Thursday, November 30, 2006

PROPS. Sometimes Jacob Sullum strikes me as John Stossel for people who can read and write, but his quick analysis today of the Baker-Hamilton Report is too good to ignore:
Here's an Iraq update for those of us (including me) who stopped paying close attention because the whole thing was too damned depressing:

1. Most Americans, including some prominent supporters of the war, now agree it was a mistake to invade.

2. We can't just leave, because (even more) chaos would ensue.

3. We have to leave, because otherwise the Iraqis will never take responsibility for their own security and make the difficult political compromises necessary for stability.

In light of these facts, the wise elder statesmen in the Iraq Study Group have come up with the perfect solution: pretend to leave...
Way to cut to the chase, guy. Even better is the tag: "Update: It looks like Bush is not falling for it. Who told?"
ATTABOY, ATATURK. When I saw the title on this Crunchy Con post -- "Jape on Christians and Turkey" -- I thought, ooh, I love japes, -- japes, quips, and bagatelles! And the subject was promising.

Alas, it was just Rod Dreher quoting with approval some guy named Jape. And what he said, regarding Christians in Turkey, was less than cheering:
Moll ends with an American missionary in Turkey who comments breezily that “we are relatively free and we are tolerated now.”

If this is the sum and substance of western missionary zeal these days -- to be free and tolerated -- (and I fear that all to often it is), then Christians have good reason to question the compromises with Liberalism they are wont to make.
My nostrils twitched especially at that last part, so I went back to the source and found that, yes, Jape is indeed one of those guys who says "the structures of secular politics and economics tend to have a corrosive and colonizing effect on what passes these days for 'strong faith'" like it's a bad thing.

Also, he complains that, when Turkey tried to pass a law against adultery, the godless EU pressured them not to.

I am sympathetic to persecuted Christians -- which in my admittedly old-fashioned lexicon means Christians harrassed and assaulted for their faith -- but I notice that, like all other conservative types these days, conservative Christians have broadened their definition of persecution to include being disagreed with, and not being allowed to practice their own variants of sharia in host countries that, were they less "liberal," even in Jape's perjorative sense, would have marched them into the sea.

The whole Benedict Turkey trip, for all the feel-good man-of-peace rhetoric, is really just one powerful mobster cooking up a big takeover with another. I hope the ghost of Ataturk is knocking over their water glasses at least.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

WORDS WITH "K" IN THEM ARE FUNNY. I lack ambition, I guess. I tend to hide my light under a bushel. I don't ask to be put on blogrolls, or for links. Certainly not like the pros do:
UPDATE: Sullivan responds to this post without linking to it. Great. I guess you want to make it hard for your readers to see what I actually said. He prefers to link to the Instapundit post that links to this. What's that all about? How many times is he going to print my name over there and talk about me without linking to me? It's really unfair! It flaunts unfairness!...

And you, Andrew Sullivan, refuse to engage with the serious argument I am making here. If you linked to the posts you talk about and cut way down, your readers would have a fair chance to see what I am saying. I have obviously agreed with your basic definition but called you on your overuse of it and the air of hostility toward religious people you're giving off. Why don't you deal with my argument fairly, including links to me, and why don't you treat me as an individual instead of lamely and inaccurately merging me with Glenn Reynolds? Glenn and I have taken different positions on this, and I'm the main blogger writing about the subject, so why are you linking to him linking to me?
Why does Andrew Sullivan keep talking about me without linking to me?

See the update on this post. It's getting ridiculous. I consider it a gross breach of blogging ethics.
Emphasis added 'cause I think it's funny.

Maybe I'm misreading this. Maybe it's all actually some sort of elaborate joke. Her whole blog, I mean.

UPDATE. Why did I bother? A commenter mentions that Altmouse is back! What a hoot!
COME, LET US TREASON TOGETHER. I seem to remember days when The West Wing was derided as a liberal fantasy. At least that fantasy was relatively benign; apparently some conservatives are dreaming of something a little more rough.

Behold Orson Scott Card's new novel, Empire, summarized thus by Publisher's Weekly:
When the president and vice-president are killed by domestic terrorists (of unknown political identity), a radical leftist army calling itself the Progressive Restoration takes over New York City and declares itself the rightful government of the United States. Other blue states officially recognize the legitimacy of the group, thus starting a second civil war. Card's heroic red-state protagonists, Maj. Reuben "Rube" Malek and Capt. Bartholomew "Cole" Coleman, draw on their Special Ops training to take down the extremist leftists and restore peace to the nation...
You can read the first five chapters here. I did, with great, great pleasure. The heroic Army Man action figures speak a dialect that's half Ralph Peters and half Sgt. Rock:
"You look pissed off," said Malich.

"Yeah," said Cole. "The terrorists are crazy and scary, but what really pisses me off is knowing that this will make a whole bunch of European intellectuals very happy."

"They won't be so happy when they see where it leads. They've already forgotten Sarajevo and the killing fields of Flanders."

"I bet they're already 'advising' Americans that this is where our military 'aggression' inevitably leads, so we should take this as a sign that we need to change our policies and retreat from the world."

"And maybe we will," said Malich. "A lot of Americans would love to slam the doors shut and let the rest of the world go hang."

"And if we did," said Cole, "who would save Europe then? How long before they find out that negotiations only work if the other guy is scared of the consequences of not negotiating? Everybody hates America till they need us to liberate them."

"You're forgetting that nobody cares what Europeans think except a handful of American intellectuals who are every bit as anti-American as the French," said Malich.
Sound kind of like bloggers, don't they? Also worth mentioning: Army Man #1's wife is a brilliant liberal, but "unlike the ersatz Left of the university, Cessy was a genuine old-fashioned liberal, a Democrat of the tradition that reached its peak with Truman and blew its last trumpet with Moynihan." We are let to know that she bakes cookies.

Pretense of Moral Superiority Disclosure: I would never judge a book by its cover story, five chapters is not enough for summary judgement, Card may have something up his sleeve, and I was not kidding when I said reading the excerpt gave me great pleasure. Hell, this could be my Novel of the Year. I mean, what's the competition?

But we can legitimately have fun with Mr. Card, who, again according to Publisher's Weekly, ends the novel with "an afterword decrying his own politically-motivated exclusion from various conventions and campuses, the 'national media elite' and the divisive excesses of both the right and the left." Like Cessy, Card considers himself a political moderate, though (as we have shown here) he is the sort of moderate who believes that Democrats are evil wimps and that homosexuality should be punished with jail time. Again reserving judgement, it would seem Card's fantasy of treacherously-used liberals finally brought to heel by Red State wolverines reflects this highly unusual definition of political moderation.

Even better, Card has been taken up by the Ole Perfesser, who perfesses to share the author's moderate views and hopes "that both the people and the press will make some conscious efforts to moderate the tone, and make that approach less effective." That's pretty funny coming from Mr. "Not Anti-War -- Just On The Other Side." But my favorite part is this:
I've noted before that one of the great American accomplishments was to get over the Civil War without the kind of lingering bitterness that often marks -- and reignites -- such conflicts elsewhere.
It is amazing that the Perfesser made it through Yale without hearing anything about Reconstruction, the Ku Klux Klan, the Civil Rights Movement, etc. Or maybe he sent nanobots into his brain to scrub this knowledge away. This blind spot gains an added layer of piquancy when you realize that Card's fantasy reeks a bit of Afro-6, Trespass, and other speculations of black power ascendant from the 60s and 70s. Once they feared Panthers, now they fear Donkeys. You may adjust your hilarity meters accordingly.

UPDATE. Didn't know but should have that Bradrocket got there firstest with the mostest.

UPDATE II. Nitpicker has some more recent-vintage OSC that helps clarify his moderate views.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

NOW THAT YOU MENTION IT... Back in March, Professor Althouse said of South Park, "Thank God somebody's willing to mock religion!"

Now she's pissed because Andrew Sullivan showed pictures of Mormon underwear.

This weekend I saw For Your Consideration, which has many beauties, though it should have been trimmed of more of its improvisational excesses, which dissipate its satiric force. A pleasure as always was Jennifer Coolidge, who as usual plays dumb with great brio ("Someone's killed their children and made them into cookies, and I want to see that!" and, especially, "What is the theme?").

Hey... wait a minute...

Monday, November 27, 2006

DISPLACIA. The right-wing world feasts -- or, rather, eats crumbs and calls it a feast -- on the idea that the MSM gives all the credit for good economic news to the newly-elected Democrats. If it were so, of course, it would only be fair, as Democrats (and their closely-aligned subspecies, liberals) also get the blame for everything.

Victor Davis Beauregard Methusaleh Hanson has one thing to say about the Litvinenko assassination:
So don’t expect the world’s liberal conscious to weigh in much on the latest poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko... it is much easier for a European or Middle East journalist to concentrate on the purported misdemeanors of a Donald Rumsfeld than the known felonies of a Vladimir Putin.
Yeah, most of the MSM coverage has been pretty pro-assassination (and pro-abortion, if you use your secret decoder ring) -- and such key European anti-war figures as Tony Blair have been slow to follow Hanson over the ridge.

Hanson describes a World Gone Mad, and mutters things like "Or is it a deeper malaise that modern liberal internationalism is neither liberal nor international" (maybe it has something to do with the liberal "conscious"). It would appear from the Hansonian point of view that the American government of the past six years has had no effect on world affairs. The world has been guided to its current, terrible state by an international liberal cabal.

They're never to blame for anything, are they?
EXTRA HELPING OF GRATITUDE. In my end is my beginning. After my Lileks pre-Thanksgiving throwaway, I find myself returning to the subject as the Mailer of the Mall of America lets fly a stinging denunciation of... Happy Feet. You know, that cartoon with the dancing penguins.

To be fair, the Art Police at Redstate got there first, and it appears Fox News has attacked the cartoon as well (leading to an interesting meditation of "the conservative crusade against cartoon characters" at The Carpetbagger Report).

But there is a categorical difference between the right-wing Zhdanovite squads and Lileks. The first group are mere sentinels of wrongthink; the stiffness of their reports shows that they don't have any real interest in or enthusiasm for the lively arts -- they are here on a political mission from which aesthetics can only distract, so they shoot first and have epiphanies later.

Lileks, on the other hand, loves all kinds of artsy-fartsy stuff and even allows himself to show off his erudition in matters of form and content. Jimbo knows architecture ("...I sat in the grass and consulted a small cigar, reading an interesting piece about a local architect who’s come up with a new paradigm for pre-fab housing. Is this the future of architecture? The article asked. Short answer, from me: nope"). Jimbo knows aesthetics ("Because they’ll all be white. Because they’ll all have an Apple logo, which already has that high-tech cool aura. Because they will look like they were designed to work together. In other words, aesthetics count"). Jimbo knows not so much about theatre, which he keeps mispronouncing, but he can see eternity in a matchbook. He has some kind of feeling for the arrangements of sounds and shapes that beguile him; he knows, albeit dimly, that art is not just audio-visual medicine for the restoration of his ichor, nor a series of propaganda opportunities which can be wrenched in the right direction if we can sneak our people into some high-level appointments in the artsifartsy industry.

So though he sometimes puts on the rusty armor of the culture warrior (which fits him so badly even he must recognize it), usually when a work of artsifartsiness conflicts with his own notion of the Way Things Ought to Be, he does not pretend to be talking about art: He goes straight to sub-urbane dad mode:
So now we have to apologize for serving fargin’ fish sticks, eh. Hell with it. Veal daily from now on. Veal for breakfast. Veal-O-Bits swimming in whale blubber.

I remember when animals were used as stand-ins for humans, to shed light on human behaviors and foibles; now animals are stand-ins for creatures more ethically advanced than humans. (See also, The Ant Bully. Or rather don’t; that movie said it was okay to be an individual as long as you were part of a collective, and no one ever had competing goals or ideas. Muddle-headed twaddle...)
When someone as proud of his verbal skills as Lileks starts spitting rank foam like this, a charitable interpretation is possible. In this case, I think he is trying to protect art from himself. When directly discussing even so modest a specimen as Happy Feet, he will not betray any signs of cultural authority, which might deceive some innocent souls into a misunderstanding about art; he will rave and shake his fist and instantaneously sprout elbow patches and a big blue vein on his big pink forehead, so that only fellow fist-shakers will be caught up in his spell, and the innocent will walk away, little realizing how close they came to corruption! It's kind of noble in a way, like Cagney at the end of Angels with Dirty Faces, Bill Hurt at the end of Altered States, Jeff Goldblum at the end of The Fly...

Hell, I don't know. Maybe he's just nuts. But coming back from Thanksgiving, it struck me that some of the folks I consider and treat as nuisances are actually something to be grateful for. Could I have, by myself, come up with a character like The Ole Perfesser, or the Crazy Jesus Lady, or Ann Althouse, or Lileks? It doesn't matter -- to me they are characters now. I realize, for example, there is a real person named Glenn Harlan Reynolds somewhere out there in the sticks, but though I know his writings, I don't know him: his words suggest the shape of a character, upon whose motivations and behaviors I am privileged to speculate. Maybe, with a little luck and ambition, I can detach these characters from their humble real-life avatars, and find for them some small measure of immortality. They certainly deserve it, after all the pleasure they've given me.

Friday, November 24, 2006

HOLIDAY UPDATE. I hope your Thanksgiving went well. I find it curious that I, a godless lie-beral moonbat, had my turkey at my sister's table, while Lileks, a member of the blessed Elect, had his at a Holiday Inn. Shouldn't he be in a Norman Rockwell tableau? Conversely, aren't wretches like me supposed to spend major holidays in saloons, whorehouses, or John Reed's Greenwich Village apartment, fruitlessly seeked to soothe our withered souls with tinkling pianos, chromosome-splitting drugs, and Tofurkey sploshing? Well, maybe next year.

I will try to add content this weekend, though I am spending it with editor Martin and his family in New Hampshire, and we will spend most of our time trying to amuse the toddler and empty the liquor cabinet simultaneously. To add political roughage, I note this Pajamas Media story, "Pierre Gemayel's funeral turns into anti-Syrian rally." Given their previous sanctimony over the Paul Wellstone memorial, does that mean they condemn it?

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

THINGS TO BE GRATEFUL FOR. Crunchy Rod Dreher says people refuse to believe in his God because "it might mean that they can't conduct their sex lives exactly as they wish."

Like I need a better reason? Well, my lack of faith also allows me to sleep in on Sundays, and to avoid people like Rod Dreher. It's win-win-win, so far as I can see.

This really is a great country. Y'all enjoy your turkey and, if you are so blessed, your atheism and extramarital sex!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

THE DREAM THEATRE. This obituary of Robert Altman, who has just passed, talks about the string of "flops" that preceded his "biggest box office success since M*A*S*H, Gosford Park." "He would go for years at a time directing obscure movies before roaring back with a hit," it also says. That's the way the world sees it, I guess: filmmaking as a hunt for boffo b.o., to only be counted a success when the big cat has been bagged.

But Altman made movies in a way, and at a pace, that proved he wasn't a big game hunter, but a poacher in the preserves of King Hollywood. Now, he was no duffer at the coup de cinema that moves a whole roomful of people to react simultaneously -- as in Nashville, when Haven passes the mike to a random bystander and commands her to sing, and, as she slowly turns, we realize everything now depends on that fragile, demented girl who was raving about the flyswatters, and who knows what she'll do...

But for the most part Altman made private movies that seemed to block off the periphery and live like dreams inside our heads. That kind of movie may get to be a hit by accident, or by accretion (even the much-maligned Popeye made its money back in foreign receipts and parents' rentals), but it is very far from a sure thing.

If you're going to work that way, you have to work hard, and Altman was tireless and prolific. When there was no money, he would do T.V. on film -- or, if the project were interesting enough, T.V. on T.V. (Altman also co-wrote this libretto!)

Not everything was great, but even the minor films have their charms. I am very fond, for example, of The Gingerbread Man -- where the cheap novel mystery is conveyed, not as usual by thudding soundtrack cues, shadows, and jittery editing, but by constant rain, regnant foliage, and the muzzy atmosphere of lives gone to seed. But I was a film nerd in the '70s, when Altman was one of the gods; any piece of his movies is to me like a few notes from the voice of an old friend. Now these images float through my dream-theatre: Elliot Gould trying to name all seven dwarves, then dancing drunk with George Segal ("Rufus Rastus Rawlston Brown..."). The community passing buckets to save its church while McCabe dies in a snowdrift. Legions of Depression rustics, armed with Coca-Colas, ascending a staircase in slow motion. Sterling Hayden and Nina Van Pallandt fighting the Malibu waves in darkness and long shot. The shock of the scars on Sally Kellerman's back. Copters descending like locusts on Los Angeles. Fade out, the voice of the auctioneer calling the astonishing numbers and the gasps of the crowd; fade in, Vincent van Gogh on a bed of straw...

The dream theatre is always open.

UPDATE. Altman's death gives the loathsome Roger L. Simon an opportunity to demonstrate an all-embracing lack of class. Althouse is kind of sweet about it, but her commenters confuse Altman's M*A*S*H with the TV show, which figures.

UPDATE II. Been scanning the blogs, and it reminds me of one of the many things I don't like about this 'sphere: just about every blogger whom I already know to be a jackass has, when mentioning Altman, been similarly ignorant and dismissive. In real life, jackasses are more well-rounded than this; they will have a few admirable qualities, which we will sometimes be forced to notice and thus be reacquainted with the wonderful mystery that is life. It is just not common for every asshole you know to share the same asshole opinion about the same subject. People aren't that dull. Maybe the problem is that the worst popular bloggers are very bad writers, and their comprehension and portrayal of themselves is as weak as their comprehension and portrayal of everything else.

Monday, November 20, 2006

HOW COME THEY CAN CALL EACH OTHER NIGGER AND WE CAN'T? PART 82,363. Michael Richards' weird racial crackup at the Laugh Factory got picked up right fast by the right wing. And if you've been playing along with us at home, you know what kind of comments that leads to -- for example, from Althouse:
Not to be justifying or anything, but has anyone noticed how all the black comedians (and comediennes) almost always do a segment belittling white people? You know, where the comedians enunciate words and talk about how ineffectual white people are...

...But it's a question that bears mentioning: why has it become hip for blacks to call each other nigger? I've never understood that. I suppose it's like gays calling themselves fags. But I don't understand that either...

...I'm puzzled as to why almost every black comedian, rapper, and actor seems to use the word on a regular basis, then...
Etc. Interestingly, at this moment the commenters at Ace of Spades are less clueless than Althouse's.
WRONGTHINK CARTOON EXPOSED! Foolish revisionist parents going to Happy Feet in great numbers. But Comrade Dan McLaughlin of Party cell Red State is giving traitorous cartoon big nyet!
..the second half of the film is basically an extended diatribe in favor of a UN ban on fishing in the Antarctic. As with so many cartoons today featuring talking animals, carnivores and humans are uniformly evil...

...There were Hollywood stereotypes abounding: unfavorable characters were given Southern or Scottish accents, misguided religious superstitions and a bluenosed insistence on tradition and conformity (even though the film's beginning dramatically emphasized the reality that tradition and conformity are essential to the survival of emperor penguins), while favorable ones got Latino accents, rythym, a sense of humor and a lust for females...

...inhuman (or at least, anti-human) environmental propaganda wrapped in the veneer of a kids' movie is not the best way to spend a Saturday afternoon with the family.
Is pro-ecology, pro-lust propaganda disguised as cartoon for little ones! Also is showing anti-Scottish tendencies, which brings shame on Mike Myers, who without career-saving burr is only Wayne's World Minus One, not to mention libel on our beloved Scots-Irish persons of whiteness at expense of rhythmic and probably illegal Latinos!

Child cannot grow strong into New Conservative Man or Woman with such wrongthink playing in cinemas! Suggest Conservative Film Unit create alternative movie, filmstrip, or flipbook showing adventures of ANWR drillers helping Mr. Moose and Mrs. Bear break out of arctic rut! That and Passion of the Christ make good citizens and good fun also! Da, da, we laugh!

UPDATE. Maybe it's because they present a soothing change after the psychopaths at Ace of Spades, but I feel Ms.-Right-Now-style love for McLaughlin's commenters. One decries "'Ren & Stimpy' values" and "the 'Animaniacs' singing gleefully about 'baloney in our slacks'" and asks, "Now, Hollyweird wonders why kids are so disrespectful and destructive?" and I can answer, no, Hollyweird knows why the kids are disrespectful and destructive, they just want to know if they have learned to identify the taste of Ecstasy in their soft drinks, and if the Lusty Latino division of our film indoctrination crew has prepared them sufficiently for anal.

Lots of other delights in there, including one with the Line of the Day: "Due in part to my (extremely) mild form of autism, I'm pretty hard to shock."

Sunday, November 19, 2006

BUSINESS AS USUAL. Ace of Spades declares, "There are those who shriek in high dudgeon when it's suggested that, at some point, it may be necessary to kill off an awful lot of the Islamic world to secure our own lives." He briefly considers the shriekers' point of view, then decides, "I think what a lot of these people mean, but won't say, is that it's actually about time to consider giving Israel to the Muslims, and let them wipe out most of the Jews."

There isn't anything that can be said to this, except small talk like, "So, how about that Ohio State?" to keep him distracted until the ambulance arrives.

UPDATE. Commenter Porrofatto points us to an Ace commenter who -- well, I dunno, fellas, I've been on this beat a long time and I can't remember a comment quite like this:
Part of my crazy, is that I have VERY vivid dreams. I tend to remember a great many details.

After I left service, and after 9/11 I would start to find comfort in dreams/thoughts that were absolutely horrible in their brutality. I won't go into details, but it had to do with me viewing horror from above and causing that horror.

After a while, my friends at work started to ask me why I looked like hell, and I confided in them. It became a simple statement to explain why I looked like such hell (after all I'm a sexy mother fucker, and for me to look like hell, I have to REALLY look like hell) "The village?" I would nod, and whenever anyone would come at me, my friends, coworkers and bosses would interdict because they understood that I just spent a night dreaming of slaughtering villages, to teach a lesson.

I know, it's just a dream, but that cruelty has seaped into me to the point that I find comfort in believing that grotesque violence might teach these people to stop killing us in the same way.
You have to wonder about "Wickedpinto"'s place of work, where Dennis Hopper as the office manager informs his colleagues, each time Wickedpinto runs through the jungle, that his mind is sane but his soul is mad. What kind of business is it? Electroless nickel plating? Army surplus? Maybe he's a receptionist for Dr. Mrs. Perfesser ("The insta wife could hammer damascus steel with her awesome knockers, and hone a monofiliment with her perfectly sharp cheekbones").

I joke sometimes about Homeland Security monitoring this site, but sometimes I rather hope that they do.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

MAD. Back in 2003, when the world and I were -- well, when the world was young, some nice liberals cautioned us not-nice types against wasting our precious pixels on criticizing obvious lunatics. Thus would the tone of our debate be raised.

Oh, and there we were, all in one place, a generation lost in space, with no time left to start again. Where once only the Freepers seemed mad, now most of the links on the top right-wing blogrolls take us straight into Cloud Cuckoo Land. Tonight's example is from The Anchoress, much beloved and linked by the cream of the Reagan Revolution, hehindeed. She mentions a news item about some voodoo practitioner who worked roots against Bush in Indonesia, and then her brain chemicals lead her to this:
...we’re living in an age where the supernatural is both very much to the fore, and barely registering as blips on our radars.

Much of what is going on in the world - for good and for evil - is being brought about by people who are deeply involved and committed to a supernatural idea, and those sorts recognise each other very clearly...

It is an ancient knowledge: there are things visible and invisible. Many of us realise that forces of dark and light have always been engaged and that for the past 6 years that engagement has been greatly intensified in ways we cannot always comprehend. And a great deal of the battling has centered around George W. Bush, and - to a lesser but still apparent extent - Tony Blair, two men who have deeply embraced supernaturalism (in the form of Christian faithfulness) and been very public about it.
If you have the stomach to follow The Anchoress' link, it will take you to the very respectable Pajamas Media empire, where some editor reprints The Anchoress' account of an epochal struggle between Frodo and Sauron, or Superman and Lex Luthor, or whatever fairy-tale characters stand in for the Whore of Babylon and the Infidel Turk these days.

One could spend years trying to figure out which of these people is clinically insane, and which only pretend madness to lure the weak-minded into their webs. But it is increasingly clear that their reasoning, whether they present it in good faith or as a stratagem, is almost wholly mad. One could further debate whether or not they were led into this mode by the central lunacy of the Iraq invasion arguments -- and further argue whether these arguments were themselves made in good faith or out of rank cynicism in the service of some nefarious scheme.

It hardly matters now. Their many varieties of unreason have by dogged repetition achieved great status and even velocity, and go banging around the internet, weaving skeins of nonsense that some mistake for threads of logic, because they have randomly formed some patterns.

Maybe I'm nuts to track them, and you to read. In any case, I still keep an eye out. Up till a few days ago, their champions had near total control of our government. Now, not so much. It cheers me a little to think that maybe I'm not the only one paying attention.

UPDATE. America's second-maddest Jesusblogger cries, "I do believe in spooks, I do believe in spooks..."
WHY PROPAGANDA WORKS. While license-holder Jeff Goldstein shuffles around the mansion in Kleenex-box shoes, the kitchen help at Protein Wisdom are playing with the pots and pans. One such functionary headlines a post about the humorous revelation by Sandra Day O'Connor that one Barbara Jane March tried to poison the Supreme Court with rat-poison cookies thusly: "OLBERMANN FAN?" This is because Olbermann said, on air, he was going to cut Bill O'Reilly's hamstrings, then apologized, on air, which event stoked the holy fires of Michelle Malkin, who seemed to think this trumped the anthrax threats sent to politicians and celebrities by her own biggest fan.

So far, so what; but you know how it is with amateurs -- they always go too far: the PW poster asks, "So, it will be interesting to see what kinds of affiliations the MSM turns up on Barbara Joan March."

That's the great thing about the internet -- it has sites like The Smoking Gun, where I got this government sentencing report:
The defendant's conduct does not appear to be motivated by any personal, political or professional animosity toward the intended recipients of the letters. Rather, interviews with the purported senders of these letters [whose return addresses March had purposefully placed on them], as well as factors cited in the presentence investigative report, suggest that the defendant's conduct likedly was motivated by a misplaced anger toward the purported senders of those letters, former friends and colleagues who in the defendant's mind somehow had abandoned or wronged her.
And I have dial-up!

This kind of chickenshit wouldn't be worth noting but for the pattern of which it is a part. Longtime readers will recall the story of Foster Barton, a serviceman who got in a fight with an ex-serviceman at a Toby Keith concert (!), and whose beating was improbably blamed on the John Kerry campaign by every winger website in the known world. This obvious propaganda remains, for the most part, the blogospheric record of the event. (Barton might be the Horst Wessel of our age, but for the fact that Wessel was actually shot by a Communist.)

One might imagine these guys are too lazy or stupid to check sources, but I think it's worse than that. I think they just don't care what's real or unreal. They know what sort of thing plays to their constituents, and they also know that those constituents aren't concerned with the bullshit content in their kibble, so long as they keep getting fed.

UPDATE. I should mention that Old Hickory was among the few, the proud, the brave who picked up the Barton bullshit.

Friday, November 17, 2006

CROWD PLEASER. The Republicans need a new strategy, right? A common-sense conservatism that the punters can relate to, okay? NRO to the rescue:
A Bush administration HHS nominee is getting grief for his involvement with a pregnancy center that believes: "that the crass commercialization and distribution of birth control is demeaning to women, degrading of human sexuality and adverse to human health and happiness."

Passing out contraception without any deeper context or conversation is degrading and disrespectful — to men and women. Tell me I'm crazy.
John Podhoretz, to his credit, tells K-Lo, okay, you're crazy. Jonah Goldberg, on the other hand, engages in an extended mouth-fart about the "floozy patch," and updates with approving commentary from a reader who actually uses the phrase "between us guys," reminding us that, in this great land of ours, even Doofus and Henry Hotchkiss can have male bonding rituals.

The horrible noise goes on and on until K-Lo starts saying "Boner" over and over again... what? It's pronounced "Bay-ner"? How disappointing. Her latest bleat is this:
Well, I do, in fact, think that when one looks around, that "that the crass commercialization and distribution of birth control is demeaning to women, degrading of human sexuality and adverse to human health and happiness" is obvious. Evidence will be at many a bar, in many a pint of Ben & Jerry's, etc. this evening.
(softly, quizzically) Many a pint of... are they putting birth control pills in ice cream now, like prizes in Cracker Jack? Or is she saying that, if birth control were illegal (or "safe, legal, and rare," the moderate Republican position, and how they do it down South, I hear), she herself would cease to experience the crushing loneliness that can only be healed by milk fat? How does that work? I remember that when the AIDS crisis first hit the bathhouses, Arthur Bell reported on an attempt to popularize jack-off parties, in which guys got each other off without exchanging fluids. Maybe the widespread terror of pregnancy that is sure to follow conservative contraception reforms will lead to a hetero version of the jack-off party, and K-Lo is already figuring out whom to invite and what sort of decorations to have for her first one.

The poor woman. She reminds me of that Rhett Butler quote -- what is it? -- oh yeah: "You need to be fucked in the ass, and often, by someone who knows how."

What? That's not how it goes? Life is full of disappointments.
ARTS REVIEW. It's been a slow month for me art-wise. After 200 pages I gave up on One Hundred Years of Solitude -- it's beautiful writing, of course, but I kept thinking, wait, haven't I read this part already? The Russians can be hard to keep track of, too, but they have more conversations to jolt one back to attentiveness. Maybe I'm a horrible philistine, but I could have done with less magic and more realism. With that admitted, on to some impressions:

Borat. I guess what's got many people excited about this movie is the permission it gives us to enjoy ethnic humor in a public place without any consequences. Sasha Cohen's smart move was to pick a barely-known former Soviet satellite as his dummy's country of origin -- though to be fair, Al Capp did it first with Lower Slobbovia -- so only a tiny part of his audience would be directly offended, and the rest of us could cover ourselves with the excuse that we aren't laughing at Borat's ethnicity, but at his cultural isolation. It's really more like hillbilly humor than Polish jokes, all the way down to the incest and arranged marriage bits. Jeff Foxworthy gets away with this sort of thing all the time. But Borat isn't regionally distinct in the same way, so for American viewers there's nothing culturally at stake. Even Borat's anti-Semitic ravings provoke no internal second-guessing because Borat represents no recognizable constituency. Even when morons agree with him, there's no chance that an audience will. He's a perfect buffoon, and audiences sense it immediately: no shibboleths were harmed in the production of this movie.

This is liberating, on the simplest level. Cohen takes the freedom Borat grants him and runs amok with it, crashing through guerilla to gross-out humor. The result is way too loose to be called satire -- compared to Borat, "The Beverly Hillbillies" is Aristophanes. The ending is sweet -- I especially liked Borat's decision to free his chicken: "Run, run to your life!" -- but really, it's barely necessary, just a pleasing way of tying up loose ends. Wider claims for the movie are absurd and unnecessary.

The Information. I enjoyed London Fields and its hothouse-dense literary riffs, and I figured, if the hi-lo theme of toffs vs. chavs didn't play out as cataclysmically well for me as I'd hoped, it might have something to do with my relative unfamiliarity with the vagaries of London, to which Amis devoted so much space that I had to assume it was part of a deeper meaning I was missing. Well, this book takes place mostly in London, and there is an underworld part and a middle-class part, and there are lush thickets of description, but I felt more sure-footed in this one and thus less forgiving.

Amis is unparalleled at capturing the top, middle, and bottom notes in the stink of despair -- "he was more pleased than vexed if a bee buzzed him, flattered that anything, however briefly and stupidly, could still mistake him for a flower" -- and his central conceit, of a failed writer consumed with jealous and moral outrage that his unworthy buddy has become a credentialed literary success, is catnip to such as me and mostly well-played. Also, unlike his smugly fraudulent Gwyn Barry, Amis can write for toffee and often for non-pareils, too. But this time he couldn't snow me with the regional guff -- no punk chick, however rarified, behaves like Belladonna, and I'm pretty sure no one like the emblematic thug Steve Cousins, a virgin murderer steeped in pornography, could find a deep connection with the literally unreadable (and sadly unrendered) fiction of Amis' hero -- sorry, that's a metaphor way too far, however Anglicized.

Two books is too few on which to base summary judgment, but what else of his am I going to read? Time's Arrow? The one that goes backwards? Briton, please. As much pleasure as his prose gives me, I smell a rat. As in London Fields, there's a lot of guff here about decay and malaise and the bad end of the old Empire. I'm naturally sympathetic to the theme, but here Amis is observably working too hard at it; the simple comic reversal of the arranged beating in the movie theatre toilet, for example, gets so cluttered with existential dread that the joke gets spoilt. Maybe it is an English thing after all: I understand Amis is all about jihad and the death of the West these days. Yeesh. I prescribe Sullivan's Travels.

Drinking, Smoking, and Screwing and Lying, Cheating, and Stealing. Two 90s anthologies I found in the trash. Good fun, though their titles oversell them; why no frank erotica, or real crime narratives? Probably the editors considered such fare too raw for the joy-popping "transgression"-seeking audiences they targeted, but why? Had they never been to an airport bookstore? Still, anthologies are a great way to shop writers you'd never given a chance before. I feel more justified in ignoring Anais Nin now -- but, Good God, how'd I miss The Ginger Man and Tobias Wolff? My favorite find is Corey Ford, a glib mid-century magazine writer whose 1950 "Office Party" bit is very dated but charming. Manners come and go, but style -- if the author has put in the work to obtain one -- persists.

And, oh yeah, the Cezanne to Picasso and Americans in Paris shows at the Met? Massive big ups. If you've ever doubted Gaughin, go stand in front of Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going? for fifteen minutes. It'll put color in your cheeks. While you're there, go look at Winslow Homer's Prisoners from the Front and tell me if you think it's as hilariously homoerotic as I did. Like I said, I suspect I may be a philistine.

UPDATE. As always, this sort of post is redeemed by the genuine cultural information in the comments.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

SIGNS OF ADVANCEMENT. Ace of Spades writes,
I've noticed this myself lately. While Allah's heart-throb Kirsten Powers is contantly praising the newly-elected Democrats for their "moderate" positions -- anti-gay-marriage, pro-gun, pro-life -- I can't help but wonder I've stumbled into the Twillight Zone.

I thought such positions were marks of "extremism," not "moderation." Right?

Or does the Democratic Party label suddenly convert what is "extreme" to "moderate"?

More likely, what she means is that these people are rhetorically for these positions, but will nonetheless vote lockstep against any tangible legislation to advance them. "Moderation," in other words, is evidenced what you say you believe, not by what you actually do.
I have to applaud Mr. Spades; he's figured it out! These congresspeople will indeed do nothing to hinder our homosexualist, baby-killing agenda. And for this dereliction of principle, we will give them really good snacks and imported beer.

Let's see now if Mr. Spades can keep from spending the next two years running through the streets like Kevin McCarthy at the end of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, warning the populace that Democrats are in favor of abortion and gay rights. Baby steps!
SLOW LEARNERS. No slur on a guy who had the guts to tell the truth about Iraq when every wingnut in Christendom was screaming, "oh, you treasonous Marine!" but the Dems probably did well to elect Hoyer over Murtha. No sense in leaving out too many lightning rods at this delicate stage in the power transfer.

Meanwhile I see the Republicans, having chosen Trent Lott as their champion, continue to argue, through their most popular Internet operative, for more of the same in Iraq. Their new CW seems to be: admit some people, not to be confused with oneself, were a little off about the cakewalk, but Austin Bay had a fleeting moment of clarity two years ago, so we should definitely follow his present counsel, i.e., full endorsement of Zillion-Star General Ralph "Blood 'n' Guts" Peters KILL! KILL! KILL! policy.

I feel just the slightest bit optimistic. Maybe I should have a drink or something.

UPDATE. Of course, Republicans can always avail this trick by The Anchoress: the Back-Up Prediction! It's like a two-bagger: a spare in case the first one breaks!

UPDATE II. "I don't see how this can be anything other than a defeat for Nancy Pelosi," says the Ole Perfesser. That would make me reconsider my own position, if I didn't know better than to trust anything the guy says. Surely anyone who has achieved tenure, even at a sleepy Bible college, knows that there are wheels within wheels in any game of power. I chalk his blather up to widespread conservative hunger for victories of even the imaginary sort.

UPDATE III. Can you believe we're actually discussing Democratic political strategy? As if it were something important, like Hawthorne or autumn breezes? I feel so dirty, and not in the good way.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

YOU WERE THE BEST QUALIFIED... BUT THEY HAD TO GIVE YOUR AMERICAN BEAUTY REVIEW TO A MINORITY BECAUSE OF A RACIAL QUOTA! Fans of the Wingnut Diversity Paradox -- in which a.) complaints about all those fruity liberals with their quotas and their rainbows, and b.) demands that colleges or newspapers or Hollywood make some right-wing affirmative action hires pronto, exist within the same cramped mental space -- can find a ripe new version at the Crunchy Con blog.

Brother Dreher provides an update that suggests a fleeting moment of self-awareness--
You may be thinking, "So what does he want? He's complaining because the Times is not hiring more conservatives on its op-ed page for the sake of diversity, at the same time he's complaining about newsrooms hiring for diversity? How does that make sense?" Let me try to explain.
--and then he uncorks an illustrative example that, I must admit, widened even my gimlet eye:
In my own case, about a decade ago I applied for a film critic's position at a particular newspaper, was told by the arts editor that he loved my writing, and wanted to hire me. He called back later and sheepishly told me he couldn't bring me in for an interview, because his boss told him they wanted to hire a woman or a minority... The only reason for this was because I am a white male... The idea that no matter how hard I worked to write well, I couldn't overcome this bias against me because of the color of my skin and my gender was debilitating...
Cut to Dreher's hands crumpling his rejection letter.

Having suffered through Dreher's reviews in the paper that did hire his white ass -- the New York Post -- I think it altogether likely that the other editor was too polite to tell Dreher that his writing blew, and made up an affirmative-action yarn knowing that the excitable Southron would believe such a thing.

May Dreher never come to the soul-shattering realization that his whole career, cossetted by conservative editors and publishers, is an epic example of affirmative action in the old-fashioned style.

UPDATE. In comments, Dreher denies a critic's charge that "women and minorities are underrepresented in large, daily newsrooms" -- though later he seems to admit he was only talking about the "women" part ("I've never seen a figure about the ethnic minority representation in our newsroom," says Dreher -- I never before realized that he was physically blind). Dreher also denies that he was hired because of his wingnut bonafides, though "If I had been hired as a conservative, that would have been fine with me."

He also says David Brooks is his favorite Times writer because of Brooks' "interesting and unconventional conclusions." Oh, but this is the bestest bit of all:
Kristof is a brave and intrepid reporter, but how many times can you write, "Life is wretched in the Third World"? That sounds harsh, and I apologize for that, but I guess I have to admit I used to consider him a must-read, but now I think, "Here we go, another tale of woe from the Third World."
I might just decide to be a Jesus Freak myself. You don't have to give a shit about anyone but yourself, apparently, and they feed you really well.