Monday, October 31, 2005

HAPPY HALLOWEEN. "These pictures are horrifyingly graphic. But I believe we need to see them - and the barbarism they represent -- if we are to maintain our will to fight back and defend our civilization." -- Andrew "The Crypt-Keeper" Sullivan.

Boo! Scary dead girl head. 'Sokay, but no Re-animator.

People keep telling us that, unless we regularly treat ourselves to bodies falling and heads being sawed off, we cannot make reasonable judgments about world events. I'll take my perpetual-outrage medicine in the form of bourbon rather than of snuff-porn, thank you very much!

While I am not a libertarian, even of the bullshit variety, I say let these folks do what they want in the privacy of their own homes. I do see that prolonged exposure to violence has had a negative effect on their minds, but America is all about the right to be wrong, as their columns prove every day.

UPDATE. Oh, wait, I get it now -- libertarianism means maximum individual rights for corporations! Maybe we need a new name for a creed demanding maximum individual rights for everyone... on second thought, why bother?
SHORTER OLE PERFESSER: How can I push Alito without losing my bullshit-libertarian credentials? I know! I'll reposition spousal-notification as a Men's Lib issue! Hehndeed! I'm a fucking asshole.*

(* To be honest, this last bit can't really be extracted from the text. The Perfesser shows no awareness at any time that he is a fucking asshole.)

Sunday, October 30, 2005

THE PEOPLE, YES! Having had some fun with Peggy Noonan's shirt-rending over the intransigence of our elites, I was interested to see the Ole Perfesser's counterlinks under the headline "Cheer Up."

One is from a blogbrother who had addressed a State Legislature*, and thought enough of what he had said to quote his own remarks in defense of a brighter vision of the future. First, he told the legislators, his wife the waitress could probably get them a table at the restaurant at which she worked faster than "professional lobbyists" could. In a similar way, the author had been able to get a local newspaper to post a correction online, "leading thousands of readers — interested readers, connected readers — to my argument. " And a friend of his had been asked to appear as a conservative commentator on TV, even though he was not a "bow-tied professor." (Note it well, ides-markers: Republicans in Chinos!)

Perhaps sensing that these portents by themselves would not convince, the author told the legislators about Dan Rather and the forensic typesetters whose skills were unleashed by the power of the blogosphere. He did not compare them to the taxi-drivers of the Marne, but the point was clear enough: just as his wife can get you into her restaurant, so humble blog-writers would simply seize the power currently held, however tenuously, by "the conceit-full Baby Boomer elites" who "have managed to secure the 'grim comfort' that 'I got mine.'"

Summarizing his own argument, the author says that
...blogs are proving that, if the functional elites are too resigned to that trouble to lead our society through it, the underclasses now have the technology — and the faculty — to pick up the slack. Maybe the sky is falling only to reveal the truer sky beyond, and in its light, we will be better able to respond to the troubles with which life — and history — accosts us all equally.
Daniel Shays couldn't have said it better. It is cheering to know that some people still think that, once their guys get the power, we can say goodbye to the elites, replaced by the protelarian masses as represented by Powerline and Ann Althouse.

As another of the Perfesser's referents puts it,
The people who will determine the future are hard at work in the real world. Some of them may be classified as belonging to some sort of "elite;" but most of them do not. They work in business and in the public sector. They are educators, doctors, sales people, farmers, clergy, and, yes, even some journalists and politicians. They are scientists and engineers.
Considering that our current elites were all created in laboratories, we may be assured that our new power-brokers will retain to an unparalleled degree a sensitivity to the needs of their law-professin', land-tillin' constituents back home.

The sentiment is near-universal, I guess. The people we elected, or whose jobs are maintained by our subscriptions, are heroes when we agree with them and turncoats when we do not.

What adds gall to these new iterations is that they are made by conservatives at a time when conservatives are in charge to a nearly unprecedented degree. The President and the Congressional majorities have impeccably conservative credentials. Business is untrammelled by the high tax rates and onerous regulations that existed when conservative power was not so great. And the profit motive, the central principle of conservative thought, is everywhere celebrated. No one believes in the redistribution of wealth except to his own pockets.

It should be paradise for these people, but it is not. So when a prominent conservative like Noonan falters, those whose faith is unshaken direct her attention to such positive harbingers as they possess. Blogs are a good one: they're everywhere, they make the news sometimes, and most importantly, they're on the internet, which is a potent and universal symbol of the magic of technology. Tech stocks may have lost their luster, but blogs, relieved of the need to generate income to prove their worth, still gleam.

And, being technological, blogs affirm our faith in other technology-based panacea: along with the Third Millenium and The End of History, some of the latter correspondent's commenters point to the Singularity, "Biotech/genomic supra-evolution," and "Off-Earth 'space culture'" -- blueprints and gizmos that will so alter our reality that all the bright hopes and dreams that have lately thudded to earth will be borne aloft, believable once again.

I don't know how these cheering messages will affect Noonan, but they gave me a laugh, albeit a grim one.

*CORRECTION. The first author, Justin Katz, spoke at a seminar attached to the National Conference of State Legislatures, not a State Legislature. Gotme!

Saturday, October 29, 2005

A DAY IN THE LIFE OF A FERRER SUPPORTER. I had the TV on and the folks at WABC’s Eyewitness News were reporting on the New York Mayoral campaign, devoting to it their customary four minutes.

Bloomberg was shown in in Williamsburg, speaking at, the commentator informed me, a "youth center," which contained an indeterminate number of people not in their first youth who sat quietly in folding chairs. The Mayor stood at a podium festooned with his campaign placard, telling these people in his office-meeting voice that his Administration had cut welfare by ten points.

Next Fernando Ferrer, Bloomberg’s opponent, was shown in Sunset Park with the Governor of Puerto Rico. The commentator told us he was by this method "trying" to shore up the Latino vote. Then they showed a couple of Spanish-surnamed citizens who said they had not decided to vote for Ferrer.

Somebody dressed like a Billionaire for Bush was shown brandishing fake dollars bearing Bloomberg’s image. This was a "comical" effort by the Ferrer administration, the commentator told us, to call attention to the millions Bloomberg had devoted to the campaign. A clip was shown of Ferrer speaking to the point, which was followed by a clip Bloomberg back at the podium, smilingly responding that he just wanted to "leave the world a better place for my two daughters." The relevance of the heiresses’ fates to that of the City at large was not addressed.

The New York Times and, so far as I can tell, all local papers except possibly the Revolutionary Worker have endorsed the current Mayor. One would imagine that, if liberal media bias were what its claimants insist, the media elite of New York City would be biasing like mad for Ferrer, a Democrat, a liberal, a member of an ethnic minority, and an endorsee of Al Sharpton. One might expect to see Bloomberg’s eyes photoshopped unflatteringly at least. Failing that, I would expect someone from the media elite to convince Ferrer to get contact lenses and start dressing and speaking like Che Guevara, surrounded by mobs imported from the boroughs, roaring lustily for La Huelga y El Alcalde Ferrer, all photographed and edited for maximum propaganda effect by members of the powerful television craft unions, and reported stirringly by our subversive press.

That Bloomberg is so far up in the polls -- a fact so widely broadcast they know about it in North Dakota -- should have nothing to do with this. The Iraq war and President Bush were both very popular once upon a time, yet our elites were able to so discourage citizens with negative stories that both the war and the President now poll very badly. Given their enormous power, I don’t see why the press doesn’t just will Ferrer into office with lies and fancy camera tricks.

It’s getting so you can’t believe in anything anymore.

Friday, October 28, 2005

HOMAGE TO P. LATTRAUX! I'm a little sluggish this morning, so let's do like showbiz professionals and turn to the sure-fire: Friday Toons at FreeRepublic.

Today's reading of the rightwing id shows signs of malaise -- the Miers episode clearly left a bad taste (in both senses of the term: see the Kristosl Pee-shop file) -- but nothing that can't be dispelled by hate, hate, hate for Hillary! (And, for the nostalgic, John Kerry.)

For close readers, we have a nice lineup of race-related conservatoons that lay out the party line: 1.) Liberals don't respect black people; 2.) Black people (excepting those that look like an ectomorphic Ziggy) don't respect black people; and 3.) the new version of the old slogan is, "Democrats fuck dogs to make hippies."

They're all over the Condi Photoshop incident, but approve this caricature, which makes the Secretary of State look like Alfred E. Neuman after a severe beating.

I'm not sure I get this one -- why is Shelley Long celebrating our 2,000th Iraq casualty? And a comment sent me to the Faithmouse site, where I was confronted with this -- evidently aimed at Garrison Keillor (see "alt" text), but for what? Maybe the artist is mad at Keillor for something he did in a dream...

All and all, pretty tame -- but that's what happens when enterprising citizen journalists discover a hot underground craze: the weekends become bridge-and-tunneltime, and one must drop by on Thursdays for the real thing. Paydirt: This is my favorite cartoonist of 2005 -- he makes Gary Panter look like Piranesi! Not even Google knows him. But I do, and now so do you. Spread the word: in this heavily-armed survivalist camp lives a genius. You read it here first!

Thursday, October 27, 2005

WELCOME TO OUR WORLD, CRAZY JESUS LADY! Peggy Noonan’s Dies Ire offers the expected laughs -- her equivalence of apocalyptic symptoms (“nuts with nukes, epidemics”) with swears on the TV; her suggestion, with “It's beyond, ‘The president is overwhelmed.’ The presidency is overwhelmed,” that if George W. Bush can’t handle the job, by God no one can; and the sort of sound bytes that, were they snipped out of the context of, say, a local cable babbler’s TV show, would be cruelly unfair, but which in Noonan’s case do not distort but rather distill her special, mad Irish poetry (“You say we don't understand Africa? We don't even understand Canada!”).

But there is a sort of poignancy there, too. For the most part I don’t feel sorry for Noonan. She made a pile of money as the Riefenstahl of Reaganism; she continues to rake it in as a propagandist; whatever discomfort her obvious mental infirmities bring her are no recompense in the cosmic scale for the confusion she has sown and the misery it has caused.

Still, the sight of Noonan Lasching herself over the revolt of the elites makes one wonder if perhaps she has glimpsed, among the stuffed goblins marked “liberalism” with which she has been accustomed to populate her dreamscapes, something like an actual demon:
Our elites, our educated and successful professionals, are the ones who are supposed to dig us out and lead us. I refer specifically to the elites of journalism and politics, the elites of the Hill and at Foggy Bottom and the agencies, the elites of our state capitals, the rich and accomplished and successful of Washington, and elsewhere. I have a nagging sense, and think I have accurately observed, that many of these people have made a separate peace. That they're living their lives and taking their pleasures and pursuing their agendas; that they're going forward each day with the knowledge, which they hold more securely and with greater reason than nonelites, that the wheels are off the trolley and the trolley's off the tracks, and with a conviction, a certainty, that there is nothing they can do about it.
There is something in this that suggests a real, if momentary and (for her) unsustainable insight: that the “elites” know the jig is up and don’t give a damn, so long as the gulf between them and us stays wide enough to keep the molten lava off their private beaches and the agonized screams faint enough to be masked by a Sound Machine.

One important thing is missing, though: any sign of awareness that any specific members of these elites brought about this state of affairs, by consciously widening that gap between themselves and ourselves – that anyone had effected a specific and dastardly plan to concentrate the wealth and power of our nation in the hands of the few, with the cover story that thence it would trickle down to the rest of us – and that Peggy Noonan had written their speeches, accepted their honoraria, and to this day speaks of them as if they were our greatest benefactors.

Perhaps, now that she is not attending so many state dinners or answering Presidential calls, she is no longer entirely sure which side of the chasm she occupies.

I don’t believe in Hell, so it may be that the vague fear which currently ruffles her fine hairs is as close to physical justice as the crack-brained hag will ever get. Well, it is not enough, but it’s something.
A SPOT OF BOTHER. Forgive the interruption. Lots of work, the Series, and then comments went down. Your practiced eyes will detect Haloscan. If anyone knows a way to chop 'n' channel their font/appearance, let me know.

You may consider this reintro an open thread (the last refuge of a slacker), with a bias (there's always bias!) toward the Miers withdrawal. My immediate reaction is nugatory-to-negative. Bush will now nominate Darth Vader or Satan or someone like that, and all the horrible people who got bent out of shape that Miers shook Gloria Steinham's hand once will clap like electroshocked seals, Chuck Schumer will go "B-but but but," and the Republicans, delighted to be distracted from their petty squabbles over the people's money, will turn with vigor toward their preferred work of reducing us peasants to a neofeudal state. Cheers!

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

ENEMIES EVERYWHERE! Michelle Malkin complains that the leftist firebrands at USA Today made Condoleeza Rice look scary.

Next week: Highlights for Children attacks President Bush with its thinly-veiled parody, "Goofus and Gallant."

UPDATE. Apparently USA Today has changed the photo -- the result, some of the blogbrethren believe, of Malkin's tireless efforts to prevent newspapers from making Republican officials look bad.

And it's true! My fellow reporters and I have just received these new approved image standards for President Bush:

  • Acceptable skintones: Pantone 7509C, 7507C (7510C may be used when the President is addressing Latino issues).

  • Eyes: May be narrowed, but not squinting. Stunned expression (white-to-pupil ratio > 2:1) forbidden

  • Mouth: no more than three inches open (void in event of assassination or pie-eating contest). Tucked corners strictly off-limits.

  • Weird Marks on Face: Must be airbrushed out, or accompanied by text explaining that he got them doing something butch.

Monday, October 24, 2005


SHORTER JAMES LILEKS: How come when Dave Barry does this kind of thing people love it, but when I do it I just look like an asshole?

SHORTER ROGER L. SIMON COMMENTERS: The growing success of women in higher education proves that English and History are for pussies and that universities should be trade schools.

SHORTER MICHAEL LEDEEN: Having helped effect the breakdown of law and civil order in Iraq, I am now pushing for the breakdown of law and civil order in Washington, D.C.

SHORTER DANIELLE CRITTENDEN: When the law is on your side, pound the law; when the facts are on your side, pound the facts; and when neither are on your side, pound Bill Clinton.

SHORTER GEORGE WILL: Time was, an American who did an honest day's labor with his hands could provide a decent life for himself and his family. Thank God we're putting an end to that!

* But the Combine demands that I acknowledge D-Squared and Busy Busy Busy as the creator and perfector, respectively, of the Shorter format.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

BUSINESS AS USUAL. Some laughs from the Heritage Foundation, exploring the pretty pass to which our budget has come in the age of compassionate conservatism. First, a backgrounder:
First, President Reagan inherited a bloated federal government that spent 21.7 percent of GDP, and he reduced that burden to 21.2 percent—even while fighting the Cold War and working with an often-Democratic Congress that regularly sought to increase spending further.
-0.5 percent! Reagan always benefited from being graded on a curve.
By comparison, lawmakers in early 2001 inherited a leaner budget that, as a result of difficult decisions made by previous Congresses, had been pared down to 18.4 percent of GDP, and they promptly responded with across-the-board spending hikes that pushed spending all the way back to 20.2 percent of GDP by 2005.
No mention of the reviled Clinton, natch. Nonetheless, the one-point drop seems kind of sad in general, until we get to the current figures:
According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), total U.S. government spending (including state and local government spending) reached 35.9 percent of GDP in 2005, which is more than was spent by the governments of Australia (35.5 percent), Ireland (35.2 percent), and New Zealand (35.1 percent). Granted, the memo specifies spending by central governments, but when measuring the total economic burden of government, there is no reason to ignore other levels of government, which is why virtually no international measures do so.
That's a bit crafty, but you can see what they're getting at: when a state government cuts education spending so that it may announce a lean 'n' mean new budget, you may expect local governments to pick up the slack. That's how we do in these United States, which fuels the reputations of various celebrity tax-cutter politicians who know small-timers will have to take the fall.

In more conventional conservative precincts, we are told that the Republican Congress has finally gotten serious about cutting the Federal Budget. And how will they accomplish this? From Scripps-Howard we learn that Katrina funding will be partly funded by, guess what, student loan spending cuts. And $3.1 billion in emergency heating relief for this coming winter is also on the chopping block, despite an expected surge in gas and oil prices. You can guess the other budgetary targets. Democrats are trying to make hay of this, but they have only press releases, not meaningful votes. Current tax breaks at the high end of the income bracket -- like the 15% tax rates on capital gains -- are not going to be touched. The pretense of fiscal responsibility will be affected by screwing the already-screwed.

Students of history already know that the conventional wisdom will tell us this is all the Democrats' fault. This is indeed (or heh-indeed) a blow to the MSM; why bother to read or watch news when you already know how it's all going to turn out?

Monday, October 17, 2005

READING THE CARETAKER IN MORON. He's often come close, but never has Jonah Goldberg so overtly revealed his analytic method:
I will confess here and now I know very little of Pinter's work. I've caught bits and piece over the years, read the occasional criticism (and many since the Nobel announcment) but I think it's fair to say I'm perhaps a few inches shy of real ignorance about Pinter's literary contributions.

But does that really mean I can't complain about his Nobel?
Yes, he really is asking why we shouldn't take his opinion of Pinter seriously even though he has only seen "bits and pieces" of his work -- in other words, not one play all the way through, possibly not even one scene. This leaves even the normal purview of ignorance, and becomes that which my mother used to call pig-ignorance.

The rest of the post is just as bad, pretending to explain but really only compounding the intellectual felony.

We are accustomed to laugh at Goldberg, but the phenomenon he so ably respresents is rather chilling. With his many posts admitting ignorance of his subject or claiming a lack of time to explain himself properly (yet insisting that he's making on contribution to the discussion) Goldberg seems to demand a right to make arguments based less on reasoned analysis than on his willingness to declare his own argument superior regardless of the evidence.

This is genuine anti-intellectualism: not the watery kind that leads politicans to pretend ignorance to win votes, but an evident and deep-seated desire to rewrite (or if necessary obliterate) the rules of logic and causality so that one's side will always come out ahead.

This blight is apparently contagious, as this reader comment, which Goldberg finds "interesting," shows:
To a conservative like me, it is the left that killed off Pinter’s art, more successfully than any censor could have. Doubtless, it is the later, bloviating Pinter who the Nobel committee is rewarding, not the true artist.
In this view, one's very identity is changed by political incorrectness: Pinter is not worthy of the Nobel because Pinter is not Pinter.

Some things are even worse than being wrong.

P.S. Terry Teachout's very sane assessment (and I don't just mean comparatively sane) is now online.

P.P.S. Backword argues in favor of a much-maligned Pinter poem. He hasn't brought me round quite -- in that genre, I still much prefer Selfish Cunt -- but it's a good strong effort.
A CRY FOR HELP. In days past -- surely you have these posts lovingly pasted in your scrapbooks -- I suggested that the Ole Perfesser's fascination with The Singularity portended his eventual super-villain transformation into an "immortal robot-lawyer."

The example of the Kennedy assassination notwithstanding, such secrets can only be kept for so long before some of the conspirators, and even the conspiracy's architect, begin to crack:

You have to imagine wires running from the robot's feet to a skullcap on the Perfesser's head. Comes the electrical storm, a bolt of lightning surges through the cables, at the end of which the Perfesser, strapped to a table and his face contorted in a horrible rictus, bays in triumph...

Sunday, October 16, 2005

THE CASE FOR GOOD GRAMMAR. WABC’s Like It Is is always interesting, and this weekend they had a nice show: an old, grainy film of Gil Noble interviewing Nipsey Russell. The recently-deceased comedian was a gent of the old school, and very smart.

There were all kinds of wonderful things about Russell’s interview. He was gentle on younger comedians who worked blue, for example; though Noble gave him an opportunity to bitch about that, Russell delicately suggested that those potty-mouthed comics who found success did so because of "that which is meritorious" in their artistry. He compared their condition that of to jazz artists who support themselves with commercial work, but who nonetheless maintain a high personal standard for the quality of their playing. This is a higher order of logic, not to mention a better understanding of the human condition, than one usually expects from TV clowns.

I was most struck, though, that Russell went out of his way to let it be known that, even though he’d grown up in "abject poverty" in Atlanta’s Third Ward, he had received there a proper education in English grammar, and that he respected that gift and had profited from it as an entertainer. Even when not doing his act, Russell spoke beautifully.

I like to think, being still romantic about the power of language, that Russell’s attention to it informed his reasoning and his positive outlook. I know all sorts of miserable and sometimes horrible people speak well, and I know that politicians have speechwriters. But in most cases I would put these unfortunate cases down to other negative environmental factors to which educated people are often prone.

But proper grammar isn’t, or shouldn’t be, only for those people we call educated: pretty much anyone can have it, if it is presented to them at the right time and in the right way.

At the very least good English is a civilizing hobby, like horticulture or chess. It is an observable fact that some form of useful discipline – e.g. the well-known "spell in the army" often prescribed for young miscreants – can turn even hard cases around, by channeling their inchoate energies.

Making a proper sentence requires a kind of mental engineering that causes even a strongly-felt emotion, coming out of the id like a compressed jet of molten lava, to confront a divided pathway of choice, which often leads to another series of choices, and then another, etc., thereby cooling and – when it all comes together in speech or writing -- condensing the product.

Let’s say I am writing a post about one of my favorite subjects. Is my target an idiot or a liar? If a liar, in service to what nefarious cause is he lying? What particular passages in my target’s drivel support this analysis? Which derogatory adjective is most suitable to him? And so on. By this method, I may have strengthened my argument, and also vitiated my initial rage which, were those skills not available to me, might have emerged as an actionable death threat.

At this weblog proves regularly, a hothead can still say foolish things in complex sentences. Take it from me, though, I would be even worse, much worse, if I hadn’t been taught to make words add up to something more than volume.

In my weekly teaching stint, tutoring kids who have not had my good fortune with educators, I try to work in as much grammar as I can. The rubrics often don’t call for it, but I am on a mission. My usual come-on with remedial students is that, in order to get over on the teachers whose poor recommendations have brought them to this place, they must be able to show they are smarter, and better English is a good way to do it. If I’m feeling brave, I also remind them that the world makes judgements on them based on the way they express themselves, and there is no percentage for them in being thought less intelligent than they really are.

I don’t share with them my conviction that better English leads to better thinking. But I hope it will occur to them over time.

Nipsey Russell did his bit, and I’m trying to do mine.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

AT LAST, A NOBEL LAUREATE I'VE ACTUALLY READ. The logic of Harold Pinter's Nobel Prize is inescapable, though it is not the same logic as that used by sad clowns incapable of comprehending literature as anything but another objective correlative for their drab politics.

Pinter picked up a few things from the last British-born* playwright to win the Prize, Samuel Beckett. The insistence on dinginess, for one thing: the household of Hamm and Clov in Endgame might also serve as the bedsit in The Room. And there is a superficial resemblance between Pinter's and Beckett's dialogue which was probably emulative -- if you were a young and serious playwright back then, teetering between realist and absurdist tendencies, I'm sure Beckett's pointless colloquies and earthy references must have been hard to get around. Not to mention the pauses.

While Pinter internalized some of Beckett's style, his best plays are much more conventional than Beckett's, and pitched a good deal lower -- not addressing the great issues of life, but the everyday behavior and appetites of men. Pinter's famed ellipticism comes from his style (lots of pauses, tendency to talk around the subject or refer to it as something other than what it is) rather than from his structures. Pinter's plots are pretty tight. The Birthday Party might be just be The Killers reworked by a pseud who has just read some Kafka.

But Pinter discovered a wonderful secret: if you have an old-fashioned dramatic conflict and leave out a few important details, the audience becomes annoyed. But if you have an old-fashioned dramatic conflict and leave out a few details with elliptical dialogue helping to moot the issue of credibility, then the audience is intrigued.

In The Birthday Party Stanley has been hunted down because of an unnamed offense. What did he do? We haven't got a clue. But the characters' intentions are strong -- we can tell from the dialogue and (hopefully) the playing. What are we missing? It's like an overheard fragment of conversation -- why is that man so afraid? Why does that woman insist it's his birthday when he says it isn't? This might be bunk, but it's extremely playable and, more important, watchable bunk that's been holding audiences for forty years.

And some of his stuff is demonstrably much better than bunk. In The Collection, a man thinks his wife has had an affair; she refuses to dignify his suspicions. He becomes quite sure of the identity of his wife's lover. The problem is, the alleged lover is involved with another man -- an older one, with money. Because the characters haven't been running around screaming "You're a liar!" and "I'm gonna get to the bottom of this!" -- they are people of the middle class (though each is from a different and subtly-conveyed species in that genus, and one, it is made clear, is only a provisional member), and not so eager to put a foot wrong -- the husband and the gay man come to some sort of an understanding. Of what sort, we're not sure. By the play's end we don't know whether anyone has actually cheated on anyone else -- but we do know that everyone in the play is seething with jealousy at everyone else. There's a lesson in there somewhere.

Final sidenote: A teacher of mine once pointed out, to illustrate the role of social tension in forming artistic temperment, that all the great British playwrights after the Restoration -- Sheridan, Beckett, Shaw, Wilde, Synge -- were Irish. "Except Pinter," I said. "Even better," said my teacher. "He's a Jew." (More on Pinter's Jewish roots here.) I note with interest that the menacing duo in The Birthday Party are named Goldberg and McCann.

UPDATE. Pinter's prize brings out the worst in some people:
"The Nobel Prize for Literature." Right. I mean Left... Mark Steyn once defined the "Pinteresque" as "a pause followed by a non sequitur." That's good, as far as it goes, but it is important to note that with Pinter the "sequitur" is always trailing in one direction: leftward.
Why don't Kimball and Steyn go make a Thatcher Prize medal out of paperclips and a yogurt lid and give it to Tom Clancy?

UPDATE II. It appears this is the new schtick: pretend the Prize is for Pinter's silly poetry, rather than for his major plays, to make the award look silly. It's amazing what you can accomplish when you have no scruples at all.

UPDATE III. Of course, the above tactic is beyond some guys, so from them plain yahooism will have to suffice. "The Nobel Prizes in Peace and Literature long ago fell into the hands of hateful Leftys," says Peace Like a River. "Don't pay any attention to them." He recommends you read Michelle Malkin (!) instead of Pinter, which is like telling someone to put down the Peter Luger steak and go eat shit. Amazing how many people will follow that advice.

UPDATE IV. This one's priceless. He announces that Pinter won the "Nobel Prize for anti-American politics" -- then adds sheepishly, "Mea culpa: I am a huge fan of the film of Pinter's play Betrayal." Is he ashamed that he can't write any better than he does, or that he admires the work of a double-plus-ungoodnik?

*UPDATE V. Every time someone intelligent links me (BTW, "come out swinging" would make a great title for a movie about Billy Strayhorn), I get a lot of smart guys spoiling to tell me how wrong I am. And this time they're right! It is a stretch to call Beckett, born in Dublin's fair city, a Brit. Let us say rather that Harry and Sam are British Islanders and have done.

UPDATE VI. As my old grey-haired ma used to say to me: remember, whatever you try to do, someone else will always do it better. (Actually she still says that.) Acephalous has a great post on this topic, and my new favorite response to the Pinter prize, from Little Green Footballs:
Nobody takes this stuff seriously anymore. I can't remember the last time I read a literary novel by a living writer or attended a play by a living playwright.
What! Not even Warren Bell? He out-Babbitts Babbitt! Someone give that man a job teaching law in Tennessee, if he doesn't already have one.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

PRIDE'S PURGE. Hugh Hewitt rejoices that Professor Althouse has turned toward the light on Miers. The Professor seems to have internalized the "elitism" charge agin' stuck-up types who think we should have constitutional scholars on the Supreme Court. She has about decided that we have enough of those for now:
If you are going to devote your life to the subject of constitutional law, as an academic subject, you are probably the sort of person who is attracted to abstractions, theories, and larger patterns and aspirations. You are going to tend to approve of jurists who have a similar frame of mind, a large capacity for theory, that makes you and the people you surround yourself with so impressive. Now, who is this Harriet Miers, this practicing lawyer, who presumes to go on the Court and write the opinions we must spend our lives reading and analyzing?...[italics hers]

Perhaps the Court is harmed by an excess of interest in the theoretical. A solid, experienced lawyer like Miers, with no real background in constitutional law, might look at the text, the precedents, the briefs, and use the standard lawyer's methods to resolve the problem at hand. What is wrong with having that style of analysis in the mix? We need a safeguard against the excessively theoretical.
I can see her point. Horace Debussy Jones, aka Satch, in his childish simplicity, provided a much-needed dose of folk wisdom to The Bowery Boys, leavening the more cerebral "regoigitations" of Slip Mahoney. Perhaps Miers can fill a similar role in the Supreme Court of the United States.

Professor Althouse salts her near-endorsement with some small cavils, perhaps in order to preserve propriety, but Hewitt, like a sadistic gang boss who has cornered a wandering sheep, gets up real close and spells it all out for her:
When Bush said "like Scalia or Thomas" many people heard many things. I think it is very safe to say that the vast majority of American voters did not hear "justices committed to a particular theory...of textualism or originalism"... I think they heard "results," and if I am right, Bush has not only not broken his promise, he may be well on his way to fulfilling it twice and hopefully more times over.
Put simply, Miers is a reliable vote for every item on the right-wing agenda. Professors will hem and haw and make up pretty paradigms; nothing counts to the enforcers but votes and endorsements.

The message spreads that conservatives who decry Miers' lack of qualifications are acting self-destructively. This message is disseminated by operatives like Hewitt, but it is tended lovingly by folks like The Anchoress, who attributes anti-Miers demurrers to the Seven Deadly Sins:
Oh, it’s only all the same old tired tricks that have been used since the very beginning… still being used, because they still confound the audience: Pride. Avarice. Wrath. Envy. Lust. Gluttony. Sloth. Stirring up long-held anger and a salivating desire for revenge heats up Wrath - and wrath demands confrontation and release. Turning people’s heads so that they unwittingly embrace their Pride in themselves, their intellects, their lives, their abilities and their successes is a terrific way to utterly cloud their comprehension...
Now, it is an observable fact that one can intellectualize oneself out of the gravitational pull of reality. But it should be noticed that many of those conservatives who spoke against Miers have heretofore been reliable Bush apologists. How much "Pride," of the Deadly sort proposed by The Anchoress, can you imagine they have?

Well, if you believe in Satan, I suppose you also believe that anyone can fall, at a moment's notice and without any stronger motivation than Man's fallen state. Seen another way (roar of flames, demonic laughter), it may also be that some people can only eat so much bullshit before they become nauseated.

But, as we have seen, appetitites can change. This is all going pretty much as I expected. But, despite my Satanic pride, I can't say as I take pleasure from that.
CAN'T WAIT TO SEE HOW THIS TURNS OUT: "BLEG: I know that at some point, the poet Philip Larkin, in a letter or review or essay, wrote something to the effect that he regretted the civil rights movement in America because it was ruining jazz. It was a joke, of course, but you can see the deeper point he was making." -- Andrew Sullivan. Larkin was one of the great English poets, and a casual racist; Sullivan was an early, and remains a faithful, promoter of The Bell Curve. That "deeper point" ought to be hilarious.

UPDATE. I find the first inkling of what Sullivan's on about inconclusive, though alicublog commenters are running their own tests. I don't know the context of Larkin's observation, though on its face he appears to say that jazz is a style, like Restoration Comedy, that passes with its age, with which notion some musicians of my acquaintance might strenuously take issue. Still trepidatiously I await Sullivan's essay.
JAMES LILEKS CELEBRATES NEW YORK: "Midtown is my favorite part of New York; it has everyone and everything, - but it’s also the only part of town where I’ve ever felt alone."

E.B. White can relax, soon as he stops spinning.

My favorite part of Anytown, U.S.A. is Main Street. But a fella can get powerful lonesome there; so, when the crowd thins out, I step into my key light and sing "Goodnight, My Someone."

Monday, October 10, 2005

WHAT YOU THINK COLUMBO DO/WHEN HE COME TO AMERICA IN 1492?/HE SAY TO POCAHONTAS, "DIE, INFERNAL WRETCH, SO THAT I MAY HAVE REAL ESTATE"/DAT'S-A WHY WE SAY, COLUMBUS DAY -- [piano riff] -- FUCK YOU. Like every other rightwing jerkoff wishing to flash his political-incorrectness cred, the Ole Perfesser takes this occasion to pump the Ole Colonizer. He quotes some other guy who mourns Columbus' era, when men were men and indigenous peoples were subhuman. Among the innovations of the Columbian age: "...the Church, purged and chastened by the Protestant Reformation, puts her house in order; new ideas flare up throughout Italy, France, Germany and the northern nations; faith in God revives and the human spirit is renewed..." Thus Columbus gets credit for both the Inquisition and the Renaissance. No wonder they gave him a parade!

Even better is the Washington Times op-ed by Edward Hudgins, billed as "executive director of the Objectivist Center and its Atlas Society, which celebrate rational individualists" (you know, every time the WashTimes goes on about some Democratic "extremist," I think of this sort of byline). Hudgins admits that the injuns got a raw deal, but... well, let him tell it:
The clash between the cultures of pre-Columbian natives and European immigrants certainly produced injustices for natives. But it would have been unjust for those natives to expect the immigrants to hold themselves to the level of primitive cultures and beliefs. The true long-term tragedy is that so many descendants of the pre-Columbian peoples in North America ended up on reservations rather than integrated into a society that offers opportunities for each individual to excel.
Yeah, while it was kind of a drag that so many of these guys wound up enslaved or dead -- though what could you expect? Not enslaving and killing them was a cultural concept foreign to white men -- the real tragedy is reservations.

Fuck Columbus. If it weren't for him I'd have government healthcare and seven weeks' vacation a year now.
SHORTER JULIA GORIN: Why you complain? In Sovet Union was much worse! Also North Korea! So you obey Bush okay? Stupid Amerikanskis.
SHORTER OLE PERFESSER: Yeah, I'm still doing the "counter a huge anti-war demonstration with a picture of a dinky one" bit. Who's gonna call me on it? It's not like I'm the MSM.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

MOOT COURT. I think the Miers controversy has much more to do with the need of newspaper writers, bloggers, and talking heads to preserve their credibility than with anything else.

Does a contentious or even a failed SCOTUS nomination seriously weaken the Administration? These nominations have all been contentious in one way or another since the Reagan Administration at least. After the failures of Bork and Ginsburg, it is true, Reagan resorted, late in his second term, to Anthony Kennedy, whom many movement conservatives consider a letdown at least. But Bush I, of all people, shoved through the highly controversial Clarence Thomas, who has been happily following the script ever since.

The Republicans under Bush II are observably more sensitive to their conservative base – the blood-and-thunder base, the Jesus base, not John Tierney and Glenn Reynolds -- that they were under his father, and much more than under Reagan (whose tenure produced, despite all the chest-beating, very few of the Kulturkampf victories for which his true believers agitated). When W says "trust me," he’s not talking to David Broder, he’s talking to them. Miers is an evangelical Christian. I don’t think her fellow born-agains care that she let Gloria Steinem give a lecture once. They know Miers has been called by the Lord, and has answered.

If Miers is withdrawn or defeated, the right to nominate does not devolve to Harry Reid. Bush will simply reach into his trick-bag of stealth nominees and eventually someone else of equal, um, reliability will be placed.

The Miers nomination clusters in an intellectually pleasing way with a bunch of other Bush mishaps, and may contribute to the public’s growing sense of unease with Republicans. But it’s hard to see a political benefit to the Democrats whatever the outcome. If they had their shit a little more together, they might be able to make a more credible "we warned you" case after these guys overturn Roe v. Wade, a distinct possibility over the new few years (especially now that John Roberts is the Center Square). But they probably don’t have the will, and they certainly don’t have the money, to work that angle effectively.

Bush has nothing to lose here but the approval of people he doesn’t need. The Republicans may be nervous, but it’s control of the largesse spigots on Capitol Hill that really concerns them – and this nomination can’t affect that one way or the other. The Democrats might make a stand here, but what, politically, will they have won, other than a reaffirmation of their reputation as spoilsports?

This is not to suggest that it would be a bad thing morally and ethically to insist on better qualifications in a Supreme Court Justice, if you want to be idealistic about it. But where’s the percentage in that?

UPDATE. Good points made in comments. I think Julia is right that this has awakened the sleeping midget that is our MSM. I'm not sure Notsobright is correct that the average voter will be affected by whatever weak skepticism the press has been emboldened to emit.

True, said voter is susceptible to propaganda, and the MSM can provide the sort of professionally-packaged messages that can reach his lizard brain. But the Bush Administration's terror mantra is psychologically very penetrating. If they have few non-Fox allies in the MSM, they can always count on cop shows, tributes to firefighters and soldiers, country music, football, etc., to fill in the copious blanks. The instructions that doubt is weakness will continue, and I think this will blow away whatever runny on-the-other-hand palaver the MSM provides.

Like Sven, I don't doubt that the Republicans would like to keep Roe alive as a secure fundraising scam. But for once I agree with the conventional wisdom that a Supreme Court Justice might do something silly once appointed. The Bushites are playing with fire here. Of course it may be that Miers' second birth in Christ is fake -- I'm not sure Bush's is legit either -- but if it isn't, we may see some wacky votes and opinions on her part. Besides, as Mark suggests, there's always hatred of homosexuals to keep the home crosses burning.

Gmoke is onto something: that Bush may worry about his own fortunes in a possible North American replay of the Pinochet trials, and want Miers as a sleeper sellout. (Pinochet didn't worry about stuff like that, but Pinochet was a soldier.) Bush may well hope that breeding will keep his old pal from sending him to the gallows. But one's Supreme Court appointees have been known to betray one -- or at least abstain.

Friday, October 07, 2005

DARK HORSE. Goldberg says:
I think it would be a fun exercise -- on the occasion of NR's 50th -- for my colleagues to answer who their favorite founding father of National Review was, and why. I think we should exempt William F. Buckley because that would be too easy.
I'm not invited, but I'll play. My nominee is Joseph de Maistre.

Like Buckley, de Maistre was a far-Right Catholic repulsed by the egalitarian movements of his time. Also like Buckley, he was well-educated, even gifted, but hated Enlightenment (or what we now call reality-based) thinking and, as described in Isaiah Berlin's great essay, was not content to disdain it but "set himself to destroy" it:
In place of the a priori formulas of this idealized conception of basic human nature, he appealed to the empirical facts of history, zoology and common observation. In place of the ideals of progress, liberty and human perfectibility, he preached salvation by faith and tradition. He dwelt on the incurably bad and corrupt nature of man, and consequently the unavoidable need for authority, hierarchy, obedience and subjection. In place of science he preached the primacy of instinct, Christian wisdom, prejudice (which is but the fruit of the experience of generations), blind faith; in place of optimism, pessimism; in place of eternal harmony and eternal peace, the necessity -- the divine necessity -- of conflict and suffering, sin and retribution, bloodshed and war....
It is not a perfect fit in all cases, but a surprisingly good one in general.

It may be argued that the National Review crowd is more generous with the dispensation of freedoms than de Maistre. They certainly like to talk about freedom -- especially, these days, in the Middle East (and God knows they love the idea of wars for freedom). They are fiercely devoted to some ideas associated with freedom -- e.g., "political incorrectness," and related, baser sorts of populism. But in matters of public policy such as the Patriot Act and consensual sexual activity, they are mostly anti-freedom; as to the free-markets thing which supposedly makes all conservatives True Sons of Liberty, they talk surprisingly little about it, and seem more concerned with top-down Federal policies. Though the Little Guy, beset by regulating liberals, gets a pat on the head from time to time, the NatRev people mostly put their faith in princes.

This, I think, is because they have all been splattered with Buckley's chrism, and have absorbed the idea that man is fallen and can only be redeemed by the intercession of the One True Church, of which National Review is a branch. As they cannot announce themselves with the traditional iconography, they use Gipper and Maggie as the Joseph and Mary of their Holy Family, with the role of Jesus rotating among conservative top-guns. Bush Jr. serves at the moment, and by the NR acolytes He is routinely flattered as tough-minded and beloved of the People even when it is most clear that He is not; and they frequently read anonymous anecdotes about His goodness into the public record.

My other nominees are Hitler, Satan, Robert Welch, etc. But this one, like Judgelet Miers, is so left-field it could work.
HI, just wanted to mention to those of you who don't live in New York that the latest bomb scare is more bullshit to try and make us scared. Later!

(P.S. Of course I know an explosion right about now would make me look awfully foolish, but that is just another fear the dirtbags wish to exploit. Sentient New Yorkers -- and probably sentient individuals anywhere -- have already internalized the idea that we can all be killed at any time. A life of fear doesn't suit us. Since no man has aught of what he leaves, what is it to leave betimes? Get real.)

UPDATE. Some of the Simonites are mad at New Yorkers for not bein' more ascared. "WichitaBoy" writes:
I'm sure that many New Yorkers are aware of a bomb threat. I'm also sure that many are in deep denial. If they weren't in denial they'd be looking hard for jobs elsewhere right now.
Yeah, that's our dream: to move to Wichita and spend our weekend nights watching Clem and Cletus blow up gophers. Especially now that their crystal meth is drying up, I'll give Cowtown a miss and take my chances with the suicide bombers.

UPDATE 2. More on Terra here.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

LET'S PLAY POPULIST! In today's New York Post (no link) Victor Davis Hanson suggests a few right-wing victories in the culture wars -- pretty thin gruel, including the opposition of some flight attendants to the hit movie Flightplan, though it is very hard to tell why he considers this a victory -- and explains how they came to be:
On the one side of all these controversies seem to be architects, curators, academics, CEOs, journalists, script writers, actors, lawyers, and judges. Their utopian view of what their fellow Americans should see, think, and feel are at odds with those of grieving families, police, firefighters, flight attendants and soldiers.

Those on museum boards, in Hollywood studios, and in the coutroom seek to fashion the intellectual landscape, in which those who put out fires, arrest criminals, serve food and shoot terrorists are to operate. The latter fight back...
Before he became America's delineator of the noble struggle of waitresses against architects, Hanson had many jobs. He was a cowpuncher in Abilene, a stevedore in Red Hook, and a roustabout in Cincinnati. He worked the oil rigs till the Doc said he'd lose his leg if he kept it up, so her startin' writin' these here columns.

Of course I'm teasing. Here's the guy's bio. Before a long academic career, Hanson was a "full time farmer," we're told, so maybe he gets his feel for The People from workin' the land. I wonder how much picking and plowing he did. Himself, I mean.*

I suppose one can have a sense of life without ever having worked a regular job. I just wonder where these eggheads get the moxie to describe the heroic fight of people who, if any of them ever got onto his "tree and vine farm," would have the dogs with bees in their mouths loosed upon them, versus the detestable elites of which they are obviously members.

UPDATE. Upon further review, I do realize this could be said about nearly every public intellectual. (Not me! I have done many common things, some remunerative, some just common.) It is interesting, though, how the populist dodge has been adopted, apparently with success, by conservative pencil-pushers versus the other kind. It's not like the salt of the earth are running from town to town in knee-breeches clutching the latest handbill by VDH, the People's Friend. Maybe this sort of thing is just an in-joke among the commentariat.

*UPDATE 2. Hanson describes a hardscrabble early life. I won't dispute it. Better, as always, to criticize the text than the man.

Of the four examples of plebian uprising Hanson describes, the best known is the fate of the WTC Freedom Center -- a struggle in which the principle combatants were politicians and newspapers (including the Post, which slammed the IFC for its "potential anti-Americanism"), with some 9/11 widows brought in as a secret weapon. Flightplan is primarily perceived by the public at large, if we go by the box office receipts, as a good way to spend an evening. The two Abu Ghraib citations -- one concerning the press, the other the release of photographs -- may well have outraged some soldiers, but I don't see any evidence that the American public is mobbing up to defend its fighting men and women from the exposure of an isolated torture case.

Whether Hanson bales his own wire or not, this is the sort of thing that gives populism a bad name. The only bright side is that maybe, as this sort of rhetoric moves perceptibly further from reality, people will stop buying it.
WHEN YOU'RE A SUBURBANITE, EVERY SOLUTION LOOKS LIKE A SUBURB. The Ole Perfesser tries his hand at transportation policy, and for reasons that should be obvious, it's all about cars and computers. Light rail's a non-starter, sez the Perf, because "the changing U.S. economy makes traditional commuting -- in which armies of workers flock from suburbs to downtowns in the morning, and back home in the evenings -- less significant."

There's a lot of rah-rah for telecommuting here, of the sort seen in the boosterish trade mags the Professor and his conservatarian hordes probably read ("This isn't your grandfather's workplace. We're five years into the new millennium," etc).

But if you live anywhere near a city, folks, tell me: have the highways become significantly less congested at rush hour? The Census Bureau's American Community Survey says that the "home-based" workforce was up 23 percent between 1990 and 2000 -- but that top figure represents only 3.2 million people, and a 10-year increase of less than a million. Between 2000 and 2003, the ACS reports, just another 300,000 workers went home-based.

These are not quite wave-of-the-future stats. And we don't know whether these folks are writing RFPs for big bucks, or making paper flowers at a subsistence wage. Not all home-based workers are "telecommuters."

But if you whole life has been spent in offices, classrooms, and malls, you might think that. Perhaps the Professor also believes that all those uncounted unemployed who have dropped off the unemployment rolls are actually running profitable consultancies somewhere in the Sun Belt.

But where the policy paper takes a genuinely weird turn is here:
Likewise, I think it's worth encouraging shopping from home, too. I order a lot of things from the Web specifically because it saves me the hassle of venturing out into traffic to visit stores, but when I avoid that hassle I avoid burning gas, too. True, the delivery truck burns gas -- but it's delivering to a lot of other homes at the same time it's delivering to mine, so overall it winds up using considerably less per person than if everyone shops individually.
First, given his cold-dead-hands approach to government intervention, it's hard to guess who is supposed to do the "encouraging" here. (Well, rightwing bloggers consider themselves Tribunes of the People, so maybe he thinks their endorsement will be enough to swing it.)

But it's hard to see how sending delivery trucks to consumers, instead of consumers to stores, will significantly decrease traffic -- or significantly achieve anything, really, except to bring reality more into accord with the Perfesser's fantasy. Because when you look at what he proposes, it's a suburbanite's wet dream: cities starved of transportation funding, and suburbs regnant, filled with jobs and coddled with services, their citizens exempt from the necessity of leaving the house even for an instant.

Something I think that's what really the problem with this country: too many of its most influential residents have a positive horror of human contact and physical exercise, and will do whatever they have to do -- to themselves and to the country -- to avoid it.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

DOGS AND CATS, LIVING TOGETHER! Some Dutch people have staged a marital three-way, and the Values brigade, clad in togas, is crying "Vanitas!" which is Latin for "Damned fags."

To be fair, Tacitus' contempt, being classicist is style and Biblical in scope, reaches further back than the gay-nups thing: "No-fault divorce opened up a Pandora's box of easily-broken families... those wishing to pretend that a homosexual coupling constitutes marriage... decay of Western Civilization," etc. Then the dry-ice machine was revved up and he floated, one bony finger raised in reproach, back into his Temple.

For the rest, it's solely about the homosex -- and those of us who are presumed to have supported gay marriage solely as a sort of malicious prank on Decent People. "When asked why they opposed gay 'marriage' last spring, many conservative trotted out the 'polygamy and farm animals' response, subjecting them to guffaws and derogatory remarks," recalls No Man's Land. "'As if,' snorted the left, and that was that. Or was it?" (Cue ominous multisex music.)

I know not what course others may take, but I have never sought to console nervous Kulturkampfers with promises that the very thought of gay marriage (which is really all we have of it now in the U.S.) would never lead to, or at least precede, three-ways, man on dog, etc. I have laughed at their fears, not because the things they feared could never happen, but because they are fools to fear it.

We live in a country where, despite all the Jesus-chatter, Mammon rules. Citizens are invited -- nay, commanded, lest they fall into a socially ostracized category called "Loser" -- to accumulate as much money as they can, and given only the barest of moral guidelines within which to pursue this hunt. Even disregarding outright crime, the amount of bad behavior this invites -- ranging from the pocketing of too much change at the deli, to the completely legal crushing of lives, hopes and dreams daily practiced by our bankers -- would cause the angels to weep if they existed.

Yet I never see these guys worry too much about the decay of Western Civilization into an orgy of rapacious capitalism. That's not the sort of orgy that gets their attention.

Well, whatever floats your boat. Our money-lust, like our freedom-lust (and our just plain lust) is part of who we are. I give less than a rat's ass whether some polyamorous cluster wants to celebrate its love in legal language. If you think our Empire will be toppled because of that, when there are so many other, much weaker spots in our underbelly ripe for tearing, then I honestly don't know what to tell you.
But I do know that it’s true that if you wanted to reduce crime, you could—if that were your sole purpose, you could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down. That would be an impossible, ridiculous, and morally reprehensible thing to do, but your crime rate would go down.
Defenders of Bill Bennett's statement, ranging ideologically from Matthew Yglesias to Jeff Goldstein, maintain that Bennett was not in fact advocating the abortion of every black baby. Which is of course obvious, and not the basis of any reasonable objection.

The actually offensive part of Bennett's statement was his assertion that mass black fetuscide would, of necessity, cause crime to drop. Bennett's defenders do not dispute this idea -- in fact, they appear to consider it beyond dispute.

It's strange that so many public intellectuals think the condition of black folks will not improve in another generation. In a way I am more surprised by the conservatives than by the eventheliberals. We are constantly assured by them that Iraq will swiftly improve, indeed, will soon flower into an oasis of democracy. If that shitstorm can subside, why not black crime stats?

But stranger still is the insistence of Bennett and his supporters that his comment be celebrated as part of an honest effort to "talk about race and crime" -- something we are, alas, "not allowed" to do, due to PC pressure.

Any discussion that begins the way Bennett began his is not going to evolve into anything very edifying. If you tell someone his mama is ugly, it does not matter whether his mama is indeed ugly, or pretty, or of debatable appearance; you should not be surpised if he responds, not with a reasoned defense of his mother's appearance, but with his fists.

Whatever statistics may show, and however reasonable your inferences from them may seem to you, ordinary people will take it amiss when you tell them that their children are predestined to be criminals. This feeling is natural, indeed primal, but it is not ill-informed or delusional. It is based on a bit of ancient wisom: that the sins of the fathers need not be visited upon the sons. (This idea also corresponds with common sense.)

Still Bennett's defenders seem to think that black folks should endure -- and even agree with -- the proposition that their children are prison-bound, else they are not sufficiently interested in an honest Dialogue on Race.

In the late 19th century, people frequently said that for the Irish-American, criminality was in the blood. We think these statements rather crude now -- but imagine how much different things might have been if we had defined these utterances as part of our Dialogue on Race.

Samuel D. Burchard would still have insisted that the Democrats were the Party of "Rum, Romanism, and Rebellion," for example, but no one would have disavowed or been alarmed by it (except, of course, race-card-dealing Democrats); rather, social scientists would have rushed forward with charts, and perhaps phrenological diagrams, to defend his analysis as something no thinking person could dispute. The Republican Party would have prescribed for the troublesome "Romanist" immigrants covenant marriages and government-funded classes on matrimony (and maybe a drawing class with Thomas Nast).

If prominent Republican Irish-Americans protested this slur, they would probably be told something like what Goldstein tells black Republican Robert George -- that they are "shifting their condemnation toward the linguistically corrupt notion that the signifier, divorced from intent, is nevertheless the responsibility of the utterer" -- though without, of course, all the semiotic trappings, which would have left the sentiment somewhat earthier.

ADDENDUM. Charles Murray, whose previous contribution to our Dialogue on Race was The Bell Curve, drops some winger science on New Orleans. He goes on about the underclass, based on Katrina's revelations of "looters and thugs, and those of inert women doing nothing to help themselves or their children." This sounds an awful lot like that MSM overreaching the Perfesser has been complaining about, and which caused some of his acolytes to call the press racist. "Behaving self-destructively is the hallmark of the underclass," says Murray. Well, not only of them, apparently.