Wednesday, September 30, 2009

This was my fourth U2 show. The last time I went, eight years ago, I wrote a piece for NRO entitled "Shut Up and Sing." It hardly seems possible, but there were more politics this time.
John J. Miller has an inflated notion of his own importance.
And I did leave the stadium wondering a couple of things. Yes, the Iranian democracy protestors are important and deserve our support. But what about the voters in Afghanistan, who will either keep the vote or lose it based on decisions that world leaders (especially just a few miles from FedEx Field) are making right now? If Bono said a single word about them, I didn't hear it. But then public support of that would have been a little more controversial, no? The same with Aun San Suu Kyi. What a brave lady. She also deserves our support. But how about some words for jailed dissidents in Cuba? Unfortunately, as causes go, theirs is not as politically safe.

One more thing: When you're getting all preachy about freedom and democracy around the world, how about a word of thanks for American soldiers, especially the ones who have died trying to spread it?
By "Shut Up and Sing," Miller apparently means "Sing What We Tell You To or Shut Up."

This is the whole culture war in a nutshell: free marketers outraged that the market has rewarded something they don't like, and practicing to be commissars in the totalitarian states of their minds.

Monday, September 28, 2009

NEW VOICE COLUMN UP (sigh, back to the grind) about the rightblogger judgment of Obama's U.N. speech and its aftermath. Their traditional routine of portraying Obama as a dangerous naif is difficult to prove, as so much diplomacy is played out behind closed doors, but easily asserted. I notice that Obama's pre-knowledge of Iran's nuclear adventures is now offered as proof of his malfeasance, as he "concealed it from the public." Coming from fans of the shadowy Bush foreign policy, this is doubly rich, and I wonder how they (or anyone else) would like a thoroughly sunlit U.S. intelligence establishment. Maybe it's time for a new Church Committee? It should be easy to convene, with conservatives now on board.

Added yuks from Legal Insurrection, which indulges in a long fantasy of Obama as President in 1943, in which "instead of meeting only with Churchill and Stalin, Obama would have met with Hitler and Hirohito, if Obama were to be 'consistent.' The free and democratic nations which emerged after democracy was imposed on them from outside would be quite different from the Japan and Germany we now know and love." I hope this becomes a series, with cartoon Obama fucking up all of U.S. history -- maybe telling young George Washington to go on and chop down that cherry tree, but spare the oak, so he can get ACORN. Haw! Maybe I could double my income working for their side.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Our country skates on thin ice today wherein that thin line separates our economy and security (domestic and foreign) from very serious trouble. As Kevin noted earlier, some believe Republicans are leaderless while Democrats are out of control. Others believe Democrats are leaderless while Republicans are irrelevant. Whichever is the case, an earthquake is coming. Evidence of it is in the popular culture where apocalyptic stories permeate television and books. (Hell, even bomb shelters are on the rise (pardon the metaphor).) One wonders if anyone in Washington is actually paying attention.
At about the same time, Mary Eberstadt pens an Irving Kristol appreciation, in which she praises his and his aciolytes skills at culture-warring:
That was how he could speak with such authority about "their turbulent sexuality, their drug addiction, their desperate efforts to invent new 'lifestyles,' and their popular music, at once Dionysiac and mournful." I remember those words leaping from the page upon reading them years later. In New York in the 1980s, new wave and punk rock were still reigning but on the way out, hip-hop and techno on the way in, and like everyone else I'd spent plenty of time slumming in clubs and other waystations of the popular culture, imbibing nihilism. Yet here was Irving, a 65-year-old bookworm who probably couldn't have found CBGB's if he were dropped off in front of it on a Friday night (and certainly wouldn't have gone in if he had), managing a decade later in just a few words to speak more truth about the scene than any of its itinerant habitu├ęs
Thus Kristol alerted us to the dangers of nightclubs.
As he put it in one 1993 essay that made waves called "My Cold War," what saddened him above all were "the clear signs of rot and decadence germinating within American society--a rot and decadence that was no longer the consequence of liberalism but was the actual agenda of contemporary liberalism. .  .  . It is an ethos that aims simultaneously at political and social collectivism on the one hand, and moral anarchy on the other. It cannot win, but it can make us all losers."
Thus Kristol alerted us to the nightmare of the Clinton years. Also, promiscuous sex and so forth. In other words, the usual Kulturkampf bag of tricks, which aren't selling so well as they once did -- Eberstadt admits that "today, of course, many on the right as well as the left would drive social conservatives from the fold if they could." Well, he got rich off it anyway; R.I.P. and so long, suckers!

It may just be, though, that the millenarianist style is getting a makeover. You don't hear Tea Partiers like the Wizbang crew talking much about how techno and blowjobs are going to kill us all. Their signs and portents are kids singing about Obama and Obama holding a nice smile. They insist that the Common People are as worried about this as they are, as proven by their hunger for "apocalyptic stories" (they can't be talking about Left Behind, can they? Maybe they mean Cougar Town) and bomb shelters as promoted by the Ole Perfesser.

The Get-Ready Man is always with us, but now he has handlers, and they change his wardrobe as times require.

UPDATE: Related: "Is the Left Wing Hoping for Violence?" Or if you prefer, "RELATED: Is the Left-Wing Hoping for Violence?"

UPDATE 2: The Ole Perfesser tells his credulous flock that Iran has plunged us into a new "duck and cover" era. Along with offering the rubes new justification for the shivering panic that is their comfort zone, the Perfesser may believe he is turning The Atomic Cafe to his advantage in a daring culture war raid. This schtick is obviously in its developmental stage, but if he gets any encouragement I expect the Perfesser will next start calling Hillary Clinton Dr. Strangelove, which ought to tickle the many burned-out hippies in the Movement.
THEIR EYES WERE WATCHING GAAAAAAAAH! Just finished Max Blumenthal's Republican Gomorrah: Inside the Movement that Shattered the Party. It has three big themes, two of which are not wholly convincing, but one of which is dead on.

The overarching story is of the complete infestation of the Republican Party by fundamentalist Christians and, as the subtitle suggests, the disastrous results of those agents' many public downfalls in the 2006 and 2008 elections. Blumenthal could have made a whole book (and twice as long) about the origins of the fundamentalist political movement, starting with the theocrat R.J. Rushdoony and proceeding to those who in one way or another were allied with or influenced by him -- the Birchers, Jerry Falwell, Gary North, Francis Shaeffer, et alia -- until we get to the familiar names still prominent in the Religious Right, and their apotheosis in the Administration of born-again George W. Bush. I had almost forgotten how looney Gary Bauer, Jerry Falwell, James Dobson, Tom DeLay and many others were from the very beginning, and never knew how cunningly they networked to achieve their influence.

The escapades of Ted Haggard, Larry Craig, Jim West, Mark Foley and others are still well known, but having their burlesque routines told with full narrative vigor rather than in disjointed news clips helps recapture that halcyon time when the GOP revealed itself as a dysfunctional therapy camp for repressed homosexuals and, with the concatenation of Sarah Palin's negative campaign revelations (and some things that were not so much revealed -- the stuff about George Otis and Bishop Thomas Muthee gets even wackier than the Palin witch doctor video, if you can believe it), makes a stronger case than I would have expected for Blumenthal's implied thesis that the far-out religious component in modern GOP politics reached -- inevitably, it would seem -- a critical mass that "shattered the party" and loosened its grip on power.

Of course there was that tanking economy, too. Also Katrina, persistent military occupations, etc. Blumenthal doesn't say much about these, but I wonder if citizens might have been more likely to avert their eyes if many of these moral catastrophes weren't playing out against a governmental collapse on a national level.

Also, Blumenthal goes in for some group psychology and deduces that the repressionist nature of hardcore Christian dogma -- evidenced by such grisly artifacts as Dobson's Dare to Discipline, hardhat violence, the wacky theories of the anti-gay movement, and the sad case of Matthew Murray, home-school rebel turned psycho killer -- turns its political operators in sado-masochistic freaks who demand either dominion or debasement depending on what side of the Lord they perceive themselves to be on at any given moment. I sort of see the point, as might anyone who reads Rod Dreher* on a regular basis. But it's a lot to load onto a political history of this scope. The bizarre behaviors of the characters will suggest plenty to any attentive reader about the soundness of their belief system, and for me the canned expert opinions actually reduce its impact. (Blumenthal has a tendency to bring in quotes from Erich Fromm and other such analysts, which suggests that he didn't trust the story, depraved as many of its anecdotes are, to make the case for him. It's sort of like adding passages from Freud to a history of Congress in the Gilded Age.)

The clearest success of Republican Gomorrah is as a full-length portrait of the Christianist wing of the modern Republican Party -- a component which, both the book and recent events suggest, may be all that's left of it. It should prove useful background as the GOP tries to integrate the Tea Party people into its fundamentalist redoubt and bring it back to national size. We certainly ought to keep an eye on Mike Huckabee, whom I now know to be crazier than I ever imagined.

*UPDATE. Dreher has actually read an excerpt from the book and gotten something out of it, though he is enraged by "The Nation's disgustingly prejudicial headline on this story, titled 'The Nightmare of Christianity.' Writers almost never write their own headlines, so it's not fair to blame Max Blumenthal for the words..." The title of the article is also the title of the excerpted chapter from the book, and based on a comment by its subject, Matthew Murray.

UPDATE 2. Lots of interesting Suggestions for Further Reading in comments. For chuckling's and perhaps others' benefit, the three themes I saw were 1.) The fundies took over the the Party, 2.) The fundies wrecked the Party, and 3.) The fundies suffer from a specific clinical syndrome. The first is the one I found most convincing -- it seems intuitive, but I'd never seen the case made so well before -- though on further reflection I'm not sure that a wholly-owned GOP would have countenanced John McCain, even given the dramatic circumstances; Blumenthal speeds through that part. You could as easily deduce that the fundamentalists have great but not full power, and it waxes when times are good for them.

That may just be cautious self-restraint, though if they're as crazy as Blumenthal paints them, it's hard to see how they'd summon any restraint at all. And if they aren't capable of riding the brake, why isn't every national nominee a born-again? It begs the question of who else has power there. People like David Brooks seek to position themselves as part of a temporizing if not temperate force, but we all know that's ridiculous. Probably, as I had long suspected, it's lobbyists and C. Montgomery Burns.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

THE CONSERVATIVE REVIVAL PART 45,293. "I think that he rather likes tyrants and dislikes America" -- Michael Ledeen on Obama.

If the viciousness of their discourse alarms you. remember: they're mainly talking to themselves.
A LIVE ONE. Among the pleasures of this gig from which I have been too long misdirected is the work of S.T. Karnick, a culture warrior without portfolio whose run at National Review seems to have ended long ago, leaving him to Big Hollywood and other such catch-alls. But he still keeps up a blog full of gems.

Take his review of the new Melrose Place, wherein he finds moral uplift:
Two-thirds of the way through the episode, things get quite interesting as a couple of the decent characters are presented with serious moral dilemmas involving financial and career temptations. A nurse is offered an urgently needed $5,000 to sleep with a man she has just met, and a young filmmaker is offered $100,000 to keep quiet about witnessing an extramarital affair.

The moral implications of these dilemmas are made so clear and taken so seriously that it doesn't really matter what the characters choose; the viewer will be nonetheless encouraged to think about how they would react in such a situation and thus contemplate their own moral probity. That's a good thing, and it's what popular fiction at its best always does.
You can see Dostoevsky looking down from the clouds, nodding solemnly, with an arm slung over Aaron Spelling's shoulder.

Take a stroll through Karnick's obsessive topiary mazes and you will find his denunciation of Rush Limbaugh's V/O on The Family Guy on moral grounds ("For Limbaugh to lend his support to MacFarlane's project in any way indicates which direction Limbaugh's moral compass is pointing. If Limbaugh sees no wrong in it, you have to wonder just how morally reliable his pronouncements on other topics may be"), and his hopeful prediction of a female chastity revival ("If a girl wants to listen to Liz Phair, let her legs get hairy, and go on pro-abortion marches, she's perfectly free to do so; she'll just have greater difficulty in getting the most sought-after guys to go out with her--but if she wants to keep her clothes on she'll have the same problem anyway").

I usually don't bookmark these people, but Karnick is a prime candidate for my prospective easy-layup file.

UPDATE. Readers point out that the Limbaugh item is actually written by somebody else, one Mike Gray. Forgive me, please -- the continued existence of the site was such a shock I just couldn't fathom that Karnick actually got other people to write for it. That's like bringing new passengers aboard the listing Andrea Doria ("Hey, for another twenty minutes, it's still a boat ride!")

Karnick also employs one Jim Lakely, who has a spectacular jeremiad about people who disprespect the suburbs -- which, in the petrie dish of his imagination, becomes the liberals who disrespect the suburbs, and then Obama who hates the suburbs (though he starts the piece with Obama, in apparent recognition that he is the ultimate rightwing money shot). Followers of conservative persecution mania will find familiar Lakely's claim that criticism of, and even jokes about, suburbia mean that "the left wants to impose their version of 'enlightened' urban life on the rest of us." Overnight the brownshirts will turn your beloved K-Mart into a trendy cafe, and force your children to eat panini and gelato.

These names are new to you now, but you'll see them soon at The Atlantic, either as authors, sources, or fiancees.
DRY HEAVES. If the Mackenzie Philips incest charges weren't enough to induce nausea, did you know there's a culture war angle as well? Mark Steyn:
But don't worry, the "free love" crowd stuck around long enough to leave a lot of sad damaged people in their wake.
George Roche III was unavailable for comment. But we may yet hear from Tony Marino.

Oddly enough, I'm reading Republican Gomorrah right now, which makes me wonder why these people didn't shut up years ago.
THE BIG CON GOES INTERNATIONAL. Sarah Palin gave in Hong Kong a speech to bankers and investors which, from the limited excerpts available to an excluded press, sounds pretty much like what she might have given at a Fritters, Alabama Rotary luncheon. The Wall Street Journal, perhaps under advisement, swapped out its earlier, risible excerpts for fuller risible excerpts. It is reported that some people walked out of the speech -- "Palin-haters," says Allahpundit; who knew the tentacles of American lieberal media reached all the way to Hong Kong? Regrettably, no quotes were captured from attendees regarding Palin's denunciation of the effects of cap-and-trade on American farming, nor on her remarks about death panels. Maybe the crowd was a little parochial that way.

The usual suspects boo-yah Palin ("Palin gives ‘em hell in Hong Kong"), which seems strange, given that she chose to sell the natives on human rights by telling them "it’s not just a U.S. idea. They’re very much more than that. They’re enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights" and other non-American documents. Maybe this is Palin's idea of internationalism, but she'll have to disown it when she gets back to Yahoo Central, lest the rednecks suspect she has gone Trilateral.

Anyway Palin's training-wheels comeback proceeds apace. What they have to do now is find a way for her to give a Nobel Prize acceptance speech. Maybe it can be arranged for Alan Greenspan to win and send her to Oslo as a surrogate. Then she can tell the astonished Norwegians what Levi Johnston is really like.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

ALSO: BRING BACK TURN-ON. I'm on one of my TV sabbaticals, but ABC's new comedy shows have been advertising in the subways, and on the internet too. And that's all the negative reenforcement I need.

In Hank, Kelsey Grammer stretches, plays a pompous ass. He was rich, now he's poor; he and his hate-filled family move to Virginia. ("He's out as CEO and over his head as DAD!") In Modern Family, there's a gay couple; a May-December couple (actually more of a Cinco de Mayo-Halloween couple) played by Al Bundy and a young, tranquilized Charo; and a non-descript couple. All have kids and hi-jinks. Speaking of non-descript, Patricia Heaton returns to the comedy rat-race in The Middle. I can't tell what it's supposed to be about except the humorous joylessness of parenthood. And Cougar Town is about how attractive actresses like Courteney Cox can't get dates because they're old and live on the set of Desperate Housewives.

I can solve these problems with a little re-imagineering. Heed me, ABC programming executives:

Frasier Crane, Country Psychiatrist. Weary of Seattle, Dr. Frasier Crane moves to the hinterlands, and though the simple folk of Oatmeal, Nebraska are wary at first, Crane establishes himself in the pilot by winning the trust of Soapy, a long-retired tinker with Gabby Hayes whiskers and an omnipresent jug with three x's on it. Soapy at first "don't rightly cotton to no head-shrinker," but starts hanging around Crane's "therapy barn" to snack on "them fancy crackers and cheeses" Crane keeps handy. ("Say, Doc, you're right -- thet Chatoo La Feet do go better with them fancy cheeses than mah corn!") Eventually Soapy tearfully confesses a dark secret ("An' then mah pappy, he commences to take mah draws down... I done was mo-lested!") He agrees to become Crane's first patient, paying for his sessions by whittling him some sconces.

Post-Modern Family. Two years in the future, the characters in Modern Family are all separated and living in a cheaper part of whatever town they were supposed to be living in. They are all hardcore alcoholics, including the children and except for the gay guys, one of whom has a meth lab and supplies the other, maintaining a self-hating post-relationship inspired by Shut Up, Little Man! The non-descript guy now runs a trailer park and trades rent for sex with the Latina chick. And Al Bundy is reunited with Peg, Bud, and Kelly.

Experimentville. This will be the easiest transition of the bunch and improve ratings dramatically as Courteney and the gals figure out that arcane dating rituals have no place in their lives and just start getting it on every which way, enabled by an alternative therapist who has sex with everybody. When the endless stream of implied adventuresome sex becomes numbing, we can liven it up with custody battles and jealous gas-station attendants.

I have no idea what to do with The Middle except maybe give it over to Heaton's anti-abortion politics, which should afford it some much-needed focus.
PREPARE FOR THE NEXT CULTURE WAR OUTRAGE! John Derbyshire's really feeling his oats today. Regarding the new Tosca at the Met:
I wasn't there myself, so I had to rely on the reviews . . . none of which told me the thing I most wanted to know: Did this trendy new production "play up" the torture scene? In the second act, the evil police chief, scheming to have his way with lovely Tosca, has her brought to his apartment. He arranges that Tosca's boyfriend, a political prisoner, is being tortured in an adjacent room, so that Tosca can hear his groans. Hard to see how a lefty producer could pass up the chance to highlight the "relevance" of that. None of the reviews made a point of it, though, so I don't know if the temptation was yielded to.
This is a set-up. It's impossible to believe that Derbyshire doesn't read the New York Post, which today reveals that "[director Luc] Bondy Bondy downplayed the glamour to evoke the horrors of torture as an interrogation technique." After a suitable pause Derbyshire will race back to the scene to demand an investigation of the National Endowment for the Arts' funding of the Met.

Jay Nordlinger must be on vacation.
QUAGMIRE. Michael Barone:
On the Sunday talk shows a day before Woodward's story appeared, Obama said he had not yet decided on a strategy in Afghanistan. "I'm certainly not one who believes in indefinite occupations of other countries," he said on NBC's "Meet the Press," as if the United States were occupying a country against the wishes of most of its inhabitants to the detriment of "the people." Shades of those early 1980s Marxist Latin America tracts.
To back up Barone's logic, here's noted National Review Marxist John Derbyshire on Afghanistan:
Am I missing something? Seems straightforward to me. (1) Go there in force. (2) Break their stuff and kill their leaders. (3) Tell them loud and clear: If you host our enemies again, we'll be back. (4) Go home. (5) Lather, rinse, repeat.

How is this difficult? What need is there for an eight-year occupation? Eight years? This is nuts.
Derbyshire has the advantage of insanity. Barone has been remarkably placid about the conduct of the Afghan adventure from the beginning:
The collapse of the Taliban in Afghanistan is not yet complete as this is written, and it may take months to track down Osama bin Laden and other al Qaeda leaders in their caves. But it seems likely -- not certain, but likely -- that America and its allies will not need large amounts of manpower and materiel in Afghanistan. They can be deployed elsewhere.
In subsequent years what Barone has mainly noticed about Afghanistan is the presumed effectiveness of informal diplomacy ("There are lessons aplenty in this story for us today. One is that the kindness of American soldiers -- the candy bombers -- can be a national asset"), and the perfidy of Democrats ("It is true that many Democratic primary voters and caucusgoers are slavering at the prospect of American defeat") and the press ("Why haven't there been more Espionage Act prosecutions?"). Now he's worried by an allegedly Marxist prejudice against indefinite occupation. Come to think of it, Derbyshire may not have all that much of an advantage,

Whether they believe President Obama's eight-month chunk of the eight-year occupation is a failure because he's a Marxist or because he is insufficiently willing to emulate General Zod, it is refreshing to see these folks exercised about the fate of Afghanistan again, at least till the next ACORN scandal. But as there is little hope of meaningful action in the graveyard of empires, Barone will be back eventually to tell us why the Bush occupation was much more successful than the Obama one.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

THE SCANDAL WIDENS, DEEPENS, LOCOMOTES, ETC. How's it going with NationalEndowmentfortheArtsGate? Andrew Klavan:
Let’s not even concern ourselves with the fact that White House official Buffy Wicks directed the artists to channel their efforts through, a White House website with ties to the corrupt Acorn.
No problem.
It doesn’t matter that it didn’t actually offer these artists money in exchange for propaganda; its very presence on the line constituted an implied offer of access. It doesn’t matter that the artists on the call were already Obama supporters.
I have to say, the man makes a powerful argument. I smell Congressional investigation.
And whether or not these artists will bite into the apple of governmental corruption -- whether or not they’ll allow their creativity to be guided by the blandishments of the state -- the phone call is proof of the depths of this administration’s intentions to corrupt.
What adds force to these blockbuster revelations is Klavan's status as an author of books, which adds credibility to his claim that "in seeking to enlist the arts, [the Administration] has taken this overbearing and ultimately corrupting practice to the deepest and most spiritual level we know." Conservatives who have spent their entire adult lives condemning all American artists (excepting Chuck Norris and Gary Sinise) as toadies of the Democratic Party will affect outrage until the next big exposé, which we have on good authority will involve the Bureau of International Information Programs and its corrupt plan to have Shepard Fairey design the flyers America drops on Afghan villages.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Miracles Are Real — For Buddhists [Jonah Goldberg]
That's all the warning most of you need. Follow! Goldberg was listening to NPR and heard an amazing story:
When the Dalai Lama was just two years old, some travelling monks found him. The tyke greeted them in the monks' own language even though he had no reason to know it and recognized the old men as long lost friends. He — at the age of two — "knew all about" his previous life.

Now, it seems to me that from any objective viewpoint this is, quite simply, a miracle.
Or bullshit. Either way.
As to whether this actually happened I see no reason why I shouldn't be agnostic as I like the idea of miracles quite a bit and poo-pooing it would be distraction from the point I want to make.
Uh oh, Goldberg's already trying to create a diversion; his weak-minded adversaries will still be parsing that sentence when he has vanished in a cloud of Cheetos dust.
Non-traditional use of conjunctions also helps.
...I thought it was really interesting that no skepticism was brought to bear. I listen to discussions of Christianity from time to time on NPR and it seems that it's simply required in such conversations to take the "magic" out of the Judeo-Christian narratives. But when the religion in question is Buddhism it's apparently fine to suspend ones rationalist mind. Again, I'm not a regular listener of this show, so maybe my surprise is a little misplaced and all such talk is greeted with such open-mindedness. But that's certainly not my impression of NPR in general.
Goldberg's "impression of NPR in general" is probably similar to Homer's attempt to think like Flanders. To the extent that we can extract a point from this, it seems Goldberg finds NPR guests generally suspicious of Christian miracles, and one of them perhaps credulous of those attributed to an Eastern mystic. This invites all kinds of questions, foremost among them: Might the Church revive itself among the intellectual classes by encouraging its priests to talk like Mr. Moto and do card tricks?

Maybe Goldberg fled because wanted to keep his powder dry for a column on this. I certainly hope so. He's dynamite on the subject of NPR. (Search to "Strategic Humor Initiative.")
GRAPESHOT. Andrew Breitbart's follow-up to his child prostitution stings on ACORN -- the revelation that the Obama Administration talked to artists about its social programs -- is not shaking the earth, despite the inclusion of a Hitler dog whistle ("Riefenstahl-esque"). Patterico has even taken to explaining to readers that "it would be a mistake to dismiss this story as unimportant."

The reason is simple: While ACORN is sufficiently mysterious that they can paint all kinds of pictures on it, the NEA has long been one of the right's most popular betes noires. They've have been telling the world that artists are liberal homosexual operatives, and that the NEA is their front group, for years. The notion that it is being used to promote a leftist agenda will strike most of their intended audience as dog bites man.

The primary usefulness of this story will be as another slug in the grapeshot with which they stuff their cannons. They'll be using "NEA" the way they used "Whitewater" for several electoral cycles to come, as a signifier for half-remembered scandal.
It's time someone took a 12-gauge to the phrase "affordable housing," which crops up all over the place in the ACORN-related commentary. It belongs with "undocumented immigrant" (he stole your Social Security number) and "vibrant neighborhood" (carry a gun) in the Liar's Dictionary.
In a way it's a disappointment; Derbyshire is often eager to explicate his racism right at the point of sale. But here, as with his Rivers of Blood item last year, he just throws out that "vibrant neighborhood" thing and continues on with something else equally stupid but less overt. If I didn't know him better I'd say he was trying to be sneaky.

We're left to assume Derbyshire is talking about urban neighborhoods thus described, such as Fort Greene, where a large percentage of the population is "sooty," as they say in Derbyshire's native land, thus making it a place no Derbyshire would wish to live, though many, many white race-traitors pay a great deal of money to do so (perhaps out of missionary zeal, since from the Derbyshire POV no caucasian would actually enjoy such dark surroundings).

I'm sure there are far fewer people even on Lawn Guyland than there used to be who actually believe they'd need a gun in such a place. With any luck Derbyshire will be the last.

STAYCATION. I am off from the Voice this week, and though I have promised myself removal from stressors, you and I both know I cannot long stay away from million-man rugby scrum that is our political discourse. So you'll probably see me around here more often than you have in recent weeks, when I had been tearing my hair out trying to find celebrity nudes and other sticky gibberish for my employers, and thus insufficiently attentive to the real people here at the midnight show. Maybe I'll take the opportunity to get back to things that really matter. (Oh hey, Georgia O'Keeffe celebrity nude at the Whitney!)

Sunday, September 20, 2009


"(Video) Steele: why isn’t Obama trying to get Corzine to drop? Which is a question that has teeth in it, doesn’t it? Big, sharp, possibly racially-motivated teeth -- given that the major difference between Governors Corzine and Paterson is more or less their respective skin colors. Hey, the Democrats ask this sort of question all the time: since skin color’s so important to them generally, it seems only fair to check if it was important to them this time, too." -- Moe Lane.

"I say we start rubbing the racial-demagoguery in the left's face" -- Weasel Zippers.

"Well, that is the way it works, isn’t it? Do anything to oppose a black man in office, and that is proof of racism, right?" -- Blogs for Victory.

To recap, Obama asked Paterson not to run because he's black, proving the Democrats' racism. Irregular readers may be confused. The explanation is that conservatives deny racism is a factor in any area of American life, and that if there is any racism, it is created from whole cloth by Democrats. Thus, if the black President has some misgivings about a highly unpopular black and unelected Democratic governor standing for election, it may be tied to Democratic racism which, given the heritage of the current President, is both a joke (formally, anyway, with no need for a punchline nor any actual humorous content) and a deadly serious charge.

In related news: "Watch [Obama] call a black man a 'jackass', and consider what would have happened had that word come out of Bush's mouth." -- GOP Thinker.

It's an ancient grudge, which goes back to the transference of electoral allegiance of black voters from the Republican Party, which held it after the Civil War, to the Democratic Party, which wisely angled for it during the Civil Rights movement* and holds it to this day. Many of the current conservative combatants are not very aware of this history, and are responding instead to some inchoate feeling that black people have done them wrong. This reaction is tolerated and even encouraged by the movement to which they belong for reasons you probably don't need my help to discern.

*UPDATE. Mssrs. Harrington and Riley point out in comments that the turnaround in black political loyalties started much earlier, though LBJ delivered the coup de grace. They cite the New Deal, which is news to me, but most of us remember that Truman's civil rights policies drove Strom Thurmond out of the party, from which racist exile he was retrieved by the Republicans, whose agents now tell us that race is not an issue.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

THEIR NEGRO PROBLEM -- AND OURS. I'll be honest with you. I don't think racism is the biggest problem in the country. Of course I'm inclined to feel that way, since I'm white, but I've also made the judgment that it's the manipulation of racism that makes much of the trouble that we attribute to the thing itself.

The provenance of the outrage applied to the Belleville West High School incident is obvious if you've been alive for more than a couple of years. Normal people know that in different situations, black kids will victimize white kids and white kids will victimize black kids, and it's part of the sad but slowly improving situation of the United States. I knew it when I was younger and things were much worse. (I saw a little of both sides, too -- I don't mean figuratively, but with my eyes.)

Normal people work through such resentments as these incidents bestir in them as best they can. A certain type of person tries instead to work them.

To a certain extent, playing with that particular kind of fire doesn't have to come out badly. New York City is a pretty good example. There are lines, albeit thin ones, between solidarity and isolation and between righteous indignation and rage. When it goes wrong, you get the Draft Riots, "Irish confetti," the 60s riots, Crown Heights, etc. When it goes right, you get political clubs and affinity groups, which do business with other clubs and groups and get deals done to their mutual benefit.

One of the reasons conservatives classically hate New York is because we have mostly worked out our ethnic tensions this way, in informal power sharing arrangements. That angers them because it reveals something they don't like to face about racism -- that it has to do with power, and that cooling its tensions may require that grievances be addressed and redressed. Maybe some jobs have to be shoveled toward ethnically distinct neighborhoods that don't have many of them, and maybe the mayor won't always line up with the cops when a member of a minority group is killed under suspicious circumstances.

It ain't always pretty but it more or less works. You may prefer that men be angels and rise above this sort of thing, but that sort of liberal utopianism is beyond me. I do notice that people of different races seem to get along here pretty well -- certainly better than they did 30 years ago -- so maybe the incremental approach, assisted by liberal applications of grease, will get us to Valhalla anyway, albeit slowly.

Members of white majority parties resist this thinking because it suggests that they may have to give something up. So they concentrate on ways in which they can portray white people as victims of some sort of black hegemony, and adopt the prerogatives of grievance themselves. You'll remember that conservatives originally tried to get at ACORN by suggesting that it was redirecting wealth unfairly to black people. (It was only when that failed to inflame the public imagination that they turned to child prostitution stings.) The clear message of the Belleville uproar is that people of color are getting away with something, and simple justice demands that white people hold the line.

Robert Crumb explained this better than I have. I will add that I am in some sympathy with Jimmy Carter's remarks -- is it really so controversial to observe that a lot of people can't accept the idea of a black president? -- but I think he may be missing the angle shot. I wouldn't be shocked to learn that the people who are stirring the shit up at present aren't casual racists at all. (Some of them certainly go out of their way to give the impression that they're cool with black people.) But they know what racism can accomplish with a little help.

UPDATE. I found part two of the Crumb thing, which is also worth your while.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

But when I say, "Hey, look, Robespierre and the Jacobins were even closer students of Rousseau's and they found something in there that sanctioned the Terror. Did they all misread Rousseau?" And their basic answer is "yes." To which I say, okay, but does that really let Rousseau completely off the hook? If there's something in there that led very smart people to believe there was a philosophical and moral writ to slaughter thousands and erase society surely that should count against Rousseau on some level, even if it's only an indictment against his clarity of thought and writing. No?
I don't know whether to send Goldberg a reading primer or a Bible.

Monday, September 14, 2009

NEW VOICE COLUMN UP -- an extended look at the Joe the Yeller story. To the extent that their hive-mind is capable of judgement, conservatives may have figured that having a humanoid representative for their cause -- even if it's a humanoid of such limited appeal as this pig-ignorant Dixie congressman with a once-safe seat -- makes it easier to advertise. Since no one has been murdered by Obamacare yet, and the traditional horror stories out of Britain's National Health do not move their target audience (because they find all furriners and their ways hopelessly exotic, even if they do sort of talk American, and assume their health care shortfalls are a natural consequence of warm beer), they work with Joe Wilson, casting him in the usual passive-aggressive way as both hero and martyr. Sometimes I think they moon over Reagan so much because it's been a long time since they had anyone with actual charisma to shove in front of the cameras.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

A STAR IS BORN. Joe Wilson yells at the President. Thousands of posts ensue, in which we learn that he took No-Doz, likes the Rebel Flag, and reacted protectively toward Senator Strom Thurmond when his illegitimate daughter came forward. His views on health care are suddenly of interest, and he has worked the outrage against him into a fundraising pitch. He is now the darling of the right and a national figure who will be considered in upcoming discussions of candidates for high office.

Ah gits weary/An' sick o' tryin'/Ah'm tired o' living'/An' skeered o' dyin'...

Caligula had to appoint that horse. Here they are nominated by acclamation.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

ROD DREHER ON THE GAY MENACE, WHICH MUST BE MET WITH ARMS. Oh, go ahead. You'll never guess why Rod Dreher keeps a gun in his house. Gay people! Someone wrote in the Washington Post about anti-gay-marriage people who were not chaw-drooling Cletuses; some readers strongly objected. Maggie Gallagher, as usual, says gays are the real bigots. Dreher says:
She's right about that. Trust me on that one. It's one reason I have a gun in the house. I've let a couple of you trusted readers -- same-sex marriage supporters who believe I'm very wrong on this issue, but who are civil about it -- know what I'm talking about.
I was hoping he'd tell us about the roving bands of sodomites who rattle a stick on his picket fence at night, but apparently he restricts this info to the Righteous Homos in his congregation. But he's an equal opportunity armorer:
It's why I support fully the intention of Celtic Dragon Critter, a transgender reader who believes people like me are badly mistaken on same-sex marriage, to maintain the means and the will to shoot anyone who crosses her threshold to harm her or her family. There are people on both sides of this issue so crazy with rage that they will stop at nothing to punish those they hate.

The spirit of madness and hatred now rising in this culture is prominently on the right of late, but not exclusively on the right.
Dreher's idea of gay violence is presumably this:
Mark Shea points to this video of a small group of peaceable Christians who had to be protected by a phalanx of San Francisco police as they walked through the gay Castro District in San Francisco. Otherwise, it's clear they would have been assaulted even worse than they were before the riot police arrived.

This is terrifying. This ought to be on the national news. If this were a Christian mob surrounding gay-rights campaigners, it certainly would be -- and should be, as no peaceful protester in this country should be subject to this threat. (And no, this wasn't a made- up thing: here's how a local SFO TV station covered it).

Watch this, and tell me these people [Update: by which I mean the enraged activist core, not all gays -- RD.] aren't going to come against churches full force once they have the civil rights laws on their side:
I don't advocate meeting mere offense with violence. But one of the ways we ordinary people get along is this: I don't take a group of people to a church picnic and make a show of telling the folks there, one way or another, that their lifestyle disgusts me. The Christians in question have a certain right to behave provocatively, as a drunk in a bar has a right to tell you your mama is ugly, but they dissemble when they say it's not a provocation.

To compare this to the constant threat some people face just by being perceived as gay is somewhere south of offensive.
THE VIEW FROM THE CREEP SEATS. What's more fun than a Presidential address on health care? The Corner covering a Presidential address on health care!

They started well before the speech. Tevi Troy precogs that "President Obama would tell sad tales of Americans who lack access to health insurance" and announces himself proven right because he's seen "a list of the guests in the First Lady's box." Obama spent about 60 seconds on sad takes of Americans who lack access to health care. Time for a Tevi Troy victory lap!

Jonah Goldberg also has a memorable warmup: "Maybe I'm just beholden to my own predictions, but the pre-coverage of Obama's address sure makes it sound like the White House thinks the moment requires more cowbell." This refers to his previous analogy that compared Obama's public speaking, which largely got him elected, to irrelevant noise, based on the fact that Goldberg remembered a funny bit from Saturday Night Live. I assume he didn't use "Yeah, that's the ticket!" because the cowbell thing implies familiarity with Blue Öyster Cult, which will do wonders for his street cred.

Kathryn J. Lopez obsesses on the laminated "talking points" given by Obama to GOP Congressmembers. "Don't Worry Your Pretty Little Eyes with Legislation," says K-Lo. "Trust the White House. Serve the President, If You Will." Later she repeats the outrage of Pete Hoekstra: "Handing out laminated talking points produced by the White House is tacky. This is serious business. I will not twit during speech." Sending a message by not sending a message -- surely the people will rise when they don't hear of it. To amplify, K-Lo posts a picture of the laminated document. Maybe their acolytes will bring replicas to Town Halls, and interrupt the proceedings by noisily scraping them on their unshaven faces.

The speech starts. Obama: "I am not the first President to take up this cause, but I am determined to be the last." Goldberg: "Obama will, for all time, settle the issue of healthcare in America? He'll be the last president tackle healthcare? Ever?" Goldberg missed a similar chance when Obama said, "Credit was frozen" -- he could have rejoined, "Frozen? Like in a freezer? So all you need is a microwave to thaw it out?" But that would have sent him straight to the Hot Pockets and we would have missed his further reactions. Stephen Spruiell is similarly miffed: "Makes Obama sound foolish. Medicare and Medicaid are the subjects of constant legislative meddling. Obamacare wouldn't require frequent tune-ups/refinements/bailouts?" They must have loved these guys on Debate Team.

K-Lo: "A veteran politico" -- by which she means the dolly on her pillows with the long, grey coat -- "asks me: 'Why is he yelling so much? If Bush had done that, the press would have had a field day. How many headlines will say "an angry obama"? None.'" Obama's poor speaking skills masked by liberal media again! A pity more citizens don't have television sets.

"No matter how much the president insists otherwise, preventative care doesn't really save any money," says Mark Hemingway, quoting a Washington Post story on a study that questions the anticipated preventative care savings on... patients with Type 2 diabetes. Still, I take his point. I've thought of giving up smoking and drinking, but who's to say that this preventative program will reduce my need for medical attention? Mom wound up on an oxygen tank, but I think she was just looking for attention.

John Hood tries a Goldbergian approach: "Not to be disrespectful or anything, but I’m multitasking at the moment — watching the president on the small screen while spooling a recorded Scooby Doo movie from DVR to tape on the big screen." He and Pete Hoekstra are really showing Obama.

K-Lo doesn't believe Obama's promise that federal dollars won't be used to fund abortion because "It's open to negotiation... Who knows what those committeemen do with one bill or another. Who knows what happens in conference." This is where Jesus is supposed to walk through the wall and chide her for her lack of faith. Mark Hemingway calls Obama's promises on this and health care for illegal immigrants "foolish" because "aside from being disingenous, it's the opposite of consensus building." Better Obama should just admit he wants more abortions and wetback medicine till the cows come home, as that might build the sort of consensus Hemingway seeks.

Andy McCarthy praises the contributions of Sarah Palin, especially on the alleged death panels, in which he retains touching faith. "I can't tell you how much I love Roman's cover on the latest edition of NR," he adds, which shows Death wearing a lab coat.

John Hood doesn't like Obama's point that public care will no more kill private care than public universities have killed private universities: "Government colleges and universities have, indeed, come to dominate the higher education market not because they are better or more efficient but because of massive taxpayer subsidy." Graduates of Texas A&M will be interested to hear that their alma mater is kept alive only by the mindless largesse of Big Gummint, as will students of schools like Yale and Harvard, where I understand they burn books to keep warm in the winter thanks to declining revenues.

Goldberg lets fall the cowbell. "I don't know if this will win over the public (though I'm skeptical). But if he's actually trying to woo the Republicans in the room, I don't think this is working at all. Too many digs to placate his base and indulge hs own vanity." It doesn't surprise me that Goldberg has trouble grasping the distinction between "woo" and "embarrass." (He picks the cowbell up again, though, when he learns that Obama will follow up on this speech tomorrow. Obama just can't stop embarrassing himself by talking! Didn't he learn anything from his disastrous Presidential campaign?)

If you want more, there's always their Twitter feeds. K-Lo chirps:
delayed reax: was that an ashley madison commercial i just caught -- the MARRIAGE DATING SERVICE? Oremus. so much flipping not sure where.
Shortly thereafter:
now im screaming. back to normal, a cialis commercial. par for the course, often at 2 pm when i'm on a conference call in the office.
Maybe she's afraid Obamacare will force her into psychotherapy.

Monday, September 07, 2009

NEW VOICE COLUMN UP, despite the holiday. Just a quick spin around the Obama school speech issue. Among other things, I notice that accusations of fascism, "Obama Youth," etc. are getting more common. Maybe they're all secret LaRouche supporters. In earlier, simpler times, they might have just called Obama's actions inappropriate or questionable, and explained why. Hitler=Obama removes the necessity of the second step and, better than that, leaves it up to the fevered imagination.

For some the default accusation will always be Communism and Russia (where you came from), of course. Andy McCarthy at National Review:
Van Jones isn't Alger Hiss. There's nothing covert about him. He didn't snooker Obama into bringing him aboard. He is who he is, and that's why Obama wanted him. Having a communist in that job was perfect since the "green jobs" initiative is an important part of the hard Left's agenda to use environmentalism as an additional justification for usurping command of the economy.

In fact, the death of the Soviet Union has actually been a boon for neocommunists. Now, Obama and his fellow travelers like Jones, Ayers, Wright, Klonsky, and ACORN, can spout all the same totalitarian, anti-American, central-planning ideas the hard Left has always pushed, but in the abstract -- under such mushy labels as "social justice" and "green jobs." That is, they are liberated from having to defend the Soviet Empire, which, until 1991, was a living, breathing, concrete example of how horrific these ideas are when put in practice.
Thus we have a new Evil Empire -- the United States of America under its current, duly-elected leadership. With the folks at National Review talking like this, it's no shock the smaller fry are so free with their use of Mao, Hitler, Stalin etc. They've come a long way from the days when William F. Buckley was arguing for national service.
RAGGED GLOURY. [spoilers.] For the first hour or so of Inglourious Basterds I thought: well, it's finally happened. Either Tarantino has become totally brilliant, or I've watched enough Tarantino that I can't tell the difference anymore. The two first scenes -- the drawn-out agony of Colonel Landa's visit to a farmhouse where Jews have been hidden, and Aldo Raine's ludicrously inspiring speech to his recruits -- are among the best things he's ever done, from Landa's cheerful gabble to the close-ups of Brad Pitt's crinkled eyes, and it looked as if Tarantino was going to finally resist his impulse to undercut himself, and just turn his considerable gifts toward the end of making a damn genre picture without willfully jacking the whole thing up with random crazy ideas until the whole thing flips over. Maybe, I thought, he was catching on to what Sam Fuller knew -- if you're already nuts, you don't have to force it: your war movie, no matter how tightly plotted, will bear your gloriously (or glouriously) insane hallmark. (The Steel Helmet would not have been improved by song numbers.)

The first sign of trouble was the payoff on the "Bear Jew" idea (introduced by a suitably Vaudevillian Hitler). You mean that's it, I thought, -- he beats Nah-zis to death with a baseball bat? And ominously thumps the bat in the dark woods before he does it? Whoops, that was it, and the character recedes, to be supplanted by a lot of other show-stealing but debilitating schtick. The Theme from Cat People; non-Italian-speaking Basterds as Italians at a Third Reich shindig (maybe a hommage to All Through The Night); most disappointingly, a really interesting tension between the Jewish massacre survivor and Goebbels' new "It" boy, which climaxes in a projection-room scene that shows Tarantino still relying on childish, film-geeky blood-love as a resolution for difficult relationships.

I shouldn't complain. There's enough jam here to get you through the long running time, and it's fun. But Tarantino's technique has gotten so good that I wish he'd goof around a little less, and I grow tired of wishing for it. One of the great scenes introduces our British Forces hero -- a film critic (!) chosen for Operation Kino based on his knowledge of UFA and German language-fighting skills. The scene is as mad as you could wish, with Churchill incomprehensibly present and Mike Myers in highly successful make-up briefing the critic, with stiff upper lips all 'round. The absurdity is baked into the concept, and played and filmed beautifully. The tension between the barely-possible reality of the scene and Tarantino's rendition of it makes you giddy but keeps you in the story.

But it all leads to a Nazi Gotterdammerung so muddled and overblown that it blew my connection to the movie. I could accept an alternate WWII ending -- sure, why not; it was fine when Chaplin iron-masked Adenoid Hynkel in favor of a Jewish barber -- but by then the little tweaked realities had turned into a pile-up of absurdities, and my faith in the film was broken. It should be much more satisfying than this to see Hitler machine-gunned to pieces -- and for that matter, to see Landa get what's coming to him. But the movie has gotten so out of control by the end, all that's left are violent bits. Good bits, mind you, but without the benefit of the gathered force that a more disciplined film might have afforded.

Tarantino's too good to leave it at that, but no one's going to make him take the next step. At times like this I miss Louis B. Mayer. Or David O. Selznick.

Every craft aspect of the film is wonderful; the music is lovely, especially the theme from The Alamo, and Christoph Waltz deserves some kind of prize for bringing some badly needed joie de vivre to the Nazi villain role.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

F MINUS. President Obama is going to talk to schoolchildren on TV about public service which, Michelle Malkin informs us, is child abuse. She reproduces a teacher's guide which includes questions for students like "What is the President trying to tell me?" "What is the President asking me to do?" and "Are we able to do what President Obama is asking of us?" when it should be instructing them to shout the president down and bring loaded guns to the classroom.

Malkin's analysis:
Will Obama be able to resist issuing a call to youth arms to marshal help in passing his legislative agenda? The thing is: He won’t need to make the call explicit.
This is clever, as it means that Obama could just tell the kids to help little old ladies across the street and the faithful may still imagine him to be pouring acid on the foundations of the Republic.

Melissa Clouthier is reminded of Elian Gonzalez, Ace of Spades is reminded of The Omen III, Noisy Room quotes Hitler, Fire Andrea Mitchell calls it "Obama Youth," Stephen Kruiser says "Can I get a Hammer & Sickle in the house?!?!?" etc.

These guys make me miss the John Birch Society. At least so far as I know, they never thought the President's Council on Physical Fitness was an attempt to create a new Aryan Youth.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

WWJ-LoD? After wringing a little more outrage out of the Lockerbie bomber's release, Kathryn J. Lopez is reminded she's a Christian, maybe by a picture of a kitten, and regrets the execution of Cameron Todd Willingham. "I'm opposed to the death penalty," she proclaims. National Review readers try to smack her back into compliance by noting Willingham's obscene gesture during execution. "These things, too, do not require the state to end his life," she bravely insists.

Eventually, inevitably, K-Lo does the walkback:
I should note that the debate over facts is not my moral argument against the whole execution business. I think the man shouldn't have been killed, period, with or without the New Yorker. Capital punishment isn't intrinsically evil, there are times when it may be necessary. But those strike me as rare -- if not inconceivable -- instances in the U.S. in 2009.
Not so inconceivable, apprently: She closes by linking an argument in favor of capital punishment from her brother in Christ Ramesh Ponnuru.

Earlier Lopez wrote about "Vigilance in the Defense of Life." She was at that time talking about fetuses. "For Catholics," she wrote, "while other matters are subject to prudential debates, innocent human lives are not."

I can understand the distinction between innocent and non-innocent human life. But it rather vitiates the power of the Jesus card when you start making distinctions based on the laws of Man, or at least the ones you favor.

I honestly don't get much atheistic pleasure out of tweaking the contradictions in the Christian conservative perspective -- excepting the bloodthirsty ravings of Rod Dreher and such like; that's always a treat. But I do think that if you can't go full metal Jesus, you should stop appealing to cardboard cutouts of him as an authority.