.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

PBC (POSTED BEFORE COFFEE)... or Xanax, or holy water, or whatever, Kathryn J. Lopez:

Help me out here: Did I miss where Joe Biden became the right wing's avatar of baby-killing? Last I looked, it was Amanda Marcotte, I think, or maybe Kathleen Sebelius.

K-J'lo also links to an article where she does the anti-China thing, no doubt hoping her dumbass readers won't remember that conservatives long ago made peace with Red China and its long green.

UPDATE. I have the goodest commenters, and JohnEWilliams is no exception; he links to the relevant portion of Biden's address to the Chinese:
But as I was talking to some of your leaders, you share a similar concern here in China. You have no safety net. Your policy has been one which I fully understand — I'm not second-guessing — of one child per family. The result being that you're in a position where one wage earner will be taking care of four retired people. Not sustainable.
The Vice-President is often difficult to decipher, but the grammar-math goes like this: a.) You have a one-child-per-family policy. b.) As a result, your economy will require each wage-earner to fund (via taxes, one supposes) the care of four retirees. c.) This policy is not sustainable.

I don't see any pro-abortion content in this thing at all, unless KatJe-Lop is focused on Biden's "I'm not second-guessing" place-holder. (It's like he coughed "safelegal&rare!" into his fist!)

KJLope probably thinks representatives of our government, when speaking on the home turf of our trade partners, should hold aloft pictures of dismembered fetuses. Maybe when they take the White House, the Republicans can institute a blanket insult policy: If President Perry goes to Britain, for example, he could open his speeches with a story about a National Health patient lying in her own filth. ("Big ole bedsores! I seen 'em myself! And maggots -- I hadda knock one off with mah shootin' ahrn.") And no more kissing oil sheiks.

UPDATE 2. Ha ha commenters, including ChrisV82 -- "Me Chinese, it no joke, me have abortion in your Coke." Boy, does that take me back to the boyhood days of casual racism! Expect Glenn "Hey Coloreds" Beck to cut a comedy record on this theme soon.

Susan of Texas asks, "What does K-Lo do when she discovers that she uses a product made in China--shriek, fling it out the window, and scourge herself?" The amount of bullshit they produce is astonishing, but I'm fascinated these days by the amount of bullshit we've been trained to expect from them. Everyone knows what the deal is with China -- hell, it's a classic punchline. And conservatives ceaselessly demand more power for rapacious business interests, which would accept even more egregious slave labor if they could get away with it.

Yet conservatives will occasionally pretend to give a shit about China. It's flatly absurd, like me giving a temperance lecture; yet when it happens we don't even blink, because we've learned over the years that this is what American conservatives do; pointing out their hypocrisy -- to them or anyone else -- would be as useless as telling a shit-eating dog that his diet is sub-optimal.

It's tragic enough that many of them can't tell the difference anymore. But what about the rest of us?