Wednesday, October 31, 2007

ANNALS OF CITIZEN JOURNALISM. Another funny Republican same-sex scandal. Good thing for the Republicans that they have... a blind item, and retards who are easily obsessed. (Mr. Spades refers to Rosenbaum's mad-libs scandal as "juicy." Are we sure he isn't gay?)

Ron Rosenbaum mulls, "I'm beginning to feel uneaasy about posting one repetetive rumor after another," before remembering who, what, and where he is:
It's a blog, which can be many things but in my case is a kind of public record of personal experiences, often first impressions, thinking out loud etc. Starting a conversation...
To paraphrase an old joke: you know it's bullshit, I know it's bullshit, but blogging is blogging.
HAPPY HALLOWEEN. Right-wing nuts celebrate by holding flashlights under their chins and telling us the dead speak to us just like on the Teevee and foolish atheists will fry in hell. I celebrate by staying the hell away from the Parade and little kids, and watching Count Floyd. Whatever you do tonight, make it extra scarey. Awwoooooooooo!

UPDATE. Oops, forgot the HOLLYWEIRD IS MAKING OUR LITTLE GIRLS INTO SLUTS WITH COSTUMES! evergreen. James Lileks grabs a paddle but his heart doesn't seem to be in it. His daughter is, what, five now? I'll bet she's already telling him he's full of shit. "I'm going to Drusilla's, dah-dee. Don't wait up." "You'll sit here and eat your low-carb dinner first, young lady!" "Oh that birdseed is for manorexics like you, dah-dee. I wish to be zaftig and fierce!" I'm not sure how it ends: I like Lileks going "Sputter, sputter!" and ruffling his newspaper, but him tying the child to a chair and torturing her with old matchbooks works, too. Or this woman could show up at the door, and Lileks could say, "Aren't you a little old to be trick-or-treating, miss?" and then we bring in the fight choreographer.
WELCOME TO THE LINEUP. I'd been thinking of adding a fun, mean celebrity stalking site to the blogroll. But it had to have style. Style high enough to override the inevitable, unhealthy obsession with Britney Spears and other poor souls who actually deserve our pity and concern. Ladies and gentlemen...
Teri Hatcher attended the Dream Halloween charity for children affected by AIDS this weekend, and she went dressed as the Queen of Hearts from "Alice in Wonderland", because if it's one thing little kids high on painkillers need, it's to see horrifying old people dressed like storybook villains.
...What Would Tyler Durden Do?!
WATCHING THE WATCHERS. I didn't watch last night's debate. There will be about 200 more of them, and I don't have cable. I did scan the coverage in The Corner. The women among them hate Hillary a bunch, but the worst vitriol is reserved for Edwards, so now I have to consider voting for him. Oh, and in case you hadn't heard: opposition to neoconservatism is anti-Semitic.

Althouse moment of the thread -- Kathryn J. Lopez freaking out over Biden's good line ("There's only three things [Giuliani] says in a sentence: a noun, a verb, and 9/11"):
Now I'm mad ... when Joe Biden gets my New York up in defense of Rudy (on a day where I started out here) ! Maybe the 10 P.M. hour has killed what little sense of humor I've ever had, but that 9/11 sentence line was a low, crass line. And it's disturbing it got laughs. I'll believe they were nervous laughs.
If this ruffles her feathers, she should keep her feathers numbered for just such an emergency. The churlish response from the press office of Mr. 9/11 suggests that the bully felt the blow, and when that gets around everyone will want a crack at him.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

GOOD GRIEF. I recently read John Updike's New Yorker review of David Michaelis' biography of Charles Schulz, and saw the PBS "American Masters" program on Schulz. They both took me aback, though I knew many of the details aforehand.

I was a big fan of "Peanuts" from my earliest days and devoured the Fawcett-Crest paperbacks and (when I learned of their existence) the earlier, large-format Holt, Rinehart, and Winston editions as quickly as I could save up quarters for them. (Oddly, during my juvenile shoplifting phase, I only put "Dennis the Menace" books down my pantsleg; "Peanuts" I perversely insisted on paying for.)

Later, as an adult comics nerd, I got some inside dope on the straight-arrow Minnesotan Schulz. But this added no frissons to my "Peanuts" appreciation. Because the strip was so integral a part of my youthful experience of popular culture, it never struck me as strange that the man who had so radically altered the funnies by minimalizing their artwork (so much so that Chester Gould parodied his strip as "Sawdust," a pile of witty shavings) and by introducing adult neuroses into children (so much so that Al Capp parodied them: "Readers don't want children to talk like children, they want them to talk like little psychiatrists!") was both heavily invested in public demonstrations of his own normalcy, and seriously weird himself. (I should add that the Gould and Capp parodies come from my own memories, not outside sources.)

The recent Schulz examinations made me more attentive to his strangeness, but like any honest history of an artist, they neither reduce nor amplify the glory of the artwork, they just add another perspective from which to appreciate it. That Charlie Brown's romantic foibles echoed Schulz's, and Snoopy's Dionysian period roughly corresponded with his author's, is illuminating but not necessary to their enjoyment. Sparky's (apparently) chaste flirtations with "For Better or For Worse" creator Lynn Johnston as revealed in the PBS interviews suggest wellsprings of sublimation, and his heartbreaking final interview reveals how deeply and painfully he was embedded in the strip and its characters. For those of us who love his work, this adds poignance and resonance to the achievement. But the achievement is all that is left.

And what about that? Schulz was from an early age a comics nerd, but his draughtsmanship was limited. He had to find a mode that accomodated his simple means of expression. There were precedents: obviously he was influenced by Crockett Johnson's "Barnaby" right down to the figure-eight heads of his characters. But he was not cut out for Johnson's kind of whimsy, nor did his mission and era require it.

Despite his midwestern isolation, Schulz must have been sensitive to the postwar zeitgeist and its uncertainty. He must also have been aware of the popular artists that reverberated to it -- jazz players and rock 'n' rollers, filmmakers like Nicholas Ray, writers like James Jones and Norman Mailer. What else could have inspired him to break into the conservative comics world with a strip that began with a cute little kid saying "Good ol' Charlie Brown... how I hate him"? Or that revolved around the universally unloved Charlie Brown, the frankly vicious Lucy Van Pelt, and the emotionally crippled Linus? Few artists in any era are strictly sui generis, and Schulz was sitting atop a mushroom cloud of influences.

"Peanuts" was able to introduce such ideas and characters to the "family" strip (a genre typified by "Skippy," one of Schulz's favorites) for two reasons, one historic, one unique: because comics had always accepted fringe characters (see "Our Boarding House" and "Gasoline Alley"), and because, in a rapidly changing world, unusual ideas would be acceptable if they had a familiar, unthreatening background. Schulz's formless suburb, and his dot-eyed kids, were as neutral as could be.

As the strip progressed and found its groove, Schulz pressed deeper into a strangeness that was both particular to him and attuned to the times. He put parentheses around the kids' eyes to signify preternaturally unchildlike worry. He wrote Pinteresque, non-sequitural stories (Linus: People sure are funny, aren't they, Charlie Brown? Charlie Brown: Yes, they sure are. Linus: And the older they get, the funnier they are. Charlie Brown: "Peculiar" is the word.) He made gags based on the horror of modern life: Linus runs through snowflakes and yells at Charlie Brown, "IT'S HAPPENING, CHARLIE BROWN! IT'S HAPPENING JUST LIKE YOU SAID IT WOULD!" When Charlie Brown says it's snowing, Linus says, "Snow? I thought it was fallout." Careful readers may pause and repeat to themselves: Just like you said it would?)

"Peanuts" would be a perfect hell were its inhabitants not children, and theoretically capable of growing out of their condition. But commerce has played them a trick that would be cruel if they were not fictional. Schulz's ultimate genius was that "Peanuts" could persist over decades without the cumbersome reimaginings that "Little Orphan Annie," "Dick Tracy," "Miz Peach" and other aging strips have found necessary. His children never had to acquire new trappings of childhood, or of adulthood; they are perfect as they are. There's something at work here beyond Schulz's genius, though -- the persistence of something seldom attributed to "Peanuts": the thing called hip.

In 1950, the strip's inaugural year, hipsters called one another "man"; now everyone does. Chuck Berry riffs were sent to the moon, and are now recognizable to every living American. Hip has lost its transience, and so has Charlie Brown. He and the other "Peanuts" characters need not acquire any transient lingo to remain in youthful mode: their ocular parentheses, their curt philosophical exchanges, their unkicked footballs and unremoved security blankets make them as relevant to the terms of youth as they were 57 years ago. They may or may not prove timeless: a few more decades, or a miraculous visit from some guy from the 17th Century, might give us a clue. But "Peanuts" did pick up a little something-something from its birth-pangs at the dawn of the current age of hip, and it seems to be hanging in.

What you might think of this depends on a lot of factors. As a fan of comics, the human spirit, and the arts in general, I say good for Sparky. As to the persistence of hip indicated by my reading of his persistent success, of that I also approve. Let some new comic paradigm find a way to replace the one laid down by "Peanuts." The way is open. Take your shot. Just be aware that there is more to the gig than the momentary wrangling of a trend; you have to identify the zeitgeist and own it. Find what is universal in the Snoopy dance, the World War I Flying Ace, and the Little Red Haired Girl, and you're most of the way there.
WRITING LESSONS. A lesson in detail, from Frederick Lewis Allen's The Big Change: America Transforms Itself, 1990-1950:
The sights and sounds and sensations of horse-and-carriage life were part of the universal American experience [in 1900]: the clop-clop of horses' hoofs; the stiff jolting of an iron-tired carriage on a stony road; the grinding noise of the brake being applied to ease the horse on a downhill stretch; the necessity of holding one's breath when the horse sneezed; the sight of sand, carried up on the tires and wooden spokes of a carriage wheel, spilling off in little cascades as the wheel revolved; the look of a country road overgrown by grass, with three tracks in it instead of two, the middle one made by horses' hoofs; the special male ordeal of getting out of the carriage and walking up the steeper hills to lighten the load; and the more severe ordeal, for the unpracticed, of harnessing a horse which could recognize inexperience at one scornful glance.
This reminds me of the streetcar scene in Welles' film of The Magnificent Amberson, in which the men get out of the vehicle as it waits on a passenger, smoke and chat, and then give the car a push to help it on its way. But the bit about the horse's sneeze is new and startling to me. The hygenic details of simpler times can pull us sharply into the scene. (Allen also writes evocatively about spitoons.)

A lesson in synthesis of details, from Timothy J. Gilfoyle's A Pickpocket's Tale: The Underworld of Nineteenth-Century New York:
In the final decades of the nineteenth century, the opium dens of Chinatown facilitated and represented an ill-defined, inarticulate bohemian world. While this intercultural milieu fostered little intellectual debate, displayed less middle-class self-consciousness, and attracted fewer females compared with Greenwich Village bohemia after 1900, it nevertheless embodied a liminal space fostering an ethic of mutuality, hedonism, and fantasy. The bohemia George Appo confronted in these early opium dens at once conveyed an exotic and erotic "Orientalism" alongside a "rough," male underworld. In Gotham's opium dens pickpockets like Appo met their "genteel" Victorian counterparts. Respectable actors, actresses, artists, and "clubmen" fraternized with sneak thieves, confidence men, and prostitutes. Evoking an ambiance of Asian mystery, this hidden subculture was devoted to the pleasures of the pipe and the body. Opium smoking then gave birth to a distinct American bohemia.
This called to my mind a hundred years of fringe-dweller imagery -- beaded curtains, orgies, koans, Theosophy, incense, tribal body ornamentation, African masks, seances, and the guy who seems cool but steals your stash -- and reassembled it. I had some idea of the relationship of criminal life to bohemianism, thanks in large part to Luc Sante and my own experience, but Gilfoyle's elegant generalization gathered in what I knew and tied a nice bow on it.

Good writers can work either end of the telescope.
A SIMPLE EXPLANATION. Eugene Volokh spends a long time arguing against a casual comment by Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens. Stevens feels bad that his cryptographical efforts in World War II targetted a Japanese officer for extinction. Similar regrets have been expressed countless times by soldiers throughout recorded history; why does Stevens' so excite Volokh?

It may be because Stevens says the experience soured him on the death penalty, and Volokh is a particularly bloodthirsty character. A few years ago Volokh responded to the Iranian (!) government's torture-execution of a convicted mass-murderer of children thusly:
I particularly like the involvement of the victims' relatives in the killing of the monster; I think that if he'd killed one of my relatives, I would have wanted to play a role in killing him. Also, though for many instances I would prefer less painful forms of execution, I am especially pleased that the killing — and, yes, I am happy to call it a killing, a perfectly proper term for a perfectly proper act — was a slow throttling, and was preceded by a flogging. The one thing that troubles me (besides the fact that the murderer could only be killed once) is that the accomplice was sentenced to only 15 years in prison, but perhaps there's a good explanation.

I am being perfectly serious, by the way. I like civilization, but some forms of savagery deserve to be met not just with cold, bloodless justice but with the deliberate infliction of pain, with cruel vengeance rather than with supposed humaneness or squeamishness. I think it slights the burning injustice of the murders, and the pain of the families, to react in any other way...

I should mention that such a punishment would probably violate the Cruel and Unusual Punishment Clause. I'm not an expert on the history of the clause, but my point is that the punishment is proper because it's cruel (i.e., because it involves the deliberate infliction of pain as part of the punishment), so it may well be unconstitutional. I would therefore endorse amending the Cruel and Unusual Punishment Clause to expressly exclude punishment for some sorts of mass murders.
Later, Volokh slightly retracted on the grounds that "attempts to impose the punishments would logjam the criminal justice system and the political system." Darn!

It is worth remembering that some of the more well-regarded spokespeople for conservatism are just plain psychotic freaks. See also here.
THE CRANNY STATE. A large percentage of Americans fear the country is going in the wrong direction. At the New York Times, the conservative David Brooks makes lemonade. Since other polls show that Americans are optimistic about their own lives, Brooks posits a "gap between their private optimism and their public gloom" which favors less, not more, government intervention:
Sixty-eight percent of Americans think the country is on the wrong track. Sixty-two percent think that when government runs something, it is usually inefficient and wasteful. Sixty percent think the next generation will be worse off than the current one. Americans today are more pessimistic about government’s ability to solve problems than they were in 1974 at the height of Watergate and the end of the Vietnam War...

These voters don’t believe government can lift their standard of living or lead a moral revival. They want a federal government that will focus on a few macro threats — terrorism, health care costs, energy, entitlement debt and immigration — and stay out of the intimate realms of life. They want a night watchman government that patrols the neighborhood without entering their homes.

This is not liberalism, which inserts itself into the crannies of life. It’s not conservatism, suspicious of federal power. It’s a gimlet-eyed federalism — strong government with sharply defined tasks.
Cute. The "few macro threats" are actually quite large. How might gimlet-eyed Feds address them without getting into the crannies of life? Since the liberals are all about the crannies, and since this is David Brooks, I'm guessing conservatives are the intended audience. At National Review he finds a couple of takers. First, Yuval Levin:
Republicans are far better positioned to speak to this combination of attitudes, on a range of issues (like health care, where exactly this combination of attitudes seems to be at play; or a broader array of subjects where speaking to optimistic strivers about large problems could pay off).
Following Levin's links, we find his health care prescription involves "reform of the way health insurance is taxed, more control for consumers in how health care dollars are spent, and more flexibility for states to use Medicaid funds to help the uninsured." This solution is all crannies: more "flexibility," tax breaks, and "market pressures." Good luck beating the Democrats with that!

The Luval "array" is about family issues, and how conservatives must "set the tone," show a "better understanding how anxiety about caring for one's children and one's elderly parents keeps people from taking the risks that allow a dynamic economy to flourish," and declare long-term care for the elderly as "not a crisis... as much as it is a challenge," and "encourage long-term care insurance and to reward family caregiving for the elderly." (Since Luval is dead set against any socialistic wealth transfers, I assume the "reward" would consist of a pat on the back from a local clergyman and an Army bugler playing "For He's a Jolly Good Fellow.")

Policy-wise, you can stuff all of this in an exceedingly small cranny.

As usual, Jonah Goldberg just makes everything worse:
If voters are happy with their own private lives and merely want government to defend them from big threats, I would not bet too heavily on the woman who says America can't afford all her ideas. If Americans are happily cocooning in their families, I wouldn't bet too heavily on the woman who has declared that America must move beyond the idea that there's any such thing as someone else's child. If Americans are disgusted with public corruption and cynical politics, than I would not bet too heavily on anyone named Clinton.
And if wishes were horses, beggars could ride. I'm no fan of Clinton's, but she or any other Democratic candidate could devolve his or her health care plan to free band-aids and aspirin, and the conservative counterproposals would still look flimsy to any voters worried that a change in job status plus an appendectomy might land them in the poorhouse.

I guess this is what Reaganism has come to. Once upon a time, when doctor's visits were cheaper, maybe a chuckle from the Great Communicator could unleash the natural optimism of Americans and put cares away. I doubt the flutey laugh of David Brooks (or the jovial snarl of Rudolph Giuliani) will accomplish as much.

UPDATE. In comments, R. Porrofatto points out that Brooks is full of shit on the polling data, too. I'd like to say that dog bites man is not news, but I was in fact too lazy to look into it.

Monday, October 29, 2007

FOX 'N' SOX. The Rockies fans were splendid: supportive 'til the end, unlike me and my fellow Mets boo-birds. Theirs is a young franchise and I wish them well. The Red Sox were a steamroller. They played like they'd been reanimated from an earlier, tougher era where all ballplayers looked like Mike Lowell. They made so many opportunities for themselves that they could afford to waste half of them. They atomized the Rockies: I still feel as if I've never seen them, because in this Series they never put anything together, aside from a few righteous double-plays, that would show me what they looked like when they were unstoppably closing out the National League. All honor to Bosstown: it looks like they pwn the American League for some time to come.

Fox coverage was pro all the way, despite the momentary insertions of Dane Cook. But I have to say that there was something weird about the use of Springsteen's "Radio Nowhere" in the (excellent) closing highlight/credits reel. It's a wonderful song, and I guess it reflects the demographic. But it's extremely downbeat and wounded. I know baseball's TV ratings are in decline, but Jesus. Maybe next year they'll start Game 1 with "Wilkommen" from Cabaret. And end it with the reprise. Auf wiedersehen, a bien tot -- (drumroll, Nazis).

Sunday, October 28, 2007

A PLACE WHERE DREAMS COME TRUE. James Wolcott's rave seems not to have attracted many tourists, as I got great orchestra seats at half-price two hours before curtain, and the crowd seemed highly local. But Xanadu at the Helen Hayes doesn't have the feel of a show hanging on for dear life: the cast seemed as charmed by the proceedings as the audience. As well they might, because Xanadu has pulled off something miraculous: it has retrieved from the brackish wells of camp something clear and sparking.

Staging a 1980 roller-disco bomb with old ELO and Olivia Newton-John songs sounds like a stoned after-hours fantasy at Don't Tell Mama, but author Douglas Carter Beane and director Christopher Ashley found a real theatrical opportunity in it. The story (Greek muse and her sisters visit L.A. in the leg-warmer era, inspire street artist to create a nightclub; muse and artist fall precariously in love) is frankly ridiculous, and the show wrings plenty of laughs out of muse Kira's unGrecian spunk and Australian accent, street-artist Sonny's big dumb hunkdom, the vacillation of moneyman Danny between sour cynicism and muse-touched empathy, and -- in a manner that dates back to The Boys from Syracuse at least -- ancient Greeks full of up-to-the-minute wisecracks (like Mercury punctuating Kira's lament with "Bitch, I don't know your life").

But though they shoot the conceit full of holes, they leave its vital organs intact. If Sonny's and Kira's dream of a roller disco-slash-arts complex is silly, it's still a dream; if their exigencies (jealous sisters, financial concerns) are comical, they still present a conflict. And the high style and wit of the production helps raise the stakes for them. When shoe-skated Kira dances Sonny around the stage in a rollerized phone booth, it's a gag on the roller-disco theme, but it's also a moment of high emotion for star-crossed will-be lovers. When Kira flees from Sonny, it's funny when he pulls off one of her skates (leaving her to scooter-step around upstage), but sad (in a funny way) that the big dunce is left with feelings of loss he's utterly unequipped to express.

And when, in Zeus' court, we hear that the mating of man and muse will leave mankind bereft of creativity and condemned to musicals "from the box that is Juke," the gag is Olympian and makes Xanadu its own punchline: the ill-attended but much-appreciated little musical in a bandbox theatre is itself proof that while talent may, in our grim era, be forced to struggle, its persistence can defy even the will of the gods. Xanadu is an in-joke that anyone can enjoy.
THAT'S ENTERTAINMENT. Attend the new conservative meme: liberals get their idea of war and everything else from movies.

Peggy Noonan gets the ball rolling: Mark Steyn rewrites her column, giving it a Steynian flavor with frequent references to homosexual rape. And in today's Wall Street Journal online, Andrew Cline explains New Hampshire's Democratic trend thusly: "The [mostly Republican] Massachusetts émigrés shop at Wal-Mart, eat at 99, a local family restaurant chain, and watch the Patriots. The mid-Atlantic émigrés shop at boutiques, eat at small cafes and watch Roger Altman films. They're the ones tipping the state Democratic."

Culture war as usual, in other words, but with an intriguing twist. Noonan and Steyn contrast the media-centric libs unfavorably with old-timers with real-world cred. Noonan exalts "the Murrow boys" and "the rough old boys and girls of the front page" whose influence on the news media, of course, Noonan has spent her career trying to erase and supplant with the emanations of right-wing think tanks and the wit 'n' wisdom of make-believe soldier Ronald Reagan; Steyn cites Bob Dole, who couldn't replace the draft-dodger Clinton in the affections of the electorate, and whose nearest equivalent in current Presidential politics would be John McCain, whose unique experience of combat among Republican contenders helped rocket him to 1.4 percent in the Value Voters poll.

As for Cline's New Hampshire Republicans, they "tend to be middle- and lower-class tax refugees" from Massachusetts, whose exodus is not really comparable to the Bataan Death March.

The portrayal of Democratic voters as effete, Altman-watching sybarites is straight out of the culture-warrior playbook, and the tactic has stood them well for decades. It's a little trickier, however, for them to declare with a straight face that their own partisans have a clearer, earthier view of life. Given that very few of us (thank God) have direct experience of combat, how do today's Republicans understand war better than Democrats? From Toby Keith concerts? John Wayne movies? The affectation of military parlance ("Real Debate Wisconsin -- Deployed!") on rightwing blogs?

Noonan complains that the experiences of today's young'uns and middle-aged'uns are not as authentic as those of previous generations, because we "grew up in a time when media dominated all." "All" is the key word. Even Republican watch movies. The culture warriors know this, which is why they're always ranting about the double-plus-ungood entertainments they think are poisoning our minds, and proposing double-plus-good alternatives. But if you're trying to influence an election, a movie is a very roundabout way to do it. Ask Michael Moore.

Maybe I'm wrong, though: maybe the box-office dominance this weekend of Saw IV means that Americans are moving toward a pro-torture position. On the other hand, Borat was the top movie the weekend before the 2006 election, and it didn't seem to do much for George Allen.

Friday, October 26, 2007

UNCLEAR ON THE CONCEPT. At National Review, Mona Charen:
Bloomingdale's is advertising jewelry with a political message. A necklace by designer Georgianna Koulianos is fashioned to look like military dog tags. But the tags read "Imagine" "Peace" and "Love."

So trendy ladies in Chevy Chase and Manhattan are going to wear these accessories to advertise their moral superiority to the guys who wear the real ones? The guys who wear these so that their bodies can be identified if they should be killed or maimed by our enemies? The guys who voluntarily endure terrible heat, bad food, separation from their families, and sickening boredom punctuated by shattering fear?

What a symbol of the disconnect between the two cultures.
Whatever you do, people, don't let Charen see this:

Thursday, October 25, 2007

"My books are about killing God."

So said Phillip Pullman, author of "The Golden Compass," the movie version of which is soon to be released. One expects that religious parents will keep their children away from the film.

"But why?" the question arises from liberals. "What are you afraid of?"

My children losing God, especially before they have a firm hold on Him, that's what.
There is no attribution, alas, for the quote from liberals.

It never would have occurred to me to ask Dreher why he wouldn't send his kids to see The Golden Compass, or Lake of Fire, or The Bourne Conspiracy or Saw IV or Rin Tin Tin Gets In or anything else. I expect the makers of these and most films would like every man, woman, and child on earth to buy tickets for their movies, and it's up to parents to keep their children away from the ones they don't want them to see, much as it is up to them to deny their kids Twinkies, espresso, lighter fluid, and other legally available products as they see fit.

Why does he think I want his kids to see this movie? Maybe since Beliefnet redesigned his masthead to make the blog look like Bill O'Reilly for anorectics, Dreher has abandoned the idea that free markets are apolitical offenders of his vision of a godly life, and recidivated to a more old-fashioned notion of liberals as fiendish corruptors of youth.

Or else he's just still mad about Dumbledore.

WRONG CROWD. The Wall Street Journal's Daniel Henninger wants very badly for the snake-handlers in the Republican Party to line up behind Rudolph "Rudy" Giuliani -- a job I think the evil former Mayor is handling okay by himself. But, as did a number of WSJ writers when they tried to get the "base" to eat unrestricted immigration (and got their asses handed to them), Henninger has a problem finding the magic words:
Mr. Giuliani, however, didn't exploit their enduring sense of alienation from the media. Instead, he argued with some force that their ideas deserved a seat at the national table. He didn't promise triumph, but he offered respect.
This respect is conveyed by Henninger's favored rubric for the wished-for compromise: "Political adulthood," which Giuliani has and which the yokels are invited to share. If you wonder how Cletus and Brandine would cotton to that if Henninger's Journal page happened to blow into their yard, remember that Henninger's not really talking to them, but to other wishful wingers, as evidenced by his bizarre attribution of blame in the standoff between the city slicker and the hicks:
In the '60s, the left introduced the "non-negotiable demand" into our politics. It's still with us. It's political infantilism. In real life, the non-negotiable "demand" usually ends about age six.
Stuff like this is clearly not meant for C&B -- "(clears throat) And 'you-all' certainly don't wish to be like those infantile hippies, n'cest pas?" -- but for Club for Growth types to harrumph over. Ditto the reference to the "pre-Vatican II grade schools and high schools of New York City" Giuliani attended. Yeah, that'll get the megachurched masses onboard.

I wonder why he bothered. Still, there are some entertaining turns of phrase:
He began by laying down a personal marker: "I can't be all things to all people. I'm just not like that. I can't do that." This opened the door a crack on the man behind the grand smile.
Grand smile? The horrifying rictus with which Giuliani greets opportunities to pander is very like the keys of a malevolent animated piano that hungers for human flesh.

I look forward to future columns in which Henninger characterizes Giuliani's cross-dressing as a tribute to Dolly Parton.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

SPARE CHANGE AGENTS. First Michael Yon, now Patrick Ruffini begs for money to support the rightwing blog-journalism empire:
If someone has $2 million to throw around on Rush Limbaugh’s letter, then someone has a few million to spend on a blogger-journalists to investigate Democratic corruption or on a sustained project to get out different storylines about Iraq or to set up an open-source research operation to more closely bracket the coverage.
It seems I've been hearing for years that the Big Blog Revolution was going to destroy the hated MSM in time for Christmas. But now they've all got their hats out, telling conservative sugar-daddies that they can't do it alone, they rely on the support of viewers like you.

God knows there are many, many rich conservatives out there, some with media credentials, who could lavishly fund these bloggers' ambitions with a small slice of their catering budgets. I wonder if they think Scaife, Murdoch et alia haven't sent checks because they hadn't heard the little wingers' cries for help? The Liberty Film Festival has for years been dropping heavy hints that they want funding ("Conservative millionaires... where are you people?"), even going so far as to portray Rupert Murdoch as a victim of Chinese censorship instead of one its greatest Western enablers. Yet they still have to make do with what scant largesse Crazy Dave Horowitz can provide.

Does it ever occur to them that maybe they aren't getting the big money because the big moneymen don't see the point? Despite the ginormous liberal media advantage the bloggers allege, the Republican have had a nice, long run in power, during which the conservative moneymen have thrived. And the Clinton interregnum didn't cost them anything, either. Maybe they expect a second President Clinton won't hurt their balance sheets too much.

Murdoch certainly isn't worried. Why should he be? He's got it made. He can print all the provocative winger sentiments he likes without the help of small fry like Yon and Ruffini, and still preserve his market niche as the nemesis of the accursed liberals. And that niche would only be reenforced by the election of his favorite boo-hiss villain, and close personal friend, Hillary Clinton. Hell, most of his 2008-2012 national news stories were written in 1992-2000! He'll just have to change a few names and dates.

Only the electoral advancement of someone not on the payroll would threaten his grasp. And we all know how likely that is. If you don't, ask Jimmy Carter or David Dinkins.

I found the Ruffini link via the Ole Perfesser, who followed it up with typical contributions on the scale to which he is accustomed: small-bore attacks on the usual suspects, and a piece of roughage to preserve his independent-libertarian cred. There's a man who knows his place. He only jokes about "taking the Boeing." Advertising and a fat academic sinecure will do just fine for the Perfesser. Fancy him banging a bowl for major-donor change! Whatever else I have to say about him, the man is no sap.
GAME 1. I was hoping to get a look at what the Rockies can do. It's the 5th inning and I still don't think I've seen it. But you can't tell much about any team when a.) Josh Beckett is pitching well and b.) they're getting the holy shit kicked out of them. Every Red Sox batter has plated a run. I think Hurdle left Morales and Speier in as long as he did because he figures the game is lost and he just wants them to get a full load of what they're facing in this Series.
SERENDIPITY. The website for Joshua Wolf Shenk's Lincoln's Melancholy makes the book look interesting to me -- especially since I spotted this:

Yes, it's Simpsons producer Mike Reiss' "Hard Drinkin' Lincoln" in a serious intellectual context. Shenk's link is outdated, but you can view several episodes here. You have to watch ads, but it's worth it. It's one of those rare entertainments in which the execution matches the glorious poor taste of the premise. "The Un-Civil War," in which Lincoln greets Robert E. Lee at Appomattox with "LOOOOOOO-ser!" is not to be missed, and includes my favorite alternate version of "Dixie."
A REAL PRIZE. National Review's Jonah Goldberg is honored to be considered for the International Policy Network's Bastiat Prize. Here's what the Prize honors:
IPN's Bastiat Prize for Journalism was inspired by the 19th-century French philosopher and journalist Frédéric Bastiat. The prize was developed to encourage and reward writers whose published works eloquently and wittily elucidate the institutions of a free society: limited government, rule of law brokered by an independent judiciary, protection of private property, free markets, free speech, and sound science.
Let's do a checklist.

Limited government:
[on domestic spying] Yes, yes, "slippery slopes" and all that. Gotcha. What else do you have? Because that isn't enough. If you go looking for slippery slopes, you'll always find them. That doesn't mean they're really there. The Patriot Act was called a banana peel on the path to hell, and yet it has turned out to be very difficult even to keep it alive. (See also, "I would prefer as small a government as most anti-state conservatives, but it seems to me the first order of business in a demolition job is to clear out the occupants, and that means kicking the Left to the curb. Once they're gone, we can turn the lights off," etc.)
Rule of law brokered by an independent judiciary:
It's almost impossible to think of a major area of life in America where a judge somewhere hasn't ruled in flagrant defiance of the democratic will of the people as expressed in a referendum or through the state legislature.
Protection of private property:
Sure, the destruction of Iraqi property may not be good for the Iraqi economy in the strict broken-window sense the paleo-libertoids keep invoking. But when you think of Iraq as being controlled by a crime syndicate, things become much clearer. Destroying this syndicate-a.k.a. "regime change" — is an effort at unlocking hidden capital.
Free markets:
We can talk more about libertarian schisms another day, but the fact is that many of the libertarian proponents of legalization either want more people to do drugs or simply don't care if they do.
Free speech:
I've said it before and I'll say it again: I'm in favor of censorship...
Sound science:
Chesterton's observation that the purely rational man will not marry is just as correct today, because science has done far more damage to the ideal of love than it has done to the notion of an awesome God beyond our ken.
Given that he is equally qualified on the "wittily" stipulation, Goldberg should win in a walk. Next, he should look into the Guinness Book of World Records' standards for Cheetos consumption.
SHORTER ANN ALTHOUSE: I'm, like, so wasted. Wait, what was I talking about again?

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

THE LAST TIME THE METEORS CAME, WE THOUGHT THE SKY WAS ON FIRE. NATURALLY WE BLAMED THE IRISH. WE HANGED MORE THAN A FEW. And you think I'm an old crank! Megan McArdle contra whippersnappers Brian Beutler and Ezra Klein:
First of all, the notion that this is some sort of uniquely horrible moment in world history is absurd. I grew up with the very real fear that one day, without much warning, I would simply vanish in a radioactive cloud. The fear of nuclear annihilation was the ever-present undercurrent to the lives of children living in major urban areas, or near military installations, in a way that you simply cannot comprehend unless you've lived it. Compared to the threat of global thermonuclear war, any of the world's current problems, including climate change, are trivial.
'Course folks were tougher in those days. I was jitterbuggin' that very night. And we had the liberals and commies to deal with, too:
Think of the communists languishing for decades, their only substantial achievement stealing nuclear secrets for Stalin. Or the student movement of the 1960's which contributed to the end of the war, but lost on everything else they wanted, and moreover only fought against the war because half of them thought Ho Chi Minh was the good guy.
Us libertarians showed 'em, though:
Or the decades it took for the NAACP et. al. to get America to the point where we could even have a civil rights movement.
How'd them liberals feel when the Invisible Hand wrote Brown vs. Board of Education and the Civil Rights Act? Pretty darned foolish, that's what!

What any of this has to do with what Klein and Beutler wrote is hard to figure. They seem to be saying that it's hard to gain much these days with old-fashioned protest tactics such as marches. At the end of her lecture, McArdle does appear to relate to their arguments:
The narrative where you pour out of the classroom, tell everyone how wrong they are, and sit back and wait for magic social change is a fantasy cooked up by the Baby Boomers. Who, by the way, destroyed the effectiveness of protest by creating a protest culture which emphasized alienation from, rather than solidarity with, the larger culture.
In other words, she agrees that old-school protest is pretty weak, but thinks Klein and Beutler are forgetting the real problem: fogeys even fogeyer than Megan McArdle.

Funny, from her writing I thought she was about 19.

UPDATE. McArdle responds to Beutler:
I *do* think that protest has become less effective, but that's largely because protest only was effective when the protesters dressed and acted like solidly middle class members of the larger society. The shiite protesters I watched at the Saudi embassy the other day understood that--*they* were all in suits. But most protests today involve a substantial number of protesters whose idea of dressing for the protest involves shining their Che tattoos. The message this sends is: this is an issue that fringe nut jobs care about.
Presumably she's okay with Billionaires for Bush.
CREDIT WHERE CREDIT IS DUE. The Wall Street Journal and Jonah Goldberg mourn the anniversary of Robert Bork's rejection as a Supreme Court nominee. Among the non-participants: Glenn Harlan Reynolds --
...I also think that Bork was an unsuitable nominee who deserved to be rejected. And I say this as someone who is, in fact, more of an originalist than Bork, whose originalism was of a rather dubious and frequently uninformed nature. This is given away in a passage of [Journal writer] McDowell's, where he writes:
In his sober constitutional jurisprudence there was no room for any airy talk about a general right of privacy, allegedly unwritten constitutions, vague notions of unenumerated rights, or what the progressive Justice Black once derided as "any mysterious and uncertain natural law concept." For Mr. Bork, the framers said what they meant, and meant what they said.
Well, actually, here's what the Framers said about unenumerated rights:
The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.
Denying and disparaging is pretty much what Bork did, especially with his famous characterization of the ninth amendment as an "inkblot."
I'm not a big fan of the Ole Perfesser, but I think that was well-said.

In case you think Bork might have mellowed over the years, here's something he wrote in 2005:
Contrast Tocqueville with Justices Harry Blackmun and Anthony Kennedy. Justice Blackmun wanted to create a constitutional right to homosexual sodomy because of the asserted " 'moral fact' that a person belongs to himself and not others nor to society as a whole." Justice Kennedy, writing for six justices, did invent that right, declaring that "at the heart of [constitutional] liberty is the right to define one's own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life." Neither of these vaporings has the remotest basis in the actual Constitution, and neither has any definable meaning other than that a common morality may not be sustained by law if a majority of justices prefer that each individual follow his own desires.
In the words of another commentator whom I have quoted with approval but infrequently: Ngnnngnnyahh. Remind me to buy Ted Kennedy a drink.
SPORTING NEWS. Scott Lemieux tipped me to this wonderful article about Mets '86 alum Wally Backman, whose case has been considered here before. Here's a highlight from his minor league managerial career:
"Mike," Backman said, according to witnesses, "if you ever call me an embarrassment again, I will kick your f------ ass!"

"But Wally," Janela said, "22 bats …"

"I don't care if it was 100 f------ bats!" Backman said. "If you do that one more time I will shove your mike up your ass!"
The Mets should immediately fire Willie Randolph and hire Backman. For serious.
SHORTER JAMES LILEKS: Letters from Iwo Jima was one of the best war movies I’ve ever seen, which I will now denounce.
NO GUARDRAILS. Today's crackpot statement:
On the October 22 edition of his nationally syndicated radio program, host Glenn Beck stated, "I think there is a handful of people who hate America. Unfortunately for them, a lot of them are losing their homes in a forest fire today." Beck continued: "There are a few people that hate America. But I don't think the Democrats are those. I think there are those posing as Democrats that are like that." Beck's comment came as forest fires ravaged parts of Southern California, leaving one person dead, four firefighters wounded, and forcing about 1,500 people from their homes, according to The New York Times.
You might think Responsible Conservatives would either ignore this or give it the Coulter's-gone-too-far treatment. That's pre-October 22 thinking, buddy:
It's Beck's opinion that some who hate America live in that area.

Is this even debatable?

These Clinton stooges forfeited all credibility in their most recent smearing of Rush Limbaugh.

Apparently, these Stalinist punks have a hitlist they're working through, so this week, it's Glenn Beck. I'm sure he's quaking in his shoes.
Just some nut, right? Like this one, right? Surely the Serious People among them will go another way.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Ole Perfesser Instapundit:
MORE BATTLESPACE PREPARATION EFFORTS from the MediaMatters crowd. So far it hasn't been working very well for them, but they haven't quit trying.
To recap, conservative guy says something insane; conservative response is that liberals are just trying to make them looking bad by telling people what the conservative guy said.

This spin-zone response is understandable, and not only in terms of abnormal psychology. In modern politics, the rule is: attack, never defend. It has worked well a good long time, and it may work a while longer.

But in our current, lunatic discourse, this approach may have reached a point of diminishing returns. If you continually support and enable the crazy things your mouthpieces emit, they have no incentive to tone it down. They'll just keep getting crazier. And ordinary people who aren't part of the million-man rugby scrum of bare-knuckle politics won't take into account your perceived necessity to defend their indefensible statements: they'll just assume that you're crazy, too.

Tell a guy who isn't particularly political what Glenn Beck said. I doubt he'll think, oh, this is just more liberal battlespace preparation, whatever the fuck that is. He'll probably think Glenn Beck is crazy. He doesn't need Media Matters to tell him that.

You have to remember that next to nobody reads our stupid blogs or listens to our stupid podcasts and watches our stupid vlogs. Our framings and formulations are intramural sport on the junior varsity level. What people might read or see or hear is a credentialed buffoon like Glenn Beck, who is probably very happy to hear that somebody in the "new media" supports his bullshit and may thus feel empowered -- fuck the advertisers! the real people get me! -- to step it up.

That suits me; I feast on this nonsense. But I'm not trying to get anyone elected. In the immortal words of Albert Brooks, I'm a comedian, not a liar; I can afford the luxury of honesty.

Monday, October 22, 2007

BUT YOU WOULDN'T WANT TO LIVE HERE. I recently allowed myself to dream that a slew of anti-Gotham posts by rightwingers meant New York was losing cachet sufficiently to discourage immigration, which would eventually plunge our City back into bankruptcy and bring about the cheap rents and moral chaos of my youth. Culture warrior S. T. Karnick revives my hope in a review of some TV shows:
Hence it should hardly surprise us that not one but two new shows on the CW this year are based on the premise that life among the wealthy in Manhattan is so bad that even self-imposed exile is better.

Interestingly, the point of both shows is that the moral weakness and decadence of the New York wealthy is what makes life there really rather miserable.
Hear that, kids? We're fucking miserable! It was all a scam! Flee for your lives! "Sex & The City" -- it's a cookbook!
WAR SELLS, BUT WHO'S BUYING? Michael Yon offers to let newspapers print his favorable Iraq dispatches for free. He pitches this as a patriotic attempt to provide his otherwise benighted fellow citizens with "work that many commenters say needs to reach a wider audience."

But isn't there already a market for Yon's work? There are the reliably conservative New York Post, Wall Street Journal, Washington Times, Boston Herald, Manchester Union-Leader, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, et alia; dozens of other papers that supported Bush in 2004; and many other less conservative-identified papers that still publish columns by George Will, Charles Krauthammer, Cal Thomas, and other rightwingers. For many of them, money is not an issue. Hell, Murdoch or Scaife could put Yon in front of millions of readers with a snap of their fingers. And it's not like they don't know him -- in fact some of these papers have covered him, and a few have already published him.

I am sympathetic to any author trying to reach a wider audience, so whether Yon is sincere about his public service, or just trying to draw attention or donations, doesn't matter to me. But to suggest that the press en masse is so insensitive to his work that he has to offer it for free -- and enlist the aid of his blogbrothers to make it so -- frankly defies belief.
SHORTER JAMES LILEKS: Why must striplings consume alcohol at college football matches? And so robustious their displays! Deuced near spoiled our family event. But Pater is a stout old fellow. Tomorrow: a report on the treasons of Clint Eastwood!
WORLD SERIES UPDATE. So, these Rockies... are they all that?

Condolences to fans of the Tribe. Kenny Lofton deserved much better from the officiating crew, and from fate.
LOCAL ARTS REPORT. At the New Yorker, James Surowiecki mulls the effect of high rents and prices on the cultural capital of New York, and comes down on the optimistic side:
Currid’s desire to subsidize creativity is understandable, but her insistence that the culture industry is on the verge of crisis is refuted by her own work. Unless you think that network effects in the art-and-culture business are suddenly going to stop mattering, creative people are still going to find ways to make a living here, because they must, in order to succeed. And, empirically, if you look at the history of New York in the twentieth century there is little evidence that a more expensive New York is a less creative New York. To be sure, there was a tremendous artistic efflorescence in the nineteen-seventies, the worst decade of the century for the New York economy. But, in the twenties and the sixties, cultural booms coincided with economic ones, while the explosion in the number of art galleries, bands, and boutiques in the past decade makes it hard to believe that New York is suffering from too little art and culture. It’s true that clusters of industry can fade away—think of what happened to Pittsburgh steel. But New York has been a cultural mecca in good times and bad, and until we hear otherwise it seems likely that the pilgrims will just keep coming.
I take his points, but "the explosion in the number of art galleries, bands, and boutiques in the past decade" is a little misleading. Certainly there are a lot of galleries, but what's the barrier to entry for young, un-networked artists of the sort who stormed the citadels in the East Village of the 80s? There may be plenty of bands, but the number of entry-level Manhattan clubs seems stuck on repeat, with no physical cluster that I know of evolving into a vital scene.

And "boutiques"? That's a weird but telling inclusion, suggesting that in search of a "rule of three" capstone Surowiecki had to go to the commercial arts, which, as I have suggested, is the predominant mode for arts in the City anymore.

In the arts, as in everything else, New York is heedlessly feeding on its seed corn. Big, bright entertainments swell our coffers, but the cost of living makes it ridiculously hard to launch a dance troupe, a theatre company, or any other group endeavor without a huge investment behind it. We can't keep the balloon aloft indefinitely with prestige productions at the American Airlines Theatre. How long can you expect the ambition of newbies to survive on ancient glamor? How long before the artistic capital flows somewhere else?

Here's a useful counterpoint at Broadway & Me (h/t James Wolcott), about the insane price of Broadway tickets in general and Mel Brooks' Young Frankenstein in particular:
And it's part of an alarming trend that is turning the cultural world of New York into a gated community. As a kid, poor but culture-crazed, I used to stroll into the Met or MOMA on Sunday afternoons and wander their corridors without paying a cent. Those museums now say that you only have to pay what you wish but the big signs over their ticket booths say you should pay $20 and I can't imagine my younger self daring to walk by them. During one spring college break back in the '70s, I saw seven Broadway shows for $100 bucks. If the price of a single ticket back then had been $100, I wouldn't even have thought of going to one show. And that's the problem. Those of us who love theater want everyone, maybe especially poor theater-crazed kids, to think of theater and art and music as something that is for them.

...In his column last week, New York Post columnist Michael Riedel wrote about how [Mel] Brooks had resigned from the Dramatists Guild rather than pay the 3% of his royalties that all members are assessed (click here to read it). When Brooks brought The Producers to Broadway in 2001, he was hailed as its savior, someone who was leading the musical comedy into a new golden era, who was, as a lyric from the show put it, The King of Old Broadway. As my grandma used to say, you've got to be careful what you wish for.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

OKAY -- SO I AIN'T EDUCATED. As Jeff Goldstein is apparently deep into one of those frequent cataleptic trances from which he only emerges to cadge spare change, the Protein Wisdom second stringers try their hand at semioticking. Dan Collins:
Frank Rich: Suicide Is Not Painless

Well, at least the Times are speaking to something they know. Of course, such a thing could never have happened [Vince Foster] under an administration as clean as the Clintons’ [Vince Foster].
The Frank Rich piece is one of his good ones, in which he reports on U.S. servicemembers who felt badly enough about the Iraq boondoggle in which they were enmeshed to kill themselves. One of them left a long note detailing his unbearable situation. Foster, you may recall, left a note naming the Wall Street Journal nuts who hounded him, and who kept up their hounding even after his death. There is surely some semiotextual dimension to this comparison that I cannot grasp.

Darleen Click seems to think that liberals (also known by our dream name, "schools") are hypocrites because they support birth control for pre-teens but do not support seven-year-olds drawing stick figures with guns. I believe our true position is clear and consistent.

The rest of the page at this writing is completely incomprehensible (which may owe to my lack of grad school training) except for this, which appears to suggest that Randi Rhodes is a fun date.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

THE STEYN GAME: EVERYONE'S A WINNER! Mark Steyn has proof that Montreal and great European cities are in a death spiral: the citizens are having a wonderful time.
John O'Sullivan and I occasionally discussed Montreal, and he observed that a big-city heritage without big-city overcrowding can be very pleasant: You've still got all the art galleries and symphony orchestras and so on. You've got tickets for Pavarotti at the Place des Arts. Curtain up, 7.30pm. So you leave at 7.20, park outside the front steps and stroll in. As John put it, societies in the early stages of decline can be very agreeable - and often more agreeable than societries trying to cope with prosperity and rapid growth.

Which brings me to my usual everything-comes-back-to-demography shtick. Precisely because the first stages of decline are so agreeable, it's very hard to accept it as such. Part of the problem in Europe is that, when chaps like yours truly shriek "Run for your lives! The powder keg's about to go up!", etc, the bon vivant enjoying his Dubonnet at the sidewalk cafe thinks: Are you crazy? Life's never been better. Civilized decline can be so charming you don't notice it's about to accelerate into uncivilized decline.
You have to remember that Steyn and his fellow NRO lunatics operate out of, and often vacation in, great cities which are thought by the yokels to whom they peddle this nonsense to be citadels and vice and corruption. Some of these yokels may wonder why Jonah Goldberg, Steyn et alia don't relocate to, or at least spend long weekends in, Fritters, Alabama, and other conservative redoubts. The NROniks couldn't very well tell them that they actually prefer New York or Paris to Fritters, so every now and then they write something like this Goldberg complaint that Burlington, Vermont is full of people who don't like Bush, which presumably spoiled for him the many fine Burlington restaurants through which he no doubt burned a path.

Thus the readers thank the Lord they don't have any contact with these Sodoms, and the writers get to live, work, and play in them. Everyone's a winner!
COME-TO-JESUS MOMENT. Giuliani apparently got through the Value Voters Summit unscathed. His boldest move was to associate tolerance with Jesus Christ ("Christianity is all about inclusiveness. It’s built around the most profound act of love in human history, isn’t it?"), but he made sure to give zero-tolerance its due: he announced to cheers that he had removed pornography from Times Square, and agreed with them that their "values are under assault by a culture that is moving in the wrong direction.” He also pointed out that the New York Times hates him, and that people "stared" at him when he made the sign of the cross at NYU Law School. Having the right enemies is as important to this crowd as anything else.

He may have this thing finessed. His Texas operative, Governor Rick Perry, is telling the folks back home that Giuliani will pack the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade, and Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council has announced that Giuliani will support a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. That the candidate himself is more muted on these issues may not matter to evangelical leaders. They know he'll do anything for power, and as they consider themselves an important force in the Party, they may internalize the obvious message: you scratch my back and I'll scratch yours. Out in the holler, Cletus and Brandine may not get it, but once the word goes out among the preachers and the ward-heelers, they can be brought into line.
END OF THE LINE. Dean Esmay* spreads the good news: electricity up in Iraq --
Little noticed this month was the news that Iraq's electricity production has set a new all-time high in September of around 6,860 MW, including 2,000 MW or more of non-public generation (p40), illegal under Saddam (because like any good national socialist despot, he outlawed private generators). Oil revenue also set a new record of $3.79 billion (p39).
Sounds like paradise. Of course, it's a matter of perspective -- the Detroit Free Press reports:
Four and a half years after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, it's never certain when the power will arrive, just that one electrified hour will come in the morning, another at night. U.S. reconstruction officials say that on average, electricity is available 10 hours a day, but Akhbal, 48, doesn't know anyone who gets close to that much.

Before the war, Baghdad residents got 16 to 24 hours of power a day, according to the Brookings Institution, a Washington research center. Brookings said that in September residents got 7.6 hours...

City blocks often have two or three small operators running generators that power dozens of homes and shops for a few hours a day. Hundreds of multicolored wires from the generators to customers are lashed haphazardly to every available pole and sometimes even trees.
Well, private generators, that's good, right? Magic of the market and all that, especially compared to Saddam's socialist power plan. The Iraq authorities intend to privatize everything, and that will lead to Vegas-bright lights to Mesopotamia soon enough.

Don't be so sure. Iraq gets nine percent of its juice from Turkey -- whose power people indicate they will cut the flow if their government sends troops into Northern Iraq to fight Kurdish terrorists. Still, not to worry -- more electricity is coming via business interests headquartered with our traditional allies, China and Iran.

U.S. authorities still speculate Baghdad will have full power by 2013. This hardly seems an educated guess, given that the presumed sources of energy are as jerry-rigged as the city's private generators.

Meanwhile it seems Iraq's best power consumers are getting all they need, as war fan Matt Sanchez reports:
FOB Sedgwick, in the middle of nowhere and not far from the Syrian border, had running water, electricity, a gym, air-conditioned housing and enough bandwidth to run an encrypted computer network and phone system.
Our troops, I assert patriotically, deserve all this and more. I do spare a thought for the locals, though, who seem to be at the end of a very long line for basic services.

*UPDATE. By which I of course mean Dave Price by way of Dean Esmay -- thanks to Martin Wisse for the clarification.

Friday, October 19, 2007

COLD SHOWERS FOR EVERYBODY! It's Friday -- and at National Review Online, you know what that means: time for sex hatred! The surprising dud in the bunch is Jonah Goldberg, who emits one of those No Guardrails thumbsuckers about how Madonna and Pamela Anderson (!) are turning girls into prostitutes with the help of the Democratic Party. He even writes "What matters is the signal such people send." As usual with Goldberg, this is the stupidest thing ever written, and will remain so until Goldberg writes something else.

The hapless K.-Lo. fares little better, submitting what seems to be a synopsis of a botched interview -- maybe the Margarita Hut had a generous buy-back policy -- with the authoress of a book called Girl Gone Mild: Fashionably Long, Overexplanatory Subtitle. From the precis, we may judge that insofar as the book has a point (besides serving as a rightwing front-group party favor), it is that some young women will not wear thongs, dammit, despite what Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi may think. "Today, more and more sensible young women are bridling when they hear 'bitches' and 'hos' on the radio," she writes. Very good! How do they react when they hear "bear my baby whether you want to or not, subhuman?"

As often happens in these dimwit competitions, the prize goes to a newbie: legacy pledge Ryan T. Anderson, "an assistant editor at First Things," who says that a skit the Princeton frosh are required to attend "amounts to little more than mandated indoctrination in liberal sexual ideology." Anderson fails to describe the "Sex on a Saturday Night" sketch, so I had to go read another rightwing kid's review, and even through that cloudy prism could see that the skit is a typical bit of agitprop telling the youngsters that date rape is bad. Does Anderson have a different POV? No, he says:
You can tell incoming freshmen that date-rape and other sexual assaults are illegal without subjecting them to an hour of sexual skits, innuendo, “coming-out” scenes, gay kisses, and other nonsense that some students don’t want to be forced to sit through.
I hear ya, kid. Similarly, Crest toothpaste didn't have to sell its product by putting commercials on "Will & Grace." They could have just told people how darned good for them Crest was. Turns out people prefer their selling messages to come with racy humor. Who knew?

Anderson spends the rest of the article complaining that liberals make jokes about him and his buddies. Normal people learn to shrug this kind of thing off, but for wingers snide comments are hate-speech or bad-touch or something. "Professor [Lee] Silver’s attack wasn’t really aimed at Professor [Robert George]; it was aimed at the students," Anderson claims, because a laff on a prominent conservative buffoon sends students "a message about which points of view are acceptable and which are unacceptable."

One always hears this from young conservatives who were subjected to just such allegedly soul-crushing mockery (Anderson is a Princeton grad), yet somehow managed to retain their contrary opinions into adulthood. How did Anderson do it? Maybe he passed long nights POW-style in his dormitory cell, scratching "God and Man at Yale" on the wall with a piece of purloined charcoal. In any case, is it true the overwhelming majority of students helplessly adopt every piece of nonsense their professors put in their heads? Because if so, I'm going back to college, and looking for a teaching job at an all-girls' school.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

BEYOND DEMOCRACY. Umpteen-Star General Ralph "Blood 'n' Guts" Peters tells us Pakistan proves that most military coups are A-OK, especially as compared to the vile alternative, democracy.

Aficionados of the General's prose will appreciate his opening:
WE simplify the problems of others. It's bad enough when we do it to family and friends, but it can be fatal when we simplify the problems of the developing world.
"Bad enough" to simplify the problems of family and friends! We're in for some very tough love.
The generally accepted line is that all civilian leaders are good, while military coups are always bad. Like most such generalities, it's often wrong.

Our prejudice is on display again as Benazir Bhutto, a feudal landlord posing as a democrat, returns to Pakistan.
In the West, Bhutto is popular because she's a civilian - and that's about it. Her champions merrily overlook the pestilential corruption, social polarization and pandering to extremists that marked her two terms as prime minister.
We and the General have come a long way since he likened the newly-democratized citizens of Iraq to a "kid" who had to "ride the damned bike" of democracy "and fall down a couple of times" without too much U.S. interference, lest we become an "overly protective parent." Now the citizens of Pakistan, who saw a great deal more of the bike before Musharraf put it away than have the Iraqis, cannot even be allowed the presence in their government of a former elected leader. For one thing, she has too much "charisma":
Charisma will always be with us. It's human nature to be drawn to a dramatic speaker who struts artfully upon the political stage, telling us that all of our problems are the fault of others and that, if he receives our vote, we'll all soon live in paradise.
To be fair, the General is prepared to let politicians strut, if not caper nor gambol, in the U.S., where "checks and balances... restrain the worst men who reach the White House." And he is willing to admit that "Most coup-makers then botch the job of governing," but adds, "just as the civilians they overthrew failed before them," in case we were warming toward the idea of elective representation.

Feeling his point made, the General ends with a grand speculative leap:
Given the inability of non-Western societies to build effective government institutions, it may be time to rethink our faith in the state itself as the answer to their needs.
I can't wait for the follow-up. What will replace the state? Surely not the United Nations. Maybe Blackwater, but the General hates them. I guess that leaves space aliens or, more likely, an international brotherhood of military dictators who will erase all meaningless boundaries and continent-hop with arms and instruments of torture, ready to do the business of pacification that feeble politicians messed up in that poorly-remembered age when democracy was thought to be on the march.

I do hope the General will revisit the subject now that Bhutto's return has inspired a deadly public attack. Amateurs! he must be thinking. A few well-trained snipers could have done the job much better.
THE BARREL HAS NO BOTTOM. Oh Jesus: the Ole Perfesser thinks he's found video evidence against the evil MSM -- in a clip from Fox fucking News. Text is dismissive of the First Amendment and quotes a reader: "Maybe the media is just trying to make normal people understand how the Haditha Marines feel?"

This goes way beyond the normal COINTELPRO. It's like they used a Klan rally to discredit the SNCC. It's like they used Michelle Malkin to show that the liberal media is against SCHIP. It's...

Shit, I got nothing. Normally when they assault common sense, I can shake off the sting quickly enough to describe it, but I have to admit it will take me a while to adjust to this latest and most spectacular unreason. They have created a perfectly closed system, in which their operatives create outrages under their own aegis and then blame them on their opponents. 2 + 2 = 5 is easy to dispute, but 2 + 2 = 5 and How Dare You Say So outdoes Orwell. I once observed that they treat 1984 as an instruction manual, but I have to admit this latest improvement strains my rhetorical abilities. I'd like to think it's a fluke, but their recent desperation suggests otherwise. Maybe it's time to take up semiotics -- but that way madness lies. So I'll stick with garden-variety logic until something better comes along. I welcome your suggestions.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

SHORTER JONAH GOLDBERG. Because why? Because.

Really, that's it. Goldberg's anti-abortion essay is, as usual with him, the stupidest thing ever written, and will remain so until Goldberg writes something else.

The "reasonable doubt" bit is my favorite. Leave it to Goldberg to compare the uterus to a gas chamber. But of course the women who would be forced to carry Goldberg's exonerated fetuses to term have only a mechanical function in his imagination. If pro-life panderers "just don't seem as bad" to him as pro-choice ones, it's because he's convinced that with the former no one gets hurt. Those apertures who enable his fantasies just don't count.

Bonus fun in the Goldberg's self-congratulation in The Corner:
The conventional wisdom is that being pro-life requires dogmatism and certainty. I don't think that's the case. At least not any more than being pro-choice requires dogmatism and certainty. Rather than analyze and dissect this point — i.e. tell — I thought it would be more honest to simply explain where I'm coming from, i.e. show.
There is something almost touching about this. First, he implies that he could offer a "very serious, thoughtful, argument that has never been made in such detail or with such care" if he wanted to. He seems to think his dreary article is some sort of tone-poem expressive of his deep, personal reaction to the subject. Maybe he put on Coldplay and drank half a Zima whilst he composed it. "This is it," we may imagine him whispering to himself, "This is the one I'll be remembered for..."

I'd feel sorry for them if they weren't fucking up our country so badly.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

READER PAUL STINCHFIELD WRITES that he's unhappy PC Magazine's list of their 100 favorite blogs includes only political blogs that lean left. Well, he's right unless you count Drudge as a blog (Drudge doesn't) but the PC Mag folks say the list is subjective, and a list of favorites can't be wrong, so long as those blogs really are their favorites. I guess it just tells us where they stand politically.

But hey, it's "PC" Magazine, right?
What a strange, passive-aggressive sentiment. First, the only straight-up liberal politics blogs on the list are Huffington Post, Daily Kos, and (I suppose) Wonkette. Drudge is accompanied on the list by Perfesser fave Buzz Machine, which, like many of the named sites, treats new tech, but also lards in plenty of conservative political ramblings. Not much of an edge there.

There are a few environmental blogs listed, and one of them has at this writing a picture of Al Gore without devil horns photoshopped on his head. Also one of them is about black people. Secret-agenda wise, maybe you could read those in. Overwhelmingly, though, the list is all geekery and screen-sports for young urbanites with disposable income: meta-comics, gizmos, restaurant reviews, fashion and entertainment snark.

Maybe the thinking here is that any blog not overtly conservative is liberal. Rightwing blogs of the sort the Perfesser favors increasingly take the default position that liberals are "Americaphobes," the New York Times is a treason mill, and America is not fighting enough wars. If you subscribe to this dire worldview, you may well believe that bloggers who prefer to engage in fun and games instead of continually sounding the tocsin against leftist perfidy are, in the time-honored phrase, not with you but against you.

As I have observed before, for these people the personal is indeed the political. I wonder why they didn't choose to flip it around, though? Why not claim the tech blogs are conservative, since progress is good and all good things are conservative? Comics blogs could be conservative too, since comics are fun and conservatives are all about fun. Come on, fellas. It's not like this sort of thing hasn't been done

Maybe they aren't feeling as confident as they once did, for some reason.
NO JOB TOO LOW FOR THE KULTURE KOPS. S.T. Karnick, culture scold frequently employed by National Review and occasionally treated here, has his own blog. Despite stiff competition, it may be the most pathetic culture-war specimen in Christendom. While Libertas, for example, occasionally leavens its ravings against godless Hollyweird with useful information about the filmmaking business, Karnick's blog merely judges crappy pop art by the standards of your crabby grandmother: that is, he finds most current TV shows too "gloomy," which he seems to consider a moral failing.

Sometimes he is more ambitious and hilarious. Another of his tropes is "the feminization of the American male," which he finds everywhere, including -- get this -- the Disney boob-baiter The Game Plan starring Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson. Quoth Karnick:
The earnest aspect of this film is actually quite interesting and perhaps rather surprising, as it is actually part of the trend of feminization of the American male noted on this site last week. Unlike the similar 2005 film The Pacifier, a delightful comedy in which Vin Diesel plays a superspy action hero who changes a family of spoiled suburban kids (for the better) much more than they change him, in The Game Plan the hypermuscular former wrestler known as The Rock is subjected to a cultural reeducation into the superiority of femininity.

Johnson's character, Joe Kingman, is initially narcissistic, arrogant, egotistical, and selfish both on the field and off. Only after dancing in a ballet and being reeducated by his eight-year-old daughter, his sister-in-law, and the daughter’s dance teacher does he finally win a Super Bowl ring.

In today’s culture, women even make the best football coaches.

The filmmakers make it all as convincing as possible, and as noted earlier the movie is fun to watch, but it is definitely weird to see The Rock crumble in this way. Still, I suspect audiences will enjoy it and it will continue to do well at the box office.

And they will surely assimilate the message without realizing it.
[cue sinister homosexual music, and Roy's annoying redneck caricature] Citizens! Does y'all smell what The Rock is cookin'? Faggification, thass what! Whoever heard of a football player takin' ballet, 'ceptin in real life which don't count! Shoot! Gittin' so's yuh cain't even count on rasslin' stars! I reckoned The Rock were the new Haystacks Calhoun, but he more like a Gorgeous George! Hoo-ey! I'ma get my entertainment from reg'lar fellas like that Tom Cruise fum now on!

Please, folks, don't ever tell Karnick about Sitting Pretty, the 1948 comedy in which Clifton Webb's Mr. Belvedere sissified an entire red-blooded American family ("And chew each mouthful 27 times!"). He'll work a brand-new theory of boomer decadence out of it.
MORE DEEP THOUGHTS. Jonah Goldberg loves the World War III fantasy game too much to quit:
One common — and absolutely correct — response to the suggestion that we should have taken care of the Soviets in 1946 is that we couldn't because the American people were too exhausted from the war. That's true, but it leaves out an important point. The American people were also exhausted by the New Deal, which had kept the American public in a de facto state of war for nearly an entire decade before the real war even started. The relentless exhortations, the scarcity, the propaganda: these things began long, long, before Pearl Harbor and even before Roosevelt was promising voters he would keep America out of another European war.
That bastard FDR! Too bad we can't send Fred Thompson back in Goldberg's time machine to show Americans what real leadership looks like.

Goldberg is clearly trending John Birch. It's only a matter of time before he starts alerting us to the pernicious effects of fluoridated water.