Tuesday, July 29, 2003

PRINCIPAL SKINNER AND MRS. CRABAPPLE MADE A BABY AND I SAW THE BABY AND THE BABY LOOKED AT ME. Moonie Times (aided and abetted by Sullivan) gives us the alleged Uday Hussein quote, "This time I think the Americans are serious. Bush is not like Clinton. I think this is the end." Interesting quote, especially from a dead man, especially from a dead man whose only real point of comparison in terms of unserious attacks on himself would be Bush Sr., not Clinton. You think maybe someone's gilding a lily here?

As for this "oily guns and steely knives" thing that SK Bubba mistrusts and Instapundit enjoys, I think that worth the benefit of the doubt. People can be astonishingly clever in all sorts of situations.

In general, though, my mother told me that when something seems too good to be true, it usually is, and I tend to discount blind (or dead) quotes that mysteriously support the prejudices of the media outlets that publish them.

In that spirit, I also find it suspicious that Reynolds goes "Yep" so much. Given his attitudes and prose style, I would be very surprised to learn that he was raised on the Pecos by Gabby Hayes, or in New England among a nest of Green Mountain Boys, which are the only conditions that naturally produce this linguistic peculiarity. I don't even think Ellen DeGeneres should be doing it, and I certainly wouldn't give a pass to the Ole Perfesser.
MOORE IS MORE. Michael Moore is one of the top hate-objects among wingers. So it is refreshing to see, in the midst of Kay S. Hymowitz's lengthy OpinionJournal attack on Moore, some passages in which the author addresses the question begged by most other, similar attacks: if Moore is such an evil spawn of Satan, how come he's so popular -- and not just with "trendy sophisticates in Cannes and Hollywood," as Hymowitz predictably notes, but millions of normal Americans in states Red as well as Blue?

Hymowitz allows how Moore is funny and folksy (or at least faux-folksy). And she also acknowledges -- and it's the only place I've seen this mentioned in the long, long canon of Moore antihagiography -- that Moore speaks to a nostalgia for that "populist's lost golden age" of the working class, before the age of endless layoffs; the days of the one-wage earner, two-car family, "where life was whole, people were genuine, and everything felt secure." She writes and quotes:

[Moore] evokes a vanished time, when laborers and corporate elites joined in a mutual spirit of loyalty and honest exertion. "My dad didn't live with this kind of fear," he has said of contemporary job instability. "The social contract then was, if you worked hard and the company did well, he did well."
This sounds reasonable. It's also one of the few stretches of Hymowitz's piece that is free of sarcastic dismissals of any implication that such a socially balanced work environment as Moore celebrates might be superior to the dog-eat-dog, Hobbesean nightmare into which America deeper descends every year.

Indeed, she implies that only a social misfit would want to live in the old, more-fully-employed America: "Though not without its appeal," she admits, "Mr. Moore's vision oozes with more 1950s nostalgia than a Loretta Young fan club." The cool kids embrace change! Hymowitz points out that people get bored with repetitive jobs -- "the mechanical repetition endured by the men and women who bolted thingamajigs to widgets on the assembly line" -- as if those who, in the Reagan era, were thrown off those lines and into chronic unemployment should have been grateful for the change of scenery.

As Hymowitz breaks it down, the death of manufacturing was not only unavoidable, but also class-neutral and even ultimately beneficent:

As cheap, well-made foreign cars flooded the market... companies had no choice but to cut costs and improve quality and productivity. They laid off workers, and organized those who were left into teams that had to take responsibility for the quality of their product. It wasn't just blue-collar heads that rolled. Restructuring, aided by waves of computerization, meant wiping out entire layers of management, a process that was bloody and sometimes deeply unjust....the fact is that many industries emerged from the carnage more competitive and better equipped to avoid layoffs in future recessions.
Well, speaking of nostalgia, the picture etched herein of American industry at the mercy of the Honda/Toyota menace does bring back the Lee Iacocca era, in which we were told that business "transformation" would save the American dream. Today, many of our former foreign competitors have conglomerated with American companies, but workers are still shit out of luck.

It seems to me this is the one hard nub Hymowitz and her crew can't break down. Yes, Moore is indulgent, and a prevaricator, and sometimes a hypocrite. But he knows that what he wants, and what a lot of us want, is attainable -- because it had been attained, in this country, only to be pissed away by a lot of greedy bosses, complaisant unions, and cynical politicians.

It's not nostalgia if you really think you can do it again. That's why Moore is, for all his kvetching, a positivist, and people love positivists -- ask Dale Carnegie! Which leaves his critics with the unenviable job of explaining to America why his happy vision should be resisted.

Sunday, July 27, 2003

OOPS. Did an intemperate, incoherent post late last night, and have removed it. (What's your excuse for the leaving the rest of them up?--ed. Where were you when I needed you?--re) It was about Andrew Sullivan's response to Sam Tanenhaus on Ann Coulter and what ST seems to consider her erstwhile enablers (now critics) in the conservative movement. Sullivan thinks Tanenhaus unfairly "paint[s] diverse and serious writers like Dorothy Rabinowitz and David Horowitz as indistinguishable from Coulter." Well, Horowitz did write things like "Traitor in Chief," which more or less accused Clinton of selling us out to the Red Chinese. It's just a hop, skip, and a jump (maybe just a hop, actually) from that sort of thing to Coulterland. So it's piquant to see him, and a few others, now drawing a cordon sanitaire around her work.

But on sober reflection, it may be a good thing that they've distanced themselves from Coulter, even if only for ass-covering purposes. The high pitch of internet discourse hasn't been the best friend of reason -- I'm living proof of that -- and a dial-down here and there can't hurt.

Friday, July 25, 2003

[SIC]. A recent post from Andrew Sullivan:

DARK DAY FOR KRUGMAN: His hopes for recession seem to be receding.
If you don't know what's bughouse about this, explaining it to you would be a waste of my time.
CRAZIER THAN YOU THOUGHT. Leah at Eschaton has the proper attitude toward U.S. Institute of Peace board nominee Daniel Pipes. But I'm afraid she doesn't know the half of it (though the half she does know is pretty damning). In addition to his kill-'em-all-let-Michael-Ledeen-sort-'em-out approach to Middle Eastern affairs, Pipes has some interesting ideas about academic freedom here in the U.S. As I wrote back in November:

Columnist Daniel Pipes is unfailingly hard on Arabs, but he's murder on American professors of the antiwar persuasion. In this New York Post throwdown, he says our typical university is "a topsy-turvy world in which professors consider the United States (not Iraq) the problem and oil (not nukes) the issue." He also says the cloth-eared crowd "despise their own country," and describes them as "inept," "cranky and mistaken," and "the major American institution most alienated from the rest of the country."

After he's got that off his chest, Pipes gets down to prescriptions: "The time has come," he says, "for adult supervision of the faculty and administrators at many American campuses. Especially as we are at war, the goal must be for universities to resume their civic responsibilities."

One might wonder when unthinking compliance with Administration policy became an educational responsibility, but Pipes has no time to explain--he's got a plan: "This can be achieved if outsiders (alumni, state legislators, non-university specialists, parents of students and others) take steps to create a politically balanced atmosphere, critique failed scholarship, establish standards for media statements by faculty and broaden the range of campus discourse."
(Well, if I don't quote myself, who will? By the way, I'm the new new Orwell. Pass it on.)

Pipes' plan to send flying squads of thought police to college seems to me reason enough to keep him away from power, and perhaps sharp objects, for the duration.

Thursday, July 24, 2003

SHORTER JONAH GOLDBERG: "I'm not nuts! You're nuts!"

(Best imagined as Albert Brooks screaming into the speakerphone in Real Life.)
FACES OF DEATH. I can't quite fathom why the deaths of Torturedee and Torturedum were supposed to be a boon to Wall Street. They must be hungry for good news. ("Uday's dead! This'll drive pork bellies through the roof!")

Not to rain on the bonfire, but what threat did those two pose anymore? Their father's regime is good and dead, and given what has been said about the lads, one can hardly imagine them mounting a fiercely loyal Saddamite resistance ("Follow me, boys, and tonight I will feast on the flesh of your tortured bride!").

Well, any port in a storm, I suppose. Iraq is a bloody shirt that anyone can wave; if you're of one mind, you can flog the risk to military lives, the feckless management, and the senseless waste and overreach of the whole affair, and if you're of another, you can flaunt "Democracy! Whiskey! Sec'y of Defense!" and such like. The posted pix of the brothers' shattered melons give the latter faction a chance to whoop. It'll be someone else's turn soon enough.

Meanwhile dollars and lives continue to sink into Iraqi sand. Someday they'll kill Saddam Senior, and the footage will be available on streaming video, but that won't turn the sand to concrete.

IT'S A FAIR COP, BUT SOCIETY'S TO BLAME. Ted Barlow says I'm "often unfair but always hilarious." He's too kind on both counts. Good luck at the new job, Ted, and I hope you don't really have to stop posting altogether.

HOPE FOR OUR YOUNG PEOPLE. "One of the most popular campaigns to curb alcohol use on campus hasn’t reduced student drinking and may actually have increased it, according to a new report from the Harvard School of Public Health’s College Alcohol Study." -- MSNBC.

I had previously worried that the kids were devolving into something docile and feeble. I'm still not sure they aren't -- their music sucks, and their taste in novelty liquor products suggests rampant pussification. But if an anti-alcohol propaganda campaign makes them want to get even more drunk, maybe their heads are screwed on straighter than I thought.

Wednesday, July 23, 2003

HAYSEED UNHEARD FROM. I see by Newsday that Celia Cruz's "funeral procession was led by white horses pulling a hearse, followed by limousines and a statue of the patron saint of Cuba, Our Lady of Charity."

When may we expect that asshole Rod Dreher to write a snotty column about it?
BOOBS. With the country safely in the hands of war profiteers and Jesus freaks, movement conservatives now have leisure to attend to cultural matters. At OpinionJournal, Collin Levey makes a conservative case for breast implants. "A boob job is certainly safer than eating arsenic or removing ribs, things earlier generations of women did for beauty," says Ms. Levey. Besides, breast implants piss off feminists. Boo yah!

I guess my preference for real tits is part of what makes me a liberal. I'll leave the silicon sacks to the Heritage Foundation boys.

Tuesday, July 22, 2003

IT HAPPENED JUST THAT WAY. At NRO's The Corner, they're telling stories about how cool people love them and lame people hate them. Brookhiser gets props from a biker. Jack Fowler (who he?) goes him one better, or worse:

As the train pulled into Grand Central Station, we got up and walked to the door, next to which was an aging hippie and Cruella Deville look-alike who gasped upon seeing my “NATIONAL REVIEW” shirt and hat. She conniptioned: “How could anyone have the nerve except Buckley to wear that,” etc. “Gee mam,” I respond, hoping to give her a greater reason to hate me, “I not only wear the clothes, I work there too.” “You’re intolerant” she hisses intolerantly. I smiled, tipped my cap, and said: “Have a wonderful weekend."

Kinda like a "Mallard Fillmore" strip come to life, ain't it? I have a story of my own, every bit as believable:

I was walking down Fifth Avenue, proudly wearing my DOPE, GUNS, AND FUCKING IN THE STREETS T-shirt, when a miserable, pinch-faced, squinty-eyed, fat, sweating, ugly, bad-smelling preacher, carrying a bible and drooling tobacco juice, let out a squeal and charged me, dragging by the hand former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Jeanne Kirkpatrick, looking every bit of her 107 years of age. "You is doin' th' Devil's work!" squealed the preacher, "Y'all ought to get right with God, head out to the Red States, lynch niggers, stomp faggots, an' drive a S.U.V.!" Jeanne Kirkpatrick nodded her three-foot-long head in agreement. "I, too, hate people of color and homosexuals," she rasped, "and my car is rather large." I sprayed them both with my squirting flower and they melted into dust.
I SHOUTED OUT, WHO KILLED DAVE KELLEY?/WHEN AFTER ALL, IT WAS THE BBC! Shit floats. The nutty idea raised by Andrew Sullivan yesterday has risen to the status of a new Right-wing meme: the BBC killed David Kelley by exposing the reluctant whistleblower to the wrath of the Blair Government. Here, the New York Post parrots:

BBC officials refused to disclose their source, but said the story was based on "one senior and credible source in the intelligence services."

An understandably outraged Blair ordered an investigation, which quickly focused on Kelly, a microbiologist involved in the search for WMD.

Ordered to testify before a House of Commons panel, he insisted he couldn't have been the source - because he hadn't said anything remotely like what Gilligan reported.

"From [our] conversation, I don't see how he could make the authoritative statement he was making," said Kelly.

But when Kelly - obviously distraught over having been thrust into the limelight - took his own life last week, the BBC confessed that he had, in fact, been the network's source.

Problem is, Kelly was never in the intelligence services. Nor was he "one of the senior officials in charge of drawing up the dossier."

And, as he himself insisted just days before his death, he'd never said what the BBC claimed he said.

Indeed, if anyone is guilty of having "sexed up" the information it gave the public, it's the BBC - not Tony Blair.

Two things jump out. First, there is some debate as to how the reporter actually characterized Kelley's role. This will probably be clarified soon enough in England, but by then the perpetrators of the current anti-BBC story, having milked it for all its stateside value, will have moved on to some other outrage, obviating any need for retraction that may arise among those few Americans who give a shit about British politics.

Secondly, this interpretation asks us to believe that when and if the Beeb misrepresented Kelley, he thereafter had no chance of a fair hearing by the Blairites, hence the suicidal despair. Given that Kelley, in this imagining, would be extremely useful to the Blair government in denying the BBC story, why would they not then clamp him lovingly to their breast? Isn't it more likely that Kelley, finding himself a major figure in what is turning out to be the biggest British Government scandal since Profumo, got cold feet?

The truth of this case may be unknowable, but we may know that certain explanations are not only unlikely, but perfidious.

Monday, July 21, 2003

CLOGS, FROGS, SPROUTS, ETC. Victor Davis Hanson on nationalized name-calling:

Remember various Germans' eerie evocations of Bush/Hitler, "another Caesar," Jews in Miami and New York, clicking one's heels, the German way, and other foul nonsense. Certain French apparatchiks and their consorts weighed in with slurs against Turkey and Eastern Europe ("end of Europe," "foreign culture," the need to stay "in their places," etc.) or Israel ("sh**ty little country"). Canada's officials chimed in with "moron," and other assorted outbursts. In contrast, very few in the Bush administration engaged in such childish smears.

Well, of course they don't -- Bushites have people to do that for them. Like Ralph Peters in the New York Post:

Forget the fact that the German contribution to the Renaissance was the realization that you could fit more beer in a bigger mug... a German Green is a Gestapo wannabe with a red paint-job... little German babies...

Peters ends this diatribe with a prose poem about how ugly and ill-mannered he found these two Germans he saw once.

I think we can agree that this sort of thing, while enjoyable in small doses, is unseemly in high places (and at the Post). And it says something awful about the current crop of democracies, including ours, that some people think they can drum up public support with that kind of behavior.
DAVID KELLEY STILL DEAD. ANDREW SULLIVAN STILL NUTS. A source for the BBC's WMD allegations, scientist David Kelley, talks of "dark actors playing games," then turns up dead. Official report is suicide.

If you are not inclined to take official reports seriously, you might suspect that the Blair Government had something to do with Kelley's death. They had something to gain by his silencing, certainly.

That might be paranoid. But if that's paranoid, what clinical psychiatric term would describe blaming Kelley's death on the BBC? Why, Andrew Sullivan, of course:

It is certainly not to the credit of the Blair government that, when Kelly told his superiors of his contact with the BBC, they pushed Kelly into the limelight in their defense. But they are still not ultimately responsible for this tragedy. Kelly deserved to have his views accurately represented by the BBC, rather than hyped in a way that made him the center of a grueling public storm. That very hype destroyed his privacy and led this very private man to despair. Someone at the BBC must be held accountable. And resign.

This paragraph -- from its vague acknowledgement of the real issue in this case, to the even more vague implication that Kelley's revelations were "hyped" and therefore not "accurately represented," to the final absurd misdirection of blame -- is a masterpiece of dementia.

Of course, it's possible Sullivan's not crazy -- merely eagerly deflecting attention away from his beloved Tony Blair, and trying to make a twofer of it by implicating one of his many voodoo dolls.

Geez, it says something about the guy that even the most charitable explanations for his behavior make him look bad.

Friday, July 18, 2003

SLIGHTLY SHORTER GLENN REYNOLDS. Did I mention I'm not a Republican? Though I'm no Socialist either. Heh. (coughing into fist) Reagan!

You Democrats ought to stop obsessing on Bush's lies. No one cares. The French are evil. There was that 9/11 Commission, you should look into that -- what? You have? Heh, heh, I can't hear you. Heh, heh.

The President has shown himself amenable to invasions anywhere except Saudi Arabia. Many prominent conservatives want to invade Saudi Arabia. There's a winning issue for the party of Clinton!

Homeland Security is a mess. I believe Democrats have failed to notice.

And why have none of you made an issue of the FCC? Swing voters are waiting to be swayed by your opinions thereunto.

You're always tearing down, never building up. I hate you. That's why I spend many column inches giving you advice. You should take it. Suckers. Indeed.

Thursday, July 17, 2003

IN DEFENSE OF PRISONER TUCK 'N' ROLLS. I see a convicted killer wants a sex change at taxpayer expense. Like most of you, I had at first a bad first reaction to it -- the situation carries a heavy "ick" factor, as the icky Jonah Goldberg might put it. But let's take a contrarian view (actually contrarian, not the bullshit normally peddled under that name) and see how we feel.

If we accept Ruskin's idea that the state of any society can be measured
by the condition of its prisons, we suck. But I think we are generally tilting in the right direction on that score. Even some conservatives, normally insensible to the suffering of others, have warmed to the issue of prison rape. If National Review columnists give a shit whether Guests of the State are sexually tortured, you know we've reached a watershed.

And also in general, we have for years been pushing out the boundaries as to what, medically speaking, constitutes the acceptable minimal quality of life. With close to 20 million Americans taking antidepressants, it may be that condition of mind is getting to be as significant a standard of health as condition of body was back in the days when we first started deploring rickets in children.

I know that most people hate prisoners, for reasons ranging from personal injury done by them to a free-floating and very American contempt for all unfortunates. But even the most sour apple will admit that the lowliest convict must be given food to sustain himself and perhaps a little exercise. As our MDR for a tolerable state of being is inexhorably lifted, might we one day accept that gender confusion is a cruel and unusual condition even for the least of us?

I'm inclined to think, looking more than usual at the way our society has gone during the span of my life (tomorrow is my birthday), that despite the exacerbations of our natural cruelty leaders and newsreaders try to excite at every opportunity, we will soon enough grant privileges to prisoners that are unimaginable at this moment.

Will we, nill we, we're getting kinder. You may think that's bad, criminal, idiotarian, but there it is. (Hell, with the WMD evidence looking flimsier every day, even the hardest among us point to the kindness done to Iraqis as the justification for invasion -- if that's how Republicans are turning, can you imagine what's going on with the rest of us?) You may gnash your teeth at the injustice represented by one human being getting a little break, but I am looking at the horizon, and it seems a little brighter. I've never been among that pinch-necked crew that thinks we have too many rights. Your mileage may vary, but I believe time is on my side.
A LITTLE GOOD NEWS. "Masturbation protects against prostate cancer." Well, that's just the icing on the cake, so to speak.

So fellas, visit this newcomer to the blogosphere and blow a wad a votre sante!
"NEVER GET OUT OF THE BOAT." Freddie Forrest in "Apocalypse Now" knew it was a bad idea, but did it anyway and almost got eaten by a tiger. I knew reading Instapundit would piss me off. When will I learn? From the Perfesser's parsing today of a Times of London story about documents that suggest Italy was also duped about Nigerian uranium:

[A reader] adds: "Let's see. Italians fooled. Brits fooled. CIA left out of the loop until it was too late and the Govt presentation was compromised... Soooo... I guess that leaves France as the perp. Which is what everybody knows already, but pretends not to." Sounds plausible. Is it true? I don't know. But somebody does.

The really maddening thing is, you can't tell whether he's kidding or not. Now, I know he used to have that quote up on his site about having a dry sense of humor that many people are allegedly unable to get -- but sometimes when people are incomprehensible, it's not because they're geniuses, but because they're incoherent. IP floats so many ridiculous ideas that there's no telling whether he means this one. I guess a "heh" or an "indeed" might help.

Aaargh! (rubbing skull, Spock-like) Forget... forget...

Wednesday, July 16, 2003

LAST REPLACEMENTS LYRIC OF THE NIGHT: Who will be the next to dry your lashes?/Who knows?
HEY NOW, YOU'RE AN ALL-STAR. Great game tonight. The MLB directive that this shall determine home-field advantage in the October Classic (instituted after last year's debacle -- scroll, ye bastards, to July 9, 2002!), turns out to have been brilliant. Hank Blalock's homer was a great moment, but the whole chess match was worth watching. So much is ill done, what a pleasure to see something well done. Especially when it's a ballgame.

(On the stereo: The Replacements, "Another Girl, Another Planet.")

Tuesday, July 15, 2003

YO EL ROY. Here's another weblog by a guy named Roy! Looks like he's doing alright. I knew nearly everyone on the web was better off than me, but to find a guy with my rarified name -- a name that means King, after all -- in that distant, high-floating, wave-at-the-drowning-man boat is... piquant.

(On the stereo: The Replacements, "Portland.")

HOUSE POOR. From a FuckedCompany discussion of the West Coast housing bubble:

"Hell, Vegas is over $220k or so for a decent new place.....Phx can't be far behind. Reno is already $300k, even fucking Fresno is $300k for a new place. WHERE THE FUCK ARE THESE PEOPLE GETTING THE MONEY?"

"I have no idea how people who only make $45k per year are getting into $300k houses. Plus they have they obligatory GMC Yukon Denali or Hummer H2 as well..."

"For giggles, I did a search in the Washington Post's real estate section for any home in my area (Fairfax) for $125,000 or less. Six dilapidated condos were returned, tiny, in HUD areas."

"And when it all ends, those of us who still have money will be asked to bail out the banks who made loans at up to 125% of equity value, to people with shaky incomes or credit. Just like last time."

"Spoke to a guy recently who spent $650k (NYC) for a one bedroom condo. He's near panic state now thinking about real estate crashing."

Now, these seem like coastal concerns perhaps to the fat, happy Red Staters. They come mostly from angry, educated Blue Staters, whom they despise -- though this post perhaps hits a little closer to home:

"I am building in vegas. I see i every day. Its not the 300,000 houses that we wonder where the money is coming from. Its all the 2 million + houses that are being bought up. I wonder everyday where all these people are coming from and where the money is coming from."

It'll get worse and move toward the interior. Via Calpundit, we see that deficits are going through the roof, and there's not much wiggle room left in which Mr. Greenspan can do anything about it.

The housing market will crash. No one, not even Midwesterners, can afford the terms of home ownership by the standards of a generation ago, and with personal bankruptcies rising, it is questionable whether they can afford them by the standards of the present. The squeeze is on with no relief in sight. We live on a new bubble now, but without the cheerful feeling of the last one. God help us when it bursts.

CALM DOWN. Terry Teachout asks, "Am I the only person to have spotted the social significance of Roz Chast’s Cremaster-bashing back-page cartoon in the June 9 issue of the New Yorker?" I daresay he is. He goes on: "I do think there is something quite genuinely subversive about the fact that Roz Chast, of all people, felt free to make fun of Matthew Barney in the New Yorker, of all places."

If you type "art" into the search field at the New Yorker's Cartoon Bank, you will find plenty of panels lampooning artistic pretensions of all sorts. (Good example: one dog telling another, "What I do as an artist is take an ordinary object -- say, a lamppost -- and, by urinating on it, transform it into something that is uniquely my own.")

Teachout seems not have noticed. "Back in the days of Harold Ross, the New Yorker wasn’t above publishing cartoons that made fun of abstract expressionism," he reports, "but ever since Jackson Pollock became God, they’ve been careful not to make that kind of mistake again -- until now."

Well, I haven't seen any biting satires on Jackson Pollock, lately, but I imagine that's because he's been well beside the point for a long, long time.

There are a whole nest of critics who, like Teachout, seem to get a charge out of the idea that art scenes are all mobbed up to the advantage of certain deleterious movements and dogma. (Actually they are mobbed up, but to the advantage of certain individuals who are admired by the powerful -- and, of course, those thought to be bankable -- and 'twas ever thus.) I guess this makes such critics feel like rebels or something. If the magazine's management, acting as a sinister and monolithic force, roams the hallways muscling writers and artists (Mister Remnick wants you should say something nice about the Cremaster Cycle!), then to speak against Matthew Barney is something more than one man's opinion; it is an act of courageous political incorrectness.

Why Teachout, who writes and thinks well and whose present edition is otherwise a delight, needs to perpetuate this kind of juvenile fantasy is genuinely puzzling.

(Found via the Castel-Dodges)
FIELDER'S CHOICE. If you like fiction, as opposed to the chronicles of collective waking nightmare that comprise this weblog, there's a new story on my website.
I'LL WAIT TILL THE THIRD INNING. I see they yanked Zito for Clemens to start the All-Star Game. That's too bad. Yeah, I know it's Rocket's career year, but I hate the son of a bitch. He made some shitty cracks about Piazza's gender prefs on Letterman (I hate that son of a bitch, too, but that's for another time). And he throws at hitters without fear of retribution -- not because he is known for any self-defense skills, but because League rules prevent him for climbing into the batter's box to take some of what he dishes out.

In this respect he resembles his fellow Texan, George W.

UPDATE: Turns out Clemens isn't starting -- they just yanked Zito for him. An even dumber move in a game that's supposed to "count."
IF IT'LL BE LIKE THIS, PLEASE DON'T. "The North Korean problem is the most serious issue facing our country right now. Thank goodness President Bush dispatched Saddam Hussein before he became an 'imminent danger.' Korea is an imminent danger right now, and that’s exactly why it’s so hard to do anything about it. I hope to write more about Korea just as soon as I get a chance...." -- Stanley Kurtz at NRO.

Monday, July 14, 2003

THE NEW BUBBLE. We were told back then that everything had changed.

Lately when I think of the Old World I think of an insult that I mean as a tribute. It is the phrase the narcissism of small differences. In the world that has just passed, careless people--not carefree, careless--spent their time deconstructing the reality of the text, as opposed to reading the book. You could do that then. The world seemed so peaceful that you could actively look for new things to argue about just to keep things lively... You could have real arguments about stupid things... We were not serious. We were not morally serious.

In our newly-sobered media, there are hundreds of stories this week about a cute girl who, while pretending to be a sausage, was knocked over by a Pittsburgh Pirate. There are also a number of stories, less energetically pursued, about the latest attack on our troops in Iraq, a place where, you may recall, a great victory for American power and prestige was lately won.

There are also stories about the latest prospective military target in our new era of seriousness. American interests in Liberia are hard to explain, especially in light of the current Administration's previous disinterest in the region. But everything has changed, again, and keeps on a-changin', especially when there are electoral points to be scored ("Where do Janeane Garofalo, Mike Farrell, and Martin Sheen stand on intervention in Liberia?") by fresh use of the lately-sanctioned (and, given the slim chances of an economic turnaround at home, most readily available) vote-getting tool, foreign intervention.

Meanwhile patriotic writers in redoubts of high seriousness speak of the indignities suffered by privileged Americans.

It's a good thing the grown-ups are in charge.

Sunday, July 13, 2003

YELLOW CAKE AND CIRCUSES. First the Bushies were telling the truth about Nigerian unanium and Iraq, then they were misled by the CIA, and now their claims are "accurate" and "supported by other British and U.S. information" (Associated Press). This is spin at its finest, folks: a zig-zag pattern that establishes the Administration as right even when it's wrong.

It doesn't just work for uranium, either: the WMD bullshit can also be treated similarly. The "even Hans Blix" argument that everybody thought the weapons were there (never mind that neither Blix nor most of the other cited sources thought their suppositions required an immediate U.S. invasion) maintains the Administration's plausible deniability (or affirmability, depending).

The mildly humorous spectacle of our leaders tossing dossiers amongst themselves, as in the old Time Bomb game -- no one wants the thing in their hands when the ticking stops -- distracts from the less humourous spectacle of the occupation, the cost and length of which looks worse everyday day. The task of the White House handlers is to make our foreign adventures look benign. Hence, Bush hugging Africans.

Meanwhile, everyone hates us and our economy is in the toilet.

Friday, July 11, 2003

ASK YO' MOMMA. At TownHall today, Jonah Goldberg says, "How come black people can say stuff about black people, but when we say it we get in trouble?"

Well, he didn't use those words. They were actually used by kids on my block when I was growing up, only they didn't use the phrase "black people." Goldberg uses several hundred other, different words, but they pretty much amount to the same thing.

What is it with this guy and peeps of color?
AVERAGE AMERICAN BLUES. Plagued by bigot and bullshit eruptions, the Right cries out that they still have the support of the Average American. Jonah Goldberg:

This crowd is always insinuating that Fox News is the tool of corporate and Republican interests. And yet, Fox is more popular among the "little guys" -- you know the people, not the powerful. If you keep in mind that Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, O'Reilly etc represent the victory of the Republican Party to be every much as populist (not always a good thing) as the Democrats you can decipher a great deal of the grumpiness and confusion of liberals who shriek about "right wing media."

The fact that grumpy liberals "shriek" is offered, one imagines, as further proof of their unpopulism and lack of Little Guy cred. No way the Average American would hang with them! Now, another working-class hero, John Podhoretz:

The problem is that American elites are weirdly immature. They should be sophisticated enough to know these things take time, but they have no patience... What's amazing is that the ordinary American shopping at Wal-Mart and going about her daily life, with no capacity to name the head of the Iraqi National Congress (or Tommy Franks, or Jerry Bremer), does have the patience that the experts, who really should know better, sadly lack.

Boy, these liberals sound like a pain in the ass, don't they? Always showing off how much they know! Whereas in JP's portrait of America, brave shoppers neither know nor care what the hell is going on, and are better, more patient people for it.

Of course, it may be that the Average American does notice some other stories in which he is also invoked, and which may cause him to wonder if his patience is still a virtue. Anchorage Daily News:

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the average American worker now spends 237.5 days a year on the job, about 25 days a year more than in 1973... Since 1970, the number of U.S. families that regularly eat dinner together has dropped by a third, de Graaf said. The number of families that take vacations together has also dropped by a third. "In fact, vacations for American families are starting to disappear"...

The average U.S. worker gets just 13 vacation days a year, according to a 2003 study by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The average Western European receives almost six weeks.

Meanwhile there's this interesting bit from the Southern Baptist Convention's Baptist Press:

It's hard to believe that a typical American family accepts a 30-year home mortgage as normal today or that it is now possible in some cases to borrow on a home for nearly 70 years... Today it requires from 40 to 70 percent of the average American family's total income to buy an average home, even with a 30-year mortgage.

The longest term of debt God's people took on in the Bible was about seven years. During the seventh year of remission, Jews were instructed to release their brothers from any indebtedness (see Deuteronomy 15:1-2).

Well, the Average American isn't going to see any such Jubilees anytime soon.

Perennial Average-American advocate NewsMax has a story up headlined, "Average American Lifestyle Called "Total Bull---t" by Environmentalist." NewsMax sneers at such analyses, but I wonder if a lot of Average Americans aren't beginning to feel the same way themselves.

Thursday, July 10, 2003

AND SHALL I COUPLE HELL? I actually liked this Randy Barnett column at NRO. So that's what they're paying him for! In this Lawrence examination, he argues that Kennedy's decision (following on his Casey opinion back in 1992) has shifted the emphasis in SCOTUS anti-sex-law matters from the right to privacy (which Barnett finds shaky) to the right to liberty (which he wholeheartedly endorses).

Barnett comes at these things from a different angle than I do, but I am astounded at the fact that I've gone through the column once and haven't found anything that really pisses me off. And it's at National Review Online! Nothing they've emitted so far on this subject has been anything but an outrage. Indeed, its editors currently mutter darkly that the aforementioned decision "called into question [the Court's] willingness to tolerate any state laws based on traditional understandings of sexual morality."

Maybe there'll be something good on ABC tonight. This is a day for miracles!
BILE-GOGGLE HANGOVER. The Classical Values guy has responded to this post, and he has a few good (not to say airtight) points. One involves my conflation of MSNBC with Fox (one of these days I have to get cable) and the other involves me saying "most of" his Lawrence post was a states-rights encomium.

I have reread his post with the bile-goggles off, and admit the piece in toto is much more nuanced than that. I didn't see that at first because the thing started with, "A lot has been said about Lawrence v. Texas, too. Tactically, I still think it would have been better to get rid of sodomy laws state by state, because that would have been a more democratic, more final, victory," and I must admit my eyes just glazed right over. A major victory won, and we start by wishing it had been won according to Marquis of Queensbury (or Scalia) rules.

But there's a lot more in it I still don't like. For example: "Government force can masquerade as an altruistic concern over the very rights many of my friends demand -- so dressed up in human rights or domestic rights drag as to be unrecognizable." Even as I am inclined to agree with the principle (I'm not big on Federal hate-crime laws, for example, that essentially legalize double-jeopardy prosecutions) I'm troubled, because it's a demurrer in an argument about sodomy laws. Really, what "altruistic" legislation is anywhere near as onerous as sexual prohibition? CV's cited example is amusing and well-observed, but the prospect of "gay alimony" just doesn't chill my blood as much as Bowers v. Hardwick did.

Perspective's the issue. Yeah, it's bad that litigiousness has so hampered human affairs, but when you bring it up as an "on-the-other-hand" sidebar in a discussion of Lawrence, a reasonable person might respond, "Jeez, are you sure you're happy about this?" It's just too much like a lot of other discussions where, for example, someone denouncing Ann Coulter feels obliged to connect her to Maureen Dowd. I don't like Dowd either, but in terms of noxious emissions, Coulter and Dowd aren't even in the same solar system.

When I hear that kind of stuff, I assume that the plaintiff is trying to defuse the historical impact of these phenomena by yoking them to mildly related liberal examples. This may not apply to CV. Well, I'll keep an eye on him. I vastly prefer making snotty comments to actually having to pay attention, but hey, the blogosphere's been good to me -- maybe it's time to give a little back.

As for the Fox thing, I suppose I could have asked instead how NewsMax got in on the scheme. Same diff.

P.S. The Michael Savage conspiracy thing is still bughouse.
NAME GAME. Hey, editor Martin sent something in, and since he is unable to manipulate Blogger (being at this point nothing more than a mouldering corpse in a Victorian breakfront), I will post some of it myself, with quotation marks so you know it's Martin speaking, not me (this device, and the word "blogosphere," were invented by Steven Den Beste, or Penelope Ashe, I forget which).

Commenting on a recent New York Times story about Major General Paul Eaton's plan to gin up a new Iraqi army, with "1,000 soldiers training by August, and 12,000 by the end of the year... [and] 40,000 by an unspecified date in 2004," Martin writes:

"Are we going to give them our stuff, or are we going to the rummage sale for some 1960s Soviet crap, so that when the new army stages a coup to set up a militant Islamic state, we can play war with them again?

"I often think about guns. AK-47s and M-16s? Isn't that a bit like typewriters and mimeographs? Where are the plasma-pulse pistols and destructor-ray rifles? Who's working on these things? They're fired. (No pun intended.) Also, have you noticed that nobody refers to the afformentioned AK-47 as such since some time last year? Now it's 'Kalashnikovs.' Why haven't we started calling M-16s by the name of their inventor, Eugene Stoner? Oh, I see, right..."

And so forth. Good show, Marty! How I wish you were not a mouldering corpse.

I think the name thing can be easily explained, though. Being older, I remember when the word "AK-47" stirred the American adrenaline -- it was like the names we gave our guns, (e.g., Colt .45, Winchester 77), but slightly more modern (and therefore slightly more cool) in that we dispensed with the words and just used letters, man. It was like gravitational measurement units (Mars, I recall, rated a G4), or the HAL9000 in 2001. It was like the X-15. It was our vision of the future. Food out of tubes, and all that.

Nowadays, we are at least as tech-mad, but we are way, way more brand conscious. In my day, brands were either simple descriptors (e.g. Keds) or evil clouds of anaesthetic gas meant to distract us from the accelerating Nazification of our country. Since Reagan, of course, brands have become objects of worship. And since we must call our beloved(s) by name, not by number, it is better to call them Skechers and Microsoft than G6 and X7. Kalashnikov might as well an edgy fashion line. Or a band.

Now fetch Old Uncle Roy the jug and he'll tell you more about life in the Rust Belt.

EDROSO.COM IS BACK UP. I feel silly announcing this because there's been nothing new there since April (though, to be fair, my back catalogue makes Glenn Reynolds look like a man of few words). But I do expect to post a new, depressing story by week's end. And my mail's up, too! I've already got two new mails: one marked URGENT, from Mr. Frank Abudu, and another from "jehanna gerry" about "Back-Door Stretched Girls." Gee, I don't know anyone named jehanna, but that's a pretty name -- maybe she's pretty, too! I better see what she wants!
I SPOKE TOO SOON! "SPEAKING OF ABORTION-FAVORING LIBERALS: The Joe Lieberman campaign is touting that last weekend, 'Hadassah Lieberman returned to Manchester's Puritan Ice Cream and Take Out to unveil two special ice cream flavors,' Cup of Joe Lieberman and Heavenly Hadassah. Isn't being associated with Puritans a bad career move on the Libertine Left side?" -- Tim "Who Me?" Graham.

Dammit, every time you hit the refresh button at The Corner, there's a new contender for Line of the Day. I got to stay away from that place.
FOR THE NEXT FEW MINUTES, AT LEAST, LINE OF THE DAY AT THE CORNER: "Has anyone else noticed that factual mistakes are now called 'lies' by the Left, and by many Democrats." -- Randy "Who He?" Barnett.

Wednesday, July 09, 2003

PLEASE DON'T TELL HIM ABOUT CHERRY POPTART! Buncha new guys at The Corner. This one should give you an idea of what they breed round those parts:

Flipping through the comic book before handing it over to my son, I found that smack dab in the middle of the story we find our hero naked, in bed, and engaged in unmistakeable activities (with a woman, which is why I know Spiderman is hetero)... Are there any innocent comics left? My eight-year old son could still use something that's fun and easy to read--especially now that it's summer. What superhero has forsworn soft-core porn?

There's also a lot of talk about Norman Rockwell, funny band names, and lack of patriotism. Do these guys get paid for this? I don't feel so bad now about that two-hour lunchbreak.
LIKE YOU CARE. My website edroso.com and its affiliated mail service are both down because Network Solutions didn't have my address. That's how obscure I am! But I've settled it, and they say I'll be back up within 24 hours. Why it should take longer to re-start a website than to switch off a gas line, I can't guess.
NO STRANGERS -- JUST LUNATICS I HAVEN'T MET YET. The Ole Perfesser links to this story at something called Classical Values. Oh God, I said when I first spied the masthead, please let it be a joke. Alas, it wasn't. The proprietior is a gay guy who spends most of his Lawrence v. Texas post talking about how great states' rights are. Elsewhere he states: "My life has been largely wasted opposing fanaticism. This does not mean I have no opinions."

Oh boy, does he! The aforementioned post seriously claims (and I mean seriously -- I ran the Ironometer over it several times and came up with nothing) that Michael Savage is an agent provocateur set up by the Left to discredit conservatives. (He doesn't mention how Fox got in on the scheme, though.)

He also tells us how he was pulled out the depths of despair by G. Gordon Liddy.

Well, there's my horizon expansion for the day.
FEAR AND HOPE. The Bijani twins have died in surgery. Their story touches me deeply. They had been living what many of us would consider full lives, they were bright and educated, yet they risked death rather than go on as they had. They wanted more than safety could give them, and so forsook it. The Bijanis are separated now, and one wonders if, somewhere deep inside the anaesthetic haze, they were in any way aware of it before consciousness altogether fled.

I suppose one of the many useless ways in which we may divide the world would be between those who would have had the surgery and those who would not. I shouldn't wonder if the sides in that division were highly uneven. We all make our private decisions about what we will and won't put up with, but most of us are shocked to find, when the going gets tough, that the hard lines we drew have somehow moved a great distance toward the direction of survival. When we say "life is hard," what we usually mean is that what we have to go through in ourder to sustain life -- survival, in other words -- is hard.

The struggle to survive is noble, but at least as noble are those struggles which require that survival be not a factor. These may be called struggles to live. Most of us, in most ways, are defeated in these struggles, not just by fear but also by nobler emotions like love and loyalty and fellow-feeling -- these only wheedle us, whereas fear puts in the shoulder and shoves, but they can be at least as effective.

How much anguish do we find in these struggles! Yet I should think that, once the Bijanis came to their decision, their struggles became infinitely simpler. Probably fear was not erased, but certainly neither was hope. And it may be that they thought it was just not worth losing the former at the price of the latter.

May their shades be at rest, individually and together.

Tuesday, July 08, 2003

CAREFUL WITH THAT AXE, EUGENE. Reading Volokh on Pat Buchanan, I unexpectedly came across a very entertaining passage. Volokh manfully challenges Buchanan's South-was-Right routine, an exercise by which many a young rightist has shown his ability to rise in the Organization; but as he pursues his prey he finds himself ensnared in thickets, not to mention brackets:

The Southern states were not ruled by the people, and as a result neither was the nation. They were ruled by white people. (I set aside here the ineligibility of women to vote, for various reasons; the chief one is that such ineligibility was nearly universal throughout the world at the time, and certainly on both sides of the Civil War, and didn't really begin to diminish in a material way for several decades [race discrimination in voting was prohibited throughout the nation de jure, if not really de facto, by the Fifteenth Amendment in 1870; sex discrimination in voting only began to erode around then, and wasn't accomplished nationally until 1920]. I'm hesitant to fault people for falling into universal errors.)...

I find it interesting that folks who get eloquently angry about affirmative action and the terrible injustices it causes white people get a little tongue-tied when special occasions force them to defend the elemental rights of unprivileged classes. So women's lack of suffrage is to one side because it was then "nearly universal" -- sounds like one o' them there "cultural" arguments to me -- and what an insult to 19th-century white males, to presume that they didn't know no better! Next thing you know, Volokh will be sanctioning ritual clitorectomies.

I kid. But I sympathize. When you're right-wing, it's never easy when the talk turns to historic injustices. By rightie lights, even laying blame for slavery on the U.S.A. as a nation is tough -- partly because American conservatives reflexively defend the U.S. no matter what, and partly because of their philosophical temperment (countries don't discriminate, autonomous individuals do!). But if they have to admit one such offense -- as the Buchanan turkey-shoot necessitated -- then, if they're at all honest with themselves, several others (women, Indians, Jews, Chinese-Americans, etc.) come tumbling out of the cupboards. And the question is begged: have we spent too much time congratulating ourselves at the injustices we have begun to redress, and not enough on those we have barely acknowledged?

Monday, July 07, 2003

KNOW WHEN TO HOLD, KNOW WHEN TO FOLD 'EM. Tommy Franks -- gooood career move. Leave as liberator, and let some other poor schmuck do the mopping up. "Earlier this month, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld offered Franks the post of Army chief of staff -- the highest job in the Army. But Franks turned it down," reports ABC. Well, of course. It's not going to be like '91, when Colin Powell won hearts and minds with the first Iraq dust-up -- this one's going to smolder and smell, and Franks is well out of it. 57's a nice age, and the man has plenty of options. Got his MBA (W's degree!) summa cum laude (not W's standing!), yet keeps the common touch, as shown by this bit from SCLM outlet PBS:

Tommy Franks, the general who will command American troops should the U.S. go to war with Iraq, speaks with a west Texas vernacular very familiar to his commander in chief.

"Mr. President, I'm finer than the hair on a frog's back," the 57-year-old Texan once responded when Mr. Bush inquired about his welfare.

As we are now in an age of endless war, might our Presidential election cycles to come feature at least some military contenders? During and after the Civil War we had McClellan and Grant. Eisenhower had two terms, and MacArthur had some traction after Korea. Wesley Clark has already been mentioned for 2004, and we all know Powell's only biding his time. Franks is telegenic, bright, and now has secured perhaps the greatest treasure a Presidential contender could have: plausible deniability.

At present, Franks lacks a McClellan letter of the sort the late candidate wrote to his Commander-in-Chief (whom he called "your Excellency") in 1862. Which is all to the good: that letter was a problem for McClellan -- it telegraphed his political ambitions, both implicitly and explicitly ("In carrying out any system of policy which you may form, you will require a Commander in Chief of the Army;  one who possesses your confidence... I do not ask that place for myself...."), and staked out a distressingly soft position on slavery. We are an even more politically opaque people than once we were. We have no way to know what Franks feels about anything, and that in itself has to have potential political masterminds salivating.

Of course all this ignores the possibility that the United States will itself be placed one day under military command, but at present it's hard to see why they would bother.

NOT AS ADVERTISED. Never read Eve Tushnet before. Had been given the impression (forget by who -- one meets so many people at detoxification centers) that she was of the reasonable sort of winger. Was unprepared, therefore, for ravings, in which a light and breezy Kinsley column,"Abolish Marriage: Let's really get the government out of our bedrooms," is denounced for promoting "ad hoc" crypto-marriages that will create ('scuse, have created) "chaotic lives, fatherless children, shattered relationships, post-abortion grief, poverty, and fatalism."

Well, at least we don't have to wonder where the next generation of Maggie Gallaghers are coming from. What I do wonder is, how can such people live so long without developing a sense of humor?
TV EYE. Boy, I enjoyed that vacation. No, not mine -- Edroso the Wrath of God does not take vacations (neither can he afford them) -- I mean Instapundit's. Even in a web world crammed to bursting with irritants, the temporary absence of the Ole Perfesser was a palpable relief. I felt like an immunocompromised patient who had suddenly found himself with one less opportunistic infection.

Alas, the Perfesser has resurfaced, and is dishing out nonsense like it was going out of style (whereas, of course, the contrary is true). Here he is on the BBC:

How about ending the public subsidy and letting the private sector take over? The likelihood that a major, state-subsidized entity with considerable political clout can actually be objective and fair over the long term is so small that it would seem better to drop the pretense, and to quit subsidizing the political views of the New Class under a threadbare cloak of public service that no longer fools anyone but the gullible.

There is, of course, not one media outlet in Christendom, subsidized or not, that could reasonably be called "objective and fair" (or for that matter, "fair and balanced") -- though some might serve as small counterweights to the larger media interests that piledrive their agenda into the public consciousness.

In the Brits' case the larger media interests more or less consist of Rupert Murdoch, or as he is known to lapsed Catholics such as myself, the Father of Lies. Since Murdoch's Sun broke ranks with the Tories to back Blair for his first term ("It's the Sun Wot Won It!" cried the tabloid's post-electoral headline), the PM has been most helpful to the SkyNews King's multifarious interests. The end of the BBC's subsidy would of course be a great boon to Murdoch, eliminating a great deal of his commercial and ideological competition. (Just in case you thought this was a principled argument we were dealing with.)

I'm not surprised that Blair is leaning this way. Nor am I surprised that the Perfesser would shout encouragement from his kudzu-covered ivory tower. But I am a little surprised at Rocky Top's last crack: "...a threadbare cloak of public service that no longer fools anyone but the gullible."

Whom does he believe is being fooled? The BBC, like PBS over here, is a known quantity, availed by those who enjoy it and ignored by those who don't. There seems to be a real niche, albeit a small one, for both the British and American state-run networks. We can argue as to whether the state should run a network at all (or a bank, or a Federal Trade Commission, or an interstate highway system, etcetera ad nauseum).

But what's inarguable is that a lot of people enjoy the BBC and PBS. Even crabby rightwing Americans have to admit that, when they visit the U.K. and turn on the tube back at the hotel, the BBC stuff beats holy hell out of our own network crap. And quality-starved Yanks aren't the only ones who notice. Last year the Beeb beat its main commercial rival, ITV, in ratings for the first time since 1954.

Ditto for PBS. Even midwestern housewives watch Bill Moyers, not because Big Brother has commanded it, but because he's an appealing presenter with an interesting viewpoint -- one that, no one needs to be reminded, is increasingly hard to find on the SCLM stations anymore.

Let's face it. State-run TV networks are magnets for culturally astute people, who usually think very differently from the corporate scumbags, giant-foam-fingered booster-boobs, hack artists, and mentally microcellular organisms that keep the Nets going. This difference is used as an excuse for getting rid of them -- they represent the "New Class," boo hiss -- but it's actually a pretty good reason to keep them. In heatwaves, the cops let the kids tap the hydrants so they can play in the water -- can't we have similar relief in the airwaves?

Sunday, July 06, 2003

"'THERE IS STILL WEAKNESS IN THE EMPLOYMENT SECTOR,' said Michelle Clayman, chief investment officer at New Amsterdam Partners, which manages US$1.8 billion in New York. 'We need to see more of the underlying economic numbers turning around for the market to have legs'... The US unemployment rate jumped to 6.4 percent, the highest since April 1994, from 6.1 percent in May."

"Bush's weapon of political destruction is money, lots of it. Within five days, Mrs. Bush and Cheney raised a combined $1.4 million in separate fund-raisers in Cincinnati and Fairlawn, an Akron suburb. It’s part of $34.2 million that the Bush-Cheney ’04 re-election campaign raised during the past three months, said Dan Ronayne, campaign spokesman. Of the total, $21.7 million came from 14 fund-raising events featuring the president, Cheney or Mrs. Bush. The campaign also raised money through direct mail and contributions made over the Internet."

Who got your money?

Friday, July 04, 2003

HAWKS & DOVES. I marked Independence Day by putting on Neil Young's "Hawks & Doves." This record comes from one of Young's peripatetic periods, in which he seemed to be doing whatever struck his weed-addled fancy at any given moment, but the gesture of respect toward the American idea is genuine and often touching. The title track is real nice, and here are some of the words:

In history, we painted pictures grim
The Devil knows we may feel that way again
The big wind blows, so the tall grass bends
But for you, don't push too hard, my friend

Got people here down on their knees and prayin'
Hawks and doves are circling in the rain
Got rock 'n' roll, got country music playin'
If you hate us, you just don't know what you're saying

It's mild out this 4th of July morning, but the sun is bright and climbing. Sunlight is the reason, by the way, that the writing on the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, both now scientifically maintained and heavily guarded at our National Archives, is so faint. For years they were shown under glass in a public place, outdoors, so that the light that fell on the land and the citizens also illuminated those words.

The ink proved less durable than the land and the citizens. What about the ideas? Well, across the web world now you may read that we are either deprived of liberty, or supersaturated with it, in ways that would shame the Founders. Some believe it is far too difficult to get a handgun in East New York, and some lament the growing decriminalization of recreational sex.

These people are of course nuts, but many of us, maybe even most of us, are at least a little nuts in the same ways. I heard a Klansman cry once, "We carved our place in this wilderness with a Bible and a gun!" I think he was right. We love our autonomy, and the idea that with the right machines (including the kind that kill) we can do, as the lovely and supremely American phrase puts it, whatever the fuck we want. And we also believe ourselves to be the keepers of the Word, which the American accent renders pretty harsh at times, and inspires us to string up varmints.

So I can see where the wingnuts of all descriptions are coming from. In a way (just in a way) it is a marvelous thing that we are all here, grabbing at the rudder of the Ship of State.

The Puritans who settled here surely never imagined our community would be so contentious (and free of stocks and dunking-stools); perhaps neither did the Patriots, who set out from their little homes to shake a tyrant off their backs, not to establish a Federal Trade Commission. Maybe the Founders saw a little more, but I doubt they saw us, though maybe Jefferson did when he said this:

And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are of the gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with his wrath? Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just: that his justice cannot sleep for ever.

Jefferson's God and mine may not exactly resemble one another (though I'm a Deist too), but I can see something in this. To his thinking liberty was natural, but also sufficiently foreign to the hearts of men that they might abuse it in their ignorance. And so he and his buddies made a Constitution that defends liberty, not any group or church or philosophy, or even the particular, now quaint, way of life these orderly men enjoyed. All that was left up to us.

Look what we've made of it. Is it good? Well, there's good and bad in it, certainly. I think those guys over the hill are ruining this country, and they think the same of me. Yet our battles haven't wrecked the joint. If the Civil War didn't wreck it, how the hell could we? Though the parchment crumbles and the ink is all but gone, the prescriptions the Founders wrote seem still to serve us well.

This is what we celebrate today. The date commemorates the Declaration and the fireworks commemorate the battles of the Revolutionary War, but this day is for America, the place, the people, and the idea. There will be mayhem and madness, some drunk will punch and maybe plug someone; when I turn on the TV some idiot will be talking. But if we are mindful of the occasion we will be somewhat easy that even this will not shake the pillars of the Republic. Hawks and doves are circlin' in the rain.

Thursday, July 03, 2003

BLAIR AMERICAN STYLE. Meanwhile back in the UK, Tony Blair is hunkering down as British press and politicians, infinitely more adversarial than our own ("Blair is No Better than a Kung-Fu Monkey," howls the Telegraph), accuse him of pre-invasion prevarication.

To Yankee eyes the spectacle is surprising. Much of the current talk, as outlined by the Guardian, is centered around a claim, allegedly included in a draft of the Government's Iraq dossier, that Saddam could set off nukes on 45 minutes' notice.

Here in the good old USA, of course, the President had us scared silly of a tinpot dictator who couldn't even defend his own country, and as it becomes increasingly clear that this threat was vastly exaggerated, we treat it as an academic exercise. We sustain a long-running shell game with Iraqi WMD evidence. (As reported by CNN, the latest claim is imminent proof of a "WMD program that could have turned out an operational weapon on short notice. " Not short enough to save Saddam, apparently. Maybe the fuses rolled behind a couch?) The general presumption is that some bullshit was employed, but so what?

That the Brits are more outraged at apparently smaller distortions does not necessarily mean that they lay greater stock in truth than we do. The American people backed Bush, and identifies still with his cause, but the British public has been less convinced; we have a lot more to lose or gain, psychologically, in probing the wounds that truth sustained in prosecuting the war, while for the British it's pretty much all on Blair.

Also, MPs have a centuries-old habit of standing up and roaring at the PM. This Blair must endure, and whenever I've watched Question Time on TV he seemed to handle himself well. But I can't imagine it's much fun for him now.

Back in 1996 much was made of Blair's similarity to Bill Clinton -- centrist, smooth, modern. It's beginning to look, though, as if it's really the model of the American Presidency, irrespective of occupant, that he emulates. This is canny because, as Britain grows more Americanized, what works for the Oval Officer is a good bet to work for the Prime Minister (and what fails here will fail there, too -- poor John Major filled the befuddled Bush Sr. role as well as Blair fit challenger Clinton's). It's a little tougher now for Blair, but I would bet on him to hang in -- especially as his Government's tactics, as shown in this South Africa report from June, are obviously cued by the American style of spin:

A spokesman for Blair's office said that the government's investigation into the two trailers in Iraq was still under way.

But he also said on customary condition of anonymity that no credible evidence had been found so far to suggest they were not used as part of Iraq's chemical and biological programs.

No evidence they were not used! Shades of Charles Foster Kane telling old Mr. Thatcher, outraged by his claim of a Spanish "armada" off the Jersey coast, "Can you prove it isn't?"
TO SLEEP, NO MORE. The Wall Street Journal reports (and the South Florida Sun-Sentinel partially reprints without requiring registration) that "Less than a century ago, Americans averaged about nine hours of sleep a night." Now, it's more like seven, and "a third of the population now trudges by on six hours or less."

Enlightened, aren't we? Our parents could maintain a house and a car on a single salary -- we can't. Once, the 40-hour work week was standard -- no more. And now we can't even sleep right.

WSJ also reports that, in addition to Ambien-style sleep aids, pharm companies are now working on a new class of drug to "help people perform better on less sleep." These concoctions carry the disturbingly scientific name "wake agents."

At least in Huxley's Brave New World they gave you soma. Now we get fake speed. Crap. Even our dystopias ain't what they used to be.
STORMIN' NORMAN. Norman Mailer has made amendations to his earlier piece on Bush and war for the New York Review of Books. Like all great writers, Mailer improves his work everywhere he touches it, but this bit about a recent piece of Presidential theatre is especially good:

He chose—this overnight clone of Honest Abe—to arrive on the deck of the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln on an S-3B Viking jet that came in with a dramatic tail-hook landing. The carrier was easily within helicopter range of San Diego but G.W. would not have been able to show himself in flight regalia, and so would not have been able to demonstrate how well he wore the uniform he had not honored. Jack Kennedy, a war hero, was always in civvies while he was commander in chief. So was General Eisenhower. George W. Bush, who might, if he had been entirely on his own, have made a world-class male model (since he never takes an awkward photograph), proceeded to tote the flight helmet and sport the flight suit. There he was for the photo-op looking like one more great guy among the great guys. Let us hope that our democracy will survive these nonstop foulings of the nest.

Speaking of nonstop foulings, I hate to even use this phrase, but in this case there's no getting around it: read the whole thing.

Found via Cursor.

STUPID PREZ TRICKS. Sez K-Lo at NRO: "I suspect, although the press and others looking for the White House to take sides now, that the administration will wind up coming out for the federal marriage amendment post-Massachusetts. They would have never greenlighted Frist to embrace it if that was not the likely plan..."

How clever, if ungrammatical! Here come de Prez on Majority Leader Frist's anti-gay-marriage amendment plan: "I don't know if it's necessary yet... Let's let the lawyers look at the full ramifications of the recent Supreme Court hearing. What I do support is a notion that marriage is between a man and a woman."

As Lopez suggests, the White House and Frist are obviously in accord, but still mask their animus by playing bad-cop, slightly-less-bad-cop on the issue. Why the pretense? Isn't Bush supposed to be unbeatable in 2004?

There are all kinds of ways to interpret this, and I don't want to be too optimistic, but it's just too -- piquant to see the Fearless Leader playing grab-ass (pardon the expression, social conservatives!) with this issue. His minions have been playing at invincibility for so long that it's a pleasure to watch them wheedle.

Wednesday, July 02, 2003

S.W.A.T. THE MOVIE. This looks like a new low. What's next? Michael Douglas in "Matlock"?
THE TEDIOUSNESS OF TRAITOR-BAITING. Today's Richard Brookhiser column is as usual mostly gobbledegook, especially in the steam-losing last laps, but it does have a few instructive passages. One may even be instructive in a way intended by its author. It regards the good showing by Howard Dean in the recent MoveOn.org "primary," and after a few expectedly dismissive comments, asks:

Howard Dean may be a lightning bug, a bright but short-lived creature of the summer before election year. But suppose he is a portent? Barry Goldwater, the conservative conviction candidate of the early 1960’s, won his nomination in 1964, and went on to carry only six states. But he transformed the Republican Party for our lifetime. After Bill Clinton’s mini-issues and feints to the right, progressive Democrats wonder when they will get their own Goldwater. Howard Dean may be the great id of his party, rising in rebellion against its shifty Arkansas super-ego.

This may be Brookhiser's attempt at a new poison meme for Democrats: if Dean is Goldwater, he must lose as Goldwater lost -- and if Dean by some miracle takes the nomination, this only proves the point, and precertifies his failure.

But Dean-watching righties have heretofore been broadcasting a different idea -- that of Dean as McGovern. Bruce Bartlett practically starts his D-as-McG tract by stating that "Frankly, I don’t see any way that [Bush]can be beaten by any Democrat now in the field" and "I think most Democrats know this... [so] If Democrats are going down in flames anyway, the base figures that they might as well do so behind someone who speaks to their soul, rather than some pale imitation."

This idea similarly preordains defeat -- indeed, willful defeat. (Maybe these guys have been comparing Democrats to the Taliban for so long that they imagine them capable of suicide-bomb candidacies.)

But the difference in Brookhiser's Goldwater idea is that the noble Barry is generally thought to be the Godfather of the current radical-right Republican Party -- out of the ashes of 1964, goes that story, came Reagan, Falwell, and other such keepers of the flim-flam. Goldwater's losing battle, unlike McGovern's, presaged a successful war. So this is a new one: Dean as the future of the Party, rather than an annoying historic hiccup.

Could it be? Dean's Internet fundraising is impressive. But remember Jerry Brown? Back in the 1992 Time called him a "1-800 Pound Gorilla" because he kept yelling out his donation digits on TV and getting campaign bucks for his Presidential run that way. It was supposed to herald a new age in the way campaigns were financed.

Today Brown is cooling his national ambitions as the Mayor of Oakland, CA, McCain-Feingold is in the middle of possibly fatal judicial review, and both parties are even more beholden to special interests than they were eleven years ago. Whatever the Internet-changes-everything crowd may think, Dean's PayPals aren't likely to transfigure anything.

As to Dean himself, well, that's another story. I can't say I'm surprised by his popularity. What he's saying isn't so far out. Some loud voices have been making it seem so (no link needed -- just read my archives!), but I suspect their influence is dwindling.

In fact, let me go so far as to say that we may have reached a critical mass of bullshit -- a moment when so much nonsense has been ingested by the average American that, nonsense-tolerant as he may be, he grows bored enough with the current flavor to entertain alternatives. Iraq is in disarray and the economy is in the toilet -- most of the stories used by Administration supporters to misdirect us from these facts are wearing thin. And look how fast it happened! When the aforelinked Daniel Pipes screed, "Why the Left Loves Osama (And Saddam)," first ran in March, it was very much of a piece with all the other GOP traitor-baiting sideshows surrounding World War Whatever -- now it seems a quaint relic of a darker, dumber time.

Am I a touch Pollyannaish? Consider this other passage from Brookhiser as he considers Dean's anti-war cred:

Mr. Dean tells the Democratic left what it wants to hear -- fear, carping and doubt.... The truth is, we knew the truth about Saddam’s nature; the deadly flailings of his diehards is another facet of that truth, along with oppression, terror and war... Given Mr. Dean’s ignorance of these truths, what weight can we possibly assign to his belief that it’s "a good thing to have Saddam gone"? If we had let Howard Dean lead the search for the facts, Kofi Annan would still be doing shuttle diplomacy in Baghdad...

Does this not seem a little... familiar? A tad tired? A hint desperate?

Tuesday, July 01, 2003

NOTHING MATTERS AND SO WHAT IF IT DID. Jonah Goldberg calls Andrew Sullivan on an alleged inconsistency.

An NRO reader writes: "What I don't understand is why it matters to you that Sullivan's argument does not clarify the principle at stake. You have written extensively about the forgivability of inconsistency in argument and the usefulness of hypocrisy in public policy. Why can't Sullivan appeal to these things as well?"

Goldberg replies, "...I am judging him by his standards not my own. 2) I've never said that consistency is a useless concept or that inconsistency is necessarily preferable to consistency. Rather, I've said it depends on the circumstances. 3) Even when I've taken the position that inconsistency can be forgiven, I've also argued that inconsistency is certainly fair game for debate and discussion. It would be nuts of me to promote a position which forced me to applaud people for being inconsistent. I'll stop there."

I don't see how Goldberg's Rules of Order reduces to anything more exalted than this: I make the rules up, and apply or disallow them as I see fit.

Given with the current Administration's "la-la-I-can't-hear-you" approach to the WMD question, and the recent Volokhian deconstruction of Dick Cheney, I am beginning to think that power has affected American conservatives adversely. Are they, as one says, drunk with power? Well, in months past they seemed so, roaring and whooping about the Iraqi bonfire. But they are less cheerful now -- hungover, perhaps, or in that cold-grey-dawn stage of drunkenness that infuses any but the most boorish consciousness with existential confusion.

These guys have been pretending for so long -- about the war, about the economy, about the nature of their fellow-citizens -- that they have forgotten what reality is. It was weird enough when they told us that it didn't matter whether Hussein had weapons of mass destruction -- all the while scouring every lead for proof that he did -- but when they begin to insist, as Volokh does, that they didn't absolutely positively say that Hussein had these weapons, we are experiencing a flight from reality resembling, in its disorderliness and desperation, Bonaparte's retreat from Russia.

Now the U.S. Government has, per Radio Free Europe (!), "suspended military assistance to more than 30 nations which have failed thus far or have refused to sign agreements with the U.S. giving Americans immunity from prosecution by the International Criminal Court..." International justice, it would seem, is only legitimate when pursued by U.S. military invasion.

And these guys are always talking about values.
EVEN WHEN HE'S RIGHT HE'S WRONG. You know anyone like that? People who, even when they occasionally wander over to the right side on an argument, have such bogus reasons for doing so that you can't even agree with them without wincing?

Here's Mickey Kaus on the Clinton Boom versus the Reagan Boom (a concern brought up by this Times item):

In Sunday's N.Y. Post, Rich Lowry correctly notes that the sharply rising income share of the 400 richest Americans--implicitly lamented in David Cay Johnston's latest NYT piece--occurred on Bill Clinton's watch. Why didn't Democrats denounce the Clinton years as a "Decade of Greed," Lowry asks?... Someone should defend the Clinton Boom, precisely on the grounds that '90s income inequality was relatively benign compared with '80s income inequality... The basic argument: Most of the tech geeks and stock traders of the 90s couldn't possibly have thought they were better than the non-rich -- they had so obviously lucked out into a windfall... Secondary argument: In the Clinton boom, unlike in the Reagan boom, incomes at the bottom also rose quite quickly...

Only in the world of Mickey "But Is It Good for the Welfare Reformers?" Kaus would the spiritual life of Silicon Valley schnooks constitute a more powerful defense of the Clinton boom than the fact that poor people also got a little more money from it.