Friday, October 31, 2003

WHILE YOU COMMIE-PAGAN BASTARDS ARE GOING TO COSTUME PARTIES, rightwing Christer sourball Mark Gavreau Judge commemorates Halloween by writing with an apparent lack of skepticism about a Catholic exorcism.

Wonder if he still thinks swing dancing will "contribute to the winning of the culture war"?
7.2 PERCENT GOP GROWTH? I've been hearing from certain corners that the economy is "in recovery" for so long -- almost as long, it seems, as many of my friends have been looking for jobs -- that this cheerful GDP report is not stimulating me a whole hell of a lot. Way the new jobs at? Never fear, sez the Murdoch Post:
The nation's payrolls grew by 57,000 last month. New unemployment-benefits claims dropped, which suggests that layoffs are slowing.

The payroll number is nice, if insufficient, but the drop in unemployment claims, as careful stat-watchers will know, could be attributed to the growth of freelance employment, whose practitioners are not eligible for unemployment when the work dries up. Also:
...the [tax] cuts "for the rich"... spurred an unexpected wave of across-the-board consumer spending -- particularly on durable goods, the expensive long-term items, which rose by 27 percent.

Moreover, overseas investment was up sharply. So was business investment in equipment and technology.

Well, someone's buying all those fridges and cars, but it hasn't been me or mine. And I find the upticks in "overseas investment" (offshore job centers?) and "equipment and technology" (robots that can shuffle papers?) more ominous than encouraging.

We can only hope that irrational exuberance will again take hold. But I wonder if GDP numbers -- which measure, after all, the base value of American goods and services -- will excite the average American as much as it does the decidely untypical souls now beating their pots and pans. It's hard to excite real people with numbers that don't appear on paychecks or bank account display screens. But then, maybe our bosses will be more easily excited (they certainly were in the '90s!), and throw money at us. So I guess there's some cause for optimism.
ALL HAIL THOSE PHLEGMATIC, PRODUCTIVE UTAHNS! A genuinely delightful angle taken in today's Salt Lake Tribune:

WASHINGTON -- When Capitol Police notified lawmakers Thursday that an armed intruder had entered their office building, Utah Rep. Jim Matheson accounted for his staff, locked the door and watched events unfold on television.

"I see some SWAT folks up on the roof looking out my window and we've heard police in the hallway shouting to people to get back into their offices, but for now we're just hunkered down here," Matheson said about an hour into the lockdown and shortly before the true nature of the threat was revealed. "I'm just trying to get some letters edited"...

For the next hour or so, Matheson said, his office watched television for updates and tried to get work done.

"I don't think there was any big panic," he said. "That's just not my office."

Like Tip O'Neill said, all Washington coverage is local. Happy Halloween!

Thursday, October 30, 2003

WHICH BLOWHARD IS FICTIONAL? "Every American. Every American? Well, Howard, I don’t want the government to buy my health insurance. I pay for it. I’m glad to pay for it. I’m proud I can provide it. And I’m also proud that the money you might want to spend on me & mine will instead go to rebuild Iraq..."

"Who could they ask for help? If not God, then who? The Great Society? The Department of Welfare? Travelers Aid?... Look at these hands! The hands of a professional man? Not on your sweet life! The hands of a worker! I worked! These hands toiled from the time I was nine -- strike that, seven!"

One was created by Jules Feiffer. The other could have been imagined by Dickens had he the misfortune to be born into this wretched era of self-righteous suburbanism.
SLIGHTLY SHORTER JONAH GOLDBERG. The Democrats are now the party of Clinton (a synonym for evil), proven by the fact that their leaders ask a lot of questions when commanded to pony up billions to pay for the occupation of Iraq. They pretend to have reasons for this, but they're really just doing it to be contrary. I know a Democrat who agrees with me, but he thinks Republicans do the same thing, which is ridiculous. Oh, my imaginary mechanic friend called John Kerry an idiot; it was rilly funny.
BECAUSE I'M THE WINGNUT MOMMY, THAT'S WHY. " 4-year-old came across the recent 'Legacy' edn. of NRODT. She wanted to know who the naked man on the cover of the magazine was, why he looked sad, why he had no clothes, etc. When I tried to explain that he used to be President, and was a bad man, she wanted to know what he had done, what's a President, and how could a President be a bad man.... I got myself in over my head, on that one. Where do you start, and how do you explain it to a 4-year-old?" -- correspondent to Rich Lowry at The Corner (name withheld, presumably to thwart a Child Protective Services investigation).
P.S. In a later post, another fugitive from CPS suggests Mom buy the kid one of those Jesus-for-children tapes in which animated vegetables enact parables. My own childhood was no bed of roses, but Jeez...

Wednesday, October 29, 2003

EYE ON THE ARTS. I actually crawled out the bunker and attended a few performances recently. I liked Intolerable Cruelty, but it also reminded me of why I used to dislike the Coens. They have sort of an manic stoner aesthetic – they’ll grab a tangent and run with it ferociously until they get distracted by a bird or an ant or a body rush and then BAM! they start running, with equal ferocity, in an entirely different direction.

The Big Lebowski loosened me up on them, though: now I let their baroque set pieces, camera angles, and characterizations wash over me, and find meaning in the overall impression. These meanings are usually very simple, even stupid -- O Brother, Where Art Thou? really is about how it’s better to stick up for people than to, um, not stick up for them, to the extent that it’s not about how cool it would be to name a movie after a Preston Sturges gag and make it about the Odyssey etc. But, eh, stupid fun is better than no fun at all.

Cruelty, I’m told, is based on some wretched piece of Hollywood feel-good crap, and I imagined I could feel the Coens' breezy contempt for the material throughout the picture -- as when Clooney, as the dentition-obsessed legal shark, appears before an divorce lawyers’ convention, chastened and with shirt untucked, to declare that “Love is good!” This makes for a giddy mood, if not deathless art. And this particular movie’s stupid meaning – love conquers all – is not a bad one to believe in for an hour and a half, anyway. (Maybe if the Coens’ work has any point at all, it’s that you have to be a little light-headed to believe in movie messages like these in the first place.)

Also saw the Mingus Big Band. This is a large ensemble dedicated to the preservation of the great man’s works and spirit. Sue Mingus is sort of Chairman Emeritus/Keeper of the Flame. The rotating cast of musicians has definitely got it in their gloves: they not only have the scores down, they also improvise in a relevant and impassioned way, and that’s the best of both worlds. Also, we were seated right in front of the baritone saxophonist, a very attractive and skilled young woman, and when she stood up and hit the intro to “Moanin’,” I wanted to live with her on the coast of France. Jazz shows are a sometime thing, but this was sometime.

Last night I met friends at a local bar and saw a well-attended performance by a hot new band. Their schtick is that they only play Brian Eno covers. I forget their name, which is just as well; they sucked. The cuteness of having sub-talented youngsters play “Here Come the Warm Jets” lasted less than five minutes. I don’t understand all these bands staffed entirely by teenagers who play with low energy. Is there an Epstein-Barr epidemic in that demographic? Or is rocking hard just too much of an effort?

Hey, I’m getting surly again. Maybe I should go back to writing about politics.

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

THOSE PITHY GLASWEGANS! One has to love the way the Glasgow Daily Record announced that a chemical in red wine may work against lung disease: A DROP OF RED HELPS BEAT FAGS.
MAGNETIC FIELD POLITICS. I used to religiously read every damned word of the gibberish dissected here at alicublog, but I've been at this game for so long that I've become like an old country doctor who takes one look at the lumps on your ring finger and announces, "Pleursy!"

Small examples can be mightily instructive of larger maladies in logic, anyway. These two grafs from Harry's Place, excerpted by the Ole Perfesser, leapt at me like rabid hamsters, and I had to deal with them:
It is clear that the Iraq war has shown that a certain section of the left really has nowhere to go except self-hatred and that a reactionary antipathy to the US and the western democracies has moved from beyond the ultra-left fringes into the mainstream of left-liberal oppositionalism.

It is precisely the spreading of 'pure oppositionalism' that makes it worthwhile looking closely at the activities of the Socialist Workers Party and others. Because while the details of their quasi-Trotskyist ideology remain restricted to a tiny minority, their broader outlook has gained something close to hegemony on the radical left.

If I'm reading this right, and I fear that I am, Harry is allowing his subject to glide rather easily between "a certain section of the left" and the Socialist Workers Party, a highly suggestive and misleading tactic that suggests quick contagion from one tiny splinter group to a somewhat larger one, and thence to the whole "radical left" (which might mean everyone left of the DLC for all I can tell). One may as well speak of the demoralizing power of white supremacist cells over Focus on the Family.

Now, we have to understand for starters that Harry was inspired by Andrew Sullivan, and nothing healthy can grow from such a poisoned root. (Okay, I cheated, and looked at the actual post. This ole hoss cain't git out of his harness nohow!) The conflation of, say, Howard Dean supporters with the Stalinist hordes is an old rhetorical gambit ("If you're not with us, you're against us"), but it seems here to have been taken fatally to heart, to have gone from a trick to a tic -- the SWP, though small and impotent (allegedly reduced to mining radical Islamicists for "supporters for their marches, buyers for their newspaper and maybe even the odd recruit"), is magically infecting the whole of the Left with its "nihilism":
...the growth of nihilism, allied with the different but growing cynicism in our societies, weakens the ability of democrats to win their battles -- at home and abroad. Democracy, even the limited version that we live with, survives to a degree on a level of participation or at least voluntary acceptance. Nihilism, the rejection of politics, is corrosive.

Here's what's really crazy about this: some people, it is true, are rejectors. They stand outside the tent pissing in, in LBJ's colorful locution. But they are brought into the mainstream of whatever movement only insofar as they are worth the trouble to the majority. Otherwise they are left to non-join as they please, at a high risk of irrelevance. Is the Left, as such, really reaching out to the SWP? Is National Review begging Pat Buchanan for forgiveness?

Harry seems to think the "nihilism" of the fringe will automatically drag down everyone around it. What's missing from his analysis is any sense that leftists have discernment enough to make decisions about who does or doesn't get into their tent. He seems to view politics as a magnetic field which distributes forces according to immutable physical laws, not as the actions of human beings.

Well might he see it that way. In the Blogosphere, so many writers have been working so long from such reductive templates, dismissing their opponents as "objectively pro-Saddam" automatons and so forth, that when they examine any given situation, they see, in place of the literally millions of people who don't agree with them, a bunch of electric football game figurines reacting to the shaking of a motor.

Me too, of course. But I'm right!

Monday, October 27, 2003

NO CONTEST. Inspired by David Brooks' latest (thanks busybusybusy for the tip), I have a new way to view the world. It is divided into two groups: pain-in-the-ass pedants who bitch endlessly about other people's behaviors, and the people about whose behaviors they bitch, as here:
He spent much of the war having sex across the Pacific. He spent his last $5 on a Chinese prostitute because he was curious about what Chinese women looked like naked. He spent a year as a gigolo for an older woman in Singapore. And at each point he was looking for interesting sensations. "I hate responsibilities," he writes at one point in his book. Religion is a total bore, he notes at another. "Any job that will take longer than three days isn't worth doing," he observes. "That's the limit of my attention span."
In short, the world is divided between David Brookses and Helmut Newtons. Guess which crew I prefer to roll with?

Sunday, October 26, 2003

MY HOMETOWN -- AND MAYBE YOURS. Some readers may know that I come from Bridgeport, a very corrupt city in Southern Connecticut. Once a proud industrial town, producer of metal and rubber products -- with, for several terms, a Socialist mayor -- it turned during my boyhood into a rust-belt worst-case-scenario nightmare. Jobs fled, crime soared. When I left it was locked in a tug-of-war between the Democratic ward-heelers (the Curran mob) and the Republican ward-heelers (the Panuzio mob).

It was hard to see what they were fighting over. The old town was down-at-heels, and its establishment incredibly racist. Put it this way: the first word I learned for a black person was definitely not African-American. I still remember a little demonstration I saw Downtown when I was a teenager, at which the cops grabbed a black woman and threw her in a squad car, leaving behind what looked to be her pre-teen son. "That's my momma!" the kid screamed at the cops. "She supposed to take me home!" The white, scumbag cop yelled at the kid, "Walk!"

In the many years of my exile I have desultorily followed Bridgeport's progress. In 1991, shortly after Republican Mayor Mary Moran tried, in typical Republican fashion, to file bankruptcy on the city's behalf (Hey, it's a business decision! There is no such thing as society!) and was slapped down in Federal Court, a Democrat named Joseph Ganim became mayor. He presided over a long period of economic rehabilitation -- and was this year taken down in a bribery scandal.

His successor is named John Fabrizi. As it happens, Fabirizi is an old pal of the former Mayor, and I have heard some hair-raising stories about both of these worthies from people who have cause to know.

You see, I still have my sources back in my old hometown, and they recently told me that a black high-school student recently turned up dead, allegedly the victim of a suicide, except that the suicide looked suspiciously well-laid-out, and is said to be the result of a beef involving a local white supremacist group called the White Wolves. Here is some of the (so far) scant media coverage of the situation:
The threat of the spread of hatred and bigotry by a group known as the White Wolves led a handful of concerned parents to meet with several [Trumbull, CT] officials Saturday morning.

The meeting at Town Hall had been planned before recent rumors about the white supremacist group, including that it was linked to the suicide of a Central High School student this past week, began spreading.

Trumbull school officials had even considered canceling a football game between Central and Trumbull high schools Friday night because of the rumors, but decided against it.

The game went on as planned without incident.

My sources tell me that the aforementioned game went "without incident" because it was attended by dozens of Bridgeport cops. Cops have also been hanging around Notre Dame High School in Fairfield, where, it is rumored, some local black kids have been seen lurking, in search of payback for the bogus suicide. This is because Notre Dame is the alma mater of one of the young chuckleheads involved with the White Wolves. This young man's father, I am told, is very highly placed in the Fabrizi administration, and I mean very highly placed.

More than usual tonight, I am in no mood to hear any bullshit about how this country is over its racial problems. This is probably the first you have heard of the White Wolves and their depradations in Southern Connecticut. You may hear more about them here. And I would not be at all shocked to hear hundreds of similar stories out of hundreds of other places in this country where money is tight, things aren't going well, and black people are convenient targets of white rage -- if I had connections in those places like the ones I have back home.

CONDOLENCES ON THE DEATH OF YOUR DYNASTY. As usual, I am far more sympathetic toward my nemeses once they have taken a fall. The Yankees fell hard last night in a masterfully-pitched shutout. The ghosts of Gehrig and Ruth did not waft any of the Bombers' weak fly balls over the fence. This series was a Yankee-spanking more portentious than the Diamondbacks' and even the Angels', because the team did not look at all like its old self. Pettite pitched beautifully, and for one spectacular play Jeter was as we will remember him when he goes to the Hall, the best shortstop New York ever had. But when the home-plate umpire isn't cutting Yankee batters slack on close pitches, you can smell dynastic death in the air.

It was a hell of a post-season, and I'm glad it's over. Now if I can just stopping writing this stupid weblog, maybe I can get something done.
HUBBA HUBBA. So nice to visit IP and feel something other than blind rage. One cavil, Professor: when you employ Oliver Willis as a guest-blogger, you should offer proper attribution.
AND ON THE SEVENTH DAY, DERB RAVED. John Derbyshire has found a fresh source of anguish: "The Boondocks." Fans of this neat little comic strip will appreciate that Derbyshire considers the following to be its first principles: "White people are scum. Black people are wise and good, except that... Any black person not an anti-war white-hating socialist is a self-loathing moral criminal with a tortured soul..."

In the immortal words of Iggy, "You can't understand 'cause you don't understand 'cause you can't understand."

Anyway Lileks got there first with a much more balanced take. (He did sour on the strip later, on the perfectly valid ideological grounds that it bored him anymore.)

The strip has also been discussed at Free Republic, and it's interesting to note that Derbyshire is angrier about it than those guys. When you're out-winging Free Republic, it's time for a vacation at the very least.

Friday, October 24, 2003

CAN'T WE ALL JUST GET ALONG -- ON MY TERMS? Daniel Henninger weeps that "our politics has never seemed more polarized." In his investigation of this sad phenomenon, he does not mention Rush Limbaugh, NewsMax, FreeRepublic, Ann Coulter, Pat Buchanan, or the yobs yelling "Shut it down" and "Get out of Cheney's house" in 2000. He does mention the ACLU, Roe v. Wade, and the bad people who made fun of religious maniac Jerry Boykin.

The "Mean Democrats" meme -- catch it!

Thursday, October 23, 2003

WHAT THEY'RE SELLING. Of course it's a plant. The questions are -- or would be, if I cared -- which faction planted the Rumsfeld memo, which faction that faction was trying to screw, and to what end?

Well, maybe the last one does interest me a little.

My suspicion is, whoever did it has at least one wider goal in mind: softening the public up for a "long, hard slog" in the Mideast.

Recent polling shows that while most Americans favor the war effort, an even larger majority is quite anxious to offload at least some of the military responsibilities in Iraq to foreign troops. So they're still following the Leader, it seems, but are getting squeamish about the cost in time, blood, and treasure.

What would you do in this Administration's place? Everyone remembers Bush acting studly in his flight suit, announcing "mission accomplished," and everyone is also aware that the mission isn't accomplished, really; the Bush linguistics team could draw up charts explaning what the President really meant, but your average American isn't interested in that sort of hair-splitting, especially from a guy who positions himself as a straight-talkin' hombre.

POTUS could make speeches about our continuing commitment to the Iraqi people. That would not go over well. An economically becalmed (or, if you prefer, joblessly recovering) country like ours will not be eager to send billions to take care of foreigners.

The trick is to make everyone believe that it's what they wanted all along.

Look at the WMD issue. We'd been encouraged to believe that Saddam would blow us all to smithereens Tuesday if we didn't act fast. Now the smart guys are saying, WMD? Whoever cared about them?

So the idea that Iraq is our albatross has been more subtly introduced, via covert actions like these, so that by the time anyone thinks hard about it (preferably before the next election), it will seem as if we had been expecting a long, hard slog from the beginning.

Yes, I know the President never said "Out by Labor Day!" or "Piece o' cake!" But the coming conflict was described to us in terms of apocalyptic dread. "One crate slipped into this country to bring a day of horror like none we have ever known" -- 'member that one? Now that we've dispatched Saddam, quickly and at a relatively low cost, the horror-movie rhetoric seems nearly absurd, and a citizen might feel, watching his money flow down an Iraqi sinkhole, as if he might have been conned.

Unless, of course, his memory of the war fever Bush pumped up is less clear than the idea now coursing through the feeder-streams of the press: of course it's a quagmire. What the hell did you expect?

And he'd feel less cause to complain, bless him, because he'd been warned. Retroactively; but still.

JUST GO. Sometimes you just have to applaud. Michael Kinsley's latest, and one of his greatest, is at Slate now.
WHEN I USE A WORD IT MEANS JUST WHAT I CHOOSE IT TO MEAN. Remember the laffs right-wingers had over Clinton's "definition of the word 'is'" statement? (No need to remember, actually -- some of them are still laffing!)

That's understandable. Clinton was parsing a tiny word ridiculously fine, whereas his enemies, recent examples now show, seem to see no meaning in words at all. Or, if there is meaning, it shifts from circumstance to circumstance as needed.

First there was the fuss over the " sixteen little words" regarding yellowcake in the last SOTU. Shown that the claim therein was demonstrably untrue, conservatives tut-tutted their critics' shocking literalism. After all, they told us, yellowcake (and WMD, and whatever) were just rationales, which are not quite the same thing as reasons.

Then they told us that the President should be held blameless for any pre-war misapprehensions about the Iraqi threat, despite all the scary fairy stories about Saddam he had told us, because he never once used the word "imminent."

Now Minister of Information Reynolds is doing his bit for the New Word Order. Brad DeLong has pointed out that the Perfesser seems to change his interpretation of the word "stalker" based on the identity of its speaker. Nonsense, responds the Perfesser, DeLong is being too literal -- the Perfesser was engaging in one of his frequent flights of rhetorical fancy, whereas Paul Krugman is just crazy.

When they can't spin the facts, they spin the language. It seems to be working. Their frequent affronts to reason and common sense seem to be softening what few shreds of brain tissue remain in the skulls of the electorate. They've got guys like this saying with a straight (well, excepting the perpetual sneer) face that, not only was the WMD thing no big deal, the war was basically an exercise in machismo and, like, so what, dude?

How can you argue with that? You can't. Literally.

See how it works?

Wednesday, October 22, 2003

MORE ADVICE FROM YOUR MORTAL ENEMIES. The Ole Perfesser suggests that people think of Democrats as doormats, and counsels that they behave like doormats if they want to win elections.

Does anyone believe this shit? (Pretending to believe it doesn't count. P.S. to Derbyshire: if you schlubs are "the Daddy Party," I hope you have a fucking huge therapy trust fund laid up for the kids.)
INSTAPUNDIT'S ANALYTICAL METHOD REVEALED: " I don't know if this is a national trend, but I wouldn't be surprise to hear that."

Tuesday, October 21, 2003

BIRDBRAINS OF A FEATHER. Andrew Sullivan again: "A classic limo-lib comment from Joan Didion, former prose master, now, sadly, another generational scold..."

In Sullyworld, your artistic credentials are stripped when he notices that you disagree with him.

David Horowitz, as usual, goes him one better (or worse) by turning on a comrade who agrees with him on the big issues but does not share his bughouse assessment of Bush ("belongs in the rare circle of Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman and Ronald Reagan as wartime leaders").

Horowitz allows that Paul Berman is an "intelligent man," his book Terrorism and Liberalism is "excellent," and his take on the War is "clear." But because Berman has assailed Bush in the Times, Horowitz goes bipolar on his ass:
Berman is afraid to look in the mirror and see a man who has praised a defender of American capitalism and a man of faith or to give him his due. This is the perfect image of the narrow-minded, self-righteous, arrogance of the political left... would jeopardize the moral superiority he feels as a "progressive" that allows him to look down his nose at those who don't agree with him, shut his his mind to their arguments and close his heart to their humanity. Apparently this is the only way the champions of an idea that has been discredited by a century of misery can maintain their illusions that they are still in the vanguard of history.

Funny, isn't it, that a couple of guys who are always caterwauling about Political Correctness are so sensitive to deviations from their own party line?
CHEAP SHOT OF THE DAY. Andrew Sullivan thinks Tony Blair would have fewer palpitations if he followed Bush's stress-busting "predilection for long vacations at his ranch, attendance to sleep, and regular exercise." Yes, but will the National Health pay for the required lobotomy?

Monday, October 20, 2003

HARMLESS LITTLE FUZZBALLS. The Easterbrook thing gets more ridiculous. Professor Reynolds spotlights a Larry Lessig quote, part of which reads, "But if it fired Easterbrook because Easterbrook criticized the owner, that’s an offense to society, whatever the injustice to Easterbrook — at least when fewer and fewer control access to media."

When fewer and fewer control access to media? Aren't these guys always talking about the blog revolution? Isn't it frequently, if not always, "Advantage: Blogosphere!" around these parts?

These guys have many annoying aspects but, for my money, none more annoying than their constant mood-swings between chest-beating and claims of underdog status.
WE'RE GOING TO OPINIONJOURNAL TO HISS ROOSEVELT! Since being pastured to make room for younger idiots, the Wall Street Journal's Bob Bartley has been taking a long view of things. Now his wormy hand reaches back to smack around FDR. The New Deal, per BB, prolonged the Depression. "He was originally elected to cure the Great Depression; how did he do there?" he asks. "Unemployment was still above 17% on the eve of war in 1939. Most of Roosevelt's acolytes settle for saying he lifted the nation's spirits."

Bartley fails to mention that in 1933 unemployment had been at 24.9.

This kind of flimflam is common among the new breed of anti-New Deal authors. The folks at the Ludwig von Mises Institute, for example, write:
The unemployment rate during the 1933-1940 period averaged about 18 percent and was as high as 28.3 percent in March of 1933. By the end of 1938, on the eve of World War II, the U.S. unemployment rate still hovered at 18 percent, as high as it was in 1933, FDR's first year in office.

Follow that paragraph around the block and you'll see that it's trying to shake you. The author hopes the seven-year figure will distract you from noticing that he has called 18% "as high as" 28.3%.

It's always good to revisit and reassess historical figures and events, but I see bad faith here. Given the hideous mismanagement of our present finances, we could lapse into a new Great Depression presently, and if that happens the Bartleys and Institute boys don't want a New New Deal, in which the rich would be buggered ("Above all Roosevelt raised taxes on 'the rich,'" Bartley notes with horror) and jobs handed out like candy to lucky duckies in the hinterland. "Jobless recovery" is what they're all about -- the uniquely modern notion that the continued enrichment of corporations is more important than the self-sufficiency of citizens. There'll be no "lifting the nation's spirits" with jobs in construction and reclamation that would improve everyone's quality of life, as Roosevelt's programs did -- not if it means an estate tax, by Gad!

Despite the frat-house antics of Jonah Goldberg et alia, today's conservatives still have roots in some old, discredited traditions. They're essentially the same people that created the John Birch Society, protested fluoridation, tried to impeach Earl Warren, and went to the Trans-Lux to hiss Roosevelt.

Bartley also takes a swipe at Andrew Jackson, using a Daniel Webster quote to imply that the seventh President was the founder of class warfare in the U.S. I, too, would like to think so. Jackson is a good model for the kind of guts we'll need to kick these assholes from their seats of power.
CITIZEN RUTHLESS. Apparently Gregg Easterbrook got fired for a post to which I alluded unfavorably here. (I hadn't referred, though, to his seemingly anti-Semitic coda; I was too disgusted to read down that far. The thing was stupid from top to, apparently, bottom.) And now the blogosphere, including many who were angry about Easterbrook's post, is up in arms.

Professor Reynolds and several of his conventionally-wise men now suggest that Easterbrook was fired, not for writing "Does that make it right for Jewish executives to worship money above all else, by promoting for profit the adulation of violence?" per se, but for dissing executives of a Disney company. Easterbrook has made rude comments about the Mouse before (here's one called "Most Embarrassing Disney Senior Management Moment"), but by this scenario, Michael Eisner waited till Easterbrook made himself vulnerable before dispatching this anti-Mouseketeer.

I don't think Easterbrook should have been axed either, but I note with interest that Reynolds et alia have rushed to make this an issue of Independent Blogger vs. Big Media, one of the Professor's preferred punching bags. It strikes me as a typical political trick: take a straight-up free-speech issue and stick it, with no evidence whatsoever, to a largely Democratic interest group. Easterbrook's progress from an accursed vendor of "racist garbage" to a victim of the moguls is just a little too quick and convenient to convince.

If they can get him a gig at Slate or Fox News, all well and good. Otherwise he can labor without pay like the rest of us.

Friday, October 17, 2003

THE PAST SEVERAL POSTS: UPON OFFICIAL REVIEW... Man, I'm in a mood. Maybe I should stop watching baseball playoffs. With the time I wasted on the Division and League games I could have built a small house. Plus, yelling at a TV screen does nothing for my already acerbic personality. I should spend more time on subjects that are good and wholesome, and cute. Like puppies. But if I did, it would probably come out like this.
MORE YANKEE HATRED! Enough of Daniel Henninger's manichaeism -- back to my own! I was looking around for some Yankee-hating stuff to sooth my wounded sense of justice. This is pretty good ("I can't stand those assholes with their shitty stadium and announcer who can't pronounce jack shit, and that's when he actually remembers to. I'm sick of Robert Merrill over-enunciating the national anthem..." Maybe he should revise that last bit to make it about that Irish tenor guy who seems to be there every goddamn night).

But my greatest find is the lyrics page of Christpuncher, who are apparently the new Meatmen. Their anti-Yankees song is pretty cool:
Let's go Bosox
let's go Mets
anyone else
who's fuckin' left
someone else
please take away the crown
and put the Yankees
six feet underground

Now who, as David Huddleston says in Blazing Saddles, can argue with that? But if you're an afficionado of this sort of thing, Christpuncher's other songs are even more amazing -- and if the titles alone ("Fuck You, Jesus," "Beating Off a Clown") don't convince you, maybe this quatrain from "Empty My Colostomy Bag" will:
My bag is filling up
to the very top
please don't yell at me
I cannot make it stop

I should add that, though geniuses, these lads have socially backwards views ("Osama's a Fag") that I cannot endorse. You know, like H.L. Mencken and Jim Lileks.
JESUS FREAK. It starts out as one of those the-religious-right-is-not-so-scary thumbsuckers, but Daniel Henninger's latest quickly veers off into Cotton Mather territory, with a sweeping separation of the elect from the unelect that, you will not be surprised to learn, favors the Republican Party.

"In the 1992 election," Goodman Heninger informs us, "Bill Clinton got 75% of the secularist vote." Hang on, now -- what's the secularist vote? According to Henninger's social scientist sources, Bolce and De Maio, "Democratic secularists are defined as agnostics, atheists or people who rarely attend church, if ever."

I'm confused by that last bit -- given the habits of the Bible-beaters Henninger is using as a baseline, "rarely attend" might mean they only go on Sundays.

Not confusing at all, though, is the strategy Henninger employs here: we're not the freaks -- you're the freaks! Henninger is aware of the Religious Right's poor
image in the eyes of us heathen degenerates -- "the Bible-whacking, shotgun-rack stereotype," he calls it (as if a large part of what scares some of us about these guys were their living accomodations). But they're not like that at all, he says: for example, the first ones he'd met were "educated, 30-something, Texas suburbanites who worked in the technology sector and worried about running their kids' sports leagues."

And wanted to outlaw homosexuality, declare America a Christian nation, and turn over the educational system to preachers, one might add, though Henninger does not. He attempts to shift the onus of singularity to the godless Dems. Did you know that "60% of first-time white delegates at the [1992] Democratic convention in New York City either claimed no attachment to religion or displayed the minimal attachment..."? Did you find this statistic as tormented ("white," "first-time") as I did? Never mind, the message is clear -- Democrats ain't right with Jesus!

And, as inevitably happens when God is whispering in a columnist's ear, Henninger starts naming names:

In terms of their size and party loyalty," Messrs. Bolce and De Maio argue, "secularists today are as important to the Democratic party as another key constituency, organized labor." In turn this single self-definition tracks political belief across the entire battlefield of the culture wars--abortion, sexuality, prayer in the schools, judicial nominations. Interesting as that is, what intrigues me more as simple politics is how a Howard Dean, John Kerry or Joe Lieberman can feed these creedal beliefs of the "un-religious left" without in time coming themselves to be known as leaders of the party of non-belief? Or hypocrites. It's a hard river to cross.

The linchpin of this outrageous passage is "self-definition" -- I don't know many folks who step up, shake your hand and declare, "Howdy, I'm a secularist!" and I doubt the folks in Bolce's and De Maio's study would, either. But, as slander and tendentiousness go, the rest ain't bad, either, with Henninger in effect telling some Democratic front-runners (including one known for his religiosity) that they should either declare themselves "leaders of the party of unbelief" or be exposed as hypocrites.

One wonders how they would be thus exposed. Mayhap Henninger will assemble a posse of educated, 30-something, Texas suburbanites who work in the technology sector, and loiter outside Joe Lieberman's temple, chanting stuff like "Take off that yarmulke, you!/You ain't a real live Jew!"
HARD TO BE HUMAN AGAIN. But why, Uncle Roy, are you not pleased at the victory of the Yankees?

Well, children, there was once a wonderful comedian named Joe E. Brown, who made the truest statement ever about the Bronx Bombers: "Rooting for the Yankees is like rooting for U.S. Steel."

But you don't know who Joe E. Brown was, and you don't know what U.S. Steel was. Brown had the greatest exit line in the greatest screen comedy ever. And U.S. Steel was a powerful monopoly; we might compare it to Microsoft today, but you probably love Microsoft, because it produces the operating system that powers your Xbox, notwithstanding that it is inferior in every way to the Apple system that Microsoft has managed to squeeze into near-obsolescence by the unfair advantage of its wealthy patronage.

So there is no way to explain my contempt for the Yankees to you. You love and worship power, and by such as yourselves -- from the pinstriped and suspendered Yuppie assholes bellowing on their highly-polished barstools midtown to the locals who imagine their own powerlessness momentarily reversed by the bats of Jeter and Giambi -- those who, out of fear or ignorance, would never allow themselves to stick up for anyone who has ever been down -- no appeal to what was once called soul could possibly be heard.

But to those of us who love what is best in this city -- the old Brooklyn Dodgers fans, the Mets fans, the champions of the meek and downtrodden, those who remember the dear, dirty New York before Giulianification and still try to make sense and art in the sterile canyons and joyless, smokeless bars of its pathetic remnants -- the Yankees will always be the well-fed champions of privilege, pusillanimity, pussification, and everything that anyone with a shred of soul -- who is still, in a word, human -- is duty-bound to despise.

Go Marlins.
Well I've been punched and beaten
Though it never shows
I'm going up to Sheffield
I don't know when I'm coming home...
Searching for existence with my red, red wine
It's hard to be,
Hard to be human again

Thursday, October 16, 2003

LEARN TO SPEAK WONK AS WELL AS NERD AND DORK. I told you Sasha Castel can give good info. Via SC, here's a current-events pronunciation guide. Never be embarrassed in front of your tight-ass JFK School of Gov friends again.
I LOVE BUSY BUSY BUSY. If not for them, I'd never have known that Mickey Kaus looks exactly like Dan Hedaya.
TODAY'S NUT. Well, he's right about one thing:
Why is this man in the White House? The majority of Americans did not vote for him. Why is he there?

I and all thinking people say this at least once a day, of course. But Gen. William "Jerry" Boykin answers his own question thusly: Bush was installed by none other than Jesus K. Rist hisself. Read more of his ravings here.
THE DIRTY WORK OF CONQUEST. Electrolite points to a horror story in the Independent, about U.S. forces in Iraq destroying groves of rare date palms to punish intranisgent locals.

I suppose the story could be fraudulent or a misinterpretation of facts. It wouldn't be the first time we got fake testimonials from Iraq.

It passes the smell test, anyway. Because even the nicest occupier will sometimes have to play rough with the citizenry.

And we are occupying Iraq. That thought is seldom expressed these days, as we debate the significance of Governor Wolfcastle and what the definition of the word "imminent" is. But we did invade and take over a foreign country, and we are now running it. And this situation will always entail, along with the statue-toppling and the little girls with flowers, the dirty work of conquest.

We can argue about the right and wrong of this particular case, and we have, and we will. But something else is eating at me now, as my attention has been jerked back to the subject by the aforementioned article. This occupation is going to last a while and it's going to cost a lot. The $87 billion is just the tip of the iceberg. Already we're rotating our troops less often, squeezing more out of each serviceman.

So while the question of Administration prevarication is meaningful, it's also kind of important to look at what their malfeasance has got us into. Even if every story about restored schools and liberated children's jails is true, even if this adventure has been a great net plus for the Iraqi people, what will it be, ultimately, for America? Spare me the children's stories of national greatness, and tell me how this will work out better for us than it did for, say, this guy.
THE BRIDGE DECK AT SAN LUIS REY. I used to live on Staten Island, and the less said about it the better, but the ferry trips were the best part of it, especially when I rode home on the exposed starboard bridge deck available on the older vessels, and enjoyed the lovely views of the Jersey coast and the Statue of Liberty. It never occurred to me that the thing could crash. In fact, I was surprised when, a few years back, one of the boats foundered in a storm. I can't even imagine the hull being torn like a tin can on impact, let alone 10 dead and scores horribly injured.

So the report that the Andrew J. Barberi "appeared to speed up when it should have slowed down for docking" is shocking. I recall the pleasureable sensation of the boat reversing its engines and nosing in between the docks; at worst a clumsy entrance meant the sides of the hull would graze the pylons, causing a small, bracing jolt. This occasioned mild groans, gasps, and laughter among the passengers, especially those of us on the foredeck. That must have been what the Barberi passengers were expecting till the last moments, and I shudder to envision myself among them -- or, for that matter, in the place of the pilot, who apparently tried to kill himself after the accident.

There's a guy in Chicago suffering mightily because he tried to catch a foul ball two nights back and appeared, in the superstitious world of baseball, to fatally reverse the Cubs' momentum in the playoffs. I hope he and his fellow Cub fans understand that fate deals blows hard and soft, according to cosmic whims far beyond our ken, and that this constant rain of suffering is only alleviated by good luck and mercy.

Wednesday, October 15, 2003

THEY'RE ALL AGAINST US! "Not reviewing Coloring the News was, in my view, the journalistic equivalent to the 'blue wall of silence' that the Times often decries..."

...writes the author of Coloring the News.

Later on, a "friend who works at the New York Times" tells this author, quote, "We're gutless careerists. What can I say? The treatment your book got dramatizes the power that liberals have to dominate the discourse and to shut down--or try to shut down--dissidents or those who have alternative points of view."

Quite a mouthful. I would discourage Mr, Goldberg from applying his talents to the dramatic field until he learns to write dialogue that doesn't sound like a political version of the "I Am Muscular Dystrophy and I Hate People, Especially Little Children" monologue they used to do on the Jerry Lewis Telethons.

My own writings are also sadly neglected. I blame Bush.

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

WHEN BLOWHARDS ATTACK! I thought for sure this Thomas Hibbs thing would be the stupidest piece of written on the subject of Kill Bill:
Now, Tarantino is to be credited with forcing on his viewers a cognitive awareness of his film's liturgy of blood. The question is whether the surface irony is sufficient to justify the willing suspension of moral judgment, not moral judgments about the film's hypothetical causal effects on the behavior of already deranged adolescents but the indispensably moral element we bring to any work of art.

Makes Immanuel Kant sound like the Yellow Kid! But then this monstrosity emerged from the swamp, spewing hyperbole, and topped it:
Set aside what it says about contemporary Hollywood culture that the supposed liberal progressives of this city now ceaselessly mass-market presentations of butchering the helpless as a form of entertainment, even, as rewarding self-expression. Why do we suppose that, with Hollywood's violence-glorifying films now shown all around the world to billions of people... young terrorists around the globe now seem to view killing the innocent as a positive thing, even, a norm?

Me, I had already planned to give Kill Bill a miss, not because it causes terrorism, but because Tarantino sort of sucks.
YANKEES GO HOME. Jonah Goldberg has a long thing decrying the New York Times for backing a Sox-Cubs series. That the Good Grey Lady has money tied up in the Boston franchise does surprise me, but hey, that's capitalism, comrade. (Cut to Grady Little, wearing a Soviet uniform and leering: "The Yankees will buy us the horsehide with which Pedro Martinez will bean them!")

But Goldberg is mostly annoyed because the unexpected stance shows a lack of loyalty, which is "Cosmopolitan" -- not the good kind of Cosmopolitanism one sees in New York takeout menus, he explains, but the bad kind that makes you not care about nothin', and vote Democratic. Plus which, it's arrogant. "The Times is deciding what is best for the world," he says.

Two things. First of all, didn't Peggy Noonan tell us years ago that the "Democrats, God bless them, are Yankees"? Maybe the Times is just trying to show some editorial balance. First they hire David Brooks, now they turn against the Democratic Yankees.

Second, I think there's a simpler explanation. There are many New Yorkers who don't care for the Yankees. Some of us are Mets fans who, in our suffering, do not appreciate -- are in fact damned annoyed by -- the giant-foam-finger triumphalism of the Bombers. Frankly, any pretext for a Yankee pratfall would be okay by us, but how much better if it leads to a Series between two venerable clubs who have waited long decades for this moment?

I mean, Mike Bloomberg is in New York, too, and I don't particularly like him.
CREDIT WHERE CREDIT IS DUE. I must thank Tim Graham for directing my attention to a hilarious Jimmy Breslin column, in which a junkie freshly released from Rikers seeks to replace Rush Limbaugh on WABC. (Of course, Graham does not approve of the column, but he does show us where it is, and that's good enough for me. Thanks, pal!)

Among Breslin's comments: "Until I found out Limbaugh was an addict on Hillbilly Heroin, which means you can call him a junkie, I couldn't understand how he could keep repeating the same lies day after day. Suddenly, we find that it wasn't Rush the right-wing radical talking. This was just a junkie's babble..."

Now, we're not supposed to laugh at poor Limbaugh. All kinds of former red-meat conservatives who bared their fangs when, say, Jesse Jackson was brought low have rallied 'round Rush, bemoaning his harsh treatment by the SCLM. "His enemies in the mainstream media have greeted his statement with nothing short of outright glee," blubbers John Podhoretz, who then, with astonishing chutzpah, lectures Rush's enemies on tolerance: "Present-day conservatives have our own brand of tolerance and compassion -- and we think they run deeper and are far less condescending than the liberal variety," he ungrammatically but passionately argues. "[Limbaugh] reserved his compassion for those whose tragic life experiences have been formed by the culture of welfare dependency... liberal racists who believe minorities cannot possibly succeed in America without special privileges and special help." (Indeed. Who can forget such vintage Rush bootstrap-philosophical perorations as "Take the bone out of your nose and call me back"?)

Taking pleasure in the fall of moral blowhards has been a lively pastime since before the days of Moliere. It was once even enjoyed by conservatives. And I imagine they'll get back to it after this little, um, interval.

Sunday, October 12, 2003

I AM A CLICHE. "Roy Edroso is a really truly New York snarkster of the old school which I also like in a person." This assessment by Sisyphus Shrugged is depressingly accurate, especially when I'm drinking, even among the sunny lefty bloggers who gathered in New York on Friday to exponentiate their lofty thoughts. They were all very smart, sociable people, and I was struck by their similarity in this regard to the conservative bloggers I met at Sasha Castel's New York do last November. Of course, conservatives tend to dress up a little more and to order more expensive entrees. And they're wrong. But these are not crucial distinctions. It might be fun to see them all at a party together. Well, I'm not about to organize that, having been the linch-pin of too many debacles already, but maybe someone else has got sufficient mischief in his soul, and connections, to make it happen.
BUSH (AND BUTT) LIES. Another playful little entry at Instapundit about that fabled "Bush hatred":
UPDATE: Jim Treacher demolishes another alleged example of the same phenomenon, in this case an article blaming George Bush for low-hanging pants on women... Note to fashion writers: If you want to see Bush cement his hold on the male vote, just keep "blaming" him for skimpy women's fashions.

Idle curiosity led me to the link to Jim Treacher, whose money quote from the Slate thumbsucker in question is "Our economy is bad; we're entrenched in an occupation abroad; we mistrust our government at home." That article also mentions Chinese foot-binding, meralgia paresthetica, and Natural Born Killers.

All very silly and a typical example of overdetermined culture-watching and the need to fill pages at regular intervals. But who takes this stuff seriously? I sure don't, and I'm willing to believe nearly anything bad about Bush. I doubt even the author gave it much thought. (I hope not, for her sake.)

Treacher, though, goes ballistic: "It's George W. Bush's fault, just like everything else! WMD = Wow, Mamalicious Dimples! I mean, check it out, his name is BUSH. That's why chicks want to walk around with their BUSH sticking out. Get it?"

All told, Treacher's direct mentions of Bush (and bush) outnumber Slate's, five to zero. IP is reacting to Treacher, so by the time this bagatelle gets the major-blogger spotlight, it's perceived as another bleat of Bush hatred from the wimpified masses of liberal sheeple.

The blogosphere increasingly resembles the old gossip game "Telephone." I lament my own part in it, but I can't seem to stop myself either. Maybe it's time, in the words of the late lamented Donald O'Connor, to start suffering and write that symphony. Or, alternately, to stop suffering and write that symphony. Or anything else.

Friday, October 10, 2003

NEGRO PROBLEM. At NRO's The Corner this morning, Jonah Goldberg addresses a black person. Is this a first? Here is some of JG's response to a TAPPED post by Melanie Alston-Akers (the subject is a Hillsdale College ad about which no sane person gives a shit):
I'm sure it's possible that other blacks of different political persuasions, including conservatives, would draw the same conclusion as her about the ad. I am also sure that many blacks would not (I know this because I heard from some). I do not think those blacks are any less authentically black.

If you haven't read Alston-Akers' original post, you might assume from Goldberg's bit about the "authentically black" that she had accused Af-Ams who disagreed with her of Tomming or Oreohood. If you have read it, you know that she made no such claim -- unless you are of the sort who believes he knows the Angry Negro script backwards, and so just substitutes bits of it for the actual words of the darker person speaking.

What is it with this guy and black people?

Thursday, October 09, 2003

THE POLITICIZATION OF EVERYTHING. George F. Will is pissed. "California's recall," he correctly notes, "[was] a riot of millionaires masquerading as a 'revolt of the people.'" (Quick, NROers! Send someone to The Corner to accuse Will of making class war!) Plenty more vinegar further down: "Schwarzenegger conservatives -- now, there is an oxymoron for these times..." "voters full of self-pity and indignation," etc.

I don't much like Will, but I have to admire his stay, as they used to call it. He's one of the few conservatives who does not undergo a sudden philosophical transformation whenever he thinks of Rainier Wolfcastle. He believes today what he believed last month, and so is appalled to see many former scourges of Clinton and preachers of governmental responsibility sucking up to a tit-grabbing power freak who has so far resisted any explanation of his gubernatorial action plan (unless you count waving that broom).

This is just another symptom of the growing politicization of everything. The sane response to the election would be, from Democrats, "too bad we lost," and from Republicans, "too good we won." But victory and loss are too binary for the electoral tea-leaf-readers, who have grown so numerous as to necessitate the creation of endless niche ideologies to accomodate their careers: would you like a gay post-Reagan English conservative, or a deranged Jewish former Black Panther? Or would Madame care to see something in a bullshit liberal?

So the recall is crushed and sifted and some conservatives decide it points the way to their future. Tireless GOP cheerleader Deborah Orin speaks in the New York Post of a "Terminator wing of the Republican Party " that will succeed by aping the examples of Wolfcastle and Giuliani. So, I guess if Bush gets in trouble next year, he can just feel up Condi Rice and divorce his wife for a quick electoral boost.

Most of the time I'm disgusted by what these people believe in, but increasingly I find that I am disgusted at nothing.

Wednesday, October 08, 2003

MORE BULLSHIT about how Tom Brokaw et alia are fighting for Saddam from General Ralph Peters. A sample:
Far too many journalists refuse to acknowledge the truth about their role in this age of endless news cycles and global access to reportage. Even when reporters don't make up the news, they make the news by selecting what they report.

Stop the presses -- Stories Revealed to Have "Angles"! Nuttier still is the notion of a "role" for the press, which Peters later expands with "the media must face up to the responsibility that goes with their influence." Dig below the permafrost of the General's hauteur and you'll see a fairly old-fashioned view of those who express views contrary to that of the state. Perhaps the General thinks the New York Times is run like Stars & Stripes. (Of course, not even George Patton could get Bill Mauldin kicked off S&S back in the day, so maybe the General has a different journalistic model in mind -- one that predates John Peter Zenger.)
BALLOT INITIATIVES FOR ME, BUT NOT FOR THEE. Few political boundaries can withstand star appeal. Already conservative backers of Governor Wolfcastle are making pre-emptive excuses for his upcoming term.

Mickey Kaus:
You want a tax increase if cutting the budget isn't enough to close the deficit? Schwarzenegger's the man for that too. As a nominal Republican, he is in a position to attract at least some Republican votes for a budget package that includes both taxes and cuts.

Quick, class -- what is the single issue that Wolfcastle ran on? Tax cuts! Very good! Well, in the immortal words of the Alleycats, nothing means nothing anymore.

More interesting is Kaus' suggestion that Wolfcastle move to "amend the state Constitution to get rid of the paralyzing requirement that two-thirds of the legislature approve any budget." If the two-thirds rule has any logic at all, it is that it makes it harder for larcenous political coalitions to hijack a budget. If Wolfcastle were to muscle this provision out of the state Constitution, it would not be for the benefit of the state's economy, but for the benefit of Two-Term Arnold.

A more breathtaking scam is proposed by David Frum. "Schwarzenegger won’t be able to change California," he deadpans, "unless he changes the way in which California is governed." Frum then proposes the death of Cali's easy ballot initiatives. "These constitutionally protected programs take priority over everything else the state does, including things that are less glamorous but more important... Schwarzenegger knows this well: after all, he entered politics with his own poll-tested budget proposal..." [emphasis mine].

If Arnold makes a terrible botch of things -- not an unimaginable event -- look for Frum to endorse an end to California's terribly unhelpful recall provisions.

Tuesday, October 07, 2003

MEME-ORIES LIGHT THE CORNER OF MY MIND. The golden days of the Fifth Column seemed to have passed. Things had been quiet along the traitor-baiting front, and conservatives had been content to portray liberals as, say, sex-fiends or as sissies, rather than as enemies of the state.

Now Bob Bartley comes running out of the woods hollering Hoo-ah! Let's do it again!:
...having won overwhelming public support, [Bush]now faces home-front guerrilla assaults as well.

The latter problem is the serious one. With press coverage starting to balance the good news and the bad, we're coming to understand that on the ground in Iraq the guerrillas are isolated. The Baathist remnants and Arab militants have nothing like the external sanctuary and superpower support that sustained the North Vietnamese and anti-Soviet Afghans. For the moment terrorists can still ambush Americans and assassinate pro-peace Iraqi leaders, but exhausting them is only a matter of time and patience.

Which of course is where the home-front guerrillas come in.

I think I may have heard a couple of other guys saying that liberals were giving aid and comfort to the enemy by saying mean things about Bush, but at the time I thought it was flashbacks. Can the eminence gris of Opinion Journal guide wingers back onto this particular warpath? I'll be watching with interest, and my passport handy.

Monday, October 06, 2003

NEO NUDNIKS. I must quickly fling some scorn on the New York Times Magazine's "Neo-70s" issue, which promotes the harebrained idea that because some 21-year-olds are wearing bro caps and bellbottoms, we are "doing" the 1970s again -- except without the sex, the drugs, the fun, or the talent.

Leading this badly misguided clue hunt is a stupefyingly bad essay by James Traub (registration required, dammit). This dweeb moved to New York the same year I did, but remembers the old days only as a series of muggings and murders, and says of our current, homogenized era, "If that was Yuppified, I'd take it" (in response to the only dissenting voice in his story, described only as "an aging hippie"). 70s New York, theorizes Traub, was Martin Scorcese; 90s New York is Neil LaBute. Yet still he defends that great lattefication! "The bourgeois bohemians, in David Brooks's pungent phrase," gushes Traub, "have turned areas that were no-go zones when I first came to New York into outposts of boutiquedom."

Then, after some obligatory Rudy-kissing ("New York got its swagger back: Giuliani rode high in the saddle..."), Traub begins to notice a problem -- businesses are leaving. (It would seem that, in the Traubian vision, all that is New York hinges on the migration patterns of banks and brokerage firms.) And without the big, big money, where will we get latte consumers? "The question," Traub says, in a sentence the hopefulness of which degenerates in an almost beautiful way, "really comes down to whether the city can not only attract but also keep all those bright, eager, ambitious people who flock here, despite the high taxes, the restrictive regulations, the sky-high real-estate prices, the poor schools, the deteriorating services."

I thank Traub for a good laugh there, but my gorge rises again at his suggestion (delivered quickly, as if the author had suddenly noticed the near-fulfillment of his word count) that our city's solution may be "more theater, more cafes, more bookshops." (Hey, kids, let's put on some Neil LaBute!) "Let the bankers leave for Stamford; we'll make do with the radio-car drivers, the bartenders and the graphic designers."

You fucking Yuppie dipshit. You and your asshole friends drove our rents through the roof -- now who can afford to open a theatre? And even if we had access to a theatre (or a dance studio, or a film collective, etc), how could we afford to do anything other than the most explicitly commercial work, the cost of living here being what it is? You made this nightmare for us, and now you're willing to wave it off and decree that a cultural renaissance is in order. Tell me, when you came here (maybe on the same train as me), did you begin immediately to brown-nose the Times' management? Then you probably have a nice financial package to insulate you against the worsening economic times. So you'll forgive the rest of us -- "the radio-car drivers, the bartenders and the graphic designers," not to mention the actors, writers, musicians, etc., for not sharing your sangfroid. I'll say this, though: if the murderers, junkies, squeegee men, et alia do come back, I'll kiss the motherfuckers if they manage to drive you and everyone like you out of my city.

GUN NUTTINESS. Instapundit suggests that an alleged drop in the American murder rate (I say "alleged" because his source is the Washington Times) shows that "liberalized handgun-carry laws" aren't a bad thing. An arguable point, but instead of developing it, the Ole Perfesser decides to gild his lily by gloating over an increase in gun crimes in Britain "despite a near-complete handgun ban."

I'll say this for the Second Amendment folks -- they aren't selfish: they want gun rights not only for themselves but for everyone, including those who don't want them at all.

If the idea here is to assert that the more guns you have, the less crime you have, I have to ask if the Perfesser has ever heard of a small community called New York City. Here we have experienced huge drops in the murder rate several years running. It may surprise the Perfesser to note that this was not achieved by handing out service revolvers to the citizenry. Quite the contrary:
The NYPD gun strategy uses felony arrests and summonses to target gun trafficking and gun-related crime in the city. NYPD pursues all perpetrators and accomplices in gun crimes cases and interrogates them about how their guns were acquired. In a proactive effort to get guns off the streets, the NYPD's Street Crime Units aggressively enforce all gun laws.

Also, "New York City has some of the most restrictive local licensing requirements for Federal firearm dealers in the country."

By the Perfesser's logic, we should be drowning in our own blood, and our few surviving citizens begging him and his hayseed brethren to throw us a cache of weapons to stop the violence.

I am willing to accept that, as a citizen of a great metropolis, I'm not always sensitive to the ways and means of folks living in the vast Central Suburbs. I just wish they'd show us the same consideration sometimes.

ADDENDUM. Somebody has responded to this bit with mild, Vermont-style demurrers on gun rights in general. I had imagined that my earlier essay on the subject was so widely known that it didn't need mentioning, but I see now that I was deluded. I'm pretty cool with the Second Amendment. I don't think gun laws are necessarily good or bad -- I think the good ones are good and the bad ones are bad. What's a good gun law? Roughly, one that doesn't interfere with your right to bear arms or the legitimate government function of keeping the commons safe (i.e., free of crime sprees and casual violence). I swear this Venn diagram shows a lot more overlap if you look at it from a disinterested POV.
MOVIE NIGHTS. I've been called a crank, and can't deny it, but I'm a crank like Dennis Hopper was an asshole in Out of the Blue. "You think I'm an asshole!" he roared as he poured his own beer over his head. "Alright! I'm an asshole!" Then he showed that he hadn't poured the entire beer over his head. "But," said Hopper, "I'm not a fucking asshole!"

I am not a fucking crank, and so enjoyed School of Rock this weekend. It has no characters to speak of, and nothing is at stake; all the plot complications are laughable, as are the Lessons in Life. (Fancy Jack Black telling anyone that rock isn't at least partly about sex and drugs.)

But the movie is a crisp bit of product with a great idea in the middle. Actually I think you have to have a bit of crank in you to fully appreciate it. (I'm not talking about meth, but I suppose that would help too if you could sit still long enough to watch the thing.) Because the idea that kids today need to be schooled in the art of rock is very cranky. It's epiphanic for greybeards such as myself when Black asks what the kids like and they uniformly cite unspeakably lame contemporary radio staples -- and Black cries, "What are they teaching you in this school?" and draws up a flow-chart of rock history. Robert Christgau couldn't have cranked it up better.

The movie panders L.A.M.F., but surprise, it's me and mine that are being pandered to. About time! So I raise my goblet of rock to it.

Also saw Lost in Translation, aka Antonioni for Dummies. Murray and Johansson are cute, but I wonder how the movie would have worked if everyone they loved or came in contact with hadn't been such morons.

Friday, October 03, 2003

JONAH GOLDBERG'S ANALYTIC METHOD REVEALED. "Surely, spending a billion dollars to turn around one criminal is too much, even if it would work. No one's proposing spending a billion dollars per prisoner, but the point remains the same. "
THE FOLLOWING STATEMENT NEEDS NO SNAPPY HEADLINE. "A White House official I spoke to was particularly pleased by the increased hiring of temporary workers, which he sees as a good sign about robust economic growth to come." -- Ramesh Ponnuru, NRO.
CAL GOP SCRAMBLES FOR COUNTERSCANDALS! Via the Right's most reliable apparatchik, this story about Carl Reiner (!) on Chris Matthews (!?) is headed down the media stream:
What Reiner said, with a kind of comfortable, humorous familiarity, was "Shfartze-negger"...

Reiner returned to a modified, less-offensive version of the pronounciation later in the conversation, but what remains recorded for all to hear is kind of ugly. The first half of "Shfartze-negger" is the Yiddish version of the N-word. The second, appended to the first half with humorous irony, was apparently intended to mean what it sounded like.

So, if I understand this correctly, the guy thinks Reiner called Schwarzenegger a nigger.

Sorry, try again.

Thursday, October 02, 2003

A CULTURAL DISADVANTAGE. Speaking on Rush Limbaugh's idiotic comments about the Philly QB, Jay Nordlinger makes this interesting statement:
I’m reminded of something that I’ve discovered in recent years. I work in Conservativeland, and I’m used to speaking freely. I’m used to not having to abide by a speech code or any other restriction of political correctness. And then sometimes I leave Conservativeland, and continue to speak freely--and sincerely--and then find that I startle people. They’re not used to hearing it.

Well, that's right, we're not. The Mother of All Dittoheads goes out in front of millions of sports fans and says -- freely, certainly; sincerely, who knows -- that McNab hasn't been "that good from the get-go. I think what we've had here is a little social concern in the NFL. I think the media has been very desirous that a black quarterback do well." And those of us who are not convinced that a pro-Negro conspiracy, aided and abetted by the liberal media, has foisted an unskilled quarterback on the unwilling Eagles, are startled.

Meanwhile another Limbaugh, David, tells the world that liberals are "waging an undeclared war on Christianity." The book's cover is graced by a lion, apparently comparing the plight of American Christians to that of the biblical Daniel. Piquant as I find the thought that Ted Kennedy, the ACLU, and a handful of others have got the Prince of Peace and his millions of adherents on the ropes, I cannot take it seriously for a second -- even after no less keen an observer than Ann Coulter has told me that Limbaugh's book "makes you cry for your country" and "wonder how much longer America can survive liberalism." In fact, I cry with laughter, and wonder how anyone, in a land bejewelled with churches, and led by a President who talks about Jesus all the time, could believe such hooey.

I am equally mystified by the invitation by Ned Flanders (aka Rod Dreher) of the Dallas Morning News (registration required) to weep for conservative journalists. In the "overwhelmingly secular" atmosphere of newsrooms, Flanders tells the huddled, shivering conservative scribes, "you will have to distinguish yourself by the strength of your writing and reporting." Not like those liberal journalists, who merely have to commit sacrileges for their paychecks. (Flanders, by the way, preceded his Dallas stint with plum gigs at the New York Post and the National Review, so I'd say he's wearing his persecution remarkably well.)

You'd think that after all the time I've spent in Conservativeland, merrily mining such profound observations as the abovementioned for this site, that their free-thinking ways have not rubbed off on me. Yet, when I see an underperforming black professional athlete, I don't assume he is employed merely as a token; I remain unconvinced that Christians are about to be holocausted by the Democratic Party; and I marvel that an industry dominated by Fox News can be called unwelcoming of right-wing reporters.

Must be a cultural thing.
MAGGIE, NOT A GIRL OF THE STREETS. Sometimes I wonder if my political writings are, like all my other writings, merely manifestations of a deep neurosis that might be better vitiated by therapy or antidepressant drugs. Then I read Maggie Gallagher and think, well, if they let this nutcake publish, surely there must be a place in the sun for me, too.

Gallagher is annoyed by boomers that don't act their age. You know, 50-year-olds with nose rings, grandparents who don't want to baby-sit, and the like. (That's really her point. This is how people get the impression that writing is easy!)

Well, some 50-year-olds look better with piercings than others -- I think Susan Sarandon with a nose ring would be cute, whereas some younger actresses, like Brooke Shields, would be an eyesore. But hey, no accounting for taste, and who the hell cares? Normally I might let Gallagher slide off into the bin of harmless crankage. But some of her deficiencies range beyond mere annoyance.

As previously noted here, Gallagher is a tireless agitator for social revanchism, who seeks to "defend marriage" by making divorce more difficult and gay marriage nearly impossible.

Outwardly her grumblings seem like the harmless, playful discharges of negative energy one gets from old people in folding chairs on many suburban lawns. Her whole rap on youthful behavior in unyouthful people is about decorum, not right and wrong, as even she admits ("this is not so much immoral as deeply depressing").

But you have to wonder why someone with her serious social agenda spends so much time criticizing behaviors that, however unseemly, hurt no one. One guess is, Gallagher seeks to shame her opponents into doubt, and thence to conversion. She perhaps figures that we libertine hordes are so simple-minded, having cut all our high-school and college classes in favor of weed and wild sex, that we can be easily teased into compliance -- that, shown as if by a mirror how awful nose rings look ornamenting our grizzled visages, we will retreat from all such youthful enthusiasms with such shock and revulsion that it will send us ass-over-tip into the land of beaming breeders, obscenity-free cable, and regnant heterosexuality in which Gallagher resides.

Or maybe she's just nuts. Yeah, let's go with that one.

Wednesday, October 01, 2003

DEFINING DEMOCRACY DOWN. A very strange post from Peter Robinson at NRO's The Corner. He admits he "goofed" on a political matter -- and that's weird in itself, because these guys will usually only cop to error on matters of much less significance.

But the rest is weirder. Robinson, it seems, originally thought McClintock had won last week's California gubernatorial candidates' debate. But, he now admits, that was because he had only heard it on the radio -- now he knows better, because people who saw it on TV have told him that Schwarzenegger looked "relaxed" and "in control."

He also said he was wrong about WIlliam Faulkner's "As I Lay Dying" being a better book than Stephen King's "It" -- he had originally read them both in page proofs, and had not then realized how much better the typography and cover design of the King book would be.

Kidding. Now, I am aware of the old Nixon-Kennedy anecdote -- the people who heard the debates on radio thought Nixon did better, but the TV watchers preferred Kennedy. This speaks to a long-lived but still rather childish idea that the thing "won" by Kennedy could be considered a debate in the old-fashioned sense, e.g. a contest of ideas and their articulation, when in fact that event, though rhetorically and intellectually still leagues ahead of our modern pifflefests, helped define debate down as a riskier sort of campaign stunt -- it might go badly, the other guy might interfere, but whatever happens you'll still get your talking points and image projections across to millions of likely voters.

You may think Bill Clinton looked better wandering around that Oprahless talk-show set than George Bush I in 1992, but that speaks to Clinton's campaign team's marketing skills, not the candidate's abilities as an advocate and public servant.

Still, Clinton did hire the team, and execute the strategy and that counts for something. And one could grant Robinson that point if he'd made it. But instead he gives us this:
Now, I still think very highly of McClintock. And every scrap of news I can glean from the Schwarzenegger camp confirms my suspicion that Arnold has exactly zero idea what he’ll do when he becomes governor of this great state next week. I remain convinced, in other words, that a candidate’s message counts. But a candidate’s temperament and personality count, too. As they watched the debate, voters seem to have been looking for someone with whom they’d feel comfortable, sensing, correctly, as far as I can tell, that the next governor will need both presence and good humor to deal with the mess he’ll find in Sacramento. By the time the debate ended, Californians had decided they like Arnold.

Despite my misgivings about the man’s program, I can’t say I blame them.

Two things here. First, who knows what Arnold's actual temperment and personality are? He's an actor, remember? In fact, all the other candidates on that stage are actors of a sort, too -- conceivably better than Schwarzenegger, at that.

Also, I agree that presence and good humor are appealing qualities. But if those are the trump criteria for a candidate -- and Robinson is strongly suggesting that they are -- then why not Senator Tim Robbins, or Congressman Johnny Depp?

Because it will come to that. The Republicans are at present better than the Democrats at fielding celebrity candidates -- I keep hearing that Dennis Miller will start riding the elephant soon. Eventually, the Dems will wise up and start running movie stars, too. Then I expect we'll hear less talk from Robinson about how, while ideas are important and all that, you can't blame citizens for choosing a telegenic cipher.

I only hope I can hang onto my righteous indignation when that happens, because as much fun as it would be to see Tom DeLay strain for spotlight as Congressperson Sarandon hogs the camera, it probably won't be so great for the Republic.