Sunday, December 31, 2006

THE LAND OF MAKE BELIEVE. In continuance of his War On Search Engines That Don't Ask His Advice Before Devising Holiday Graphics, the Ole Perfesser gets on Google for front-loading seach results.

Not on moral grounds, of course, but because a big mob of citizen journalists will rise up and crush Google if it doesn't behave. It's a power play, basically. Sometimes the Perfesser has to flex his muscle a little.

So he quotes some other tech dork who says Google better watch it and quotes yet another tech dork who says Google better watch it.

Neither Perf Reffed Dork 1 nor Perf Reffed Dork 2 -- nor, indeed, the Perfesser -- have any meaningful ad, traffic or other numbers to justify their warnings. Dork 2's post is actually a non-sequitur -- Google users are "dweebs" because they don't look for Britney Spears or Weather, haha! -- and perhaps linked in error; Dork 1 has a marginally more substantive complaint: that Google is acting like a big bad corporation, which it is, and all the while pretends to be Non-Evil, which it does, since Dorks of whatever numeration love to hear that shit.

But Dork 1 suggests that Google is by its predations is losing "trust," that magical fairy-dust, and suggests indirectly that said loss of fairy-dust will lead to something we've "seen... before [,when] Yahoo, AOL and Microsoft were the darlings of the valley back in the late nineties..." and the big crash that followed.

Those of us who remember the tech crash -- indeed predicted it -- also remember that it was fairly sweeping, and did not exempt companies that were Non-Evil. It exempted companies that offered things people were willing to pay for, which sort of company Google appears to be.

But Dork 1 Thinks Different:
Now Google is in the position of dominance, and they definitely have the arrogance that goes with it. But they are in a very difficult spot because of that damned motto ["Don't Be Evil"], and perhaps right on the tipping point where public opinion could change. More and more, people are hoping for Google to stumble. And every time they do, the press pounces. And they always point to the motto.
"People" and "press" are used more or less as synonyms here -- and actually, in our Glorious Blog Revolution, where the the Means of Production are held by the Wankers, I suppose technically everyone is "press." And maybe this is why our Dork thinks the complaints of the commentariat will cause all mankind (which is the same thing!) to dump Google out of sheer righteous indignation and avail search engines that are made by monks on organic server farms.

After all, if the Reagan Revolution taught us anything, it's that ethical behavior is much more important to ordinary consumers than pricing and performance. That's why everyone the Dorks know (and, by logical inference, the population of our solar system) has the Google motto by heart.

The Perfesser himself seems to believe the same ridiculous thing -- or his own, much shorter and funnier version of it. He hehindeeds:
I've noted declining trust in Google over the past year or so, and it seems that the problem is getting worse. Google should be a lot more worried about this than it seems to be -- all you need to do to take your business elsewhere is type a different URL.
Do check that "declining trust" link, where the evidence is... one Jonah Goldberg mouth-fart and a graphic link to (dare we say "paid product placement for"?)

With such slim evidence can "declining trust' be implied, because 1.) few people follow deep links, and so will not know how full of shit this one is, and 2.) the Perfesser's devotees are as reality-averse as he is, and inclined to believe, with or without evidence, that he and his buddies represent a groundswell.

This is not a defense of Google's hanky-panky, but a reminder that "citizen journalism" is less exempt from institutional hubris and bullshit than its cheerleaders tirelessly make it out to be.

The worst kind of pundits, I think, are the ones who are addicted to the idea that the whole world agrees with them, even in the face of contradictory facts. Pretty much the entire right-blogosphere displayed this behavior in the month before the 2006 elections (Use my own archive for examples!). That their arrogance leads to frequent and hilarious come-uppances does not excuse them, because they never learn from these reverses -- they just apply their arrogance to another area until time has passed and the coast become clear for their next beating of pots and pans on behalf of the Emerging Blogospheric Majority.

UPDATE. A correspondent takes exception to my use of the term "tech dork." I admire the strong feeling for standards and simple justice often seen at slashdot and other places where tech types gather. Anyone who stands for purity in this soiled world is going to seem a bit dorkish.

God knows I have. As a jacked-up little shit of a punk rocker, I used to think that the music industry was Moloch and that the truth was only known by guttersnipes. Had I been (and it would have been only just) killed by a falling stage monitor at age 20 and reincarnated as a tech guy, maybe I'd be dorking up a storm now, righteously wishful-thinking that Google's sellout will be noted and avenged by the masses.

So I agree that the tech dorks don't deserve my breezily dismissive attitude. The Perfesser's cynical use of them, on the other hand, deserves all that and more.

Friday, December 29, 2006

SHORTER STEPHEN BAINBRIDGE: See, the difference between us Catholics and bloodthirsty maniacs is, we humanely lull you to sleep with endless speeches of self-justification before we kill you.

UPDATE. Michael Rubin at NRO says, "Of course, the Iraqis do favor capital punishment and that’s what matters..." When did we go back to pretending to give a shit what they think?
THE CONTINUING WAR AGAINST VICTORY. Seen Rich Lowry's column today? Today's moment of oh-no-he-DIH-hint:
In a major speech on poverty last year, he referred to the social ills besetting young mothers who “aren’t married.” But his prescription for this problem is to excoriate teen parenthood and say that people should be expected “to hold off having kids until they’re ready.” He refuses to offer as the obvious solution the M-word that rhymes with carriage.

This is because the word “marriage” is something of a taboo in the Democratic party unless it is prefaced by “gay.”
Is it true? Are these guys really going back to the Democrats-hate-marriage argument? Hello President Kucinich! Because by the time me and my Demonrat Congresscritter friends finish gayifying America, even fancy restaurants will be serving condiments in packets 'cause the waiters won't even marry the ketchups! The Mother of Christ will charge her name to Commitment Ceremony! Bride magazine will be full of drag queens! etc.

Or maybe they expect to turn the electorate back on with Bridget Johnson and her comedy "resolutions":
Grab other conservative pundits for a weekend of headline-grabbing partying in the manner of Lindsay Lohan, Britney Spears, and Paris Hilton. I shall be Lohan, pre-gothic hair dye, because unlike Britney, I remember to put on unmentionables. The New York Daily News will catch up with the squad of conservavixens and christen the GOP the “Republican Par-TAY!”
Well, there go my next three erections. ("Unmentionables" is, like, 19th-Century for panties, right? 'Round my way they're called ankle-warmers.)
YEAR-END DUMBASS CLEARANCE! As an English tutor of yout's, I teach a module on Fact and Opinion, in which I explain that assertions that cannot be proven are opinions. If you say "This potato weighs a half a pound," you are stating a fact, because you can weigh the potato to prove your assertion; but if you say "Potatoes suck," you are expressing an opinion, for there is no suckometer with which you could measure the suckage of potatoes.

Sometimes, though -- and don't tell the kids -- I feel as if I, perhaps alone among humanity, possess an internal suckometer, one that has been sensitized by prolonged exposure to the fatheads and dipshits that are alicublog's primary subject matter. And I must tell you that, by its measure, Crunchy Rod Dreher is reading absolutely off the charts.

First he bitches on and on about how they's a Wal-Mart a-comin' to his l'il ol' childhood home. In Crunchy Rod's former (and my current) jurisdiction, of course, we use activism and politics to prevent such noxious results; but, to each jerkwater burg its own.

Then he drops this turd:
Here's something interesting: there are Mexican laborers in town now. More and more of them. A local businessman said to me, "If you want to get anything done nowadays, you have to hire Mexicans." He explained that the black day laborers that people around here used to hire for agricultural or small-scale construction work aren't available anymore. He speculated that this must have something to do with the way the drug culture -- especially crack -- has made serious inroads into the black community here. Frankly, I'm so shocked by this that I can't even think about being sad. Crack for sale in this sleepy Southern town. I guess I'm too Romantic, too naive.
Because if blacks aren't doing the grunt work, it must surely be due to their crack addiction. "Romantic," indeed.

A commenter calls Rod on this, and Rod gits mad:
Harvey, you may valorize yourself your condescension, but you know nothing about the way life is and people are around here. You know how you wish they were. You know exactly nothing about how the black community, as a general matter, lives in this specific place, or the white community. Neither do I, though I know more than you do...

...It is also the case that the black unemployment rate is much higher than the white unemployment rate, which informs the "won't work" judgment -- you have a significant number of employable black men here who are able to work, but who do not work. Some of these men sell drugs instead. If someone needs unskilled labor on a temporary basis, when I was a boy it was possible to hire a crew of black men who didn't have regular employment to come perform the labor. I am told now that those kinds of jobs, which used to be performed by black men a generation ago, are now performed by Mexican laborers, who are available and willing to do the work that local black men, for whatever reason, are not...
...willing to do for a buck-three-eighty, like in my pappy's day.

How many times have you heard crap like that? I know it's not a Southern thing, because I've been hearing it since I was a boy in Bridgeport, Connecticut. And I've heard it in every region of the country: Oh, you don't know those people like I do. They just don't want to work! All they want to do is get likkered up and play dice! Or get coked up and play Young Jeezy, whatever.

Well, I'm here to tell you that I've been walking this earth quite a long time now, and the monstrous stupidity of that POV just gets clearer, and the traditional defense offered by Crunchy Rod -- that outside agitators don't know his little slice of Valhalla, where human nature is totally different than it is everywhere else you've ever been in your life -- increases past simple lameness and into immobility.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

TODAY'S ZEITGEIST SNAPSHOT: BILL BENNETT YELLING AT THE CORPSE OF GERALD FORD. I have to admit, when old Number 38 went down I was tempted to post a parody version of this headline. But we the living should not press our advantage over the newly dead. There is hilarity enough to be gleaned from right-wing jackasses now professing to admire him.

We all know what these people truly feel about the proto-RINO who took Nelson Rockefeller as his VP. Still, for the sake of their Party, they have made a pretense of mourning, and reminisce fondly about the Mayaguez incident -- 40 Americans killed to rescue sailors who had already been released. That's standin' tall, by God!

Rare as these japes are, the punchline is even better. Ford left his Republican brothers a time-delayed stink-bomb: a posthumous bullshit-call on the Iraq War. Apparently Ford wanted history to record that, whatever his other defects, he was no GWB.

Who would be the first of the mourners to rip the lid off the coffin and start pummelling the corpse? Why, Dollar Bill Bennett:
This is not courage, this is not decent. The manly or more decent options are these: 1. Say it to Bush's or Cheney's face and allow them and us to engage the point while you're around, or 2. Far more decently, say nothing critical of Bush will be on the record until his presidency is over. There's a 3. Don't say anything critical of George Bush to Bob Woodward at all.
Or 4., tell Ken Mehlman you want a cool million to keep your mouth shut, then take the money to Caesar's Palace. Best slots in the West! Tell 'em Bill B sent you.

UPDATE. Crunchy Conman Rod Dreher on Ford:
Sorry, I wish I had stronger opinions about Ford. I also wish I had stronger opinions about mashed potatoes. R.I.P.
What, I wonder, is the Crunchy Con policy on drugs? Because it sounds like RD has got him some of that good hydroponic weed.
PLEASE, PEOPLE, don't any of you tell Ben Stein about The Producers, or he'll kidnap Mel Brooks and take him to Israel for trial.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

SHORTER THE ANCHORESS: I really hate my sister.
ADDED VALUE. I haven't been paying enough attention to Ann Althouse lately. Fortunately Whiskey Fire is on the job:
Althouse feels things, and these things are terribly important:

I am struck -- you may think it is absurd for me to be suddenly struck by this -- but I am struck by how deeply and seriously libertarians and conservatives believe in their ideas...

...One of the reasons 9/11 had such a big impact on me is that it was such a profound demonstration of the fact that these people are serious. They really believe.
The problem with this is that it is self-aggrandizing pap, complete with a silly observation about 9/11. It's a strategy. It's a move in a game, the claim to be above playing it. Also, it's annoying. And beyond that, it's a confession that she's labored under conditions of appalling ignorance for years...
This is good shooting, soldier, and it also helps explain Jonah Goldberg's earlier-noted confusion: he thinks Ann Althouse is a liberal.

Adding to the merriment: someone at The Corner has linked to the post. Matter meets doesn't-matter!
A NEW LOW. It is traditional at alicublog, when we treat a piece of writing by Jonah Goldberg, to close with the phrase, "This is the stupidest thing ever written, and will remain so until Goldberg writes something else." But his latest essay will be hard even for Goldberg to top.

The theme is religious certainty. Here is the intellectual highlight:
The rot, not surprisingly, has reached Hollywood. For example, in Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith, George Lucas caved to the fashionable anti-absolutism that comes with Bush hatred by having a young Obi-Wan Kenobi proclaim, “Only a Sith lord deals in absolutes!” Translation: Only evil people see the world as black-and-white. This signaled that Lucas’s descent into hackery was complete, since it was Lucas himself who originally explained that the entire universe is divided into light and dark sides.
I don't even know what to say to this. I tried out three jokes here, and they were pretty good jokes (two involved bongs and poop), but they just seemed so... puny compared to the breathtaking scale of this idiocy. That the editor of a major magazine would present such dorm-room sci-fi drivel without a blink of embarrassment! Somewhere the shades of Addison and Steele are tearing one another's hair out and screaming God-a-mercy.

And how about this:
Whenever I hear people say such things, I like to ask them, “Are you sure about that?” When they say yes, which they always do, I follow up by asking, “No, no: Are you really, really certain that certainty is bad?” At some point even the irony-deficient get the joke.
Next week, Goldberg discourses on the use of "why are you hitting yourself?" as a rhetorical tool.

Goldberg would not roll so often into such ripe patches of intellectual manure if he were not so addicted to willful misunderstandings. Liberals worry about the influence on our governance of religious dogmatists, and Goldberg absurdly interprets this as an anathema on "certainty." Then he makes a great show of revealing that "they aren’t offended by conviction per se, but by convictions they do not hold." In other words, if you like Rosa Parks but don't like Osama Bin Laden, you're a liberal hypocrite for whom "'Closed-minded' has come to mean 'people who disagree with me.'" Plus Hitler was a vegetarian. Psych!

I do advise you follow the link and find your own favorite bits. But I call dibs on "As Chesterton teaches, a dogmatic conviction can also be morally praiseworthy and socially valuable." And, as Shakespeare said, white wine goes with fish, and an open box of baking soda will help keep your fridge smelling sweet. Sweet Christ, the Argument from Authority itself must feel unclean after such a use.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

STAY ON THE SCENE. On my local TV news, tears rolled down Rev. Al Sharpton's face as he paid tribute to the late James Brown. That figures. Like Reverend Al -- my love for whom you all know -- JB was a shuck-and-jivester who sometimes left a bad smell after himself, but whose glories far surpassed his trespasses.

I used to work with a guy who played first trumpet with JB and kept coming back on tour, partly for the music and partly because JB always paid players for the last tour rather than the present one -- "Holly," he told my friend, "you're a smart man -- you know I can't pay ya!" I'm sure if it were only the latter reason that compelled, Holly would have just gone to the union, but he loved playing for the man, and it showed when he was on a gig.

I'm sure JB could be hard for players to love. He famously fined them for missing cues. He was just as famously tight with a buck, so we may suspect his ear was well-tuned to such malfeasances, and maybe even hypersensitive to them. But here too there was more than one reason: JB started out as a drummer.

All jokes aside, it has been my experience that the drummers who conform to stereotype are the ones who just can't do anything else (just as it's always the monomaniacal cooks who are the crazy ones) -- but if they have anything besides paradiddles rattling around in their noggins, they are usually quite brilliant, and typically exacting when put in charge of group endeavors. The great drummers I've worked with -- Andy Malm, Ray Sage, Sally Barry, Billy Ficca -- all have wide-ranging interests and very short tempers. They love a groove, but they despise a mess.

JB's music is full of hairpin turns and dead-stops -- you better be on top of things if you're playing it. But those tight boundaries just make the grooves groovier. The funk has got to be loose, but the turnarounds have got to be snare-head tight. It's only when those rivets are snug that the pocket can get deep.

No one talks about JB as a songwriter. In a way, that's unfair. Some of his songs are excellent on their own terms. Check out Eartha Kitt's strangely compelling cover of "It's a Man's Man's Man's World" to get a taste of how far that supposedly macho lyric can be stretched. Or just look at it plain, especially at the end: "He's lost, lost in the wilderness ... he's lost, lost in the loneliness..." That ain't triumph. That ain't even soul-man baby-please-don't-go pleading with a promise in its pocket. That's despair. She ain't coming back. Ain't no one coming back. That's the end, the sad, stinking, canned-heat end of a ladies' man who's run out of game. It gives cold-water-flat chills.

But for the most part, JB was less a songwriter than a funkmeister. His joints are designed to wake joy and shake ass. He used modern songwriting techniques -- verbal and musical riffs -- to make that happen, but once he achieved launch velocity, he didn't feel the need to elaborate. Stay on the scene, like a sex machine. I feel nice, like-a sugar and spice. I got soul, I'm super bad. Well, damn, what else do you need?

But let's not just talk about his legacy on recorded media. I saw him once, at the old Lone Star Cafe in New York. My sloppy who-was-I-sleeping-with metric puts the show at 1978, give or take a shake. (Also, I'd just missed Iggy at the Palladium on the grounds that he was washed up, and I had decided, after the glowing reports, that I wasn't going to make that mistake again.) The Lone Star had a very shallow stage, so JB hadn't a lot of room to work with. And he wasn't the wild man I hoped to see. But he was eminently theatrical, and his spins and lunges, though constrained, were sharp -- his will observably extended beyond his marks. He was in fine voice, too. His band was shit-tight, and you could feel his pleasure whenever he vocally or physically smacked into a hard beat they supplied for him. It wasn't the 60's Apollo, but it was a full measure of what he had to give, And yes, he did sweat. JB came to work. On black coffee, and a hard roll. Huhh.

And long after that, long after any of us thought or cared about seeing him again, there were those JB hits on Public Enemy records. HOO! Yeah! HOO! Yeah! Cut tight to the groove, appropriately.

No flowers. Just stop playing Justin Timberlake for a few minutes. Or at least think about what it meant to spin ten or twelve players on a dime, and try and get some of that centifugal force onto a record. Because Pro Tools, from what I've heard, can't give you that heave, that sense of great mass suddenly shifting at the sharp stoke of a bandleader's hand. Or maybe it can and you haven't found it yet. Till you do, you ain't bringing sexy back.

Monday, December 25, 2006

MERRY CHRISTMAS. I was making rather merry myself last night, and am a little sluggish on the uptake today, but I expect you all know that I wish you the best even when I am silent. Christmas puts a lot of people in a good mood, and those it puts in a bad mood have my sympathies -- I have suffered many festive seasons that way myself. But the way I currently see it, the winter festival has something for any of us, happy or sad, who can focus briefly on the fact that seasons change, and the cold earth will be warmed. The popular metaphors extended from that are a bit of a stretch, but I have believed in sillier things that were far less cheering. Whatever wets your wassail, I hope it gives you joy.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

THE JESUS AND MARY CHAIN. My holiday has been so busy that I almost missed Daniel Henninger writing about the Atheist Menace.

Henninger's new stock in trade seems to be the announcement of some non-existent threat to society, followed by assurances that we'll all get through this dark time somehow. Just last week he was saying that a new wave of "clean" comedy was going to save us from filthy-mouthed Hollywood. (He also admitted to enjoying old Eddie Murphy routines, which suggests a wonderful picture: Henninger, whose manner on "The Journal Editorial Report" is that of a funeral director with constipation, relaxing in a Barcolounger and, when Ralph Kramden tells Ed Norton to fuck him in the ass, clanging open his mailslot mouth to emit the old Mr. Machine shriek of pleasure.) Now he suggests, on the strength of one provocative book, that atheist scientists are coming to burn down our churches. Exhibit A: The Treason of the Bookstore Clerks!
When I asked a young clerk at Borders on lower Broadway if they had Richard Dawkins's best-selling atheist manifesto, "The God Delusion," he replied, "Oh, we'd better: It's a fantastic book!" He swept the quarter-mile across the store to make sure I got it. "Enjoy!" he said sounding, well, triumphal.
"Swept," eh? Must be a fag, too. Yet through the godless science of IVF, he will unite with Lileks' bete noir, the small-breasted, unsubmissive hair stylist, and spawn a race of monsters!

The trope is risible, but what's a culture cop to do? The post-Foley era has taken some of the zest out of his racket. "Conservatism: The Anti-Sex" can only sustain so many columns, and even some right-wingers are tiring of the drug war. So it's down to the stems and seeds of psychodrama for Henninger till a new Pat Buchanan emerges to re-energize the scam.

I look forward to forthcoming columns in which he accuses "American Idol" of leading an assault on the Second Commandment.

Friday, December 22, 2006

NEVER UNDERSTAND. From The Economist's third-hand report, it seems Frances Fukuyama has a reasonable view of the Iraq invasion and the preemptive war strategy that goes with:
...The problem with such a strategy is that it requires the United States to be able to accurately predict the future, not just in terms of enemy capabilities but also in terms of the complex calculations that foreign leaders will make years hence. “In Iraq,” [Fukuyama] said, “American knowledge of enemy capabilities — even its near-term capabilities with respect to weapons of mass destruction — was sorely deficient”...

According to Fukuyama, the primary lesson that America should learn from its travails in Iraq is ... that there are limits to what any nation can do in promoting democracy abroad. “No country has ever been democratized without the people doing it themselves,” he noted. The demand must come from within...

“Ultimately, democracy is spread by the prestige and moral credibility of countries that are democratic,” Fukuyama said, pointing out that the United States was a beacon to Eastern European countries throughout the Cold War because of what America represented, not because of the way it used its military power.
But The Economist's commentator takes exception:
Most of that is common sense, but I'm not sure about the conclusion.

If it was a matter of "prestige and moral credibility", why didn't the captive nations dream about Switzerland or Sweden? What they liked about America was the proof it offered that titanic military power could be reconciled with liberal and economic order. There was no necessary trade-off between a strong country and a free people, as the Soviet model presumed.

Fukuyama omits, too, the role played prosperity. It was the consumerist wealth of the West that made its model irresistible to threadbare communist states. So much so that the broad masses in Russia didn't much care what the model was, so long as the consumer goods came with it.

I doubt that American prosperity has quite the same tantalising effect on the Iraqi or the Iranian sensibility.

So actually, as far as I can see, the way that America uses its military power will be quite central to any spreading of democracy in the Middle East. If you can be victorious, kind and smart, then people are going to want to find out how you did it. And I can't see why Fukuyama would want to argue to the contrary.
Forgive the long quotes, but without them it's hard to see what the beef is -- or rather, with them it's hard to see it, too. Of course the Eastern Europeans admired our military power -- but those of them who expected us to use it to free their countries were sorely disappointed.

Still, the world turned and the Bloc was broken. Is the commentator suggesting that we should have stepped to the Soviets in 1956, as we later stepped to Saddam? If not, what is the problem with admitting that the Iraq invasion was a mistake?

Not that it is entirely clear that commentator doesn't think it was a mistake. But if so, he or she won't cop to it. The argument is simply pushed in an another direction: what's wrong with having big armed forces? As if Fukuyama or anyone else were suggesting we shouldn't. Not bloody likely!

This piece strikes me as part of the persistently messy thinking seen elsewhere: that as wrong as we have demonstrably been on Iraq, we must have been right in some way -- which will be revealed if only we keep digging. This tic can be amusing, but as the better-than-usually-spoken case above shows, it is disturbing, too. Because if you don't know that you went wrong, you have very little chance of going right.
A HOLLY JOLLY JIMBO! Today's Lileks is all about how he didn't like his hair stylist because she wasn't friendly and didn't have big tits:
My stylist was unpleasant. Usually I get a cheerful lass with a balloony bosom (displayed for all to see, so we can marvel at the tattoos) but this time I got a sullen minx who radiated indifference and self-regard...

Spare me the emails about how I shouldn’t have tipped her at all! It was a decent enough cut, and she has to make a living. I just won’t use her again. I’m North Dakotan that way. I’ll show the little snit what I think, and tip her exactly what the custom demands.
I may be reaching here, but I think that if there'd been an Eulenspiegel Society chapter in Fargo during Lileks' formative years, he mightn't need snow on his patio furniture to make him happy today.

Myrna Bluth: Christmas is about presents.

Carrie Lukas: Christmas is about school vouchers.

Jennifer Roeback Morse: Mine is the one true religion.

Jennifer Graham: Christ suffered, and I follow his example by cleaning up after an exotic pet.

Michael Novak: This Christmas, spare a thought for the truly unfortunate, like George W. Bush.

Jonah Goldberg: Rudy should take a black guy around the country and beat him up.

In this time of good will toward men, l thank the staff of the magazine, and all the other imbeciles and madmen who constitute my subject matter, for the hours of pleasure they have given my readers and me in this dwindling year. The best is yet to come!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

THE SELF-CORRECTING POWER OF THE BLOGOSPHERE COMPELS YOU! The Anchoress complains that she was misquoted by Eric Boehlert:
Writes Boehlert:

Warbloggers, stressing their contempt for the First Amendment — “The government needs to slap down the press,” urged The Anchoress — would prefer that information about the war in Iraq be disseminated only by the United States military, despite the fact the bipartisan Iraq Study Group just concluded that for years the U.S. military wildly underreported violence inside Iraq.

Well…that’s crap. First of all, what I wrote was, “The government needs to slap down the press and demand some accountability,” which is very different from “the government needs to slap down the press.”
Right. If someone said that I said, "I slapped down the bitch," when what I really said was, "I slapped down the bitch and demanded his money," that would totally misrepresent me, too.

Oh, and if you were thinking of looking for the implied follow-up to "First of all," don't bother. Or do. Keep fact-checking my ass!

UPDATE. The Ole Perfesser, perdictably, exhibits similar, basic reading problems, then says that the MSM is a-scared.
A CHRISTMAS MESSAGE FROM SUSETTE KELO AND ALICUBLOG. The unfortunate victim of SCOTUS' Kelo decision has sent a Christmas card to the people who forced her off her land so they could build some condos for yuppie dipshits. Per the Hartford Courant, her holiday verse reads in part:
Your houses, your homes, your family, your friends
May they live in misery that never ends
I curse you all. May you rot in hell
To each of you I send this spell
The Courant quotes some of the people who got Kelo's card. They are uniformly dismissive. One marvels that eviction from her longtime home would so exercise Kelo: "The things she's angry about were not done to be mean-spirited toward her personally."

In other words, if you fuck someone over for money, but with a heart unblighted by negative feelings, your victims shouldn't be angry about it.

Come to think of it, this seems to be the operating principle of much of our current government -- of both the official and permanent varieties. If you are dissatisfied with, let alone outraged by, the great job engine and war machine that has replaced the inefficient Republic of yore, you are thought to suffer from an attitude problem.

Recently our ruling class got a little whiff of the discontent their own actions have begun to provoke. May they receive much, much more of the same in the days to come.

Happy holidays and rot in hell from alicublog!
MORE CHRISTMAS TREASURES! Been to Dr. Mrs. Ole Perfesser's place lately? Her recent assertion that Republicans are "oppressed" by being called Republicans apparently signaled a blast-off into Althouse territory, where reality is an increasingly distant, shrinking object.

Last weekend she asked her readers why the 62-year-old lady in the ad on her own page is clad in fetishwear. "Feels good" would be my guess, but she might have thought to ask her own advertiser. Maybe Dr. Mrs. was just trying to stimulate a discussion; surprisingly, the one thus engendered in comments is less full of he-man woman hating than usual.

Then, back to oppressed Republicans: Lefty prof calls student a "white shitbag." Dr. Mrs. parries, "Now imagine the tables were turned and a white professor called a black student Democrat the same type of derogatory name in reverse?" In comments, General J.C. Christian, Patriot, engages, and Dr. Mrs. cries, "If you want to get into revenge from what happened years ago, then when will it end?" and later invokes Michael Richards, apparently as another white man oppressed by oversensitivity to ancient injustices. I wonder what percentage of Dr. Mrs.' time is spent outside her home, office, and car.

But the plum, my dears, is this:
I was sitting at the spa yesterday flipping through magazines and came across the December issue of Us Magazine. I know, I know, I should quit reading these magazines, but I am interested as a psychologist, in how pop culture affects the political thinking in our schools and society--so give me a break.
I know just what she means. As a social critic, I am very interested in the effect of hardcore pornography on both my society and myself. I don't know why people are always making inferences, or throwing me out of public restrooms.

This is the best Christmas ever!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

FULL METAL STOCKING. alicublog must have been good this year, because Santa has of late bestowed upon us a lot of Ralph "Blood 'n' Guts" Peters columns. Today's is a book review:
IF a prize were awarded for the most-improved government publication of the decade, we could choose the winner now: "Army Field Manual 3-24, Counterinsurgency" (MCWP 3-33.5 for the Marine Corps). Rising above abysmal earlier drafts, the Army and Marines have come through with doctrine that will truly help our troops.
What was wrong with the old drafts? "Too much 'peace, love and understanding' silliness," says the General. Hmm. Here is a pdf of one of those "early drafts"; my reading of it has not been thorough, but I can't be sure what parts Peters finds so hippie-ish. Maybe it's the references to "human rights considerations," "reconstruction efforts," etc. Maybe it's the declaration that the first military objective of counterinsurgency is to "Protect the population."

As we have seen, despite his occasional, probably tactical, professions of interest in the welfare of the wogs, Peters is nowadays less interested in democracy than in order, by any means necessary. Attend to one of his cavils with even the new, tougher manual:
The drafters cite the anomalous example of Malaya (while downplaying that campaign's violence), but ignore the same-decade example of the Mau-Mau revolt, in which the British won a complete victory -- thanks to concentration camps, hanging courts and aggressive military operations.
Where once the General was waxing sentimental about the aspirations of the fledgling Iraqi Republic ("More and more Iraqis are stepping up to build a better society"), he now speaks admiringly of the concentration camps and hanging courts installed by a dying empire. What a difference nine months, and perhaps a change in medication, makes!

Heedless cruelty is not really what makes a prize Peters peroration, though: it's teh crazy, and the General obligingly brings the batshit:
A huge gap remaining in the doctrine is that, except for a few careful mentions, it ignores the role of the media. Generals have told me frankly that it was just too loaded an issue - any suggestion that the media are complicit in shaping outcomes excites punitive media outrage.

To be fair, the generals are right. Had the manual described the media's irresponsible, partisan and too-often-destructive roles, it would have ignited a firestorm. Yet, in an age when media lies and partisan spin can overturn the verdict of the battlefield, embolden our enemies and decide the outcome of an entire war, pretending the media aren't active participants in a conflict cripples any efforts that we make.

The media are now combatants -- even if we're not allowed to shoot back. Our enemies are explicit in describing the importance of winning through the media. Without factoring in media effects, any counterinsurgency plan will go forward at a limp.
This is delightful. One imagines the tone of the conversation just prior to the moment when "Generals... told me frankly that it was just too loaded an issue": The MSM is the enemy! Wade into them. Spill their blood, shoot them in the belly. When you put your hand into a bunch of news that a moment before was your best face on a bad situation -- (sharp wave of the riding crop) -- you'll know what to do.

"Too loaded," indeed. Hope your holidays are equally festive.

UPDATE. Speaking of Our Enemy The Media, Commenter MSW144 points out this corker by previously proven culture war madman Stanley Kurtz:
...Media coverage of Iraq has been biased, and that bias has indeed helped to shape events there for the worse. At the same time, conservative distrust of the media’s very real bias has inclined us to dismiss reports about problems in Iraq that are real.

In the end, I think the media bears fundamental responsibility for this.
This conclusion is a duh-huh-wha? brain-freezer on the order of "And though I may be down right now, at least I don't work for Jews," but Kurtz' explanation is ever better:
Had they been less biased–had they reported acts of heroism and the many good things we have done in Iraq–I think conservatives would actually have taken their reporting of the problems in Iraq more seriously. In effect, the media’s consistent liberal bias discredits even its valid reports.
I guess we could have observed every precaution, and equipped all of our warnings that Iraq was a mistake with a little picture of G.I. Joe giving a chocolate bar to an Arab, thus encouraging conservatives to pay attention. Maybe eventually America will resemble Quebec, with bilingual road signs -- e.g., one might say DANGER: BRIDGE OUT, while the one for conservatives might say SUPPORT OUR TROOPS BY NOTICING THAT THE BRIDGE IS OUT! SEMPER FI! It would be a nuisance, but we're liberals -- we should be kind to retards.

UPDATE II. At OpinionJournal, Joseph Rago (didn't he co-write Hair?) hates blogs but hates the cursed MSM ever worse. How to reconcile? Rago breaks it down:
Certainly the MSM, such as it is, collapsed itself. It was once utterly dominant yet made itself vulnerable by playing on its reputed accuracy and disinterest to pursue adversarial agendas. Still, as far from perfect as that system was, it was and is not wholly imperfect. The technology of ink on paper is highly advanced, and has over centuries accumulated a major institutional culture that screens editorially for originality, expertise and seriousness.

Of course, once a technosocial force like the blog is loosed on the world, it does not go away because some find it undesirable. So grieving over the lost establishment is pointless, and kind of sad. But democracy does not work well, so to speak, without checks and balances. And in acceding so easily to the imperatives of the Internet, we've allowed decay to pass for progress.
If I understand Rago correctly, rightwing blogs ought to recognize that they aren't replacing the MSM -- rightwing magazines and newspapers are! So Rago and the newsprint boys will provide the "originality, expertise and seriousness," and you punks can do the Michael Moore jokes.

Early results indicate that the blogboys are clashing with the paperboys over this, each fighting for the right to take Pinch Sulzburger's throne, just as soon as the New York Times gets a clue that all those millions in paid circulation and advertising dollars are as nothing compared to the awesome potential power held by a bunch of assholes with free websites. Someday their girlfriends who are temporarily located in another state will show up, and then you'll all see!

The crisis will last until Jeff Jarvis chimes in, at which point everyone will realize it's bullshit.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

SHORTER GREG GUTFIELD: I'm working on as many BOOK and TELEVISION and WEB projects as I can schedule before Republicans find an even more self-loathing homosexual.

(This is my first exposure to Gutfield, and a great disappointment. I search in vain for that great contemporary right-wing satirist -- someone like P.J. O'Rourke, only good. Yet their nominees turn out stuff like "Hey!" says some guy I disagree with, "I'm a pretentious ass! Greg Gutfield was right!" Gutfield's a satirist like Mark Steyn is a sage.

Jim Treacher is about their best bet, but he chafes when I call him right-wing, so maybe we should just refer to him as "questioning.")

UPDATE. The selections currently seen at Treacher's site are not his best work, but he writes very funny emails.

UPDATE II. Many of my readers are lazy gits (frequently leaving comments to the effect of, "Jesus Christ, I actually followed the link -- I thought you were full of shit but etc"), so I guess I should reproduce a bit of Gutfield's I Can't Believe It's Not Satire:
Paris' gay Socialist Mayor Bertrand Delanoe, who was stabbed by an immigrant Muslim, is organizing the European contingency which features Limahl, Johnny Hallyday and Ciccolina. Whoopie Goldberg, along with Robin Williams will be hosting the kick off party at the Sheraton Riyadh. There will be refreshments and karaoke, hosted by David Hyde Pierce.
Surely you see the hypocrisy of Delanoe taking his stabbed-up ass to Riyadh where I bet they will stab his ass up!

I have to add a bleg, though. Where do you purchase the publication -- I assume it comes out at regular intervals, possibly daily -- cataloguing the most appropriate names to use when you want to signify "A-list" or, as Gutfield has done, Gay List? Not having had the literary advantage of a job as a gossip columnist, I cannot call these things easily to mind, and I can see where it might come in handy when you're writing "satire."

Monday, December 18, 2006

TODAY'S LILEKS LESSON. Early on he writes this:
The forecasts look barren, and most Minnesotans regard the weather with irrational trepidation. Oh. we’ll pay for this. Pay for it hard.
Later, he shares with us the contents of his typical breakfast: sausage, squeezed dry; one container of yogurt...
I've probably said too much already. But I cannot refrain from observing that if you're going to write things like " for this. Pay for it hard," you should not reveal on the same page that you breakfast like a fashion model.

This has been today's Lileks lesson.
ARTS ROUNDUP. Leslie Kritzer is Patti LuPone at Les Mouches. Being, as regular readers will know, an ineffably butch Budweiser-pounding mook with unmanicured nails, I don't take in cabaret shows much, but I was hauled to this one and I'm not sorry I was, despite the drink prices at Joe's Pub.

LKIPLALM is billed as a recreation of Patti LuPone's famously looney late-shows at the now defunct Les Mouches, done, presumably, to work off some of the scenery she consumed in Evita every night. Channeler Leslie Kritzer knows the spectacle of a hopped-up Broadway diva regaling gayest Chelsea with a bizarre mix of show tunes, "Mr. Tambourine Man," and mood-swing banter would be comedy gold, and she does get plenty of laughs -- e.g., mentioning her "brother Bobby", she waits only for the faintest hint of applause before throwing her arms out and howling "OH THANK YOU! HE'LL BE SO PLEASED!"

But Kritzer has a deeper game going, too. She sings the shit out of the songs, being well-equipped to do so, and commands the character utterly, so that even the weirder selections ("Heaven is a Disco"!), and the more byzantine vocal arrangements, wind up much more interesting than mere feats of parody. The strangeness of "Patti LuPone" is only coincidentally a comedienne's trick, and mainly a full-length portrait of a show-biz monster trying, with the powerful but ultimately limited gifts at her command, to blast through self-absorption into the hearts of an audience that she believes/hopes really Gets Her. Kritzer never pulls a gimp string to indicate this; she sticks to the script (accompanied by LuPone's original arranger!) and lets her performance do the talking. It's acting of the highest sort flying under the colors of chanteusery.

The Queen. One reason I'm not as much of an auteurist as I used to be is Stephen Frears. He cheerfully hops from style to style in deference to whatever text he is treating, yet has given me enough pleasure, from Prick Up Your Ears through High Fidelity, that I just can't relegate him to Less Than Meets the Eye. His may not be major films but they're smart and they work, and that's a lot these days. One can do worse than serve a good script well.

That cuts two ways, of course. The faults of The Queen are very plainly the script's, and maybe a more ambitious director would have overcome them. It's not just the apparently low budget that leaves the movie looking like an exceptional Masterpiece Theatre episode. Frears doesn't do quantum leaps -- he does good blocking.

I don't mean to carp. There's plenty of wonderful stuff here. It was a brilliant idea to treat the death of Princess Diana as a dramatic crisis of the British monarchy, and the pinched scale of the film well-suits the extraordinary point of distinction between this and, say, costume dramas like Cromwell -- Dianagate was, on the film's terms, a crisis not of the blood-and-thunder sort but of the television age, and the slightly shoddy look of The Queen perfectly suits it: Tony Blair doing PM business in a footballer's jersey and HRH in a Range Rover are fine visual equivalents to the absurd modernity of the situation.

The acting is just delicious. I was worried at first by Helen Mirren -- she seemed to be leaking a bit more sentimentality than I had expected. But this turned out to be a clever move: aside from some muted histrionics, her Elizabeth grows frostier in affect, though clearly more troubled in spirit, as the crisis overwhelms her. I love her. I love James Cromwell, too, and lousy dialect aside, his Philip is perfect in its petty imperiousness -- he might have been a humble burgher protected by lackeys (and his own thick skin) from all evidence of his impotence. Alex Jennings resembles a young Edward Fox, which adds a beautiful, old-England fillip to the lip-chewing desperation of his unloved Charles to find the correct sliver of space in which to hide and mourn.

Michael Sheen and Helen McCrory as the Blairs are lovely -- the first shot of them in their car, waiting for their first official visit to the Queen, is played, lit, and shot to make them resemble intelligent weasels curiously snuffling outside the Palace -- but they are put in the unlovely position of carrying the secondary theme: New Labour's first crisis as an overblown domestic incident ("It's not as if I have anything better to do!" cries the PM at one point). This is where the drama runs into heavy sledding: while it is fascinating to see how the political is made personal, it's sort of gross to see the personal made political. When Cherie plays devil's advocate in Tony's shifting feelings toward the Queen (even pulling a Freudian card), the tactic is stagey, neat, and evasive, and splitting Blair's cynicism off and onto a PR character really gives the game away. I think it might have been better, in the manner of those old costume dramas, to let Tony be more fully responsible -- not just constitutionally but dramatically -- for the forces arrayed against the Queen's stasis. Modern exigencies be damned: Blair v. Windsor is more crackling drama than Blair et alia v. the monarchical bureaucracy -- as the wonderful final confrontation of Tony and Liz shows.

Still, this is a vision worthy of dispute and even contemplation. I was annoyed, when I first saw it, at the (it seemed) ludicrous bit in which the Queen raptures over a stag that is later hunted down and butchered. Dramatically it is corn, or whatever Brits have instead of corn (Toad inna Hole, perhaps). But on consideration I think it has a proper Shakespearean resonance. The prefatory title card of The Queen quotes Henry IV: Uneasy lies the head etc. But this incident sent me to As You Like It: "What shall he have that killed the deer?/His leather skin and horns to wear." Jacques saw the deer's horns as "a victory branch"; his Lords took them as a sign of cuckoldry.

Caprice. Ronald Firbank was known to me only as a favorite of Auden's before I read this short novel. I can see why Auden liked him. Though it's full of conversation, Firbank's method is poetic; it takes several pages of dense language to ascertain that Sally Sinquier is an English girl from a country family of some standing who runs off to London in pursuit of theatrical fame ("'Somehow it makes no difference,' she murmured, turning toward a glass. To feign Ophelia -- no matter what!"). Once launched, her career -- in every sense -- is recognizable to any reader of Bright Young Thing chroniclers such as Waugh and Huxley. There are pretenders, there is deceit, scandal o'erhangs, defeat is imminent and then cruelly realized. But the charm of Firbank's language is unique, as seen in this description of the little theatre in which Sally, as yet on the cusp only of success, is obliged to sleep:
An absence of ventilation made the room an oven and discouraged sleep. Through the width of skylight, in inert recumbence, she could follow wonderingly the frail pristine tints of dawn. Flushed, rose-barred, it spread above her with fantastic drifting bars masking the morning stars.

From a neighboring church a clock struck five.

Miss Sinquier sighed; she had not closed her eyes the whole night through.

"One needs a blind," she mused, "and a pane --"

She looked about her for something to throw.

Cinquento Italian things -- a chest, a crucifix, a huge guitar, a grim carved catafalque all purple sticks and violet legs (Juliet's) crowded the floor.

"A mess of glass... and cut my feet..." she murmured, gathering about herself a negligee of oxydised knitted stuff and sauntering out toward the footlights in quest of air.

Notwithstanding the thermometer, she could hear Miss May Mant breathing nasally from behind the door.
One could go on for quite some time like this without much hint of plot, but Firbank has a good one and ties it up nicely in less than a hundred pages. It's a minor work affording major pleasure.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Thursday, December 14, 2006

A SHOCKING REALIZATION. The Danielle Crittenden article in today's OpinionJournal comes as something of a surprise. Not that the content is unfamiliar -- it's all too familiar, and the subhed ("Sexual Freedom is Damaging to Students") tells you pretty much all you need to know about it.

But it seems like a long time since high-class conservative vendors last dished out the old Junior Anti-Sex League malarkey. It's been a few months, at least -- surely a record for the American Right, for once upon a time we got them like clockwork.

During this time, I do recall, not a single article in OJ or National Review made the classic case that non-marital sex is a.) bad and b.) a liberal conspiracy -- as Crittenden does here, blaming the corruption of college students on "modern doctors" who don't "dare express a word of judgment" on slutty coeds (the boys, one assumes, can take care of themselves), when what's clearly needed to stem the flood of herpes and heartbreak is an "admonishing word about the conduct that got them into trouble in the first place." (I don't see what's stopping Crittenden from invading campuses with a flying squadron of finger-waggers, since this is clearly a paramedical opportunity requiring only modest training in the kitchens of old ladies.)

Clearly anhedonic outrage is back, but why did it leave, even briefly? Did it have to do, you think, with the elections, and certain mistress-strangling, boy-seducing, and meth-and-whore-engaging behaviors that made these folks think they should maybe lay off the Elmer Gantry horseshit for a spell?

Sometimes I think they've worked out the attention span of the average media consumer to the nanosecond.

UPDATE. So far, the best shouted Amen to Crittenden comes from Church Militant where, at the end of a long series of retograde ejaculations over the text, our preacher summarizes:
We are well on our way to destroying our women, boys. Sure, it may be fun for ten minutes or so, but what do you do after that?
I could stop with that interesting sentence, but unlike the preacher, I prefer to prolong the ecstasy:
We all have to go to sleep eventually, and most of us are not rich enough to hire boyguards or quick enough to get the gun from under the pillow in time to stop every revenge-fueled psychotic female we have created...

Keep it in your pants and everybody wins.
At the bottom of the page we see the fellow has a whole series of screams under the rubric "Sex is Death." I wonder which government health bureau he runs?
SHORTER RALPH PETERS: Watch me blast the Saudis in a thousand-word column, using the word "oil" only once and the word "Bush" not at all! Yeee-haw! Top that, Rich Lowry!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

BOO FUCKING HOO. Dr. Mrs. Ole Perfesser encourages readers to open their hearts to oppressed Republicans. She even reenacts the last scene from Bent with an "R" instead of a pink triangle.

What prompts this gesture of righteous solidarity? What indignities have been visited upon Republicans? Are they forced to pay a jizya, crowded into ghettos, forbidden to intermarry?

No, sometimes people say mean things about them.

Really, that's it. No Kristallnacht, no rubber hose, no cars being rocked back and forth by angry mobs. People sometimes write uncivil posts.

It's not like conservatives ever do that.

A windier alternate version of this nonsense by Mark Bauerlein can be read at the Chronicle of Higher Education. This one's yet another complaint about the treatment of conservatives in academia and intellectual professions generally. Bauerlein at least semi-admits that "conservative ideas aren't disengaged from power, or conservative intellectuals from paychecks." But what does all this power and influence mean if conservatives cannot have love -- from the right-brain of the academy?
If a set of ideas and writings are missing in the classroom but present in the marketplace or government, we tend to explain them by their instrumental value. They owe their clout to their usefulness to business or politics, the reasoning goes, not to intellectual substance. If the university doesn't put those works and ideas on the syllabus, they aren't subject to the free analysis and contemplation that respectable works and ideas merit. When they crop up off campus, then, they seem to have no independent validity, no import separate from the interests they satisfy...

Count the names Hayek, Russell Kirk, Irving Kristol, etc., on syllabi in courses on "Culture & Society." Tally how often, in left-of-center periodicals, those names are linked to moneyed interests. The framing is complete. Heralds of conservatism start and finish in the messy realm of politics and finance, never rising into the temple of reflection.
We treat them like shopkeepers, though they have the souls of poets! Perhaps they should try wearing berets and playing acoustic guitar.

I've said it again and again and again but I'll repeat it: if those mean children at Brown and Columbia and Penn State won't play with them, why can't conservatives built their own New Academe? Let Bob Jones and Liberty University be their Yale and Harvard!

Really, it's almost as if they didn't believe in the Marketplace of Ideas.

UPDATE: Ace O'Spades -- dean of the "we're not technically allowed to kill liberals... so that leaves us with that faggy defeat-them-in-their-minds thing" school of interpartisan relations -- agrees with Dr. Helen that liberals are mean.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

DOUBLE STANDARD. As pointed out by TBogg et alia, World Net Daily complains that soy products make you gay -- yet at the same time appears to support a ban on high-school girls in their underwear.

How the hell am I suppose to overcome my tofu-related lack of het resolve without 16-year-old Kit Kat Klub dancers? Jesus Christ, there goes the whole reason to see high-school musicals.

KID: Dad, you want tickets to the spring musical?

DAD: Is it that time already! What are they doing?
Sweet Charity? L'il Abner? Let My People Come?

KID: No --
Dialogues of the Carmelites.

DAD: ...oh.

Damned political correctness! Well, there's always women's gymnastics.

Bonus laff line: "WND also has obtained photographs from the production..."

UPDATE. Also very funny: the school board member who says, "If you want to talk about the Nazi era there are ways to do it without lingerie." Is it any wonder our kids don't take an interest in world history?

UPDATE 12/13. World Net Daily has taken down the pictures of high school girls in their underwear -- and replaced them with a picture of Liza Minnelli! Apparently the gay menace ain't limited to soy milk!

If you missed them, the Cabaret production photos showed drama school types trying to be all bad-ass and fetishique. To the left is a screen grab*: I think he's supposed to be spanking her, but maybe he's just brushing some cat hair off her butt.

I'm not sure Bob Fosse understood Cabaret, so I can only imagine what these kids' dark reimagining was like. A joy, I expect. I only hope they replace it with Marat/Sade.

UPDATE REDUX. I took the photo down -- these kids have enough trouble. Besides, we should concentrate on the real pressing issue of our times -- the War on Christmas.
UPDATE: CONSERVATIVES STILL LOVE THE TASTE OF DICTATOR ASS. At the New York Post, John O'Sullivan Is Risen From the Grave to praise fellow corpse Augusto Pinochet. His argument, like all the other such like I've seen, is that Pinochet wasn't a communist and he made the trains run on time -- not like that Castro that liberals love so much.

The Castro thing is annoying -- in my whole life of skulking around liberal safehouses, I have never once seen a poster or t-shirt featuring El Commandante -- and Jonah Goldberg does his level best to make it more so:
Do people really think that liberals have been sober-eyed moral realists about Castro from, say, Herbert Matthews' fawning coverage through, say, Oliver Stone's recent love-letter to Castro? I mean what am I missing? I don't have time to run through the soundbites of various scholar-statesmen from the Democratic leadership like Pat Leahy or various members of the Congressional Black Caucus. But come on! Hasn't some blogger compiled a good list of pro-Castroisms from the left? If not, someone should get on the stick.
A couple of things. First, Goldberg confuses journalism with political advocacy -- all the time, come to think of it, but especially here. Herbert Matthews was a reporter who covered Castro's original insurrection. Of course he loved Castro -- Castro was his Big Story. He might as well have been Paul Bunyan or Mike Fink come to life. As for Stone, I have seen Commandante, and it certainly isn't a "love letter," it's a shrewd piece of investigative journalism. No American has had that kind of access to Castro since -- well, since Herbert Matthews. How many Americans does Goldberg think Commandante recruited to Cuban Marxism?

Second, I don't think I've ever heard "What am I missing?" used that way before. Normally it's something you say when you have reviewed and noted the evidence, see that they support your POV, and don't understand why others don't see it the same way. Goldberg, on the other hand, frankly admits he doesn't know what he's talking about ("I don't have time to run through the soundbites... Hasn't some blogger compiled a good list...") and makes the expression into a demand that other people do the work of educating him.

Isn't it just about perfect that Goldberg would misinterpret a common figure of speech in favor of his own ignorance?

UPDATE. The Ole Perfesser finally mentions the death of PinochetwhowasbetterthanCastro -- his bulletin from Right-Wing Message Central having been delayed by server error, no doubt.

UPDATE II. The OpinionJournal rimjob concludes, "Like Spain's Franco, Pinochet was an authoritarian who resisted the Communists and created the foundation of what would become a democratic transition. What remains is a Chile that has the healthiest economy in Latin America, a free press and a competitive political system that has allowed Socialists to come to power."

What! The Socialists are in power! Quick, install another dictator -- lest economic opportunities be squandered!

I guess there are two reasons why not: one, they aren't making Socialists like they used to, and two, the OJ writers know that, unlike Nixon and Kissinger, Bush would probably fuck this one up bad.

Monday, December 11, 2006

MENINGITIS. What is Meninism? Leninism with a bad cold. Ha ha. Dr. Mrs. Ole Perfesser finds a funnier description:
MENINISM is the catchcry of a movement of males who will storm the streets and burn their ties, rallying against the "all men are bastards" image that has an entire sex pigeonholed as violent, heartless and untrustworthy.

This is according to a new study saying there is a competing interest to the feminist struggle for equality; men and boys are now the target of negative stereotypes.

The research shows almost 70 per cent of social commentary on the male gender is unfavourable – portraying men as violent, sexually abusive, unable to be trusted with children, "deadbeat dads" and commitment-phobic.
That explains the way women look at me! I thought it was my filthy, ragged clothing, and the little boob-squeezing gesture I make when I see some nice ones.

One would expect this explanation to relieve the minds of Dr. Mrs.'s commenters, but, as is their wont, they take it as an opportunity to complain about chicks. The consensus is that men are better off without them: wont burn their ties, we will work slow, we will stop doing the mucky jobs, like taking the trash, etc.. will not get married... Cadmus noted, we'll just refuse to get married, buy flowers, remember birthdays, ask single women out for a date, etc. In cases where we are financially secure enough, we'll dump a snotty woman for someone who is prettier, younger, and sexier...

...[Naomi] Wolf totally fails to see the real problem; women like her and other feminists have declared that women shall have sex on their terms and only when they want it [!! - ed.]. Society has bought into this totally. Any man who desires sex more frequently than his mate is now a disgusting pervert. And when his mate does acquiesce, conditions are often attached. This situation has become so ubiquitous, comedians can't even joke about it anymore.
Actually I think that material was squeezed out by Clinton, Michael Jackson, and Viagra jokes.

It just gets weirder and weirder. Try to imagine a readership represented by this:
...Generally speaking I agree that men will continue to withdraw from women and from most social interactions...

We won't burn anything. We'll just go to a pub, watch some sports, and have a few drinks with our buddies. Instead of going out on a date.

...This means that women, when they commit violence, tend to do it by betraying people who trust them. From personal experience [!!! -- ed.], fully internalizing this concept dramatically reduces a man's willingness to get married or otherwise deeply trust a woman...

...I'm in a good relationship now, but should anything happen that would result in it ending, I wouldn't be in a big hurry to begin dating again. I hated it when I went through it before. It was like competing for prizes that no one in their right mind should really want to win...
Paint a pretty bleak picture of the female gender, don't they? And the damned thing is, none of it is their own fault!

Ah, well, that just means more women for me. I shall wash my clothes and get a pair of these so the ladies will think I'm exercising.
DER FUHRER WAS KIND! DER FUHRER WAS GOOD! MANY TIMES HE WOULD SAY TO ME, "FRANZ -- OWWW!" Remember when conservatives argued that Saddam Hussein was so bad he had to be toppled by U.S. military invasion? Today another tyrant has passed, and the same people are blubbering over his coffin.

After overthrowing the elected government of Chile*, Augusto Pinochet spent years killing, torturing, and locking up thousands of his fellow citizens. And, oh yeah, he probably sponsored assassination on American soil.

But conservatives love that he was pro-capitalism, which excuses any number of dead, mangled bodies.

There is one, faint sign among their obsequies that, at some unconscious level, they may recognize the absurdity of their position: they're trying to offload it onto liberals. The boys at National Review says that when Castro dies, liberals will mourn just as we do, I bet I bet. This sort of equivalence is easier to get away with when the event used for comparison hasn't happened yet, though others like Terrestrial Musings, the Classical Values guy, Blogs for Bush etc. opt for a more general liberals-love-Castro slander.

I imagine the more religious among them expect to meet Pinochet in the afterlife. My, what a reunion that will be.

*UPDATE. I meant Chile, I just wrote Argentina.
THE GENERAL SORTS THE SUDAN. General Ralph "Blood 'n' Guts" Peters is mad -- quit nodding, I wasn't finished; I mean Peters is mad at the carnage in Darfur. Like all the General's rages, this is righteous anger, aimed at those most responsible: liberals and Europeans.

"One begins to suspect," Peters says, "that all too many on the left enjoy pitying Darfur as they wait in line for their lattes" -- not like the General, whose violent, blinding headaches of true empathy cannot be relieved by latte, but only by human gore, Jack Daniels, and the destabilization of the entire world:
The killing will never stop until we stop pretending that every dictator or junta seizing power is entitled to claim sovereignty over the millions who never had a voice in choosing their government. After the oppression of women, the sovereignty con is the world's greatest human-rights abuse. And for all of its damnable incompetence, the Bush administration understood that one great truth.
If this sounds familiar, it is not only because you once heard a bum screaming it in Tompkins Square Park, but because it was the lunacy du jour in the run-up to the Iraq War, when people like Lee Harris were talking about "the end of classical sovereignty," whereby nobody gets to call themselves a State unless we say they're a State.

Those were the days! We were going to finally realize that long-delayed Pax Americana, all without raising anyone's taxes -- that was the Romans' mistake, after all, and we certainly are smarter than the Romans.

This is why the General is blames libs and latte-sippers everywhere for the dead/raped/tortured Africans, rather than the Bush Administration, which has some actual military means but has chosen to blow it all on destabilizing nations such as Iraq. In fact, Peters wonders why lefties haven't "formed a new Lincoln Brigade to take on Sudan's Muslims fanatics." I would seriously consider joining such a Brigade if the General will consent to lead it. The training sessions alone -- sequestered in our offshore quonset huts, watching the general snap the neck of a Thai prostitute, endless showings of Zulu -- would be worth the price of the ticket, I imagine. And once we landed in-country, we could always sell our allegiance to the highest-paying warlords, and thus give Sudan a real taste of American democracy.

Friday, December 08, 2006

SEND ME NO FLOWERS. At The Corner, John J. Miller offers a rather unfortunate reminiscence of the late Jeanne Kirkpatrick:
The last time I saw her, however, was just a few months ago. I was writing a story the presidential election in Nicaragua—the one that Daniel Ortega recently won. We were at a D.C. event for Eduardo Montealegre, the guy who came in second (and who would have trounded Ortega in a run-off). From my article:
"It's ridiculous for Ortega to be on the ballot," says Kirkpatrick. "He hasn't changed. The Nicaraguan people shouldn't even permit him to hope that he'll be president."
She was really quite animated -- she fought the Commies to the very end.
And democracy, too, when it didn't suit her. You don't suppose Ortega's victory killed her? Or Pelosi's? Maybe it was the fall from grace of her old friend Jonas Savimbi. Or the defenestration of John Bolton...

This is rather like a eulogy of Salieri that recalls him vowing to outshine Mozart. Brrr. I'm glad I don't have friends like that.
IF YOU DON'T LIKE THIS COUNTRY, GO BACK TO RUSSIA WHERE YOU DIDN'T COME FROM! For years, the Ole Perfesser has been telling us complainers, oh yeah, you think America is bad -- well Saddam ran a guy through a shredder! And such like.

Old habits die hard -- and usually just get worse. Today, after another typical, lazy-ass, lifted rundown of Putin's assassinations, the Perfesser drops this Value-Add: "[It's] Safer to attack Bush -- which is why more people do that."

If your impulse is to counter, "Really? I thought we attacked Bush because he's our actual fucking President and allegedly responsive to the will of the People," your common sense is commendable, but you are missing the more amusing psychological justifications that may be offered in the Perfesser's defense.

The simplest would be that the Perfesser first learned the pleasures of lawyerly argument as a lad, on playgrounds where, confronted with his own malfeasances, he would distract inquisitors with more serious allegations against other children; child is father to the man.

I favor a more forward-looking approach. As we know the Perfesser yearns for godlike immortality; it may be that he expects to outlive the United States, and sometimes forgets that some of us plebes yet identify ourselves as its citizens.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

ALSO, ISG IS SON OF A PIG-DOG! I haven't read the ISG report yet, but while I imagine it consists largely of bipartisan mush, I am favorably disposed toward it on sentimental grounds, because it has incurred the wrath of the world's leading nitwits. They've even managed to make the New York Post more idiotic than usual, and I thought only a nerve-gas attack on the newsroom could accomplish that.

Ralph "Blood 'n' Guts" Peters' column-length retch ends with this chunk of comedy gold:
The difference is that Pilate just wanted to wash his hands of an annoyance, while [James] Baker would wash his hands in the blood of our troops.
That's almost as good as Peters' previous comparison of Howard Dean to Adolf Hitler. May the men in the little white suits never catch up with ol' Blood 'n' Guts!

The Post has pulled out all the stops , even reverting to the Der Sturmer trick -- unused at Rupert's Rag since the "Axis of Weasels" days -- of visually portraying their opponents as animals. Also, they allow John Podhoretz yet another, awful column about the ISG.

Last time out, Podhoretz criticized the Group because they were, like, rilly old ("Baker, Hamilton and their crew of old Washington hands [and I mean old, like Metheuselah-level old]... Its members also reached a consensus view that Depends is a really fine brand of adult diaper, and that they love reruns of 'Murder, She Wrote'"). Now he compares them to Paris Hilton -- not because the Group is in any way Paris Hiltonian (and, to my great disappointment, Podhoretz doesn't attempt even a throwaway simile, e.g. "Like Paris Hilton, the ISG has a little dog and is known for promiscuity"), but because Paris Hilton is supposed to be No Good, and though no actual reader -- indeed, no one who knows how to read -- will laugh at tropes like, "As Paris would say, that analysis is hot," Post editors/informants will see that Podhoretz stuck to the formula -- belittle the ISG in terms that even mentally-retarded readers can comprehend -- and permit him to remain at his sinecure.

Again, it's all probably mush, but isn't it grand that now even mush can drive these people crazy?

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

MORE BOLD THINKING FROM THE RIGHT. David Bernstein advances a new foreign policy idea:
State Department folk are undoubtedly scratching their heads over what to do about the looney anti-American leader of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez. Here's a suggestion, only partly tongue-in-cheek: Chavez claims that his brand of populist socialism is superior to Yankee capitalism. Well, let the people vote with their feet. Venezuela has a population of approximately 25 million. How about letting any Venezuelan who can pass a basic English test and get ahold of, say, twenty thousand dollars, emigrate to the U.S.? As more and more productive Venezuelans move to the U.S., and Chavez ceases to benefit from the spike in oil prices (which can only work in the long term so long as oil prices climb), Venezuela will inevitably sink into economic straits of Chavez's model, Cuba, and become about as much of a strategic threat to the U.S. as Cuba currently is. And the U.S. will gain a few million productive and grateful citizens, happy to escape Venezuela before it becomes another Cuba. And wouldn't it be fun to watch Venezuelans line up for English classes for the chance to emigrate to The Great Imperalist Enemy?
Oh, what fun. But why didn't we do that with Iraq? In fact, as long as we're being generous with visas, let's do it now. Half the terrified populace can earn their twenty Gs by selling out the other half to the militias, or by selling some leftover statuary from the Iraq National Museum on eBay, or by selling the oil rights under their hovels.

The cringing skills these new Iraqi-American citizens will have developed should serve them well in corporate life.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

A LOSS OF FAITH. Claudia Rossett says, "...the upside of John Bolton resigning as ambassador to the UN is that the UN does not deserve to be dignified by ambassadors of the stature of John Bolton." Some of the brethren at National Review Online seem to agree, and are agitating for Rick Santorum to take the gig. But Rossett wants to take it a step further:
I’m reminded here of an episode from the historical novels of Robert Graves about the life of the Roman Emperor, Claudius, who tried to reform the empire. Toward the end, as Graves interprets it, Claudius concludes that despite his best efforts, Rome cannot be redeemed. Is too far gone in autocratic decay. Claudius figures that before things have any chance of getting better, they must get even worse. So, he lets the throne pass to Nero. Rome burns.
Maybe that was also their secret plan for Iraq. When you look at it that way, the "Mission Accomplished" banner makes sense.

Another alternative of US-Out-Of-The-UN types might be to make a case to the American People for getting the US out of the UN. I wonder why these guys never suggest such an approach? It's a hard sell, sure, but I thought people like Rossett specialized in hard truths. Rather than prescribing a sneaky program of wreckage, why not insist on principles?

It may be that, on the eve of the Democratic Congressional takeover, a Victor Davis Hansonian despair has taken hold of them. For years their default argument was that the citizens understood reality better than any pointy-head could, and that's why they kept electing Republicans. But their recent losses appear to have shaken their faith in the voters and, more surprisingly, in the political process itself.

For example, Stanley Kurtz, in trying to work his way out from under Josh Marshall's understandable impression that Kurtz was blaming the failures in Iraq on a feckless American People, talks about the Iraqi project as if it were doomed from the start by the very existence of an opposition, however weak:
Marshall says the Democrats in congress were a minority, and politically powerless. Yet in a country divided by razor-thin political margins, a party in power has to weigh its actions in light of the opposition’s political plans. We’re always just an election away from a transfer of power, as we’ve seen.
So they couldn't get their way despite control of the White House and both houses of Congress and a self-proclaimed mandate. Makes you wonder why they bother trying to elect candidates in the first place. Sport, perhaps, or maybe just the graft.

Entertaining as their malaise may be, be prepared, because it can't last forever. Some champion will eventually ride out of the wilderness and reinvigorate them. I understand Sam Brownback has formed an exploratory committee.

Monday, December 04, 2006

SERVICE ADVISORY. Posting will be light for a few days. I'm burning off a few vacation days and have become responsibility averse.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

SHORTER "CRUNCHY" ROD DREHER: God healed my lust for Betty Blue, proving fags are damned.

And if you really want to choke on Jesus-infused psychopathology, check this out: Dreher now not only believes that the Iraq war is wrong because we Americans are too sexed up to preach to the infidel, he agrees with another nut that we are also wrong to approve of the "postwar project... to end discrimination" -- and yeah, that means what you think it means:
I am haunted -- the word isn't too strong -- by what I saw among the Arab Muslims, as they grappled with the new media world that was going to wipe out, or at least dramatically alter, their traditional culture... those of us here who lament how corrosive the nihilistic American popular culture is should consider how it must look to Muslim men and women overseas, who quite rightly see us as a threat to the things they hold dearest.
Read it and weep, but don't hold your breath waiting for the Perfesser and all the other right-wingers to declare Dreher "Not anti-war, just on the other side." That kind of treatment is reserved for dirty hippies and Democrats. Jesus freaks who basically say. well, Islamic fundamentalists are right, our culture is totally corrupt, and they have a right to hate us -- they get a pass because they walk with the Lord, and because if the GOP can come up a more effective line of religious bullshit they might vote Republican next time.

Keep this in mind next time someone tells you that liberals -- meaning, it would seem, people who believe in a full reading of the Bill of Rights -- should suck up to Fundamentalists.