Friday, December 31, 2010

AULD LANG SYNE. At Vagabond Scholar, Battochio has restarted a tradition begun by the late Al Weisel aka Jon Swift: A year-end roundup of what some bloggers considered their best posts of 2010. There's a lot of fine stuff there that I missed the first time around, and maybe you did too.

Tonight I hope you all enjoy your Possum Drop or whatever you use to celebrate.

UPDATE. How do your New Year's resolutions stack up against Richard Nixon's?

Thursday, December 30, 2010

CONSERVATIVE INTELLECTUALISM: A STATUS REPORT. In case you were wondering what that crazy motherfucker Robert P. George was up to, I followed a link at National Review and got this. George is apparently still into mystical anatomy as a justification for homophobia:
Like Andrew Koppelman, Barry Deutsch has posted a critique of our recent Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy article arguing that marriage is the conjugal union of husband and wife. And, like Koppelman, Deutsch makes central to his critique a denial that marital coition effects a true organic (bodily) union of spouses. For the reasons we set forth in our reply to Professor Koppelman, we believe his critique is unsuccessful...
Our studies show 98 percent of readers do the record-scratch/double-take thing on "marital coition effects a true organic (bodily) union of spouses." But wait, George and his co-authors have more. They quote their original article, which I gotta give them credit for because if I had written something like this...
In coitus, but not in other forms of sexual contact, a man and a woman’s bodies coordinate by way of their sexual organs for the common biological purpose of reproduction. They perform the first step of the complex reproductive process. Thus, their bodies become, in a strong sense, one—they are biologically united, and do not merely rub together—in coitus (and only in coitus), similarly to the way in which one’s heart, lungs, and other organs form a unity: by coordinating for the biological good of the whole. In this case, the whole is made up of the man and woman as a couple, and the biological good of that whole is their reproduction.
...I wouldn't be spreading it around. I mean, how many times can people hear "I was drunk" before it stops being a valid excuse?

If you want to read a couple thousand words about how fucking makes you and your beloved into a single super-creature (but only if you do it in the right hole, and sucking is definitely out), Happy Kwanzaa!

George kinda reminds me of the mad doctor in The Human Centipede.

UPDATE. Commenters make the connection I missed: to Voltron, Defender of the Universe, by C.S. Lewis.
HOW BULLSHIT WORKS, PART 9,230,933. Rolling Stone interviewed Merle Haggard, who was exceedingly gracious about President Obama:
...It was also nice to meet Obama and find him very different from the media makeout. It's really almost criminal what they do with our President. There seems to be no shame or anything. They call him all kinds of names all day long, saying he's doing certain things that he's not. It's just a big old political game that I don't want to be part of. There are people spending their lives putting him down. I'm sure some of it's true and some of it's not. I was very surprised to find the man very humble and he had a nice handshake. His wife was very cordial to the guests and especially me. They made a special effort to make me feel welcome. It was not at all the way the media described him to be.

What's the biggest lie out there about Obama?

He's not conceited. He's very humble about being the President of the United States, especially in comparison to some presidents we've had who come across like they don't need anybody's help. I think he knows he's in over his head. Anybody with any sense who takes that job and thinks they can handle it must be an idiot.
Guess how Ole Perfesser Instapundit and Andrew Malcolm spun it?
Merle Haggard, who likes Obama, compliments him by saying, 'I think he knows he's in over his head'
I used to think no little boy or girl ever wanted to be a propagandist when he or she grew up, but I'm beginning to think some people are just born to the job.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

TRUE GRIT. My memory of the 1969 original is faint, but you can see some of its playing style in this old trailer. John Wayne is kind of doing Wallace Beery, and everyone else is taking an old-fashioned comedy-Western approach.

The Coens' version is, as you might expect, in the modern Deadwood manner: Formal but lethal. Their Old West is a cruel if mannerly place where even grandma will steal the blanket from you, and justice is something you only get if you're more fiercely devoted to it than most men are to their lives.

Mattie Ross (Hailee Steinfeld) is that devoted. She wants the man who killed her father brought to justice, and wants it badly enough that she will push, cajole, and (in her ornery way) seduce two hard men to abet her. That doesn't mean they wouldn't have done it anyway (one of them was already on the case when she got there, the other is up for it if the funds are right), but her interests are significantly different from theirs.

While finances are of course imperative, the Ranger La Boeuf (Matt Damon) and the Marshall Rooster Cogburn (Jeff Bridges) are really on the hunt for honor: La Boeuf because he is, by God, a Texas Ranger, and will have his man; Cogburn because he is, by God, Cogburn, and likewise. Tracking's their job. From this comes the grand joke of their constant bickering: Though they seem to have much in common, each is so implacably devoted to his own code that they'll argue out of personal pride, and even over whether a Ranger really will drink muddy water from a hoofprint ("Oh, I believed it the first 25 times I heard it…").

But Mattie alone is devoted to justice. She expects, for example, that they will bury a felled outlaw because Cogburn promised the man as he lay dying that he would. But Cogburn brushes it off: "Ground's too hard." When she insists that the killer be brought to justice on her terms, Cogburn tells her -- rather kindly, for him -- that in this world you can't have every little thing.

Mattie never accepts that. She is singular in both manner and mission, and her steady, urgent voiceover isolates her further. The Coens start the show with a Bible quote, and I surmise (for where else?) that the Bible is where Mattie gets her determination. No one in the picture will accommodate her vision, but she insists upon it, wins her chance at it through unearthly determination, and in the end (rather, near the end) gets it.

[Here, I warn, are some very severe spoilers.]

Once she's fought her way onto the trail, Mattie is left mostly an observer of the grisly action, until suddenly she finally gets her chance to administer justice by her own hand. In doing so she is propelled, or more literally repelled, into a pit of snakes and an amazing coda that I believe the Coens made the whole movie to achieve.

Once Mattie is snakebit, things change rapidly. Cogburn's kindness toward her turns to heroism, and he rides her on her cherished horse Blackie toward salvation. The whole picture looks great (the wonderful Roger Deakins is DP) but on that ride the visuals turn to magic. The Indian territory that had been familiar becomes ghostly, the dead trees rising like phantom snakes; the horse sweats, falters, and is sacrificed; Cogburn goes beyond his duty, and what we would imagine his capacity, to carry Mattie within sight of an ember of civilization.

The Coens, gently evoking John Ford, will not show Cogburn entering that promised land.

We go suddenly forward to when Mattie is about 40, missing an arm from that long-ago adventure. (She is shown erect, impeccable in dress and bearing, her sleeve sewn carefully up.) She has come some distance to see Cogburn, who had sent her a letter (perhaps the only one he ever sent and, she notes, badly spelled), bottom-billed in a Wild West show. At the fairgrounds Mattie is told Cogburn died shortly before. She responds with, under the circumstances, monumentally correct behavior, then harshly insults a man who did her the dishonor of not rising in her presence. And she does Cogburn the honor of removing his body to her ancestral burying place.

Over his grave, she recalls in voiceover La Boeuf, who showed some interest in her all those years ago and from whom she never heard after her amputation; he must be over 60, she recalls, probably closer to 70, and, her still-level voice declares, "time must have taken some of the starch out of his cowlick." She has never married.

Well, I warned you there were spoilers. But I had to indulge them because, though I enjoyed the movie, my memory could dispense with everything from it but the ending. The Coens give fair play to all their characters, but the fate of Mattie -- a girl who never wavered in her resolve, and lived with its hard consequence -- is a glorious movie unto itself.

I need hardly comment upon the acting, which has been elsewhere justly celebrated, except to say that young Miss Steinfeld may or may not be good at it, but she is earnest and comfortable in the company of great actors, and that's no small thing. I must add that Elizabeth Marvel, whose acting I have had the great privilege of seeing onstage, is sublime as the older Mattie, and that it is a shame she has not had more attention for her brief but searing performance.

ADDENDUM. I have written about the Coens' work before here, here, here, and here.

UPDATE. Glenn Kenny has some smart things to say in comments, and an astute review of True Grit here.
GOLDBERG FOR THE DEFENSE. I sympathize with BigHank53, who commented on my analysis of Jonah Goldberg's Big Gay Column, "Christ, it's a Jonah Goldberg essay. Looking for an actual argument in there is like taking the back of the TV off during The Lone Ranger so you can grab yourself a miniature horse." Yes, it's all futile, but heaven hath pleased it so, to punish me with this and this with me, etc.

Thus harried, I must also note this from Goldberg's follow-up at The Corner, regarding his own fudgy pronouncement on gay marriage ("Personally, I have always felt that gay marriage was an inevitability, for good or ill [most likely both]. I do not think that the arguments against gay marriage are all grounded in bigotry, and I find some of the arguments persuasive, fart fart"):
The first is the complaint that I rely on the crutch of “inevitability.” As a couple readers put it, National Review writers, of all people, shouldn’t be talking about “inevitability.” We’re the ones who stand athwart inevitability yelling, “Stop.”

I like the point and I think it’s a fair one to some extent. But all I can say in my defense is that I think I’m right about the inevitability of gay marriage or at least very strong civil unions (which would ultimately lead to gay marriage, anyway). I don’t take this position because I’m dodging, or caving, or playing games of some kind. I just happen to think it’s true (barring some scientific developments down the road). Moreover, as I suggest in my column today, I don’t consider inevitability to be synonymous with conservative defeat and liberal victory, because what we mean by such things can be a lot more complicated than what the daily chatter reduces them too.
Did I just have a tiny stroke, or is Goldberg saying that he thinks it's so because he thinks it's so?

Also, what "scientific developments" might stand in the way of gay marriage? Could he be talking about the "gay gene" concept that has been knocking around for years? (I guess then conservatives would start advocating increased medical research funding and abortion. Wow, he's right, this could be complicated!) Or maybe he has advance word on a paper from the Discovery Institute proving homosexuals caused the Ice Age.
IT'S AN ILL WIND THAT BLOWS NO ONE SOME GOOD. Charlotte Hays at National Review:
The blizzard is definitely a force for conservatism...
You wouldn't think this would be anything to brag on, but wait, she's going somewhere with this:
... and not only because it has had the global-warming crowd scrambling for explanations. The blizzard reveals something basic: Liberals in government want to tell us what to eat, counsel us about how and when to die, and in general attempt to engineer our lives. But when reality knocks, they can’t do the basic stuff such as clearing the streets so that newborns don’t die in bloody apartment-building lobbies. Mayor Bloomberg may be receiving an unfair amount of criticism for his lackluster performance in coping with Mother Nature, given the almost unprecedented nature of the storm, but the unplowed city streets provide a metaphor for the nanny state: It can order us to do anything, but it can’t take care of the basic obligations of government.
The hundreds who died in the Blizzard of 1888 at least had the comfort of knowing that they had not been killed by socialism.

Not bad, so far as this sort of thing goes, but it needs some laugh lines from Jonah Goldberg.
DUMBASS, DON'T TELL. 11 months ago, Jonah Goldberg said, "conservatives shouldn’t take Obama’s bait on repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell... I’m not saying he doesn’t believe it should be repealed. But no one seems to think Obama will do anything to achieve this supposed goal." That ship has sailed, so now Goldberg's back to tell us how the repeal of DADT is good news for conservatives.

Goldberg starts, as conservatives tend to do when talking about gay people, with sex:
Two decades ago, the gay left wanted to smash the bourgeois prisons of monogamy, capitalistic enterprise and patriotic values and bask in the warm sun of bohemian "free love."
Two decades ago would be 1990, at which time I was living in the bohemian Ground Zero of the East Village and perceived very little monogamy-smashing among gays or straights. Maybe he means the 70s, bathhouses, and such like. (I still don't know how this relates to "capitalistic enterprise and patriotic values.")
In this, they were simply picking up the torch from the straight left of the 1960s and 1970s, who had sought to throw off the sexual hang-ups of their parents' generation along with their gray flannel suits.
Gay people had to learn about free love from heterosexuals? But I thought they were supposed to be corrupting us!
As a sexual lifestyle experiment, that failed pretty miserably, the greatest proof being that the affluent and educated children (and grandchildren) of the baby boomers have reembraced bourgeois notions of marriage as an essential part of life. Sadly, it's the have-nots who are now struggling as marriage is increasingly seen as an unaffordable luxury. The irony is that such bourgeois values — monogamy, hard work, etc. — are the best guarantors of success and happiness.
Goldberg can't claim that America, exhausted by the Great Orgy of 1990, has fallen in love with marriage all over again -- in part because marriage rates among young people have actually dropped. So he falls back on the standard rightwing idea that getting hitched makes you wealthy, leaving us to wonder why the poor haven't caught on to this money-making secret and how a bunch of rich people having weddings constitutes a conservative social revival. Maybe getting married is the new Going Galt?

Getting back to the homosexuals, Goldberg explains how they lost their taste for free love:
Of course, AIDS played an obvious and tragic role in focusing attention on the downside of promiscuity. But even so, the sweeping embrace of bourgeois lifestyles by the gay community has been stunning.
To put it another way: Yeah, there was this virulent, sexually-trasmitted plague, but still and all, you gotta wonder why gay couples are nesting in front of the TV.
Nowhere is this more evident — and perhaps exaggerated — than in popular culture. Watch ABC's "Modern Family." The sitcom is supposed to be "subversive" in part because it features a gay couple with an adopted daughter from Asia...
I'll spare you the detailed explanation, but the upshot is, Americans like gays on the TV, which means something conservative, because everything does. Finally we get to DADT:
Or look at the decision to let gays openly serve in the military through the eyes of a principled hater of all things military. From that perspective, gays have just been co-opted by the Man. Meanwhile, the folks who used "don't ask, don't tell" as an excuse to keep the military from recruiting on campuses just saw their argument go up in flames.
For years gay people have been fighting for the right to serve openly in the military and conservatives have been fighting against them. This month Democrats finally got a handful of Republicans to go along with DADT repeal. But Goldberg has found in his imagination a "principled hater of all things military" who doesn't approve. Plus ROTC! It's a wonder Mitch McConnell and Jim DeMint didn't get in on the big win in the Senate.

Finally, on to the next frontier:
Personally, I have always felt that gay marriage was an inevitability, for good or ill (most likely both). I do not think that the arguments against gay marriage are all grounded in bigotry, and I find some of the arguments persuasive.
Remember this ringing endorsement when marriage equality hits 50 states and Goldberg is telling us that gay is the new Tea Party.

UPDATE. See also Zandar.

Monday, December 27, 2010

NEW VOICE COLUMN UP, announcing the The 10 Best Rightblogger Rants of 2010. But really, they're all winners.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

A CHRISTMAS FUGACITY. Here I take a short Xmas break to call your attention to alphaDictionary's "The 100 Most Beautiful Words in English" (h/t Jay Rosen).

I didn't know some of these words, though of course in a few months I'll claim to have used them all in ordinary speech since I was nine. But the really nice thing about the list is that it includes many words we all know -- and yes, "umbrella" is a beautiful word, come to think of it.

There's a humbling aspect, too. I thought "mondegreen" was pretty exotic, but look at the Twitter results. Gasp! Am I like the rest, after all?

What did they miss? I'm very fond of cachexia, tremulous, termagant, and -- probably a good one to use here -- catachrestic. How about you?

UPDATE. Thanks to all contributors in comments, especially those who helped me fall in love all over again with homey old words like flange, kaput, and gonorrhea.

Friday, December 24, 2010

SERVICE ADVISORY. I have to do human-type stuff for Christmas, so I'll be off the grid a day or two. I hope you all enjoy this preposterous holiday in your own way. If you get a moment, can you tell me if there's any holiday TV special in history that's worse than the Family Ties Christmas Carol?


Story here.

UPDATE 2. Commenter Matt T: "Man, I like Ellison a lot but I've decided to stop reading stories about what kind of raw cob he is." I understand. One of my favorite reading experiences this year was Harlan Ellison’s The City on the Edge of Forever, The Original Teleplay That Became The Classic Star Trek Episode, in which the great man tells us what a bunch of shits nearly everyone else involved with the episode was. I don't have it in front of me, but I recall a lot of "fasten your seat belts" and "we're going down the rabbit hole, people" type of admonitions.

UPDATE 3. New worst Christmas Special: Poliwood on How the Boomers Killed the Spirit of the Season. Lionel Chetwynd tells us how Boomers promote "cynical, cold views of the human condition" via subversive entertainments like Elf; also, "I just can't imagine George Soros bending his head and saying 'O God, thank you.'" And no musical numbers! Who greenlighted this thing?

Thursday, December 23, 2010

SPITTING THE DIFFERENCE. So what had happened was:How Net Neutrality Lite will play out, I don't know (Dan Costa thinks it will be fine). But the way this has gone down is a good reminder that in the short term, compromises please almost nobody.

I don't recall much excitement about enthusiasm for* Don't Ask Don't Tell when Clinton came up with it as a compromise on what used to be called the Controversy over Gays in the Military. Yet here we are.

*UPDATE. Edited for clarity.
A CHRISTMAS MIRACLE. Nina Totenberg says her "forgive the expression – a Christmas party" comment was a joke and not an assault on Christmas, which you might have guessed. I learned this via Ole Perfesser Instapundit! His title spins it a little, but what the hell, I'll take my sugar plums where I can find them. Let us beat our War of Christmas swords into soccer balls.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

BREAKING THE DETECTOR. Maybe it's the holiday season, but much of what I'm seeing on the internet today activates the flashing "BULLSHIT" sign in my head. This, from Jay Nordlinger at National Review, is three-alarm bullshit:
Some have said, “You just can’t find cards that say ‘Merry Christmas.’ It gets harder and harder.” I know. Kind of like trying to find products not made in China [senile ramblings]...

I gave up on the “Merry Christmas” front too, where cards are concerned. I just get a pretty card that says “Season’s Greetings” or “Whass Happenin’ on the Holidays?” or whatever. Life’s too short to hunt down “Merry Christmas.”
Bull fucking shit. I was just at a drugstore here in Harlem. There were plenty of goddamn Christmas cards. And this is in Manhattan, epicenter of liberal fascism -- in fact, the woman next to me at the card rack was devouring a fetus (as they do in Europe: out of a cone made from a newspaper, with mayonnaise), while on the sidewalk a bum was persecuting Christians with his mind-rays. Still had Christmas cards.

If you can't find Christmas cards in America, get a flashlight and a map and, while you're at it, look for your ass.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

JUST A REMINDER: EVIL NETWORK IZ EVIL. Miss Heather of New York Shitty:
224,629 page views and counting. Impressive. Where’s my cut of the revenue you undoubtedly gained as a result of this, my hard work, Fox News?
Adam Klasfeld of Courthouse News:
Last Friday, Fox News ripped off my exclusive coverage of the trial of Army Capt. Bryant Williams, who was convicted of bribing and accepting kickbacks from military contractors in Iraq. The network passed my reportage off as its own through at least 13 affiliates from coast to coast.

To be more specific, one or more anonymous employees of a Fox affiliate lifted large portions of my coverage for their own story, sometimes using my exact phrasing and often reporting information that they could only have learned from me, without attribution or a byline.
Amazing what people can get away with when they're rich and draped in American flags.
READER MAILBAG. In my recent Voice column on DADT repeal, I got a little kick out of W. James Antle III, who likes neither gays in the military nor women in the military. Antle responds:
Roy Edroso, the Village Voice's tour guide to the conservative blogosphere, finds it odd that I think there were any problems associated with integrating women into the military. I guess he's never heard of fraternization, pregnancies, or sexual harassment, none of which were much in evidence in the days of the Women's Auxillary Corps.
I have, but I've never heard of our fighting men and women failing to Take The Hill because they were too distracted by baby-making, fornication, and unwanted advances. Oh, wait, is that what happened in Vietnam?
But here's what I find odd: that progressives instinctively like the idea of women killing and dying in war.
I've got a few kinks, but I assure you this is not one of them. Besides, if that were a "progressive" thing, wouldn't liberal Hollyweird have churned out dozens of bloody female war epics for our pornographic delectation by now?

(Oh please oh please oh please bring up G.I. Jane; this post needs more laughs.)

UPDATE. Mission Accomplished!
NUMBERS RACKET. The new Census numbers are here, and there are few surprises, though I have to admit it is a shock to see that California gained population (though not House seats) -- to hear conservatives speak of it, one would have expected most of its citizens to have emigrated to Galt's Gulch, in desperate search of bootstraps. But this is unfair -- all states except Michigan grew in population. I guess those 10 years of socialism weren't such a turn-off, after all.

In other news, statist strongholds like New York and Pennsylvania continued their long losing streaks in Congressional apportionment, while Texas picked up four seats, which is meaningless as they're going to secede. Washington state was the only House seat gainer among traditional communist strongholds.

We'll have to wait for more information to see whether the new citizens of the gainer states migrated from simple hamlets and villages to godless cities, or vice-versa. One thing's clear, though -- with 307.8 million residents on board, America will make a hell of a splash when it goes down.

UPDATE. Business Insider points out that most of Texas' growth comes from Hispanics or, as they're called down there, Messicans. This casts doubt of the reliability of these new residents as Republicans. On the other hand, whoever the present Texas voters are, they voted pretty Republican iast November. And anyway by the time the young ones have grown up, however full of Democratic notions from Austin and El Paso they may be, Texas will have reclaimed its nationhood and shipped all its Messicans off to Cali.

UPDATE 2. Commenter mds says the Permanent Reapportionment Act of 1929 has made the House of Representatives less representative than it might be. I notice that some conservatives have said they think the Act has outlived its usefulness, too. But given the current result, don't expect them to throw it on the raft of Constitutional changes they've been yelling for.

Monday, December 20, 2010

LITTLE THINGS MEAN A LOT. Nina Totenberg said on some TV talk show, "I was at – forgive the expression – a Christmas party at the Department of Justice and" etc, and The War on Christmas is again aflame, with every conservative and his brother denouncing Totenberg and allied forces ("NPR Liberals Are Now Openly Apologizing – Forgive the Expression – for Using the Word 'Christmas' On the Air [Video]").

Meanwhile GOP Presidential prospect Haley Barbour had some kind words for the Citizens Councils of the Old South (which he recalls as working against the Klan, though the record of such Councils is a little more mixed). Some conservatives wonder why people are making a big deal out of it. "If you pick out a sentence or a paragraph out of a fairly long article and harp on it, you can manipulate it," says Barbour's spokesman.

I think, among our many differences, we even have different ideas about what's trivial.

UPDATE 12/23: Totenberg responds.
NEW VOICE COLUMN UP about the rightblogger response to DADT repeal. A lot of them are actually getting out of the way, which should be heartening, but I do find the downside to that, too. I'm so negative.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Brendan O'Neill, the editor of spiked, writes a furious and fascinating book review asserting that some neo-Malthsuian progressives are valorizing homosexuality as eco-friendly. Why? Because gays and lesbians are less likely to have children and children despoil Mother Earth.
Evidence offered: An old Anthony Burgess novel, a self-evident joke by George Monbiot, and... Paul Ehrlich. Seriously.

Pop over to his source, and you find that innocuous statements like "in an overpopulated world, it would be a good thing if there were more homosexuality," and the existence of "Cats Not Brats" t-shirts, are taken as threats by some shadowy legion of homosexual supremacists. (Similarly, I suppose, those ladies' t-shirts that say "BITCH" are signaling devices for gynocrat terrorists.)

Bailey sums up:
O'Neill is not objecting to gay sex nor to choosing to have no children, but against polticizing those lifestyles as being morally superior on ecological grounds. The implied concern is that asserted moral superiority could be translated into coercive public policy.
Yeah, that's what we should be worried about: Coercive pro-gay policies.

It's like when they defend banks against their would-be regulators and the rich from paying more in taxes -- In fact, it's what libertarianism is all about: Bravely defending the powerful from persecuted minorities.

UPDATE. Thanks to commenter Jeffrey Kramer for doing the hard work:
If you're playing buzzword bingo, O'Neill's piece has the "chattering class" of the "liberal elite" (aka "elite elements," aka "our moral betters" aka "the supposedly liberal and tolerant") which breakfasts on "muesli" while "feverishly" contemplating overpopulation, encouraged by Psychology Today, which is "the bible" of the "medical elite" and also by "the upper echelons" of the gay movement, who are "their self-styled" representatives, while drawing back in horror at "the baby-making masses" and employing "trendy-sounding" arguments from ecology to help establish a "morality police."
Oh, well, when you put it that way...

Blues, rock, punk -- whatever he did, was his.

UPDATE. I recall an appearance by the Captain on Letterman around the time Ice Cream for Crow was released. The Captain revealed that he lived in a trailer in the desert. "Do you like living in the desert?" asked Letterman. "No," said the Captain. Letterman asked why he stayed then. "I love the tension," he said. "The discipline." (See it here.) A very advanced mind.

You may also enjoy the Captain's 1983 blindfold test by Vanity Fair. (On PIL's "Swan Lake": "Go back to Germany! That beat that loud - that's the thing that makes the money." On Guitar Slim's "The Things That I Used To Do": "That would be a nice thing to dance to with a girl close in, and feel through her Dyna-Match wool hair as thick as Ticonderoga pencils.")
CNN and Tea Party Express to host 2012 debate

CNN said Friday that it is joining forces with the Tea Party Express — a political action committee that played a key role in the 2010 midterm elections — to co-host a Republican presidential debate...

“Undecided voters turn to CNN to educate themselves during election cycles, so it is a natural fit for CNN to provide a platform for the diverse perspectives within the Republican Party, including those of the tea party movement,” CNN political director Sam Feist said in a statement. In it, he called Tea Party Express “a fascinating, diverse, grass-roots force that already has drastically changed the country’s political landscape.”

Feist added in an interview with POLITICO that CNN “reached out to other tea party groups” and would make an effort to include them in the debate.
This'll be a pip. For one thing, it will be the first debate where the "questions" are longer than the answers, as the former will no doubt consist of readings from speeches, letters to the editor, and old John Birch Society tracts, and the answers will all be "yes, sir."

Second, we'll get to see much more of Ron Paul, until Sarah Palin goes Manchurian Candidate on his ass. If we can't stop the country going down the drain, let's at least enjoy the patterns in the swirling.
CUI BONO. Kevin Drum, one of the more moderate voices out there, is disgustipated:
Democrats have some things they want to do, but in addition to satisfying their own interest groups they have to settle for third or fourth best policies because Republicans have simply decided they don't care about anything except tax cuts for the rich, hating gay people, and bennies for favored industries. In the middle of a massive recession they opposed a stimulus bill. In the aftermath of a financial crisis they opposed a financial reform bill. In the face of skyrocketing healthcare costs they demagogued modest cuts in Medicare spending. They spent months negotiating a spending bill — transparently, openly, via the ordinary committee process — and then killed it just because it would annoy Harry Reid. Global warming is a hoax, gay recruits will destroy the military, and creationism is an appropriate topic for high school biology classes...
On the other hand, as our leaders pass an enhanced tax relief bill that deprives the Treasury hundreds of billions of dollars, Republicans cut about eight billion dollars in earmarks, on which achievement they are able to brag about their seriousness. So it's not as if someone doesn't benefit from the situation.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

THE LAND OF MAKE BELIEVE. Over at The Astute Bloggers they've found another liberal attack on our way of life:
I knew it was only going to get worse at DC Comics: in his continuing efforts to form Batman Inc, Bruce Wayne recruits an Algerian Muslim living in France, in Clichy-Sous-Bois, where the Muslim riots grew out of in 2005, over the death of 2 delinquents who electrocuted themselves by stupidly entering a power station, and the blame was laid upon at least 2 policemen who weren't even at fault and didn't even know they were there. How about that, Bruce Wayne goes to France where he hires not a genuine French boy or girl with a real sense of justice, but rather, an "oppressed" minority who adheres to the Religion of Peace. And this is a guy whose very parents were murdered at the hands of a common street thug!...

Thank goodness the JLA/99 special was a fiasco. We can only hope the same will be for this pretentious story. It certainly puts the lie to the whole notion that DC is "conservative".
Please, nobody tell 'em Batman slept with Talia al Ghul.

UPDATE. This too! Between these outrages and the treason of Captain America, maybe conservatives will have to join forces with Solomon Grundy or move to Earth 7 or some shit.
Our founding fathers are no doubt spinning in their graves fast enough to provide cheap, clean, renewable power to the entire Atlantic seaboard.
I appreciate that you read me, but would appreciate it more if you gave me some credit. (See also.)
BLAKE EDWARDS R.I.P. In my youth I loved the Pink Panther movies. I still do. I don't know whether that makes them classic or me childish. I remain convinced that the "Does your dog bite?" schtick from The Pink Panther Strikes Again is one of the best-timed bits in film comedy history:

Timing was Edwards' strong suit. The conference of George Peppard and Audrey Hepburn with the wonderful John McGiver as the Tiffany salesman concerning an appropriately inexpensive gift in Breakfast at Tiffany's is a sweet piece of writing by George Axelrod, but its success owes much to the pacing. I think a lot of comedy directors would have chosen to play it far less dignified and deliberate, to say the least. Edwards and his players saw, though, the beauty of the scene: That the salesman takes their absurd requests seriously. And in playing that, they gave us the added pleasure of wondering how much of this is due to his professional dignity and how much to his perverse personal delight. There's something very, very New York about it.

Movie Videos & Movie Scenes at

As to Edwards' other films, they were hit and miss, but he dared greatly and sometimes his audacity carried the day. Victor/Victoria is a horrible shambles and frequently embarrassing, but you have to admire a man willing to send James Garner, clad in immaculate full evening dress, into a Parisian workingman's bar to fight men covered with filth in order to prove his masculinity. And though the decision to make Lesley Ann Warren almost inhumanly brassy may have been, in context, an ill-considered gender statement, it was certainly fun to watch.
OLD WAYS. There's a lot you could say against Time's selection of Mark Zuckerberg as Person of the Year. (This isn't bad.) And then there's what Michael Knox Beran says:
Electronic community has its virtues, but the morbid craving for it evident in the success of Facebook reveals the degree to which actual community has collapsed in much of the West. A multitude of causes have brought the civilization closer to Tocqueville’s prophecy of the last democratic man, shut up in “the solitude of his own heart,” but among these the war a number of our elites have waged against traditional town-square culture is surely not the least.
I'll spare you, but will note that modern architecture, atheism, welfare, and public education are apparently the weapons these elites used to destroy our communities, condemning us to the social simulacrum that is Facebook. It's like The Matrix, and we may think of Beran as the Red Pill.

Someone should alert the Tea Party people that if they really want to save America, they'll abandon wicked social media and call their meetings exclusively by cowbell and hold them by the horse troughs.

UPDATE. Some interesting comments defending Beran's basic proposition, in whole or in part. I can see that the thing people like to call the public square is not what it was. I've written about related phenomena myself. But when you talk about elites as the culprit, I have to ask who you think they are. This is America, and like most of what's good or bad about us, money is involved, and before money condenses as a social force it moves around as an exchange mechanism. Before it's Big Money, in other words, it's our money, and though few of us get a vote on what banks and corporations do with it after they get it, most of us agreed to give it to them. And if we were under some pressure to do so, it wasn't Le Corbusier so much as The Joneses that exerted it.

This would make corporatism a better target than whatever shadowy cabal of progressives Beran means by "the elite." But in the end, if we're hanging out less on bocce courts or at county fairs than on Facebook, and we don't like it, we have mainly ourselves to blame.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

PARANOIA RUNS DEEP. Some of you may know Robin of Berkeley, who dines out (or at least dines in on take-out) on having achieved conservatism despite the twin impediments of coastal California residence and employment as a psychotherapist. She is one of the Sadlynauts' favorite subjects; I last noticed her speculating that President Obama is nuts and perhaps using cocaine. Her primary schtick is imputing mental illness to liberals and other people she doesn't like.

I almost missed her latest exercise. It actually starts promisingly, with a memory of her Jewish family and their mistrust of outsiders, and this analysis:
I think that the feeling of being safe in one's tribe is hardwired into most of us, immigrant or not. We think that our family, neighbors, church, or synagogue is the trustworthy one. There's an illusion of safety, a feeling of protection within our own boundaries...

But life often intervenes; it can sometimes destroy the dream of being safe in our own home, or even our country. We may feel devastated to learn the truth, to confront the unpredictable nature of this human life.
OK, sure. And as we grow, we learn to cope with negative people and environments without letting them make us mistrustful of everyone. Right?
Of course, Americans were reminded of this reality on 9/11, when this country, the only remaining superpower, became another chilling statistic.
Hmm. Well, alright, I... I suppose you could look at 9/11 as a growth experience...
We all go through it: the harsh wake-up call that things aren't as they appear to be. One of my friends has never fully recovered from the day she uncovered her husband's year-long love affair.
Another friend has been broadsided by the news that a close family member has been sabotaging her. Just this week, I've been dealing with people undermining me whom I thought I could trust...

The wise Abraham Lincoln understood the menace of the Enemy Within. Lincoln stated, "America will never be destroyed from outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves."

Now that I've awakened from my trance, I am stunned by what I was missing all of these years. Earth to Robin -- remember those nutcases who bombed this nation in the '60s, people such as Bill Ayers and Bernadine Dohrn? Well, maybe we don't want them having influence over the president of the United States. And perhaps all of those America-haters on the Left, now in charge, aren't exactly the greatest guardians of the public trust.
I guess I was taking it wrong: Robin sees all these untoward experiences -- a bad marriage, a personal betrayal, a suicide attack killing 3,000 people -- as evidence that her family was right all along. Except for one thing: Even your family wants to kill you!

After more talk about The Enemy Within -- including "radical Islam and drug dealers invading our borders" and subversive school-teachers -- Robin tells us,
With the sabotage going on in my life, last night I couldn't sleep a wink. I lay in bed disturbed, thinking of these people who want to harm me.
I prescribe daily therapy and perhaps Ativan.
But even in my discomfort, there was a part of me that felt grateful for the reminder.
Too late -- the voices have got her.

UPDATE. Thanks, all, for great comments, with references to Poe, Jim Thompson, The Caine Mutiny, etc, and to the Guest who corrected my spelling. (How did I miss "Ativan"? It's right there on the bottle!)

Monday, December 13, 2010

NEW VOICE COLUMN UP -- my annual War on Christmas Special! I had too much stuffing for the stocking, so here for you Real People are some celebrity outtakes. First, theblogprof's statement of concern for the people of Dhimmi Britain when he learns that supermarkets in Blighty are not selling many Christ-themed holiday cards anymore:
Christmas. CHRISTmas. The day we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, Lord and Savior of all. All don't want to acknowledge it though, and the very name of Jesus alarms their corrupted conscience...

The Brits deny Jesus at their own peril.
Especially Brits who wait until everything else is closed and have to buy their cards at supermarkets.

Also, I didn't think there could be any controversy about the White House Christmas tree, but The Daily Caller found one:
Obama’s Christmas tree takes 4 days to put up at height of economic crisis.
Federal Gummint union featherbedding, no doubt.

You might also enjoy The Liberal Claus: Socialism on a Sleigh, at least as curated by Dave Bow.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

THE COMPANY MEN is the politically enlightened feel-bad movie of the year, about a bunch of laid-off workers in the New Depression. Since retail clerks, car washers, and teacher's aides would be too downbeat, our heroes are all making hundreds of thousands of dollars for a megacorp when they are brought low.

Ben Affleck (the youngish $160K salesman) is an entitled asshole who gets worse under the pressure of failure until he is spiritually transformed by a job building houses for his gold-hearted, earth-salty fatherbrother-in-law (Kevin Costner). This leaves the big-picture suffering to the big wheels: Chris Cooper, a former shipbuilder who rose with the firm and, cut loose in his 50s, takes to drink; and Tommy Lee Jones, a top exec whose longtime friendship with the CEO counts for nothing, leaving him to brood, if in high style, on the unfairness of it all.

"All" includes Jones' speech at a rotting shipyard: "We used to make something here, back before we got lost in all the paperwork…6,000 men earning an honest wage in that room, fed their kids, bought homes, made enough to send their kids to college," etc. And Costner scoffing at a CEO's salary, "is [he] working 700 times harder than the welder pounding hot rivets into a tanker hull all day?"

This is corny but not wrong, which I could say about the whole movie. Even those of us who never saw a sixth figure in our entire working lives can relate to the mood-swings, frustrations, and humiliations of long unemployment in a rotten economy, even when they are suffered by people with greens fees who are forced by cruel circumstance to sell the Porsche. And audiences would probably prefer to see Ben Affleck sliding from a McMansion to his parents' perfectly nice house, rather than from crappy apartment to shelter or street.

Whether they'll be cheering when [spoilers alert] Affleck and a bunch of other rejects gets a second chance because the rich guy with a conscience decides America will start building things again, dammit, is another matter. The Company Men is rife with Bad Hollywood earmarks. Tommy Lee Jones has an affair with Maria Bello, for one thing, fulfilling the tinseltown tradition of hot chicks nuzzling grizzled old men and no other need. Even when the situations are realistic, the dialogue is mostly formula. In fact the formula is formula; Affleck's construction-jawb buddies are all out of the file drawer (good fellas, though one is arrested for drunk and disawderly) and his Mrs. and young Bawby are still wearing their Supportive Family tags.

This might have been better directed by Oliver Stone at his most coked-up, inflating everything to cosmic scale. But Stone isn't what he used to be, as proven by Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, another disaster with an incongruously happy ending (with flashes of the old glory, like a financial collapse symbolized by actual falling dominoes). Maybe ships aren't the only thing America no longer knows how to build.
THE KING'S SPEECH. Gather round for Masterpiece Theatre in wide-screen as the stammering King (Colin Firth) is taught by an unauthorized therapist (Geoffrey Rush) to speak like a champ, but only after learning lessons about life and love.

Yeah, I know. This sort of thing gives me gas too. At times, God help me, I was reminded of Monty Python's Bigus Dickus. (Good thing I didn't see it in a theater.) But it's a big-time production and we are given enough quality ingredients to make the guff go down easy.

The Duke, later King, is treated by a charmingly unorthodox Aussie therapist, Lionel Logue, who refuses to call the HRH anything but Bertie ("In here it's better if we were equals"). If you're thinking of Dr. Willis in The Madness of King George, you're not far wrong -- the royal must be brought low before he can rise. But whereas Alan Bennett was not really concerned with democratization, King's Speech writer David Seidler is; there is much talk of this new-fangled radio and the shifting relationship of monarch to masses, and we are made to see that hacking off some of the King's imperial armor is not just a psychological intervention, but also a political one. Before the King can become the man of the hour, he must first become a man. (Also George VI doesn't send Logue away as George III sent Willis. Next stop: socialism!)

It helps enormously that the King's relationship to Logue starts with suspicion and evolves only haltingly; also that the celebrated speech is not the product of a cleansing breakthrough, but of patient, painful work which must be repeated. There's no groveling or crying about Mother. Though there are secrets and confessions, they usually come out with some decorum. (The King does engage in some coprolalia, but I assure you it's in excellent taste.) If we are to have this sort of thing, at least let it be dignified.

Rush is relaxed and funny, but also thoughtful and attentive to his man; he lets the very good dialogue do most of the work, to great effect. Colin Firth as the stammerer has to work harder, but he's up to it. He is never completely healed nor at ease, and we learn to see the strain of everything to him even at relatively victorious moments. It turns out fitting that the regent in the time of World War II turns out to be someone whose glory is to Keep Buggering On.

As is traditional there are many historical figures flitting through the film; my favorite is Michael Gambon as implacable George V, though it's also nice to see Derek Jacobi, who had some success with a speech-impaired ruler once, as the fussy Archbishop of Canterbury.

Friday, December 10, 2010

HOMAGE TO BERNIE SANDERS. So I'm listening to this socialist guy saying in a Senate filibuster some very sensible things you seldom, if ever, hear on the Senate floor -- that the country's "disastrous" trade policies have caused us to hemorrhage manufacturing jobs, which has caused a largely unremarked "blue-collar depression"; that wages have been dropping and pensions going away for years, with no end in sight; that the financial crisis was not the beginning of that crisis by any means, but just the worst contraction in it; that the last goddamn people we need to be helping out in this case are the rich, whose advantages over the rest of us have absolutely swollen in recent years, and which advantages ain't doing shit for anyone else; and so on.

And I'm wondering: That poll back in '09 that found significant support among Americans for socialism vs. capitalism -- was that just a fluke? Or was that because some people have noticed that when socialists talk about what's actually going on in this country, they're a lot more honest than are capitalists?
LINK AND GROW RICH! Kathryn Jean Lopez interviews the National Marriage Project's W. Bradford Wilcox, who tells us that rich people are better at staying married than poor people, which proves (as veteran followers of the schtick will have already guessed) that marriage causes wealth, and it's a pity more paupers don't realize that just popping by City Hall for a license will substantially increase their earning power.

So far so what, but Wilcox's proposed solutions include one that is new to me:
It also means that highly educated Americans need to put their privilege in service of the public good by doing a better job of extending their marriage mindset to the rest of America. To wit, they need to stress the value of marriage in our nation’s companies, schools, social-service agencies, hospitals, religious institutions, and, especially, popular culture.
I would dearly love to see teams of rich people and Justices of the Peace cruising the charity wards, offering patients the quickie weddings that will make them rich enough to afford better medical treatment. And maybe NMP can pony up for some promo, to run during whatever TV shows indigent unmarrieds are watching these days (Sarah Palin's Alaska, maybe), and put "highly educated Americans" before the public with the good news:

OK, BOYS, ROUTINE 12! Thanks to Eric Boehlert for doing the grunt work:
The specifics in the case that [Byron] York highlights today are almost irrelevant. Or at least they're irrelevant to the Obama-hating bloggers who will link to York's insipid attack. But for the record, York's gotcha is based on the fact that when honoring a recent Nobel Peace Prize winner, Obama made reference to the the fact that, last year, he was honored with a Nobel Peace Prize.

Yes, Obama stressed that he was not nearly as deserving of the honor as this year's recipient. But the mere fact that Obama briefly mentioned the connection between himself and this year's honoree proved (are you following along?) that he's arrogant and can't stop talking about himself.
So it goes. I wonder if, amongst themselves, they call for these routines by number, as the Bowery Boys did.
SPLIT RUN. Ole Perfesser Instapundit:
PEJMAN YOUSEFZADEH: “It is not any kind of orthodox Republican talking point that Barack Obama is ‘an alien and a threat.’”
Elsewhere and previously:
The Alien in the White House -- Dorothy Rabinowitz, Wall Street Journal

Obama the Alien -- Larry Kudlow, National Review

Alien Obama... The heartland of America, the small towns and suburbs, the "baseball, apple pie and Chevrolet" that forms the core of our cultural experience is alien to Barack Obama. He cannot love it, share it, or reflect it, because he does not know it. -- Confederate Yankee

CHRIS MATTHEWS: He [Obama] wasn’t born here and he’s never gone through a naturalization that you know of, right?
G. GORDON LIDDY: Not that I know of.
MATTHEWS: Therefore he’s here illegally. You’re saying he’s an undocumented alien.
LIDDY: Illegal alien.
Etc. And that's just skimming the cream, and not accounting the frequent conservative comparisons of Obama to Hitler (by such fringe figures as former presidential speechwriter Ben Stein*), to Stalin, et alia. The question isn't whether top-drawer wingnuts say these things, but why some among them occasionally deny it.

For obvious reasons we can rule out shame. The simplest explanation is niche marketing. They can always count upon a certain percentage of goobers to buy the Godwinesque claims; it only takes a little extra effort to assure the higher-end targets whose vanity requires it that they have nothing in common with that crowd. They get the prestige advertising. And the beauty part is, once they've bought the car, their vanity will also prevent them from noticing when they see the same model on the road with the tailpipe smoking, the muffler throwing sparks, and a Obamanazi sticker on the bumper.

(* For the passive-aggressive version, see as always Ross Douthat.)

UPDATE. Jeffrey Kramer in comments: "No no, those aren't Orthodox Republicans saying those uncouth things, they're Lubavitcher Republicans. "
IS THIS MUMBLECORE? Blue Valentine is one of those E-for-effort kitchen-sink dramas that I usually have a hard time finishing -- like Frozen River, which I abandoned two-thirds of the way through, wanting to know what happened but not enough to keep watching it. So I may not be the target nor the best judge, though I did get all the way through this one.

I can't fault anyone's skill; the acting is terrific all the way up and down, and I have to credit Derek Cianfrance and the writers for scrupulous fairness toward the characters, and even for style, on the low-key terms of the story; the painfully slow unfolding of the scenes is thoroughly appropriate, and the time shifts, while unannounced, are never jarring and make perfect sense even before we have enough evidence to to confirm that while the relationship at the center of the movie goes through changes, the members of it are victims of something like fate.

Early on we get the impression Cindy (Michelle Williams) is much less of a loser than Dean (Ryan Gosling); she is (was) interested in her high school studies, he's a dropout; her displays of affection toward her grandmother make a better impression than Dean's emotional awkwardness with everyone but their kid -- though we can see the depth of his feelings from the start, he usually has to strain them through filters of rage or comedy, and we can immediately see this has something to do with the shit their life together has become.

But as we learn more about them, we realize that Cindy isn't much smarter than Dean, at least where it counts. She's as much a victim of her crummy, small-town environment as he (it's Brooklyn, but sufficiently deep in Brooklyn that it may as well be Oneonta), but her reaction -- defensively sinking into herself -- doesn't work any better for her than Dean's passive-aggressive macho behavior works for him. [Spoiler alert.] Dean's willingness to marry Cindy when she's got a kid coming from her asshole boyfriend (Mike Vogel) is stupid, if brave and romantic, but what should we think about her willingness to accept it? Dean is a bad risk even in her narrow circumstances -- that is, if she wants something more than devotion. And we quickly learn that devotion isn't going to satisfy her.

Maybe the preferred way to look at it is as a drama of acceptance -- "How can you trust your feelings when they can just disappear like that?" Cindy asks her grandma when we get to see how lousy her family life has been; "I think the only way to know is to have the feelings," replies the grandma; her follow-up, "You're a nice person," is the non-sequitur that tips us to the central dilemma -- good intentions are worse than useless in the ugly business of living, of which we must make the best we can.

I'm very willing to believe that it reveals a flaw in my character, or a devotion to absurd romanticism, that I was unhappy with Blue Valentine. I admire the strenuous honesty of the thing. The aborted abortion is notable for its unpleasant realism, as are the sex scenes (yeah, I know, fellas, but believe me, you aren't going to enjoy the copious Michelle Williams nudity); even the sweet moments between the lovers get so weighted down by the accumulated details of their lives that by the time we revisit their wedding at the end, I was fixated on the "or for worse" part Dean is so insistent upon. That isn't about silly romcom spats or crises with neat resolutions, but endless misery redeemed, if it is, by the simple willingness to stick. (It's impossible to believe Dean isn't coming back, nor that Cindy won't take him.) Maybe it takes a more developed consciousness than mine to appreciate that.

I mentioned the acting, and should mention it again, since it's really fine. Ryan Gosling reminds me of a Larry Fessenden character -- a sharp, expansive personality formed by circumstances into a particularly inept macho man. Michelle Williams gets the better end of the deal; when she's not immersed in deep suffering, she is allowed to be radiant, and makes the most of those opportunities.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

BY THE NUMBERS. Victor Davis Hanson has a long complaint against Julian Assange. Here are some of his key points:
  •  Andres Serrano's "Piss Christ."
  • "Climategate."
  • "Hollywood agents, producers, and financiers," and their product, Redacted and Rendition. [What, no Lions for Lambs?]
  • "Harvard or Yale tenure committees."
  •   George Soros.
  •   The "let-it-all-hang-out Sixties."
His conclusion is that Assange is a narcissist, a term of disapprobation normally saved for Barack Obama, but his point, such as it is, is that WikiLeaks is like a lot of other things he doesn't like.

It doesn't matter whether it's a genuine domestic issue, or the actions of the foreign leader of a stateless group which have been denounced by the Obama Administration, or a lampshade or a hobby-horse. The Mad Libs never change, because the subject doesn't matter nearly as much as the intended audience, which apparently finds certain words as reliably funny as audiences of Hollywood comedies find swearing geriatrics and blows to the crotch.
ELIZABETH EDWARDS R.I.P. Here's a lovely pre-emptive tribute by Ann Althouse:
She did not apologize to us for participating in the deceit perpetrated by John Edwards, which skewed the 2008 Democratic primaries.
Her commenters are even better:
Its hard to take this seriously when a Libtard weighs in to browbeat the OP over "compassion"...

I just realized Eliz Edwards is a lot like Hillary was in overlooking their husband's affairs for the sake of political ambition...

Also, there's a price for polticizing the Wellstone funeral, politicizing the Correta Scott King funeral, politicizing the death of Ted Kennedy, etc. The Left doesn't treat its own dead with respect. The corpse is a political prop. So it means very little when they whine about not showing respect for the death of Elizabeth Edwards...

Elizabeth Edwards participated in the use of her disease to manipulate public opinion in her husband's quest for power. For that, she is accountable. I'd rather say a prayer for the 20 unknown human beings in the world who died while I wrote these 3 sentences....
That last one was from Professor Althouse herself. This is my favorite, in a way:
She's saying the ends don't justify the means. She used people like Ann, traded on her victimization by Cancer and John's affairs to deceive us.

We gave her a pass out of sympathy, only to discover she was lying to us. Now we're expected to give sympathy at her passing?

Can't you just picture this person ensconced in a Barcalounger, skimming the cable channels and going "Yea" or "Meh" as lives and deaths pass across his or her field of vision? Thank your parents or whoever taught you better that you didn't wind up like that.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

GIFT HORSE. Dave Weigel:
You could seriously argue that if Democrats approve extensions of all the Bush tax cuts, it would be as big a cave-in than George H.W. Bush's cave-in on the 1990 budget.
Hold on. Didn't George H.W. Bush accede to an increase in taxes? This time we're keeping tax cuts, doing more tax cuts, and extending unemployment benefits. It's Christmas in December! As shown time and again, the American people love tax cuts, and believe they're magic, even when the only evidence of magic is clouds of smoke that are more likely produced by a faulty boiler.

This is more like, "This dinner we're writing a bad check to cover is as disastrous as when we pawned Grandma's punchbowl for food money."

If you don't like this arrangement, heed the advice of your old pal Rich Lowry:
The liberal angst about Obama seems profoundly misplaced to me. Liberals should care about one thing and one thing only: Re-electing Obama.
Lowry portrays this as a possible way to preserve what reforms Obama has already achieved, but since everyone's allegedly playing 3-D chess now, we may assume that Lowry is just making his meta-countermove:
Fortunately, [liberals'] unreasonableness may get the best of them. Katrina vanden Heuvel writes in the Washington Post...
And when you've lost Katrina vanden Heuvel, you've lost the The Nation. At the end Lowry ducks -- " I fear, though... liberals will bond again with Obama as better than the alternative" -- and Daniel Foster grabs the ball:
Meanwhile, some folks on the Left act like he surrendered Washington to Lord Cornwallis. Liberals are never happy.
Yeah -- they just don't see the magic.

Monday, December 06, 2010

MONEY FOR NOTHING. The big tax-cut giveaway Obama just announced -- assuming that it accurately portrays the deal with the GOP -- demonstrates one unremarked fact: Republicans don't give a shit about the deficit. No sane person thinks we can even begin to scale that back just with cuts. Yet they just agreed to abandon the easiest route to new revenue, plus Democratic "concessions" that close others.

I wonder who else has noticed.

UPDATE. Brilliant comments here, especially as regards the general U.S. strategy the deal suggests -- as Tiny Tyrant puts it, "a mad scramble for the loot before the whole thing implodes! From that point there will be suffering by all, just a little less for those with the loot."

Sunday, December 05, 2010

NEW VOICE COLUMN UP about two Constitutional Amendments the rightbloggers are pushing. Last week Dana Loesch was loudly insisting that the libertarian and evangelical factions of conservatism had to keep together if the Republic were to be saved, but I notice that neither of the Amendments that conservatives consider important enough to discuss are about abortion. This would seem to indicate where the juice is in that coalition; they finally get pumped to change the Constitution, and it's all about state legislatures.

If, as is likely, the Amendments don't fly, interested parties will try something on a more grassroots level. The Roanoke, Virginia Tea Party:
This section deals with a variety of nullification bills that have sponsors. So our task on December 2 will be to see if we want to support any of these other nullification bill in lieu of the Freedom For Virginians Act (FFVA) which does not have a sponsor yet...

The FFVA, in part states:

As a Sovereign state, the Commonwealth of Virginia reserves the right to determine whether any law, regulation, executive order or Judicial Ruling goes beyond the powers vested to the Federal Government by Virginia and the several states that created the United States Constitution. Any laws, regulations, executive orders, Treaties or Judicial Rulings from the United States that the Commonwealth of Virginia deems not within said enumerated powers shall be considered moot and unenforceable within its borders.
The Tea People hasten to assure us that this does not mean secession, which I confess disappoints me.
I Love You Phillip Morris. Along with the pleasure of seeing Jim Carrey have sex with men, this is best seen as a big gay parody of Catch Me If You Can. The gag, at least initially, is that Carrey -- who has an authenticity fetish that manifests in compulsive fraud -- gives everyone what they want and expect, and they go for it, and for a while it's every bit as compelling as Spielberg's version while being totally, self-evidently bogus. The reduction of prison brutality to cheap yuks, and of Carrey's courtship of Ewan McGregor to something like Carry On Prison Queers, made me hope they'd go all the way with this subversive strategy into uncharted territory.

Alas, no: Big-movie sentimentality comes in hard. Once he's got a good, relatively straight gig and life with McGregor, Carrey gets offended by how "boring" his colleagues are (that one of them restates his joke as one about "a nigger and a jew" is the cheesy underliner that's meant to help us buy it) and goes balls-out with his shenanigans, leading to new incarceration. This gives him a new reason to want to get out -- love for his partner -- and for un-good measure the filmmakers give us an even cheesier underliner in a flashback involving Carrey's AIDS-afflicted ex-partner.

Then we get the strings and star-affliction and it all goes to shit. The final scam is supposed to be impressive, and gives Carrey some Oscar-worthy acting hacks. I feel sorry for the real person Carrey plays, Steven Russell (to whose fate we are alerted in supers), and it would be nice if this movie gave some attention to his sad case. But either the ending is a failure of nerve, or the movie should have been much, much sadder.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

THIS AIN'T ENGLAND. The conservative war on that bastard FDR proceeds apace. Some Heritage guys have pulled Churchill into it. Churchill disapproved of socialism, FDR was a socialist, therefore Churchill disapproved of FDR, despite appearances.
Churchill commends Roosevelt’s desire to improve the economic well-being for poorer Americans, but he critiques Roosevelt’s policies toward trade unionism and attacks on wealthy Americans as harmful to the free enterprise system. Drawing on Britain’s experience with trade unions, Churchill understood that unions can cripple an economy: “when one sees an attempt made within the space of a few months to lift American trade unionism by great heaves and bounds [to equal that of Great Britain],” one worries that result could be “a general crippling of that enterprise and flexibility upon which not only the wealth, but the happiness of modern communities depends.”
And this was borne out by the great U.S. General Strike of 1946. Next: Thomas Jefferson appears at a seance and denounces Social Security.

Friday, December 03, 2010

ANNALS OF LIBERTARIANISM. Over at Reason they're talking about doing away with public roads. I'm not shitting you.

"There's certainly no reason that private firms couldn't run all the toll roads in the United States," says Professor Bruce Benson of Florida State. Back in colonial times we had lots of private roads, it seems, and if you're the sort of guy who wears a tricorner and yells about the death of liberty, here's a new opportunity to emulate the lifestyle of the Founders.

There are even today some private roads; their owners "can limit access to them if they want to… they can tell somebody to leave if they don't like them being there." (Comes the revolution, if you're thrown off an existing road because the owner doesn't like SUVs, longhairs, or whatever, you can go build your own. Freedom!) Whereas gummint roads are "for the most part free access roads. That means anyone with a car can get on them, or a truck. They don't have to pay the cost that they impose on other people or on the road itself."

Why have the American People tolerated this outrageous interstate highway system for so long? Because, the Professor suggests, they are unaware that they pay for this socialist scheme; the gummint has deceived them by funding such boondoggles indirectly through gasoline taxes, which citizens presumably only pay because they think it's going to something useful, and consider the highways a gift from God. But free-drivers are ever a problem, and thus the people abuse the roads by driving on them overmuch, leading to damage which we certainly can't expect the gummint to repair. That's the people's money.

I'd imagine that, just as New York subway ridership went up when the Metrocard let riders move more freely through the system for a fixed price, highway use would go down when every Tom, Dick, and Exxon owned his or her or its piece of the road. But the Professor is more optimistic. He believes "there won't be tolls everywhere" because when the new age comes there will be "groups and firms who want people to come to their location" and will thus build free roads. The example of such groups/firms he offers is the casino owners of Las Vegas, who may get together and build a superhighway so people can get to their gaming tables, the present gummint highways having crumbled or been destroyed in the Great Awakening. (Given that the owners would retain their right to refuse service, prospective drivers will probably have to undergo a credit check.)

The route would be an efficient, straight shot from Los Angeles, and not subject to the vagaries of politics, under which "very powerful Senators" currently make highways go through their dinky towns to grub votes. The new barons of transportation will not be thus tempted, because they won't need votes. FREEDOM!

I don't see how we can take the Tea Party seriously until they get behind this 100%.
A MIGHTY FORTRESS. At Big Journalism, Dana Loesch is mad at a Newsweek column (also referred to as "Media"):
“Most evangelical Christian conservatives I know would at least be uneasy about the prospect of the government leaving the poor to their own devices and having churches pick up the slack,” he says.

Wrong. Heinously, irresponsibly, embarrassingly wrong. This from Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. His sound bites are all about stoking libertarians to feel like disenfranchised underdogs with the goal of rousing them to lash out at the big bully Christian conservatives.
I'm not sure how that's supposed to work -- maybe she means the libertarians and glibertarians, who are warm to see Americans deprived of social services and have the upper hand in the Republican Party now, are supposed to be outraged that some followers of Jesus Christ -- maybe the weak sisters in the GOP evangelical bloc that came apart in the late 00s -- take the "least of my brethren" stuff seriously. If so, they don't know Christians like Dana Loesch knows them:
Lynn should perhaps study the faith before he attempts to try to emotionally blackmail the faithful. That’s precisely what should happen: churches should be doing more, people of faith should be doing more and want to do more because big government is an attempt to remove action from faith thus making the faith less viable. When taxes go up, tithing goes down. When the government assumes the role of the shepherd, the power of churches is diminished. It’s another way to attack religion and for the state to eradicate it from society.
Thus, the more people we can turn out into the street, the stronger the churches get, because the increasing masses of the poor, having no recourse, will be forced to turn to them for soup and a cot. Then we'll have a healthy society (which, despite Loesch's inapposite citation of the Declaration of Independence, sounds rather medieval.)

Perhaps sensing she has not made the sale, Loesch then yells for a while about how the "various groups comprising the tea party movement" better stick together or they'll never overcome "the left: the communists, the socialists, the say-their-anarchists-but-are-actually-socialists."

She needn't worry, nor does she seem to know how the game is played:

When out of power, you rouse the Christians with culture war controversies -- which seem to be making a comeback now. When in power, you talk about Jesus and hand out presents, as Bush did when he got into office, showing his appreciation for the evangelicals who supported him by ladling out cash in the form of "Faith-Based and Community Initiatives."

Loesch appears to believe that the Tea Party thing is all new, and those who once had their hands out are now pushing away. But the hands are always out, and the only ones who ever really get pushed are those with the least power.