Friday, July 30, 2004

YET ANOTHER REASON TO VOTE FOR KERRY. Via The Nation, spotted by eagle-eye Margaret:
The Democratic party platform that will be adopted this week includes one particularly significant change from the platforms adopted by the party conventions of 1992, 1996 and 2000. During the platform-writing process, the drafting committee quietly removed the section of the document that endorsed capital punishment. Thus, for the first time since the 1980s, Democrats will not be campaigning on a pro-death penalty program.
It appears Kerry, who doesn't "wear his faith on his sleeve," has more in common with Jesus than the famously born-again Bush. Don't worry, George, you can always trumpet your strong personal relationship with Hammurabi!

SHORTER DIANA WEST: My kinfolk don't hate fags proudly, as I do. Damned liberal media!

Thursday, July 29, 2004

THE BIG STIFF IN PRIME TIME. I don’t mean to be rude, but much as I want it to work (and it could very well work), I cannot suspend a morbid consciousness of the political purpose of John Kerry’s DNC honor guard tonight.

Max Cleland is a very old-fashioned sort of politician, never mind the wheelchair. He looks proud and wounded all at the same time, and his face glistens in the hard light, as every Southern politician’s has since the days of Henry Clay, and like the most successful of them Cleland seems to enjoy rather than tolerate it. "My body was broken and my faith was shattered…. Although I had lost a lot, I still had a lot left. I resolved to make something of my life." This guy makes me ashamed, as he is supposed to. And you can get a lot of uplift out of that kind of shame in a situation like this.

"No Surrender." That’s a good choice – like all the songs on Born in the U.S.A., tinged with enough despair and regret to make it easier to really take to heart than Bon Jovi.

OK, this’ll be long. Better settle in. But I expect he’ll rush; they all have.

"I’m John Kerry and I’m reporting for duty." Holy shit.

"…because we love our country… united in one purpose: to make America stronger at home and respected in the world. A great American novelist wrote, ‘You can’t go home again.’" Quick, conservatives – find Thomas Wolfe’s commie credentials!

"I was born in the West Wing." Good thing there’s a TV show. "Mother was the rock of our family…" Oh, here’s the personal touch Teresa didn’t put in. "Den mother when I was a Cub Scout… gave me her passion for the environment… march for full equality for all women…" Boy, she sounds like a handful.

"Father… first baseball mitt… Greatest Generation… in the State Department… " Another handful. "I rode my bike into Soviet East Berlin… he promptly grounded me." Ha ha. "Fear in the eyes of people who were not free." I see where this will get to. "I learned what it meant to be America at her best… determined to restore that pride to all that look to America." Do we see that in the Iraqi citizens’ eyes, or fear of the Abu Ghraib torturer? That’s a nut-cutter there, and explains all the toy drives at Instapundit.

"The great gift of service… a Junior, John Kennedy…" Got it. "We believed we could change to world, and you know what? We did… but tonight… we’re going to write the next great chapter… change the world, but only if we are true to our ideals and that starts by telling the truth to the American people… that is my first pledge to you… I will restore trust and credibility to the White House…" Craggy-face Kerry as the voice of youthful America.

"As a young prosecutor… balanced budget… 100,000 police on the streets of America… finally made peace in Vietnam." Nice, tight resume. "Commander-in-Chief who will never mislead us into war… a Secretary of Defense who will listen to the military, and an Attorney General who will uphold the Constitution of the United States." Yeah, not like those weirdos we have now.

"Here is our answer: there is nothing more pessimistic than saying that America can’t do better. We’re the optimists, we’re the can-do people… look at the 90s… we just need to believe in ourselves and we can do it again…" Oh, yeah, Clinton, don’t you miss him?

"I am proud that at my side…John Edwards… his life is the American dream…" Every little boy can grow up to be a rich lawyer. Well, it’s true! "Succeed Dick Cheney…" Oh, sorry I was mean to JE. "What can I say about Teresa?" You’ll be asked to, of course. I loved her dipping her head to JE’s shoulder. Maybe by her very weirdness she’s an asset. I don’t mind watching her do her loopy thing for four years.

"Our band of brothers… what we learned as soldiers… every day is extra." That’s ‘Nam talk, son. "We may be a little older… still know how to fight…" You gotta love it -- Uncommon Valor.

"September 11… strength that our firefighters… rescuers… Flight 93… flags were hanging from front porches… it was the worst day that we have ever seen, but it brought out the best in all of us… we were only Americans, and how we wish it had stayed that way…"

It’s all one, you see, the Zen of liberalism. Every facet of public life – fighting terrorism and health care and tax policy -- feeds into the other.

"There are those that criticize me for seeing complexities…" Okay, I’m complex, you got my vote! "Proclaiming ‘Mission Accompished’ certainly doesn’t make it so." Snap. "I will bring back that time-honored tradition: the United States of America never goes to war because it wants to, it only goes to war because it has to… I will wage this war with the lessons I learned in battle… On my first day of office… never be asked to fight a war without a plan to win the peace. I know what we have to do in Iraq… I defended this country as a young man and I will defend it as President." Who is this guy, George McClellan?

"I will never hesitate to respond… no veto over national security… add 40,000 military troops, not in Iraq…" At last, forward thinking. "And we will end the back door draft of the National Guard and Reservists." Hello, this really is news. What about the Coast Guard?

"Strength is more than tough words… I know the reach of our power… we need to make America a beacon… looked up to, not just feared… tell the terrorists… the future doesn’t belong to fear, it belongs to freedom." See citizen, Iraq.

"Right here on our shores… 9/11 commission… I will not evade or equivocate… 98% of our container ships… nuclear and chemical plants… not opening firehouses in Baghdad and shutting them down in the United States of America." His case on competence grounds.

"To those who would question the patriotism… wrapping themselves in the flag… what America is really about… when Americans stand up… that is not a challenge to patriotism, it is the heart and soul of patriotism. You see that flag up there? We call her Old Glory… I fought under that flag…" We know! "From the gun-turret…" We know! "Draped the casket…" We know!! "It belongs to all the American people!"

What are they going to remember? That John Kerry fought in Vietnam and no one better even hint he’s a traitor.

The crowd chants USA! USA! Kerry still wants to hurry through this. "My fellow citizens… Those who talk about family values should start valuing families… taking cops off the street so Enron can get another tax break… big drug companies… windfall profits… I will not privatize Social Security, I will not cut benefits… family, faith, hard work… that is the American Dream…" Kerry as Boston Irish politician, beating the same pulpit (not literally, of course) as a 19th-century Mick alderman pledging the workingman a better deal.

"Dave McKuen, a steelworker…" This is a good story – oh, it’s not a story? "Marianne Knowles, a woman with breast cancer…" Hey, this is a good – oh. "Deborah Kromins…" That’s – "25% of our children in Harlem… people sleeping in Lafayette Park… three million…" Well, that was a fast transition from the specific to the general. But narrative is a vanishing art.

"Middle class not being squeezed but doing better… new incentives… manufacturing… good-paying jobs… close the tax loopholes… reward companies that keep jobs in the good old U.S.A… never have to subsidize the loss of his own job… give the American worker a fair playing field, there’s no one in the world that he can’t compete against." Seamus O’Kerry will save your full dinner pail!

"We won’t raise taxes on the middle class, you’ve heard a lot of false charges… roll back the tax cuts on wealthier Americans… making over $200,000 a year…" Some gnome is now rushing to find a $200,000 a year family who can’t make ends meet under ee-vil Kerry.

"Stop being a nation content to spend $10,000 to send a young man to prison… Head Start, Smart Start… a real start…" The old playbook.

"Health care… 4 million people have lost their health care… your payments, your premiums… save families $1000 a year… under our health care plan… Medicare will negotiate lower drug prices… less expensive… a right for all Americans…" That’s the playbook again, and it sounds as good as ever. We will of course have to wait for the bill of particulars, emphasis on "bill."

"Independent of Mideast oil…" Another good page from the playbook. "…not the Saudi Royal family." Yeah, you know, those guys Bush is mobbed up with. Victor Davis Hanson will deliver another rant distancing The Movement from the Saudis, but no one on the hustings reads Victor Davis Fucking Hanson.

"Benjamin Franklin could never have said in his acceptance speech: go to" You mean we don’t have to listen to much more of this?

"Let me address these words directly to George W. Bush… let’s respect one another… never misuse for political purposes the most precious document in human history, the Constitution of the United States…" What can I say? When he’s right, he’s right.

"Big ideas, not small-minded attacks… divide group from group… maybe some just see us divided into those red states and blue states, but I see us united in one America, Red, White, and Blue… America is not ‘us’ and ‘them’… I don’t wear my religion on my sleeve, but faith has given me hope… Abraham Lincoln… I want to pray humbly that we are on God’s side." Good, he stopped talking for a few seconds, at just the right time and in just the right way.

"They’re American values… if we believe in them, we can build… so much promise stretches before us… " Kitty Hawk. NASA. Microsoft. "WE did that… and now it’s our time to ask, ‘What if?’" Alzheimers, AIDS, stem cells. "A President who believes in science…" A choice, not a idjit. "Do what adults should do…" Oh yeah.

"Patrolling the Mekong…" We kn-- – oh, forget it. "Literally all in the same boat… that is the kind of America… all in the same boat…. Look to the next horizon.. our best days are still to come… Good night, God Bless You and God Bless The United States of America."

Cue "Beautiful Day." I hear a lot smack about the music here, but this is just perfect.

As oratory it was rushed, monochromatic, and lackluster. But. This guy is alright, and he’s running against Bush. Well, you know what I think. What do you think?

UPDATE. From The Corner: "Um, Mr. Kerry, 'that flag,' that 'Old Glory,' that 'Stars and Stripes Forever,' flew upside down on the cover of your book 'The New Soldier.' So why don't you explain that?"

Translation: they're scared shitless.

UPDATE II. Some of my comrades seem to think I've been too hard on the Big Stiff. Let me be clear. I think Kerry should do well based on tonight's performance, but I insist in judging it by Olympian standards. Why? Because, as the man said, there is nothing more pessimistic than saying that America can’t do better.

Don't worry that there is a chorus of idiots spinning the speech down. (I see Lileks, at the lunar end of one of his frequent mood swings, believes a Kerry Presidency will lead to "a smoking crater in New York." Count on it, Prairie Putz; New Yorkers will vote big for that smoking crater!) They're all in the blogosphere, which, as far as Mr. and Mrs. America know, is one long, contiguous series of mothers' basements where stained-shirted Comic Book Guys lurk and play at politics. Which means that they may have well have the wisdom to elect the right guy.

SHORTER JOHN PODHORETZ. John Edwards's expression of concern for ordinary Americans is an obvious rip-off of George W. Bush.

(There's also a lot in there about how the candidate made a lot of promises in hopes of being elected. I don't know why they didn't run this baby on page one.)

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

INCLUDING "AND" AND "THE." So far the Dems have kept their Convention pretty clean and un-mean. Fortunately for the rightwing "reporters" on the case, very few people are actually watching, so they can just plain make shit up.

The New York Post, for example, decries "the Democrats' timeless tactic of trying to split Americans by wealth and income, urging everyone to hate 'the rich.'" And I decry -- oh, who am I kidding? I am tickled by -- the Post's timeless tactic of using a quasi-quotation to imply linkage between a slur and its target. "The rich," which I heard in none of the speeches last night, could in a pinch be nailed to anyone on the Convention floor (perhaps a Michigan alternate saying "I love the rich taste of Folger's crystals" within earshot of a Post hack); having established that, the Post just adds "hate" and gets itself a perfect picture of a Socialist Worker rally brimming with bushy-bearded bohos and spherical black bombs.

Of course, why stop at tarring the Convention? Club for Growth President Stephen Moore paints a nightmarish portrait of Boston itself:
The panoramic shots of the convention give the impression that there's no one here in Beantown but middle-class, flag-waving, child-hugging bus drivers and construction workers and soccer moms and grandmothers...

Don't be fooled by the spinmeisters. These people are not middle America. When you go into the bakeries, you can actually purchase wedding cakes with two brides on the top. A baker tells me even straight couples are purchasing these ultra-chic wedding cakes, as a sign of solidarity. The best-selling t-shirt shows George Washington standing aside George W. Bush. Under Washington the caption reads: "Could not tell a lie." Under Bush the caption: "Could not tell the truth." Every third car has a bumper sticker screaming: "RE-DEFEAT BUSH IN 2004."
Boston -- Sodom on the Charles! Later, Moore adds, "two antiwar protesters with 'Make Love, Not War' shirts (I'm not making this up) strutted in front of my taxi and shouted expletives, daring us to run them over." I love the "I'm not making this up." He should have repeated it after every sentence. Maybe a few people would have believed him.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

OH, BTW: The other speakers tonight were fine. Gephardt: nice fella, no President, but bless him for running with the 90s-Congressional-Democrat football, even if only to his own 40-yard-line. Daschle: A little yapping dog, but our yapping dog. Obama: Superb. A comer. Mrs. Heinz-Kerry: Reminds me of a late Ingrid Bergman character, faint and unmodulated of speech but strong, nay, steely of conviction. Not very personable, which I consider a plus in the First Lady department. Most others probably don't, but who cares what they would think if they were listening (and they aren't)? (David Brooks thinks she was "a little bit offensive" and wanted a more "personal" angle. God, why does this drip exist, let alone appear on television?)

If you prefer to read lies about all this, go here. At alicublog, we speak truth to -- well, to a couple of smart people. From our point of view, that's enough.

ORATORIO. In last night's Convention roundup, I neglected to mention Rev. Alston, the black preacher who delivered a tribute to his old swift boat skipper, John Kerry. Alston began his address in the punchy cadences of an old-fashioned Baptist preacher ("where we FOUGHT. and BLED toGETHER. Serving our COUNtry"). But like everyone else that night, he was rushing over the logical pauses in his speech, and soon the regularity of it became numbing.

Then the crowd started cheering the preacher's Kerry references, and Alston swelled up like a bullfrog and turned from shouting to roaring his address. His cadence didn't alter, but his fire was lit, and it changed the whole effect for the better. It was as if they were the bellows and he were a pipe-organ with all the stops pulled and the bass pedals pushed to the floor.

It is hard to feel the interplay of speaker and audience through the tube, because background sounds are so convoluted by the audio feed (which is why it is so easy to scramble obscene crowd chants in TV broadcasts of ballgames). It's not until the thing starts to pick up and the speaker himself catches fire that you realize he's going over.

Something like that happened to Ted Kennedy tonight. At first, short of breath, he was just Mayor Quimby grinding out the rhetorical sausage for a buncha librul Demmycrats in the Commiewealth of Taxachusetts. I almost stopped watching. I figured I'd get my kicks reading about it the next day in the New York Post ("TRAITOR TED SLAMS HERO OF 9/11").

But the temperature did rise, and so did the quality of the speech -- maybe because of the quality of the speech. The old ham actually had a few ideas (or someone did -- the Kennedys always had a good rolodex for speechwriters). The best of them were about American history, which he conflated, naturally, with Democratic history (New Deal, New Frontier, etc.) -- never more boldly or effectively than when he reached back to before the Democratic Party, or the United States, even existed, to remind us of the Declaration's "decent respect for the opinion of mankind," and to say this:
Now it is our turn to take up the cause. Our struggle is not with some monarch named George who inherited the crown -- although it often seems that way.

Our struggle is with the politics of fear and favoritism in our own time, in our own country. Our struggle, like so many others before, is with those who put their own narrow interest ahead of the public interest.

We hear echoes of past battles in the quiet whisper of the sweetheart deal, in the hushed promise of a better break for the better connected. We hear them in the cries of the false patriots who bully dissenters into silence and submission. These are familiar fights. We've fought and won them before. And with John Kerry and John Edwards leading us, we will win them again and make America stronger at home and respected once more in the world.
That's pretty good. Tactically, it challenges the Republicans to show how their ideas fit in with American history. Sure, tell us about Lincoln -- and get some black people within camera range so it looks less risible. Tell us about Teddy Roosevelt, if you dare risk the old warrior's coming out of his grave to mount a Bull Moose challenge to your feeble "compassionate conservatism," or to agree too fulsomely and embarrassingly with your notion of Manifest Destiny. Then tell us about Reagan, whose cartoon version of the Spirit of '76 replaced the flagbearer, the drummer, and the fife player with the entrepreneur, the evangelist, and the easy-terms loanshark.

Tactics don't matter in this instance, of course. I understand very few people are watching this thing on TV. Probably even fewer have any real feeling about the American Revolution and the remarkable ideas that ignited it. Still, as a connoisseur of the game, I appreciated seeing the round played so well.

Monday, July 26, 2004

CONVENTION, ROUND ONE. I can’t devote myself to viewing all of this large, clumsy entertainment, and so missed Jimmy Carter, which I suppose is no great loss (I’ve seen him speak before).

In general, Night One seemed a little rushed. I guess the managers figured those few viewers who stumbled upon the show on their way to the Playboy Channel should sense vigor, or at least velocity, coming from the Fleet Center Though that deprived me of the great, rolling oratorical swells of yore, I understand that the modern ear is not attuned to them.

Thus Al Gore zipped through his speech, but that seemed generous of him under the circumstances – he was there to help, not to grab attention, so only his occasional shift to a low, rumbling tone indicated his old-fashioned speechifying gifts. He seemed relaxed and comfortable, especially by his usual standards. He was always better with the jokes when he wasn’t running for President. I didn’t see the embittered lunatic they talk about in the blogosphere, but that funhouse mirror is rarely reliable.

The 9/11 tribute was simple and even a little elegant, though I was strongly aware of its purpose as a touchstone for what would come later (as it did, with the Clintons using Kerry’s military record as resume lines for a Terror-era President). Cynicism or stagecraft? Depends on where you stand as you look at it.

Hillary was Hillary, and this was a good opportunity to think about what that is. I can see why some people hate her. There is always something a little hectoring in her tone, reminiscent of a grade-school teacher announcing the conditions under which next week’s field trip will be allowed. Of course this is more offensive when she is tired and grim, as she often seems to be when doing the people’s business. In this political context, though, cheerful and energized and surrounded by people who love her, she just seemed strong-willed and charismatic.

You could tell Bill Clinton’s speech was good because David Brooks on PBS did his best to piss on it ("No poetry," said Brooks; try to imagine David Brooks reading poetry for anything but quotes.) Clinton was never very good on the saxophone, but he plays audiences like no one else around, and he had a great theme: the campaign was not going to be about "who’s a good man and who’s a bad man," but about "choices." He kept stressing that the Republicans sincerely believe what they profess to believe, and that citizens who felt the same way (after Clinton had shown them how disastrously wrong they were) should go ahead and do so. So though his energy was high and his pace brisk, he seemed like sweet reason itself.

Whether any of this will work is for greater minds than mine to puzzle out.

CALL ME CRAZY. If we don't like Bush, suggests Virginia Postrel, it's just because we're mentally unbalanced:
When I was in New York a few weeks ago, a friend in the magazine business told me he thinks the ferocious Bush hating that he sees in New York is a way of calming the haters' fears of terrorism. It's not rational, but it's psychologically plausible -- blame the cause you can control, at least indirectly through elections, rather than the threats you have no control over.
Actually, Madame Dynamist, we expect to address, electorally, the cause we can control of a whole host of national ills. Thankfully -- and as a libertarian I'm sure you can appreciate this -- the franchise extends even to those of us who irrationally choose to live in New York, rather than (shudder) Dallas.


The delegates, politicians, consultants and hangers-on all know that there's such a thing as a free lunch--and breakfast and cocktails and dinners and late-night parties. They all stop milling around hotel lobbies every few hours to partake of all the free eats. While other hotel guests are in the restaurants talking with friends, I am the only one ordering food. Sure, GOP delegates will also enjoy lots of freebies, but at least they'll go back to working in the private sector when the convention ends. When the Democrats aren't feeding their delegates, the taxpayers are.

Posted at 02:26 PM

Nice to see the "truth squad" out there digging! Coming up: high volume of toilet flushes in Boston prove Democrats shit on America!

REDSTATE: NEW, KID-FRIENDLY FORMULA. When Redstate started out it was pretty wonkish, mostly featuring brain-busters such as this one by Paul J. Cella:
Modern Liberalism is our orthodoxy... the terrible conundrum for many on the Right is that the new orthodoxy is repugnant to them -- opposed, in fact, to the nature of man, which it is their orthodoxy to hold up to men as true, irrevocable. So Conservatives, under this new orthodoxy, cannot be conservative; indeed, the day may dawn when they will be revolutionaries. Yet some will remain mere conservatives, and turn with loathing on what they see in their former comrades as a new threat to the established order which it is their business to defend...
And if Hawkman teamed up with The Atom, they could totally take The Spectre and The Green Arrow.

But now it seems Tacitus and the guys have been through the focus groups and the blue-sky sessions, and are dumbing it down. Today at Redstate we find a Free Republic-style "W is My Kinda Heterosexual" photo essay, the text of which ("Yes, George Bush likes women. He's surrounded himself with one of the finest, Condoleezza Rice... she is one of the President's MVPs -- and the media and the left can't forgive her for that. But not me. I like Condi -- I like Condi a lot") suggests Peggy Noonan without the hallucinogens.

There is also what appears to be the transcript of a closing argument by an underfunded high-school debate team:
In this fight, no man or woman can be neutral.

I want a leader who, when he hears the words, Nine Eleven, feels them in his gut.
Oh, brother. What was that old line about putting the grown-ups back in charge?

FIRST TIME AT THE BALLPARK, MR. CARNEY? Timothy P. Carney compares the Democrats to Red Sox fans and the Republicans to the Yankees team -- a crappy analogy which Carney says he doesn't want to "take too far" before pounding three feet into hard ground. He compares the Dems thus not because they, like the Bostonians, have learned wisdom from long endurance of unjust defeats, but because they are (new Republican buzzword!) haters. As the Bostonians "find it more natural to hate the Yankees than to love the Sox," he says, so the Democrats are more about hating Bush than about loving Kerry.

First of all, John Kerry is not the Boston Red Sox. At best, Kerry is Terry Francona. (The Yankees/Republican analogy is slightly more apt -- both entities are awash in money; both are run by boorish, half-mad Nixonian tyrants; and in both cases, they get their strongest support from people who know the least about the game.)

The Bostonians' hatred of the loathsome Yankees is well-known, and seconded by all right-thinking people. But how does seething at one's enemies mean that you don't love your team? Carney offers as evidence the chant of "YANKEES SUCK" with which they responded to Bill Mueller's game-winning homer on Saturday. Perhaps he thinks the hardscrabble sons of a hardscrabble city should have thrown confetti and yelled, "GEE WHIZ, WE SURE DO LOVE OUR GREAT GUYS THE RED SOX, AND WE MEAN THAT IN A NON-SEXUAL WAY!" or whatever they do in the Montana Farm League.

Things are a little quieter now but time was, whenever the Phillies played at Shea, security had to be stepped up to quell the inevitable, Amtrak-enabled fistfights in the stands. The "YANKEES SUCK" chant has been heard at Shea, too. I suppose Carney might say that Mets fans have been "driven to insanity" by the Yankees, though I would not suggest that he say that anywhere near Flushing Meadow.

Come to think of it, I have heard (and been party to, and with good reason) booing of the Mets at Shea. Maybe we hate ourselves!

And maybe Carney should leave the baseball analogies to Ron Shelton.

Sunday, July 25, 2004

ARTS ROUNDUP. A fellow named Daniel Fuchs wrote a book called Summer in Williamsburg back in the 30s. The novel, and its sequelae, didn't sell. Fuchs went on to write screenplays (including Love Me or Leave Me) and got rich.

Summer in Williamsburg isn't great, and suffers a good deal by comparison to that other New York Jewish proletarian novel of the time, Call It Sleep, but it's a fun read, especially (at least at first) if you live in Williamsburg. It touches on all the fashionable themes of its era -- the roiling misery and foolishness of the slums, race hatred, the weary arguments of capitalism and socialism, and some very specific intellectual pretensions of the day, to illumine which Fuchs uses a bohemian but untalented and neurotic young man named Cohen, and a girlfriend of the mensch protagonist who goes to ethnicified "modern dance" recitals and such like.

Fuchs apparently finds all this the bunk, which explains why he went on to write screenplays, and why the novel gets wearisome after a while. He even writes things like "High up, a million miles into the sky, God sits on a big cloud. He looks absent-mindedly about... now he peers down for a moment, His gaze rests on Williamsburg..." (This reminds me of a story Bennett Cerf used to tell about a cub reporter who found himself in Johnstown during the great Flood. He wired his lede to his editor -- "God sits looking down on a desolate Johnstown tonight..." -- and the editor wired back, "OK forget flood, interview God, rush pictures.")

But still it's nice to see old South 2nd Street and Merserole and the Bridge Plaza rendered, however romantically, in the days when penny candy really was a penny and people were called names like Natie the Buller.

Saw Night of the Iguana on TV. It's not first-rate Williams, but it sings in its own morbidly poetic way (his stories have a way of sucking you in once you stop gagging on the froth). And who can imagine a self-consciously lyrical text like this being made into a Hollywood A-picture, with stars the like of Richard Burton and Deborah Kerr, today? Camera tricks aside, it makes David Lynch look like Jerry Bruckheimer.

Saturday, July 24, 2004

TELLING DETAIL. It's a small thing, I know, but often the devil is in the details, in this case literally so:
MORE CRUSHING OF DISSENT! "Dems bar Nader from Convention."
"More crushing of dissent" is of course the Ole Perfesser's way of making a funny (often with the appendage "in Ashcroft's America") when someone identified with the Left cracks down on someone's speech.

Those not nuts will realize that Ralph Nader is running against John Kerry and has no Constitutional right to attend his opponent's private function.

The responsible thing would be to trawl through the Perfesser's old posts and see which other ones are total crap. But in the immortal words of Hemingway (speaking, I believe, of the work of James Jones, to which he had been accused of paying insufficient attention), I do not need to eat a bucket of shit to know that it is shit.

Friday, July 23, 2004

SHORTER WILLIAM BENNETT. How dare you Democrats campaign vigorously against a sitting Republican President! That's not the Democratic Party I abandoned.

(Also, Preacher Bennett seems not to realize that Germany and Japan were allies in the Second World War, which is how Pearl Harbor got us at war with Hitler; it was not, as the Preacher suggests, an early version of Bush's "As long as we're all pissed off, why not invade another country?" strategy.)

PROFESSIONAL COURTESY. Tbogg reproduces some long, long paragraphs of godawful crap by this frother. I tunneled through it, wondering if anything T could stick at the end would make it worth the struggle. And there it was:

Kind of makes you wish you couldn't read English, doesn't it?
And with one light, deft smack the lumbering prose of Mr. van der Leun goes into a ditch. That, ladies and gentlemen, is style.
GOP OMG. Throw ya guns in the air like you just don't care! The 2004 "Stand Up and Holla!" competition for GOP youfs is in full effect.

Finalist Reza say:
What’s your favorite NYC scene featured in a movie? King Kong: I’ve always wanted to hang off of the Empire State Building with a beautiful woman in my arms. Swing her upside-down, bro -- no abortion discussion necessary if you bust a nut in her mouth!

Finalist Adam say:
What is the best show ever to hit Broadway? The best show to ever hit Broadway is “A Raisin in the Sun.” It captures all that is good and bad about America and the power of the American dream. Step off, Adam! Don't you know all commie Langston-Hughes related joints is straight-up wack?

Finalist Prabel say:
“I voted for Prell to go back to the old glass bottle. Then I became deeply cynical” ... Homer Simpson encapsulates why presidents ranging from Kennedy to George W. Bush have called for more community service. Well, maybe Homer doesn't quite mirror the president's sentiments, but it's for Americans like Homer that community service is important... Mr. Goldberg votes for you to write his columns. They don't make sense, either!

Finalist Hans say:
What is the best show ever to hit Broadway? West Side Story. We don't be hatin', but you can't get married, yo.

Finalist Clarence say:
What's your favorite NYC scene featured in a movie?
The 1990s musical Newsies features a scene where a group of boys, angry at the way they were being treated, stand up to a newspaper giant in the streets of NYC. This scene shows that NYC represents the heart and soul of America -- a land where everyone has the opportunity to succeed because of the free society we have been blessed with. See Hans.

Finalist Nathan say:
What’s your favorite NYC scene featured in a movie? What comes to mind first is a childhood favorite, Home Alone 2: Lost in New York. I was about 8 years old when this movie came out and I remember thinking how cool it would be to live as Macaulay Culkin did in a suite at The Plaza Hotel, with an unlimited budget for room service. Damn, Nate -- you's a GOP-dawg fashizzle!

STOP THE PRESSES! OpinionJournal's Daniel Henninger doesn't like Fahrenheit 911. Among his complaints:
Even the Iraqi victims in Baghdad are props. A baby's corpse is lifted from a dumpster, bloodied limbs are shown, people wail--but in a succession of quick frames. Moore never spends any time with these people. They just, so to speak, blow by.
Not like the "liberal media" coverage of the war itself, where we got lots of up-close-and-personal interviews with bombed Iraqis. And:
Moore's on-camera characters are invariably lower middle class and inarticulate.
Henninger obviously wants a fiction film with sparkling urbanites discussing the art of love. Can someone give him the number for Moviefone?

Coming next week: how Citizen Kane unfairly maligns wealthy press magnates!

Thursday, July 22, 2004

REAL TERRORISTS. The Syrian 'hijackers' who freaked out Annie Jacobsen so badly turn out to have been, as they claimed, just a band flying not to Jihadi Paradise but to a gig:
On Monday, a Federal Air Marshal Service spokesman, Dave Adams, said that the suspicious characters on Flight 327 were musicians. The man in the yellow shirt was a drummer, he said. "We interviewed all 14 of these individuals," Adams said. "They were members of a Syrian band" traveling to a gig at a casino near Los Angeles, he said, adding that their names were run through "every possible" data bank and terrorist watch list. "They were scrubbed. Nothing came back."

Annie Jacobsen isn't convinced. I asked her about the inevitable charge that ethnic stereotyping was driving her narrative. "I am simply not a racist," she said. "I travel everywhere. This situation was entirely different. I have never been so terrified."
That's interesting: "Jacobsen isn't convinced." I understand her mistrustfulness; I feel the same way about her.

I CRY THEE MERCY THEN, FOR I HAD THOUGHT/THAT THOU HADST CALLED ME ALL THESE BITTER NAMES. Some time back, Meryl Streep told the press that to prepare for the evil political mom in The Manchurian Candidate, she watched tapes of Karen Hughes and our own Crazy Jesus Lady, Peggy Noonan.

Catching wind of this, rightwing operatives from the backwoods of Tennessee to the closets of Los Angeles to the lowliest Internet tide-pools came out to insist that Streep was playing Hillary Clinton. Some normally astute people got fooled as badly by this disinformation as did the usual retards.

When operatives were reminded in public forums of Streep's comments, they said Streep was actually wrong about herself, or just pretended not to hear.

The masterpiece of the mobilization is in today's column by Streep's study subject herself, Peggy Noonan, in which she claims "People think the evil woman Meryl Streep plays in 'The Manchurian Candidate' is Hillary because, well, they've seen Hillary make a speech."

This is pure evil genius, friends, right up there with Richard III's turnaround on Margaret ("'Tis done by me, and ends in 'Margaret'"). If I didn't hate the bastards so much, I'd give 'em a golf clap.

AND THEN MY MIND SPLIT OPEN. Usually, not much can shake Jonah Goldberg's "point out my threadbare logic and mommy will breathe fire on you" insouciance, but he's set a-frothin' by Barbara Ehrenreich's perfectly self-evident observation re abortion that "there may be an appalling number of women who are willing to deny others the right that they once freely exercised themselves." Says Goldberg:
This is monumentally dishonest and more than a bit daft. Where else does Ehrenreich enforce this standard? Should racists stay racist? White people used to have the right to shout the n-word in the faces of black people. Does Ehrenreich -- who I assume supports hate crimes laws -- denounce former racists who would "deny others the right that they once freely exercised themselves"? Does a sexual harasser need to oppose sexual harassment laws lest he be counted as appalling in Ehrenreich's eyes? Since OJ Simpson got away with two free murders, should he believe that everyone should?
There you have it, folks: women who have had abortions are like O.J. Simpson.

Well, these are the people who think Rick Santorum will be an ornament to the Republican Convention.

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

HARD SELL.Tony Fabrizio writes about a gap between "perception" and "reality." Those terms take me back -- as I suppose they're meant to -- to the old Rolling Stone ad campaign, targetting media buyers and meant to demonstrate that the boomers whom buyers might have written off as shiftless hippies were actually quite loaded with disposable income. (Perception was a crappy Volkswagen, Reality was a Mercedes, etc.) Fabrizio, though, has a difference dichotomy in mind:
At the national level unemployment is down to 5.6 percent from 6.3 percent one year ago. The economy is creating jobs at a steady rate and economists predict solid job creation through the end of this year...

But, despite the hard data on jobs creation, the voters aren't yet buying it. Therein lays the "gap" and the political challenge.
The signal difference between Fallon McElligott Rice's campaign and Fabrizio's is not that the former was trying to sell ad space and the latter is trying to sell Bush. It is that the Stone ads told their audience about a useful service they may have misperceived, whereas Fabrizio suggests that the voters have misperceived their own situation -- with the help of duplicitous Democrats:
The Kerry team, in contrast, is hoping it can keep as many voters as possible on board the Pessimism Express to the November elections. They can't attack the current job-growth numbers, but they clearly will try to muddy the waters by talking down the economy and talking up jobs lost since January 2001. And this makes the rhetoric over the economy a contest between job losses of the past and job growth of the future...
Put this way, it sounds as if Kerry et alia were engaged in negative advertising to wrench the buyer's loyalty from its current product of choice toward a new competitor. But negative advertising doesn't work if the consumer has no reason to be dissatisfied with the performance of his current choice. (Fabrizio should know: he worked for Bob Dole's attempt to unseat Clinton in '96.)

I think it's fair to assume that advertising would be different in general if you had to choose a deodorant every four years and stick with it. And it's just plain true that worries over employment and employability in any given community are a hell of a lot more crucial to voters than whether they'll be liking Speed Stick as much in '07 as they do in '04.

So hammering the dissonance between the national job numbers and what someone in, say, Columbus, Ohio thinks is happening to his local economy -- and himself, and his family -- doesn't necessarily mean that the Ohio native is wrong and should just trust the numbers or the experts patiently explaining them. The Economist may tell you that though job outsourcing means "individuals will be hurt in the process," still "jobs will be created that demand skills to handle the deeper incorporation of information technology, and the pay for these jobs will be high." But if you're a telemarketer with no hope of becoming a programmer or data analyst any time soon, and people are being fired all around you, you probably won't count yourself an unlettered dunce for worrying about it. And if the Wall Street Journal tells you that the Kerry campaign's claims of a decline in wages is "just the gap between wages and 'what they would have been given historical wage growth,'" your reaction to this news will be strongly affected by whether or not you see stores closing all around you, sick days cut, and prices and interest rates moving beyond your reach -- certainly more strongly than by WSJ's assurances that "the return of 'McJobs' rhetoric means that an [economic] expansion is in full swing."

Maybe we'll be rolling in dough by November, but telling people that prosperity is just around the corner isn't a winning strategy no matter how confidently you shake your slide rule as you say it.

THE KIDS AIN'T TOO BRIGHT. "'What is emerging,' writes [Kay] Hymowitz, 'is a vital, optimistic, family-centered, entrepreneurial, and, yes, morally thoughtful, citizenry.' That's trouble, I believe, for the Democratic party..." -- James Glassman. (Coming up next: improved Crest Whitening Strips spell doom for Kerry.)

This beautiful piece of reasoning is part an article talking about how right-wing wonderful the kids are getting to be. Philosophe de biscuit-baril Reynolds offers a qualified endorsement, calling the new teen craze a "pro-gay-marriage, libertarian kind of conservatism" -- which is to say, the sort of "Eagle" conservatism Andrew Sullivan thinks is going to sweep the country right after our current batch of living, breathing conservatives gets through herding gay people into concentration camps.

Their fodder is something called the Mood of American Youth Survey -- an annual report, the San Jose Mercury News tells us, put out by the Horatio Alger Association, at whose site you can read the thing.

75% of the high-school students polled "feel hopeful and optimistic about the future." 52% say they spend between one to five hours a week on homework. (I notice, though, there is no category for "less than one hour.") 90% of them feel that "feeling personally satisfied" is "very important to success."

The one explicitly political issue, the War, finds 58% in favor. Only 21% plan on joining the military, though. (Hey -- maybe they are Republicans.)

They all love Mom and Dad lots and lots, and 49% of them -- surprise! -- are looking at "technology" as a career.

100% of them own a television.

Why don't we just lower the voting age to 13? They're obviously qualified to lead.

Now, I can understand the conservatives' desire to claim the love of the Young. I too feel that desire, particularly when I see pictures like this. But I don't go around telling people that Scarlett Johannson is going to marry me.

There are other dissonances in the rightwing youthquake thing. Glassman and Reynolds are reacting to polling data on how the young people feel. I thought the primacy of feelings was a liberal racket -- you know, the cult of self-esteem and all that.

If the American conservative movement is supposed to be something greater than a bunch of drunk fratboys punching each other in the chest and surreptitiously trying to brush up against their female R.A. -- actually that's probably as high as they're aiming, but let's keep the debate elevated for a few more minutes anyway -- why are they so interested in the hormone-driven emotions of teens? Supposing the pollsters had also asked, "Which would be more tight -- an iPod that you could plug into your eyes and it would show movies, or one that shoots webs like Spider Man?" How might the skew on that affect the 2012 Iowa Caucuses?

A more useful foreshadow of the kids' beliefs might be what they think about things like the economy, foreign policy, white-collar crime, social-security reform, environmental policy -- you already see where this is going, don't you?

I hate to play the bitter old crank here (oh, who am I kidding, it's the role that made me famous) -- but really, who cares what young people think? According to a National Geographic Society poll, among even older kids (18-24) only 13% could locate Iraq on a map. To be fair, a whopping 30% could locate New Jersey. If the 2002 Zogby survey is right, and today's college seniors are about as well-educated as high-school seniors were 50 years ago, I shudder to think where this puts today's high-schoolers.

There's a reason for that. They're children. Do you remember high school? How smart were you? No, I don't mean "How many teachers said you were smart," or "How many of your classmate found you intellectually stimulating," I mean how genuinely intelligent were you at 16? Would the current you even want to talk to the 16-year-old you?

I think the cons are betting that the kids won't get any brighter and will make all their future voting decisions based on inchoate (and easily orchestrated) feelings of rage and nationalism. They may be right. 75% of the kids are hopeful and optimistic, and they all have their own TVs.

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

COMRADES! IS MAKING UNFUNNY THIS SIMPSONS FOR TREASON! PLEASE NOT TO LAUGH! "I was wondering, Jonah, what you would nominate as the worst episode ever. The question came to mind last night as I watched, for the second time, the one where the family is sent to a re-education camp for being unpatriotic. I've seen several episodes with politics I disliked, but never before one that was so unrelentingly unfunny. Any others come to mind?" -- NRO's Ramesh Ponnuru. Was it less funny the first or the second time, Comrade Ponnuru? Also, please tell us which Family Guy jokes are politically incorr-- I mean, counter-reaganrevolutionary.

It gets harder for normal people to be conservative. For years the cons have been under bizarre sexual prohibitions, and now they are obliged to find The Onion unfunny and witless propaganda like this amusing.

Maybe NRO's first spin-off should be an American version of Krokidil, so true believers needn't expose themselves to socially retrograde humor.

Monday, July 19, 2004

WILD IN THE STREETS. Boy. I just thought of it as good material for some weak gags, but some people really seem to believe that evil hippies will go apeshit during the Republican Convention. Writes Michele Catalano, in a piece that really needs to be read aloud over swelling choruses of The Battle Hymn of the Republic, "I've got better things to worry about then getting hit on the head with a brick meant for Starbucks... I'll be damned if I'm going to go out at the hands of some wannabe hippie who smashes my head instead of smashing the state. But if a chain of events should occur that has that scenario playing out, my last words will be, 1968. I told you so."

The ones she should really be watching out for are the Protest Warriors, right-wing kids who relentlessly seek confrontation and coverage by major media, who promise to send hundreds of their troops to counter-demonstrate during the Convention.

These kids seem nice, but wrapped a little tight. Here we see one of their number, documenting lovingly his own fight to keep a bunch of political flyers he put up in his school from being taken down. One admires his, and his colleagues', youthful brio and romantic isolation ("keep fighting the good fight, even if it isn't the popular thing to do. You might feel alone in your struggle, but you are not..."), if not their equally youthful obnoxiousness, sophistry ("'Rednecks?' A sign can't have the word 'Arab,' which isn't a racial slur, but she can say 'rednecks'?"), and homosexual panic. But I can't imagine they'll be very happy Warriors in Manhattan; stranded for days on an island teeming with wrong-thinking blue-state citizens who will not be so eager to play verbal patty-cake with them as the saps back at their high schools, they may get testy and paranoid. It will be very hot out in the streets, and if there's ever been a situation in which a would-be Debate Club President might lose his cool, this would be it.

None of which means I don't welcome them here. It'll be lively outside MSG, but as a longtime New Yorker I've seen my share of lively, and the cops know their jobs. So come on down, kids. Just remember to hydrate.

UPDATE. Reader Myca offers this account of a Protest Warrior counterdemo. Apparently part of their schtick is videotaping the people they're protesting, which makes me wonder if they're not getting adult supervision from PW Fanboy David Horowitz, who has been known to do surveillance of his enemies in the past.

DEFINING JOURNALISM DOWN. I really do wish I were conservative sometimes, not only because the resulting reduction in brain activity might ease these horrible, horrible headaches, but also because it would increase my chances of publishing stuff that I had written while drunk or half-asleep or both, as demonstrated by this National Review Online article: A right-wing professor goes to Taxachusetts, where he finds feminist professors deconstructing Nathaniel Hawthorne. They do not share his distaste for Hester Prynne's adultery, so he makes fun of them. ("Fun" is used here in the familiar colloquial sense, not to imply that there is any actual fun to be had from the professor's account.) He runs into some Japanese people who don't say anything feminist, so he doesn't make fun of them -- actually he doesn't do much of anything with them. Then he runs into a tour guide who tells him more about the architecture of the House of the Seven Gables than he wants to know, so he calls the guide "jejune," an academic term that translates roughly as "Target store clerk insufficiently bent to my will" in Lileksese.

Imagine going on little adventures like this, making only such observations as flatter the prejudices of one's publisher, cutting and pasting them into more-or-less chronological order, submitting them to an editor with a strong stomach, and collecting for this modest effort a paycheck! No wonder they're always so cheerful over there.

FUCK YOU, EH. There is more imbecilism in this OpinionJournal thing about an American and a Canadian town than I want to spend much time addressing. I will just point out that, in comparing the "faceless bureaucracy" town of Stewart unfavorably to the "politically incorrect" town of Hyder ("politically incorrect" being, in rightwing world, a term of approbation, unless you're talking about sex or something evil like that), the authors find it necessary (in anticipation of adversarial journalistic answer, no doubt) to say that both municipalities accept beaucoup government largesse, that "in an earlier year's self-staged July 4 fireworks display, [Hyder] had accidentally burned down their fire hall with the fire engine inside," and that "The people of Hyder and Stewart are not nearly so different as they make themselves [sic] seem. They're friends, they go back and forth frequently, and they do a lot of the same kinds of work. It's not so much that they are different as individuals as that they choose to be different as communities."

In other words, they live peaceably together, though some of the people like to hang loose and some of the people like to hang tight.

Nonetheless, the OJ article seeks to show that the wild 'n' crazy free-marketeers of Hyder (and, by association, the tough-talking authors of this piece of shit) are morally superior to low-key residents of Stewart, and (by means of quotes from cowboy movies) to fan up some heat between the two apparently harmonious communities.
Having some Canadian ancestry and experience myself, I would imagine the good citizens of Stewart will find some quiet, polite way to express disapproval of this un-asked for incendiarism -- perhaps a gastask full of sugar -- in the unlikely event these social scientists happen back that way.

MY UNRINGING ENDORSEMENT. I have read the Democratic Party Platform, and found it full of the bland generalities and meaningless catch-phrases that have made America great. Nonetheless I am impressed with some of the concrete proposals, such as:
More than a decade after the fall of the Berlin Wall, Russia still has nearly 20,000 nuclear weapons and enough nuclear material to produce 50,000 more. For most of these weapons and materials, cooperative security upgrades have not been completed. The world is relying on whatever measures Russia has taken on its own. At the current pace, it will take 13 years to secure potential bomb material in the former Soviet Union. We cannot wait that long. We will do it in four years.
Best of luck, President Kerry, especially after the Congress rushes for the exits when President Putin, in whose soulless, murderer’s eyes President Bush II found such deep reservoirs of fellow-feeling, turns out his pockets to dramatically indicate his complete inability to assist in this badly needed project.

But let us absent ourselves from pessimism awhile and consider some platform boilerplate that does indeed gladden the heart:
Today's tax law provides big breaks for companies that send American jobs overseas. Current "deferral" policies allow American companies to avoid paying American taxes on the income earned by their foreign subsidiaries. John Kerry and John Edwards will end deferral that encourages companies to ship jobs overseas, and they will close other loopholes to make the tax code work for the American worker…

President Bush and the Republicans in Congress have ignored the middle class since day one of this Administration. They have catered to the wealth of the richest instead of honoring the work of the rest of us. They have promised almost everything and paid for almost nothing. And the middle class is shouldering more taxes, earning less money, and bearing higher costs. The bottom line for the middle class under President Bush and the Republican Party is this: Instead of working hard to get ahead, the middle class is working hard just to get by…

First, we must restore our values to our tax code. We want a tax code that rewards work and creates wealth for more people, not a tax code that hoards wealth for those who already have it. With the middle class under assault like never before, we simply cannot afford the massive Bush tax cuts for the very wealthiest. We should set taxes for families making more than $200,000 a year at the same level as in the late 1990s, a period of great prosperity when the wealthiest Americans thrived without special treatment…
While this falls far short of the alicublog plan, which involves the entrails of priests and the necks of tyrants -- and what is this "middle class" to which the authors refer, and how may I, a humble salaryman with no hope of owning a home or car anytime soon, join it? -- it is still refreshing to hear of mainstream politicians with some hope of attaining Executive power address, however feebly, the savage inequity in relations between the haves and the have-increasingly-lesses. Saint Ralph may be more pure, but the Big Stiff and his charismatic teen sidekick have at least some shot at adjusting the machinery of power a little more in favor of us hapless unbillionaires, and in these parlous times that will have to do.

Thursday, July 15, 2004

ALSO, THOMAS HARRIS IS NOT A SERIAL KILLER, AND CARL SANDBURG WAS NOT ABRAHAM LINCOLN.National Review Online advances its willful misunderstanding of simple reality a great deal with this incoherent Mark W. Davis piece:
Alfred A. Knopf... has decided that it is now acceptable to sell, as edgy entertainment, Checkpoint, a novella by Nicholson Baker that explores explicit fantasies about killing President George W. Bush...
Davis appears to have heard about a character in the book who has these fantasies. But unlike you arty-farty literary types, he considers the words "character" and "author" to be synonyms:
The author and publisher, no doubt, will argue that they are expressing an emotion, not an intention (which would be illegal). The problem is, intentions emerge out of emotions.... Checkpoint, whatever its literary conceits, will be an act of linguistic terrorism...
Sometimes you wonder whether they're dumb or malign, but here it's easy. If Davis were really as stupid as he's pretending to be, he wouldn't be able to write complete sentences.

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

ALICUBLOG CHARGES THE MOUND.As usual, the All-Star Game sucked -- not as much at the 2002 "fuck this, let's quit" All-Star Game, but at that one you at least got to watch the fans boo and throw things at millionaires. This year's was just tedious.

The bright note came early, though, with the shelling of the despicable Roger Clemens in the first inning. This will likely be the Rocket's last nationally-televised appearance (at least until he becomes Governor of Texas and starts running executions in prime-time, personally triggering each lethal injection by throwing a fastball at those clown-dunk-cage targets hooked up to a hypodermic), and it's nice to see him go out a goat.

As a Mets fan, of course, I already have more than one reason to dislike Clemens. I got to dislike him more when I saw him on the David Letterman show, joking about the rumors that Piazza is gay. It takes a special type of barbarism to almost kill a guy, then crack lame fag jokes about him. (Clemens also said on this occasion that he has two high-inside pitches, the second of which is thrown "so they don't think the first one's a mistake.")

I merely nodded when Clemens screwed the Yankees because, well, it was the Yankees. Still, it was piquant that "Pinstripe Pride," regarded by its acolytes of some sort of magical force, turned out to be no impediment at all to the Clemens self-actualization program; one could enjoy, in a mordant way, the image of Clemens accepting New York's delirious ovations and free cars and press panegyrics at the end of the 2003 season, with a little thought balloon drawn over his head, reading "Suckers."

I give the closing to, of all people, a New York Post reporter (but one working at that paper's relatively serious sports desk), Mike Vaccaro, who wrote brilliantly today:
Clemens, to the end, has believed he alone is entitled to invoke his will on everyone and everything around him. He has his own set of rules around the Astros, he is allowed to live his own life, be his own man, worry about the team when he feels like it. When Barry Bonds makes these demands, he is filleted from coast to coast as a me-first, ego-centric blowhard; Clemens' apologists present him as a caring family man.

Monday, July 12, 2004

FUCKING HIPPIES. Let me say on the record that I am very much against anything that screws up the trains. Can't you guys get up a nude love-in or something? Oh, and bring back Pigasus!

BTW, seems like it has its heart in the right place (I didn't find anything in their onsite search feature for "gelginite," and they linked, albeit indirectly, with this) but I have to say I got a few laughs out of the "City Living" section. Among the tips:
First of all, you have to remember a few things about New York delis: This is not Starbucks...
So don't throw a trashcan through the window after you get your coffee. Peace out!

PLAN B. Now that some Republicans are trying to draft Chicago Bears legend Mike Ditka as their latest "oh, why the hell not" celebrity nominee, I think it's time Democrats one-upped them by drafting well-known figures from history and literature. Using their New Age connections, and the old Catholic superstition that God speaks through priests, we can draft an all-star lineup of Jesus Christ, Abraham Lincoln, Spider-Man, Tom Joad et alia in key "swing" states across the country.

The Jesus candidacy would require special boldness, but it is long past time that the Democrats addressed their problems with religious voters the same way that Republicans do -- by making outrageous and insupportable assertions. All we need is one liberal cleric willing to say that Jesus has spoken to him and announced his candidacy for the Pennsylvania Senate race.

Democratic lawyers will argue that Christ meets the eligibility requirement because God is "hic et ubique." Similarly, once Joad is nominated, his representatives in the Modern Language Association will argue his qualification for whatever race they want him in on the grounds that he is "there in the way guys yell when they're mad... there in the way kids laugh when they're hungry and they know supper's ready," etc., though of course ideally they'd prefer to run him in Oklahoma.

As for the inevitable complaints that the candidates themselves are insubstantial, their supporters can always rejoin, "What else is new?"

Sunday, July 11, 2004

BITS 'N' PIECES. The Ole Perfesser, tirelessly on Michael Moore firewatch, approving quotes a reader who describes flag-burners as Moore's "target audience." Fahrenheit 911 has so far grossed over $60 million dollars -- representing at minimum six million paid admissions. Must not then the streets of our Republic be ablaze with flaming stars and stripes? And yet no coverage by the media! Another conspiracy for the Perfesser to smack down!

Bigot Valkyrie Maggie Gallagher finds a child raised by a same-sex couple who opposes same-sex marriage. Fine. My mother and father got married because of societal pressures, and it was a terrible mistake, leading to untold misery for them and their two children. There. Consider Gallagher countered. If she comes up with another one, I'll knock on a few doors in my apartment building and see and raise her.

OpinionJournal complains that the City of Boston will require its cabbies to accept payment vouchers in lieu of cash from attendees of the Democratic National Convention. My heart bleeds. According to the commie rag New York Post, "Thousands of commuters who take NJ Transit trains directly to Manhattan will be forced to go to Hoboken and transfer to PATH trains during the GOP convention, officials said yesterday. The plan would be to divert NJ Transit's 11,000 daily commuters who usually take the Midtown Direct service into Penn Station and have them transfer at Hoboken." This is not to mention the insane nuisance the Convention will create for everyone trying to walk or do business in the area, including stores that will experience "street closures and security so tight it will choke off the foot traffic that most businesses rely on."

With all this bullshit on tap, is it any wonder I took solace in an opening-night showing of Anchorman? It was stupid as shit -- no, stupider -- and very funny.

SUNLIGHT IS THE BEST DISINFECTANT. Spurred by lawsuits by the ACLU, CNN, and others, the State of Florida has removed one of the novelty items from its electoral trick-bag:
Florida elections officials said Saturday that they would not use a disputed list that was intended to keep felons from voting, acknowledging a flaw that could have allowed Hispanic felons to cast ballots in November.

The problem could have been significant in Florida, which President Bush won by just 537 votes in 2000. The state has a sizable Cuban population, and Hispanics in Florida have tended to vote Republican more than Hispanics nationally. The [felons] list had about 28,000 Democrats and around 9,500 Republicans, with most of the rest unaffiliated.
The next time someone asks you why Democrats keep belly-aching about the 2000 election, feel free to mention this.

Friday, July 09, 2004

UNIFIED THEORY OF LILEKS. They call it the "Eureka Moment" -- the epiphanic insight that takes the intellectual odds 'n' sods one has been glumly trying to piece together and instantly pulls them into a nice, tight bow.

I had mine during today's Bleat, In Which Father Lileks Again Contemplates Children at Play
Then they watched "Barbie Swan Lake," a computer-animated movie that’s all the rage in the tot set. Kelsey Grammer is the bad guy, and his motivation is simple and utterly Blofeldian -- he wants to take over the world. Why? Like that's ever worked. And if you could take over the world, what the hell would you do with it? I know, I know: if you’ve secured control of one hemisphere through necromancy, you’re always going to wonder whether the other hemisphere will challenge your rule, so might as well go for the gold. But it would be easier to just rule a small part and guard your power so you could repel any attempts to puncture your domain.

See also, North Korea.
Even now, to contemplate this fragment stirs my laughter -- but it is Olympian laughter, the laughter of the Gods! Much like the laughter, at the end of Peckinpaugh's Convoy, of Dirty Lyle -- who laughed to see the Rubber Duck resurface at his own funeral, because he knew then that there is no death!

Today's Bleat by itself didn't bring me to clarity -- many Lileks playdates, many trips to Target, many italicized toddler drolleries, led to this Moment. But it was the straw that both stirred the drink and broke the camel's back.

Reading the passage for the first time, I was put in mind of friends who are parents and devote large blocks of their time to their children. As they are intelligent, sensitive people (yeah, I do know a few), they fully enter their children's worlds and follow the simple logic, uninformed by brutal adult experience, of their games. It can be charming to observe -- but only because you know they will come back from such adventures whole and sane.

Not everyone can, apparently. Think how many hours Lileks has spent engaged in this sort of conversation with Gnat:
If you have five Hello Kittys, you’re sad because you don’t have six. And that’s not right.

I have nine Kittys.

Okay, you have nine Kittys, and you’re sad because you don’t have ten. But some kids don’t have any.

Can I have ten Kittys for my birthday?

And so it goes...
Some adults can come out of these mind-warping sessions and, after a faceful of cold water or a snootful of rye, fully rejoin the grown-up world. But Lileks' boundless devotion has drawn him in too deep for that.

Now, whenever he tells his readers that Kim Il Jung has been explained by Barbie, I will be inclined to sympathies rather than rage. I always half-knew that it was some psychological malady of the less offensive type -- not the pure evil that works through such earthly forms as Jonah Goldberg -- that animated his ravings. Now I am sure of it.

As soon as I figure out what's wrong with the rest of these assholes, I can close down this weblog.

THE COMIC BOOK GUY'S DAY JOB: "In this and other ways, Spider-Man stands athwart a very influential liberal conception of the self: as being utterly autonomous, floating free from any antecedent obligations."

Are you the author of Hi and Lois? Because you are making me laugh.

CBG's secret identity, Thomas Hibbs, also thinks Spider Man 2 is "is about ordinary working-class life in contemporary America." That will be a shock to John Sayles.

Thursday, July 08, 2004

FASTER, SLAVES! KEEP THOSE NUMBERS MOVING! Arnold Kling trumpets "The Good News About Productivity" and wonders aloud why we don't hear more about it before answering himself: because the media distorts the truth to elect Democrats ("the current Administration is unpopular with the media").

Maybe there's another reason. Some of us think of productivity as a completely positive, Jetsonian boon, whereby you just push a button and Rosie the Robot cleans your house, manages your database, monitors workflow etc., all to the greater glory of the national bottom line (a phenomenon also known as "The Economy as Corporate Identity Commercial").

But productivity is also something squeezed out of the hide of workers. From the International Labor Organization:
U.S. productivity grew in 2002, surpassing both Europe and Japan in annual output per worker for the first sustained period since World War II and further widening the productivity gap with the rest of the world.

But while productivity growth is up, job creation has not kept pace, the ILO finds in the third edition of Key Indicators of the Labor Market (KILM). The employment-to-population ratio in the U.S., which measures the proportion of people in the population who are working, declined 1.6 percent (from 64.3 to 62.7 percent) between 1999-2002. During the same period, the employment-to-population ratio increased slightly in the European Union (from 56.1 to 56.7 percent)...

Lawrence Jeff Johnson, chief of the employment trends team responsible for the comparative study released in September, told ILO Focus that "Americans are producing more with fewer workers in the labor market." At the same time, he explained, "labor market flexibility in the United States may be one of the factors allowing employers to adjust more quickly to changing economic conditions by shedding or adding jobs."
ILO also notes that "Americans worked more hours annually than many of their European counterparts, averaging 1,825 hours in 2002. In contrast, Germans worked 1,444 hours; the French 1,545 hours."

This may give you goose-pimples if you think of the U.S. economy as a machine, not as the product of workers who are now running up enormous personal debts to afford the homes, cars, and families that were, once upon a time, within easy reach for nearly anyone willing to work 40 hours a week.

Our Fed chief, by the way, is phlegmatic about this debt -- he recently "pointed out that U.S. households own more than $14 trillion in real estate assets — almost twice the amount they own in mutual funds and directly hold in stocks." Good news from someone's perspective, I guess -- creditors can credit the inflated values of these holdings (as debt, or as repossessed properties) on their balance sheets. In the long run, we are all dead, wot? (Or, as they play it Chicago-school, I got mine, don't worry about yours.)

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

HOW TO TELL YOU'RE WINNING. What bring tears to your eyes faster -- Lileks' Grandpa Simpson impersonation, or Tacitus' Farewell Address? My favorite piece of talking statuary is "feeling a profound disgust with humanity online." Assuming, perhaps unfairly, that he is not describing a new Sartrean Sims module, I take this to be another complaint about incivility online.

Yes, some of the conservative brethren have been talking about how rough the playground has become, particularly since liberals began to fight back. "Jane Galt" even says she's "ashamed" of liberals backing Fahrenheit 911 because the film has "no counterpart on the right" -- which is rather like the British complaining that those blasted American Revolutionaries keep breaking formation. (At the same time, she doesn't care that "Bush manipulated our fears of something bad happening to get us to support his policies" because "that's the definition of politics." No way you can lose with arguments like these!)

How well, though, do I remember those heady days when the greatest honor these patriots could bestow upon one another was the title "politically incorrect." No cows were sacred, no screed was too intemperate, and Fisking was the fashion!

Now we're all asked to be quiet and reasonable. Well, if you wrote the rules, I suppose it's only natural that you would imagine yourself able to rewrite them in the middle of the game. But if history teaches us anything, it's that no matter how sincere her protestations to the contrary, Lucy will always yank the ball away. Which is why it's time to stop trying to kick the ball and to start (or continue) kicking Lucy's ass.

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

KUDOS to Sasha, proprietress of a conservatarian group site, on this post:
The rest of the gang here can keep you up to speed on piddling matters like Iraqi sovereignty, the Canadian elections, Britain's almost-war with Iran, and Wimbledon. I shall be blogging important stuff, like the various recipes I've found on the web for ancho pork chops, ancho barbecue sauce, ancho beef stew, ancho potato chips, ancho cornbread, ancho pancakes, and even ancho brownies...
How I wish I had the self-discipline required to make such a pledge. We'd all be so much better off.

A LITTLE RAY OF SUNSHINE. I must admit I was a little worried when I read in the New York Post this morning that Gephardt was going to be Kerry's choice. Not that the the Post is in any way a reliable source of actual news, but they are pretty good at gossip, and this seemed like the kind of backstage-whisper type of revelation at which they could excel.

The one hopeful sign was that there was no Deborah Orin story on page two, telling us how the French-looking, waffling Kerry had once again destroyed any chance he might have had in hell of beating the heroic, popular Bush. The omission of this evergreen, rare with any Post Kerry story, was a strong sign that someone at the Post was hedging his bets.

It all turned out to be bullshit, of course. And though the mudpies will fly soon enough, I am battle-weary enough to take this as a good thing for the Democrats. Edwards is good-looking and well-spoken. And he has the right kind of sense of humor. In his Letterman appearance last spring, when he said he'd lay out his platform right then "if I wasn't rip-stinkin' drunk," he demonstrated a talent for absurdism -- the one kind of humor that most violently throws most politicians.

That will come if handy against the holy warriors of the right, as they inevitably become more unintentionally absurd themselves. Take as a case in point today's National Review Online on the New York Times: "Each day, more and more it seems, the Old Gray Lady transmogrifies into America's al-Jazeera." Kerry might wobble his wattles over such an egregious overstatement, but maybe Edwards is capable of giving it the kind of "who are you kidding with that shit" response to which voters might respond -- for which, in fact, they may actually be longing.

Not bad for a Monday (I mean Tuesday -- oh hey! Better and better!)

Sunday, July 04, 2004

THE GLORIOUS FOURTH. You all know the primary text by Mr. Jefferson and his editors, so let me here offer a concordance by Mr. Young:
Got people here down on their knees and prayin'
Hawks and doves are circlin' in the rain
Got rock 'n' roll, got country music playin'
If you hate us, you just don't know what you're sayin'

Ready to go, willing to stay and pay (U.S.A.! U.S.A.!)
So my sweet love can dance another free day (U.S.A.! U.S.A.!)
The holiday will find me playing this album, and maybe walking out to take in our local celebration -- Hungry March Band's parade from Union and Metropolitan to the afterparty -- but mostly quietly enjoying the blessings of liberty, an inheritance bought by blood and courage that must never be surrendered.