Thursday, December 31, 2009

THE GREAT REVIVAL. Kathryn J. Lopez:
So many, like Mark and myself, have personal stories about Rush's kind generosity. But there are millions of people who have never met him who are e-mailing me today telling me they went to morning Mass with his intention in mind, that they have their whole family praying for him...
Why hasn't this sudden, massive rise in church attendance been reported by the MSM? Maybe a substantial number of these millions only meant to go to church.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

PISS ON YOUR OWN LEG AND TELL YOURSELF IT'S RAINING. I have to hand it to Don Surber. I couldn't guess how he'd spin the news that President Obama topped the latest Most Admired Men list. But goldurn it, he came up with a beaut:
Both Hillary and Sarah beat Michelle...

While that is up from 3% last year, the fact is [Michelle Obama] is nowhere near as popular as her predecessor, Laura Bush, whose popularity ranged from 63% to 80%.
Hillary Clinton's popularity suggests to Surber that "maybe Democrats will switch quarterbacks in 2012." Alternatively, I suppose, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama could swap wives.

Surber briefly mentions that "President Obama led the list (as most presidents do) with 30% (last year he led with 32%)," gliding over the fact that the guy not-yet-President Obama beat in 2008 was President Bush, who had a vote of five percent. Bush was the first President since 1952* to fail to make first place. (Bush topped the poll in 2007 with a vote of ten percent.)

At some point, spin just becomes the spins.

*UPDATE. Commenter Neil points out that Jimmy Carter ran behind the Pope in 1980. Also, Nixon and Ford lost to -- get this -- Henry Kissinger.

Monday, December 28, 2009

JOURNEY INTO FEAR. The Corner at this writing is largely devoted to demands that Janet Napolitano be fired. In a crowded field, Jonah Goldberg has distinguished himself. Early on, he reiterates the general willful misreading of Napolitano's statements, then huffs, "I thought the head of the DHS was supposed to have the trust of the American people." I must have missed those days when American parents named their children after Tom Ridge, and kept portraits of him over their kitchen tables. Apparently Goldberg did too, because later he says
Well, if memory serves, I've never been much of a Tom Ridge supporter. And this magazine was awfully tough on him and DHS in general.
Maybe he meant the Golden Age of Michael Chertoff. Sometimes I think Goldberg suffers the same condition as the guy in Memento and has right-wing talking points tattooed on his belly, so whenever he comes to, he can just start bellowing away, blessedly unaware of what he said just hours before. Would that I were similarly blessed, at least regarding what Goldberg has said.

Goldberg also complains that Obama used the words "allegedly" and "suspect" regarding the incident. His post includes an almost perfectly Goldbergian sentence -- "If we know it, how 'allegedly' can it be?" I bet he mutters that to himself whenever he reads crime reports in the papers, or when he gets queries from his editors at other publications.

Goldberg acts as if Obama were going to blow the whole case, dammit, because he used careful language at a delicate time, rather than the pirate impersonation Goldberg favors. Presumably if Obama referred to Abdulmutallab as "yon scurvy dog" his chances of lifelong incarceration would be increased from certain to oh totally.

This obsession with tough talk is shared by Andy McCarthy, who wants to know why the Secretary of Homeland Security did not quickly and definitively attribute the failed crotch-bombing to Al Qaeda:
That is to say, indications of a larger plot abound. The prudent course is thus to say, "We are aggressively investigating all possibilities" and leave it at that. At this premature stage, no sensible person would be surprised to hear that; but saying it suggests we might be open to the possibility that there's a massive international Islamic terror conspiracy -- can't have that.
No normal person, hearing Napolitano's actual words, would assume that an Al Qaeda connection had been ruled out. Why is McCarthy doing this? His tell is "massive international Islamic terror conspiracy." McCarthy wants the most terrifying description of the possibilities front and center in the public's mind. And if people inclined to listen to him aren't terrified enough, he heads directly from certainty to speculation -- "They may very well be complicit. For a better sense of the potentially involved Yemeni players..." -- so that they'll go away in an imaginative frame of mind to draw webs of their own.

His purpose -- like that of Pete Hoekstra, quoted by Robert Costa in complaint that Napolitano is "reluctant to use the word "terrorism'" -- is not to enlighten but to spook. These guys discovered a while back that the public liked them better when they were scared, so now they're picking nits to suggest the Administration is incompetent or just not bloodthirsty enough, hoping to draw Americans back into the state of fear that increases Republican chances.

Goldberg pops back in to run the old Animal House clip of Kevin Bacon getting flattened by a panicked mob as he cries "All is well." His joke is that Napolitano is behaving like Bacon, but it would work better if the frightened mob had actually materialized anywhere but in National Review's offices. It remains to be seen if he and his buddies can get the extras to follow direction.
NEW VOICE COLUMN UP, about the rightblogger rampage over the failed crotch-bombing. Janet Napolitano may be my least favorite cabinet member after Tim Geithner, but her anodyne ass-covering statements were perfectly appropriate for what it is becoming hard to remember was a non-explosion. The conservative response has been to willfully misread her statements, then demand her resignation based on their own misinterpretation.

Their long-term strategy is not yet discernible, but I hope they got for a NEVER FORGET 12/25 angle, and next year start yelling at people who insist on making merry during the anniversary of America's worst terrorist non-attack.

Do they never cease pissing their pants?

Saturday, December 26, 2009

AND I EVEN THINK I SEE TWO CATS FROM INTERPOL, MAN. The Anchoress is upset by a Presidential directive on Interpol. It's not just about Socialism, which The Anchoress says "like the Chicago fog, creeps in on little cat feet," but the Nazis:
I have never understood why the Jews in Germany and Poland and the Netherlands simply went along with what they were told to do by the Nazis... Civil Disobedience is a good thing, sometimes -a force for good- we learned that from the very same spoiled-brat generation that now attempts to utterly corrupt our government, and our way of life...
Blargh blargh blargh. And yet she was only exercised about the Patriot Act when she heard other people wanted to get rid of it. Some civil libertarian.

(She's seeing Nazis everywhere these days, as in a fellow Christian's insufficiently resemblance to herself: "the piece reminds me a little of that scene in Schindler’s List, where the female Jewish architect tries to stay alive by offering to help design a better, stronger gallows..." I wonder whether she was driven to Hitler-Spielberg analogies when Ada Calhoun denounced "psychos shooting up abortion clinics and telling gay couples they're going to hell," or when Calhoun talked about smoking cigarettes and listening to Paul Westerberg.)

I doubt The Anchoress would find this explanation convincing, particularly the bit about Interpol having no international crime-busting agents of its own, which rather spoils the outrage of other yahoos crying that "our president has set an international police agency above the Fourth Amendment constraints of the Constitution that he finds deeply flawed."

The most interesting analyses of the Obama EO I've seen so far come from a reliably rightwing nut source and an less obviously affiliated nut source, which, despite their nuttiness, eschew the popular Bourne Identity nonsense and concentrate on its impact on American cooperation with the World Court and economic benefits to Interpol.

These may be fruitful areas of inquiry, and we should all be concerned about any expansion of government powers, national or international. But alas, in the current environment it's hard to find a good, un-nutty discussion of them. Even commentators who start out sober on the Interpol subject rush without explanation from what seems to be a tax code issue to an alleged abrogration of the 4th Amendment. At this writing, if you look for "Interpol" at Google News, the first result is "US placed under international police-state."

My mind turns again to the decade's social media disaster. We were once promised a consortium of great minds cooperating to unravel current events, and wound up with a cottage industry of propaganda mills extracting partisan advantage out of every news item that comes down the pike and churning it into outrage. Here we see one of its many depressing effects: a gang of rightbloggers who in years past never showed any interest in Constitutional protections predicting home invasions by jack-booted international thugs from an organization best known for tracking down ivory poachers and from a passing reference in Lenny. Paul Krassner, come back; all is forgiven.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN. Now that Giuliani is out of the Senate race, it seems clear to me that he had one overriding motivation for bailing: If he ran, he'd lose. I've laid out the case at the Voice. Not having room for war-gaming, and being lazy, I didn't posit a Giuliani-wins scenario, but I'll outline one here:
  • Giuliani joins the tea party. The true believers might squawk, but his bodyguards muscle the crowd and tell hecklers "Have you forgotten when the world stopped turning?" (those people are still big on 9/11 bloody-shirt-waving), and his presence at one of their shindigs swells attendance and coverage. Plus he's local, which the poobahs approve. Soon he's no longer a philandering abortionist gun-grabbing RINO, but a full-fledged fist-shaking rabble-rouser! Call it a return to his roots.

  • Kirsten Gillibrand is a socialist. "$5.1 Billion For Home Heating Assistance," "Federal Funds for Staten Island University Hospital," "$1.6 Million For Vaccine Program" -- what is this, Russia? She's taking your tax dollars and giving them to the union bosses at hospitals, schools, and heating oil distributorships!

  • Kirsten Gillibrand is a woman. During their first debate, Giuliani sets off a stink bomb and firecrackers and yells "This is what it was like during 9/11." Gillibrand flees the stage. She can't take the heat! Also he addresses her as "Mrs. Gillibrand" and "lady."
Etc. Of course now it's just a beautiful dream.

PS: Russell Harding brings up another good reason why Rudy may have bailed: the Senate's comparatively lousy pay. (Scroll down to "Sen. Giuliani?? Follow-up.") "He cannot live on what a Senate salary pays. He would have to sever all ties to Giuliani Partners (GP) which would be the death of that business... I think he requires the millions he brings in each year to maintain his lifestyle. That is one reason so much has to be comped when he travels for speaking engagements."

Monday, December 21, 2009

NEW VOICE COLUMN UP, about this and that, but mostly the Senate health care doings and how they allegedly spell doom for the Democrats. (Also: Obama bows while seated, etc.) I remain agnostic on the ever-changing kaleidoscope that is the plan, but note with interest that as the PR war over it drags on, opposition language grows more apocalyptic as the bills themselves grow milder. At this point I wouldn't be surprised if the thing ends up as a Free Aspirin for Seniors, with RedState calling for armed defense of the old folks who will suffer fatal nosebleeds in the coming socialist aspirin apocalypse.

Friday, December 18, 2009

THE INTERNET, RUINED. I try not to trouble you good people too much with redirects to my Voice stuff, and will not tug your sleeve every time I update the "Why Our Decade Sucked" series I have commenced, but I do think you might be interested in the first entry, "Social Media Ruined the Internet." It builds on things I've observed over my years of watching the blogs and their nightmare offspring, Twitter, Facebook and the like.

In brief, the tech revolution has brought us some clear benefits (e.g., LOLcats, free porn), but when it comes to thinking and communicating, it's been a net loss. (Hoists snifter) Perhaps you disagree?
SAVING SNOOKI FROM TIGER WOODS AND INTEGRATION. Jesus God: No sooner had I waded through Maggie Gallagher's o tempora o mores than Jonah Goldberg sticks his fat thumb in, on the subject of reality shows. Like Gallagher, he starts with unobjectionable statements about the foolishness of the participants, and then gets to this:
The elite minority’s general acceptance of racial and sexual equality as important values has been a moral triumph. But not without costs.
Holy shit.
As part of this transformation, society has embraced what social scientist Charles Murray calls “ecumenical niceness.” A core tenet of ecumenical niceness is that harsh judgments of the underclass -- or people with underclass values -- are forbidden. A corollary: People with old-fashioned notions of decency are fair game.
So, because the elite minority made white men treat Negroes and women like equals, Jersey Shore is on TV and we all swear.

That would seem to be a climax of idiocy, but Goldberg must produce a few hundred more words before he can pretend this extended mouth-fart is a column. Where can he go from here? One imagines him at this point running his tiny mind through various exit strategies: Star Trek, FDR as Hitler, how great his dog is. Finally it hits him: double reverse class warfare!
Whatever you think of what Toynbee and Murray would call the “proletarianization of the elites,” one point is beyond dispute: The rich can afford moral lassitude more than the poor can. Hilton, heir to a hotel fortune, has life as simple as she wants it to be. Tiger Woods is surely a cad, but as a pure matter of economics, he can afford to be one.

The question is: Can the rest of us afford to live in a society constantly auditioning to make an ass of itself on TV?
I'm not sure who he's worried about here. The dumbbells of Jersey Shore haven't suffered by following the loathsome example of Tiger Woods; before they or anyone else learned that Tiger Woods fucked around, they got a TV show. Oh, but they might have seen Paris Hilton, and that may have altered their lifestyle. Before she came along, mooks such as Snooki and Vinny refrained from profanity, and kept their pinkies extended when they chugged their Mojitos.

As usual, this is the stupidest thing ever written, and will remain so until Goldberg writes something else.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

MAGGIE PLEADS FOR THE OLD WAYS. Maggie Gallager, considering the Tiger Woods case, says "Sex Makes People Stupid." Gasp! For once she seemed on the same page as Shakespeare, Moliere, and all the greats.

Alas, Gallagher starts talking about "civilization":
This is why we need a little thing called “civilization” to intervene between people and sexual passion, so we don’t leave the young-uns to rely on their own genius to figure out certain enduring truths, like: A married man cannot betray you. You are not a betrayee. You are the co-betrayer...

Sexual virtue is hard. That is why most civilizations through most of human history have invested serious resources in attempting to teach the next generation how they’re ideally supposed to behave.
And that's why nobody had affairs before the Beatles' first LP. Gallagher laments the New Breed of mistresses who call up their paramours' wives and complain. Though she attributes the problem, as is her wont, to sex, the chief object of her complaint is impropriety. She would prefer no one got busy outside the holy state of heterosexual matrimony, but if they must they should be discreet about it. It's an arguable point, but made so much more elegantly by Mme. Armfeldt in A Little Night Music:

If only Gallagher had Mme. Armfeldt's frankness, and words by Stephen Sondheim! But she doesn't seem to know her argument is aesthetic, not moral. I wonder if she'd beat her wings so fiercely if the rich and famous conducted their liasons with the propriety of characters in drawing-room comedies. There were times when that was the fashion, and if transported back to them Gallagher would probably do as scolds did then, and berate poor women for their lack of morality.

Actually she does that too, but probably gets a lot more attention when she uses boldface names.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

SOMEWHERE CHARLIE MANSON IS LAUGHING HIS ASS OFF. Looks like some War on Terror detainees may be sent to Illinois. Predictably this provokes blood and thunder from the belligerati. National Review cites "the courts’ pro-terrorist decisions over the last eight years" as evidence that liberal judges, having wrested authority from the military tribunals still planned for these prisoners, will gleefully release gibbering madmen into the wild to hijack SUVs and drive them into buildings or something. (Don't laugh, something similar has been suggested.)

Also, American prisons are not up to the job of holding these supervillains. "International jihadists," we are told, "are prone to riot, savagely attack their custodians, attempt escape, and plot terror attacks while in U.S. prisons." In contrast, I suppose, with the tinkerbells normally incarcerated for murder, rape, etc. -- on whom, I'm surprised National Review didn't add, the new bad boys will exert a negative influence. Our cons teach them to make Pruno, they teach ours to make jihad!

These protests that Gitmo detainees are wilier and more dangerous than American-made convicts are not only absurd, but an insult to our incarceration system, which, I say with pride, produces the finest homicidal maniacs in the world.

By the way, has John Walker Lindh dug his way out of Supermax with a spoon yet?

Monday, December 14, 2009

NEW VOICE COLUMN UP, about the War on Christmas and how Obama may be spoiling the fun by drawing attention away from un-Christmasy chain stores and onto himself. Not that there aren't some corkers out there, but they are more of the passive-aggressive variety. For example, there's this weird CSI parody video from Steve Crowder and the Pajamas TV troupe:

The cream of the jest, as it were, seems to do with Target's disallowance of Salvation Army bell-ringers in the earlier part of this decade. Target has chosen instead to make a large holiday donation to the organization, which would please even the fastidious Major Barbara, but not Crowder, assuming he knows about it. Still, try to imagine Pajamas viewers boycotting Target in outrage! You can even buy Liberty and Tyranny: A Conservative Manifesto there.

Now, if he'd picked on a library or a university, it would have shown Crowder was serious. But he obviously walked into the sessions stoned and with a dim memory of some email he got from his grandma while he was in college, and this is the result. They aren't making Christmas warriors like they used to.

Nonetheless there are such WoC funsies as I could find at the Voice item, and a few of the Obama Xmas rags that are replacing them. Go and weep for what might have been.
HOW SPIN WORKS, PART 639,020. Annise Parker has been elected Mayor of Houston. Being openly gay, she had a hard row to hoe:
A cluster of socially conservative Houstonians is planning a campaign to discourage voters from choosing City Controller Annise Parker in the December mayoral runoff because she is a lesbian, according to multiple ministers and conservatives involved in the effort...

"The bottom line is that we didn't pick the battle, she did, when she made her agenda and sexual preference a central part of her campaign,” said Dave Welch, executive director of the Houston Area Pastor Council, numbering more than 200 senior pastors in the Greater Houston area. “National gay and lesbian activists see this as a historic opportunity. The reality is that's because they're promoting an agenda which we believe to be contrary to the concerns of the community and destructive to the family.”
Now that she's in, Andrew Malcolm, who has shown no interest in her campaign heretofore, declares
Houston picks conservative Annise Parker as mayor, first lesbian to head a major American city
This theme is picked up by the Perfesser and Don Surber, who adds, "Her opponent, also a Democrat, spread fears that electing a fiscal conservative would warp the values of Houston." He doesn't mention the Republican, Roy Morales, they both beat in the general, nor the flyer that went out for that other Democrat, Gene Locke, endorsing him on behalf of the Conservative Republicans of Harris County as "the most conservative, best qualified candidate" for the job.

Meanwhile, from conservatives who have not gotten the memo: "Locke gained the support of conservative and anti-gay groups to battle what they deemed Annise Parker’s 'homosexual behavior.'" "Question, is an openly gay elected individual not the Mayor of all people? Will Annise Parker govern with a bias toward gays vs. heterosexuals? If so, she will last one term."

These latter worthies are a little further down the food chain, and so had no need to bullshit.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

INGRATES. I think it was a little rich that Obama took time to defend the Afghanistan surge in a Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech. Well, they gave it to TR and Kissinger, too. And I give Obama credit for taking a lonely road, as it was inevitable that no one would be pleased by it -- including rightwing war fans.

The dime's worth of difference between the parties first noted by George Wallace has depreciated to about two cents, yet at even Obama's most war-friendly moment conservatives stand against him as if he were an incoming wave of Japanese Zeros. The technique is familiar -- like Dan Riehl defending gay people he hates from Obama, it's probably their idea of a Jedi mind trick. But I'm beginning to lose track of what it is they want to replace this Administration with. Something similar, maybe, only whiter and more bellicose?
Ambulance called to Tiger Woods' house in Florida; unidentified blonde woman seen taken out on a stretcher. More details TK.

So, if this is Elin Nordegren, and if she has tried to hurt herself over her husband's serial adulteries...
[Harangue about what a "contemptible human being" Woods is, "floozies," "he needs to suffer," etc.]
UPDATE: It's his mother in law.
Later Brother Rod prays for the strength to resist his "disgust" with Tiger Woods.

Dreher is my favorite Christian. Maybe he should try to convert atheists by getting them to read gossip magazines.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

BUT IF THEY HIJACK THOSE PLANES IN IRAN, WE'LL BE READY FOR THEM. John J. Miller, wrapping up at the Corner a tirade against Thomas Friedman:
Oh, and while we're on the subject of Friedman and his foresight, let's remember that he once wrote these words in one of his tiresome attacks on missile defense:
If [our enemies] are so crazy and hell-bent on attacking America, why aren't they doing it now, when there is no missile shield, and all they have to do is drive a truck bomb across the Mexican border or release a bio-weapon in Washington?
That was four months before 9/11. Today, Friedman still thinks we don't need missile defense, even though our enemies are close to having weapons much more powerful than Mexican truck bombs. Or hijacked airplanes.
I hate to defend Friedman, but it seems to me his vision of homemade, improv terrorism was borne out, and that a missile defense shield meant to repel foreign attacks would be useless against planes hijacked within the United States. Or maybe Miller, for some perverse reason, chose to quote selectively from Friedman to make his own case look worse. That would explain a lot, actually... no, read it, Miller's still wrong. And now I hold having to read Friedman against him. Curse you, Miller!
DRAMA QUEEN. The wonderful actor Michael Moriarty is at Big Hollywood, telling us that the liberal/socialist/communist Hollywood/Broadway threat goes back further than you can imagine. No, not to Bang The Drum Slowly, with its collectivist idea that wealth-producers should expend themselves in sympathy for the weak in mind and spirit. To Dead End:
The rich people in Dead End, who, in a miraculous quirk of fate, happen to live on the same block as the poor people, are not very nice. They are cold and distant. They’re the real villains, because … well … they’re rich!

Obviously the real Dead End is Capitalism and capitalist America
Also: modern jazz, the Group Theater, the New School for Social Research, the "very hellish bottom of anti-heroism" of Taxi Driver, etc.

From the early part of the 20th Century, a "pre-Soviet, Communist/Capitalist merger in America evolved into what we now know of as the Progressive Movement, which, in turn, became the Progressive Power Years of the Bush/Clinton/Bush/Obama White Houses." And the very motor of this rise has been provided by folks who write, act, paint, etc.
World Communism without the French Revolution and American Communism without the Far Left artists of New York and Hollywood are fantasies as incomplete as the Lone Ranger without Tonto … or Stalin without Lenin.
As an artist Moriarty has presumably spent time among other artists, yet he attributes their tendency toward groupthink and sentimental ideas of life to an ideological conspiracy. In my experience artists tend to be a little dreamy and insecure -- as who wouldn't be, given their position in this society -- and will cut people, especially others of their own kind, for imagined slights and social misalliances at least as readily as for their political affiliations, and compensate for the resulting maladjustments with delusory fantasies of their own power and the power of art.

Come to think of it, that seems to be what Moriarty is doing now.
IT NEVER HURTS TO LISTEN. I have an interview with Andrew Breitbart over at the Voice, boiled down from what was pretty much a 45-minute harangue. You will be unsurprised to learn that he thinks the full power of the MSM conspiracy has been brought down upon him. I'm actually pretty sympathetic to some of his defenses -- of course big journalists get away with shit sometimes, and I think it sucks they're being sued -- but I wonder if he realizes the effect he has on people and perhaps his own cause. I mean, this is a guy who runs the only site about Hollywood specifically designed to make readers angry and miserable. You'll get readers and supporters that way, but the only thought-leadership they're likely to influence dwells in the tree-houses of survivalist compounds.

Also, if I felt as enraged about anything as he is about ACORN, I'd be telling my story to shrinks and maybe FBI agents while wearing a Hannibal Lecter mask. You have to admire his ability to function and prosper in society with a bug up his ass the size and ferocity of a panther.

Monday, December 07, 2009

BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU PRETEND TO BE. Patterico notes an old statement about miscegnation attributed to Robert Stacy McCain in a thread of the neo-Confederate Southern League (A "white person who does not mind transacting business with a black bank clerk may yet be averse to accepting the clerk as his sisterinlaw, and THIS IS NOT RACISM, no matter what Madison Avenue, Hollywood and Washington tell us"). Patterico provides the context for the statement, which does McCain no favors.

Much as I dislike McCain's politics, I wasn't inclined to get worked up about it. McCain had implied previously that he was working undercover as a reporter when entered the neo-Confederate universe. Also, transient racism has probably affected most of us -- me too; I grew up in a white working-class Connecticut neighborhood -- and maybe he said something he didn't really mean. Obviously if you're black you might be less phlegmatic about it, and who could blame you.

But in a couple of responses, after saying he was entering the soul of the racists much as Hunter S. Thompson might (though he supports this by assertion rather than explanation), McCain says he was trying to prevent a Southern League author's "attempt to hijack the League as a vehicle for his own purposes" and "prevent the League of the South from being marginalized as a racist organization." In other words, he was a sincere moderate among neo-Confederates, seeking to expunge from the League such vestiges of real racism as its contributors exhibited and with which he did not agree -- "As a citizen, however, I felt a duty to become involved in those controversies." So maybe he wasn't faking that position after all.

I suppose it's possible that McCain was engaged in deep cover which for some reason he maintains to this day -- a real-life Howard W. Campbell -- and as the whole discussion has to do with the Crazy Wars between McCain and Charles Johnson (background here and here -- you may want to use wading boots) it may just be prudent to tiptoe away.

The remaining interest is in the wounded tone McCain exhibits throughout. "That this preventive engagement was successful," he says (that is, that he held the line at miscegnation, and carried the day), "ought to be counted to my credit, rather than being cherry-picked in an effort to discredit me." Later, he says an opponent "wants to have an argument with a Hollywood stereotype of an ignorant hillbilly bigot, rather to say anything useful." Later still, another post about RAAAAACIST claims. This is all in keeping with his customary views on the subject. I guess what we should be asking is whether McCain is only pretending to be Robert Stacy McCain, 24/7.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

THE LATEST MEDIA BIAS PRIMER. Mark Falcoff of the AEI is talking about words used by the press, and after the obligatory George Orwell tells us how the media is misleading us by using terms like "activist" and "civil rights leader":
One example is Mrs. Cynthia Sheehan, who in the old days would simply have been described as an angry housewife (or perhaps, more generously, as a grieving mother seeking attention and celebrity). Now, however, she is an “anti-war activist"...

...since the passage of so much legislation in the last 50 years -- not just the Civil Rights Act but also the Voting Rights Act -- as well as the various forms of “affirmative action” and court-ordered reapportionments of congressional districts to ensure maximum black representation, it is difficult to see what possible dictionary definition “civil-rights leader” could have except “black agitator,” “shakedown artist,” or “poverty pimp.” Martin Luther King Jr. was a civil rights leader; Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson — to take just two of many tawdry examples — are merely cruel caricatures of the same. Too bad the media can’t see the difference.
So if the media were serious about playing fair, it would use "angry housewife" and "poverty pimp" as descriptors in straight news stories. While they're at it, they should get with "stuck on stupid" and "under the bus." Thus may a new golden age of journalism begin.

Falcoff goes on, complaining of the use of "progressive" instead of "liberal" as a cloaking device. The existence of Google News helps us here. The terms liberal and progressive are frequently used by political parties and groups to describe themselves, or by overtly political outlets such as AlterNet; if you pair the words with an American political entity in which members do not commonly thus designate themselves -- for example, "congress progressive" and "congress liberal" -- you'll see the old L word is still alive and kicking.

Falcoff also maintains that "'development assistance' (or, as the Europeans prefer to call it, 'international cooperation')" is the media's "replacement for the old (and in the U.S., hugely unpopular) term 'foreign aid.'" Not really.

And as Google News is a liberal front, you would expect them to return sources using lefty weasel words more often than other aggregators, in hopes of gulling the public. (Interestingly, at Bing the results are very different, though also much more selective.) You may alternately use your common sense. News people prefer short phrases to long, and words their readers understand to those they don't.

They keep working this vein, as they have for years. I doubt there are many people left to convince who haven't been convinced already, so I assume Falcoff's item is meant as comfort food for his perpetually beleaguered comrades. The last time I noticed him, way back in 2003, he was shopping Kissinger's plausible deniability on Allende. As the AEI guys like to say: Markets in everything.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

FORCED PERSPECTIVE. Big rightwing scandal of the day: Obama had an airplane moved before he made his speech. This is an unprecedented and treasonous attempt to control Presidential photo opportunities, which are supposed to evolve naturally, like a relationship.

Left Coast Rebel:
A brothel of snot-nosed, wide-eyed bleeding heart pointy-heads straight out of academia that care more for image and photo-op than any institution or sacred American lexicon. This story points exactly to just that. I have a prediction. This will be a big story tomorrow in the free-press only.
I have an educated guess. Left Coast Rebel is loved by his mother only.

Weekly Standard goes for the "I'm not nuts, you're nuts" approach: "And keep in mind, Obama was happy to have his picture taken with Hugo Chavez and Daniel Ortega, but the F-22 -- a plane that Americans can and should be proud of..." Oh Jesus Christ. Maybe Obama should have had the Statue of Liberty, the Harlem Globetrotters, and Mt. Rusmore in the background, too. Or isn't he proud of them?

As for meeting with Chaevz and Ortega, here's Bush meeting with Red Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao -- in April 2009. He's meeting with tyrants even after he's done being President! That means he likes to hug and kiss them.

I don't which would be worse: if they actually believe this shit matters, or if they're just pretending. Maybe we should also consider the possibility that they don't really know what they're doing anymore, and lash out at everything, like young Helen Keller.

UPDATE. Left Coast Rebel offers a rebuttal:
The Left Coast Rebel Has a New Hater, The ACLUBlog
No to h8ers! Remember what the boss said. Of course liberal hate is contagious, and causes our hero to turn colors.
The ACLUBlog mission statement --- "There are some occupations that are stereotypically gay, but mechanical engineering isn't one of them."

Yes, stereotypically gay, just like calling a conservative out as only loved by his mother, or like a wandering Helen Keller. How original, how 'tolerant', how 'liberal.'
Apparently when I thought I was making jokes about internet commentators, I was attacking gay and disabled people. Forgive me, fellow PC killjoys! In fact, the joke about turning colors is probably some kind of racism, too.
Can you imagine if GWB had staged a photo-op at an Air Force Base...
I'm not perfect; maybe LCR's post is a parody too. But how do you tell?
TRY, TRY AGAIN. Since my job has forced me to pay attention to what's going on in Albany, I haven't expected much from the state senate in the way of gay marriage. (I was slightly surprised that they actually brought it to a vote today.) The New York senate is a shithole of graft and corruption and represents the worst elements of the state's political culture, so I knew when they got to the subject it would be badly handled. Tom Duane, a major backer, says that "promises made were not honored." I'm sure he is being quite literal. I wouldn't trust most of these bums to guard a dunghill.

Though a lot of gay folk are fuming at the no-voters, I'm sure each of those senators considers this vote a political plus in his or her respective backwater district, whether it be Ozone Park or Olean.

I will say that Hiram Monserrate surprised me, in that I don't see how he manages to be so perfectly disgusting all the time. From his beginnings as a deranged cop to his (as a councilman) Willets Point double-cross to his involvement with the Albany "Gang of Three" shakedown artists and Coup to his assault on his girlfriend, this guy seems almost consciously determined to set new standards of repulsiveness. Maybe he's a government experiment of some kind.

Anyway. I've been around a long time, and have learned how ingrained both the bigotry and the cowardice represented by this vote are. All we can do is keep being right and hope some of us live to see things change. Things do get better -- they were burning witches not many generations back -- though not always on our timetables.

One other thing. It's interesting to note that, where once upon a time rightwingers would on these occasions take pains to distinguish between their opposition to "special rights" and their personally enlightened attitude toward gay people, today they're basically openly saying "Get the faggots." There's a lot wrong with our current poisonous discourse, but at least we have been relieved of the obligation to treat these shitheels politely anymore.
STILL IN BAGRAM. I really don't see what these guys are bitching about. They're getting pretty much what they would have gotten from any other President, alas: a renewed commitment of blood and treasure, with some trimming in keeping with our straitened circumstances.

I can see why they would object to the language, as it is not as bloodthirsty as they normally enjoy, but as a pitch to a recession-weary populace, it made sense: he made the problem look resolvable and of limited duration, and he appeared cost-conscious, which is a nice change of pace.

"The words were meant to be inspirational," claims Ann Althouse, "but there was no lift... no lift of a driving dream." We've been at war for nine years; I doubt Obama or anyone else is looking for uplift at this point. (She says of one passage, "I had to imagine Reagan saying it to understand what it was supposed to mean." Try to imagine Reagan saying it if Jimmy Carter had invaded Afghanistan in 1980 instead of just boycotting the Olympics, and we were still there in 1988. Or try to imagine President Palin saying it in 2013. There aren't enough gosh-darnits in the world to put that one over.)

This playing for time business is depressing, especially when you consider that the best we can hope for is reduced levels of violence in the countries we have broken and are endeavoring to un-buy. But barring the kind of sweeping reform of national priorities that we increasingly unlikely to get from either party, we can't expect better. The swords will stay swords for some time; let us hope we aren't called upon to melt down the ploughshares anytime soon.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

THE BAD LIEUTENANT, SECOND TAKE. Some people were confused by my review of The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans, and I don't blame them, as it was posted late, unedited and over-effusive. I feel compelled to revisit the topic. I warn you, I may not have this thing figured, but I enjoyed the movie and it stayed with me, and thinking out loud is how I stretch out the pleasure. (Thank God there are other sites on the internet for you to visit! One man shouldn't have so much power.)

Most of the lead characters in Herzog's movies -- Aguirre, Stroszek, Kaspar Hauser, Timothy Treadwell -- don't undergo old-fashioned dramatic transformations in which they confront the opportunity to change; their surroundings change, and the characters struggle against them as if change were out of the question. (Stroszek tells his girlfriend that America takes your soul, then goes on a rampage, but as played by Bruno S., he's practically catatonic and can no more be said to undergo recognition and transformation than could a cornered animal.)

Similarly, McDonagh doesn't appear to be making decisions; he acts on impulse, frequently fueled by drugs. That's what makes the movie so weird, all singing iguanas aside. He's set up as a mixed character in the Hollywood tradition -- a Cop Who Doesn't Play By The Rules -- and we are encouraged by custom to seek his badly-hidden good side and root for it. But Herzog makes that impossible by making him a Herzog character.

There's an interesting moment, for example, when the football player McDonagh is trying to shake down for points tells him he doesn't seem concerned anymore with the family murder he'd been investigating. McDonagh replies (paraphrasing from memory): "Look at me. Now look at you. I never was." What's shocking is that, given the way he's been acting, we really don't know if he's lying.

What's good about him? He seems devoted to his job, but he's busted, not for Not Playing By The Rules, but for an egregious screw-up that wrecks the case. His decision to plant the crack pipe (and really, how "good" a move is that?) might be the result of long-term planning under the pretense of criminality, but given his instability it looks more like junkie cunning with the power of the law behind it. He's a really Bad Lieutenant. His devotion to Frankie looks good, but when pregnancy and rehabilitation seem to have rendered her prostitution career inoperable, and their relationship more traditional, he's back to shaking down minor drug offenders and presumably getting sex out of it.

I really think if some other director had gotten this script, he would have planted "tells" to comfort us that McDonagh is a good man struggling to act like one, saved by his own actions, and played by Michael Douglas. In the Herzog version, every opportunity to see it that way is painstakingly removed. The settled and sober McDonagh -- drinker of sparkling water, bearer of the recovered childhood spoon! -- is a result of events playing out, not his will. Then he backslides, and has to be rescued.

That rescue (and who knows how long it will last?) has played on my mind. Part of me thinks it's just a concession to Hollywood tradition. Another way to see it is as a clue to the philosophy. Last time out, I was talking about grace; maybe the "good" is just something that comes to us, and we take it when and where we can. And if that's the last thing we see before the credits, those of us who were just thrilled to see Nicolas Cage flip out for two hours can go home happy. The rest can wonder if, after the credits, it all keeps happening over and over again. Is that his life? Is it ours?

Some smart people who are fans of Herzog really hate the movie, and I can't say I blame them, either. McDonagh closely resembles the glorious monsters played by Klaus Kinski in Herzog movies but, though McDonagh is almost as much fun to gawk at as Aguirre or Fitzcarraldo, he isn't on their scale. Those characters were forces of nature and had the fascination of landslides or hurricanes. Try to imagine Kinski as a Cop Who Doesn't Play By The Rules!

The question for me is, does putting this trademark Herzog brand of monstrosity into a cop movie destroy it? Are these creatures only fit for extremities, or do they mean something even in grimy little procedurals? I think the latter, because I think those monsters are not just great men, but characters to which even little people like me can relate. We are sometimes outsize, if only in our imaginations. We are sometimes awful, and think we may be awful all the way down. We are often damned by our actions and sometimes rescued by chance. And we may be forced to consider, when it is pointed out to us by an insane German, that chance might be the thing we thought was God.