Wednesday, April 30, 2008

THE KINDEST, BRAVEST, WARMEST, MOST WONDERFUL HUMAN BEING I'VE EVER KNOWN IN MY LIFE. In the Wall Street Journal, Karl Rove tells us what a great guy John McCain is. At the New Republic, Jonathan Chait tells us how full of shit Rove is to praise McCain after the way Rove's campaign slurred the Senator in 2000.

What interested me in Rove's testimonial, though, is the device with which he explains why he's giving it:
...I heard things about Sen. McCain that were deeply moving and politically troubling. Moving because they told me things about him the American people need to know. And troubling because it is clear that Mr. McCain is one of the most private individuals to run for president in history...

Private people like Mr. McCain are rare in politics for a reason. Candidates who are uncomfortable sharing their interior lives limit their appeal. But if Mr. McCain is to win the election this fall, he has to open up.
The notion that a very successful American politician who has written a popular autobiography has trouble opening up to people is so hilarious that I have to think Rove chose it as an in-joke for the political community.

History is a better topic for McCain than current events. He has lately spoken out on health care, proposing to provide a "$5,000 refundable tax credit"; citizens may choose an insurance provider "by mail or online" to "inform the government of your selection. And the money to help pay for your health care would be sent straight to that insurance provider." This familiar Republican alternative is dressed up with assurances that "modern information technology" will make it work, with "advances in Web technology" allowing doctors "to practice across state lines," though there has so far been no mention of Federal mandates to provide us with x-ray webcams or laptop condenser microphones sufficiently sensitive to detect mitral valve dilation.

On Iraq McCain takes a mistakes-were-made approach, allowing friendly news outlets to use "McCain Blasts Bush Admin. Errors" headlines, while below the fold the candidate lauds the "significant political progress" that excuses our continued occupation.

Every once in a while he takes a stand unpopular among his listeners (though it may be much better received elsewhere), which perhaps helps his "maverick" status. But most of the work currently being done for McCain is done in sideshows -- not only in the Obama campaign, but also in his own.

In short, everything is working for McCain except for the issues. Fortunately for him, no one, least of all the press, is paying much attention to those right now. For him to win, this state of play must persist through the election. Those of us who have lived through a couple of these things have to like his chances. I'm sure Karl Rove does.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

THE DEATH OF OUTRAGE. The Miley Cyrus story is not much, and so not much that even Howard Stern has denounced her Vanity Fair photo spread. (The odd bit is that her father Billy Ray is a former Pax TV actor and Jesus testimonialist. Well, to be fair, Israel in 4 B.C. had no mass communication.)

Maybe I don't have much of a story either, as my favorite God-botherers are taking this rather lightly. Rod Dreher, having perhaps exhausted his compassion on Britney Spears and Amy Winehouse, cuts the little tart no slack. "The dear thing is shocked," he says. "She was, she claims, hoodwinked by the evil Annie Leibovitz into appearing semi-nude after her parents left the set (never mind that her publicist, her granny and her manager were still there)..." Then, for laughs, a Brother Theodore routine on nymphets. I guess Dreher has finally decided that the Benedict Option is in full effect, and is preparing for a new Zion where the Cyruses will be unwelcome and the nubiles will dress less provocatively when not screwing fogeys.

James Poulos does offer a wistfully Benedictine closer ("It's going to take a long time to untangle the psychosexual web this culture's woven. Maybe forever") but defends the principle of "marvelous fresh fecundity and youthful radiance" in representational art, which is inevitably reduced in our corrupting times to "the erotic appeal of a giant confection. In an earlier era, this picture would in fact be a painting of a nameless young girl, and it would be a work of art. In this era, it's a brick in a long, high wall." So maybe the real problem is mass production -- in a nobler time, we had to wait for geniuses to laboriously hand-paint our softcore porn, and it was shown in galleries where jacking off was frowned upon. Supply and demand being what it is, the Masters wouldn't have bothered with Miley, who is "not particularly gorgeous," and the Cyruses would have been content with a simple, rustic existence, with Dad appearing in Passion Plays and singing with his daughter in the church choir. I wonder that Poulos chooses to contribute to the degrading march of technology by writing online; doesn't he realize that every new reader he brings to this fetid trough will be degraded beyond redemption? The more the merrier, I say, but he should consider switching to illuminated manuscripts.

Ross Douthat figures the Cyruses have it macked: because "the Cyruses are stage-managing this whole 'controversy,'" they probably have "enough worldliness and self-awareness to navigate Miley's adolescence without letting the celebrity machine grind her down into Britney Redux." He saves his tears for "the weak and the damaged and the dumb" who suffer in the maw of the machine. Well, that's capitalism, comrade -- most of us writers are likewise too weak and damaged and dumb to score a prestigious gig (like an Atlantic blog), and will wear away our souls scribbling unprofitably, maddened by the prospect of fame, pathetic victims of the opinionating machine. Weep for us!

We could easily go downmarket for some real ravings, but when the major thinkers of culture war can't pop a stiffy over a half-dressed teenager, America may be on the verge of losing her moral compass, and alicublog of losing some valuable material. I hope at the next Restoration Weekend Bill Bennett gives them a good talking-to.
THE NEVER-ENDING STORY. Obama put a little more daylight between himself and the Reverend Wright -- divisive, destructive, outrageous, appalling, etc. I guess I should put my own disappointment aside, and focus on the political capital this has won Obama among those citizens sincerely troubled by his connections:

"Too Little, Too Late..."

"No 'Sister Souljah' Moment for Barack Obama..."

"Of course, in reality, Obama's nature and (especially) nurture left him worried that he won't be perceived as 'black enough,' so he has devoted much of his career to working to extract money from whites and spend it on blacks... (Bonus quote: "I'm always being denounced as 'obsessed' about race...")

You may find more measured stories in the old-fashioned news outlets, but all of them end something like this:
Whatever happens to the Reverend Wright story now, one thing is clear: the long relationship between the pastor and the politician is forever changed. And Obama has had to spend yet another day trying to regain the narrative of his campaign.
Update at 11! And so it goes. You can't win the game when they keep changing the rules. Somewhere John Hagee is laughing his ass off.
A METS GAME IS NOT A DINNER PARTY. I went to Shea on Saturday, and heard the heavy boos for the slumping Carlos Delgado. So I can understand his reticence to take a bow after his second homer on Sunday. The New York Post's Joel Sherman affects concern for the relationship of the Mets and their fans:
The Met loyalists turn verbally pessimistic at the first sign of trouble in a nine-inning game. The booing feels like the in thing; hey everyone is doing it, so why not me?... There is no let-bygones-be-bygones here. There is a lack of trust toward the team, a lack of faith that the manager or management knows what they are truly doing, a lack of conviviality toward the roster.

And as one player asked, "Do they think that is helping us?" In other words, it is hard to win, harder yet when you are playing either in anticipation of the boos or to try and ward them off. Both media and fans have become harsher over the years, but there is a quick, energy-sapping maliciousness at Shea that is hard to match anywhere.
This is a little rich. Booing makes it hard to win? Major league ballplayers have earplugs made of 24 karat gold. They haven't heard anything besides "Your contract demands have been accepted" and "My name is Tiffany, can I ride in your limo" since Triple A. On those rare occasions when our displeasure reaches them, their response is Delgado's: a quiet Fuck You.

I have followed the Mets through seasons in which booing was about the only cheap pleasure to be had at Shea. The team has gotten better, but the years of overpayment and underperformance have left us a little jaded, maybe even slightly depraved. Last year's collapse was certainly no fun for anyone, but the fans who paid both keen attention and a good chunk of the players' salaries -- and who later learned that Paul Lo Duca's combativeness in the home stretch may not have revealed the heart of a gamer, but the long-term effects of steroid abuse -- had good cause to be bitter.

Soon the franchise will relocate to a new stadium, where everything will certainly cost more: tickets, beer, hot dogs. I think fans who notice, for example, a decreased willingness among Met infielders to dive for ground balls may be forgiven a little vociferation.

No quarter asked, no quarter given, and Delgado was well within his rights to go Ted Williams on the boo-birds on Sunday. I would be pleased if Delgado hit many more homers and circled the bases each time with two middle fingers held proudly aloft. In fact, maybe the key to 2008 is to keep hate alive. If the Jose Song fails to motivate Reyes to realize his considerable potential, maybe "You suck" will; I would happily trade that stupid song for some timely base hits. Athletes know that the best way to shut a big mouth is with a big win, and if they want to stick it to us ingrates by cruising to a World Championship, that would suit me fine.

Monday, April 28, 2008

SOME GET STONED, SOME GET STRANGE, SOONER OR LATER IT ALL GETS REAL, WALK ON. Jeremiah Wright says, "I said to Barack Obama, last year, 'If you get elected, November the 5th, I'm coming after you, because you'll be representing a government whose policies grind under people.'" Barack Obama says, "[Wright] does not speak for me... He does not speak for the campaign." So reporters and commentators have them twinned as never before.

Obama wore a flag pin the other day, so there is more news than ever about his refusal to wear a flag pin.

The conventional wisdom is that Obama has to do something drastic about all this -- maybe hit Wright with a blackjack, or go around dressed as Captain America. But under this kind of ridiculous hazing, there's really not much he can do. Though he may try and paint the corners now and again, Obama is clearly disinclined toward the grand renunciatory gestures the press has prescribed for him. I suspect he realizes that this course could fatally derail his Presidential run, but would rather fail going forward than in retreat.

We think of these crises as a test for Obama, but as things are currently playing out, they strike me as more of a test of our politics -- that is, of whether we are so fatally addicted to sideshows that we can't have a national election about even the most pressing national issues. Obama's political fortunes, or those of any candidate, are small potatoes compared to that.
RETRO FIT. You have to pity the leftover 80s Republicans. People no longer tolerate the cigars, zoot suits, and swing dancing with which they once attempted to insert themselves into American culture, and the attempted transition to South Park Conservatism never quite took. Many of them now brood in their condos, riffling dog-eared P.J. O'Rourke and Tom Wolfe books and dreaming of what might have been.

Give credit then to libertarians Matt Welch and Nick Gillespie: where we behold only a pathetic scene, they see a market opportunity, and following the Time-Life method of repackaging old crap for new profits seek to re-sell the old crapcom "Dallas" as the Le nozze di Figaro of the Reagan Revolution.
"Dallas" wasn't simply a television show. It was an atmosphere-altering cultural force. Lasting nearly as long as recovering alcoholic Larry Hagman's second liver, it helped define the 1980s as a glorious "decade of greed," ushering in an era in which capitalism became cool, even though weighted with manifold moral quandaries...

After a long hip parade of unironic countercultural icons such as Luke of "Cool Hand Luke" and Randle Patrick McMurphy of "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest," "Dallas" created a new archetype of the anti-hero we loved to hate and hated to love: an establishment tycoon who's always controlling politicians, cheating on his boozy wife and scheming against his own stubbornly loyal family. But no matter how evil various translators tried to make J.R. and his milieu... viewers in the nearly 100 countries that gobbled up the show, including in the Warsaw Pact nations, came to believe that they, too, deserved cars as big as boats and a swimming pool the size of a small mansion.
I have no trouble believing that the gangster brand of capitalism practiced in much of the old Soviet bloc is inspired by shitty old TV shows. It takes nerve to brag about it, though.

For obvious reasons I prefer to think of these things as diversions rather than as a cultural signposts. Maybe in years to come we'll look back at "The Sopranos" as part of a magical time when we all decided, the hell with it, America's really just a large criminal enterprise so let's get ours while the getting's good. And at "American Idol" as when American popular music began to really, really suck. Maybe that explains our culture in general these days: the cynicism of the audience has caught up with that of the advertisers.

Friday, April 25, 2008

SHORTER DAN RIEHL: Liberals make a big deal about so-called "human rights," yet they refuse to defend a celebrity tax evader.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

THE OVERCLASS STRIKES BACK. George F.ucking Will today:
After 1962, when New York City signed the nation's first collective bargaining contract with teachers, teachers began changing from members of a respected profession into just another muscular faction fighting for more government money.
August 1, 2007: "Firefighters, Scientists And Teachers Top List As 'Most Prestigious Occupations,' According To Latest Harris Poll."

Will, forever the callow young lord whose noblesse oblige turns to viciousness when the servants ask for a raise, probably never knew what normal people still (thank God) remember: disrespect for the nobler enterprises of society is one of the real signs of social collapse.
ASK AN EXPERT. People are stockpiling rice -- perhaps on the advice of the Wall Street Journal -- in sufficient quantities that Costco and Sam's Club are limiting purchases. I sure hope this panic over staple foods among heartland citizens is unjustified. But I lack the economics training to read the situation. So let's see what the top libertarian thinkers say about it. That always makes me feel better. ChicagoBoyz:
Back about 15 years ago I attended a seminar put on by Honeywell. The presenter arrived with several loaves of bread and brought the receipt from the store for them. This initiated a discussion of the whys and hows of choice, and marketing. Some people want more expensive bread because of the ingredients, some want a healthier fortified bread for the nutrition, and some people just want the cheapest thing they can find, any quality perceptions or realities be damned. I don’t remember what the point of the seminar was, but I always remembered the bread demo. I recently ran into this gentleman at a convention and he was happy that I recalled him as “the bread guy."
That's nice. The price of wheat has increased a gazillion percent in the past year, so I can see why the author is feeling nostalgic for 1993. (He also tells us about a really cheap can of shaving cream folks can buy. I don't see why -- you don't need shaving cream to slash your wrists.)

Commenters -- and the author, in a follow up ("The media is full of stories of doom and gloom about how food is skyrocketing in price, so let’s take the opposite tack...") -- talk about all the cheap foodstuffs (mac & cheese, ramen noodles, etc) with which complainers over food prices may shut their pie holes instead of pie, which would be too expensive.

I hope the Boyz get a gig with the McCain campaign, and disseminate this message of hope all over our great land. America: Home of the Mayonnaise Sandwich!

(Maybe I'm reaching, but they asked for it.)

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

BURN THE HONKY TONK DOWN. I predicted they'd go after Obama for Richard Pryor. They're getting closer. After a detour -- Malcolm X? Blogger, please! -- Human Events' Evan Gahr goes after "Obama's Other Jeremiah Wrights," namely Ludacris and Jay-Z. After tittilating Human Events readers with some expurgated lyrics, Gahr says:
Obama thus far has equivocated on rappers. He has criticized their language, but adamantly refused to denounce the whole sordid genre as the unique cultural problem that it is.
Suppose we apply this root-and-branch approach to country music. From the old murder ballads through the works of modern-era superstars, we can see a normative attitude toward drink, drugs, and violence against women. Many country songs promote alcoholism, loyalty to anti-social homies, and brawling. Even the female stars are getting in on the act, a sure sign of social breakdown.

Yet John McCain has failed to denounce country music. Maybe Gahr can persuade him to appear in an appropriate venue -- Gilley's, perhaps -- for a Sister Souljah moment. I would advise him to bring plenty of chicken wire.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

FOR DUMMIES. Julie Nixon Eisenhower made large contributions to the Obama campaign, and National Review Online's Lisa Shiffren draws what I'm sure she thinks are the inevitable conclusions:
Perhaps we humans are psychologically limited in our options, to following in the footsteps of, or rejecting and rebelling against our various patrimonies. Or, given the linked picture, perhaps the fact that she looks like a carbon copy of her mother — a bit mad, but with a little more iron about the jaw — suggests that she is not her father's daughter after all. The picture is more shocking than the deed. Trisha Nixon Cox, (the blond, putatively less ambitious, "pretty one") still looks like the girl America knew, and, recognizably, has given her campaign donations to John McCain...
Many NRO scribes betray a stunted view of life and human nature, but Schiffren's actually seems heavily informed by fairy tales about princesses and wicked stepsisters. (She also characterizes Hillary Clinton's marriage as a "deal with the devil.") I know there are other adults who think this way, but Schiffren's the first I've seen who could write complete sentences.
SNAKE OIL. Let's suppose you're an educated man, a Perfesser even, who sometimes likes to wax anti-intellectual -- whether out of self-disgust, philosophical confusion, or just for funsies, we'll leave for another hypothetical. These bagatelles attract hordes of winger yahoos, delighted that a college man is saying, or quoting, the sort of things they normal hear only on Fox News and from that guy who lives under the bridge.

This makes you a few dollars and a big name. And the elusiveness of your style -- usually just a link and a simple interjection -- prevents you from looking like too much of a yahoo yourself to casual observers or Perfessorial colleagues.

By and large, you've got it made. But like all sinecures, yours presents opportunities for comic dilemmas. Sometimes, despite the grand claims made for blogging, you have to go to long-form political blather in the MSM -- you are not yet as well-known or well-compensated as Katie Couric, or even Heather Nauert, so your pool of prospective suckers must be expanded if you and your family are to afford the robot bunker of your dreams.

So, good news, you have an assignment from New York Post, where the suckers are plentiful. Bad news: it's Earth Day Week, and the topic is global warming. As your rare substantive comments on the subject reveal, you are not totally insane about it. But your yahoo followers are; so, over and over and over you have portrayed global warming as a fraud and a joke. Now you have to appear outside your comfort zone, minus the protective cover of your usual fortune-cookie style, and try to avoid looking like a sell-out to your usual dopes and a lunatic to big-paper readers.

The result is comedy gold from the first paragraph, which sort of contains its quintessence:
I HAVEN'T been able to get very excited about the big global-warming debate - but I am excited about some solutions to global warming. These are just as worthwhile even if you don't believe that human-created climate change is a big problem, or even a reality.
The charitable explanation for this would be that the Perfesser so loves science that he would like to see it tackle non-existent problems just for grins, much as a young WWE enthusiast might like to know whether The Undertaker could beat up Batman. Alas, the Perfesser's quick reference to the "religious wars" between the "Church of Green" and the "Church of Carbon" -- suggesting that the scientific community is just being as silly as those lovable scamps in the PR firms of the oil and gas industries -- does little to win our charity.

The Perfesser comes out loud and proud against "hair-shirt" scientists with their demands of "impossible sacrifice," but picks an unfortunate example of the more realistic view:
Just ask people in China - now the world's No. 1 carbon emitter - how interested they are in returning to the economic conditions they suffered a few decades ago when their carbon emissions were lower.
Just ask people in China how they feel about Tibet, while you're at it. You'll probably get a similar answer -- that is to say, muffled screams. They're giving us a nice, protest-free Olympics, what more do you want?

Meanwhile, "many scientific champions of global-warming theory" are proclaimed to be on the Perfesser's side because they're against "impoverishing the world" to appease Gaia. Plus which "some environmentalists" are for nuclear power. It's a coalition of unnamed, innumerable exceptions! The problem, non-existent as it is, is half solved.

All that's needed for a big finish is the 21st Century version of the last refuge of a scoundrel: technology. If the solar power cited by the Perfesser sets his homeboys to grumbling, "nanotech" ought to shut them up, as it is new, highly speculative, and not yet associated with hippies. Plus it can be explained in consumerist terms -- "Imagine how much more efficient a family car could be if you cut the weight in half" -- offering further proof that the Perfesser offers hope and cool cars, while all the stupid scientists (or "some" of them, or "many" of them, depending) want to do is make us and our friends in Red China go to their Church, eat flavorless health food, and generally bum out.

It may be said that the Perfesser's dilemma is solved, too: neither his customary blog readers nor his new MSM ones will find much fault with his column, because they'll never be able to figure out what he's saying. He who heh's last heh's best!

UPDATE. Commenter Craig points out that the "not totally insane" global warming post mentioned above wasn't written by the Perfesser, but by his guest-blogger Megan McArdle, so the credit for marginal sanity goes in that instance to her. This is a better example of Reynolds' grudging global warning acceptance.

Monday, April 21, 2008

GO FOR IT, DERB! I usually rejoice in John Derbyshire's unfiltered Asperger's rants on race, and today's celebration of Enoch "Rivers of Blood" Powell started promisingly enough, with a declaration that "Powellite sentiments" -- segregation and expulsion of dark people, in case you didn't know -- "were brow-beaten out of the public square" via a "campaign of propaganda, brainwashing, and intimidation."

When he got to "[Powell's] first trip ever to the United States," I looked forward to ravings about the British statesman's clear-eyed appraisal of the intractability of Negro anger, and how right he was, as the United States has become a place where African-Americans cannot be avoided, even at most country clubs. Alas, Derbyshire changes the subject to Vietnam.

What a disappointment! It's not like he needed to blaze a trail; rehabilitation of Powell's racially "contrarian" views has been going on among legacy-hungry conservatives for some time. I suspect even Derbyshire is feeling the heel of political correctness on his neck. Let us hope he wrenches free of it and, his ardor engorged by the spirit of resistance, unleashes a stemwinder on what he really thinks.

Till then, it's pretty sweet to see even Derb's watered-down racial obsessiveness share a page with Andy McCarthy's lament that Obama consorts with extremists. Spasms of self-awareness sometimes trammel (though unconsciously) individual National Review writers, but the magazine's institutional memory seems not to register with them at all.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

SERVICE ADVISORY. Going soon for my annual trip to Medical Disneyland. (Explanation here.) Will try to keep in touch. If I don't make it back, a final thought: don't mourn, organizize. (Also: Thimk.)
BARELY LEGAL. I've been rough on Rod Dreher for siding with Islamic fundamentalists against the pornography that made this nation great, but maybe I merely misunderstand him. Maybe he's really just a cultural adventurer, curious about and tolerant of strangeways around the globe. For instance:
In our culture, it is abnormal for 14 year olds to marry. The fundamentalist LDSers have a communal structure built to accomodate married 14 year olds (well, "married"). I happen to think it's terrible to force a 14 year old to "marry" a 50 year old man who has five other "wives." I would put a stop to it. But shouldn't we at least ask ourselves on what ground we stand to criminalize the practice, when many of us are perfectly willing to extend marriage rights to same-sex couples.
If you're surprised Dreher, who doesn't even want high-school girls to engage in inter-gender wrestling, is relatively cool with Church of Lolita-Day Sex, you shouldn't be. The cultists have a skygod and the sort of "Benedict Option" separatism that gets Dreher mistily reminiscing about David Koresh. With God all things are normative!

I think this presents an opportunity to advocates of gay marriage: simply declare homosexuality a faith and gay marriage one of its sacraments. Not only might they finally get Dreher's respect (and that of a wider, momentarily-confused redneck populace), they would be eligible for government grants.

They would obtain other rights, too, it appears:
On January 10, 2004, the church suffered major upheaval when Dan Barlow, the mayor of Colorado City, and about 20 men were excommunicated from the church and stripped of their wives and children (who would be reassigned to other men), and the right to live in the town.
If I'd known when I was younger that there were churches that followed the ways of Gor I might have rethought this whole atheism thing. Well, too late for me now: I'm too strong in my lack of faith and values to endorse such religious practices, except on a fantasy role-playing level.
RAISING THE FLAG. TBogg's right; the whole Green Iwo Jima uproar is worse than ridiculous. Or, as he puts it:
You really have to wonder what is wrong with these people that their rage richters are constantly cranked up to 11. These are the kind of people you read about whose crushed lifeless bodies are found underneath capsized vending machines all because they went DefCon 1 when their Zagnut refused to fall.
I see him his Canned Heat album cover and raise him this failed start-up. Jock was meant to be a thinking man's sports mag; its debut issue had articles by Woody Allen and William F. Buckley Jr., it was edited by Mickey Herskowitz, and its graphics consultant was Helmut Krone. As nobility of failures goes, that ain't bad.

Contrary to what you might think if you only know the hypercrazy media environment in which we now live, Jock was not taken down by "outraged" veterans; like Gablinger's Diet Beer it suffered from storming a niche that hadn't been chiseled yet.

That the people who dig so deep to find offense are the same ones who constantly bitch that "political correctness" limits free speech would qualify as a irony if irony still existed.

Friday, April 18, 2008

A QUICK ONE WHILE SHE'S AWRY. Two days after accusing me of "snide sexism and heteronormative stereotypes," Megan McArdle (of, we never tire of adding, The Atlantic Monthly) writes
I don't know that I agree with Mark Kleiman that Barack Obama's masculinity won't be an issue in the coming election. On the one hand he's tall, but he's kind of, well, scrawny looking. But also, the political space I think he's trying to occupy--building understanding and reconciliation between hostile voter grops--is generally seen as a woman's role...
I don't have a joke here. I'm only bringing it up to provoke her into another 2,000 word defense of double standards. I love when she does those. They're like brain teasers with no solutions.
IN THIS VERSION, SALLY BOWLES CAUSES THE HOLOCAUST. Talk show host Dori Monson denounces a Nicaraguan art installation in which a dog was starved. His conclusion:
You want an example of the slippery slope of an art world where anything goes? This is just an extension of the moral depravity of artists like Robert Mapplethorpe with his bullwhip in the anus... of Andrew Serrano with "Piss Christ"... when you have acceptance of works like those, it is not a tremendous moral leap to starving a dog.
Well said, comrade! When nothing is true, everything is permitted! I feel empowered to graduate from my occasionally obscene writings to a killing spree. Who's with me? (If you feel unqualified because you only swear recreationally, in the manner of the Wizard of Oz I'll give you some hokey-looking certificate, and then we can go hit the homeless encampments.)

As I've noticed before, these people really don't understand the idea of consent.

UPDATE. When Matthew Yglesias made the Obama-Jay-Z connection, I thought: oh no, soon they'll be demanding Obama identify and explain the 99 problems of which a bitch is not one! Sure enough, here comes the thin end of the wedge: Stop The ACLU brings up the Jay-Z thing, then suggest that Obama gave Hillary the finger, something he clearly learned from his gangsta rap homies. And since, as we have seen, engagement in obscenity leads to a reckless disregard for life itself, it's only a matter of time before Clinton makes a citizen's arrest, claiming there's a guy in Allentown who swears the man who shot him looked just like Obama.

UPDATE II. Well, that got around. RedState commenter: "It might not have been intentional, but if it was, it makes me like him more. Although I'd still use it to trash him in the general election." Laugh about it, shout about it, when you've got to choose/Either way you look at it you lose.

UPDATE III. As some commenters point out, this dovetails nicely with the Yale miscarriage artist whose possibly hypothetical stunt incurred the wrath of seriously underqualified art critics all along the reactionary fringe. My favorite, from a commenter at a well-known libertarian site: "And we come to the crux of what I hate about art." Well, yeah: as we have discussed before, the instinctual reaction of propagandists to anything more complex than a Morning Memo will always be High Boorishness.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

RAISING THE BAR. At The Hill Byron York has made a whole column's worth of conservative talking-point out of Obama's bit about his friendships with former Weatherman Bill Ayers and Republican Senator Tom Coburn. After paragraphs of meaningless comparison of Ayers with Coburn (with such horror-movie intertitles as "And then, the Coburn Card"), York finally gets to the relevant point of Obama's argument:
Sen. Coburn and I disagree on some things, and yet we’re still friendly. Bill Ayers and I disagree on some things, and yet we’re still friendly. So what’s the problem?
That was a relief -- for about a nanosecond:
That’s not quite good enough. [cue sinister music]

Obama needs to tell us more about his relationship with Ayers. It’s important because voters might well wonder whether that relationship, coupled with Obama’s longtime relationship with the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, is the beginning of a pattern...
...a pattern which, unlike most china, dressmaking, and test patterns, currently consists only of two elements, Ayers and Rev. Wright. But York did say the beginning of a pattern! And who knows what other undesirable friends and acquaintances Obama might have? Turn over your Blackberry and old matchbook covers, Senator!

The nonsense has spread all down the conservative lunchtable ("Does Obama Believe Coburn=Ayers?" asks The American Pundit; "Obama Equates Conservative Republican to Terrorist Bomber" says Gateway Pundit, etc).

One would think Obama had proposed Ayers for Secretary of State instead of just hanging out with him. In a few weeks, they'll find security camera footage of Obama shaking hands at a rally with a guy who later drove drunk and killed a rabbi, and then we'll hear about Obama's beginning of the genesis of a theme of a pattern of anti-Semitic violence.

Well, at least people have stopped referring to him as an affirmative action case -- because it's clear no candidate has ever been held to this kind of ridiculous standard.
THEIR LITTLE ROCK AND ROLL. A few people who (lucky them) didn't know much about this blog crap before they read my Voice article have questions. The most common is, "Why would anyone want to read about this?" The next most common concerns those bloggers who, though their history and attitude show that they're extremely unlikely to vote Republican in November, still complain that my "arrogance" and "demonizing" are driving them away from the Democrats. What, they ask, is the point of this charade? Whom does it convince?

When short of time or just too drunk to speak, I hand them the glossary. Pretense of sympathy is one of those rhetorical tropes that even the unsophisticated can work, as seen on playground where kids yell, "Too bad you're such a retard."

The bigger question is, what is concern trolling and its home-field equivalents meant to achieve? Because I have never seen it even begin to change anyone's mind on issues or candidates.

The simple answer is, it's not about the argument, it's about keeping the crowds coming in. Like other kinds of masquerade, it's an easy way to make your blogging sexier.

In all but a few cases, political blogging is meant to reenforce the prejudices of its readers. Simple chest-pounding and foam-finger-waving get tiresome after a while, so bloggers who want to keep their audiences try to mix things up. But most don't have much in the way of mixers in their cabinets, and certainly can't write well enough to cruise on style.

So, as some of our ancestors developed prehensile thumbs, the more advanced bloggers develop more complicated arguments which, while they may lead to the same conclusions as before, take the reader on byways of reason that make the journey more rewarding and might even (if he is really ambitious) enrich the blogger's point of view, too. This is the point where, it may be said, blogging starts to turn into writing.

But if you're not interested in writing, or any more complex achievement than the leading of online pep rallies, there is a shortcut: instead of feeding complexities into your work, you feed them into your online persona.

Instead of merely being the member of the tribe who holds the talking stick, you can become a fascinating person with unexpected depths. It's not that hard. Since you are constructing rather than revealing a personality (you don't have the artistic control for that), you can start throwing quirky, contrarian things about yourself into your posts. Add as many as you like; you don't have to worry too much about making the effect believable or coherent. It's sort of like writing a screenplay for Madonna. Just make sure that, in the end, you make your readers feel good about themselves.

I just found a great example of this in one Rachel Lucas. In a recent tirade, "The Core of What Liberals Just Don't Get," she states:
If most of us do not, in fact, feel good about our country (which is a whole other question again), the source of that lack of good feeling stems almost completely from the results of liberal/progressive thinking and behavior. In other words, it’s people like Obama who make us feel bad about our country.
Okay. I guess we know how she feels... or do we?
This might be another great time to point out that I’m not even a conservative, and I still feel this way.
Following that last link, we hear about the things that exempt her from conservatism. Anyone want to guess... oh, I see you got it right away: pro-choice, pro-legalization of weed, not too religious. (Funny how easy that was; I said "wants national health care" just to mix things up and I got burned.)

But don't worry, she's not going to hassle you about that. Instead, she'll tell you how nice conservatives are, and that "liberals tend to be assholes."

To be fair, she does argue with conservatives sometimes: here's a post in which she chides them for insufficient enthusiasm for John McCain: "You’d rather have Hillary Clinton, a bona fide socialist, liar, all-around bad person, as president. You’d rather have Obama, the senator with the most liberal voting record, as president." Eventually she explains again that she's not a conservative, this time in all capital letters.

You may be asking yourself what the effective difference would be between this non-conservative and a conservative. The answer is marketing. She offers her conservative readers the thrill of apostasy -- someone who doesn't go to church hates Hillary too! -- without ever challenging or discomfiting them. For a few minutes, they can believe that no one would disagree with them if they knew them like Rachel knows them.

And we get what in American political discourse is the optimal result: no one learns anything and everybody's happy.

UPDATE. In comments, Susan of Texas finds the McArdle connection ("We all have multiple potential selves within us, none of which is more 'real' than any other..."), and better Susan than me, because if I said it you know it would be heteronormative, somehow.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

PAPAL BULL. During Benedict XVI's American tour, you may tire of watching the pontiff work his small range of expressions and resemblances (when he is enthused and engaged, Dracula; when he is not, Sam Jaffe in The Scarlet Empress). But conservative bloggers -- whether out of allegiance to Opus Dei or just out of collegial feelings for a fellow dogmatist -- are riveted. From The Corner at National Review comes this awestruck Michael Novak reportage from the Pope's D.C. lodgings:
...hanging on the wall, a life size portrait of [Benedict] by the great Russian émigré painter, Igor Babailov.

Archbishop Pietro Sambi, the Apostolic Nuncio, said in advance that the portrait catches the pope’s shyness, strength, and almost physical presence, in stirring colors of light gold against the dark.
An "almost physical presence"? Maybe it's actually a hologram that blinks on and off. Also:
Best of all, the figure of the risen Christ towers above Pope Benedict...
If Benedict is, as Novak says, "life size" in the picture, and Christ towers above him, the whole thing must be the size of a small billboard. Imagine being comfortable with a near-mural starring oneself in one's apartment -- especially one that, "in its style and presentation," Novak reports, "reaches back to the traditions of the great artists of the Renaissance." I imagine this would be a little much for Siegfried and Roy, let alone a simple man of God.

But this ostentation is just funny; some forms of Pope worship are creepier. At the Weekly Standard, Mark Shea compares the relationship between Benedict and Americans to that of St. Paul and the Corinthians -- and no, I didn't mean "American Catholics," because neither does Shea: he means the lot of us, whom he blasts as a "Paris Hilton kind of people" with "a culture that is desperately in need of the clarity, humility, beauty, and love of Christ that [Benedict] preaches with such marvelous grace."

So if you ain't a congregent, you best congregate anyway! And if you aren't so inclined, too bad, because the TV stations are all tuned to the former Inquisitor performing his Stations of the Crass: zipping around in his motorized vitrine, listening to ecclesiastical yammering (where the dazed Sam Jaffe look comes into play), and explaining to Americans (alongside their despised leader) that they aren't entitled to freedom, because it isn't a right at all -- just something God grants. If you're lucky. And he's in a good mood.

No doubt some of us will get lulled by the incessant coverage, and begin to think, well, the man talks about religion and we all know religion is a good thing, and he certainly wears nice dresses. Let me explain something:

Back when I was in the first grade of a Catholic school, the nuns used to slap us and make us kneel on metal rulers as punishment. Then came Vatican II, and corporal punishment ceased. Eventually we could eat meat on Fridays, and even take a swig of the sacramental wine. It was like the Prague Spring. We still had to do catechism drills and go to Mass every First Friday, but the small kindnesses inspired by John XXIII's Council gave us the notion, however faint, that we were not just souls to be processed for redemption, but also human beings. That may be why I was eventually able to escape.

Now consider this: Benedict and his guys want to roll back Vatican II. He didn't come to America to be your best friend: he came to lay down the law on the faithful, and tell them that "Any tendency to treat religion as a private matter must be resisted." He doesn't want the souls trapped in his net to get one little breath of freedom, lest they develop a taste for it.

The simultaneous pomp and boredom of the TV coverage tends to minimize it, but the Pope's message, to put it in the mildest possible terms, is not necessarily consonant with the traditional American idea of liberty. Of course no one will ask any hard questions about it of the Americans who support and choose to stand with Benedict -- the Catholic Church has way more juice than the Trinity United Church of Christ. But it's worth keeping in mind during all the ring-kissing.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

MY BLATHER WRIT LARGE. Until the lawsuits commence, my longform blog coverage is up at the Village Voice. Also available in paper form at your local head shop.

UPDATE. I knew there was a good reason for you to see this -- illos by Tom Tomorrow!

UPDATE II. First cavil, from a commenter at MetaFilter: "And the 'large-breasted' blogger attacked by Althouse was Jessica Valenti at Feministing, and she's a perfectly normal-looking person; Althouse and her hurf-durf-breasts fellow bloggers were simply insane. I wish the writer had pointed that out, instead of making Jessica sound somehow freakish." No imputation of freakishness, I assure you, was meant toward Ms. Valenti, whose most prominent attribute is her writing skill, seen regularly here. And I must say, these attacks from our own side will fatally harm our Presidential chances come November!

UPDATE III. Ace O'Spades, after a "yawn" (good media strategy!), is pleased at his 99/1 Stupid-to-Evil Ratio, as well he should be -- it will come in handy at his tribunal in The Hague. He seems to blame James Wolcott, for some reason, and gives Wolcott writing criticism, which is like John Gielgud getting elocution lessons from Moms Mabley.

UPDATE IV. La Althouse says I "put a lot of work into this thing," which is really all I was hoping for, though I'm tired of doing all the work in this relationship, frankly. Commenters are less pleased. "Wow, too bad no one could do this about the oh-so-pretty left blogosphere," grumbles one. But you can, bunky; go get some Prestype and construction paper and build an empire; the common people are with you.

UPDATE V. At Protein Wisdom, Jeff Goldstein stuntman Dan Collins calls me "Pink Ed," says my article "demonstrates perfectly the left’s contention that if you disagree with them, you’re either stupid or evil, or some combination of both." We always strive for perfection, but never dared hope to achieve it in this lifetime. (For grins you might knock around Protein Wisdom and get a load of their idea of polite discussion.)

UPDATE VI. Megan McArdle, freedom-loving, bravely politically-incorrect libertarian that she is, cries sexism. I will charitably assume she doesn't know what a lipstick lesbian is, and is missing the joke. Maybe I should have classified her as a Libertarian Until Graduation -- or changed her "Modus Operandi" to "missing the joke."

UPDATE VI-AND-A-I/II. McUpdate: "Yes, I know the many uses of the phrase 'lipstick lesbian'; indeed, I count several as friends and loved ones." Yet in my mouth it's a horrible slur. Either I poison everything I touch -- the theory endorsed by my family and ex-girlfriends -- or victim status is the new Gold Standard.

UPDATE VII. "One of the dumbest excuses for a politically motivated character assassination piece I’ve ever read," says Little Green Footballs (as commenter AJB notes, copy and paste the link, don't click it -- Johnson likes his redirect tricks). I knew I'd get some pull-quotes out of this thing!

His commenters are, as always, a pleasure: "They called for the EXECUTION of all Republicans some time back." (I missed that -- anybody got a link?) "The only thing impressive about Edroso is his unrelenting stupidity." (And there is only thing in the world worse than being witty, and that is not being witty.) My favorite: "I know you're reading, Roy. Fuck you." Noted! Oh wait... my new favorite: "There are better men and women than Edroso overseas right now who are making sure Edroso can continue to waste his time in comfort..." For it's "Tommy" this, and "Tommy" that, and "Tommy, in the Voice/Which is run by 'omosexuals, and wickedly pro-choice/They're makin' mock of rightwing Tommies, mock of you 'n' me/But they'll laugh with bloody mouths come our big fagtown killin' spree!"

UPDATE VIII. McMegan keeps digging: "The point, aimai, is that 'lipstick' is being used as a perjorative. Lipstick is only something that is worn by women." Christ Jesus. I guess I can no longer refer to men who "skirt" the issue or "dress" themselves, lest I be jailed by the Canadian Human Rights Commission for gendered criticism. Maybe I'll share a cellblock with Mark Steyn, and we can reenact the bathhouse scene from Quadrophenia, only with show tunes.

UPDATE IX. Been away, what'd I miss? I see Prof. Althouse has joined McArdle in denouncing me for sexist vocabulary -- using precisely the same kind of Bizarro logic I mocked in her entry. Boy, these two are about ready for a Freaky Friday remake, aren't they?

And I'm not just saying that because they're chicks: I feel similarly about Jonah Goldberg and Frank J. of IMAO, Goldberg's sometime collaborator, whose contribution is mostly imputations of girlishness ("The Pink Frilly Paper for Sissies"). I'd especially love to see them in an environmental production which locked them in a room together with only a single Wii remote to sustain them. We should have the audience out of there in 20 minutes.

Rising above the rest is Armed Liberal, who thinks that by making fun of opinion journalists, I am harming the Democratic Party's prospects with ordinary people. Yeah, I can hear them in shot-and-a-beer joints all over America: "My daddy was a Claremont Institute fellow! Don't these Democrats have any respect for our think tanks?"

Well, that about wraps it up. Back to our regularly scheduled sexism, elitism, and divisive "humor" soon!
HOT AIR. "Is Global Warming the Left's Version of Rapture?" asks Michael Goldfarb at the Weekly Standard. Unsurprisingly (but here I am revealing my liberal dogmatism), Goldfarb answers in the affirmative:
But hasn't the left embraced global warming as their own version of the Rapture? They do not harbor any doubt, but believe with the fervor of religious conviction that the end of civilization will come as a result of consumerism. And they seem completely unaware that in believing this, they have shed the very skepticism that is supposed to define the secular left.
Even if you accept that opinion journalism is not an exact science, this is a pretty outlandish charge, so Goldfarb offers evidence: James E. Hansen (M.S., Astronomy, Ph.D., Physics, Director, NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies) complained that a textbook written by rightwingers gives "the mistaken impression that the scientific evidence of global warming is doubtful and uncertain." This is weak as millenarianism goes, but perhaps elsewhere Dr. Hansen has thundered on the coming End Times:
CO2 will become the dominant climate forcing, if its emissions continue to increase and aerosol effects level off. Business-as-usual scenarios understate the potential for CO2 emission reductions from improved energy efficiency and de-carbonization of fuels. Based on this potential and current CO2 growth trends, we argue that limiting the CO2 forcing increase to 1 Wm2 in the next 50 years is plausible.

Indeed, CO2 emissions from fossil fuel use declined slightly in 1998 and again in 1999 (71), while the global economy grew. However, achieving the level of emissions needed to slow climate change significantly is likely to require policies that encourage technological developments to accelerate energy efficiency and decarbonization trends.
Technological developments to accelerate energy efficiency and decarbonization trends! He might as well be roaming the streets in sackcloth, holding a big cartoon sign.

Maybe we can get a better idea of the state of play from conservative deep-thinkers like Yuval Levin, who at The New Atlantis admits that conservatives "do have a complex relationship with science," which he proceeds to demonstrate. While the scientific innovations of Isaac Newton et alia led to a "rational new political philosophy" in England, it led in France to a "zeal to overthrow tradition and replace it with rational design." This latter tendency led in turn to the Terror, "the gruesome experiment in applied social science called communism," John Dewey, and other leftist horrors, including environmentalism -- for, while Luval generously concedes that "not all environmentalism indulges in such anti-humanism" as you see in preferred rightwing pull-quote sources, "this view of nature calls for human restraint and humility—and for diminished expectations of human power and potential."

The result: liberals turn their human power away from issues such as Iran and North Korea, and toward cults of the "authentic" and "organic" and other manifestations of Gaia, while, presumably, the conservative advocates of scientific enquiry (not much heard from in Luval's essay since the days of Hobbes and Locke) turn theirs toward thwarting liberals through such practitioners as Michael Goldfarb.

I'm not sure what to make of this global warming stuff, but when I see it associated with hysteria (both the psychological and comic varieties), I notice that it mostly comes from the other side.

Monday, April 14, 2008

THE DMOP DRUM CIRCLE RECONVENES. Dr. Mrs. Ole Perfesser is again decrying the degraded status of males in the United States of Gynocracy. Her angle this time:
Are men in this country keeping other men down? Do you ever wonder if part of the anti-male bias in this country has to do with various groups of men keeping other groups of men down?
Sensing that broaching the delicate subject of male complicity will upset the phallodrones, DMOP rushes to reassure:
I am not saying here that women are not responsible for anti-male bias — they are.
Whew! You can sense sphincters releasing all across her readership.

They needn't have clenched: It is men entirely unlike her readers, DMOP shows, who have done the dirty work. Among her examples of anti-male males, she cites unnamed college professors who "come into every faculty meeting harping about the need to give a step-up to the women in the department or they demand that a minority be hired for some position." So it would seem that specifically white males, those lowliest of Epsilons, have to fear the race- and gender-quislings of the faculty lounge. But those working in "the 'justice' system" are less discriminating, and in divorce cases are prone to award custody of children to their mothers.

Having run out of professions of which she and her family have personal experience, DMOP goes straight to class warfare -- rich males are doing the lioness' share of the selling-out:
Bill Gates made his fortune by using the capitalist system — now that he has his billions, this system is only worthy of his contempt. And don’t get me started on what Bill Clinton has done with sexual harassment law that has left men in his wake vulnerable to lawsuits and losing their livelihoods and their reputations.
She fails to mention Clinton's equal culpability in leaving Presidents vulnerable to impeachment proceedings. As always, the real fun is in the comments, where the suffering hordes offer grim fantasies of the future...
The extreme form of this would be men who support genderless marriage... The women impregnate themselves with the sperm donor of their choosing and never even have to interact with those lowly regular men. Gentlemen, you are facilitating emasculation.
...analysis of the treasonous males...
I would add that alpha males often try to keep younger men down… because they do not want the competition. And if an alpha male professor is surrounded by young female assistant professors, women whose careers he has championed, doesn’t this feel a little like having a harem??
...horror stories from the world of the arts...
I’m in the cast of a theatrical production of “Peter Pan” that opens tonight. Wendy’s mother is portrayed as a wonderful, loving, and wise woman. Wendy’s father is a pompous, clueless, whining jackass.
...and, of course, fanatasies of vicarious vengeance:
Unfortunately, even these women will become unhappy because they will never be satisfied marrying a normal man starting out in life because they’re spoiled rotten. They’ll make excuses for their singleness as the fact “their professional success intimidates” men when its nothing of the sort.
DMOP's T-group has made much progress, which is to say, they have someone else to blame besides (though not excluding) bitches. Perhaps next time they'll build a bonfire and assign themselves spirit names. Recovery is distant at best, but at least in the meantime these put-upon souls have their safe space, and for that we should all be grateful.
RED SCARE. At the flagship of the American liberal conspiracy, Bill Kristol opens his column on Obama, entitled "The Mask Slips":
I haven’t read much Karl Marx since the early 1980s, when I taught political philosophy at the University of Pennsylvania...
The temptation to stop there is great, and you might as well succumb; there's no need to parse Kristol's innuendo because it has already been mainstreamed. Senator Joe Lieberman on a Fox News Radio program:
NAPITALIANO: Hey Sen. Lieberman, you know Barack Obama, is he a Marxist as Bill Kristol says might be the case in today’s New York Times? Is he an elitist like your colleague Hillary Clinton says he is?

LIEBERMAN: Well, you know, I must say that’s a good question...
We could stick around for Lieberman's softer summation (he'd "hesitate" to call Obama a Marxist; doesn't say how long), but again, why bother? While Lieberman weakly back-pedals, the smaller Republican operatives put their pedals to the metal ("That [Obama would] fall on the philosophy of Karl Marx should come as no surprise. His wife, his preacher, and his friend Bill Ayers all already believe it...").

Now the accusations of Marxism are being amplified by a guy who calls himself Confederate Yankee. Again, we could just leave it at that even if he weren't already familiar with his lousy writing: No particular restatement of slurs could match the bold stroke of having someone who still mourns the War of Northern Aggression accuse Obama of supporting an alien political philosophy, association with "cranks," "warped views of religion, the Constitution, and America," and being "blind to our better nature as a nation."

Of course you could read them all verbatim, as I have, just to make sure you haven't misunderstood them. You can even read, in hopes of getting a broader perspective of conservative opinion, the more moderate among them, like Stephen Bainbridge, who says that Obama's merely a socialist. In the end you'll be stuck in the same place, that is, in the 1950s, reliving the days when mainstream Democratic candidates could count on being called Communists.
LILEKS AT THE MOVIES. Or in his Sanctum Jaspertorum, anyway, gazing upon some cultural artifact digital technology has delivered. (You can tell because he's not complaining about tubercular sputum.) He saw There Will Be Blood. Hey, I saw that! But I missed the culture-war angle:
It kept my attention, and I enjoyed watching it, even though I felt myself disengaging from it by degrees in the last hour. Let's just not tell ourselves that it's a mark of great artistic insight to have the character get more insular and nasty as he gets richer, shall we? I'm not saying we should have lots of movies like The Biography of Andrew Carnegie...
Oh, how he would long for the days when Hollywood portrayed tycoons as wonderful, ordinary fellows, if such days existed. Imagine Lileks sent back in time to write about Citizen Kane: "Nice of Mackiewicz to let Harold Ickes write the script for him. See Kane, bloated with ambition and dollars! I'm sure Fatty Arbuckle would have something to say about that. And there's some Spanish-American War revisionism thrown in for good measure. No blood for sugar cane, man! While Hearst was protecting our children from marihuana, Welles was turning Shakespeare over to Negroes," etc.

I expect he reads (G)Nat Atlas Shrugged as a bedtime story.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

INK-STAINED RETCH. The opening of a museum dedicated to journalism stirs the wrath of our old friend, Zillion-Star General Ralph "Blood 'n' Guts" Peters:
There's no museum in the vicinity of the National Mall dedicated to our military.
Tells you a lot about the vanity and priorities of today's governing and informational "elite," doesn't it?
On the Mall a hippie couldn't spit without hitting a bronze servicemember or a military memorial. It's practically a Valle de los Caídos. But there's no reasoning with the General, and thank God, because that gives him a whole column to expound on the lowest form of life on earth:
Let's be honest: Journalists are parasites. Whether war correspondents or metro-desk editor, we live off the deeds and misdeeds of others. They do, we tell. Without the soldiers, cops and firemen (or the politicians, terrorists and criminals), there ain't no stories.
He forgot death-sniffing dogs and Britney Spears. But, again, leave him the floor:
Of course, any biologist will tell you that there are good parasites and bad ones, so we're not condemning the entire profession here. Just noting that journalists piggyback on the courage or failings of others.
Kind of like novelists and playwrights, and all those other inky bastards who engage the world with a lousy pen instead of a manly bayonet. Why, Washington gives a whole library to Shakespeare, who never shouldered a rifle.

The General digs in: once journalism was "something of an outsiders' profession," but "today, big-media journalism is a white-collar, insiders' profession that grows more elitist by the year." Well, it is too bad that "big-media journalism" has grown more elitist, though I doubt big-corporate, big-pharmaceutical, etc. are hiring many kids off the turnip truck anymore. (Astonishingly, some of my friends and I have written for the media without J-school degrees. Perhaps we were the equivalent of mercenaries, though in that case I expect we would have been better paid.)
From "All The President's Men" forward, journalism was the ultimate career for the well-educated, well-connected young voyeur who didn't want any bottom-line responsibility (just a byline, thanks). No need to get dirty, at least not for very long. Just make fun of the young soldiers or cops who get dirty every day.
There is something to this. Just scan the headlines in today's Washington Post: "Police Say Man Has Robbed Six Banks Since January" -- clearly implying that the cops are too stupid to catch him. And: "Iraq Fires Policemen, Soldiers" -- there's a twofer! Couldn't the Post have just referred to them as "downsized" and left them their dignity?

To further prove his point, the General bets you can't "name one decorated hero from Iraq or Afghanistan," while some TV newsmen may be familiar to you by sight. And I'll bet you know who Simon Cowell is, too, you treasonous bastards.

His rage spent, the General pleads for simple justice:
Would it be too much to ask for a little humility on the part of the privileged? Yesterday, at Ft. Bragg, I met a Special Forces sergeant-major whose courage won him the Distinguished Service Cross. He'll never earn what a TV anchor earns.
Insolent civilians may be tempted to mention the earning disparities between TV anchors and schoolteachers, home health care workers, etc. But that kind of talk won't fly with the General. For him, your respect for the Armed Services is not satisfactory until you admit you aren't fit to lace their boots -- unless you're a Republican politician, and even then you dast not cross him or he will unscrew your head and shit down your neck. Now drop and give him twenty, maggots!
CLASS WAR CONTINUES. Conservatives are still beating on Obama for his Pennsylvania voter remarks, and all this weekend work (plus the understandable need to distinguish oneself in a crowded filed) has made them reach a bit for angles. At Commentary Jennifer Rubin offers the last defense of Hillary Clinton you will ever hear from her:
Now conservatives might guffaw over her new-found appreciation for the Second Amendment, but there is something inarguably more down-to-earth ( and if not “normal” than at least “ordinary”) about Hillary Clinton than Obama. It has nothing to do with race or class (liberal bloggers want to remind us he was on scholarship to that tony Hawaii prep school) and everything to do with their life experiences. Clinton is a product of middle class, Midwestern parents and has spent a chunk of her adult life in Arkansas. She may not trust Americans to read a home loan document, but she knows them well enough to never let slip from her lips words of cultural condescension.
"Nothing to do with race or class" would seem to invalidate most of her argument, bringing it down to the notion that Clinton is better than Obama at putting it over on plain folks, surely not the Commentary writer's field of expertise.

Over at Classical Values, we find a clangorous attempt at race-card reversal:
At the University of Chicago students and staff are treated like Royalty and the neighborhood folks are treated like servants.

At my son's graduation there last summer almost all the wait staff were blacks from the neighborhood dressed like servants in the Jim Crow South (I lived there as a youth). It had an offensive feel to it. Just the way Jim Crow felt offensive to me.

That is the environment Obama was used to. His behavior fits in well with the people he associated with. And how do you behave towards servants? Well you certainly don't get into any kind of personal conversations with them.
Comparing white, rural gun enthusiasts to blacks under Jim Crow is hard to top, but the palm as usual goes to Crunchy Rod Dreher, who slags Obama for "condescension" to the common people immediately after one of his "Benedict Option" posts about going off the grid with a nice garden in preparation for Armageddon. Whatever difficulty Obama may have in explaining his remarks to the good people of Pennsylvania, I can guarantee he would have an easier time of it than Dreher would expounding on the need to "batten down the hatches and keep the family and the community's life and culture together during extraordinarily difficult, chaotic times," with "the dying of the bees" and "the strange weather patterns" as two of the Seven Signs. Unless, of course, Peter Kazlouski left some followers behind.
ARRESTED BY REALITY. Police hassled a bunch of people for dancing at the Jefferson Memorial! Only the dancers weren't dirty hippies, they were libertarians! To the barricades leaps conservatarian Peter Suderman, who, while explaining that "I hold both police officers as people and police as an institution in pretty high esteem," wonders
What does an arresting officer in any circumstance like this possibly think he or she is going to accomplish? Give his buddies something to do for the night? Maybe he’s got a paperwork fetish? Just can’t wait to take the paddy wagon for a spin?
The easy answer is, the officers think they are accomplishing their job, in accordance with the "Broken Windows" theory:
Popularized in New York City under the Giuliani administration, “Broken Windows” calls for the police to arrest people for petty violations and to investigate suspicious people in high-crime areas. Theoretically, arrests made for petty violations will provide apprehensions of people who are wanted for crimes that are more serious.
In this case "pretty violations" can be anything -- Public Nuisance is a good one. Failure to Disperse is another. There's no end to what a good officer can come up with, especially when you talk back to him.

I don't know what Suderman thinks of Broken Windows, but he's certainly a fan of Giuliani's "toughness," which reputation was based in no small measure on his willingness to arrest practically anybody. I daresay he finds it less appealing when his buddies are on the wrong end of the nightstick. With any luck he'll remember this when the cops sweep some miscreants who can't afford iPods.

Failing that, for his own sake I hope he has at least absorbed the ancient folk wisdom that you always try to swing with a policeman/And never ring-a-ding a policeman.

UPDATE. Peter Suderman tells me: "I don't find Giuliani all that appealing a candidate; my libertarian instincts are too strong." (We all talk to each other, you know; in fact we post all this crap from the same large, industrially-lit crap farm.) His post led me another way, but I believe him. Of course now it's days later and no one will notice, demonstrating once again the educational method of the blogosphere.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

SHORTER ROD DREHER: I am troubled by the radical, anti-white, black power politics of Bill Cosby.
CLASS WILL TELL. A lot of people think Obama's comments on some Pennsylvania voters were gaffish. Mickey Kaus, for example, accuses him of "gruesomely off-key condscension toward downscale Rustbelt voters." "Downscale Rustbelt voters" is Kaus' own formulation, and one that would not play well in any bar full of Yuengling and gimme caps. But let's be fair: Kaus doesn't give a shit about those people, and probably imagines his point about Obama's elitism will be made to them on his behalf by talk radio hosts and local White Pride spokespeople.

After months of hearing that the Obama campaign has no substance, you might think these upscale Rushbelt commentators would welcome Obama's bold, public analysis of how Republicans bamboozle poorer voters. They themselves talk about this sort of thing endlessly in their media control towers; were they serious about what they say, they would be delighted to see the conversation go, so to speak, mainstream and into the streets.

Of course, they aren't taking the opportunity for discussion, but for politicking -- in the precise manner Obama described. This leaves it to more sympathetic voices to engage Obama's point -- and some do, but more tentatively, perhaps shaking a little in their tweeds at the imaginary thunder out of Lancaster and New Castle. But many others punt, conceding the ridiculous Republican point ("Obama was essentially claiming that the reason people are not voting for him is because they are bitter"), and presumably hoping we can all get back to discussing the important things, like which health care plan should be offered for sacrifice to the pharmaceutical lobby, or which excuse should be offered for staying in Iraq through the next decade.

There was a lot of enthusiasm for a "dialogue on race" some weeks ago -- not sincere, of course, but at least they felt they needed to pretend. A real dialogue on class, however, is something they will never countenance. Because no matter what happens in the former case, they know (most of them) that they'll always be white, but even the most firmly esconced at the top of the class structure nurtures some fearful awareness that the great wheel has been known to spin.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

I AM A REACTIONARY. One reason I enjoy covering Rod Dreher is that he rekindles my love for America. We are surrounded by conservatives who insist that they love America, and describe it as a horrible place where the unfortunate deserve only the back of the hand of power, which must be maintained by endless wars. After a bellyful of their patriotism I sometimes begin to doubt my own. Maybe they're right, I begin to think: maybe the ugly America they celebrate is the real America, and I have only deluded myself that it was something better.

But when brother Rod denounces the West, as he is increasingly prone to do, my defensive reaction troubles me less. Because while I would agree with him, and his sources, that there are many things wrong with this country, his judgment of general rottenness on our way of life so offends me that I turn into a regular Yankee Doodle Dandy. When he says "[Patrick] Deneen raises the possibility that events -- economic, especially -- will do more to enhance traditionalist conservatism's prospects with the public than anything else," and I realize he is praying for catastrophe to befall us so that we will all come running to Jesus and the Old Ways for protection, I feel the sort of things that liberals of old must have felt when student radicals threatened to burn the motherfucker down: this is still my country, and if we are ridiculous about a number of things, I will certainly side with it against the likes of you.

Dreher does the trick for me better than a gibbering Islamic radical any day. The Islamist in most cases is only amplifying an ancient grudge exacerbated by bad treatment and a lack of video games and pornography that might divert and winnow his rage: Dreher enjoys the privileges and grass-fed beef of a great nation, and still judges it damned, the fucking hippie.

I get a similar, America-loving rush from some of The Anchoress' spasms. She begins a recent post with traditional laments about the liberal media, but soon escalates, with extensive self-quotation, to talk of a "painless coup" that has already made a hellhole of the Land of the Free: not only has it corrupted the noble rustics "Aunt Sally" and "Uncle Jim" into accepting abortion and tits 'n' swears on the TV -- it has actually made "our beautiful churches into bare concrete monstrosities (ready-made for quick-conversion into temples to secular reason)..."

She goes on thereafter about Liberty and Truth and the American President, but my mind yet dazzles that she doesn't just think we've picked the wrong leaders -- she believes some demonic force has possessed us, one that not only dirties popular entertainment and allows wrongful social policy but has actually twisted the minds of her co-religionists to build ugly, idolatrous temples. She doesn't just think the political tug-of-war has lately failed to go her way -- she thinks America is depraved. And when she comes to her prescription...
I don’t have a good feeling. I think we really have to get our free - and by free I mean unencumbered and disenthralled - press back. And soon.
...I get the queasy feeling that she isn't talking about electing McCain, or a slate of Republicans, or even pushing the kind of draconian legislation that usually emanates from the snake-handler wing of that party. She wants to drive out the demons. And who knows how far she would be willing to go to accomplish this sacred task?

Heaven knows I get mad about what's going on in this country, and often treat its leaders, opinion or otherwise, and even its citizens with raw contempt. So I'm thankful that Dreher and The Anchoress are around to set me straight. The American people are often ridiculous and sometimes do horrible things, and I have turned my wrath on a broad array of our native fixers, crackers, dupes, dopes, and scumbags. But they are still my people. I too want more than I could possibly deserve, chafe at well-meant and even reasonable restrictions, and prefer a good time to a Great Awakening. And in the last ditch I'll take my stand with our credit-, pleasure-, and freedom-addicted folk against our would-be saviors.
PRE-EMPTY STRIKES. At Hot Air, Allahpundit sees through Chairman Dean's claim that "Mitt Romney was the candidate I feared the most in the general":
He feared a guy who couldn’t beat McCain in New Hampshire despite the huge financial advantage, months of early campaigning, and proximity to the state he governed? He feared the social con whose faith and very belated conversion to the cause left him suspect in the eyes of much of the Christian base? Whose own most devout supporters felt compelled to beg him in the pages of the New York Times to stop running such a phony campaign?
I understand his rage. Dean is just doing a little pre-season politicking -- because that's what it's all about right now: laying down clouds of stink that operatives hope will linger enough that citizens can catch a whiff of them when they start paying attention. And, with the help of lazy reporters, perhaps they will.

Republicans, of course, have been doing the same kind of thing, claiming that the Democratic contenders are knocking each other out before the main event ("...we will look back on the Clinton-Obama contest, and its looming ugly endgame, as the low point of identity politics, and the beginning of a turning away..."). I doubt it has been much worse this year than it was in pre-seasons past. Those of us who, thanks to some horrible brain chemistry imbalance, are prone to notice this sort of thing are just noticing it more than usual.

Those mostly apolitical souls who are, perhaps optimistically, lately referred to as "voters" are probably not asking yet which candidate best represents their interests. They're probably asking "Four bucks for a gallon of milk?" etc.
I DO LOVE THEE SO THAT I WILL SHORTLY SEND THY SOUL TO HEAVEN. The even-when-you're-right-you're-wrong mode of conservative argument finds a new taker in National Review's Mark Krikorian, who thinks America should bow to our Chinese Olympic overlords and wants to know where Democrats get off spoiling the Party:
But does anyone think we'd be seeing all this commotion over Tibet in Paris and San Francisco if the ChiComs were still in their Maoist stage, sending educated people to work in the countryside and spouting all that revolutionary class struggle baloney? Of course not. It's only because China's in its Pinochet/Franco stage that lefty "world opinion" now has its knickers in a twist about their hip imaginary Tibetan friends, the monks of Shangri-la.
Contrast this unsupported "What If" to the well-documented change in conservative attitude toward China over the years: from rage at "Red China" to Nixonian accommodation to our present state, in which free-world corporations exploit China's ample cheap labor market, and rightwingers applaud because it feeds their ultimate fantasy: capitalism without freedom.

I seldom wonder if they have guilty consciences about it, but I think Krikorian might. What else explains this bit:
If you're a Tibetan trying to free your country from the clutches of the gangster regime in Peking, you'll take your allies wherever you can find them. But the trendiness and superficiality of this "free Tibet" business, from people who couldn't recognize Tibet if they tripped over it in the street, is striking.
Maybe he thinks the monks, despite all evidence, really prefer the slow road of laissez-faire liberation favored by conservatives, who really "get" them, to the noisome protests of hippies. Maybe he agrees with the Chinese that the Dalai Lama is a false leader to his people, something like Al Sharpton -- a peace pimp, or some such. Or maybe something inside Krikorian rebels against the accommodation he feels he must make with the grim demands of capital, and drives him to grotesque fantasies.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

RED DAWN. Bad enough he hates white people; Barry Obama's a communist too. Ace O'Spades, fresh from his Time magazine coronation as "The conservative/ libertarian answer to the Daily Kos" (with, in evidence, an Ace quote about how black folk are prone to "virulent anti-Semitism"), tells us that Obama had a "mentor" who was a communist, and Michelle wants more pie. Connect the dots! But how does this pertain to actual policy in an Obama dictatorship?
Barack Obama is very vague about his actual politics and few have bothered asking.
Well, he does have a website -- but you have to know how to read it. For example:
The cost of our debt is one of the fastest growing expenses in the federal budget. This rising debt is a hidden domestic enemy, robbing our cities and states of critical investments in infrastructure like bridges, ports, and levees...
Critical investments! Sounds like a Five-Year Plan in the works to me. Let's dig deeper:
Let's set high standards for our schools and give them the resources they need to succeed. Let's recruit a new army of teachers...
An army of teachers! A barefoot army, no doubt -- and one already trained in the ways of the cadre by the AFT. That's a new Cultural Revolution in vitro, or my name isn't Jonah Goldberg.

Seen from this perspective, Obama's pledge to invade Pakistan looks less like the sort of saber-rattling Americans expect from their Presidential candidates, and more like a coded message to sleeper cells: comes the Revolution, Pakistan will be the first satellite in our Union of American Socialist Republics.

Please let this get around. I mean, he's black, he's pink, and (like all Democrats) he's yellow -- add cyan, and we have our winning electoral strategy -- registration black with 100% coverage!