Monday, June 30, 2003

WORTHY OF DERRIDA. It is refreshing to see conservatives standing up and saying, now hold on, there may be more to this than meets the eye -- let us eschew the "gotcha" politics of easy sound-bytes, and try to divine what this misunderstood fellow meant.

After all, they have in the past been quick to willfully misunderstand their enemies, and to run with the results -- as with their deliberate and shameful garbling of Paul Begala's "Red State - Blue State" comments, which remain a Republican bloody shirt to this day.

So today it was sweet to see Eugene Volokh and Andrew Sullivan attempting to explain Dick Cheney in context. When Cheney asserted that Iraq had nuclear weapons, he "misspoke," Volokh surmises. (The linguistic outrage "misspoke" is attributed to former Nixon press secretary Ron Ziegler, and its usage here may indicate that Volokh is showing off for the cognoscenti in the audience.) To prove this, he contextualizes Cheney's nuclear weapons statement with a bunch of Cheney statements that were almost about nuclear weapons -- "pursuit of nuclear weapons," "until he acquires nuclear weapons," etc. "He must have made a slip of the sort that people often make when they're in an extemporaneous conversation," concludes Volokh.

It does not occur to Volokh -- at least not on the page -- that there are many more uncharitable explanations for not keeping one's story straight. But who are we to split hairs? Leave it to bludgeon-brained Sullivan to forthRightly explain the import of Volokh's linguistic forensics: "The far Left, still desperate to undermine this administration and retroactively discredit the war of Iraqi liberation, is merely digging a bigger and bigger hole for itself."

Orwell was an amateur.

Sunday, June 29, 2003

MOVIE NIGHT. I resigned myself to clean my place up for a family visit, but then I turned on the tube and now the place just won't be up to code. First, they had Visconti's The Damned. How'd I miss it before? It's like Shakespeare with all the poetry in your eyes. I suppose you could fault LV for letting some individual members of the damned Essenbecks get lost for a little too long, but that's all to one side when the true vice-grip of tragedy bites so hard. Then, hey! Duel in the Sun on PBS, every bit as silly as its reputation, but good fun all around -- especially when Walter Huston forces a dusky, blanket-clad Jennifer Jones (baring a lot of leg) to kneel with his hand in her hair. Boy, they knew how to make crap in those days. And now there's San Francisco with crackling Anita Loos dialogue -- and a religious angle, yet!

These movies were made between the early Thirties and 1969. Well, that speaks badly for my contemporaneity, or for movies today, depending on how you look at it.

Friday, June 27, 2003

DEMOCRACY! POPPERS! SEXY! A quick post-Lawrence troll of the conservative sites shows that, while outright anti-homosexual raving is limited, nearly every one of these guys is unhappy with a decision that, it would appear, has killed legal persecution of gay sex. Andrew Sullivan, of course, is delighted, and the normally awful Instapundit can't quite work up any of those offensive cavils which usually disfigure his other too-rare moments of sanity, but elsewise the rightists feel compelled to grumble at least a little about it.

OpinionJournal, for example, compares Lawrence to Roe v. Wade -- meaning, in the secret language of the more urbane cons who there predominate, that whatever social benefit derives from the decision is far outweighed by the judicial overreach.

If you're gay or have any friends who are gay, can you possible go for the idea that it would have been better to keep your friends and lovers under a legal shadow till such time as a bunch of dumbass cracker legislators decide to update their prejudices?

I'm willing to entertain the idea that most modern conservatives aren't outright bigots, but if they feel so little enthusiasm for the legal liberation of gay people that they must brood and sulk through an actual stateside "Democracy! Whiskey! Sexy!" moment, how can I believe them when tell me how passionately they care about the Iraqi people -- or anyone else?
AND ANOTHER THING... Victor Davis Hanson today comes out shaking the same fist as usual at Old Europe (which collectively suffers, in his fevered imagination, from "post-Cold War teenager syndrome") and all Arabs everywhere. But toward essay's end, he finds a new and heretofore unsuspected enemy -- the Mexicans:

And if one wishes to find real anti-Americanism, there is no need to go to Brussels or Damascus. Simply peruse the Mexico City newspapers, read what Mr. Fox says to non-Americans, or listen carefully to la Raza (a blatantly racist term analogous to the old German concept of a pure Volk) dogma in the southwest. Papers in Mexico often mirror those in the Arab world — blaming the United States for Mexico City's own failure to address self-created pathologies...

One wonders why Hanson does not devote his energies to support of the U.S. space program. Clearly Americans are too good for the planet.

What a sour way to look at things -- believing that everything you do is wonderful, and that everyone should love you for it, and that those who don't are just fools requiring correction ("r" rolled as Grady does in the film of The Shining). I slip into that kind of thinking myself sometimes -- often enough that I have to pay close attention to the tendency, lest I become too moody and anti-social. But I know there's something wrong with feeling that way -- and (thankfully for all concerned, I guess) I don't have the ear of a suggestible President.

Thursday, June 26, 2003

MY BLOOD RUNS COLD. Been reading Scalia's dissent on today's decision. Hair-raising. At one point he lists high-court decisions that relied upon Bowers for guidance:

It seems to me that the "societal reliance" on the principles confirmed in Bowers and discarded today has been overwhelming... See, e.g., Williams v. Pryor, 240 F. 3d 944, 949 (CA11 2001) (citing Bowers in upholding Alabama's prohibition on the sale of sex toys...)... Milner v. Apfel, 148 F. 3d 812, 814 (CA7 1998) (citing Bowers for the proposition that "[l]egislatures are permitted to legislate with regard to morality . . . rather than confined to preventing demonstrable harms"); Holmes v. California Army National Guard 124 F. 3d 1126, 1136 (CA9 1997) (relying on Bowers in upholding the federal statute and regulations banning from military service those who engage in homosexual conduct); Owens v. State, 352 Md. 663, 683, 724 A. 2d 43, 53 (1999) (relying on Bowers in holding that "a person has no constitutional right to engage in sexual intercourse, at least outside of marriage"); Sherman v. Henry, 928 S. W. 2d 464, 469, 473 (Tex. 1996) (relying on Bowers in rejecting a claimed constitutional right to commit adultery). We ourselves relied extensively on Bowers when we concluded, in Barnes v. Glen Theatre, Inc., 501 U. S. 560, 569 (1991), that Indiana's public indecency statute furthered "a substantial government interest in protecting order and morality, ibid., (plurality opinion); see also id., at 575 (SCALIA, J., concurring in judgment). State laws against bigamy, same-sex marriage, adult incest, prostitution, masturbation, adultery, fornication, bestiality, and obscenity are likewise sustainable only in light of Bowers' validation of laws based on moral choices. Every single one of these laws is called into question by today's decision...

And he says it like that's a bad thing.

Elsewhere, Scalia says "there is no right to 'liberty' under the Due Process Clause, though today's opinion repeatedly makes that claim." His conclusion is just -- brrrrrrr.

About what goes on in George W. Bush's brain, we can only speculate, protected as that rat's-nest is by enablers and publicists. But Scalia's in a different line of work, and on his job he can let the slimey string all the way out. And my blood runs cold to think that a freedom-hating scumbag like this is placed so high in the government of my country.
A LITTLE GOOD NEWS. Who wouldn't be happy about this? Well, let's not go there (and I mean that literally)...

I do note with interest that Justice Thomas' fence-straddle -- voting with the minority, but going out of his way to express disdain for regulation of "noncommercial consensual conduct with another adult" -- achieves its probable objective of playing both ends against the middle, PR-wise. Both Jonah Goldberg and Andrew Sullivan use Thomas as an exemplar of conservative tolerance -- even though he voted to uphold Bowers v. Hardwick. Talk about having it both ways!

Well, you know what; let Sullivan have it any way he wants -- this is a big day for him, and though I think he's an asshole, this is one victory I'm happy to see him celebrate.

THINKING IT THROUGH. The mystery of Lileks is solved: his wife lost her job. As one who has suffered the vagaries of the job market, I sympathize. It must make it that much harder for him that he has that large, comfortable house to maintain. And all the latest Mac gear, and a great home entertainment center. It'll be hard keeping all that together on one nationally-syndicated columnist's salary...

On second thought, fuck that asshole.

Favorite lines: "The woman who comes in once a week to do the woodwork: she’s hosed. The guys who mow the lawn: well, they’re in luck, because I’ll be damned if I push a mower up the hill. But otherwise, it’s time to cinch the belt..."

THINKING IT THROUGH II. Instapundit feels for Lileks and directs you to his Tip Jar. I mean, the suburban columnist's wife has just lost her job, folks! She's a well-connected lawyer, so who knows when she'll work again?

If your heart bleeds for them, prepare to bust out crying like a little girl for America's super-rich. Information from the IRS, reported by the New York Times, tells us that "the 400 wealthiest taxpayers accounted for more than 1 percent of all the income in the United States in 2000." The Four Hundred have more than doubled their cut of the American pie since 1992. But at the same time, "their taxes grew at a much slower rate, from 1 percent of all taxes in 1992 to 1.6 percent in 2000." They also paid a lower rate on their taxes in 2000 than in 1992.

Now, this is where some ombudsman, real or self-appointed, says, "Class-warfare! Tone it down with some Republican talking points!" And so the Times' report contains this demurrer:

Those same numbers can be read to show that the wealthiest, as a group, bore a disproportionate share of the overall tax burden -- 1.6 percent of all taxes, vs. 1.1 percent of all income...

Break out the facial blotters. Once again, the rich are soaked! Too bad the Times didn't run a Tip Jar for the Four Hundred with the story. Then again, I imagine we've all been hitting their Tip Jar for quite some time.

Wednesday, June 25, 2003

DEFINING OPPRESSION DOWN. Speaking of which, if you read conservative stuff at all, every so often you'll see a story similar to this one from today's NRO:

A few days after my [anti-affirmative action] editorial appeared, a college administrator whom I scarcely recognized approached me in the campus coffee shop. "Are you Gabe Neville?" he asked.

"Yes," I said, not sure why he was asking.

"Having identified me, he glanced furtively around and said, "Good editorial" — and quickly walked away. I never spoke with him again.

...The man was scared. A man like that, an employee without the protection of tenure, wasn't allowed to have opinions of his own.

I'm always reading in such venues about how terrified people are to have, or even approve, "politically incorrect" opinions. Apparently, America is like old Soviet Russia, where all true hearts fear the finger of the informer.

There may be some percentage in looking like a liberal on college campuses -- where it may also be prudent not to criticize the school's basketball team or the head cheerleader's appearance. But where else?

Stop, drop, and look around: conservatives literally rule our politics. No one's throwing rocks and bottles at Bush. Truly suppressed political movements are usually accompanied by legally arbitrary detentions, outlawing of political activity, etc. That sure isn't happening to these guys.

Oppression has been defined down, it seems, for conservatives. If Miguel Estrada gets filibustered, in the conservative imagination it's because "No Conservatives Need Apply" for work from bigoted Democrats. Preferring Darwin's Origin of Species to the Book of Genesis as a paleontology text means liberals "want everyone to tolerate their liberal ideas but have no tolerance for others." And, of course, if you support gay rights, be prepared to hear about "the victimization of evangelical Christians by a hostile secular culture."

It's all a tonic for the troops, I guess -- after all, nothing gets an American up off his duff better'n that someone letting him know he's been getting a raw deal, see? So, rather than let the young cons lay back and watch the Republican-run economy and polity implode, the wise ones tell them martyrdom stories to build fires of righteousness in their hearts.
WHINERS. Conservatives are an odd lot. They run the country, and seem at their pep rallies, at least, to know it, high-fiving and lustily proclaiming, "Tomorrow Belongs to Me." For a winning team, though, they do a surprising amount of whining.

Yesterday's Supreme Court comments make good examples, but I must share with you this whinge from Keith Burgess-Jackson at the library of rejected thesis drafts known as Tech Central Station:

"...instead of engaging conservatives, liberals seek to crush them. It is as if conservatives are unworthy of being taken seriously. It is as if they are less than human."

Given the power disparity between the two groups, it is as if Burgess-Jackson were accusing cockroaches of plotting to send him to the ovens.

B-J has plenty of shoulders to cry on. One such is James Lileks, the cornpone vendor from Minnesota who amuses us with anecdotes about his widdle girl Gnat and lurid fantasies about Michael Moore's painful, fecally-explicit death. So Lileks likes to play rough -- "Fisking" and all that. But get a load of how he reacts when someone takes a swipe at him:

My God, people can be vile. I hate to realize sometimes how naive I can be, how I can still be surprised at someone’s ability to put the screws to their fellow man -- er, person -- for reasons so petty you couldn’t find them with an electron microscope. One silly minor person sets her jaw, decides to show someone what’s what, and the effect cascades through the lives of half a dozen other people.

But you know what they say: everytime a door closes, another one opens. So make sure when you close it, your tormentor’s foot is caught twixt door and frame. And slam it shut. Hard.

I have no idea what the beef is -- and I suppose it would be unkind, in a Lileksian way, to speculate (so unfair that I just now deleted a mean gag relating to it -- oh, by the way, UPDATE) -- but Jesus, what a whiner.

Now, I whine too. Oh boy, do I whine. But I'm one of those evil, dehumanizing liberals -- it's in character for me to whine. (And to listen to NPR, drive a Volvo, and murder unborn babies.) Lileks, on the other hand, is impeccably right-wing, and has a fine house, a nice family, a cushy gig, a loyal dog. One would expect him to look trouble in the eye with the same amused glimmer that graces the orbs of Rumsfield and Cheney when some idiot appears to expect a straight answer from them. Yet here he is, to borrow an apt phrase from one of Mike Tyson's handlers, jumping around like a little bitch.

Is that what success is like? Thank God I'm a failure!

Tuesday, June 24, 2003

RACE HUSTLERS. The recent Supreme Court decisions on affirmative action sure look like a conservative gain to me -- those guys hate diversity politics, and Gratz at least should make undergraduate programs a little less, um, diverse. Yet prominent righties are (almost literally) spitting mad at Sandra Day O'Connor for the milder Grutter decision.

"Rank perversion," says Peter Kirsanow. He argues that "while the immediate practical effect may be negligible, the long-term social cost will be pronounced." How? "It has consigned at least one more generation of minorities to hard labor under the stigma of perceived incompetency." His concern for those of his fellow African-Americans who have not been muscled onto a Federal Commission is touching. But I wonder which of the following a marginal, black college applicant would prefer: a college education with stigma, or the opportunity to write "LAST GRADE ATTENDED: 12" on job applications without stigma?

David Frum mourns "the determination of elite schools to practice racial preferences either directly or through sneaky subterfuges." Curse those elite schools! On the other hand, I imagine if they were elite country clubs, Frum might be defending them from governmental intrusion.

You can actually see beads of sweat on John Podhoretz' prose: "Sandra Day O'Connor doesn't quite understand what it means to hold a thought in her head for more than 15 seconds," he raves. "Embarrassed themselves in perpetuity... judicial cowardice... racial condescension." And, of course, the old all-ya-gotta-do-is-be-black argument: "At state colleges and law schools, the Supreme Court says, all you need to get a leg up is a non-Caucasian (and non-Asian) skin tone."

Yeesh. Does Podhoretz even know what he sounds like? Or does he know and feel good about it, believing himself bravely "politically incorrect"?

Actually, I'm beginning to think that these guys have no strong Constitutional feelings about affirmative action at all. Race is a hot-button issue, and everyone knows how to win Republican votes on that score -- when Supreme Court no kill quotas, Hulk smash!

God knows how the black rightists work up the requisite fury. Kirsanow said last year that he foresaw a "groundswell of opinion" favoring internment camps for all Arab-Americans if any more terrorist attacks took place in America -- so maybe he thinks America is race-mad (a not unfounded conclusion), and may hope, by disassociating his people from despised preferences, to shield them from the volatile animosity of crackerdom.

For the white guys, I suppose it's a lot simpler.

Monday, June 23, 2003

GEORGE AXELROD. I had no idea he was still alive, or I would have sent a fan letter before he died. Now that the screenwriter/director is gone, I'll tell you why I would have.

There's a strain in American film that has been too little examined. When we think of sex-comedy movies, we tend to think of classy, wised-up offerings like those of Preston Struges or Ernst Lubitsch. These guys couldn't show a lot of skin or use dirty words, but their characters obviously heard the old goat-song and were motivated by it to do some wacky things. A celibate professor might put a shady dame up in his sanctum sanctorum, for example, if her gams were appealing. There was a shared perception among audience and moviemaker alike that the power of sexual attraction was the topic (Topic A, Sturges used to call it) that had motivated comedy from the dawn of dramaturgy.

But in the 1950s and, especially, the 1960s, stateside sex comedies took on a deciedly neurotic aspect. I'll spare you the convoluted social and aesthetic bloodlines, but the short version might go like this: as American sexual mores began to loosen, popular artists felt the pull and felt compelled to go with it. Of course, to go all the way with it would have been too much for everyone concerned -- it's one thing for some garretted bohemian to tear the frilly nightdress off the American libido, but makers of fun entertainments for the masses didn't want to live in garrets (though they might go to parties in them) -- they wanted to stay popular.

Still, everybody knew the jig was up -- the country was rich and leisured, and not everyone was passing their suburban evenings with mah jong and Uncle Miltie. Eventually you couldn't not talk about sex, but you couldn't tell all you knew, either.

This made for what we might charitably call creative tension. Moviemakers began pushing the envelope, as we now say, but they also had to pay obesiance to the power of suppression -- the newly-hip audience may have been making new demands, but the Hayes Code was still making its old ones. So we started getting Ross Hunter movies, Good Neighbor Sam, Kiss Me, Stupid, A Guide for the Married Man, Sex and the Single Girl, Under the Yum Yum Tree, etc. -- pictures in which sex was hyped up to an alarming degree. The pursuit of partners in these pictures seems almost panic-stricken. The pull of lust was shown, not as a little spark that made the world go round, but as a tornado that blew men around like uprooted trees. Still, conventional morality was more or less restored by the end of each -- albeit a little the worse for wear.

It may be said that Axelrod was one of the founding fathers of the neurotic sex comedy. The Seven Year Itch, his first hit, was mainly about a middle-class guy ineptly trying to screw his neighbor. As the neighbor was Marilyn Monroe, not much explanation was required. In the Billy Wilder film version, made in 1955, the guy doesn't go through with it -- though in Axelrod's original Broadway play, he did. Axelrod reportedly resented this modification. Of course the play couldn't be filmed as it was. But something was eating at Axelrod. There was a wrecker in him, albeit one domesticated by an aversion to garrets.

Axelrod went west and wrote, among other films, Goodbye Charlie and How to Murder Your Wife. These pictures are at times literally astonishing -- not good, just astonishing. The men in them seem, for the most part, crazed with lust, yet highly uncomfortable with its consequences. Charlie, in which a deceased womanizer comes back to earth as Debbie Reynolds and his old pal falls in love with him/her, would give Sigmund Freud nightmares. And the courtroom scene in How To Murder Your Wife whips the vague resentments males feel toward the restrictions of marriage and social status into a delirious rage -- climaxing with Jack Lemmon convincing the male jurors that any man would kill to be freed from his marital chains. Maybe the audience was supposed to take all this as good-humored ribbing between the sexes, but my nostrils detect a whiff of gasoline and old rags when I watch them.

Axelrod did some fine things -- The Manichurian Candidate among them -- but for me his apotheosis is Lord Love a Duck. He wrote, directed, and produced it, and it failed miserably at the box office. The style is a kind of SoCal magic realism, in which the erotically compelled characters of his earlier work become almost literal automatons, mouthing conformist platitudes between eye-rolling bouts of sexual frenzy. Above all this is Roddy McDowell (!) as a living imp of the perverse -- but a curiously unsexed one. He obsesses on a shallow but ambitious California teenager played by Tuesday Weld (!), but he doesn't seem to want to fuck her -- merely to amuse and enable her with his magical power to grant all her wishes. At first he vicariously enjoys her rakette's progress through the social gauntlet of suburban life. Weld drives men literally mad, knows it, and uses it. Her very presence causes her high school principal (Harvey Korman) to devour pencils; she even vamps her estranged father, in one thoroughly unwholesome sequence, so that he'll buy her the multiple sweaters she needs to join the cool girls of the school.

McDowell hates all these people, and happily smooths her path, even arranging an advantageous marriage for her to a thoroughly hypocritical square he detests. But then he starts to crack. He slowly destroys the square, and then decides this isn't a large enough gesture of contempt -- and mows down all his adversaries by running a bulldozer into the high school graduation. The story ends with McDowell in prison, proclaiming his love for Weld -- who goes on to become a movie star.

Rest, rest, perturbed spirit.
"PRETEND YOU LIVE IN AMERICA." Jimmy Breslin's always worth reading, seldom more so than in this column, in which the old guy looks at the Iyman Faris case and, not being properly coached in the new realities, calls it for what it is:

Friday, the newspapers and television reported the following matter with no anger or effort to do anything other than serve as stenographers for the government:

On March 1, give or take a day, in Columbus, Ohio, the FBI arrested an American citizen they say is Iyman Faris. There wasn't a word uttered. He vanished. No lawyer was notified. He made no phone calls and wrote no postcards or letters.

He was a United States citizen who disappeared without a trace into a secret metal world...

They held him secretly in an iron world for the next six weeks. This is plenty of time to hand out giant beatings. Oh, yes, don't gasp. If cops are performing a Fascist act, then always suspect them of acting like Fascists. They have fun beating people up.

In mid-April, again in deep secrecy, the government says Faris was allowed to plead guilty to plotting to pull down or blow up the Brooklyn Bridge. He was in a sealed Virginia federal courtroom. If he had a lawyer, that was some lawyer.

After that, he was sentenced. We don't know what the sentence was because it is sealed.

I don't know what Faris looks like or sounds like or what he thinks and what he was doing. He could be the worst. I don't know. Prove he wanted to blow up the Brooklyn Bridge and let him paste a picture of Osama bin Laden on the cell wall for inspiration over the next half a century. But first bring him into open court and try him. Pretend you live in America. Even pick a jury...

Hacks may whinge at the archaism of his style, but Breslin on his worst day wipes the floor with their candy asses every time. And reason isn't too technical. It's because Breslin knows what he sees, and tells us. None of this prevaricating horseshit for him. Things either add up or they don't.

This doesn't add up. And he's right, not enough reporters have said so. When Breslin stops doing this gig, we'll all be a lot closer to mushroom status.

Friday, June 20, 2003

A METHOD TO HIS DUMBNESS. While I do enjoy those pictures of Bush falling off a Segway, I also wonder if we aren't being conned.

The Village Voice seems to think Bush could get impeached for lying about WMD in Iraq (found via WTF Is It Now? which seems to agree). I think that's far-fetched, but our President, not known especially for personal valor, might be feeling a little nervous about it.

So maybe Bush is trying to revive and exploit that perception of himself which his spin doctors once labored so valiantly to decommission: the perception that Bush is a dumbass.

While falling off a supposedly un-fall-offable Segway is more on the clumsy than the stupid tip, it must be remembered that stupidity and clumsiness are often conjoined in the minds of the masses (cf. Inspector Clouseau, Gerald Ford). Plus, Bush may have wanted to kick off Operation Lookame Imadumbass with a bold physical schtick, as most of his constituents are themselves too poorly educated to notice even his most egregiously deformed syntax and reasoning.

If Operation Lookame Imadumbass is a success, the Democrats can raise as many Bills of Impeachment as they like. By then Bush will be walking around dressed like Jethro Bodine, with one tooth blacked out perhaps, and answering all questions by hollering "How the HAAAIL am I spozed to know? AH'M A DUMBASS!" and waving his arms spastically. He can then beg off charges on the grounds of mental incapacity.

Hell, it worked for Reagan.

Thursday, June 19, 2003

SEND MONEY, THEY'RE STARVING -- FOR ATTENTION! The NRO pledge drive must be doing really badly. The Corner hasn't been this nuts since the war. Now they're going on about Keynes being gay. Derbyshire calls him "gay as a convention of hairdressers," observes, "'In the long run we're all dead' -- That is not the kind of thing a family man would say," and asks his readers for more info on Keynes' sex life. Jonah Goldberg adds, "The fact that Keynes was gay might be relevant as to why he held the views he did." Well, you can't say they're always thinking Clinton's cock, anyway.

Also, Goldberg picks up the Ole Perfesser's article-style blogroll at TCS (synopsis: Me and my buddies rock. Liberals are stupid and cowardly. Gee, that Andrew Sullivan sure can write) and asks why leftists (as he and Reynolds allege) don't sign their blog writings. Given the quality of what Goldberg churns out, I could as well ask why he does sign his.

Wednesday, June 18, 2003


What if Werner von Braun had told us after V-E Day that, yes, in theory it would have been nice to have an A-bomb, and that Heisenberg and his crowd had looked into the subject -- but, given the intellectual and logistical obstacles, the project had simply been abandoned?

Yeah, dude, what if? What if Hitler had invaded, say, only Lichtenstein instead of several European countries -- or if Saddam Hussein were at any time in his reign capable of lobbing missles any further than a few hundred miles (and if any of those missles were able to do any serious damage)?

Then Brookhiser's amazing historical non-sequitur would still make no fucking sense.

The rest of the column is just as bad.
DERB SNAPS! As aforementioned, the NRO kids have been playing it cute during pledge drive. Maybe they're not bringing in enough money, because strain is beginning to show. Behold John Derbyshire:

69-year-old Harry Hammond, arrested last year in England and fined over $1,000 for holding up a placard that said: STOP IMMORALITY. STOP HOMOSEXUALITY. STOP LESBIANISM I am willing to bet that a poll of homosexuals would show a majority believing that this prosecution was right and proper--probably, in fact, a majority feeling that Mr Hammond got off too lightly. Homosexual activists will stop at nothing to shut down all discussion of, and objection to, their "lifestyle." They do not want mere tolerance or grudging acceptance: they want whole-hearted approval, with the silencing, by force of law, of anyone who does not approve.

One awaits sourcing from Derbyshire, though of course without holding one's breath.

If you want more anti-gay ravings, you can go to the lead-lined fart chamber in which they keep David Frum.
WHAT HAPPENS TO A MEME DEFERRED? Hey kids, says Andrew Sullivan, if we all clap our hands as hard as we can, we'll save Tinkerbell -- I mean, if we all blog about Iran on July 9, we'll overthrow the mullahs!

(Eventually, when Iran falls, excitable Andy will tells us all about the role played by the blogs.)

I preferred it when Sullivan was just asking us to call him an "eagle." Wonder how that meme's going?
BEYOND BELIEF. Slate's "In Other Magazines" column links to a dilly: a column at the Weekly Standard calling for a new "great American newspaper." Billy Kristol sounds the charge with one of those plainly unbelievable assertions his kind are made for: "Its editorial page could be conservative or liberal, as long as it was thoughtful and serious..."

Already Bluto is coughing "Blowjob!" behind his fist. Does anyone who has ever read or heard more than a few sentences from Kristol believe he means this? Of course not -- it's as big a load of crap as Fox's "fair and balanced."

Soon enough Kristol gives readers the wink: the New Paper should not be "ignorantly disdainful of Red America..." Nudge nudge, say no more.

We're talking, in other words, about a conservative house-organ which would not be perceived as such. Later at the Standard, expostulating on Kristol's theme, David Gelertner is more obvious, praising "the conservative editorial page of the Wall Street Journal" and the laughable New York Sun as models.

The recent troubles at the New York Times have brought forth an ocean of crocodile tears over journalism besmirch'd. Like most professions of disappointment made by lifelong enemies, they are largely unbelievable.

While some Times critics are motivated by personal vendetta (like the most disappointed office-seeker since Charles Guiteau), and some few by genuine concern for j-standards, most of the current mob are merely trying to discredit a paper that has historically backed Democratic candidates for office and (in some dimly-remembered past before Joe Lelyveld) flashed some teeth at the conservative movement.

In other words, pundits whose only interest (indeed, whose primary source of income) is propaganda are not reliable witnesses for pure journalism.

Claims of bias can be weighed and measured, but conservatives who claim ideological malfeasance at the Times have a hard time getting around the fact that the paper has a massive, highly professional infrastructure. When you can do anything as well as they do news, bias is literally a secondary issue.

The Times also has the one great benefit of reputation and seniority: at a time when most media outlets pander slavishly to the whims of its prospective readerships, the paper actually requires its audience to make some concessions to its own way of doing things. Those who complain that the Times has been "dumbed down" in recent years should get a load of what the competition is printing. Yeah, the Times does silly stuff like this, but that's a small drop in a big pond of remarkably comprehensive, literate coverage.

If you're smart enough to read the Times, you're smart enough to pick out the nits of bias. Falsehoods are something else again. The Times knows that -- which is why Jason Blair was fired. Indeed, that's ultimately why Raines and Boyd were "resigned." (It was, at least, the sword these two gave their enemies to use against them.)

As for Kristol's and Gelertner's white whale, I'll give it a look if it ever comes to pass, but I expect no better than the New York Post with big words.
WE'RE NOT FASCISTS, GIVE US MONEY. National Review Online is pulling another one of its lame libertarian acts. Goldberg leans against government intervention on matters of spam; Ponnuru agrees, prefers "less formal social pressures" (I'm all for that, but when I write spammers back with "THE POWER OF CHRIST COMPELS YOU!" my message never gets through). John Miller is squishy on amnesty for illegal immigrants, Ponnuru raps sin taxes, and so forth.

I think it has to do with their current, strenuously-persued pledge drive -- it's easier to grub change with fun conservatism than the other kind.

Don't take it too seriously, though. None of them has anything to say about the flag-burning amendment bill recently pushed through the House. No fun NRO angle there! And the house argument about gay marriage is still so heavily weighted that the moderate position is represented by John Derbyshire telling homosexuals to shut up and be glad with what they've got. ("Stop pushing the envelope. Envelopes can break.")

I'm grateful for small blessings: Stuttaford's Finnish joke is quite good. Not worth any money, though.

Monday, June 16, 2003

COME ON, PEOPLE, THIS IS IMPORTANT! WIGB said last week, "Gregory Peck and David Brinkley both just died. These things tend to happen in threes. Who's going to be the third?"

Angus Young, according to the Castel-Dodge site, which reports the AC/DC guitarist dead since Thursday.

But there's nothing at this writing on AC/, nor at the Elektra AC/DC site except some querulous chat messages branding the report a lie.

If someone's fucking with us, I just have to tell him that I'm not having the greatest day, couldn't you have waited? Because Angus Young being dead would really suck.

UPDATE. Turns out to have been a rumor. I think. Castel-Dodge withdraws, nothing on news-fan sites. Weird...

Saturday, June 14, 2003


21ST CENTURY SUBURBAN PARADISE: I'm blogging on the laptop from the deck via wireless, while sipping a Redhook IPA and grilling steaks. Is this a great country, or what?

I'm blogging on my PowerMac 9500 from my slum via dial-up, while guzzling a Budweiser and burning a Pall Mall Light. This country sucks.

Friday, June 13, 2003

COMPASSIONATE CONSERVATISM AT WORK.The New York Post continues to push for an end to rent stabilization. As befits an operation wedded to the notion that landlords, once freed from the stabilization yoke, will start charging less for apartments, these boys are very good at logic games. Operative Steve Cuozzo today contributes this breathtaking bagatelle:

...the blocks south of Chambers Street are already enjoying an "affordable" housing boom. To understand this, it's necessary to strip the word of its politically correct context... None is likely to be cheap. But we may count on them to be affordable, which in the English language has but one meaning: What people are willing and able to pay for. Only in the dreamland of social engineering does "affordable" mean something quite different: what certain people - people of lesser means - can afford. It may drive socialist ideologues batty, but in Manhattan, all new apartment homes are affordable in the meaningful sense. This is not semantic sophistry, but fact.

Using similar rationales, we could demonstrate that tubercular bums living beneath an overpass are making a "living wage," because they are still alive.

"VITAMINS MAY BE BAD FOR YOUR HEALTH, STUDY SAYS." This is the most amazing yet of those headlines that just make you want to eat a bag of steak fat in despair. What the hell's next? "Captain Morgan Spiced Rum 'Safer Than Water,' Say Docs" or "Surgeon-General: Cut Down on Leafy Greens"?

You're on your own, kids. Pay attention to the way your body reacts to certain ingestibles, and go with the ones that make it feel good. (Be careful about intoxicants, which tend to feel very bad in the long run, or at least the morning after.)

Thursday, June 12, 2003

"I DO NOT THINK ABOUT THINGS I DO NOT THINK ABOUT." What the hell? Jonah Goldberg today: "Bush spends too much money. Period. This is one of the downsides of so-called compassionate conservatism... I think Bush is a good president and I think he's a conservative president. But he is also a big government president in many respects. There's less of a contradiction there than some think, by the way, but that's a conversation for another day."

I guess this is how JG gets himself to write those long, horrible columns -- he makes a patently ridiculous statement, then spends 2000 words trying to make it sound sensible.

It does look to me, more every day, that the only thing holding the movement together these days is a lust for power (and, in Goldberg's case, high-calorie snack food). I know that's a common, even cheap charge, but really, what the hell do they believe in? Fiscal restraint? Please. Social policy? Yeah, they're active -- that Partial-Birth Abortion Ban will save dozens of potential lives. I guess you could put them down as in favor of "helping people." As long as they live in other countries. And who even believes them in that regard?

They can't even agree on traditional conservative rallying points, such as the persecution of homosexuals. Oh, tax cuts. They like tax cuts. And choc-o-mut ice creams.

I guess it's really all about making snotty comments about Frenchmen and Hillary Clinton. Well, there are worse ways to make a living.

Wednesday, June 11, 2003

PROPOSING AN AMENDMENT. Administration judicial appointee Bill Pryor has called Roe v. Wade "the worst abomination of the history of constitutional law" which has "led to the slaughter of millions of unborn children," among other ripe opinions. (Orrin Hatch praises Pryor as "open and honest in his political beliefs.") The Democrats, naturally, resist and refuse.

Good for them. But their struggle with Pryor and other such operatives is getting old. Not "old" in the sense of unfashionableness, but in the clinical sense; the Dems are not, to state the obvious, a font of legislative vigor; the center cannot hold, and that is probably what Bush is counting on.

It is worth noting that in the 91st Congress (1969-71), the earliest for which I can find an official resume, the lawmen received 134,464 executive nominations of all sorts, and left 666 unconfirmed, withdrawn, or "rejected" (a single nominee!), while the 105th Congress (1999-2000, and the last one that does not require downloading a damned PDF) considered 45,805, and left unconfirmed, withdrawn, or "returned to the White House" 1,972. Nixon in his first term lost less than one-half a percent of his noms, Clinton in his last lost a little over 4 percent, though he had sent only about a third as many contestants into that arena.

The current struggles threaten to set some kind of record. Given the chance of fatigue, might they not prove the worse course of action? (I say this as a rabid anti-Bushite, a defender of R v. W, and one who wishes Pryor sent with a hard kick from the bench presumptive to write Borkian jeremiads for the rest of his natural life.)

It may be getting on time for Congressional Dems to draw up a counter to the oft-threatened Human Life Amendment. We've relied on Roe and the 10th Amendment securely a while now, but Bush is busily sending redneck jurists crawling up the ass of the polity to roll them both back, and shows no sign of stopping. A filbuster or two laid low, a bad by-election here or there, and the jig is up.

Maybe we just ought to make it plain, and put it before the states, that reproductive rights are not the business of the U.S. Congress.

A strict-constructionist liberal might say that we have no business enumerating what the Constitution has already made plain. Perhaps, but the rights of black Americans, which might seem to an unbiased observer equally plain under the original Articles, eventually required the 13th, 15th, and 24th Amendments. That work is still not done, but would be a damned sight harder without them.

I know all the practical arguments against it, but our enemies are implaccable and, judging from their behavior in matters of both war and peace, utterly ruthless. If the elected members of the Democratic Party has doubts about the resolution of the people, let the people erase or confirm them. If they doubt their own ability to make their case, they really have no business representing their Party, or the devotion to liberty which is, as it was in Jefferson's time, its very reason for being.

Or, to put it in rankly partisan terms: looking for an issue? Here it is.

Tuesday, June 10, 2003

FURTHER ADVENTURES IN ANDYLAND. From the alternate universe of Andrew Sullivan:

One thing the former president understands is power, and he knew full well that the resignation of Howell Raines at the NYT could hurt Democrats. The news might not be spun as ruthlessly as in the past; the campaign against the Bush administration under the guise of news coverage might not be as relentless; and so, apparently, Clinton intervened. This story, Clinton reminds us, wasn't just about journalism. At a deeper level it was also about politics; and Clinton wanted to protect a huge victory that the left had won with Raines' advancement. He lost. Journalism won.

In other world news, Clinton gave a bum a quarter, thereby conspicuously working to undermine, in a manner unbefitting a former President, the economic programs of George W. Bush.

Look at this 2001 dispatch from Howard Kurtz, recalling Raines' management of the Times' editorial page: "Once Clinton was elected, Raines's editorial page hammered him on Whitewater and improper fundraising, and during the Monica Lewinsky investigation said the president had 'embarrassed the nation' and 'sent out federal employees to lie on his behalf." Clinton was convinced that Raines, as a fellow Southerner, resented his success... 'Bill Clinton probably hated the Times editorial page under Howell Raines more than any other person in the United States,' [Tom Rosenstiel, director of the Project for Excellence in Journalism] says..."

Raines and Clinton, two Southerners of the liberal persuasion, might as easily trade ass-pats as smacks upside the head. Powerful people tend to do each other favors, like making a case to keep a pal from getting fired, despite their differences. This, we inhabitants of planet Earth knew.

Sullivan, however, portrays it as some kind of devil's bargain between evil Democrats. Of course, he's not always so suspicious. The shoveling of unprecedented power to rich media conglomerates by their operatives in Congress, for example, glides right past him.

Monday, June 09, 2003

OUTLAND. Jeez, just got this forwarded by a friend:

Dear Friends and Neighbors,This morning at 5AM a man on a mountain bike rushed up behind one of my neighbors, took out a gun, and using the gun, forced him into his OWN apartment. The man with the gun took all the cash in his apartment, credit cards and other small valuables... The man was described as being 18-23 years old, African American, wearing a white cap, and--obviously--on a mountain bike. In the past month alone, there have been multiple crimes in our neighborhood. A stabbing on Maujer street, 2 gunpoint muggings on Powers Street and another mugging on Jackson St. It seems that the suspects are using the Graham Avenue community as their target--they are coming from the southside part of the street... All occurred during dark hours, but at weird times. So again, keep your eyes open. If you have to travel early in the morning or late at night alone, take a cab have a buddy watch for you...

The neighborhood described is considered part of Williamsburg -- my neighborhood, an alleged hipster Valhalla -- but newbies only started pushing as far west as the aforementioned streets recently. Other than this anecdotal evidence, I have no idea what's going out there. None of the local rags have decent police blotters. I guess they wouldn't be compatible with the current real estate values.

When I first lived in this neck of the neighborhood more than ten years ago, it was pretty dangerous, but things cooled out over time. For how long, I'm wondering.

AH, HA HA HA. AH, HA HA HA HA. Ah, ha ha ha.
DOESN'T PHOTOGRAPH WELL. Kathryn Jean Lopez complains at The Corner:

Ok. So maybe I am obsessed with the Clintons. I'll consider the possibility. But what about news editors who stick Ashcroft looking evil pictures wherever they can?

Here is the picture that thus exercised her:

I admit it wouldn't win the AG a lot of dates, but really, are there many better pictures of him out there? Maybe the photo editors are just making the best of a bad situation. Actively ranting, Ashcroft is at least dramatic; but when he tries to pose, watch out.
For instance, here's his official photo at DOJ:

One of his eyes looks bigger than the other, and though he's obviously trying to project warmth, he still reminds me of a cop who's had a slow week and has just seen a half-pound of weed fall out of your backpack. You know, the look that says, coolly and confidently, "You're mine, meat!" And that's his official photo.

And when he smiles -- brrrrr:

Sorry, K-Lo, the photo editors just don't have much to work with here.
STYLE COUNTS! I never thought I would say anything nice about The American Conservative's Taki, but age has either mellowed me, left me senile, or made me more appreciative of the aging playboy's prose style. NRO's David Frum, about whom I still cannot imagine saying anything nice, has accused Taki of rude advances toward his wife, and a remark about Jews getting all the pretty girls. Taki rebuts:

The idea that I would say what he claims I said to a perfect stranger is preposterous. I have been brought up to act like a gentleman of the old school, and although I am a heavy drinker and an incorrigible womanizer, I would no more dream of “hitting” on a woman I just met than I would betray my country for profit. (Drunk or sober, my manners do not vary. I am of the aristocratic school of thought about women. One never makes a lady feel anything but one, and by lady I mean anyone female.)

"And by a lady I mean anyone female." Like his forthright admissions about himself, this is bracingly clear and correct. Paternalistic, perhaps, but at least he recognizes that his paternalism requires of him some generosity and tact. In my experience, most men who think they have an old-fashioned view of women have instead merely a grudge against them. Given Frum's obssessive demonizing of Hillary Clinton, he is a perfect example of that sort, and he would do well (but is unlikely) to adopt Taki's example.

While the petulant Greek's manners are, too often for my taste, a thin veneer under which his noxious bigotry remains clearly visible, I must say that here, at least, he has acquitted himself with such high style that I must applaud him.
AT THIS WRITING, The last three posts at The Corner are about Barbara Walters, Hillary Clinton, and Oliver Stone. Who says conservatives have no interest in culture?
CLINTON'S PENIS: EVEN GAY CONSERVATIVES DREAM OF IT. You can, if you've the belly for it, read Andrew Sullivan's long snarl against Hillary Clinton, in which he characterizes Monica Lewinsky as Bill Clinton's "latest victim." (Victim of what, one might ask? Well, Sullivan does refer to the former President' "sexual abuse" as if this were a proven charge rather than a pleasing fantasy for conservatives still obssessed with Clinton's cock. And everyone knows that Lewinsky at the time of their affair was only 23 years old -- well below the legal age of consent in whatever alternate universe Sullivan inhabits.)

Or you could just go back in time and listen to how Sullivan feels his own sex life is none of your business.

Sunday, June 08, 2003

ARTIFACT AND FICTION. PBS ran the old WWII weeper Since You Went Away tonight. It's a very sweet megaproduction in the old style. I note with interest that David O. Sleznick has a writing credit. His official screen bibliography is limited, but we know that even without a byline he had strong ideas about what went into the films he produced. Hitchcock told Truffaut that the Selznick wanted to punctuate the burning of Manderley in Rebecca with a large, smokey "R" floating above the ruins. (Hitchcock sensibly refused.)

Anyway the pic is a honey. Claudette Colbert's husband goes off to war, is reported missing in action, and CC must guide their budding daughters through heartbreak and mild domestic comedy. The acting is terrific in that big Forties manner that is incomprehensible, I know, to non-fans. (Bogart translates well across the ages because of the cold sweat of existential dread clinging to all his performances, but to youngsters raised on today's far less effusive players, most antique movie stars might as well be the wolf that does "To Be Or Not To Be" and gets hit with tomatoes in that old Warner Brothers cartoon.) The girls alternate between noble restraint and bouts of hysteria that are still raw and disturbing even on TV -- on the big screen they must have really bludgeoned open the lachrymal floodgates. Robert Walker is a doomed young soldier -- funny how the stink of death clung to Walker, even when he was very young and squeaky-voiced and well before he drank himself to death. Old family friends Joseph Cotten and Monty Woolley stop by from time to time to cut the estrogen miasma. Toward the end Cotten even makes some wise-ass professions of love to Colbert that are forcibly steered clear of any discomforting suggestion that either may be seriously considering a romance should the old man's death be confirmed (Cotten is especially good at this -- I searched his eyes during this scene, and he allowed not one flicker of subtext to escape from them).

I must add that at one point Monty Woolley quotes Wordsworth, aptly and without attribution -- not because Selznick wanted people to think he wrote it, I'm sure, but because it was part of the cultural life of the time and if you didn't get it, you should really make a better effort to keep up. Who would do that today? Why not?

John Cromwell does a nice company-man job of directing -- he manages some bravura touches, usually involving a key character with her back turned to the camera -- and generally keeps the train on track. But even to those of us predisposed to give ourselves over to the sentiments, it's hard not to be aware of the salesmanship involved. Despite the core truth of the thing -- that war is hell on the loved ones at home, and the only useful response is faith in the glorious resolution -- we know that despair and discontent are not absent, but merely fended off. A few years later, when all the living were returned to their homes, The Best Years of Our Lives would blow the whistle. Of course that, too, was a stalwart Hollywood product, but I wonder if Dana Andrews sitting in that disused cockpit didn't have as much to do with America's rude, postwar awakening from idealism as Brando on his motorcycle.

On one level, maybe the primary one, Since You Went Away is uplift, and hence propaganda, however kindly meant. Still I enjoyed it, was moved by it, and not only because the war in question was the last one to which I can give unqualified support. Don't tell anyone (I mean, who reads this, anyway) but every sneering and cynical impulse I have toward the manipulation of patriotism is shadowed by affection for the genuine article to which it refers, and the noble feelings it stirs, however shabby the pretenses. The fellow-feeling of American citizens, to the extent that it still exists, is beautiful and very human -- I wish it were still our birthright, and not a privilege granted upon favorable consideration of loyalty test results. Once upon a time it was possible even for artists to share in it, without having to announce or even have reservations and qualifications. I love "The Devil and Daniel Webster" and Young Mr. Lincoln and The Battle Hymn of the Republic. When George Bush lands on an aircraft carrier and talks about America, however, I want to throw up.

I came away from tonight's artifact of the old America grateful that even its memory exists, because to remember it is to hold hope, however tenuously, that it may again be realized. But, in the immortal words of Johnny Thunders, you can't put your arms around a memory.

Saturday, June 07, 2003

A BRIEF RESPITE FROM INCOHERENT SNARLS. Boy that's some crabby posting I've been doing. Let us turn to happier subjects. There was a short break in the dismal weather that happily conincided with my bike-ride to the teaching job. The streets were nearly empty, the morning sun was cool and kind, and I had enough time to tool around Fort Greene and scope the pretty buildings around its park. Some of the older structures appear to be of wood, and a few have columned porticos. All the scene needed was a fat guy on a porch, sprawled in a rattan chair, shirt pure white, suspenders unsnapped, the cuffs of his pants riding up above the sock-line, cooling himself with a broad paper fan advertising CARSON'S FUNERAL HOME and havin' a Pepsi. Turn a corner, of course, and it's all gas stations and chicken joints. My City is so beautiful sometimes.

Last night I even had a satisfying experience at an art gallery. Pierogi 2000 has an installation by Brian Dewan, a recreated 50s-vintage elementary school classroom with authentic wooden desks, chalkboards, boxy PA speakers and clock, and American flag. Mark Newgarten showed period educational films, blessedly without comment, and Dewan ran a filmstrip of his own devising, a garbled fable concerning a hen and a rooster and their multispecied friends, artful and ludicrous and touching all at once. I could have stood a little more of this and a little less of that, but it's so rare nowadays when the art boys actually come across that I have to stand up and cheer. The exhibition and related shows run through the 23rd.

Coffee break over; everyone back on your heads!
WTF? Dunno how it'll be when you look in, but at the moment Blogger seems only to be showing my archives from March -- removing from public view thousands of words of deathless prose. I'll see what I can do to redress this offense against literature. Not much, I guessing.

UPDATE. All fixed. If this keeps up I may have to adopt some faith in humanity. Provisionally.
HIS OWN PETARD. Go look, if your breakfast has settled sufficiently, at the loathsome Lileks site, and read the Fark commentary he makes sport of, and read Lileks' crabby-suburban-dad commentary, and tell me, am I crazy -- well, nevermind, I am crazy ; substitute, am I wrong -- or is his argument (such as it is) feeble on its own terms? His target (a Canuck who did some actually reporting, as opposed to lengthy jeremiads interrupted by cute kiddy anecdotes, then went into PR, then took a pay cut to get back into the journalistic game) makes a lot more sense than he does. Lileks' case consists mainly of sneers. "All hail the 10,000 foot view!" he jibes. "From there everything looks so green and lovely. From this Olympian perspective, helping the homeless is more imporant than worrying about property taxes." Taken from the crabgrass POV, any attempt at perspective will of course seem ridiculous -- don't those Grubstreeters understand that I have a cute little girl to ferry around to malls, and that it's hard enough explaining my video games and Simpsons DVDs to her without having a filthy unemployed guy with a garbage bag on his head show up to blow my whole paternal trip?

How did we breed this hellspawn anyway? Are there nuclear reactors near Minneapolis? Or does the wind whistling through the wheat or corn or soybeanstalks or whatever the fuck they raise out there stir madness in their souls?

Friday, June 06, 2003

DIFFERENT TIMES.Well, they got Raines. His most noisome former employee, though ecstatic, insists the "battle isn't over." No, not till Sulzberger sells the New York Times to the noisome former employee's current boss.

With Joe "Whitewaterloo" Lelyveld stepping in, we can safely predict these developments at the paper:

  • Seventeen-name bylines.
  • An eight-month-long, front-page investigation of Hillary Clinton's book tour.
  • Further resignations at the Sports desk when a reporter allegedly filing from Shea Stadium turns out to have actually watched the game on TV. (Suspicions will first be aroused when WB network reports a 25 percent ratings lift on the night of the game.)
  • Guilty White Liberal Out; Gutless White Liberal In.
  • Maureen Dowd still sucks.

Thursday, June 05, 2003

COUPLA WHITE GUYS. Someone writes to The Corner to explain why affirmative action is bad for persons of the minority persuasion:

What I always wonder about is whether the "diversity" applicant gets all giddy because they have that singular requirement. "Woo hoo, I could get this job because I'm Black (or Asian, etc.)"! And when they get it, do they then wonder if that is indeed the reason? Can't say I'd feel too comfortable in that job...

Well, with black unemployment rates over 10 percent in the Bush economy, I'd say their comfort levels would be wobbly in any case. These days a lot of people need jobs, asshole, and needing a job is not the same as needing a haircut -- if you let it go, instead of looking mildly unfashionable, you'll look evicted and emaciated. If deliverance from impoverishment involved some kind of government get-over, I'm sure even an enlightened ofay such as yourself would avail it.

Elsewhere where the Kleagle soars, James "Get Down" Lileks sniffs contemptuously at a cartoonist's in-jokey shout-out to Aaron McGruder, author of world's-angriest-black-children strip The Boondocks: "One of the strips that made people’s eyes cross had a white character signing an angry letter 'Aryan McCracker, Whitesville USA.' Ho ho! I remember looking at that and feeling very, very tired. Turns out it was a little private joke with Aaron McGruder, who does Boondocks. Get it. Aryan McCracker, Aaron McGruder? Got it. But if you don’t know that, well, it kinda looks like Rastus Washington, Nigraville, or Kikie Yiddovich, Hymietown."

It makes one ashamed to have forgotten the long history of persecution white people have had to suffer. Aaron, apology to Jimmy this instant! And we will now watch a film to sensitize us to the plight of Jimmy's people. It's called 'Birth of a Nation.'"

To help keep white hope alive, make donations to either of these horrible sites, either at their Tip Jar, or at their Cracker Barrell.

(Deep breath.)

For the record, I am of Caucasian extraction. And I'm not into wiggerish poses and whatnot. But some outrages are so blind-deaf-and-dumbass that my inner Freedom Rider goes Hulkshit.

Wednesday, June 04, 2003

THE KIDS ARE, IN THE MAIN, ALRIGHT. Matthew Yglesias responds to Kevin Drum's posts (geez, maybe I should expand my circle of imaginary friends?) about whether or not The Kids Are Alright. They agree that they are, but MY points to unsettling data showing that most of us old farts think kids now are worse than ever.

No further linkage needed: I'll just break this down old-school, pro- and con- stylee:

Oldsters who think the kids are not alright are motivated to a large extent by jealousy. 'Twas ever thus, but kids today have it pretty damn sweet in terms of lifestyle choices. The sexual revolution is a settled issue (the libertines won). The odd Columbine aside, pursuance of an alternative lifestyle is free and easy to an extent not even imaginable to my generation. I see youngsters gothed-out, punked-out, prepped-out, and gay to the max, and while they may be crying bitter tears inside, I see little evidence that they're getting their asses kicked on a daily basis, which is what outre teens and preteens would have had to expect back in the day. (I speak only from a Blue State perspective; I expect in the Red Zone life goes pretty much as it did in the 19th century, only with SUVs and professional wrestling added.)

Plus they have wicked cool technology to play with. Tech is fine, even grown-ups like it, and these chillins is growing up at the zenith of its golden age.

Naturally any class of people observing a separate class that has it good where they had it bad would feel resentful, and most people of whatever age have a hard time recognizing that trait in themselves. So the default judgment for fossils is that the kids are irredeemably spoilt. Add to this tendency the number of naysayers who just don't approve of the lifestyles the youngers are free to avail, and you can easily explain the hostility now directed against them.

On the other hand: it is also true that the young are more poorly educated than their forebears, both by schools and by experience. They don't know much about history, which is to say they don't know much at all. And I'm constantly amazed by the sense of entitlement among young people of my acquaintance. Even if a good or a service was available to me as a kid, it was not a sure thing that I would be granted it, whereas it is today inconceivable that any family that can by any means afford it would deny their kinder cable, video games, rad clothes and accessories, etc.

This is not an indictment of the kids, but of the materialism of our age. There still seemed to be, in my youth, a general feeling that to overindulge the young materially was to do a disservice to them, whereas today none but bitter pundits take that tack (and I cannot believe that, if Bill O'Reilly has -- shudder -- spawned, his offspring are not more splendidly arrayed than Solomon in all the gadgetry and couture our civilization has to offer).

This does not make young people worse in themselves, but breeds in them a false understanding of causality. It is good for the young to expect love and respect as their due, because within their family units (and, if it is not totally fucked up -- and I'm not saying ours isn't -- their society), it damn well should be. But to expect the wealth of the earth as theirs by right is nuts. And the ahistoricism of the new breed, inbued by shitty schooling, removes from them any sense that human life is cyclical, that what goes up must come down, and that what they experienced today may not necessarily obtain tomorrow -- in other words, you can't always get what you want.

As the present oldsters (our wealthy and powerful avatars, anyway) lays axes to our economy, how will our juniors cope with the resulting diminishment of reasonable expectation? One shudders to think.

Finally, I call it a wash and vote in favor of the up-and-comers. I have two nephews, one entering college, another entering high school. They are great kids, and I defy anyone to tell me otherwise. And I'm amazed at the small-souledness of folks who actually have kids of their own (doesn't everyone, these days?) and still say theirs is a lousy generation.

Tuesday, June 03, 2003

WHAT'S RUNNING THROUGH MY HEAD. "Joe McCarthy's Ghost," The Minutemen. "Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts," Bob Dylan. "The Groover," T Rex. "Pictures of Matchstick Men," The Status Quo. "Workin' Cheap," Waylon Jennings.

Sometimes in sequence, sometimes all at the same time.

Sometimes it's fun to have a rich inner life, especially if you can't afford an iPod.
A DOG'S BREAKFAST. In this morning's gibberish, endorsed by the Ole Perfesser, one Frederick Turner proposes that liberals (or is it boomers? Hard to tell here) are as "full of fear" as citizens under a Soviet tyranny, except the tyranny is not of the government but of their own wrong and evil ideas. Key words: Berkeley, new class, British Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, Stalin's Moscow, Eustace Tilley. Words appearing in quotes: "scary," "going along," "coming out of the closet," "pukka," "The Big Chill." He also calls Michael Kinsley a George Bush supporter.

"It's not what you know, but who you know, so the greatest terror is to be shunned by the in-group," says the author of these knock-kneed nellies. "And this is where the fear comes from." Yes, far more brave to support the tiny, lonely voice of truth coming from the little-known and underfunded Republican Party.

While Turner is incomprehensible from the admittedly narrow perspective of common sense, he is clear as a bell to students of the particular kind of propaganda in which he deals. This specimen follows Storyline 1D: "Liberals are all nervous nellies with bad constitutions, like in "Mallard Fillmore," and conservatives are fearless seekers after truth." In this case, as frequently, Storyline 1B ("Liberals run everything and keep us down") is availed as a sub-theme. 1D and 1B would seem not very compatible with one another -- how did such abject weaklings take over a mighty nation? But these guys habitually ram them together nonetheless.

Personally I liked these guys better when they were bitching about Eisenhower and fluoride in the water.

Monday, June 02, 2003

MORE ON THE WATER ENGINE. Editor Downs is on the hydogren car case, and forwards this bit from Mother Jones, May-June 2003:

Using existing technology, hydrogen can be easily and cleanly extracted from water. Electricity generated by solar panels and wind turbines is used to split the water's hydrogen atoms from its oxygen atoms ... According to the administration's National Hydrogen Engergy Roadmap, drafted last year in concert with the energy industry, up to 90 percent of all hydrogen will be refined from oil, natural gas, and other fossil fuels--in a process using energy generated by burning oil, coal, and natural gas. The remaining 10 percent will be cracked from water using nuclear energy.

A recent MIT study also points out that we're a long way from an emission-efficient method of producing a practical hydrogen car engine.

On the other hand, the Administration is talking about earmarking funds for hydrogen power research -- interestingly, "through partnerships with the private sector," not with spoilsports like MIT. So the current means of extracting hydrogen energy could be rendered moot. I'm not a science guy, to say the least, and don't know the state of the tech. I could spend some time with these guys and find out more, getting to the bottom of headlines like "Air Liquide Signs Hydrogren Contract with Chevron in the United States," but life is short. Our President talks out his ass about a lot of stuff, so I'm inclined to disbelieve him, but I suppose this could be an exception.

What I would like to know is what kind of mileage and speed this 1972 hydrogen car got. The government showed some interest in that project, too.

SPEAKING OF GENERAL CANARD #37: Andrew Sullivan goes on about how liberals who support affirmative action think black people are stupid. In support of this slur, he quotes one of his better-known fellow-nuisances:

Mickey Kaus once described those liberals who simply assume the permanent neediness of minorities as "Bell Curve Liberals," people who would never admit it but have internalized the notion that minorities are simply dumber than the majority.

That's an interesting term Sullivan is appropriating, seeing as he's always been a big booster of the grotesque, race-baiting "Bell Curve." His official bio proudly states that, as editor of The New Republic, Sullivan " stirred controversy with... the first publication of Charles Murray's The Bell Curve..." And every once in a while he hauls the book out in support of himself, e.g., "The convergence of a global economy, a technological surge, and a meritocratic education system have all contributed to an inexorable and irreversible transition to greater inequality. his was the point most memorably made in Charles Murray and Richard Herrnstein's much-maligned and misunderstood book, 'The Bell Curve.'"

Let's see. Sullivan likes "The Bell Curve," yet explicitly associates it with "people who... have internalized the notion that minorities are simply dumber than the majority." What do you suppose he's trying to tell us?

I HATE POP-UPS SO MUCH that this is what I'm gonna do:

  • Never patronize another credit-card company, discount travel agent, or boner-pill merchant of any kind, ever.

  • If I do ever patronize any such businesses, in the part of the application where they ask where I'd heard about their services, I'll write, "I counted all the pop-ups according to industry and found yours had the fewest pop-ups per user of all comparably-priced boner pill merchants."

  • If I find out who invented this shit, I will make a brittle and humorous statement about them in my weblog, which is read my millions of my imaginary friends.

End emission.
THIS MORNING'S WADE THROUGH THE FEVER SWAMP. The Ole Perfesser has a long'un about Iraq etc. Unlike those evil bastards at the Times he's always harshing on, the Perfesser does primary research: "My waitress at dinner was a Kurd, who reported that relatives in Northern Iraq (she hadn't been back for a couple of years) say that things are much better since Saddam's fall." Indeed. Heh. More butter over here.

He also recycles General Canard #37 -- that liberals are really condescending to the people about whom they claim to care. "We want a peaceful, free and prosperous Iraq," forthrightly states the Perfesser. "Claims that Arabs are somehow incapable of that sort of thing seem a bit dubious to me, especially when they come from people who call themselves 'progressive.'" Then, elsewhere in the same article, he talks about the Arabs as if they were retarded children. "As Osama says, people (especially Arab people) tend to want to back a strong horse," he quoth. "So it's important to look strong." And get a whiff of this:

Both Iraq and Israel are currently tests for the Arabs. If they can't achieve a reasonable degree of peace and freedom here, if they sink back into theocracy and thuggery, then it's going to be easy for the rest of the world to give up on them -- as the "progressives" already have -- and say "what can you expect from the wogs?" as it turns a blind eye to another generation of dictators' brutality.

I'll admit he's crafty -- by dropping that "as the 'progressives' already have" in the middle, he draws careless readers away from the clear implication that we may righteously consider Arabs to be shiftless wogs if they don't do like we tell them to. Crafty, however, is not the same thing as right, or even coherent.

Sunday, June 01, 2003

POGO MEETS PEANUTS AT A RAVE. Click through some episodes of this comic strip. It's hot, young, and underdiscovered. When you read about it in Vice this summer and have yet to stake your cred, don't come bitching to me.

P.S. Don't tell Perfesser Reynolds -- it'll just upset him.
JACK'S CASE. My dear old friend Eva, who reviews theatre for Public Access Cable, invited me to see, on her comps, the Joyce Johnson play "Door Wide Open" at the Bowery Poetry Project, based on Johnson's letters to and from Jack Kerouac. Eva seemed to think I'd be into it.She remembered that as a young'un I had been enamored of On The Road and The Dharma Bums. I had, of course. But then I graduated college, and after availing deepest bohemia for a seeming eternity or two myself, for a long time I failed to see what was so hot about him, my memory of his prose being poisoned by the shabby streams of consciousness his example had unloosed among the zillion latter-day, junior-league Jacks by whom I was surrounded.

I was in a mildly more receptive mood tonight. A few months ago I caught Pull My Daisy on PBS, and through that tiny window took a fresh look at the Beats. Ginsberg I could never forsake. The loopy grandeur of his poems, with their little towers of Naropa and Newark and Lower East Side bric-a-brac building bravely toward heaven, touches me still. And I recall a reading he gave in Tompkins Square Park, at the height of The Troubles in the late 1980s, where he threw back at the kids that idolized him the epithet Die Yuppie Scum: "Look at me. I'm wearing a tie. Am I a Yuppie?" All class, that guy.

Kerouac in the film interested me afresh. He had a blundering presence, especially beside the epicene Larry Rivers. Listening to his voice-over, I could not get over the feeling that he was putting us on. He sounded too much like Fred Ward in Henry & June, playing the regular-guy Ahtist touched by Da Muse. What was this guy really about? I would have looked at his books again if I'd had them. Did he really have something, or was he the dress-down equivalent of Chum Frink in "Babbitt," selling the old "spill-o'-speech" to a more rockin' crowd?

The play at its start made me anxious, and I was glad that tight seating forced us to the bar, where I could drink Bourbon and lean my head wearily on my fist. The thing was done as a reading, with a younger and an older Joyce Johnson stand-in off to one side while a young man, who in speech and manner resembled George Clooney doing Frank Sinatra, read the Jack bits. Jack as an up-and-comer and Joyce as an up-and-come-into were boring as hell. I liked Amy Wright as older Joyce (I had seen her several times off-Broadway years ago, and to now witness her once-gawky stage presence softened and made elegant by age sold me the memory-play angle), but the two young players projected no electricity past their lecterns. Worse, the pacing was flat and the lighting somnambulizing, and the Kerouac epistles fell like marijuana-scented mash notes to the stage. I loved the music by David Amram -- yes, that David Amram, whose accompaniment on piano, gourds, and flutes was beautiful throughout -- but my heart sank when I noticed that there would be two acts.

But toward the end of the first act, around the time "On the Road" took off, things got better. Jack loosened up -- only to fall apart, as the play/recollection would have it, but the Jack-actor became more vivid, more human, and the words, as written and as read, began to make sense. As an author of love-scribbles Kerouac had been tiresome; as a drowning poetry star trying to explain himself out of his self-sprung trap, he was electric. And the young Joyce, lashing back at last at her ill-treatment and playing less the lovestruck executive secretary, showed some life as well. The second act was even better, notwithstanding a maudlin coda.

Afterwards I thought, isn't it odd that the young, confident lovers were boring, but the embittered, conflicted fellow-travelers following the caravan of Beat unto its apocalypse were interesting? But no, no it isn't. We appreciate, or claim to, the life-affirming sweep of the Beats, and of course their big "yes" is very exciting and supplies some sparks -- but what became of the tinder to which those sparks was set is more interesting, at least when you've achieved an age greater than that of the young post-Beatniks gathered at the Bowery Poetry Project to witness this evening's event. "Yes" gets you to the door of life, but once you pass through there are a thousand wet blankets waiting to descend upon you, and you have to come up with a more nuanced strategy to keep going -- especially if you want to keep that little spark of "yes" alight. Kerouac, after some entertaining struggles, went home to live with his mom. I won't say that Joyce Johnson's mordant postscripts are as inspiring, or even as valuable, as Kerouac's death-plunge. Yet her careful reflection of his glory finally made Kerouac real to me again.

Was his failure preordained or preventable? Older Joyce makes a comment about this in the play. In Kerouac's case, I think the point is moot -- unless you want to believe that a rage to live is nothing but a folly to be avoided, and I'm not prepared to go all the way down that bleak alley -- not yet, anyway. Is Jack's case less edifying than those of great novelists who negotiated their way through a thousand disappointments and ended with some calm and quiet in old age? Well, what cases would those be, in America? Twain? He died raging. Hemingway? Blew his head off. Fitzgerald? Dead, drunk. Washington Irving, James Fennimore Cooper? I like those guys, but given the farther shores our literature has managed to reach via the aforementioned parties (and many left unmentioned), Irving and Cooper might as well have never gotten out of the blocks.

A lot to chew on there, and quite some time to pass before it's digested. I will say that Kerouac is more impressive to me now than when I walked into that theatre. As is anyone who tries anything like what he was trying. Assuming, perhaps unfairly, that there is anyone.