Thursday, May 31, 2007

OVER THE BORDER. In a previous post I made light of the immigration question. It's easy to do when so much nonsense has been written about it.

But I wasn't joking when I said that I could understand concerns with the current bill. That's why I'm glad it is being debated in the Senate instead of, say, out back of Fred's Texaco. This is still a Republic, everyone will have an opportunity to see the sausage made, and we may entertain a faint hope at least that the attention of the public will inform, if not enforce, the decisions of our elected leaders.

The voice of the people, however, is not the only and certainly not the loudest in this event. John Derbyshire, lately mocked here, achieved an odd moment of clarity in a recent post, in which he characterized the virtually-open borders position of the Wall Street Journal editorial board:
I thought Ramesh's response to that clip of the Wall Street Journal editorial conference was basically sound.  I'm just amazed that Ramesh stayed so calm all through it.  Me, I was...  well, no, not foaming at the mouth, but gaping in wonder at such a concentration of smug rich-guy arrogance on display all in one place.

What color is the sky in these guys' world?  I've modified a trillion or so pixels scoffing at the Left's blithe indifference to actual human nature, but Gigot & Co. take the biscuit.  It's pretty routine now to mock the WSJ editorial crowd for believing that there is no such thing as a nation, only an economy.  Well, there it is.  You saw it.  That is what they actually, literally believe.  We kick around phrases like "arrogant elites" pretty carelessly, but here they are, out in the open, brazen and unashamed.
Derbyshire is a lunatic, as the rest of the quoted post (like many others by him) amply demonstrates. But he is poignant in moments like this, when he recognizes that the savage god of conservatism which he has so long served does not give a shit about anything but money.

While Derb, alas, is mainly concerned with the declining whiteness of his adopted homeland, those of us who do not share his mania may also acknowledge that among easy-immigration advocates there is a constituency that, while small in number, is rich in capital, and thereby powerful in the debate. That's why our current policy is a mess -- confusion has well-served their purpose, which is to keep the low end of our labor market flooded with cheap workers, as the fate of the Dorgan-Boxer Amendment shows.

Competing pressures add to the confusion. One may argue, as Nathan Newman does here, that other domestic factors do more to depress wages, and that "immigration is a distraction, cooked up by conservatives to take the focus off of their opposition to the minimum wage, their cuts in jobs programs and training programs, and from their ruthless tax policies that have driven inequality." A fair argument, but good luck getting it heard by voters who have been conditioned to worship "free markets," which have been defined over decades to preclude any government action other than tax cutting. What they will more easily perceive is that they are the people who, in the popular Bill Clinton phrase, "work hard and play by the rules" -- and that cynical gaming of illegal immigration makes those rules a joke.

Conservatives have perversely reframed our debates in a number of harmful ways, pitting national security against constitutional liberties, economic competitiveness against environmental safety, and so on. Their double game on immigration -- love the guest worker, hate the Aztlan hordes! -- may be their most poisonous gambit yet, and the short-term damage it's doing to the Republican Party is a sign that the poison is so powerful they can't even control it themselves. Humorous as the short-term effect may be, we have reason to worry about the long term.
HOW NICE FOR YOU. Rod Dreher, speaking in anticipation of loving Knocked Up, the new comedy by the maker of slightly-better-than-average fart-and-swearing-granny comedy The 40-Year-Old Virgin:
I think about how snotty and cruel (but funny) my own writing used to be before I had kids, and I just shake my head. It's fatally easy to make fun of everything when you don't have a stake in it.
I've been reading Dreher since Rupert Murdoch inflicted his worthless film criticism on New York Post readers, and in my experience he has never written an intentionally funny line in his life.

It bugs me when newspaper and internet gasbags rhapsodize on the changes these blessed events allegedly wreak on their consciousnesses, because one almost never sees evidence of these life-altering epiphanies in their actual writing. Take for example this John Podhoretz essay about how 9/11 made him realize "the antidote to horror is love" and drove him to propose to his girlfriend and make a baby tout suite. One would expect this realization to have a major impact on his thinking, yet there is absolutely no sign on this in his work: Podhoretz was a right-wing fist-shaker before, and he is a right-wing fist-shaker today. (To be fair, maybe he saved up all the philosophical stuff for his magnum opus, Can She Be Stopped? Hillary Clinton Will Be The Next President of the United States Unless...)

Similarly, when Dreher was childless he devoted his film criticism to tiresome cultural crankery, and, post-enlightenment, that remains his stock in trade. For all his writing reveals, he might as well have spent his time between assignments in a sealed cleanroom.

I don't think that they're lying about their feelings; rather, I think that the sort of writing they're doing (popularly known as propaganda) doesn't have anything to do with their feelings or anyone else's, except perhaps those of the publishers and think-tank presidents who employ them. In either case, it's just one more reminder not to confuse their work with anything important, and that perhaps none of us is as open to transcendent experiences as he likes to believe.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

SHORTER PETER BERKOWITZ: People don't know how smart we conservatives are because they don't read our books, and only know us by the way we run the country, which makes us look like total morons.

UPDATE. Over at The Corner, Jonah Goldberg amplifies:
Peter Lawler asks whether it's really true that Kirk, Strauss and Hayek constitute conservatism's Big Three. That's a toughie and I think the folks with the most interesting answer to that question would be Hayek, Strauss and Kirk themselves. Isn't influence a more diffuse phenomenon? Lots more folks were probably directly influenced by, say, Tom Sowell, George Will and William F. Buckley than those Big Three, but Sowell, Will & Buckley were in turn deeply affected by them.
Or, as the standard English translation has it, farrrt farrrrrt fart faaaarrrrrrt. From what I can see, by far the best Big Three candidates would be Stone Cold Steve Austin, El Duce from the Mentors, and Screech from "Saved By The Bell."
PRETTY UGLY.God bless Michelle Malkin. When I have trouble finding teh crazy she's like a big, screaming lighthouse guiding me to the rocky shoals of psychopathology.

Today she quivers with rage over two slights to our national honor. One is a few years old but, like 9/11, should be Neverforgotten: Mexicans chanting "Osama" during a football match with the U.S. Malkin doesn't get out among sports fans much, does she? Please don't tell her about "Hextall... Get a Porsche!" or she'll be convinced New York and Philadelphia are in a state of war.

This weekend, the "America-haters" were back, says Malkin, and their target was... Miss USA!
Throughout the week-long festivities leading up to the Miss Universe pageant last night, Miss USA, Rachel Smith, was booed and heckled. First, at a national costume event (half-way into the news segment)...

Ms. Smith, who fell during the evening gown competition but recovered gracefully, was subjected to hatred again last night during the Top Five interviews, when hecklers in the audience launched into chants of "Mexico, Mexico" and disrupted her entire interview. The two hosts of the pageant, Vanessa Minillo and Mario Lopez, did nothing to chastise the crowd for the rudeness shown to their fellow American.

At least the hecklers didn't yell "Osama." Or maybe the microphones just didn't pick it up this time.

Meanwhile, as Heather Mac Donald points out, the White House continues to attack opponents of mass amnesty as "nativists."

Yeah, we're the nativists.
One wonders how this drama is recreated in the lurid diorama that is the inside of Malkin's skull. Are the haters ordinary beauty pageant fans -- that is to say, nuts -- who let their enthusiasm for their favorite candidate get out of hand? Or are they hard-bitten jihadists whose plan for global domination includes Zoolander-style walkoffs?

Next week: people who prefer Cheddar to American cheese on their burgers are Britcaseofascists!
MOVIE NIGHT. Saw two late Herzog documentaries at the Film Forum this weekend: Christ and Demons in New Spain and Bells from the Deep. The former is about poor Guatemalans whose Christianity is suffused with ancient paganism, though it is hard to tell whether the Christian or the Aztec Mayan part of their devotions is weirder -- like most people who got their Catholicism from Spain, they are morbidly obsessed with the agony of Christ crucified, but they also perform rituals that involve smoking huge cigars and spitting liquor on each other. The latter is about Russians whose devotions are no less strange, and include throat-singing, faith-healing, a Jesus impersonator, and pilgrimages to a miraculous city that is alleged to exist under a frozen lake.

Both films are discursive and poetic, like reality TV shows made by Luis Bunuel. In both his fiction and his non-fiction films, Herzog is obviously fascinated by primitives, though in his view primitives may be found practically anywhere (in Stroszek they are found in Wisconsin, performing the ritual of chicken tic-tac-toe). Herzog seeks not only to document their rituals and behaviors, but also to approximate the rhythms of their lives. This last feature may be what saves these films from cheap exoticism: these mini-civilizations, so detached from our world that they might as well be on different planets, are for him objects of contemplation and reverence, and he doesn't seek to project himself, or us, into them -- in fact, these places seem unlivably hellish to the likes of us. This is my kind of multiculturalism: a healthy respect, terror, and disgust for all the cultures of the world.

Monday, May 28, 2007

BUT HE LEFT OFF THE CAPTION: "Already I feel the power of the nanobots coursing through my veins! Soon I will be fit to sire a race of immortal robot lawyers."

Good for him giving blood, though. The doctors told me that they freeze blood, and therefore did not need any that was already fortified with preservatives.
MEMORIAL DAY. The words that ring in my ears this Memorial Day are not from a Memorial Day speech. They're from FDR's proclamation of Bill of Rights Day, December 15, 1941, in honor of the document's 150th anniversary.

A week earlier, America had declared war on Japan, which was followed by Germany's declaration of war against America. Roosevelt alluded to the new national crisis, and to the sacrifices it would entail, in his proclamation:
Those who have long enjoyed such privileges as we enjoy forget in time that men have died to win them. They come in time to take these rights for granted and to assume their protection is assured. We, however, who have seen these privileges lost in other continents and other countries can now appreciate their meaning to those people who enjoyed them once and now no longer can. We understand in some measure what their loss can mean. And by that realization we have come to a clearer conception of their worth to us, and to a stronger and more unalterable determination that here in our land they shall not be lost or weakened or curtailed.

It is to give public expression and outward form to that understanding and that determination that we are about to commemorate the adoption of the Bill of Rights and rededicate its principles and its practice.
Our current Administration, prosecuting its own, very different war, does not often nor so eloquently allude to the liberties at the heart of the American experiment. Yet out of all the other spurs that drive us to war and sacrifice, these "privileges" are the most meaningful. Without them we would be just another clan fighting to keep, or increase, our land and possessions. That might be worth a barbecue, but it wouldn't be worth a single soldier's grave.

But if we believe America is more than that, and that the principles of its founding are still our principles, then those who have died in its wars will command our special respect. Whether they served because they were patriots, or because they wanted to prove themselves, or because they were drafted; whether we agree with the individual mission -- whether they agreed with it, or even thought about it; whether they fell at Anzio, or at Cinfuegos, or at Khe Sanh, or at Fallujah, they served under the flag of the United States of America, whose cause is ours, and died for it.

Whether the dead themselves can benefit from the consolation of remembrance is a theological question beyond my abilities. Following FDR, though, I would say that it can do us some lasting good to remember the object of their sacrifices.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

MOVIES ARE STILL YOUR BEST ENTERTAINMENT. I'm beginning to believe that, as Doghouse Riley likes to say, American conservatism is in its Ghost Dance phase, summoning the power of myth to bring new life to its people. We have recently seen an American Spectator howler claiming that "a different cut of Star Wars would have become a rallying cry for Thatcherites." Now Reihan Salam, ostensibly reviewing a DVD of an old Chevy Chase movie, tells no doubt saucer-eyed Slate readers that their favorite funny movies are paens to Reaganism:
So, why is Fletch such a failure? It could be that—like it or not—hipster liberalism just doesn't mesh well with screwball comedy. Animal House, the ur-text, pits the lovable ne'er-do-wells of Delta Tau Chi against the duplicitous and icily priggish Dean Wormer, and we know from the start whom we're rooting for. Or take the more recent smash hit Wedding Crashers, in which a pair of charming scoundrels square off against the privileged scion of a great American family. To the extent there's any political subtext here, you might think it's simple, straightforward egalitarianism: You can't let some two-bit tyrant ruin all your fun, and you can't let some J. Press preppie bastard get the girl.

But there's more than a passing resemblance between this narrative and classic right-wing populism. Like "Bluto" Blutarsky rallying his fraternity to ruin the homecoming parade, crafty conservatives have been riling up middle America for decades against champagne-sipping limousine liberals. The boys in Animal House aren't, say, fighting tooth and nail for a living-wage ordinance. These mostly privileged young men are fighting for their right to party—a libertarian cause if there ever was one. And consider that the villain in Wedding Crashers is a Kennedy clone, a cultured environmentalist who hides his woman-hating ways behind earnest platitudes.
Regrettably, Salam does not address the burning issue of whether The Flintstones was a rip-off of The Honeymooners.

That this argument is being made in a major online publication, rather that through clouds of bong smoke in a dorm room, demonstrates that the jazzed-up leftists who used to tell us how mainstream movies and Madonna singles were "subversive" have passed their jingling fool's-caps and motley to conservative culture warriors. Such are the uses, and perhaps the necessity, of fantasy.

Friday, May 25, 2007

SOON THE OTHERS WILL BE THE MAJORITY. There's a lot to be said about the current immigration bill. I can understand how people of goodwill can disagree over it. And I am sympathetic to my friends down South who worry about unregulated immigration.

On the other hand --

I'm sorry. I know it's wrong. But every time some honky at National Review freaks out about Mescans, I feel compelled to crank Black Flag.

You soy un hombre malo.

¡Happy Memorial Day, amigos!

UPDATE. Anything that provokes the bitter tears of John "Mescans Will Strangle Me In My Old Age Home" Derbyshire is de facto double plus good. ¡Vota para la Reconquista, Senadores! ¡Andale, arriba!
DEFINING LIBERTARIANISM DOWN. When I heard Ross Douthat declare that Ron Paul and Rudolph Giuliani
...demonstrate just how much two candidates can diverge on policy matters and still both be cast as the "libertarian" in the race...
my neck snapped and I fell to the floor, dead. Well, almost. Rudolph Giuliani a libertarian? The man who confiscated over 90,000 guns? The guy who enforced a dancing ban in New York bars, chased porn out of Times Square, and at the recent Republican Presidential debate talked lovingly about how much don't-call-it-torture he would allow?

Douthat explains:
Giuliani, by contrast, is a libertarian of results alone, and only on certain issues. He wants to maximize "reproductive freedom," for instance, and doesn't care if doing so involves ceding enormous authority to unelected judges; he wants taxes to be low, but doesn't question the principle of income taxation (as Paul does), and so forth.
I'm guessing the quotes around "reproductive freedom" refer to Giuliani's speech to NARAL in 2001, and Douthat means to show Giuliani as a brave champion thereof. In the here and now, of course, Giuliani spends most of his abortion spiel saying how much he hates abortion and how as Mayor he tried to "reduce abortions" and "increase adoptions." If he's a libertarian, so's Bill Clinton.

As for "wants taxes to be low," yeah, that's some fucking distinction for a REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE. I remember George Bush and John McCain in 2000, competing to see which of them could yell "I'll tax your asses off!" louder.

I'm still chewing over "and so forth," though. That may prove to be the crux of Douthat's argument.

Douthat concludes that "a libertarianism that's pro-choice, pro-growth and pro-'enhanced interrogation techniques' is the only libertarianism that has any mass appeal these days." Similarly, tofu will sweep the nation as soon as we find a way to give it the flavor and consistency of choc-o-mut ice creams.

Douthat isn't worth thinking about, but I had been wondering what had become of his erstwhile partner Reihan Whatshisname since Douthat joined the Atlantic Monthly. Bouncing off the walls, shrieking rap lyrics and other gibberish as horrified passersby fled to safety, I imagined. I returned to the American Scene of the crime and found this new post about how Ghostbusters is right-wing and Real Genius is left-wing and if you go to family reunions to meet women, you might be a redneck. Which is to say, I had guessed correctly.
ONE TRAITOR'S VIEW. We seem to be in the middle of another rightwing rev-up of the notion that the Iraq occupation is going great and anyone who says different just wants America to fail. (I could just link to the Ole Perfesser's entire site here, but history demands that I be more specific.)

Having followed with a jaundiced eye this whole Iraq adventure from the outset, and remembering when the statues were toppled and the flowers were strewn and "Democracy! Whiskey! Sexy!" was proclaimed the New Coke of Iraq -- only to be swiftly supplanted by the classic formula, "Aiieeeeee! My leg/arm/torso!" -- I have to say that shifts in trends, real or merely reported, do not mean that much to me.

The problem remains what it was: we dug ourselves a very deep hole in Iraq, with no idea as to how it might be filled. If Iraq were sufficiently pacified that John McCain could walk through the Green Zone without body armor and a couple of Apache gunships at the ready, this reality would persist. We took command of a gigantic slice of earth and millions of people, and after five years the net effect (besides thousands killed, with Saddam and his miserable allies only a fraction of them) has been a spectacular loss of popular support and continued, if not exacerbated, turmoil in the region.

When war enthusiasts resort to claiming that the U.S. Armed Forces have been too "PC" in enforcing order in Iraq, you know that, despite the current boomlet in propaganda (might we call it black-optimism?), a pooch has clearly been screwed. The current surge may vitiate the effects, but it will not unscrew the pooch. Over time we may forget -- as many have already forgotten, perhaps willfully, and are endeavoring to make the rest of us forget as well -- that things might have been differently and better handled. One might argue that it doesn't matter -- the horrifying reality is what's left for all of us to deal with. But I would rather that we did remember, so that we might know better than to make mistakes like this again. Imputing treason to those who knew better is not the way to go.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

AS BELOW, SO ABOVE. People sometimes ask me why I don't engage wingnuts who have more intellectual cred than the feebs and dimbulbs who comprise my normal subject matter. So I read this Joseph Bottum essay at the schoolly First Things. The essay is 300,000 words long and tells how evil San Francisco liberals want to get as far away from corpses as possible, whereas highly moral conservatives like to keep theirs hanging up in the smokehouse or something.
In its way, San Francisco’s turn against graves provides a nice synopsis of the twentieth century, all the forces of modern times pushing toward a single end. So, for example, whatever politicians may have thought they governed, American cities were actually driven, for much of the twentieth century, by the juggernaut of city planners and public-health officers, their eyes gleaming with visions of Tomorrowland’s immaculate metropolis. So, too, the great engine of modern finance put enormous pressure on real estate—skyscrapers! bank towers! the downtown office!—in narrow urban spaces such as the Golden Gate peninsula.
Somehow I missed the giant Necropoli dominating the landscapes of Salt Lake City and other highly moral Red State cities. Nor did I know that the terms of Burke's famous partnership between the living and the dead required that we actually hang out with the dead.

Mostly I am confused to encounter, in so famously intellectual a publication, the crackpot idea that liberalism is defined, not by its historical advocacy for expanding human freedoms, but by its alleged opposition to timeless realities such as grief and mourning. I'm more accustomed to hearing this crap from blog dummies than from lofty dons.

Speaking of dummies, at The Corner they're all talking about "Lost" -- having worn out their higher minds over the preceding week with rages against Mexicans.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

THE SELF-PITYING BOOK OF BLUBBERING "NO FAIR" FOR BOYS: Stop me if you've heard this one: guy goes to a graduation ceremony, notices that many of the women graduates are covered with honors -- 31 of the 41 "distinguished scholars" are women, 21 of 27 National Honor Society designees are women, and 16 of the 24 International Baccalaureates have gone to women.

Guy says, holy shit, men are being preju-ma-diced against! No, really:
If this local pattern is the national norm, we are in the midst of creating a generation of male failure.

Apparently it is getting to be the norm. A 2005 NPR interview quotes a Pell Institute scholar who found that by the late 1970s women had caught up to men in high school graduation rates, and by the early 80s they had caught up in college graduation rates. That’s the good news. The bad news is that since then, men have lost even more than women gained. Two years ago American colleges awarded 200,000 more degrees to women than to men.
When the rich get tax breaks, these people tell us that a rising tide lifts all boats; but when females start to excel, we're told that success is actually finite, and the more women get of it the less is left for the guys.

Linked by The Ole Perfesser, of course, who in a related essay calls for "affirmative action for male [degree] candidates." Wake me when this trend reaches my neck of the woods, and I can bitch that female executives have been promoted ahead of me, not because I spend my days playing YouTube videos and making paper airplanes, but because bitches are preju-ma-diced.
BOOK CLUB. I have heard some enthusiastic talk about The Dangerous Book for Boys. Apparently it teaches lads how to make bows and arrows and slingshots, and the Ten Commandments. Sounds like ripping fun. I wonder how it's doing in Washington Heights? I rode my bike up to Fort Washington Park this past weekend, and there saw young fellows playfully trying to hit each other with their fists, while others played baseball with a small toy soccer ball and a tree branch. What these youngsters need, I found myself thinking, are some bows and arrows and slingshots. Also the Ten Commandments, or at least Mr. T's Commandments. Boys demand order, and if you break the rules, God help you, fool, you got Mr. T to fear!

I expect the book is doing best among suburban parents eager to fight the sissifying scourge of political correctness. All well and good, but I expect the Boys' Movement will soon devolve into a junior edition of the Men's Movement, with the inevitable drum-beating and hugging. At least it will help prepare them for their teenage years.

I notice that this book is fighting it out for top spot among non-fiction books with another example of wishful thinking, The Secret. I understand its popularity and embrace its message. At this very moment I am telling myself that my fridge is full of beer, and I know it will be so, for I have some dollars left in my pocket and the deli is still open. Mirabile dictu!

Monday, May 21, 2007

TRUE SON OF LIBERTY. Garance Franke-Ruta follows up on her famous call for new laws against consensual nudity:
Others liberals, finding the present raunch culture wanting, posited a need for an even more sex-saturated media environment. “If the brain-damaged idea of sex as explotation [sic] is the problem, I say let us militate against that idea,” wrote thespian Roy Edroso at Alicublog. “Let us have wide and unapologetic dissemination of sexual imagery."
Son of a gun, she's right: There are two i's in "exploitation." (Also, it should be "other liberals," shouldn't it?)

GFR is also right, in a way, about the sex saturation thing, though I must say it is not my goal, but rather a thoroughly acceptable means to a noble end.

As I said before, the problem in our current plague of dirty-mindedness over sex is not the sex but the dirty-mindedness. "Girls Gone Wild" is not a hit because tits are a hit -- why, tits may be had by the bushel from any self-respecting internet pornographer! -- but because it combines tits with trickery, which indulges the sad conviction of many, many customers that tits do not spring easily and happily from their hiding places, but must be lured with snares (in this case, the promise of cheap fame and beads).

GFR's attitude -- eternal vigilance over breasts under 21 is the price of female empowerment! -- feeds into that gnarled and tragic world-view. I would much prefer an everybody-wins scenario, whereby the ubiquity of hardcore pornography makes the very notion of Girls Gone Wild and all such sniggering simulacra ridiculous. It may take a couple of generations, but I'm willing to see it through.

I doubt this clarification will persuade GFR that I am not in fact a "leering lout eager to ogle 18-year-old girls and transform society into a deregulated libertarian paradise where low-income women are routinely exploited," but, really, whatever would?
THE LOST CAUSE. David Brooks (TimesSelect, sorry*) has an plan to revive the Republican Party: "A Human Capital Agenda." The basic idea: imitate George Bush back before everyone hated him:
In fact, it was Bush in 1999 who single-handedly (though temporarily) rescued the Republican Party. He did it not by courting Republican interest groups, but by coming up with something new. On July 22, he delivered a speech in Indianapolis in which he explicitly distanced himself from Washington Republicans and laid the groundwork for compassionate conservatism.
After brushing off the "substantive problems" with the old comp-con agenda, Brooks proposes a new round of social program perscriptions that he believes will fire the imaginations of voters:
It means increasing child tax credits to reduce economic stress on young families. It means encouraging marriage, the best educational institution we have. It means a national service program, so young people can experience the world.
None of these ideas are new. In fact, versions of them -- permanent child tax credits, $1.5 billion for staying-married lessons, and the USA Freedom Corps -- have been tested, and found wanting, at least as political firestarters.

The real problem is that, when Bush pulled the compassionate conservative dodge, he was working to negate the natural Democratic advantage in social issues. Today, thanks to the gross incompetence of the Bush Administration, no one believes that Republicans, at the Federal level at least, can be of any assistance at all in such matters, except perhaps to help us drown faster during national emergencies.

Our current crop of Republicans candidates recognize this, and only briefly allude to the sort of social programs that define compassionate conservatism, instead using their bully pulpits for actual bullying: endorsing torture, threatening double-Gitmos, pledging to protect us from Mexicans, etc. I doubt that most voters think these candidates can achieve much in those areas, either, but their battle-cries may invigorate a certain class of Republicans that turns out for fundraisers, rallies, and primaries.

Under such circumstances, I doubt any candidate will dare a shift toward a Brooksian Human Capital Agenda. In fact, I expect they will go further in the other direction. Witness the most credible unannounced candidate, Fred Thompson (R-TV), who ladles boob bait even more generously than the others in "viral" videos such as this one, in which he flourishes a big cigar and appears to threaten Michael Moore with incarceration in a mental institution.

I fully expect that, when the next debate rolls around, the standing candidates will bring their own stogies, or suspenders, or golf clubs, and lean into the cameras to promise rough justice to Jimmy Carter, Barbra Streisand, et alia, leaving social uplift to the Democrats, who do it much better.

*UPDATE. Thanks to Stephanie who points out that you can get Brooks' column here for just the price of your attention. Which is still too much, but that's the world we live in.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

MOVIE NIGHT. Finally saw An Inconvenient Truth. It's a nice primer for the mainstream POV on climate change. It goes down smooth enough, and I am very impressed with Big Al's voiceover skills. But admirable as it is as a presentation, as a movie it's not much. Maybe my standards for the documentary form are too rarefied, but the ones I admire -- Nanook of the North, High School, Harlan County U.S.A., God's Angry Man, Fast, Cheap, and Out of Control, et alia -- have something in common with my favorite fiction films: they carry a wealth of meaning that can't be conveyed by talking points. In An Inconvenient Truth we learn a lot about environmental science and about Al Gore, but there's no room to wonder about either. Even the details of Gore's life, nicely rendered as they sometimes are, lead us only to expected conclusions, as any campaign bio or convention speech might. It's nice that they want to save the planet, but I don't think I'll be taking in An Inconvenient Truth or Dare or whatever they call the sequel.
SHORTER ANN ALTHOUSE: Schools should get serious and stop teaching ridiculous, new-agey subjects such as Literature.

UPDATE. While it is amusing to take this as, in Amanda Marcotte's pithy phrase, "a novel idea for [Althouse's] endless quest to make everyone else as small-minded and stupid as she is," it may also be the harbringer of a new culture-warrior strategy. Rather than just bitch about how awful liberal artists are, they may shift to bitching about how awful the arts themselves are. From that POV, literature's a good place to start: for one thing, it is more civilizing and intellectually strenuous than, say, video games, so neither they (with the possible exception of Richard Brookhiser) nor their followers would ever miss it.

Althouse's claim that fiction offers nothing that can't be had from technical manuals or textbooks would be sad -- betraying, as it does, a heart immune to transcendence -- if she were not so well rewarded for her ignorance with an academic sinecure and waves of wingnut approbation.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

AMERICAN PRIMITIVE. Here is a post by Ace O. Spades about how "liberal men are simply too pussy to get chicks." Here is another post by Ace O. Spades about a feminist who enjoys sexual domination, a phenomenon apparently brand new to Mr. Spades, who becomes quite excited by it ("dirty filthy whore... dirty filthy whore... Amanda Marcotte...").

In between, a post about beating off.

I don't understand why Mr. Spades posts 90,000+ words a day when he could communicate his thoughts just as well with a handful of sound files from 300, I Spit On Your Grave, and One Million Years B.C..
FORGET FALWELL, LET'S BEAT UP GOLDBERG AGAIN. I'm ready to say bad things about Falwell now, but why bother, when there are so many living, breathing imbeciles sticking up for him? The expected winner of the Most Fartalicious Fallen-Falwell Fluffer is of course Jonah Goldberg, who defends the late Reverend's insane claim that Tinky-Wink of the Teletubbies was designed to promote Gay Pride:
The liberal media loves — loves! — casting evangelicals as sexually hung up prudes. It should not detract from the basic unfairness of this bias to also concede that some evangelical leaders have supplied their enemies with ample ammo in this regard.
Try it this way: "The liberal media loves -- loves! -- casting Mars as the fourth planet from the Sun. It should not detract from the basic unfairness of this bias to also concede that the Earth is third from the Sun, Jupiter is fifth, and Mars is between them." I sometimes get the impression that Goldberg learned how to argue from a roomful of Furbys.
The problem with all of this was that Falwell didn't get the idea from watching the show, he got the idea from gay people. Tinky-Winky was a campy icon of gay clubbers in London and New York long before Falwell even knew who Mr.(?) Winky was. At least according to sources such as the Washington Post.
I'm suspicious. For one thing, I have been a New Yorker for nearly 30 years, which makes me an honorary homosexual -- hell, for all I know it may make me an actual homosexual, albeit one who uses frequent sex with women to conceal his true identity -- and I never heard of such a thing. But even if it were so, does that mean that all icons associated with gayness were designed to be so? Was that really why Mervyn LeRoy made The Wizard of Oz? "We gotta make America love fags! Get me a confused young woman I can make into a pillhead! It'll take decades for the caper to pan out -- but it'll be worth all the trouble if only my children's children can suck cock!"

I used to think Goldberg was just intellectually lazy -- that he just couldn't be bothered to do anything so hard as thinking. But consider: While most rightwing guys are just stubbornly insisting, against all evidence, that Jerry "9/11 was Punishment for Fags" Falwell was a great American -- which requires nothing more than a thesaurus and a lack of normal shame -- Goldberg pretends to have a point, and even fashions crude simulacra of arguments to enhance the fantasy. That takes real effort, or maybe the sort of genius that I thought passed from the world with the death of Junior Samples.

McCAIN: We're fighting them over there so we don't have to fight them blah blah blah. Iraqis are disappointing.

THOMPSON: I too believe Iraqis are disappointing.

ROMNEY: Iraqis should do what I say.

BROWNBACK: Iraqis and Democrats should do what I say.

GIULIANI: Democrats and Republicans should do what I say.

TANCREDO: I agree with Bush.

PAUL: I agree with Reagan.

HUNTER: The Iraqis agree with me.

HUCKABEE: Gotta get it right the first time, that's the main thing. Wo ho, wo ho, wo ho, wo ho ho ho-o-o ho.

GILMORE: America, whattaya think about Iran?

Round two

ROMNEY: I won't raise taxes.

McCAIN: Here's a joke! (laughter)

HUCKABEE: Here's a crazy idea, and a joke! (laughter)

GIULIANI: I cut taxes in New York, and they're all commie bastards.

BROWNBACK: Biofuel will defeat Hugo Chavez.

THOMPSON: I did 1,900 vetoes, and I'll cut into that useless agency, the Centers for Disease Control.

PAUL: I'll cut everything.

GILMORE: I'm a conservative. You other guys, not so much.

HUNTER: Fuck China, help American businesses, especially war profiteers.

TANCREDO: I'll cut everything too.

Round three

GILMORE: Giuliani loves abortion, Huckabee hearts taxes, Romney loves health care for God's sake.

GIULIANI: Well, at least I'm not a liberal.

McCAIN: I was in Vietnam.

HUCKABEE: I actually cut taxes. I'm doggone good and I have a moniker.

ROMNEY: I hate the state I used to be governor of.

BROWNBACK: Yay Reagan, boo Mexicans.

THOMPSON: Yay stem cells, boo destroying embryos.

GIULIANI: Abortion? Goddamn New Yorkers. What could I do?

HUCKABEE: Giuliani celebrates death, I look for lost boy scouts.

BROWNBACK: If you're raped, you should have a baby.

ROMNEY: I am recently and totally pro-life.

TANCREDO: I hate Mexicans. These guys love Mexicans.

McCAIN: Well, at least Mexicans aren't Muslims.

ROMNEY: Mexicans shouldn't get a special pathway. Or doorway. Citizenship! (applause)

McCAIN: Why's everyone looking at me? Abortion!

GIULIANI: I'm not soft. I'm hard! I'm America's Mayor! We need tamper proof IDs! And a fence!

HUNTER: I built a motherfucking fence.

PAUL: We really fucked up in Iraq. (applause)

GIULIANI: 9/11! 9/11! (cheers, gunfire)

PAUL: Fuck you.

McCAIN: I'm sorry about the Confederate flag, but not as sorry as you should be for asking me about it. (cheers, "Dixie")

HUCKABEE: That murderer? Everyone makes mistakes. If I'm elected, no one will go free.

TANCREDO: Global warming is bullshit. Ron Paul is a traitor! (cheers)

Round fucking four

McCAIN: I'm against torture. I was tortured myself. (No applause)

GIULIANI: I'm for torture. (applause) 9/11!

ROMNEY: More imprisonments without trial! Fuck habeus corpus! (applause)

THOMPSON: Colin Powell! Confused you, didn't I, bitches? Asking me about Africa! Sheeit.

BROWNBACK: Fuck the U.N.!

HUNTER: Whatever I did, I wouldn't think about it, thinking's for pussies.

McCAIN: I'm still against torture, despite your invitation to get with the program.

GILMORE: 9/11, Virginia stylee! Fuck the U.N., but with foreplay. I was a prosecutor!

HUCKABEE: Bush said "keep shopping," which was great, but let's all pretend we're making sacrifices, and voting for me would be a good first step.

PAUL: Forget taxes, let's talk torture. I mean, let's get Bin Laden. (deafening silence)

TANCREDO: Jack Bauer! (cheers)

Bullshit minority afterthought

GILMORE: I like black people.

ROMNEY: No Child Left Behind is good for black people.

I don't even know what this is supposed to be

HUNTER: Expanded trade with China may not be an unmixed blessing.

Conclusion: This country is fucked. Our only hope: THROW BATTERIES!

UPDATE. Andy McCarthy says, what does that pussy McCain know about torture? Ace O. Spades sez "Fuck Ron Paul. If I ever see this cocksucker in person, I'll take a swing at him." The Reasonoids go another way. That Big Tent seems to be leaking some air.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

THE GENTLEMAN FROM JASPERWOOD, PART ONE. The Gentleman from Jasperwood -- neither at Minneapolis St.Paul International Airport nor at Orlando International Airport could any one recall his name -- with his wife and daughter, was on his way to Disney World, where he intended to stay for one whole week, solely for the pleasure of it.

He was firmly convinced that he had a full right to a rest, enjoyment, a long comfortable trip, and what not. This conviction had a two-fold reason: first he was rich, and second, despite his forty-eight years, he was just about to enter the stream of life's pleasures.
Not to spoil the story, but having spent four days in the realm of the Mouse, you could cut my wrists and I’d bleed Disney Kool-Aid. Because that’s how much I drank. This is going to take a few days, so let's begin.
Of course, it was first of all himself that he desired to reward for the years of toil, but he was also glad for his wife and daughter's sake.
If you have any doubts about anything in the world – the purposes of money, the transience of joy, the point of it all, frankly – it is swept away the second you watch your daughter running barefoot through the grass in the dusk to see the fireworks burst over the lagoon.

It’s the best place ever she says, awestruck.

It’s Disneyworld...
The manner of living was a most aristocratic one; passengers rose early, awakened by the shrill voice of a bugle, filling the corridors at the gloomy hour when the day broke slowly and sulkily over the grayish-green watery desert, which rolled heavily in the fog. After putting on their flannel pajamas, they took coffee, chocolate, cocoa; they seated themselves in marble baths, went through their exercises, whetting their appetites and increasing their sense of well-being, dressed for the day, and had their breakfast.
It’s clean. It’s so clean and perfect you wonder why everything doesn’t look like this. But why is it clean? You see no one picking things up. Maybe the very fact that it’s spotless and pristine makes people hesitate to ruin the perfection. Then again, you placed a small piece of paper on the ground and walked away a few yards, just to see what happened. It vanished in a puff of smoke.
Immediately, life at Orlando began to follow a set routine. Early in the morning breakfast was served in the gloomy dining-room, swept by a wet draught from the open windows looking upon a stony garden, while outside the sky was cloudy and cheerless, and a crowd of guides swarmed at the door of the vestibule.
We stopped at the Port Royale food court, and got something to keep us from falling over. My wife selected an Oriental salad; I chose a small, pre-packaged salad, and Gnat had a small bag of chips.
Next on the day's program was a slow automobile ride along crowded, narrow, and damp corridors of streets, between high, many-windowed buildings.
Monorails. Sigh. part of you thinks this is so cool and part thinks this is so lame. The rails themselves, with thier pylons and stained we concrete, have a deadening effect on the landscape, but the moment the cars slide past they look cool again. Then they leave, and the rails look like an abandoned aqueduct.
While the steamer was anchored at Space Mountain and Frontierland, the situation was more cheerful; but even here the ship rolled terribly, and the coast with all its precipices, gardens and pines, with its pink and white hotels and hazy mountains clad in curling verdure, flew up and down as if it were on swings. The rowboats hit against the sides of the steamer, the sailors and the deck passengers shouted at the top of their voices, and somewhere a baby screamed as if it were being crushed to pieces.
Gnat was a little unnerved by the preliminaries, and held my hand quite tightly. This from a kid who took Space Mountain without blinking. We shuffled down a dim corridor, lined with amusing symbols of Victoriana; apparently for all time, the late 19th century domestic style is fixed as the preferred model for haunted homes. As I’ve said before, it’s like waking up 70 years in the future and discovering that the post-war rambler is now the standard model for domiciles cursed by the dead.
A wet wind blew through the door, and from a wavering barge flying the flag of the Hotel Royal, an urchin kept on unwearyingly shouting "Welcome! Foolish Mortals! To the Haunted Mansion! . . ." inviting tourists. And the Gentleman from Jasperwood felt like the old man that he was...

We were crammed into a dim octagonal room with 70 other damned souls, and the doors were closed. It appeared that there weren’t any doors at all, and there had never been any door.

Then the lights went out.

I think this is as good a time as any to reveal that I am severely claustrophobic.

(Text from Ivan Bunin and James Lileks.)

FALWELL DEAD. And my first reaction to that was pretty much like this.

But I feel bad about that now. I make it a rule to try and muster a little respect for any man at the point of dying, even if I despised him in life. In the Church in which I was raised, we were taught that no man living knows the disposition of departed souls. I have abandoned most of the paternostrums the Catholic faith bestowed upon me, but I have retained this one because I think it has a nice tinge of existentialism about it.

For one thing, I believe in doubt, and death is the certainty that concentrates doubt most powerfully. The undiscovered country, from whose bourn no traveler returns -- the Bible may be more certain than Shakespeare, but it is nowhere near as convincing. I can tally up costs and make judgment upon lives, and have; but at the very moment the portal opens and sucks out a soul, the chill wind it leaves behind dispels all judgment. I can't say then which of us was right -- only that we were both born to die:
It was in the reign of George III that the aforesaid personages lived and quarrelled; good or bad, handsome or ugly, rich or poor they are all equal now.
For the time being, Horseman, pass by.

Monday, May 14, 2007

LET'S YOU AND HIM FIGHT. For quite some time, religious conservatives have complained that Democrats do not show them enough respect. Now apparently some religious conservatives are angry that "secular conservatives" do not show them enough respect -- so angry that they take a mild joke by the Perfesser as an occasion for low dudgeon:
Three of the most murderous men of the last century — Pol Pot, Hitler and Stalin — were all atheists/occultists. Should we start expecting effette latte-drinking Utne reader types to start engaging in terrorism if they don’t get their way?
"Start expecting"?
...secular humanists constantly conflate Pat Robertson with the Taliban thereby demonstrating that they don’t get it, and most of our pundits and most of our major bloggers obviously don’t understand it either. Our dominant strains of voluntary ignorance may literally kill us.
This time the threat is merely mutual extinction. Next time, maybe, the author will remind the Perfesser that when that holocaust comes, he and his kind will descend into Hell.

The brawl crashes through a thin partition into Ace O. Spades territory, where one Jack M ("I am this site's resident 'social conservative'") declares:
...the Secular Cons often make no bones about their disdain for the Social Cons, going so far as to adopt the same sneering rhetoric as the militant left in deriding the very people without whom the secular cons would have no viable national platform at all. It's one thing to constantly confront outright bigotry from the left; it's quite another to have to brook it from people who are ostensibly on your side.
Well, now he knows how us Nutroots feel!

This is too good to last, I'm afraid. It is a symptom of the Rudy dilemma, whereby fundamentalists have been horrified to see widespread support going to a Republican who won't read the anti-abortion script with sufficient enthusiasm. But I expect soon enough secular cons and social cons will unite, mindful of their mutual devotion to the greatest con of all: the continued gutting of the Federal Treasury, and guns for everyone! Yeeee-haw!

Or it may be that the Lord takes pity on America, and allows the brawl to rage unabated in the Big Tent as horrified non-combatants run for the exits.
HOPE FOR AMERICA'S FUTURE. I know it doesn't count as journalism, but surely I have employed some sort of skill (shared with Ed Norton, who referred to himself as a "subterranean engineer") in digging through The Anchoress and Sigmund Carl & Alfred to get to a new and wonderful lunatic: "educator" Mamacita, who tells of life on the front lines of the teen sexual revolution, which -- despite everything you may have read in such Evil MSM outlets as Beliefnet -- is apparently raging out of control:
My last few years in the middle school were spent largely chasing kids out of the bathroom of the opposite sex. Blowjobs were all the rage. It was all they could talk about. They even drew pictures and diagrams, of kids ‘doing it,’ or ‘how to do it’ for the uninitiated.

Unpopular girls became suddenly popular. Early-developing boys were chased down the halls and solicited. It was sick. A time or two someone was actually caught in the act, but our principal had a hard time believing such things could happen at that age, and we had a really difficult time convincing her that yes, it was happening two or three dozen times a day. Nothing was ever done, because ‘the teacher must have just misinterpreted the situation and assumed the worst.’
Yes, it happened like that over and over. The parents were our worst problem, because they simply refused to believe their innocent child could possibly do that, and they became furious at the implication.

And the middle school kids were giving, and getting, blowjobs all day.
As a great man once said, bliss it was in that dawn to be alive, but to be young was very heaven.

I spent my adolescence and young adulthood in the 70s, which era is generally considered to be the apotheosis of sexual license, but this shit has my shit beat cold!

The good news doesn't stop there:
Maybe if people realized that all of these under-thirty girls who are hooking up with old men are someone’s daughter. . . . . it could be YOUR daughter. . . . is that really what you want for your child? To be the mistress of a dirty old man?
Did she say "all these under-thirty girls?" Looks like I should postpone my gun-in-a-roominghouse "retirement" plan! Let me roll down to the bodega for some Paco Rabanne, Zima, and Just for Men.

The fun doesn't stop there. Alright, class, whenever a wingnut says "blowjob," what proper noun may we expect to hear?
I know that people are tired of blaming Clinton for the rise in blowjob popularity, but it can’t all be a coincidence. When the President is able to rationalize his propensity for uncontrolled activities right within the White House walls by resorting to “I can’t help it; I have a problem; I’m an addict,” I believe the door was opened for a lot of other people to rationalize their behavior with that same pathetic excuse.
I don't remember Clinton referring to himself as a sex addict, but I might have just missed it: I'm sure I haven't spent as much time investigating him as Mamacita has.

If you want to go straight to the crack rock, you may click through to Mamacita's own site, though I must warn you it contains unironic references to Harry Potter and Les Miz. I won't follow, though; I've done my part.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

BLOW UP AT SHEA. Thanks to the generosity of Scott Lemieux (or, more properly, one of his colleagues) I got sunburned in the good seats at Shea Saturday. The Mets themselves got plain old burned, 11-3, by the mighty Brewers. You will be pleased to hear that class distinctions are not so huge between the field-seated and the upper-deck-dwellers among whom I normally enjoy these games: many of our neighbors started calling emphatically for Mike Pelfrey's ejection in the middle of the first inning. He didn't pitch so bad -- he was quick, coming back from disappointing results with vigor and intelligence, but then he lost his location and was done after five (in more ways than one: the Mets sent him down today).

In relief Aaron Sele did okay but got in a jam and yielded to Joe Smith, then sporting a 0.00 ERA. Smith promptly gave up an RBI. "There goes his scoreless streak," I said.

Guy in the seat behind, lounged back and florid-faced like the late actor Kenneth McMillan, said quietly, "That's not his run."

Shortly thereafter Smith gave up a grand slam to J. J. Hardy.

"Those are," deadpanned Kenneth McMillan.

The Mets' fielding was dismal: the normally sharp Gotay and Reyes approached grounders up the middle as if they were black cats crossing their paths. Maybe they'd had a late Friday night.

Well, it's early yet. The park was a pleasure. The dogs were hot and the beers were cold. We yelled Charge and Let's Go Mets and various insults. Willie ran onto the field to dispute a call and then, as long as he had the ump's attention, pulled out his lineup card to make a switch. The Brewers -- tip your cap -- played great and their two sons of stars, Prince Fielder and Tony Gwynn, looked pretty stellar themselves. Homerism and bitter accusations will come later.

Friday, May 11, 2007

ONE THING PERFECTLY CLEAR. Saw Emile De Antonio's old Millhouse documentary on Richard Nixon last night. Crude as hell, starting with the name, though the crudity works for it in places. De Antonio's lingering attention to the doughy middle Americans over whom Nixon put his line of bullshit comes straight out of old underground comics: lookit the squares gobbling it up! But there's a great passage from the '68 Republican Convention in which Nixon orates from the podium on his "dream" for the American people to the rapt honkies in the folding chairs. De Antonio strategically cuts into the soundtrack with the recently-assassinated Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech. But he never cuts away from the Convention visuals. In this context, the attentiveness of the massively white Conventioneers to Nixon's knockoff isn't a cheap shot at all. It is, for one thing, a tribute to Nixon's cunning at extracting the saleable parts of the zeitgeist. (I remember the moment in Nixon's '72 Convention speech when he told Democrats disaffected toward Democratic nominee McGovern, whose "Come Home, America" theme has just been launched, "we say come home -- not to another party, but we say come home to the great principles we Americans believe in together." Nixon carried 49 states.) For another, it attributes to Nixon's auditors a yearning that is perfectly understandable. There is an implied criticism here, but the mind has to work a little to figure upon whom it is really implied. This lifts us, for the moment, out of the realm of propaganda and into that of art.

But there's not enough of that. De Antonio keeps laying in negative commentary and burlesque intertitles to show us what a bastard Nixon is. That's often very entertaining. But outside this razzing, Nixon also exists as a character, which invites a curious reaction. In film as in life, nothing succeeds like success. The hard work Nixon put into mastering his game -- and "Iron Butt" was nothing if not hard-working -- is perversely admirable. Even the ridiculous "Checkers" speech -- so humiliatingly crass that John Ford saw fit to parody it in The Last Hurrah -- moved Nixon's ball forward. And though we are shown victims of Nixon's heedless rise, and proof of his mendacity, we can't help but notice that in the end (so far as the film knows) Nixon finally got to exactly where he wanted to be. Being Americans, how can we not be sympathetic to this triumph over adversity?

It is often said that some subjects are beyond parody. It may also be that some are beyond exposè, at least on the limited terms of documentary film. For a poetic perspective on Nixon, see Robert Coover's The Public Burning.
A FAN'S NOTE. I never read ballet criticism, but I may have to start. From the Observer's Robert Gottlieb on Peter Martins' new Romeo + Juliet: "Nikolaj Hübbe was a convincing Friar Laurence, but he and Juliet did so much hugging that I began to wonder about the nature of their relationship."

Somewhere on the other side, Dorothy Parker smiles.
A GOP HAS TURNED. NO ONE IS SAFE. Rudolph Giuliani has not taken the Cornerites' lying lessons to heart, and plans to stick to a mildly pro-abortion line. I thank our former Mayor for making it interesting. He of course had little choice. After the late Republican debate and the Pope's hard line on excommunication, it's clear that further waffling on the subject would have remained the focal point of his candidacy until he was (inevitably) forced to drop out. I think a sudden anti-abortion conversion would have been just as bad because no one would believe it.

In these cases, persistent doubts can be worse than an unpleasant certainty: so Bill Clinton correctly intuited when he admitted to "causing pain in my marriage" instead of trying to deny everything in 1992. By sticking with his known position, Giuliani invites voters to get over it or get lost.

We'll see which option Republican primary voters will take. Kevin Drum and Scott Lemieux, among many others, think Giuliani's finished. Wonderful if true, but let's consider another bright side. If Giuliani wipes out early after his long stint as front-runner, abortion will be the presumed reason, and we won't have to listen to any more guff about what a big tent the Republicans have compared to us lockstep Dems. If, on the other hand, he stays competitive for even a few primaries, think what shock-waves will roll through the GOP! Once it gets out that you don't have to bow to the Religious Right to stay competitive in the Republican Party on a national level, other Republican up-and-comers will get the message, and the Party will begin to lose some of its crypto-theocratic cast.

And -- why shouldn't I take this rare opportunity for concern trolling? It looks like such fun when they do it -- that would be good for all Americans.

UPDATE. Rightwing commentators rise (or, more properly, descend) to the bait! Split decision at RedState: while "Alexham" declares that "If Rudy becomes the Republican Party's presidential candidate, it will destroy the party for the foreseeable future" (yes, that's actually in red boldface*), one "Adam C" disagrees, claiming that "the best thing about Giuliani from my perspective is his ability to shift people's thinking on school choice." Yeah, our public schools are a model for the free world thanks to Rudy, and worth any number of extinguished fetuses.

No reaction yet from the religious maniacs, whose cherubim and seraphim are probably still helping them paste their heads back together.

UPDATE II. I'm so happy I started paying attention to RedState again! Look what they've come up with:
An Open Declaration of War Against The House Republican Leadership

The House Republican Leadership just does not get it and they will not take us seriously until we flex our muscle against them. We must fight the House GOP and we must fight today.

Today, I declare war on the Republican Leadership of the United States House of Representatives. We must scalp one member. That member's name is Ken Calvert.
Random b/f in the original, of course, or perhaps it was added by the stenographer who took down this peroration when "Erick" gave it to his platoon of plastic army mans.

The hilarity resounds in the drafty mountain cabin inhabited by Ace O. Spades, who objects to Erick's approach, resulting in one of Mr. Spades' finest sentences:
I don't think the leftist hijacking of the Democratic Party is good for that party's health; sure, they won back the Congress, but largely on the back of conservative Democrats and just slightly aided by the Republicans' corruption, incompetence, and lack of principle.
Or: If it weren't for the fact that we suck, you guys would have totally lost.

Oh, but wait -- I think Armed Liberal has topped him, at the end of a long rant about how we have to stay in Iraq because Saddam was Hitler:
Those who choose to stand elsewhere today will find that they will have harder choices to make tomorrow. Sadly, I think that all of us will.
So if I stand here (jumps left) I will have to make harder choices tomorrow, and if I stand here (jumps right) I will have to make harder choices tomorrow. So where do I have to stand to avoid making harder choices tomorrow? Nowhere, my friend; nowhere. (laughs, smokes a cigar like Michael Dunn at the end of Ship of Fools.)

All things being equal, I think we should get the hell out of Iraq.

*UPDATE III. In comments Alexham writes to inform me that the red is RedState linkstyle. That's too bad. I enjoyed RedState's resemblance to an old missal, and wanted to believe it was intentional.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

SHORTER JANE GALT: I like gay people, but I hate this liberal guy worse!

(Actually, this could be a Shorter template for any post that starts out "I like gay/black/Muslim/whatever people, really," and within seconds veers into a tangent that reveals a totally different agenda. We'd probably wear it out pretty quickly, though.)

UPDATE. O, the comments are a joy. My favorite so far:
When I was in the Army there was a situation where the food that was being stored for use in case of a nuclear war was reaching it's expiration date. Instead of just throwing the food away, the Army gave it away for free.

Our post had cheese to give away. Lots of cheese. If you were so minded, you could get one or two 10lb blocks of cheese. The cheese was 35 years old.

Thousands of people stood in line for hours to get 20lbs of 35 year old cheese.

Does that sound like something you would do? I wouldn't.

My point: Just because legalizing something (gay marriage, polygamy, men doinking trees) doesn't affect you, that does not mean that it would not adversely affect society.
A fatally defective reasoning mechanism, AND an inability to understand that poor people need things! He's the sort of reader Jane Galt was born to write for.
CHOC-O-MUT ICE CREAMS IS CONSERVATIVE BECAUSE I LIKES CHOC-O-MUT ICE CREAMS, PART 45,773. Culture clown Stanley Kurtz takes time off from his polygamy obsession to be young with the young:
Watching music videos for a talk on the twentieth anniversary of Allan Bloom’s Closing of the American Mind, I’ve stumbled across a hilarious production called Alfie, by Lilly Allen. Here’s the clip and here are the lyrics. I haven’t actually seen this on either MTV or MTV2 (which show relatively few videos now), but Alfie does appear on MTV’s recommended video list. This is probably as close as MTV has ever gotten to criticizing its core audience (and implicitly, itself). Alfie is certainly not coming from exactly the same direction as Allan Bloom, but it is an internally generated (and wonderfully clever) "conservative" critique. Should we open up a new spot on John Miller’s list of the greatest conservative videos?
The video in question is about Lily telling her stoner brother to get a job, a position totally antithetical to liberal ideology, which dictates that all Americans must be stoned all the time and not work, especially the ones played by puppets.

We may expect future conservative classifications to be granted to "Livin' On a Prayer" because of its Reaganesque optimism, and "Money for Nothing" because the guy says "faggot."

Is there no corner of life that cannot be spoiled by their leprous touch?

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

LOW STANDARDS. Ross Douthat says that when it comes to the Presidency, character counts, except when it doesn't, and it doesn't when his own former belief in the leadership skills of our brain-damaged dry-drunk President comes back to bite him in the ass. Behold his lovely I-meant-to-do-that statement:
In hindsight, for instance, it's clear that certain of George W. Bush's personal attributes - his intellectual incuriosity, his sense of personal calling, his abiding loyalty to friends and allies, his stubborness when challenged - have led his Presidency into disasters. But it's perfectly possible to imagine a Presidency in which those same qualities in the chief executive turned out to be great advantages that led to great successes.
Similarly, I could get rich selling turkey gizzard gelato, or by hanging out in Flatbush with a tin cup and a sign that says FUK YOU. Or I could, you know, make better choices.
SHORTER PATRICK HYNES: I'm proud to say I don't believe in evolution, but I wish the media would conceal the fact that three Republican Presidential candidates don't believe in it either.
LOSERS. Jonah Goldberg hears from Jon Chait that Markos of Daily Kos is using the tools of the Right to win results for the Left, and disputes:
For the better part of a decade now, liberals have been trying to recreate the media of the American Right — talk radio, think tanks, etc. — without spending much effort trying to replicate the message.
One might argue that the DLC and the neo-liberals did a pretty good job of replicating the conservative message, but never mind.
The conservative infrastructure that arouses so much envy among liberals today was an afterthought. It was created because the far more valuable real estate — universities, foundations, newspapers, and TV networks — were held by liberals. Conservatives used their institutions to have serious arguments about what conservatives should believe.

The netroots crowd seems determined to skip the serious argument part and settle on the idea that liberals should simply all believe the same thing, first and foremost on the Iraq war.
This is Goldberg's traditional rhetorical gambit -- make outrageous negative claims about the opposition ("determined to skip the serious argument part") and declare his side superior, then momentarily float above his seat on a cushion of methane gas.

But this argument isn't even worth having. Goldberg only engages it because, one, he has to produce something every so often to justify his Cheetos allotment, and two, he obviously expects the Democratic resurgence to continue through 2008, and is reduced to arguing that winning doesn't mean the Democrats are better -- much as I have argued, when drunk, for the moral superiority of the New York Mets over teams that were beating the crap out of them.

Goldberg wouldn't admit that, of course, but why else be so defensive about the glory that was Grover Norquist? It's a loser's gambit. And small wonder -- because the fact is, the best arguments for defenestrating Republicans are not coming from Daily Kos, nor from the DLC, nor from any such like. They're coming from the Republicans themselves -- not in their words but in their deeds: feats of astonishing and self-evident incompetence, greed, and corruption.

It is amazing to contemplate that, after years of successfully bashing anti-war Democrats as traitors, the Republicans find themselves outpolled by Nancy Pelosi on the prosecution of the war. Nancy Pelosi! A San Francisco Democrat! Despite all the lies about her that have been dutifully parroted in the press, despite all the bullshit about her scarf, Joe and Jane Sixpack still prefer the approach of Nancy Pelosi to that of this Administration.

That's how badly they've fucked up. You can feel the unease throughout rightwing media outlets. Operatives such as David Frum are busily lining up excuses for what he surely sees as a coming Republican debacle. As for the intellectual types, they are either rocking in place, repeating comforting banalties to banish their fear, or wrapped up in self-isolation fantasies, or planting a Jesus flag on the hill in their backyard and declaring war on the Enlightenment -- none of which approaches, however entertaining to the gimlet-eyed, offer much promise of renewing the Party's electoral hopes.

This is not to say that I share their expectations. Fate is cruel, people are stupid, and Fred Thompson may yet lay out a sufficiently engaging line of horseshit to flummox the electorate into four more years of this stuff (assuming the Republic lasts that long). But increasingly it appears that they think so. As I have learned from working in corporations, that's the kind of thinking that is usually behind any epidemic of ass-covering.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

PREVARICATION CONSULTANTS. National Review continues to give lying lessons to St. Rudy. The latest seminar comes from Rich Lowry, and contains several corkers -- this is my favorite:
Giuliani apparently thinks that saying he hates abortion is enough. But pro-lifers will want to know why he hates abortion. Because it’s taken the lives of 48 million unborn babies since Roe? Giuliani’s “hate” line rings so false because, temperamentally, he is not one to hate something without outlawing or attempting to discourage it.
That last bit is lovely and accurate. Mayor Giuliani, fellow citizens will recall, actually cracked down on dancing in bars, availing a disused Prohibition-era law. There is some dispute as to whether he did this as part of a crusade against underage drinking, or just because he's a miserable son of a bitch. But yeah, Giuliani does indeed seem to believe that what he doesn't like should be banned. That's why he would be a disastrous President.

Lowry closes that, if the insufficiently insincere Giuliani would only attend their lying lessons, "[his] position would still be a contrivance, but at least it would be a coherent and shrewd one." That's a winning strategy! Vote Giuliani -- he may be full of shit, but it's our shit!

UPDATE. New spin from Ace O. Spades:
I wonder if Giuliani could have cast his [abortion] flip-flop as simply deferring to the wishes of the city he wanted to manage... wouldn't it have been better for him to have announced he was "functionally pro-life," but had to make strong assurances of defending abortion rights to NYCers in order to get accomplished what needed to be accomplished?
In other words, he nobly lied because otherwise we wouldn't have voted for him, thereby depriving New York of his much-needed leadership.

How unselfish of him! If only I'd thought of this tactic at key moments in my own life: "Honey, if you'd found out that I was cheating on you, you would have broken up with me -- and I just couldn't let you make that mistake!"

Monday, May 07, 2007

SHORTER HUGH HEWITT: The Star-Tribune is making Lileks get up off his ass! Cancel your subscriptions!

I don't get it. They're always bitching about how evil liberal reporters twist the news. Now one of their favorite operatives has a chance to bring fair 'n' balanced coverage to whatever the hell goes on in the Twin Cities, and they're complaining.

Maybe Jimbo can camp out in front of a madrassa and wait for someone to look at him cross-eyed. Hot copy, that!

These guys always want everyone else to work harder; let's see how they like it.

(Also, Hewitt says, "Imagine The New Yorker asking E.B. White to manage the restaurant listings." I say, imagine E.B. White writing endlessly about his trips to the hardware store and the cute things his widdle girl says, and trying to get that past Harold Ross.)

UPDATE. Lots of good commentary but Nancy's is the best.

UPDATE 2. Jimbo's fan club says covering news is demeaning, MSM is for fags, Lileks is being censored, and a bunch of other really stupid shit.

Again, I don't know why Lileks and his fellow he-men aren't tickled to have him transformed into a real live newshound -- such a hardboiled profession, and it goes so well with a fedora! Why would they prefer he remain in his ivory rec-room, spinning out deepthink on Why I Like Pie and such like?

I guess because his new job will require some actual work -- e.g, the lifting of phone receivers -- and contact with people who are not store clerks, on premises that are not Target or Chuck-E-Cheese. As with their pet war, they only like the rough-and-tumble parts of life when there's a nice, thick plexiglass screen between them and the reality.

Someone told me the guy's salary is just a few COLAs from six figures. And I'm supposed to cry bitter tears because he has to get up and walk around? Fuck him.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

DOPE, GUNS, AND FLASHING IN THE STREETS. (UPDATE -- GFR has complained, and I have made two corrections. They are marked with an *.)

I thought agreeing to "vlog" with the horrible Ann Althouse was Garance Franke-Ruta's worst possible mistake, but she has topped it by declaring that, rather than expose themselves to the statistically insignificant chance of posterity in a "Girls Gone Wild" video, women between the ages of 18 and 25 21* should be prohibited from allowing their breasts to be photographed (insert) by certain people*(/insert):
It is time to raise the age of consent from 18 to 21--"consent," in this case, referring not to sexual relations but to providing erotic content on film.
Old enough to fuck, not old enough to flash! The slogans just write themselves.

I am sorely tempted to play the jaded roué here, but fun as that might be, I will for the moment take the high road. Franke-Ruta's argument is based on the harm that may be done young women whose bodies may be caught on film in a moment of animal high-spirits:
Once upon a time, a picture was just a picture. Today it can be wirelessly beamed to computers that can email it to networks where, once it is posted, it can be downloaded and endlessly reproduced by anyone who wants it. The detritus of 50 years of television is now available on YouTube, as are highlights from many DVDs. Just as Google transforms us all into archivists of previously fleeting moments, so too does the new digital recording technology give youthful acts a permanent life. In the case of Mr. Francis and his empire of imitators--not to mention angry ex-boyfriends with digital flash cards and a long memory--it can transform the playful exhibitionism of young women into scarlet letters that follow them around for life.
Lord knows our discourse is distorted when it comes to sex. It is my observation that it is distorted because of our misperceptions about sex and the body, not because sex and the body are themselves noxious. Popular R-rated giggle-fests from Porky's to the American Pie movies are, to me, dirtier than a typical porn film, because they posit sex as something you get away with, like theft or vandalism.

The appeal of "Girls Gone Wild" is based on that social malfunction. It's not the sight of 18-year-old tits that's gross -- O, far from it! -- but the idea that the filmmaker and the viewer have stolen the view because the nubile was, in Franke-Ruta's words, "intoxicated by both a Scorpion Bowl (illegally served) and her own newly developed form."

To worry as Franke-Ruta does that "Girls Gone Wild" participants will suffer lasting damage when their videos "follow them around for life" is to acknowledge that this fucked-up American sex-madness is unavoidable and undefeatable. Why else prevent women who are otherwise judged capable of sexual freedom from exhibiting their lady-parts? Elsewhere Franke-Ruta explains that she doesn't complain if young women (and men, she suddenly adds) privately enjoy "photos for personal use." But what is the meaning of the "privacy" concerns she claims to support if she wants private citizens to be legally enjoined from exercising or disposing them?

Exploitation, alas, exists. But this is no reason to fold the tent of liberty. All our rights -- the right to free speech, the right to bear arms, the right not to incriminate ourselves, etc. -- can be exploited, and indeed are exploited every day, but we try to find (or should try to find) the least restrictive way to limit those abuses, rather than allow those abuses to limit our rights.

So if the brain-damaged idea of sex as explotation is the problem, I say let us militate against that idea, not against the sexual autonomy of legal adults. Let us have wide and unapologetic dissemination of sexual imagery. Let us preempt the Joe Francises of the world by having fully empowered girls (and boys) go wild on their own terms -- there's a vlog subject more linkworthy than Fatso v. Ratso! Let the idiots among us hoot and holler and wank; the tide of history is against them. Isn't it?

Friday, May 04, 2007

SHORTER PEGGY NOONAN: If one of you gentlemen had hired me, I wouldn't be ratfucking your campaign in my column.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

DEFINING JACKASSERY DOWN. "Giuliani is going to get whacked around a lot for his performance tonight... Although honest to God, if Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama had been given the same question on differences between Shia and Sunni, I'd bet either of them would have/could have fumbled as badly. Really unfair that he got hit with that one." -- Jim Geraghty

Tomorrow Saint Rudy will beat up Al Sharpton or something. The real losers in tonight's Republican Presidential debate: Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama! Look up, Hannah, look up!
ARTS POLICY. I've been on a tear lately about rightwing dabblers in the arts-criticism racket, but I feel it behooves me to go into negative space to better define my territory. Here is the beginning of a recent book review in the New York Sun by Otto Penzler:
Let me make something clear. I'm prejudiced: I don't like people who don't like America, and I especially don't like Americans who don't like America. I've never met David Ignatius, but I don't believe I'd like him, though I hope I'm wrong because he sure can write. I just find it impossible to separate the political tone (it's all our fault) from the novel, just as I can no longer be enchanted by Barbra Streisand's voice or Sean Penn's thespian skills.

Now, if you're more open-minded than I am (I won't say liberal, because no one is more closedminded than liberals, thereby ruining a wonderful word and an outstanding concept), just skip this column and go out and get a copy of "Body of Lies" (Norton, 349 pages, $24.95) because it is an exceptionally exciting thriller.
I have no objection to this, nor even to the fairly politicized (but still analytical) body of the review that follows. In fact I admire it. Penzler lays his prejudices on the line right up front, so we know what his terms are. I may be suspicious of his conclusions, but I feel so because I have been warned, not because I smell a rat.

I suspect Penzler's rigor has much to do with his genuine interest in the material. Penzler knows from thrillers, being the proprietor the excellent Mysterious Bookshop, and I sense in his caveat a tinge of embarrassment that his personal preferences interfere, in this case, with his keen appreciation of cracking good yarns.

That isn't a bad way to approach any task of criticism that engages our dual loyalties when we come across a subject we find aesthetically interesting but abhorrent for other reasons. I try to do it myself -- see for example my review of The Passion of the Christ -- and I find it requires a good deal of doubt.

I was going to say "self-doubt," but isn't all doubt self-doubt? The religious think doubt is a demon, because it feels that way -- burning, confusing, easy for the simple to pin on the Father of Lies. I think of it as a safeguard. I think of the late adman Bill Bernbach, who carried in his pocket a piece of paper that said "Maybe he's right," which I imagine served for him a function similar to that of the crown-bearer who whispered in the Roman general's ear "Victory is fleeting": a guard against hubris fatal to his true purpose.

Doubt is not always easy to summon. Life is easier (I imagine, not having had the experience since I was a little boy) when every intellectual decision is binary and predetermined. Doubt makes us work, and allows error. It's usually inconvenient, it can wreck your career, it looks bad on your face, it invites others to doubt you.

But I think doubt is absolutely necessary -- not in politics, so much, as I fear this blog demonstrates regularly, but in matters of art, which I find much more important.

In politics, certainty is a winner. We can't elect candidates or win favor for ideas, on the platform "On balance, I think we might be right." I see its utility. But I fear that if I let such relative externalities as politics sink so deep into my own bedrock that I would let them affect my ability to appreciate the things in life that are really beautiful -- the things that make life worth all the tedious business that goes with it -- that I had to say, no, I reject the appeal of this character, this melody, this gesture, because it conflicts with my political program, then I will have lost my soul. Maybe if the compensation of gaining the world were available -- if I were a Presidential candidate, for example -- I would feel differently. But, for good or ill, I don't have that option.

That's probably why I'm so annoyed by the culture cops. They don't seem to know that there is anything more important than their smelly orthodoxies -- little, as Orwell had it, or big, as in the case of megachurchmen and other such fixers who seek to herd every true desire for transcendence into promixity to their ancient buncombe and collection plates. That's why any encounter with a work of art, however unpropitious its aspect, however contrary it may at first blush seem to the other thoughts I have rattling around in my head, is something to which I want to be available, and which I would rather enjoy than condemn. Wherever else I may be forced to hold the line, let my heart and soul be open.
IF I COULD GET PAST HER BODYGUARDS, I BET SHE'D REALLY, REALLY LIKE ME. Ha! No sooner do I finish dealing with Ross Douthat's complaint that the mean liberals won't write novels about Republicans than Kenneth Lloyd Billingsley complains that the mean liberals won't make anti-Communist movies for him.

(Like Douthat, Billingsley is one of those guys who goes over works of art with an ideological spectrograph, looking for wavelengths of wrongthink. He also thinks the Hollywood blacklist was no big deal because the "free market" took care of it. That's why this piece of shit appears in Reason, I guess.)

I keep saying it and saying it but I never get a satisfactory answer. Why don't you make your own fucking books and movies? Pen and paper are cheap, and I'm sure Murdoch, Scaife, and Sun Myung Moon will be happy to bankroll The Joe McCarthy Nobody Knew or Red Dawn II or whatever stupid shit you want to make.

I guess the opening aria, in which Billingsley imagines top Hollywood stars acting out one of his favorite Stalin exposès ("Harvey Keitel turns in a powerful performance as American Communist boss Earl Browder"), really shows us where he's at: he wants celebrities to validate him. He wants those figures on the posters on his bedroom walls to tell him, "Yes, Kenneth, we agree with you, only under capitalism can the soul of man thrive; and you look really cute in those pajamas." Maybe that's what's eating all these morons. Maybe they're all secretly 12 years old. Their prose certainly supports this theory.

UPDATE. The Perfesser hehindeeds. He really surprises me. Weren't blogs and nanobots and home recording studios supposed to make Hollywood obsolete, like they did newspapers and traditional medicine and everything else?

I forgot -- nothing the Perfesser says means anything except what he, at some future date and depending on circumstances, retroactively wishes it to have meant.

UPDATE II. The New York Times hears from a successful screenwriter who was first drawn to cinema as a boy by a love of slasher flicks ("We devoured them and they, in turn, juiced us up"), and derives from this experience that slasher flicks turn people into deranged killers. Is this some sort of coded confession to some as-yet-unsolved serial murders? I hope the FBI is profiling the shit out of him. This could be bigger than Zodiac!