Friday, January 30, 2004

OSCAR ADVANCE POSTING. O helldamn, this has been a thick and thorny stint of posting lately, so let's talk Academy Awards. It's my plan to see a bunch more of the nominated achievements before February 29, but I will here give readings on those few I can intelligently judge:

Johnny Depp. After all his wonderful and sometimes strenuous prior performances, I think the voters finally named him because this one has a smidge extra of something he has always had (charm) and one thing he's never had (a Disney vehicle). His Jack Sparrow is, in long form, a somewhat sloppy performance -- its highs and lows come and go, and do not describe an arc; but then, neither does the film. Surely his languid incongruousness amid all those laudably stiff supporting performances helped him stand out. His long suit in this competition is his boldness of conception (think Jeremy Irons in Reversal of Fortune) -- his short suit, one nice fat scene that would encompass all the Oscarworthy qualities.

Bill Murray. A New York Post gossip columnist caught Chevy Chase besmirching Murray's underplaying of this role. Truth be told, it's a fair cop, but in this relentless becalmed film, that may be why people applaud him so. In his Oscar-ignored Rushmore breakthrough, Murray was also in perfect low pitch with his cinematic surroundings -- recall him saying, to Max asking whether he was alright, "Mmmm... I get a little lonely sometimes." That Rushmore was brilliant, whereas Lost in Translation is only a nice college try by a Hollywood nepot, matters only in timing: Otherwise we'd be talking about Paul Giamatti right now. Lost is a modish and tidy packaging of middle-age and coming-of-age crises that also affords Murray a reward for his serious late work in films like Rushmore, Hamlet, and The Royal Tannenbaums. I do think Murray is a little stiff here at times (his smile at the end of his last encounter with the girl is thoroughly unearned and unconvincing), but there are many, many times when he is sweetly fluid, and these linger in the memory.

Diane Keaton. Holy shit she's good. The acting-ability gap between Annie Hall and Reds, her next nomination, is on balance small; the gap between Reds and now is huge. Even in the rather dicey, low-comedy early innings of Something's Gotta Give, she is believeable and grounded, on the limited basis the film then offers; but as the love affair takes off, she is b&g in everything. When I saw her part from the Nicholson character by kissing him wildly and declaring, "This... this is heartbreak!" I thought: This, this is Duse, this is Nazimova! For she is not only believeable and grounded, but magnificent and wild, justified and ancient, at every part of the spectrum. And she retains all the best qualities of her earlier career: the unpredictability, the sense of humor, and the tendency to suddenly shatter.

The three best picture nominees I have seen were already here briefly judged, but there will be more viewing and judging, I promise, in days to come.

CONTRA YGLESIAS. A day or so ago READINblogger Jeremy Osner invited me to visit a Matt Yglesias thread based on some David Bernstein twaddle I'd previously stripped. "I'll look at the Yglesias fracas later," I said at the time; "I don't like to drink before sundown."

(Pause. What an incestuous mass of linkage! Can I even go on? Yes.)

Well, I just looked at that comment thread, and the original post, and Holy Jesus, I'm so glad I'm drunk.

No Child Left Behind? This country has never had national educational standards, and Bush suddenly tied federal funding to adherence to "standards" to which not even the kinder of that edumacational paradise called Texas could adhere without massive relocation of the goalposts.

All it does is create a market for free-market educrats who will offer their services in pursuit of these unattainable goals for a fee. This is privatization by the back door; if Chris Whittle can't make free-market public education viable, the new idea, it would seem, is to open a new market for "standards" hucksters.

Oh, and it's good for something else: defunding even decent public school systems, as the Ohio example demonstrates. Perhaps these stolen dollars will fund the President's recent budgetary largesse elsewhere.

Matt, I'm sorry, this is bullshit of the highest order. That some of the big bucket called the "budget" gets poured into the little bucket that's called "education" doesn't make it a good thing. I tutor on weekends, and I have seen what gets basic knowledge into kids' heads: hard fucking work. And as much individual attention as good teachers can give each student. Not national syllabi devised by bureaucrats and related to underhanded cost-cutting schemes.

As a longtime Charles Goodell Republican, I beseech you, Matt, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible you may be mistaken.

ALL THEY WILL CALL YOU WILL BE: EMPLOYEE. Three bits of posted matter together make an interesting point, though perhaps not one their individual authors intended.

At the American Enterprise Institute, Douglas A. Irwin declares "Outsourcing is Good for America."

Never mind that the tide of emigrating jobs is a large part of our current employment crisis, as the demand for labor does not necessarily involve American laborers, even in previously outsourcing-proof white-collar trades. Or that, in a telling bit of self-preservation, some Senators (including a few Republicans) are trying to head off the threat in their own little corner of the labor pool by placing a ban on offshore outsourcing of government jobs.

Irwin's executive summary tells us that this hemmorhage simply means "the world is changing." We shouldn't bother about why, or who has made it change. He admits that "the service sector, which traditionally has been insulated from international competition, is now ripe for outsourcing on a global scale," but asks us to take heart because this does not mean production is down. Your boss, or your former boss, is doing fine. Look at the manufacturing base, Irwin says; "manufacturing production has risen about 40 percent over the past decade... Of course, the share of the American workforce in manufacturing has fallen steadily over the postwar period because of vast increases in productivity, but this is a worldwide phenomenon."

In other words: it's the same shit all around, bro. Deal with it. Besides, costs will fall! "If a capable radiologist in India can read x-ray pictures at a quarter of the cost of doing so domestically," says Irwin, "important health care services can be delivered at lower cost to everyone, putting a brake on exploding medical costs."

Everyone who sees the cost of medical care going down anytime soon, raise your hands. No takers? Well, again, don't worry, because the New Way "includes such things as ensuring the portability of health and pension benefits in order to reduce the adverse impact of changing jobs, which must inevitably happen in an ever-changing economy." So when you're canned, your COBRA eligibility may be extended.

There's nothing here about getting the laid-off back to work. It's all about protecting companies from the crippling burden of outsourcing bans. Indeed, the worker doesn't enter into the equation; it's not for him or her that it was written. It's for those that run the decreasingly-employing firms, and their advocates on Wall Street, and in Washington.

Meanwhile over at the Seattle Times, Nobel economist Joseph Stiglitz sums it up more succinctly:
The general principle of trade is, everyone benefits. Now, there are many circumstances where that general principle doesn't work, particularly when you don't have free and fair trade rules.

Countries are not being given the choice of rules. You say you have to open your markets. If you don't, here will be the consequences. The consequences are so dire they open their markets.

At that point, goods start flowing in. The guys who are buying the goods see (a benefit) from subsidized American corn or milk. But the people who lose their jobs are worse off.

If society as a whole isn't able to create new jobs, what you've done is move people from low-productivity jobs to unemployment. And that's not good for growth. That's not what's supposed to happen.
Over at OpinionJournal, where the free (as in "totally unencumbered by the concerns of puny humans") market rules, Tunku Varadarajan belittles a humble illustrator who has refused to ornament an article with which he does not agree. This sends a supposedly soul-searching Varadarajan ("worried that I had perhaps behaved like a Neanderthal" -- and could that be him? With his tailored cuffs and fat paycheck, yet could it?) to walk among the other artists-for-hire -- a little touch of Tunku in the night! -- to ask, was the man reasonable?

While one draughtsman says he "kinda admired the guy, in a funny kind of way, for his political purity," they all agree with their employer that the refusenik "went too far." One even shines Tunku's buttons (or assuages his own pride) more than this, explaining that "People sometimes ask me if I'm an 'artist.' I tell them I'm an 'illustrator.' The difference defines your prickly encounter with the person who makes his living as an illustrator but somehow thinks of himself as an artist."

Satisfied, Tunku concludes that the artist in question "must 'either be very young, or very rich.'" He doesn't explain the quote marks -- something a grandee told him at a gala once, perhaps? -- but adds that the third option may be that the artist is just "very silly."

"Silly" is an instructive choice of word here, implying that the loss of a paying gig for a freelance illustrator, whose income is probably not so much, is without consequence. And for Varadarajan, I'm sure that's so.

Still, one marvels that Varadarajan, formerly a lecturer in law at Oxford University and a longtime Wall Street Journal editor, took the time to glean quotes from the lowly scribblers of his Art Department at all. Perhaps he understands that the plebes will need a different sort of convincing than that offered by Irwin at the AEI. And that sort of convincing traditionally involves some overt humiliation, some ritual reminder -- not just of the recalictrant, but of those who had once labored with him -- that it is only a silly one, a self-styled "artist," a self-marginalizing outcast, who would refuse the king's (or even Tunku's) shilling. For they are not artists (or craftsmen, or union men, or International Workers of the World, or any such lofty sort), but merely employees, and even that slight status, in a world that is changing, may be taken away from them.

Thursday, January 29, 2004

BUSH LIED. "I'M HEARTENED BY CONSERVATIVES... and how they are responding to the Bush NEA announcement. Jonah says that most of the e-mail he's getting-by something like a three-to-one margin-gives Bush a pass on this issue. This is a very important signal, because it shows a certain maturity of outlook on the part of conservatives: a dogged insistence on focusing on the Big Picture... Spending a few million bucks on the NEA is worth it if it reassures some people that Bush is not governing in a partisan spirit... But if Bush is willing to stand up to his own ideological supporters -- on what is relatively a trivial issue -- he can win points as a national uniter, the president of all the people. And that way he can get a resounding victory in November..." -- Mike Potemra, The Corner.

Remind yourself of this next time any of these guys talks about Democratic "flip-flops."
I KNOW HOW YA FEEL, ZIP. (January 15 comic -- if they're not showing it when you go, use the button to call it up.)

HE KNOWS WE ARE, BUT WHAT IS HE? David Bernstein at the Volokh site (I refuse to accept its chosen cognomen, "Conspiracy," as that usage reminds me of a bunch of corporate financial officers calling themselves a "crew") wonders, in light of the recent NEA funding, "why liberals are so hostile to George Bush":
Give him a phony Haavaad accent instead of phony Texas twang, a wonky college life, a less religious persona, and an attorney general other than John Ashcroft, and George Bush, in theory, would be a dream president for many liberals, judging by their ex ante policy preferences.
Haw haw. Stupid libruls! With their stupid Kennedys and their stupid edumacations and their stupid Satan!

One expects this sort of treatment from operatives like Bernstein, but few of them have the stones to follow it up immediately with something like this:
...cultural cues are more important than policy and ideology. W just represents lots of things that coastal liberals dislike, and they will continue to dislike him regardless of how he governs policy-wise. But I find it amusing when they dress up their cultural prejudices in rhetoric...
To haul out the Mallard Fillmore caricatures and attack liberal "cultural prejudices" almost simultaneously takes a certain kind of... let's say, lack of self-consciousness.

As to his further claims that Bush isn't an ultraconservative 'cause he spends lots of money, I could tell Bernstein that real liberals prefer that public moneys be spent on enforcement of environmental regulations and Head Start, for example, than on grants to religious maniacs, but there wouldn't be much point, what with Bernstein standing there with his fingers in his ears, singing "La-la-la, I can't hear you."

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

PBS REPUBLICANS. At OpinionJournal, Naomi Schaeffer reports on the State Department's CultureConnect program, which sends "cultural ambassadors" like Frank McCourt and some Sinatra interpreter of whom Ms. Schaeffer seems enamored to places like Iraq (and Venezuela!) for the old hearts-and-minds gig. "'It gives us a vehicle for people of good will to connect,' says Patricia S. Harrison, assistant secretary of state for educational and cultural affairs," blah blah blahs Schaeffer.

Of course, the venue being what it is, Schaeffer must have thought her chances of publication would improve if she stuck this in:
But there is another sense in which it is important to send artists like [opera singer Denyce] Graves and jazz musician Wynton Marsalis (another of the program's ambassadors) to Muslim countries. Though one hesitates to say there is anything reasonable in the impression that these young people have of America as the Great Satan, it is certainly true that the parts of American culture that get through to these countries are often crude, sexually explicit and lowbrow. Ms. Graves notes, "I see what's being imported in terms of American culture, and it's not a fair representation of who we are. I have cringed at what people think is American, but if you don't have a chance to visit, all you have is what's being said to you."
What she's talking about, of course, is the stuff most Americans really attend to: hip-hop, action movies, etc.

That's interesting. American pop culture is famously influential and profitable around the world. Foreigners willingly seek it out. Where they are prevented from experiencing it by mullahs, dictators, or poor TV transmission, they will even go underground to have it. Remember the black market rock concerts of the old Soviet Union?

These people aren't going to all that trouble for a PBS special. No, they want a big glassful of the same Moloko Plus we lucky Americans live on. Junk culture is what other people "think is American" because it is -- certainly more so than the grand opera Ms. Graves has been sent to "ambassador" to the underserved.

To get around this glaring anomaly, Schaeffer implies that the rowdy, bad stuff everyone listens to and watches is actually a elite invasion of culture, rather than the thing itself:
Indeed, one needn't go as far as Pakistan to find religious people who see American culture as a potentially destructive influence. Plenty of religious communities in the U.S. are disgusted with offensive rap lyrics or installation art like the elephant-dung painting of the Virgin Mary.
Yeah, that's what's sweeping the country, folks: Mobb Deep and Chris Ofili. Nice try, but it's what CultureConnect is selling that's the elitist alternative stuff, of the sort seen during Public Television fundraisers. Opera? Jazz? You see them selling out the Meadowlands? No, you see them in the boxed sets that come with the tote bag.

What makes this doubly weird is that, in and among the like-minded screeds against our goldurned culture that run tiresomely off the conservative conveyer belts, we have of late heard many gloats about "South Park Republicanism," an alleged conservative Great Awakening fueled by smutty, irreverant humor.

This may reflect a genuine divergence of opinion, but with this as with most discordant notes issuing from the Mighty Wurlitzer, I think it's more about having it both ways. For in the view of dedicated propagandists, what's the point of having a culture at all if you can't use it to stroke friends and flail enemies simultaneously?

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

GOING FOR THE GOLD. I'm a hopeless Oscar nerd. Even worse, I'm the kind of Oscar nerd who makes predictions -- really unsuccessful ones -- based mainly on historical precedents and voodoo. I've had to do it that way because, usually, I never see most of the movies up for awards.

But the latest nominations have come out and I find, to my shock, that I have already seen three of the five Best Picture Nominees, and three of the 10 nominated performances. I could conceivably catch a couple of films before February 29, and be able to discuss this superficial topic with some expertise. Then I shall be part of the great world!

For the record, Lost in Translation is Antonioni for Dummies, Master and Commander is beautiful but curiously inert, and Seabiscuit blows. More snap judgements to come!

A FIRST CLASS STRANGE-O. Once again, a mortal enemy of the Democratic Party (not to mention the democratic way of life) offers it collegial advice. She does so, predictably, by first asserting that her own Party is so interested in the health of the nation (which it has brought, unassisted, to near-ruin) that it must come pleading to the cursed Others that they not place a madman within polling distance of the Command in Chief:
Our No. 1 question used to be: Can we beat this guy easily? But now we feel the age of terrorism so profoundly challenges our country, and is so suggestive of future trauma and national pain, that our No. 1 question has become: Is he?.?.?. normal? Just normal. Is he stable and adult and experienced?
In this latest fever dream of the Wall Street Journal's resident mystic, Peggy "it was what it am and that's all that it am" Noonan, the specimen so lacking in normalcy, stability, adulthood and experience that it must not be exposed to the electoral light of day is... General Wesley Clark.

Her professed concern with America's well-being might be to the uninitated touching, but seasoned Noonan-watchers will know it for an affectation meant to bestow upon her own partisan scribblings an unearned loftiness.

She only recently visited similar slurs upon the erstwhile Democratic frontrunner Howard Dean ("Odd... immature... ungrounded..."); it's only a matter of time before she brings such like, with the same maudlin air of a duty painfully performed, against whatever other contestant seems to have a chance against her beloved Leader.

For now, Clark is her target, and she brings to his demolition all the sharp tools of her tenure as the Riefenstahl of Reaganism. "A first class strange-o," she proclaims Clark, "void of purpose beyond meeting the candidate's hunger."

On what grounds are these damning indictments delivered? These:
  • Clark was dismissive of John Kerry before Noonan had her chance;
  • Clark bragged of leading the U.N. mission against Kosovo (a defeat of totalitarianism in which Noonan's beloved Leader can claim no part);
  • Clark changed his mind about the war (watch for this in her coming jihad against Kerry);
  • Clark was mean to Brit Hume;
  • Clark was nice to Michael Moore;
  • Clark favors abortion rights (Jesus wept!);
  • Camille Paglia doesn't like him.
Noonan spends many column inches on this last bit, which is hilarious, considering that Paglia has explained her "Italian pagan Catholicism" thusly: "I'm pro-prostitution -- I mean really pro, not just pro-prostitute and against prostitution. I'm pro-abortion, pro-homosexuality, pro-drag queens, pro-legalization of drugs" -- whereas Noonan's non-Italian, non-pagan Catholicism is explained mostly by her lies about Pope John Paul's endorsement of the new Mel Gibson movie.

It has been demonstrable for some time that this miserable harpy is nuts -- the question remains, why does a major outlet like the WSJ continue to avail her ravings? Perhaps the question answers itself.

Monday, January 26, 2004

SHORTER TACITUS. Goddamned Rockefeller Republican George W. Bush! I join the Coalition of the Wistful in pretending to consider other alternatives.

(I know Shorters are the job of BusyBusyBusy but, frankly, I'm too busybusybusy myself right now to do anything else...)

SHORTER STANLEY KURTZ: Someone spoke disparagingly about marital benefits in the New York Times, heretofore a bastion of traditional values, and this proves that homos are causing the End of Marriage and turning the United States into Scandinavia.

(The marriage mystics' whole line of argument baffles me. When it comes to Iraq, immigration, education policy, etc., I can at least understand the other side's logic, but Kurtz et alia seem to be engaged in magical thinking. The Times article is standard-issue water-roiling on an issue it has zero chance of influencing. If marriage rates are dropping in Scandinavia, so what -- haven't conservatives been arguing for some time that Europe is dying or dead already? Is gay marriage really what destroys civilizations? Somebody tell Gibbon. Really, what am I missing here?)

Saturday, January 24, 2004

ADD SOME MUSIC TO YOUR DAY. Via Alterman we learn that the Beach Boys' Smile is finally coming out:
The final straw was the sudden appearance at the top of the charts by another far-reaching concept album: Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, by arch-rivals the Beatles. [Brian] Wilson put the Smile tapes on the shelf, went home, got into bed and closed the door.

And for decades, while some of his Smile songs were rejigged for subsequent Beach Boys albums or slipped out on bootlegs or the internet, he refused even to mention the project. Until last October, when he went back to the album and finished it.
This is giddy news. Smiley Smile, a disjointed assemblage of Smile fragments, has been part of the soundtrack of my life for years now. I accepted the rumor that Wilson, fucked up on chemicals, burned the original tapes in a paranoid episode.

Now we get to hear the whole thing. The chances that it will totally suck are slim. And about how much can you say that anymore?

Friday, January 23, 2004

THE BUSH-MANSON CONNECTION. Conservatives everywhere are outraged that Wesley Clark did not renounce Michael Moore's endorsement in last night's debate. "Didn't have the decency, the wits, or the guts," says Jonah Goldberg. "Clueless," says Tim Graham. "Stumbled badly," says Rush Limbaugh.

A couple of eventheliberals have taken the cue as well: "May have joined Howard Dean in the penalty box," says Eleanor Clift; "evasive... barely a person," says Roger L. Simon. But the anger is more palpable among rightists like Byron York, who spent several paragraphs telling the tale of Clark's perfidy to National Review readers, who are most easily enraged by any reference to the "radical leftist filmmaker" (three words that, individually, can rattle the teacups of any NR reader, and which used collectively send them screaming to their Robert Welch books and Reagan ephemera for comfort).

What I want to know is, when will someone call out George W. Bush for his endorsement by Marilyn Manson in 2000?
...Manson -- who says he loathes Gore and Sen. Joseph Lieberman -- tells Tucker [Carlson] that "If I had to pick, I'd pick Bush, and not necessarily by default."
A Bush campaign spokesman did deflect the endorsement -- but Bush himself craftily remained silent on the issue. And the Manson endorsement may have won him crucial support in Florida! What was his margin, 720-odd votes? At least that many people bought "Holy Wood"!

Bush's silence is even more disturbing when you consider that he was seen -- as President --at a White House Correspondents' Dinner joshing around with Ozzy Osbourne, an even more Satanic (and far more marketable) rocker. Do you not see the pattern?

Does the Family Research Council know about this? Why hasn't Peggy Noonan written about it? The culture warriors of the Right may have been bought off, but alicublog will not let this weasley (or should we say "Wesley") behavior pass.

Write to Peter Jennings, Brit Hume, and all media outlets and demand that Bush renounce Manson and Osbourne and all their works. Then ask him why he didn't do it sooner. Then ask him about his sweater.

Then, in a spirit of fairness, we can start grilling the General about Madonna.

OLD MEDIA REALLY BEATS THE SHIT OUT OF NEW MEDIA, especially in this case. (Via Sisyphus Shrugged.)

MAN TURNS HIS BACK ON HIS FAMILY, WELL HE JUST AIN'T NO GOOD. I've noticed before that some conservatives like to talk about their "liberal friends" as if they're all incoherent dumbasses, and I wondered how these guys keep getting invited to liberal dinner/cocktail/swinger parties.

Now I'm thinking, maybe they have to be invited -- because they're family:
My cousin, whom I'll call "Bob," just included me in a group e-mail that implied President Bush was anti-Semitic...

I was incensed, and my first reaction was to press "Delete" and erase the offending message. After doing so, I reflected a bit more and decided that my silence might imply that I agreed, so I went to an earlier mass e-mail from Bob and pressed "Reply to All." My trigger finger has now caused a family furor.
I'll bet. The author, one Alan Bromley, gets an angry note from his cousin about the mass reply, which prompts him to round up other witnesses to justify his actions, including a lawyer (!) and friends of his 17-year-old daughter, who say they "respond to the entire group all the time" (as one would expect 17-year-olds to do).

Finally Bromley tells his cousin to "Keep family and politics separate" -- at the end of an article published online at OpinionJournal.

This is why my attitude toward conservatives is slightly different from those of my colleagues. I don't mind in the least their views -- in fact, I quite enjoy them. I just don't like them personally.

BEHIND YOU ALL THE WAY. November 3, 2004 -- Hours after suffering the worst drubbing in American electoral history, Democratic Presidential candidate Joe Lieberman took conciliatory phone calls from moderate supporters Michael Totten, Roger L. Simon, and Andrew Sullivan.

"I swear that, right up till the end, I was ready to be convinced," said Totten. "I was heartened when you stood with the President on the Iraq, Iran, Syria, Nigeria, and Falkland Islands invasions. But last week, when you told the nation that our invasion of the Philippines was 'perhaps overreaching,' that proved to me that you didn't really 'get' the war on terror."

"Tough break, kid," said Simon. "Great scenario, but a lousy third act. You just don't have the looks for a wartime-president role. Bogie could pull off that lip-tightening thing -- you can't. But when Bush pulled out Saddam's decapitated head and sucked out the eyes, that was box-office gold. I was pullin' for you, kid. I didn't vote for you, but I was pullin'."

"I lied," said Sullivan. "I never intended to vote for anyone except Bush. Wait, is this being recorded? What a shocking invasion of my priv-acy."

Thursday, January 22, 2004

NOT SO FUNNY. Tacitus tells mildly amusing tales about white people being taken for African-American or Hispanic. It reminded me of this less amusing tale of African-Americans being taken for something else:
Nearly one out of three African Americans report that they have been unfairly stopped, searched and physically abused or threatened by the police, according to findings from a new University of Michigan study....

...Asked if they had ever been unfairly stopped, searched, questioned, physically threatened or abused by the police, 28.2 percent of African Americans, 27.5 percent of Afro-Caribbeans and 17 percent of whites said they had...

Compared to a nationally representative sample of Black Americans [social psychologist James S.] Jackson and colleagues first surveyed in 1980, African Americans today were far less likely to say they thought most white people wanted to see Blacks get a better break (14.4 percent today compared to 22.6 percent in 1980).
Just for a little perspective.

THE DEVIL IS A WOMAN. I have refrained from comment on The Passion because I haven't seen it yet. (This was standard procedure for intelligent people before Arlene Croce broke tradition.) Still, I think this sounds awfully funny:
But among elements likely to attract attention when the film reaches wider audiences is Gibson's decision to have Satan personified by a pale, human figure that appears periodically. The Satan figure appears alongside Jewish authorities but not by Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor of Judea, who actually sentences Jesus to death.
Forbes neglects to mention that the human figure is played by a female, Rosalindo Celentano.

You don't suppose Gibson's ever seen Simon of the Desert?

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

I once had a psychology professor who every morning would pick up the newspaper, and lament the actions of President George W. Bush. Politics is one of the most controversial subjects of study, and this teacher was certainly not fostering “an environment of tolerance, civility, awareness, and respect,” as required by the faculty speech codes. Especially disconcerting was the fact that this was not a political class, and there was no forum to disagree with the professor...
Long story short, this kid had a psych prof who didn't like Bush, and said so, and didn't give the kid a chance to vent in class. And, instead of ratting the prof out, or muttering "fuck you, asshole" under his breath and moving on, the kid let this insult to his dignity fester and swell, and now he is a chapter leader of Students for Academic Freedom, which wants to give legislatures the right to regulate the political content of college curricula.

I had a poor sense of perspective in my youth, too, but this is ridiculous.

This young man's guru is David Horowitz, whose proposed Academic Bill of Rights would require schools to
...adopt a code of conduct for faculty that ensures that classrooms will welcome diverse viewpoints...

... because the violation of student and faculty rights has been so long-standing and systemic, we are appealing directly to the trustees and state-appointed governing bodies of these institutions as well.

We call on state legislatures in particular to begin these inquiries at the institutions they are responsible for and to enact practical remedies as soon as possible.
I can hardly wait to see some state legislature comprised -- as many are and as the current U.S. Congress certainly is -- of scamsters, rubes, crooks, and religious maniacs, sitting to judge how, or if, Bertolt Brecht should be taught in Drama class.

I take that back. I can wait.

THE ELLIPSOIDAL SOTU. Jim Lehrer (or Robert MacNeil -- I never knew which one it was who quit) guides us in gently, Brooks and Shields muttering collegially along,

Here come the Republicans! Powell and Rumsfield, both grinning like sumsabitches. Ashcroft, conversely, looks at everything as if it were a near occasion of sin. Spencer Abraham seems like a jolly old soul; I bet he's the only one that drinks. (MacLehrer mentions that one Cabinet Secretary has to stay away, but they don't say who. Curses, my plan has been foiled!) If you look up "saturnine" in an Elizabethan dictionary, they have a picture of Dick Cheney. Apparently Breyer's the only one from the Supremes here -- must be laundry night. Then Bush.

I watch this on PBS because on the other networks this part sounds like sheets of hail on a tin roof.

How does Kennedy keep his face so red? I though he'd dried out. Well, if I were him, I'd drink too.

"...a nation called to great responsibilities and we are rising to meet them." Despite the confident demeanor, a measured beginning.

The troops get the first call: "...bringing hope to the oppressed and justice to the violent, they are making America more secure..." But not just them -- all the uniforms: "Law enforcement personnel and intelligence personnel ... passenger lists... coasts and borders.. their vigilance is protecting America."

"...the American economy is growing stronger the tax relief you passed is working." No pause for breath there!

"...Congress.. take pride... skeptics had thought impossible... raising standards... public schools... perscription drug coverage under Medicare." DId the applause just dip?

"...we can go forward with confidence... or backwards... dangerous illusion... outlaws regimes no threat... turn back to old policies and old divisions... not come all this way through tragedy and trial and war only to falter and leave our work unfinished."

The speechwriters thought that Howard Dean would win in Iowa.

"...the American people are showing that the State of our Union is confident and strong." Well, someone has to.

" defense of the American People... September 11, 2001... tempting to believe that the danger is behind us. That hope is understandable, comforting and false... Bali, Jakata, Casablance... Jerusalem, Istanbul and Baghdad... By our will and courage this danger will be defeated." Take that, Dean! Or whomever.

" enforcement officials... Every tool they need... Patriot Act... beter share information... disrupt their cells... for years we have used similar porvisions... good for hunting criminals, they are even more important for hunting terrorists." The Patriot Act is what's great about America.

"...key provisions are set to expire next year..." Democrat Ironical Applause; the Chief shoves it back: "The terrorist threat will not expire on that schedule." Applause! Hooray for the unkillable Terrorist Threat!

"...our law enforcement officials..." That phrase again! "...You need to renew the Patriot Act... a mastermind of Spetember 11... awoke to find himself in custody... key player in the attack... two-thirds of their known leaders... remaining killers who hide... justice." Shot of the generals, soberly applauding.

"...Taliban... new constitution... businesses are opening... boys and girls of Afghanistan are back in school... building a nation that is free and proud... America is honored to be their friend." See, it's not just about killing bad guys; we've made new friends as well.

"...since we last met... combat forces... enforced the demand of the United Nations... the people of Iraq are free." Boo-yah! Stuff that "no WMD" bullshit! We won a fucking war!

"...we face a remnant of violent Saddam supporters... attack from the shadows... serious continuing danger... progress... found in a hole, and now sits in a prison sell." Where's Dad? No shot of Dad? "...of the top 55... captured or killed 45." Update your playing cards! "...our forces... on the offensive... average of 180 raids a week... thugs... as surely as we dealt with Saddam Hussein's evil regime." They can run but etc.

"...America is always willing to do what it takes... the whim of one brutal man... Iraqi Governing Council... Bill of Rights... United Nations... full Iraqi sovereignty... enemies of freedom will do all in their power... tring to shake the will of our country... will never be intimidated by thugs and assassins." In case y'all were thinking of, y'know, ever getting out.

"...Iraqi people will live in freedom... honored to welcome... the current President... sir, America stands with you..." Pachachi, bless him, looks like a former bouncer now running for alderman in Springfield, MA.

"...the world is changing for the better... leader of Libya... disclose and dismantle... weapons of mass destruction... correctly judged that his country would be better off... without weapons of mass murder." Intimidation works.

"...accomplished what 12 years of diplomacy did not... for diplomacy to be effective... no one can now doubt the word of America... insisting that North Korea... Iran meet its commitments... committed to keeping the world's most dangerous weapons out of the hands of the world's most dangerous regimes." And it will work everywhere else.

"...September 20, 2001... shield of a fallen officer... my complete commitment to securing our country... this pledge has been kept by me... you... cast the difficult votes... diplomats... skilled and tireless... military... hardest duty... midnight raids... lonely hours.. joy when they returned... sorrow... loss... honor of meeting... mess hall in Baghdad... America is proud of you... resources you need to fight and win the war on terror." The armed forces are Bush's most reliable punctuation mark. Even more so than "law enforcement."

"...some people question if America is in a war at all... law enforcement and indictments... some... sent to prison... matter was not settled... after the chaos and carnage of September 11... not enough to serve our enemies with legal papers." Now I see why "law enforcement" keeps coming up. This is the old Nixon law-and-order strategy writ large: a rebuke to the legal-aid types.

"...some in this chamber... did not support the liberation... principled motives... let us be candid... consequences of leaving Saddman Hussein in power... the Kay report... significant amounts of equipment... ad we failed to act... porgrams would continue... resolutions... empty threats... torture chambers... victims... killing fields... all who love freedom and peace... the world without Saddam Hussein's regime is a better and safer place."

I remember the litany of I-didn't-say-imminent horrors described by Bush last time out (here, and scroll to January 29) -- "One vial, one cannister, one crate... a day of horror like none we have ever known" -- and this is but a pale reprise; can this talisman have already lost its charm? Shot of Hillary robotically clapping -- in much the same manner with which she supported the invasion, no doubt.

"...some critics say... should be internationalized... hard to explain to our partners in Britain, Australia, Japan, South Korea, the Philippines, Thailand, Italy, Spain, Poland, Denmark..." Aw, you get it, don't you? But he goes on: "As we debate at home.. vital contributions of our international partners... we have gained much support... America will never seek a permission slip." Boo-yah, again.

"...we also hear doubts... democracy... freedom is rare... mistaken and condescending... God has planted... freedom... crushed by tyranny for decades, it will rise again." Those Democrats, forever trying to keep Iraqis on the liberal plantation.

"...forward strategy of freedom... confront the allies of terror... Voice of America... expanding their programming in Arabic and Persian... new televsion service... double the budget for the National Endowment for Democracy..." Doubling a National Endowment? This shit is serious! " labor unions in the Middle East... light the way for others... transform a troubled part of the world." Yeah, just wait'll the first strike and Right to Work laws.

"...nation with a mission... no desire to dominate, no ambitions of empire... peace founded upon the dignity of every man and woman... friends and allies.. our special calling... lead the cause of freedom." This is, as they say, the vision thing, and it would be wonderful to believe him.

"...last three years... fundamental strength of the American economy... corporate scandals... stimulate the economy... economy is strong and growing stronger." Here I believe the Congressmen were clapping much more loudly than the citizens.

"...doubled the child tax cedit... phased out the death tax... capital gains.. small businesses... lowered taxes for every Ameriican... put those dollars to work... driving this economy forward... third quarter... new home constructions... home ownership rates... manufacturing... interest rates... exports... jobs are on the rise." This, you see, is why we use the elliptical format -- it better renders the incantatory, magical nature of invocations such as this.

"...these numbers comfirm the American people are using their money far better than government would have and you were right to return it." Haw haw! Makes ya think of Reagan, don't it? When was the last time Bush made you think of him?

"...changing economy ... technology... more productive... workers need new skills... health care and biotechnology... good jobs.. reading and math... suppoosed to be learned in the early grades... for too long... skills never mastered. No Child Left Behind... 36 percent increase... standards... fundamentals... better options... excellence for every child in America." The 36 percent increase, BTW, refers to funding, not to results.

"...the status quo always has defenders... undermine.. weakening... common sense... we expect 3rd graders to read and do math at the 3rd grade level... help... nation will not go back to the days of shuffling children along... Act is opening the door to opportunity..." Goddamned teachers -- have to do something about them.

"...find work now... strong math and science... beyond the high-school level... 'Jobs for the 21st Century'..." At last, a new program with Capital Letters! "...expand advanced placement programs in low-income schoools... private sector... larger Pell Grants... increasing support for community colleges..." Was that Dem-clap again? " they can train workers... more and more Ameircans to join the growing prosperity of our country... pro-growth economic agenda."

"...the tax reductions you passed are set to expire..." Now comes the big, snarky Democrat volley of applause and cheers. "Unless you act, unless you act, unless you act..." Fuck you guys. "...the unfair tax on marriage... $300 more in federal taxes... small businesses... death tax will come back... Americans face a tax increase..." Was that a "boo"? "...for the sake of job growth, the tax cuts you passed should be permanent."

Like the old Reagan era battles. But with the deficits this guy has racked up, can they ever have the same frisson?

"Small business owners... needless federal regulations... junk and frivolous lawsuits..." Well, they thought Edwards might be the Vice-Presidential nominee, anyway. "...consumers and businesses need reliable supplies of energy... modernize our electricity systems... less dependent on foreign sources of energy." A President always has to say that -- none more so than ones named Bush.

" and fair trade... entrepreneurs, manufacturers, and farmers..." Boy, there's a WPA frieze, huh? " younger workers... saving part of their Social Security taxes in a personal retirement account." Why not louder cheers? Is this not the reddest of meat for red-meat Republicans? "Make the Social Security system a source of ownership for the Amercan people, and we should limit the burden... by acting of good stewards of taxpayer dollars." Sounds like a fight broke out in the Chamber. Where's the Sergeant-at-Arms?

"...budget.. funds the war... limits the growth of discretionary spending to less than 4 percent..." Huh? "...cuts wasteful spending... be wise with the people's money... cut the deficit in half over the next five years."

The clapping and not-clapping go on as before, but can any viewer take this seriously? No matter; here comes the bill of legislative particulars:

"...reform our immigration laws... benefit our economy... new temporary worker program..." The silence is deafening. "...willing employers.... good for our economy... honest and orderly... protect our homeland..." Oh, for Christ's sake! " enforcement... I oppose amnesty... unfairly reward those who break our laws... citizenship path... millions of hard working men and women out from the shadows of American life." No, they don't buy it either.

" care... a time of change... amazing medical technologies... challenge... rising cost of medical care and insurance... expand the beneifts... bipatisan effort... strengthening Medicare... prescription drug benefit... Seniors can choose... card... 10 to 25 percent off the retail price..." It's beginning to sound like a late-night infomercial. "...additional $600... Seniors will have new coverage... wellness exams... January 2006, perscriptions drug coverage... bills cut roughly in half... keep their Medicare just as it is, or choose a Medicare plan that suits them best, just as you, members of Congress, can choose an insurance plan that meets your needs." The line is time-tested, but gets only sporadic applause. And Red Ted sure ain't going for it.

"...any attempt to limit the choice of seniors... will meet my veto." Louder applause. They love it when he's tough!

"...private health coverage... rapidly rising health care costs... small businesses... lower insurance rates.. pass Association Health Plans." Association Health Plans? I'll have to consult my playbook of privitization ploys later.

"...lower-income Americans... buy their own basic... computerizing health records... protect the doctor-patient relationship... eliminate wasteful and frivolous medical lawsuits." They clearly like this anti-trial-lawyer thing. Is that why's Hillary's laughing so heartily?

"...catastrophic coverage... dedcut 100 percent from their taxes... government-run health care system is the wrong prescription... costs under control... private medicine makes America's health care the best in the world." Aw, shit, says the media-pool cameraman, I blew my Hillary shot in the last section!

"Great change... some things endure... courage.. reverence... respect... values... families and schools and religious congregations... unseen pillars of civilization... we will defend them..."

Here, of course, comes the nut-job nanny-state part of the program. (Yeah, I know health care is kinda nanny, but it's not nuts.)

"...drugs... confront this problem... law enforcement... drug use in high school has declined... new funding ... community-based strategies... additional $23 million for schools... We love you and we do not want to lose you." Soccer moms, this is for you, Republican-stylee.

"Good examples... athletics play such an important role in our society... use of performance-enhancing drugs like steroids... dangerous... wrong message... short-cuts... I call on team owners, union representatives, coaches and players to take the lead... get rid of steroids now." But not on the government's dime! The cheapest bit so far, in every sense. Hey, Tom Brady's in the house!

"...three million teenagers contracted sexually-transmitted diseases that can harm them or kill them or prevent them from ever becoming parents..." Did he say "contracted" or "attracted"? And wait, what STD prevents them from (shut up, he's on a roll!) "...inform parents... double federal funding for abstinence... the only certain way to avoid sexually-transmitted diseases..." No condoms for you! But tons of money.

"Children... parents, shcools,.. negative influence of the culture... value the insitituion of marriage... respect individuals... principles... passing the Defense of Marriage Act... signed by President Clinton..." Ouch, you had to get that in there, didn't you? "...protects marriage under federal law... judges, however, have begun redefining marriage..."

You know, one expects this from the guy, but it never ceases to make me especially sick.

"...people's voice must be heard... judges insist... arbitrary... only alternative... constitutional process... our nation must defend the sanctity of marriage." (Spin that, Sully!)

BTW: "Each individual has dignity and value in God's sight." Yeah, yeah.

"...also important... compassion of religious institutions... every creed... taking the hand of the lonely... contracts... just because they have a cross or a Star of David or a Crescent on the wall... milllions of dollars in grant money... codify this into law... people of faith will know that the law will never discrimiate against them again." He seems particularly passionate about this, or at least louder.

"...mentors to chidlren of prisoners... another group... 600,000 inmates will be released from prison... if they can't find work... 4-year, $300 million prisoner initiative... transitional housing... mentoring, including from faith-based groups." Chuck Colson, call your banker!

"...second chance... when the gates of prison open the path ahead should lead to a better life."

My cynicism abates a little here. That this ally of the powerful should take a moment (and $300 million) for the least powerful among us seems almost, well, Christian.

A good place to put this in a speech, if you're a truly cynical bastard.

"...tests we did not ask for... we have shown what kind of nation we are... courage... daring... victory... we sense that we live in a time set apart... character... calm in times of danger... toughness... partners in a great enterprise... a girl in Lincoln, Rhode Island..."

Oh, fuck, not a little schoolgirl with a letter! "A letter -- ' Dear George W. Bush... age 10... what I can do to save our country... to our troops, please put: Ashley Pearson believes in you.'" Awwwww ralf. "Ashley... your message has been conveyed. And yes, you have some duties... study hard in school, listen to your mom and dad... and when you see a man or woman in uniform.. say thank you... while you do your part, all of us in this great chamber will do our part..." Oh, Jeez. "We now move forward with confidence... strong and steadfast.. the cause of all mankind... momentum of fredom... not carried forward by our power alone... the unfolding of the years... His purposes are just and true..." And the God thing, etc.

You know, as loud as he got and as comfortably as he smirked, I don't think he really had a coherent speech here. There's too much going on, too much of it beyond the real power of his Administration and, without an imminent ('scuse the language!) invasion, nothing to pull it through the eye of the needle.

But what do I know? Shields and Yarnell or whatever their names are have already led the charge of spinners working madly to make hay or horseshit of it. Let 'em have it. I've done my bit.

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

SOME COMPLIMENT. Andrew Sullivan tells Paul Krugman: why can't you be like that nice David Brooks? Brooks, says Sullivan, "tries to look at the opposing party empathetically, attempting to understand what's going on, hoping for the best."

What is the nature of this "empathy" of which Sullivan speaks? A characterization of the "quintessential Democrat," imagined by the Brooks as "a 55-year-old teacher... a moderate, optimistic, progressive educator who wants to believe in politics again."

That's nice, but as Brooks develops the character of QD, we find she is rather a flawed vessel:
...she has been disappointed so many times... Bill Clinton offered to rekindle her hopes but squandered it all so needlessly...

Like one who has loved ardently but not well, she is now wary about committing to a politician. At first she liked Dean... but she's had second thoughts because Dean isn't the sort of kind and respectful student she wants in her classroom...

Most of all, she is cautious and flexible. She wants to be sure that This Is The Guy before she gives her heart away one more time....
QD sounds like a terrible simp, doesn't she? Played and betrayed, a doormat to all these awful men, now timorously venturing out in brogans, white shirt and stockings, and plaid flannel skirt for one last shot at love....

QD's a nice image for Democrats if you want to reenforce the "Mommy Party" caricature of weaklings who cannot be trusted with decision-making power.

QD's so pathetic I could even imagine a few bruises on her, caused by her husband, QR. He's a confident, energetic man, who likes to have a few drinks of a weekend and discuss foreign policy. But because he's such a passionate man, sometimes QR goes too far, and he loves QD just so goldurned much, it just drives him crazy and...

But there I go, being empathetic with the Republicans.

UPDATE. Badly-thought-out word gag deleted.

LIBERTARIAN PARADISE. Here's what happened at that online Sims game:
As it was, Alphaville quickly turned into a hellhole of scam-artists, crime syndicates, mafia extortion artists and teenage girls turning tricks to make ends meet. It became a breeding ground for the very worst in human nature -- a benign-sounding granny, for example, who specialised in taking new players into her confidence, then showered them in abuse. Then there was the scam-artist known as Evangeline, who started out equally friendly and then stole new players' money.
Ah, the genius of the marketplace.

GRAHAM, CRACKER. As noted below, conservative outlets downplayed MLK yesterday. But this morning I did finally pick up an overt reference in The Corner's Iowa coverage:
PBS is celebrating MLK Day with what must be the 37th MLK documentary on PBS -- "Citizen King," hyped today by and other lefties as providing that missing late MLK, the one that opposed Vietnam with all the ferocity of a Howard Dean.

Posted at 10:07 PM
Yes, while the good Americans at NRO were making fun of Democratic Presidential candidates, evildoers were indulging their dark obsession with this King fellow.

"Citizen King" was very good, by the way, and I would especially recommend it to people who are confused about, or willfully ignorant of, the great man's accomplishments.

THE RACE IS ON. It was Dean, Dean, Dean, Dean, and... well, you see what happened.

It's my opinion that Dennis Kucinich with a brain aneurysm, and maybe even Joe Lieberman, would be a better President than Bush, so I have to say I'm happy with tonight's result because it makes the race interesting. I certainly wouldn't count Dean out on the basis of a few thousand votes in Iowa. But now, suddenly, an electorate that had been hearing about nothing but how "angry" Howard Dean is has been reminded that there are a bunch of other guys running, too.

And considering the mushiness of Bush's support, that's probably going to be a positive type of attention. I liked Kerry's line about having an economy that works for the people rather than a people that works for the economy -- and I like even more that millions of Americans are going to read it in their paper tomorrow.

Also, the GOP hit squads will have to change course for a while, and this will drain their meager intellectual resources; from what I've seen so far, their Kerry slurs really need work.

None of the Democrats running is a perfect contender, but by summer one of them will be contending. That's a little more real now, and (in this instance anyway) reality is more appealing than fantasy.

Monday, January 19, 2004

FADE FROM BLACK. National Review Online has posted no Martin Luther King observance today. This is a switch. In recent years, NRO writers have celebrated the great man's birth by explaining how he was really a conservative, or wishing aloud that they could still call people of King's race colored. Idiotic as these observances were, they still acknowledged the occasion.

But this year, nothing's doing, unless this thing by Jay Nordlinger is meant as a tribute:
DEPT. OF "I WISH I HAD SAID THAT": "George W. Bush has several black Americans in high-ranking positions, but often they're not considered black, because they are, of course, Republican. So here's my thought: Michael Jackson could have saved himself a fortune on cosmetic surgery just by becoming a Republican -- then, in the eyes of the world, he would have stopped being black."
But then, Nordlinger is capable of this kind of shit the rest of the year too. So it would seem that NRO is passing the holiday in silence.

One would like to think it is embarrassed silence, an acknowledgement that they have nothing worthwhile to say about the subject. I fear it is probably a different sort of resignation that has quieted them: with affirmative action dug in for a few more years at least, the President factoring no black votes into his electorial plans, and the most regular and readable black contributor to NRO a cursed pro-gay libertarian, the NROniks have probably just given up on black folk entirely.

OpinionJournal doesn't mention MLK Day either. Last year, a few days before King's birthday, they posted an article about Republicans and race -- basically praising Bush for speaking against Trent Lott, saying it gave him "racial capital that's much too precious to squander," and warning that "white Americans cannot continue to deliver nationwide elections to Republicans."

Maybe they've changed their minds, too.

UPDATE. Pandagon has some good Right-on-King notes, too.

UPDATE II. Here's something to contemplate on MLK Day. Did you know people made postcards of lynchings? I sure didn't, and I grew up in a culture of victimization that discouraged the pulling up of one's own bootstraps, gave Toni Morrison the Nobel Prize, and continues to stigmatize frat boys who think the term "colored people" is a real scream.

UPDATE III. At NRO's The Corner, Denmother Lopez finally drops some MLK love, sort of: a statement, posted without comment, from the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. Money quote: "Racial progress is a train that left the station decades ago..." Spin connoisseurs will note the cliche denoting finality ("left the station") used to describe "progress," which is by its nature ongoing. Think one can't have it both ways? One can with the right speechwriters.

Saturday, January 17, 2004

THE WEDDING SINGER. You know, I really think they draw straws for gigs like this one: explaining the $1.5 billion for remedial marriage lessons our President has proposed. Rick Lowry got the short one this time, but he's a gamer and puts on a good show.

Welfare, as Lowry explains it, was "the greatest anti-child-poverty program in all of recorded history," but "During the past three decades, the consensus behind this wondrously effective social program has collapsed," leading to frogs, boils, locusts etc.

Previously, Lowry had spoken feelingly for the welfare reform enacted by Congress, calling it "the most spectacular public-policy success of the 1990s," and lobbying for its preservation because "a falling black-child poverty rate is worth preserving." But now he thinks that "without a renaissance in marriage there will be no true welfare reform."

One wonders why Republicans didn't call for marriage lessons back in 1996 instead of seemingly superfluous reform. Perhaps it was felt that single mothers had to be pushed off welfare rolls and into workplaces, and left for some years in that situation, before they would focus their minds on the advantages of marriage.

But they're still not going for it in numbers to suit Lowry. Can't see why not -- after all, says Lowry, "...fathers of children born out of wedlock make, on average, $17,000 a year," but "According to [the Heritage Foundation's Robert] Rector, if they were to marry the mothers of their children, 75 percent of the mothers would be lifted out of poverty. In roughly two-thirds of the cases, the mothers would be lifted out of poverty without even having to work themselves."

Despite this tremendous financial incentive, single mothers for some reason "consider [marriage] a near-utopian state," says Lowry, "to be achieved in some far-off future when they have made it into the middle class." And so they must be educated.

The President's plan appears to target couples, but as portrayed here it is really the ladies who need convincing. Perhaps a special class will be convened for single mothers. I would dearly love to see the reaction of women who daily juggle all the titanic responsibilities of working motherhood on subsistence wages to this sort of instruction. What would the instructor say when some of his subjects talk back, and tell him that they cannot afford sitters to mind their children while they use their few free hours to hunt down Mr. Right?

Lowry also works in a couple of slaps at " American social policy since the 1960s" and gay marriage. Maybe this is to show his colleagues that no matter how preposterous his assignment, he can still acquit himself with panache.

Thursday, January 15, 2004

DAWN OF THE DEAD. For all their alleged contemporaneity and stoopid-freshness, right-wing bloggers still have an old-fashioned paleocon attitude toward the Liberal Media. All that distinguishes them from, say, William Safire in his Agnew speechwriting period, is style (or lack thereof), and perhaps class (ditto).

Take Professor Glenn Reynolds, for example and please. He continually hammers the point, with a series of "Oh, that liberal media" posts-'n'-quotes, that the NY Times, WashPost, and a host of other malefactors seek to manufacture consensus among those benighted folks who do not yet receive all their news and opinions from the internet. One common schtick: comparing the Times to Pravda, heh indeed.

But one should not infer from this that Reynolds cannot himself assemble a pack-not-a-herd when someone violates the standards of blogbrotherhood.

The other day one Dennis Perrin said something bad about James Lileks. Of course, some of us do that all the time, but Perrin registered his objections via a print publication.

This spurred from the Professor an extra-long post, summoning several of his independent-thinking friends to pile on Perrin.

Reynolds and his guests don't deal with Perrin's ideas much (unless you think calling his article "lame and confused" is a rigorous line of enquiry), preferring to insult Perrin himself. The consensus is that Perrin does not "get" the blogosphere.(One contributor even suggests, with apparent seriousness, that Perrin has been forced to work in print media because he can't make it as a blogger.)

The usually clear John Scalzi says that Perrin errs in attacking Lileks for expressing "his personal opinion on his personal Web site on his personal time." I just can't find anything like this idea in Perrin's article, and was mystified by Scalzi's assertion till I read this further down his column:
Perrin seems to want to shout that Emperor James has no clothes. Problem is, he's shouting this momentous discovery in the middle of a nudist colony. We're quite aware James has no clothes and is spouting off from the top of his head, thanks. As are we all. If you don't like it, you are of course perfectly free to go away and leave us nudists alone.
Once we get past the grisly image of Reynolds, Andrew Sullivan, et alia, as nudists, it becomes clear that Perrin's offense was to judge Lileks' work by the standards of bad old Big Media -- clarity, reason, logical consistency, etc., as opposed to the "spouting" that distinguishes top blogs from underblogs in the Brave New World. Which is to say that nothing distinguishes them at all, except for preferential treatment by well-situated buddies.

"Looks like the Northern Alliance has been activated!" cries the Professor. Well, their thinking may not be clear, but it is certainly unidirectional. And with an army of zombies one can accomplish much.
MONEY QUOTE FROM CRAZY JESUS LADY'S LATEST BLATHER: "I am a conservative and do not hope for a Democratic victory, but I do hope for a Democratic fight..."

The rest of the blood issuing from Noonan's stigmata pools into this:
  • The Democratic candidates who are likely to win are awful.
  • All the people who will not win the nomination are nice.
  • The awful boomer press is nicer now than when they supported that awful Clinton, they don't like that awful Dean.
  • The nice Gephardt supporters have mud on their nice boots.
  • Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death, amen.

It's enough to make one miss Father Coughlin.

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

CONQUEST. The ineffable John Derbyshire has an article up, positing Arabs as "The Irish of the World." As the Irish are to Britain, says he, so are the Arabs to everyone else. The staying power of the IRA and the intransigence of the fanatics who plot and move against America and its allies are objective correlatives.

Of course, there are a few bugs in the analogy, Derbyshire admits:
The West never ruled the Arabs in the way, or for the length of time, that Britain ruled Ireland. I cannot think of any Western leader who dealt with the Arabs as Oliver Cromwell dealt with the Irish. Nor did Ireland ever suffer the extreme misogynist neurosis that Lawrence Wright describes in Saudi Arabia [in his recent New Yorker essay]. Nor were her rulers and people ever corrupted by great wealth that required no effort on their part to generate it ? Ireland's economic problem was not wealth, but poverty.
So aside from the near-inversion of their economic and power relations, Anglo-Irish and World-Arabs is the same thing.

Oh, one other thing -- Derbyshire can see the rectification of the Anglo-Irish impasse: " will be the prosperity and sophistication of the modern Irish republic, her ancient and peculiar sense of nationhood dissolved by globalized economics, her religious intensity vitiated by the easy hedonism of Euro-culture, her aching sense of dwelling in the shadow of a richer, stronger power dispelled by the equalization of wealth and the shrinking of distances."

Small wonder he can see it: All this is not only possible but already visibly happening. Eire is free and engages profitably with the world and even with England; the Northern Ireland of today is nowhere near the battleground it was in, say, 1973. 350 years after Cromwell, a course correction is taking place.

The remedies that would redress the imbalance between each of the two pairs of worlds Derbyshire sees have been available in the European version for some time, and despite the many remaining impediments to success even Derbyshire, no Hibernophile, sees it going the right way.

As to the Arabs, well, we all see how that's been going. " is hard to see much sign of such improvements at present," Derbyshire says. "This is going to be a long, wearying fight."

What this implies, though Derbyshire doesn't speak of it, is that the stage of relations between us and not-us taking place in the Middle East is a lot further behind than the one between the Irish and the English.

To see how far back we are, entertain this message (per Gerard of Wales) from Roderic of Connaught (Rory O'Connor) to Dermot McMurrough of Leinster, whose dispute with Roderic over the High Kingship of Ireland led Dermot to invite, perhaps superfluously, the Norman invasion of Ireland:
Contrary to the conditions of our treaty of peace, you have invited a host of foreigners into this island, and yet, as long as you kept within the bounds of Leinster, we bore it patiently. But now, forasmuch as, regardless of your solemn oaths, and having no concern for the fate of the hostage you gave, you have broken the bounds agreed on, and insolently crossed the frontiers of your own territory; either restrain in future the irruptions of your foreign bands, or I will certainly have your son's head cut off, and send it to you.
This took place in the 12th Century. Today we have a corrupt and failing Saudi government desperately working its relations with the West while its brother nations come under the Coalition's wrecking balls, and mullahs and terrorists across the region brood and plot. Our killing of the Hussein boys is just a small foray into the Borgian blood-feast, the war on sons and brothers, there regnant.

Derbyshire's mention of the "easy hedonism of Euro-culture" sticks with me. American Conservatives still turn up their noses at this easy hedonism; Derbyshire himself was thrown into a snit over the recent micromarriage of Britney Spears. "...if a customary social institution is trashed and trivialized by irresponsible buffoons, we ought to exert more control over it -- to tighten access, not loosen it," he cried. That his tut-tutting from the porch is merely a quaint appurtance of our go-go culture, rather than occasion for a warrant from the Witchfinder General, seems to show how far we've come.

Yet in some corner of our planet -- a planet seemingly vast right now, its nations unfathomably disparate, despite the impression given by our President's recent call to conquer the galaxy (as if the conquest of our own little piece of it were a settled issue) -- time has not moved so quickly.

We can only be said to deal with the Arabs as the English dealt with the Irish if the struggle of mankind out of ignorance and into the light is much more retarded than is generally supposed. This is the aspect of our current foreign relations that is most disturbing --- so disturbing that it upsets such a settled mind as Derbyshire's. It's as if the Rennaisance were only a favorably settled local by-election. Now we scour the East with blood and thunder, and our troops hand out democracy like a Chick tract, and we wait for the message to take hold.

I wouldn't advise we hold our breath.

Anna, a 22-year-old graduate student in Manhattan, said she remembers clearly how she was introduced to one of New York's sauciest underground social scenes. It was via an instant message from a stranger who had seen her personals ad online at he wanted to know if Anna would be interested in going "with me and my hot tattooed girlfriend"...

To gain entry, Anna first had to send an erotic essay and a photo of herself... Anna made the cut, was given the party's location and a pass phrase -- "untie my corset" -- and on a chilly night last year donned fishnet stockings and high heels and headed out to her first sex party....

Porn fans might be drawn on, as the promise of hotness redeems even the worst prose. But since this story appears in the New York Times, the more judicious ones will be filled by a creeping dread that the promise will be hideously betrayed:
...a quarter of the women -- most in their 20's and early 30's -- were topless, save for dabs of body paint on their nipples, to comply with the city's public nudity laws. Downstairs in the midst of a crowd of around 200, half a dozen women were packed tightly together in a sort of group rub, undulating in time with the techno soundtrack. In a corner, a stunning young woman with blond hair preppily styled like Gwyneth Paltrow's...
Well, there goes my hard-on.
"It's not just, 'I'm going to go to this party with my boyfriend to have sex in front of other people,' " said Melinda Gallagher, 30, a former graduate student in human sexuality at New York University... "The philosophy is that women need their own space to explore sexuality. The women in the room direct whatever happens."
Well, there go my next three hard-ons.

Still, given some of the pathetic stories I've been hearing about sex-averse attitudes among our young folk, it is encouraging to hear that some kids, at least, are within hailing distance of getting laid.

The orgy does sound depressingly like a launch party for some energy drink, but that's probably the fault of the writer, who approaches his urban satyrs from the Marian-the-Librarian perspective used by Times lifestyle reporters since before "boo" became "grass." He even sinks so low as to solicit a dissent to the debauchery from "a clinical psychologist and sex therapist at Beth Israel Medical Center." The swingers, says the shrink, are "so overstimulated in this environment that they may not understand sexual intimacy in a more monogamous relationship." Well, who does?

So let us be optimistic. Maybe when the kids finally get fucking right, they can work on that shitty music they've been listening to.

MY BUDDY. "Republicans giving advice to Democrats these days are usually poorly-received."

Gee, why do you think that is?

"The persecution complex and bunker mentality of so many Dem activists is so acute that we're now witnessing instances in which Republican defenses of Howard Dean are being rejected as disingenuous."

We sent a thank-you card; didn't you get it?

"Which is fine, in a sense, in that it only marginalizes the other side and makes my 288-250 prediction look better all the time."

You want to beat us? I thought you were our friends.

"But it's not fine, in a larger sense, because it's bad for the country and civic discourse."

So we're not just hurting ourselves, we're hurting America. Boy, if I had a nickel for every time I heard that one!

Tacitus, your concern is touching, but let's just keep this relationship acrimonious, shall we?
my boys scholteacher red me that you was goin to give muny to peple who is havin bad marreges. espeshly if they has low incum & are not faggits. me & lucinda who is a gurl is haven bad marrage problems du to her bein a bitch LOL. but seriusly folks. my mind is not rite sincd i got layed off from the walmart on accont of it closd & move to beaufort county. sumtimes i go off on her & the kids & 2 or 3 times they call the cops & lucinda say take the baby away sumplacd safe. i think me & lucinda need yr help bad & could you put us up for the interpernsinnal relashunship clas and maybe sum samwiches & a cuple beer if you cn do it LOL. it dont have to be $1.5 bilion i will take anything LOL. Good Luck to You Sir the peple are with you & gratful you doin so much to help marrege cause we hav not had much help with marrege since the preahcer went to prisin.

yurs truly
roy edroso
brooklyn, ny
ps if you hav turkee left over i wud like sum too

Tuesday, January 13, 2004

FINISH THE JOB. PBS has just run a long documentary on Reconstruction. In my little Catholic parochial school many years ago, we were taught that Reconstruction was at best well-meant but overzealous, and at worst a criminal reign of terror over Southern whites. In some quarters this version of history is still taught, so it is bracing to see the means of Reconstruction's reversal, including the murder of blacks and of elected officials of both races, described in a public forum.

An especially interesting segment treats the slaughter of much of the Twitchell family in Louisiana's Red River Parish by allies of the Marston family. The Twitchell patriarch, Marshall, had headed the Freedman's Bureau in Red River, and the Marstons would not countenance his carpetbagger authority.

Interviewed on the program is a descendent of these Marstons, a lean, well-spoken fellow who speaks of his forebears' actions with obvious pride.

It is useful to note that a number of people continue to take up the Lost Cause. You can read some of these regarding the PBS doc here. Sample quote: "PBS is totally under the control of the liberal, leftist elite. They consider anything to be 'social progress' as long as it's something that destroys the fabric of traditional society, especialy that of the Confederacy."

Not Reconstructed enough, if you ask me.
HEY MOMMA EARTH, BETTER BRING ME BACK DOWN, I'VE TAKEN JUST AS MUCH AS I CAN. "Military victories in Iraq and Afghanistan have made America safer, and tax cuts have made us all richer," says Brendan Miniter, "so Mr. Bush didn't have to promise the moon to win in November. But now that he has, it's up to the Democrats to prove they're not lost in space."

This is the sort of thing a right-wing hack might get away with were jobs were plentiful and peace at hand, but when the economy is stuck like an SUV in quicksand and the terror alerts keep a-comin' despite the allegedly epochal Saddam capture ("Terror alert level lowered but nation must stay vigilant, Ridge says"), it seems rather strange.

Small wonder: OpinionJournal's resident Western-Civ scold seeks to portray Bush's space jam as a "shrewd political move."

How so? Because this plan "has allowed the president to seize the mantle of John F. Kennedy by embracing a visionary project." (Amazingly, Miniter is not the only one to make this comparison: "Both [Kennedy and Bush] were elected in a year ending in '0,'" notes Rand Simberg with interest, and adds, "(while this one hasn't yet been borne out for Mr. Bush, it's looking increasing likely) both led a realignment that made their party the national majority for years to come," suggesting, among other things, that Simberg believes he can see into the future as long as he appeases the gods by briefly switching, within magic parentheses, into a whole new tense.)

Such a bold, not to mention (if polls are any indication) groundless, assertion needs proof points, even in so forgiving a venue as OpinionJournal, so Miniter offers a f'rinstance -- the Bush plan has "potentially tremendous benefits for senior citizens":
Humans can lose more than a quarter of their bone mass just by spending a few months in space. And they often do not fully recover once they're back on Earth. It's similar to, although much faster than, the bone loss old people experience. Solving this problem could advance the quality of life for millions of Americans.
We start with bold dreams and Camelot, and end up with a medical study of the sort that recruits participants on the back page of the Village Voice, only with cool rockets and gizmos and a multi-billion-dollar price tag.

They ain't making vision like they used to.