Wednesday, March 04, 2015

WAR ON WOMEN GOES INTO TRIPLE OVERTIME.

You'd think the most amazing thing about Tom Blumer's rant at PJ Media about a "smear" of recently-deceased anti-abortionist John C. Willke would be the long and bizarrely intense display of anger toward the Cincinnati Enquirer with which it begins ("recruiters often appear in local grocery stores, desperate to almost give away three-month 'trials'... This once respectable full-throttle newspaper, which now looks as if it was cobbled together and produced at FedEx/Kinko’s on the fly..."). But then Blumer starts to pick apart the alleged smear. He quotes the Enquirer:
Willke’s view on abortion didn’t come without criticism. Willke, who was a retired general physician, believed the stress of rape caused the female body to inhibit conception. Former Missouri congressman Todd Akin also touted that idea, saying victims of “legitimate rape” rarely get pregnant. The 2012 comments caused a media sensation and national debate on the subject. 
Willke first put forward that theory over 30 years ago and in 1999 he said rape “can radically upset (a woman’s) possibility of ovulation, fertilization, implantation and even nurturing a pregnancy.”
So, Willke didn't say this, and shouldn't be associated with Akin's famous disaster? Oh, no:
Willke didn’t just “say” it in 1999. He fully documented his reasoning in an April column that year. Emilie Eaton and others obsessed with diminishing Willke should actually read it. Using a set of reasonable assumptions based on data available at the time, the doctor estimated that there were perhaps 450-740 potential instances per year of forcible rape-related pregnancy (as opposed to instances involving statutory rape) nationwide.
You think at first it can't be happening, but --
Willke’s (and Akin’s) naysayers often absurdly assert that there are 32,000 “rape-related” pregnancies per year, over 100 times greater than Willke’s midpoint estimate... The correct number, if it could ever be determined, is far closer to Willke’s [450-740] than it is to 32,000.
If it could ever be determined?
...Akin’s comments didn’t spur a national debate. They spurred a national smear. Almost no one is any smarter on this subject as a result of the press’s coverage of Akin’s failed 2012 U.S. Senate campaign. More than a few people, though they feel really smart, are instead quite a bit dumber.
So, Blumer's argument is: Todd Akin was right. The dream will never die!

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

THE OLD WORN CHANNEL OF POLITICS.

This Netanyahu thing reminds me in some ways of the visit Hungarian freedom fighter Louis Kossuth made to the States in 1851, as described by Francis Brown in his biography of New York Times founder Henry Raymond, Raymond of the Times. As Brown has it, Millard Fillmore and the conservative Whigs didn't want Kossuth to have too prominent a reception, on grounds that "public concern with what was held to be solely a European matter endangered American neutrality and held the threat of war," and abstained from welcoming him to Washington. But the proto-Republican Senator William Seward and Raymond "saw political significance in [Kossuth's] visit" and whooped him up when he came to New York, which effort did not go unresisted:
The city's bells peeled, and cannon boomed from Governor's Island, Bedloe's Island, the Navy Yard, and Brooklyn Heights. He came ashore at Castle Garden -- the Battery's trees were black with cheering boys... 
 At the Irving House more than 400 prominent New Yorkers and distinguished guests gather for the municipal dinner for Kossuth. In the banqueting hall, where evergreens masked the salon's columns and the Stars and Stripes was linked with the Hungarian Tricolor, the dinner moves slowly through its many courses and the wine was passed and repassed. The evening's guest of honor spoke for more than an hour. Toasts followed. That to the press belonged to Raymond, and as he prepared to respond, his figure dwarfed in the gay assemblage, [New York Courier and Enquirer editor] James Watson Webb challenged his right to speak. Cries of "Raymond!" "Webb!" echoed through the banquet hall, and when quiet was momentarily restored, Raymond tried to explain that he was only performing a duty assigned to him. Webb once more challenged his right. There were cheers, hisses, and boos, and as confusion mounted, the police were called...
So not everyone liked that idea, either. Also, Kossuth had a unfortunate taste for meddling in American affairs, just like Netanyahu. And, Brown reports from a contemporary account, "on this excitement the Times gained laurels and subscribers, and the Hungarians dollars and sympathy..." which analogizes nicely with the hopes of many rightwing Bibi's Boys who've been trying for years to get Jewish-Americans to love the GOP.

There are some major differences between the 1851 contretemps and this, though. For one, the White House eventually relented and received Kossuth, Congress invited him to be the first foreigner since Lafayette to address a joint session, and even Daniel Webster was inveigled to a Kossuth dinner where he "offered somewhat indiscreetly a toast to Hungarian independence that made Kossuth momentarily happy." ("The Hungarian question has settled down into the old worn channel of politics," Seward observed.) For another, Kossuth was according to Brown widely popular in America as "a symbol of European liberty"; Netanyahu, not so much

Also, there is no record of Seward or other Kossuth admirers like Abraham Lincoln crying aloud that Kossuth was their true leader, not this so-called President of the United States, as so many conservative nuts have been doing lately. (Quin Hillyer's ravings at National Review -- e.g., "Netanyahu — who spent far more of his formative years on the American mainland than Obama did, and who took enemy fire at the age when Obama was openly pushing Marxist theory..." -- are perhaps their ripest expression, though as we get closer to speech time maybe some of them will compose and perform a "Bibi for President" anthem.)

Finally, one may say that the Young America adherents who were hot for Kossuth and other European revolutionaries had at least the advantage of idealism on their side, not to mention fewer American historical examples to show them how badly these enthusiasms can turn out.

UPDATE. Well, that was bizarre. Say, how about we invite Iceland president Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson to Congress to tell us how we should handle our rogue bankers? (I admit the analogy with Netanyahu isn't perfect, as Iceland is not trying to muscle anything out of us.)

Sunday, March 01, 2015

THE GET-READY MAN RETURNS.

What say we start the week with Rod Dreher crying Get ready! The Worr-uld is coming to an end! This time the big issue is trans people born one thing who call themselves the other thing. Normals say who gives a shit but Dreher sees the End Times, and he is especially disappointed in the liberals, who should after all understand why it's so important:
This is a principle that the American Left can see is terribly damaging when put into practice by those who clear-cut forests. But they are blind when it applies to human beings clear-cutting, so to speak, their own bodies.
It's a wonder we haven't got abortion clinic protesters putting in extra shifts outside practices that do gender assignment surgery. Maybe harrying scared pregnant women is a less daunting prospect than confronting someone like Fallon Fox.

Also, per Dreher, Dante put Ulysses in Hell because of his "corrupt desire to defy the gods in pursuit of his own will," and "this is us. This is the West. This is America, 2015," with our homos and test-tube two-daddy babies and space travel, too, no doubt -- imagine what Dante would have thought of that! Not to mention harnessing the power of lightning to run artificial brain-machines -- so the Saving Remnant better Get Ready:
This is not going to be stopped by us. But one day, it is going to stop. We know where this is going. The task of the traditionalist today is to live in such a way that truth and sanity survive the darkening of our collective intellect. That we not forget who we are, and what is. This is hard work, but as the Noah myth should instruct us, it is past time to start building that cultural ark.
The ark will no doubt be filled with VeggieTales, well-beaten Bibles, and Brother Rod's approved reading list, which will be fine until some passenger finds it insufficient and in the margins of some Flannery O'Connor paperback defies the Captain in pursuit of his own will. Then come the floating witch trials and the Aguirre The Wrath of God ending. Go with God, dummies!
It may well be that this civilization continues in relative peace and prosperity for some time. I certainly hope it does, because I live in it.
Also because he's about to fuck off on yet another foreign foodie vacation:
Really, though, Anthony Bourdain’s CNN show episode on Lyon, with Daniel Boulud, put things over the top. I’ve watched it three times on Netflix streaming. I want to go eat at a bouchon or two (or three), and I want to make a pilgrimage to Reynon the traiteur, and taste his saucisson à cuire. I think this must be the first time I’ve ever chosen a travel destination solely for the purpose of eating.
Been to Lyon? Where should we stay? Where should we eat? Talk to me.
How about you stay in a monk's cell and pray for a clue?

UPDATE. Comments are very good. Jeffrey_Kramer:
I'm not sure whether the literature to be preserved on the Cultural Ark would lean more towards the Autobiography of Saint Teresa or the collected works of Anders Breivik
And JayB, by coincidence, recently happened to be passing through Lyon himself:
Since Rod asked, I did come across a gay AND 'libertine' Sauna on the Croix-Rousse. I didn't partake, but someone with his hangups would surely find something a bit rogue going on. I'm sure he'll be there in a week with a camera, a notepad and a heart filled with angry curiosity. Bon champs, you dickhead.

Friday, February 27, 2015

FRIDAY ROUND-THE-HORN.


This is all I want to hear about fucking llamas anymore, thanks.

•  Dear God -- Ross Douthat reviews Boyhood:
“Boyhood” does a very good job of offering grist for multiple interpretations of its family drama: There are people who watch the movie and come away feeling like Linklater is passing a harsh (maybe too harsh?) judgment on the Patricia Arquette-played mother’s romantic choices, people who feel like the movie is a portrait of her overall parental success in spite of the odds, and people (like me) who read the portrait of the Ethan Hawke-played dad as a case study in how our culture tends lets slacker-ish, slow-to-grow-up men basically Have It All at the expense of their progeny and the women in their lives. But then what you wait for, or at least what I waited for, is to see how Mason interprets things, how the mess around him in his childhood affects his relationships with both parents as he rises toward adulthood, how his desire not to repeat their mistakes or his tendency to fall into the same traps might manifest itself, how the tension and difficulty that he experiences passively as a child will translate into the actions he takes and mistakes he makes as a teenager and young man. 
And that’s what the last hour doesn’t offer. The conflicts ebb, Mason’s family (parents and sister) flatten and diminish, everyone suddenly gets nicer, and the sense of dread and dislocation disappears with nothing dramatically interesting to replace it.
In other words: He wanted a movie about how single-parent families are ungodly and a social drain, preferably one where all the principals realize as much and enter covenant marriages (and maybe all the abortions they ever had go in slow-motion reverse like at the end of The Theory of Everything), and Linklater didn't give it to him, so the movie is a failure. Is there a single conservative left who is not a Child of Zhdanov? (My much better Boyhood review here.)

•  You know I offer this video with all affection -- the now-late Mr. Nimoy singing about Bilbo Baggins:



This is how I will remember him: a serious person who nonetheless was able to give himself over to the ridiculous, and thus made us all a little happier. (Oh yeah -- he was a very good Mustafa Mond.) (Oh yeah, and this -- a story I didn't know before today, but not a shock.) (Oh and yeah also, the story FMguru tells in comments about Nimoy taking a stand on voice-casting for Sulu and Uhuru.)

•  Jonah Goldberg has a post about how liberalism is "exhausted" because MSNBC isn't tearing up the ratings. Samples:
As Josh Kraushaar of National Journal recently observed, Barack Obama has successfully moved his party to the left but has failed utterly to bring the rest of the country with him.
Guess they just voted for him twice because he was black.
If you still think Obama has generous coattails, ask Rahm Emanuel for a second opinion.
Many voters deserted the socialist Emanuel for the arch-conservative Chuy Garcia.
Contrary to myth, Fox (where I am a contributor) is in fact an actual news network, albeit with prime-time opinion shows.
No comment.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

CRY ME A RIVER.

What conservative is being oppressed today? Steven Hayward of Power Line. A Congressman is investigating the financial ties between major climate-change deniers and oil and gas tycoons -- I know! I was surprised to hear about it, too! -- and to this end asked Hayward's employer Pepperdine for the skinny on Hayward's funding. Hayward announces this outrage under the title,
ARE YOU NOW OR HAVE YOU EVER BEEN A CLIMATE SKEPTIC?
Hayward also calls the Congressman and his colleagues "McCarthyite witch hunters." He's the victim of a blacklist, see, except he's still working, and all the people who are likely to employ him consider him a hero. Other than that it's Red Channels all over again.

But what does Hayward think about Joe McCarthy himself? From a 2011 Hayward post about Eugene McCarthy:
Following a speech to the Manchester Kiwanis Club, for example, Gene McCarthy was presented the customary service club thank-you plaque with an inscription expressing “appreciation to Senator Joseph McCarthy.” (Emphasis added.) If only.
Elsewhere you can find Hayward praising M. Stanton Evans' Blacklisting History, "by far the most serious defense of McCarthy since the Buckley-Bozell book in the 1950s," and looking forward to an upcoming Evans opus containing "new details about Alger Hiss, Elizabeth Bentley, Owen Lattimore, Harry Dexter White, Eleanor Roosevelt, and especially Harry Hopkins." (Possibly just to debunk it, though!)

As for modern-day witch-hunters, Hayward's attitude toward them changes depending on the identity of the witch -- from a 2012 AP story on people who think Obama's a socialist:
Steven Hayward, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and author of a two-volume biography of Ronald Reagan, said Obama is not a socialist under the strict definitions of that term – central economic planning and government control of production. 
"However, socialism has a secondary meaning that is harder to explain – government regulations, supervision of the private economy," Hayward said. "The problem now with Obama is, 'What does he really think?'"
I'm constantly being asked if I hold the Voltaire defend-to-the-death position on people I disagree with, but I am seldom offered a for-instance where the subject isn't just entirely full of shit.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

GRADING ON THE CURVE.

Carly Fiorina? For President? At National Review, Jim Geraghty jokes about the demon sheep ad from her disastrous 2010 Senate campaign, but in his newsletter for the true believers Geraghty circulates some straight-up Fiorina PR: After praising Fiorina's staff hires ("CRC Public Relations is a pretty big mover and shaker in the world of conservative clients"), he says:
You may recall that last month I wrote, “the former Hewlett Packard CEO has a broader and more interesting résumé than you might think -- member of the CIA’s External Advisory Board, committee adviser to Condoleezza Rice, senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies -- and despite the “nice” CEO image, she’s fearless on the attack -- tearing into Hillary for lack of accomplishments, ripping liberals for hypocrisy on abortion, challenging Valerie Jarrett on live television about unequal pay for women at the White House. A cancer survivor with a great personal success story, she may be a much more serious contender for the [vice-presidential] slot than most people think right now.” 
Heading into CPAC, she has the not-so-insignificant advantage of being accomplished and almost entirely dismissed by the political media, so the bar is set pretty low.
Pretty low indeed! "The not-so-insignificant advantage of being accomplished"? The consensus (bipartisan, as it were) on her reign at Hewlett Packard, the most significant of her alleged accomplishments, seems to be that she nearly ruined it. And getting on committees and boards is simple for high-level executives even if they are terrible at their jobs. As for tearing and ripping, you can get a dog to do that. (I will say it's nice that she got over cancer.)

Also: Fiorina has never won elective office. Neither had President Washington and President Grant, but we are talking about a whole different level of being-accomplished here.

In fact this is very close to the imaginary-but-with-a-budget campaigns of Ben Carson and Donald Trump. And it reminds me of the complaining conservatives and consensus-seeking politicos did when Scott Walker was recently mocked as a college dropout. I understand the anxiety that episode raised: American folk wisdom says you shouldn't need certification to excel and prosper, and I hope all good people lament that citizens are badgered by employment anxiety to get a diploma and the gigantic price tag that comes with it just to keep the wolf from the door.

But with  candidates like Fiorina, it looks like the Party of Joe The Plumber, which has never put much stock in fancy book learning anyway, is not merely being open to talents (as if these people really qualify as talents), but favoring people who lack not only traditional qualifications but also common sense, as if having the slightest idea what you're doing is some elitist shibboleth that needs to be refuted once and for all with the election of a total dumbass.

Can they pull it off? Depends on how much the voters remember about George W. Bush.

UPDATE. Geraghty's not Fiorina's only friend in the world of wingnut journamalism -- Al Weaver of The Daily Caller:
Is Hillary Clinton Stealing Speech Lines From Carly Fiorina?
The Answer May Surprise You!
During her speaking event in Silicon Valley, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton seemingly snagged a campaign line from potential GOP 2016 candidate Carly Fiorina, the former CEO of Hewlett-Packard. 
Clinton, the presumptive 2016 candidate for the Democratic Party, called on attendees at the conference to “unlock their full potential,” a line Fiorina uses.
Unlock their full potential -- has a ring to it! I bet it catches on, retroactively. Weaver also claims that "back in June during Clinton’s book release of 'Hard Choices,' much was made of the similarities between her book and Fiorina’s 2007 memoir, 'Tough Choices.'" No links and no quotes, natch, and besides, who believes anyone read enough of both books to make an informed comparison?

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

STOP THE PRESSES.

Of all sad words of tongue or pen...


But seriously, folks:
“Laudner would not go there unless Trump is all the way in,” Deace said. “Laudner used to be a high-ranking official with the Republican Party of Iowa. He is on good terms with pretty much every single respected conservative in Iowa, really tight with Congressman Steve King and helped Bob VanderPlaats run the judicial retention fight we won a few years ago. There’s no other way of understanding that. This is a major coup for Donald. Major coup.”
Maybe Trump ought to limber up for the Presidency with a run at an Iowa school board seat first.

SO CLOSE.

For a second, in the right light, it looks as if Megan McArdle may have achieved self-awareness:
This is a question I’ve asked myself before, funnily enough, when arguing with anarcho-capitalists. For those who do not follow the ins and outs of libertarian sectarianism, anarcho-capitalists want to replace the state with private institutions, with insurance companies and private security forces substituting for most current government functions. But when I’ve probed into the actual mechanics of this, I’ve often found that anarcho-capitalists end up describing something unpleasantly like a police state, only not called “the government” -- like giving insurance companies and private police forces the ability to perform warrantless at-will searches in order to prosecute crimes. One way or another, society is going to protect itself against theft and violence, rape and murder, and putting those tools in the hands of private parties causes much the same trouble as they do in the hands of the police.
Alas, no. The problem is, when the state oversteps its role, there is at least a formal mechanism for addressing that problem -- you can throw the bums out. (Yeah, I know it's not a perfect recourse, but if it were useless why would all those people spend so much time and money trying to achieve electoral results at all?) Once this social contract is swapped out for something more like Facebook's terms of service, however, you get only what you can negotiate -- and with collective bargaining being swept away, you can't negotiate shit.

So when McArdle says, "there may be trade-offs: The price of safely enjoying our vices may be surrendering some of our civil liberties, either to the government or to private parties," it doesn't mean she's had an epiphany; it just means she's gotten smart enough to do false equivalence with a straight face.