Monday, February 28, 2011

NEW VOICE COLUMN UP, in which I consider the dismissive attitude of rightbloggers toward last weekend's nationwide union rallies. Why would they not approve these displays of grassroots democratic dissent, when they celebrate those practiced by the Tea Party? Yeah, yeah, I know, but I really think I added something here.

UPDATE. I had to revise a number in the post, which led to a lot of "my hair is a bird, your argument is invalid" comments from unsympathetic readers. I guess they're giving graduate degrees in missing the point these days. Even if the total attendance were only the 170,000 Legal Insurrection estimated, or even less, national rallies by people who are not the Tea Party would still be noteworthy.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

littleoscarright.jpgMY WORST OSCAR PREDICTIONS YET! It's time for my annual Oscar humiliation! At picking winners I've had good years and bad, but the very compulsion to indulge this juvenile habit, let alone share it with the world, shames me deeply. Well, better this than Middle East policy, I guess.

As usual, I have seen but few of the nominated films, so these predictions are based mostly on ignorance and gut-rumblings. I will also say that I'm very nervous about these picks, as my Jesuitical reasoning has led me unto highly counterintuitive choices. But that's the story of my life. Now let 'er rip:

Best Visual Effects: Inception. Because it's a Best Picture nominee, and because everyone who gushes about it seems to be describing special effects rather than a movie.

Best Sound Editing/Best Sound Mixing: Toy Story for the former, Inception for the latter. There. We've taken care of two Best Picture nominees that won't win anything else.

Best Makeup: The Wolfman. A man turns into a wolfman!

Best Documentary Short. The Warriors of Qiugang. I just saw the trailers and Jesus Christ, all this stuff looks grim. The Chinese pollution and corruption theme in Warriors seems like something Oscar voters would go for.

Best Animated Short: Madagascar, Carnet de Voyage. Like a sap, I'm picking the one I liked.

Best Live Action Short: Na Wewe. A.O. Scott has me convinced.

Best Documentary Feature: Exit Through the Gift Shop. In my big 2009 win, I got burned betting against the front-runner in the category. Never again!

Best Song: If I Rise, from 127 Hours. It sounds like something a Hollywood factotum might play on his car stereo. And it's from a Best Picture nominee that won't win anything else.

Best Foreign-Language Film: Biutiful. Oscar likes Iñàrritu.

Best Animated Feature: Toy Story 3. Duh.

Best Art Direction: Alice in Wonderland. Something besides a Best Picture nominee has to win a meaningful award, and awful as this movie is, its look is highly distinctive and clever. Plus Tim Burton films have won this award three times before.

Best Costume Design: The King's Speech. Never bet against period dress in this category. But which period? I'm guessing many voters will boost the Oscar count for their Best Picture choice with this craft award.

Best Original Score: The Social Network. Yes, I agree, Trent Reznor winning an Oscar would be awesome. And I bet a lot of the voters think so too. (I know they're all supposed to be geezers, but surely you remember "It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp"; maybe they take recommendations in the musical categories from their less-elderly children or mistresses.)

Best Editing: The Fighter. Tough call. It usually goes either to the Best Picture winner by default, or to a perceived flashy-cutting job a la Bullitt. The Fighter has jittery-as-hell sequences which David O. Russell will not win an Oscar for, so it's this or 127 Hours.

Best Cinematography: True Grit. Roger Deakins FTW. It's time.

Best Original Screenplay: The King's Speech. No way around it.

Best Adapted Screenplay: The Social Network. Release the Sorkin!

Best Director: Tom Hooper, The King's Speech. I sweated this one, and briefly considered Darren Aronofsky, and even the Coens. Carpetbagger thinks The King's Speech will win Best Picture but picks Fincher for directing because "best director-best picture splits are rare in Oscar history, but when they happen, they usually reward the edgier film’s director." But since 1972, those splits have usually happened because the Best Picture winners in those years (Crash, Chicago, Gladiator, et alia) really, really sucked. (Also, what's "edgy" about The Social Network?) Whatever its drawbacks, The King's Speech is a well-made object.

Best Supporting Actor: Christian Bale, The Fighter. On consideration, I'm halfway convinced by Jay B's reservations about this showy performance. But Bale's in front and there's no one they're drooling to replace him with.

Best Supporting Actress: Helena Bonham Carter, The King's Speech. Attend my brilliant reasoning! First, the last time a film won both the Best Supporting Actor and Actress Oscars was Hannah and Her Sisters in 1986. And that was by Woody Allen, a jackpot for supporting actors. Bale will win, so favorite Melissa Leo probably won't.

Till this very moment, and my fifth beer, I was going with Hailee Steinfeld. I really think that if the Coens and Jeff Bridges hadn't been so recently honored, and if the film hadn't been a remake, True Grit would win everything this year; it has deep feeling and great craft, and is just the sort of thing the voters would like to reward with a strong showing. And Steinfeld, who's the heart of the film, would be the logical beneficiary of their affection for it. But the energy is flowing toward The King's Speech, and HBC had a great year with this and Alice in Wonderland, of which she was the only really magical aspect. Well, her and the frogs.

Best Actor: Colin Firth, The King's Speech. I'm not a total idiot.

Best Actress: Annette Bening, The Kids Are All Right. Or am I? But they've been trying to give this chick an Oscar for 20 years. When her co-star Julianne Moore, who was equally wonderful, didn't get a nomination, I sensed something was up. It may have been easy for voters to decide that Natalie Portman will get another chance down the road. And if it wasn't so easy, Warren Beatty may have made some phone calls.

Best Picture: The King's Speech. For all the reasons you've heard elsewhere. It's lush and uplifting and a massive hit.

These prognostications are made for entertainment purposes only. I'm sure not putting money on them. See you on the red carpet!

UPDATE. LE-O-O-O-O-O-O! Clearly this is one of my bad years. Alice in Wonderland takes both Best Costume and Best Art Direction, and The Fighter both Supporting Actor awards. Hmm. Not that you should listen to me at this late date (10:10 pm EST), but it's looking more like The Social Network's year.

UPDATE 2. No it wasn't. Ah crap. 12 for 25 -- great for batting, lousy for Oscar prognostication. Well, back to tedious political subjects.
WISCONSIN SOLIDARITY RALLY, CITY HALL PARK, NEW YORK. Went over to look. I see this guy has a report calling the demo "sucky," with pictures meant to portray the turnout as meager. Don't you believe it:

The crowd stretched up Broadway from the base of the park to Steve Flanders Square, with overflow protesters on the sidewalks across the street -- about the same size as the crowd for the 2009 Tea Party rally I covered for the Voice at this location. The cops say 3,000 attended. Considering how much we New Yorkers are supposed to disdain the rubes in flyover country, that's not a bad show of solidarity. (There was even a bunch of badger signs.)

A lady was handing out these lyric sheets for the expected chants. (Some of the helpers self-identified as members of MoveOn; cut to George Soros and the Koch Brothers playing chess on a cloud, a la Jason and the Argonauts). I didn't hear any of these actually chanted, but I did hear "Tax the Rich," which is destined to become a certified rightwing objet d'outrage, as well as "The Whole World is Watching" and such like. Also some guy warbled "Solidarity Forever," with which the older brethren sang along.

Here's a cute kid, whose protest sign was held by her mother while she drank some water. Alert Michelle Malkin!

Many reporters interviewing people with cheese on their heads. Seconds after this snap, a cheesehead told this Fox journalist to have her cameraman turn around and record the AXIS OF EVIL: KOCH MURDOCH WALKER sign directly behind her. She laughed. You have to have a sense of humor in this business.

I was so far away from the bandstand I couldn't see the speakers, but I did hear Charlie Rangel, Bill de Blasio, Jerry Nadler, Jeff Cantor of the WFP, and a bunch of union people who generally reminded the crowd (in between sound system malfunctions) that a.) the Republicans aren't just coming after the teachers, they're coming after all working people; b.) the bankers and brokers have not been invited to join in this allegedly "shared" sacrifice with the rest of us; and c.) liberty and unions, now and forever, one and inseparable. (I'm paraphrasing.) Every so often an innovation tickled me, e.g. Public Advocate de Blasio's statement that "unlike the national media, I am not fascinated by Chris Christie. I don't think he's an oracle or Moses. I think he's a politician" trying to make a name for himself.

The attendees were in a festive mood. There were plenty of recognizable protest types, covered in buttons and stickers, but there were also plenty of people who just looked like citizens who figured this was as good a use of their time as another. I did not see any union buses, and the overwhelming majority of the ralliers did not conform to the stereotype of union folk -- that is, they neither chomped cigars nor rested on featherbeds nor went around thugging up rightwing activists. So you could call it grassroots, except that the term is now reserved for people in Revolutionary War costumes trying to get rich people a break.

Friday, February 25, 2011

MY PRAYERS ANSWERED. Remember when I asked for a moody WB comic-based teen series called Riverdale? Well, Point Blank Creative has done even better -- they've made a movie trailer:

While the Columbine angle had occurred to me, I must admit PBM caught me looking with Jughead.

Now, Dame Fortune, send me a Lockhorns movie! (No, this doesn't count.)
ANNALS OF THE AGE OF CONSERVATIVE VICTIM-PLAY. That Wisconsin protestor who smacked Tabitha Hale's camera away has got the brethren agitated. Fortunately Ace O. Spades has channelled his rage into a workable plan:
In an email, a blogger mentioned, off-handedly, the idea of "Purple Hearts for Tea Partiers."

I would suggest taking this idea seriously.
And maybe the Purple Hearts should have band-aids on them. No, Ace is aware Purple Hearts are seriously devalued by John Kerry having them, and so goes instead for something easier to fabricate:
I would suggest that when Tea Partiers congregate, they wear an armband of a specific color if there has been any assault on them in, say, the past month. I'd suggest Purple for a bruising attack/simple assault (as Tabitha Hale suffered), Red for any attack that draws blood, and black for a truly serious attack, a deadly sort of attack (which may or may not result in actual death).
A wonderful plan, but insufficiently ambitious. What about the Tea Partiers who have suffered the most common assault of all -- unkind words and "blood libel," of the sort that was dished out by vicious liberals after Gabrielle Giffords was shot? Surely the brethren who have suffered thus deserve armbands, too; blood libel is serious! Or maybe they'll just cop the purple bands and claim some hippie messed with them. Who's to know? Ace continues:
I'd say that guy getting his fingers bitten off by a nonviolent, peaceful leftist Concern-Fag would be a black attack (and let's hope for no more of those).
"Concern-Fag" is a thing at Ace's place now. It seems to mean "Excuse-to-say-Fag."

UPDATE. Lively comments, with some readers inspired to apposite references, like wjts' to the Horst Wessel Song ("The Tea Party marches with bold, firm steps/Cameras jarred by SEIU and ACORN thugs"). trizzlor suggests, "Maybe they can write the assailants' names on their faces?"

Thursday, February 24, 2011

NOT BAD, NOT BAD AT ALL. The Obama Administration's decision to stop defending the anti-gay Defense of Marriage Act is good news of two kinds. The first is obvious. The second: rightwing rage!

First there's the no-take-backsees argument, most eloquently and passive-aggressively expressed by Ramesh Ponnuru at National Review:
Stanley Kurtz writes, “Did anyone on any part of the political spectrum ever actually believe that Obama opposed gay marriage?” My guess is that the answer is yes, millions of people heard him and assumed he was telling the truth. That is, after all, why he said what he did.
Ponnuru's cute when he plays dumb, but I'm sure most sentient creatures knew that Obama defending DOMA was like Republican presidents sucking up to unions -- something politicans have to do until they can get away with doing what they really want.

Another category of good news is all the fist-shaking assertions that Obama will pay for courting the gay. Mike Huckabee declares it may "destroy" Obama; Law Riot, incensed that Obama has "unilaterally decided what is constitutional and what is not," says it "could hurt Obama deeply come next year’s election"; "This is going to come back to haunt him" and "may come back to bite him in the ass," snarl the dead butch buckos at Flopping Aces; etc.

This sort of thing actually revives my optimism -- because these yahoos assert that most Americans hate homosexuals as much as they do as confidently as they assert that most Americans are with them on everything else. Since they're wrong about gays, it may be that they're full of shit about the rest of it, too. What a cheering thought!

Extra asshole points to Orin Kerr in a wonderfully weaselly Obama-vs.-our-sacred-Constitution post: "Now, I wouldn’t in a million years compare torture and wiretapping with gay rights," he says. "Obviously, the subject matter is totally and completely different. But..." Yeah, okay buddy.

(Graphic from one of the greatest cartoons of all time, John Holmstrom's "Bosko's Perfect Day.")

UPDATE. In case you were inclined to be taken in by Kerr's pretense, be advised that he's been seconded by Megan McArdle. I rest my case!

UPDATE. Doghouse Riley in comments: "I'm busy calculating the ergs of concern McArdle-Galt put out over Bush's signing-statement frenzy. Back in a minute." He has yet to return. Conservatives generally keep Constitutional concerns up their sleeves, and only produce them when they're holding a losing hand. See Party, Tea.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

THE DREAM IS OVER. CNN has a front-pager about conservatives in Hollywood. It's mostly familiar material, but leave it to Andrew Breitbart to add some news value:
Breitbart said the notion that the "casting couch" is a quick way to find success in the industry has now been replaced with a new expectation of actresses new in town.

"Hollywood has always been known for the casting couch as a dominant aspect of how you get into the industry, and I would say that's almost a bygone burden," he said. "I think that the current burden is, if you're getting off the bus into Hollywood now, the first thing that you're taught is to go to certain social events, charitable events that are left-of-center oriented."

He later added, "So a young actress comes into town, realizes that if she's seen at the correct charitable event and talks to the producers that go there, that's one of the quickest entries into proper Hollywood these days."
So Hollywood moguls no longer fuck starlets, but instead take them straight from the depot to the new Schwab's Drugstore, a Maxine Waters Meet-Up. Man, Tinseltown really has lost its glamour.

Oh, there's also a link to BigDawg Music Mafia, a page for artists who describe themselves as "culture warriors." I'll give you a tip: The pause button on the player is halfway down the page. But you know how I feel about it -- I endorse anything that gets people to play music. Hats off then to Toots Sweet, who tells us in "We The People":
Man, it's all so bizarre
Everywhere I look I see another czar
Lightin' up a Cuban cigar
We're like American refugees!
Toots has also made up new lyrics to "You Ain't See Nothin' Yet" in honor of Michele Bachmann ("She looked at me with those red, white, and blue eyes and said..."). Say what you will, it's certainly more fun than reading Lileks on the subject.

UPDATE. In comments, Hob is right: Fats Durston's "Bachmann-Turner Diaries Overdrive" is very good.
ANNALS OF THE CULTURE WAR, PART 534,556. Joe Carter at First Things examines Picasso, and if you've ever been to First Things you have some idea of what to expect. But I think Carter may exceed your expectations here.

The post is mostly about how Picasso was a shit with women, which we knew, and how that led Picasso to attack women with cubism:
On learning that Picasso was out, Hemingway decided to leave him a present. He went to his car and returned with a case of grenades, on which he wrote, “To Picasso from Hemingway.”

While an appropriately symbolic gift, Picasso didn’t need the armaments: He had already been lobbing grenades for nearly half a century…

The grenades he tossed also left more than a few wounded women.
See, they don't call it "culture war" for nothing. Not content to attack his wives and mistresses, many of whom "led tormented existences that ended tragically," with his artistic grenades, Picasso went rogue:
What begins in the glow of realist love -- or at the very least infatuation -- ends in the violent disgust of Cubist distortion. Picasso’s love-hate relationship with the visible world was a visual expression of his love-hate relationship with the women in his life. Cubism, according to the evidence in Picasso’s paintings, is less an abstract juggling of shapes and colors than an index of sexual disgust.
So even though Picasso also famously expressed his cubist disgust toward musicians, fruit and tableware, and himself, it was really all about the misogyny. Carter charts how Picasso made women purty like a photygraph when he loved 'em, and all cubey when he got sick of 'em. As for his "teenage mistress, Marie-Therese Walter," Carter determines, "being only an object of lust rather than of love, Walter never rated a fully realistic portrayal." And people say conservatives don't do feminist outreach!

But that's not the end; it never is. Picasso's grenades detonate to this day!
But Picasso’s story is not merely his own. As Arianna Huffington wisely discerned, his story is “the twentieth century’s own biography.”

The dehumanization trope can also be found in the works of such artists as Allen Jones and Robert Mapplethorpe, men who have embraced the objectification of the human form and who reduce the individual to an object.
I don't know much about art, but I'll say this: When Mapplethorpe stuck a bullwhip up his ass, you by God knew it was a man with a bullwhip up his ass.
Meanwhile, the fear and disgust surrounding female sexuality has become so pervasive that it is almost passé. Castration anxiety is now a major theme in rap and hip-hop music, and extreme images of the female threat, such as vagina dentate, appear in popular films (for example, in Teeth).
Oh, I remember Teeth; big hit. (Aren't they on Teeth VI now?) My only question is, what's this vagina dentate thing? It sounds Latin, but since sexism began with Picasso the term must date from the turn of the last century at the earliest.

Meanwhile if you like your culture-war more in the fake-C.S.-Lewis mode, you can visit Fr. Dwight Longenecker at Pantheos, where they send First Things writers when they get too reactionary, apparently. Longenecker's Professor Slubgrip conducts a Pop Cult 101 class at the University of Bowelbage (how do they think of these things?) and promises his demonic worm-students that they will be soon be "working in film, television, and 'media.'" Mwa-ha-ha! This threatens to be part of a series, and I only hope Fr. Longenecker learns to be faster at getting to the punchline.

UPDATE. More historical revisionism from commenters. The Dark Avenger: "I blame Marcel Duchamp for the post-colonial mess in the Congo, with his infamous painting Ce n'est pas un massacre." Zen Comix: "The presence of a Cubist Fernand Leger painting in The Omega Man's apartment is proof that Charlton Heston's gun fetish is about subjugating women to his Republican penis." Hogan: "And don't get me started on the rampant taurophobia displayed in Guernica."

Not Montparnasse, but good enough for the likes of us.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

HOME TAPING COLLECTIVE BARGAINING IS KILLING MUSIC. Aw, Jesus, that asshole Jay Nordlinger is combining his two great loves -- classical music and union-busting:
Okay, it is not so lovely down here that I’ve ceased to stew about Wisconsin. This morning, I thought of something that an insider once told me about the New York Philharmonic. I was inquiring about spiraling costs in the music business — also about why we don’t really have recordings or radio broadcasts anymore. A big part of the answer, of course, is the unions: killing or suppressing music, as they kill or suppress so much else. This insider said, “Don’t think of the Philharmonic as an orchestra. Think of them as Local 802.”
And yet some people want the Rockefellers to pay more for their season tickets! Can't we just fire these communist musicians and bring in the Portsmouth Sinfonia?
IMMORAL RELATIVISM. The Economic Policy Institute points out that Wisconsin public service employees are not, in the main, getting a better deal than private employees. "To get an apples-to-apples comparison," says Ezra Klein, "the study's author controlled for experience, organizational size, gender, race, ethnicity, citizenship and disability, and then sorted the results by education."

At National Review, Jim Manzi seizes on this as the study's fatal flaw, and tries to portray the study's original author, Jeffrey H. Keefe, as some sort of disingenuous leveller:
Stripped of jargon, what Keefe asserts is that, on average, any two individuals with identical scores on each of these listed characteristics “should” be paid the same amount.

But consider Bob and Joe, two hypothetical non-disabled white males, each of whom went to work at Kohl’s Wisconsin headquarters in the summer of 2000, immediately after graduating from the University of Wisconsin. They have both remained there ever since, and each works about 50 hours per week. Bob makes $65,000 per year, and Joe makes $62,000 per year. Could you conclude that Joe is undercompensated versus Bob? Do you have enough information to know the “fundamental personal characteristics and labor market skills” of each to that degree of precision?
Also, what if Joe really sucks at his job? Or what if Bob is actually worse at his, but has a winning personality and shoots skeet with the boss? See, if social science teaches us anything, it's that statistics are meaningless, if used by liberals.

Manzi claims Keefe does not take into account true "systematic differences in the market realities of the skills, talents, work orientation" between public and private employees, and made his findings "without adjusting for an all-but-infinite number of... relevant potential differences between the weight-average public-sector worker and the weight-average private-sector worker."

Manzi lists some of these differences ("Whether their years of education for the job are in molecular biology or the sociology of dance"), but never mind -- if you find that they still don't convince you that schoolteachers are worthless freeloaders, he can always cook up more. They're all but infinite!

And since Keefe didn't take all these infinitesimal gradations into account, says Manzi, his claims are "worse than useless; they are misleading."
The whole question — as is obvious even to untrained observers — is whether or not there are material systematic differences between the public and private employee that are not captured by the list of coefficients in his regression model.
You folks have probably caught on to what he means by systematic differences: The differences between his team and the other team. And as long as his team has a full tank of propaganda to run on, the pointy-heads can take a break.

Monday, February 21, 2011

NEW VOICE COLUMN UP, about the Wisconsin union fight. Remember when Lisa Simpson talked about "every teacher who cares less about young minds than about cashing their big, fat paychecks"? Apparently a lot of people don't know that was a joke.

I regret I had no room for John Feeney of America's Right and his post, "Fort Sumter, Wisconsin." "The ongoing events in Wisconsin may well be 'The Point' on which this country’s future hinges," claims Feeney: If Republicans strangle the union, that will be "the single greatest service this country has seen in at least the last generation" -- but if not, "the 'unionization' that is so much at the foundation of a socialist/communist infrastructure may well be at least the immediate future of our nation." (At least the immediate future? I thought socialist/communists were harder to get rid of than that, like bedbugs.)

But you gotta give Feeney credit for actually working the Burlington Coat Factory Mosque into the story:
I’m also forced to wonder about the manner in which these events are going to affect two other projects: the construction of the Freedom Tower and the Ground Zero Mosque. By all accounts, the Freedom Tower currently under construction by unionized labor is and will be a fantastic sight to see; on the other hand, until the 17th, I would’ve gone to any casino in the country and bet everything I own that those trying desperately to have the Mosque constructed would never, ever have a scintilla of a chance of getting unionized American labor to work on that project. After watching the clips of the Wisconsin events, noting the degree of solidarity shared amongst not only the teachers but also the many other state and local municipalities, I couldn’t help but wonder how long it might be until union laborers across the country either feel compelled to support or begin to feel sympathy for their brethren. Further, how long might it be until they’re potentially threatened with their livelihood, or worse? Is it possible that unionized workers might refuse to continue working on the Freedom Tower and to uniformly agree to construct the Mosque? Either decision would be a flat-faced decision to turn one’s back on his or her country.
America betrayed by... the hardhats! Well, if you live long enough you see everything.

Also in solidarity against solidarity is Ann Althouse, who sees two city salt-spreaders honking their horns in support of the protesters in Madison and makes this complaint:
Two city salt trucks circle the block at least twice, with horns blaring. Only one is visibly spreading salt. The protesters wave and hold up fists, indicating that it is their interpretation that the city workers are sounding support for the protests. Obviously, we taxpayers pay for the salt trucks and the employees who drive them and we expect those trucks to be used to make the streets all over town safe, not to circle the Capitol Square for other purposes.
I can't wait to see how this investigation plays out. Who'll get in more trouble -- the guy who wasn't spreading salt, for his egregious waste of the city's time and gas, or the guy who was spreading salt, for double-salting and dangerous multitasking? Also, can we have video when Professor Althouse goes down to the stationhouse and tells the Captain she saw a police car double-parked?

Sunday, February 20, 2011

FAILING UPWARD. Kathleen Parker in the Washington Post:
Women's liberation worked in ways we might never have imagined. The feminist woman of the left, who burned her bra and insisted that all hear her roar, is today a taupe-ish figure who wonders where things went wrong. The daughter she begat may well be a Republican - a gun-toting, breast-feeding supermom of several who condemns government for being a "nanny" and tells men to man up.

Adding insult to injury, she's also probably considered a "hottie" by the men who stand by admiringly, watching their women show those libs a thing or two about being a "hard-core woman."
I'm surprised Parker refrained from putting in a bit about a pigeon-chested, chinless simp taking his mannish, Birkenstock-wearing feminazi date to the Save the Whales concert but wishing he was instead with a Sarah Palin "hottie" who "got it going on" if you know what I "mean." (An editor might have taken it out, but I see no evidence that Parker has one.) Elsewhere, she tells us how the conservative hard-core hottie "carries a concealed weapon instead of a lace hankie."

Parker has a column in the Post, a Pulitzer Prize, and a TV show. I'm beginning to change my mind about Wisconsin -- maybe America's teachers have let us down.

UPDATE. Commenter Nance provides some background: "I once wrote a piece of un-fan mail to K.P. She wrote back with this jaw-dropper (which I've never seen in a column): her first husband left her when their son was an infant, to run off with 'a nationally known feminist whose name you'd recognize.'" That must have really scorched her bra.

Friday, February 18, 2011

PUNCHING BAGS. As conservatives denounce schoolteachers who seek to preserve their collective bargaining rights, it's good to be reminded by Matt Taibbi that the banksters who wrecked the economy have been let off scott free and then some by the government. Lehman Brothers' Dick Fuld, AIG's Joe Cassano, and assorted big and less-big fish have suffered no meaningful consequences for their actions. But that doesn't mean law & order sleeps:
Which is not to say that the Obama era has meant an end to law enforcement. On the contrary: In the past few years, the administration has allocated massive amounts of federal resources to catching wrongdoers — of a certain type. Last year, the government deported 393,000 people, at a cost of $5 billion. Since 2007, felony immigration prosecutions along the Mexican border have surged 77 percent; nonfelony prosecutions by 259 percent. In Ohio last month, a single mother was caught lying about where she lived to put her kids into a better school district; the judge in the case tried to sentence her to 10 days in jail for fraud, declaring that letting her go free would "demean the seriousness" of the offenses.

So there you have it. Illegal immigrants: 393,000. Lying moms: one. Bankers: zero. The math makes sense only because the politics are so obvious. You want to win elections, you bang on the jailable class. You build prisons and fill them with people for selling dime bags and stealing CD players. But for stealing a billion dollars? For fraud that puts a million people into foreclosure? Pass. It's not a crime. Prison is too harsh. Get them to say they're sorry, and move on. Oh, wait — let's not even make them say they're sorry...
One of the saddest things about the decline of this country is that we've relearned a pre-democratic contempt for the suffering of the less fortunate and a solicitous interest in the problems of the very fortunate. Poor saps who never had a chance are presumed to never have deserved one, while the rich are treated with kid gloves lest they take offense and go Galt on us. Once Americans cheered the underdog. Now I see there's a book out called Underdogma: How America's Enemies Use Our Love for the Underdog to Trash American Power which tells that this generosity of spirit is actually a dangerous delusion:
David versus Goliath, the American Revolutionaries, "The Little Engine That Could," Team USA’s "Miracle on Ice," the Star Wars Rebel Alliance, Rocky Balboa, the Jamaican bobsled team and the meek inheriting the Earth.

Everyone, it seems, loves an underdog.... But this tendency, which international political consultant and human rights activist Michael Prell calls “underdogma,” can be very dangerous – both to America and to the world at large.
We hear a lot of talk about "hippie punching" these days, but make no mistake: Under a certain, very high net worth, everybody's getting punched.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

TEACHER'S PELT. The big teachers' union fight is on in Wisconsin. The Republican Governor Scott Walker claims the government needs to severely curtail the union's collective bargaining power in order to save money; TPM notices that Walker blew a hole in the budget himself and suggests that he did so in order to create this crisis and break the union.

As the Christian Science Monitor headline demonstrates, the union is aware of the stakes: "We’re fighting for our very existence." Conservatives know it too. They have been full-throated in their denunciations not only of the union but of teachers in general, portraying them as parasites -- like Teamsters, only easier to beat up. National Review's Jay Nordlinger has been particularly obsessive in this regard. First:
Teachers used to be something like a holy caste, practically the most honorable among us. I come from a family of teachers. Everyone thought of it as a noble calling. Teachers earned too little, but that was remedied, over time.

Then everything went screwy. Teachers were not just well paid. (“Best part-time job in America,” Lee Iacocca once quipped, to the howls of many.) They were some of the most petulant, greediest, nastiest unionists around...
In a previous era, long ago, teachers were rather like missionaries. You practically had to take a vow of poverty to be a teacher. Often, a teacher [blah blah, miles in the snow]...

I would never go back to the days of missionary-teachers. They ought to be generously compensated. (Shouldn’t we all.)
Even Grandpa Simpson has his moments of generosity, I guess, but Nordlinger quickly catches himself:
But good grief: These grasping, lying, bullying unionists are enough to give the teaching profession a bad name...
And everything the teachers do, of course, is for the sake of “the children.” I wish the children could talk back, borrowing a phrase from anti-war movements: “Not in my name.”
Instead of playing in the yard and thanking God for their luck.
For decades now, union militancy has dragged the teaching profession through the mud, robbing that profession of its public spirit, even of its professionalism...
And so on. Funny as it is, I don't find the situation cheering. They're trying to turn teachers into a pariah class in order to normalize their removal from the middle class. The whole energy of our rulers seems devoted these days to squeezing that remnant, and if they are not completely successful in this grand opportunity to reduce its number and further weaken union power at the same time, they will keep coming back until they are.

Their cheerleaders ("Look, I am the daughter of union folk; I appreciate why unions were initially formed") spread the story that the rollback is unavoidable, as the morality for collective bargaining died with their parents' need for it, and anyway "the money is not there." Indeed it's not there, because it has been painstakingly relocated.

Though the state of American manufacturing is so parlous even the CIA is worried about it, "economic futurist" Jeff Thredgold is bullish. He explains:
The common wisdom notes that most of these jobs left in search of less-costly havens, initially Mexico and then China. This is certainly true for a share of the jobs.

However, the most important factor leading to lesser employment was major gains in worker productivity. We simply make more goods with fewer bodies. While overall U.S. worker productivity gains have run just under 3 percent annually over the past 10 years, productivity gains in manufacturing have run two to three times higher.
Maybe Thredgold has good reason to feel confident. There's just been an uptick in the mid-Atlantic manufacturing index. The big winner from this, so far, is Mexican stocks, as the uptick "indicated strength in one of Mexico’s most important export sectors," says MarketWatch. I wonder how much of that money is going to be left over for the guy on the line.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

THE FAN CLUB. The story of reporter Lara Logan's beating and sexual assault in the thick of the Egyptian revolution is horrible. But there isn't anything on this earth that can't be made more horrible by Debbie Schlussel:
Hey, sounds like the threats I get from American Muslims on a regular basis. Now you know what it’s like, Lara.
I just love it when the people of the profession of “the public’s right to know” suddenly want “privacy.” Tell it to your next interview subject, Lara.
The whole thing's an atrocity, so let's move on to the rest of the rightbloggers. Some are incensed by the insensitive reaction of NYU's Nir Rosen, and they're certainly right to be. (Update: Rosen has apologized.) Others are very caught up in the white-lady-among-heathens narrative. theblogprof:
As the saying goes - you mess with the bull, you get the horns.
There's not even a profession of sympathy to leaven it, though there is a big photo of Logan in a low-cut dress. Let us be charitable and assume steroids have affected theblogprof's brain.

Patterico wants answers, preferably in detail:
Nobody else seems to know more than this and of course “brutal and sustained sexual assault” could mean several things. LA Weekly claims she was repeatedly raped, but they seem to be assuming that this is what CBS news is saying. That is less than clear. I would add that the LA Weekly article is downright creepy in the way it was written
"Did they...? Was she...?" "What do you want me to do? Draw you a picture? Spell it out?" I don't know what's worse -- that he wrote it down, or that he wanted to share it with the rest of us.

As usual, if you go into the comments sections, you'll get even worse. From one of the fans at Gateway Pundit:
The arrogance of these journalists amazes me.

They might as well walk into a lion cage wearing a meat suit. Let’s see, “hot young blond American reporter (read infidel) stands in the middle of thousands on drunken, uneducated testosterone driven radical Muslims”.

Is anyone really surprised THAT ended badly?
This cowboy was probably at the first run of I Spit On Your Grave, telling the rest of the audience what was coming next. Oh, I forgot his closing:
Meanwhile, I plan on taking a relaxing stroll through Harlem tonight wearing a gold Rolex.
No, really, buddy, it's cool, just leave your Confederate flag t-shirt at home.

UPDATE. A needed corrective.

UPDATE 2. Oh Jesus, Atlas Pam: "Imagine if this were ..... Israel. Or a tea party." Imagine! You may say she's a screamer, but she's not the only one.

UPDATE 3. Echidne breaks it down.

UPDATE 4. The real monsters here, says Robert Stacy McCain, are feminazis:
There is only one acceptable way to discuss sex, and feminists are the self-appointed arbiters of the discussion.
Also, feminists "control the conversation." Maybe McCain is looking at a different internet from the one the rest of us see.
As with all leftist ideologies, feminism is collectivist in nature. Rape is therefore not a crime perpetrated by specific criminals against specific victims. Rather, rape is men’s collective crime, of which women are the collective victims: All men are therefore complicit in every rape, and all women suffer when any woman is raped.
The more enlightened view, it would seem, is that rape is Arab men's collective crime.

UPDATE 5. Good journalism angle by Nancy Nall.

UPDATE 6. Comments are brill, but a special award goes to JohnEWilliams, who says now that "Scott Brown says he was abused by a camp counselor as a child, I'm certain we'll hear how he shouldn't have been so hunky and fetching."

Oh, and Jason informs us that Gateway Pundit Jim Hoft realized he was losing the crazy derby and weighed in:
[Lara Logan's] liberal belief system almost got her killed on Friday.
If Lara Logan were a man, no doubt Hoft would call what she had "courage" or "mama grizzliness."

Well, reckon it's about time for another article about how conservatives are the real feminists.
R.I.P. KENNETH MARS. Attention must be paid.

He was lovely in Young Frankenstein, nastily impersonated the critic John Simon in What's Up, Doc?, and did a lot of TV, most of which I missed (though I have misty memories of him on He & She). But to me he will forever be Franz Liebkind.

In a way he had the most difficult job in the movie -- making an unrepentant Nazi funny -- but like all the other major players in The Producers, by going absolutely balls-out with his performance he achieved escape velocity. Roger Ebert recalls that one time Mel Brooks, chided by a woman for having created this "vulgar" film, answered, "Lady, it rose below vulgarity." That's what Mars did, too, turning the previously scary idea of the Hitler holdout dwelling amongst us into a ripe vaudeville joke: all tantrums, cowardice, sentimentality, and (best of all) absurd dignity ("Gentlemen, it iss magic time").

And timing. Never, ever forget timing. And lazzi. Check the nose wipe during the Churchill rant.

This is not to claim that the movie or Mars' performance did anything uplifting, but to note that they were in the very, very best of bad taste. And, in the words of the ad campaign for another old movie, boy, do we need it now.
SOCIAL, AND A CON. From that great laboratory of Republican neo-medievalism, South Dakota:
A law under consideration in South Dakota would expand the definition of "justifiable homicide" to include killings that are intended to prevent harm to a fetus—a move that could make it legal to kill doctors who perform abortions. The Republican-backed legislation, House Bill 1171, has passed out of committee on a nine-to-three party-line vote, and is expected to face a floor vote in the state's GOP-dominated House of Representatives soon.
(h/t HoneyBearKelly.) Meanwhile elsewhere in the hinterlands, in Washington, and in the propaganda mills of the Right, the war on abortion rights is suddenly hotter than it's been since the 1990s

One way I'm able to tell that I haven't gone senile is that I knew from the start this talk about the Tea Party being a libertarian phenomenon was utter bullshit -- which is gratifying, since even the New York Times has been flim-flammed by CPAC into reporting that "the Tea Party tenets of smaller government and fiscal conservatism were at the center of the conversation, rather than social issues." There, however, I imagine the problem is not hardened arteries, but wetness behind the ears.

History shows that when conservatives get even a toehold of power during a Democratic Administration, the first troops to appear on the field are from the Jesus Brigade. And when the Republicans take over, they'll also be the first to appear at the paymaster's window. If things go as usual, I expect a few of them will drop by the armory in the days to come as well.

UPDATE. The bill's sponsor says abortion providers (or, in South Dakota's case, provider) have no worries, because abortion is legal and the law would only pertain to criminal acts, as when some guy "beats on his ex-girlfriend's abdomen in trying to abort her baby." You may go read the bill and see what you think. Considering South Dakota's history of trying to get around Roe v. Wade, and the nullification fever spreading in red states thereabouts, I remain suspicious.

Monday, February 14, 2011

A LITTLE SOMETHING OF MINE AT ESQUIRE. Just my 25 fave quotes from CPAC. (Front matter done by editors. Editors! What won't they think of next.) When I'm shuffling senile and confused down Broadway, five years from now, I hope I have sufficient presence of mind to shout, "I was a contributor to Esquire magazine" after each coughing fit or self-wetting. (Say, is Rust Hills still over there? I believe he still has some manuscripts of mine.)
NEW VOICE COLUMN UP about CPAC, specifically the great gay (and Muslim) outreach and what came of it. The Muslims drew a shitstorm from Atlas Pam, David Horowitz, and other members of the He-Man Muslim-Haters Club. As for the gay group, GOProud, they crossed CPAC's gender-preference barrier like Jackie Robinson in whiteface, doing everything possible to be acceptable, and in return -- well, you can read it there.

Not much by way of outtakes, though I did enjoy Yid With Lid's "CPAC Wrap Up: What The Media Didn't Tell You." Apparently the media conspired to cover up for... Ron Paul.
3.) Ron Paul Supporters Hate Was Under-Reported, Their Presence Was Over Reported. Every year at CPAC Ron Paul’s political action committee buses supporters to the convention (more on that later). While this group does not represent more than 15-20% of the attendees, they are very passionate, very unruly and very bigoted.
Mainly I'd say they're bigoted against losing CPAC straw polls -- so much so that Paul won it again this year with 31 percent, despite his alleged 15-20 percent support level. How? YWL explains that the other attendees didn't bother to vote for their candidates. And the Lamestream Media ignores this highly flattering portrayal of Republican enthusiasm.
The mainstream press protects Ron Paul, his crazy positions create a wealth of story ideas, and his continued participation provides the opportunity to label the entire conservative, Republican and/or libertarian movements as right-wing extremist nut jobs.
You know, you could switch just about any Republican's name in for Paul's there and that sentence still works.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

CPAC DAY 3. Well, I'm bummed -- Jonah Goldberg was supposed to show up, but he had an emergency (gastric bypass, I'm guessing)* so they sent Rich Lowry. Lowry said that after the 2008 election "I came back home to my neighborhood which is infested with liberal college kids… in my neighborhood it was like we had won a war. You've seen the pictures of Tahrir Square, it was just like that." He compared this tragic encounter with that one time Ronald Reagan was confronted by "unwashed, unshaven dirty hippie types."

He called Goldberg's Liberal Fascism "a very prescient [critique], given what we've seen over the last 2 years," and explained that America must always be conquering if it wants to stay alive.

Now Coulter's on, which is every bit as charming as you would imagine. She's pissed that we didn't stand up for Mubarak, and blames slavery on liberals.

*UPDATE. My apologies and condolences -- I'm told his brother died, a horrible thing no one deserves.

Friday, February 11, 2011

IT'S THE FEEL-GALT MOVIE OF THE SUMMER! I know the rest of sane humanity is absorbed with the revolution in Egypt, but surely some of you must be excited by the debut of the Atlas Shrugged movie trailer:

It's got good production values and the jump-cuts-per-millisecond of a real trailer. And Michael Lerner is Barney Frank! Best of all, the makers know that story appeal isn't as important to their intended audience as faithfulness to the Rand philosophy, so while it's hard to figure out what or who exactly we should be rooting for -- Two unpleasant people and their railroad? Capitalism? -- it's clear that statism sucks and money is too important even to joke about.

Personally I think Hollywood does capitalism a much bigger favor with comedies like Trading Places, but I can't begrudge the Randroids their moment in the cineplex. The only question is, are there any theaters within driving distance of the Gulch?
THE HEARTBREAK OF CPAC. I originally thought this tweet by KevDough was the saddest CPAC '11 artifact :
I bet I could have gotten a lot of chicks at #GOPROUD as it seems they are there in force. Damnit, #CPAC!
Or maybe he was only kidding -- KevDough's a real funster. (Sample: "Tomorrow night at #FauxPAC, we will be roasting a whole pig. Her name is Meghan McCain.")

Never mind, I've actually found something sadder in David Weigel's account of the commotion caused by a Sarah Palin impersonator at CPAC:
Alas, it was a hoax, and she disappeared. Some people kept passing word that "she's here!" through the halls, unaware of the interesting lesson about the psychology of fame and crowds that was being demonstrated. Some were disappointed, for a number of reasons.

"I was bummed out when she said she was married," said one attendee, Tom Delano. "But Palin's prettier."
Tom is going to have that box of chocolates all to himself on Valentine's Day, I'm guessing.
CPAC DAY 2: JUST JOY-POPPING, TRYING TO STAY CLEAN. I can't, I just can't -- oh well, the live feed is right there. Some guy is introducing the guy who's introducing John Thune. I didn't catch the name of this warm-up act but he says he wants to test the idea of Obamacare the same way Reagan did in the 1980 Presidential debate, when he asked "Are you better off now than you were four years ago?" As Obamacare is just getting started/strangled, the analogy turns out to be shaky, and the questions are on the order of "How many of you believe that the quality and availability of your health care will go down under the health care law?" Believe! Well, guy, you can get them to believe anything, as their response shows.

Also "the real liberals really want Obamacare to fail so they can get what they really want" -- Single Payer Hitlercare! Cripes, why didn't you guys tell me that was the plan! (He also traced the problem of attempted national healthcare back to Ted Kennedy, but by that point the crowd was too worn-out to boo.)

The event's moderator -- some loopy talk-show host -- characterizes the Obamacare approach as, "Well, at least the senior citizens won't die as quickly waiting on all those long lines." Even the CPAC crowd doesn't know what to do with that. (Later she tells a long story about how she got messed up in a motorcycle crash, but "I'm an American -- I wanted to live.")

Eventually Thune arrives. He looks like a former high-school swim team star grown rich in the tanning-salon business.

"We can't win the peace if we don't tell it like it is." He's talking about Obama's under-utilization of the word "terrorism." You can imagine how serious the speech is. Oh, also Reagan Reagan Reagan, cut everything, Jesus loves Israel and torture, "The FCC is trying to take over the internet," and such old, old chestnuts at the Balanced Budget Amendment. I can see why the fringe of the fringe like him -- he spits the talking points without gagging -- but he's basically the same old vanilla dairy queen in a plastic cup and he has as much chance of being President as did the man he replaced and physically resembles, Tom Daschle.
NEW ARTICLE UP AT ALTERNET. It's called "10 Historical 'Facts' Only a Right-Winger Could Believe."

You may notice that every so often conservatives, in talking on this or that subject, will say something about women's rights, the founding fathers, etc., that suggests a bizarre notion of history (e.g., "self-avowed modern day feminists are anything but feminist"). Since not only the right-blogosphere but also the conservative world in general has become more full-throatedly crazy, sometimes they'll even express these historical fallacies out loud. That's what the article is about.

It's in bite-sized Top Ten form, and goes down easy. Tell your friends!
OSCAR CATCH-UP, PART 2. The Kids Are All Right. Cholodenko's a weird one -- High Art and Laurel Canyon are like traditional Hollywood movies re-edited by someone with brain damage; all the right pieces are there, and sometimes beautiful, but they're stuck together in ways that vitiate rather than amplify their impact. (I really like High Art, especially when Patricia Clarkson's onscreen, but watching it is a frustrating experience.)

But The Kids Are All Right benefits from Cholodenko's discursive approach more than the others because it's unified by a conflict that is almost laughably formulaic: Daughter of uncooperative lesbian couple tracks down sperm-donor dad; hijinks and hetero adultery ensue! It's like someone smart and serious radically remixed I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry. The plot is so strong that Cholodenko can mix and mash to her heart's content and never lose track of what's at stake.

Thus, we can have enjoy the bonding of the kids with the donor, and even have some fun with the (spoiler spoiler spoiler) affair between the donor and one of the lesbians, but the danger these developments present to everyone's happiness is never far from our minds. When the broken pieces are put together at the end, the resolution feels incomplete, not because the art has failed because it has succeeded -- she actually captured the messiness of life without making a mess.

There are plenty of good privileged moments in the movie, but I especially liked the scene in which the donor (the ultra-brilliant Mark Ruffalo, who reacts to the pain he's feeling with some petulance, as if it were something from which he thought he was exempt) explains to his usual fuck-buddy why he doesn't want to sleep with her. He wants to say what's in his heart without actually revealing anything -- the secret affair requires it, but we get the feeling this is not an uncommon mode for him. Finally he clumsily burbles about how at this stage of his life "I don't want to be that guy" who's still going around doing what... he obviously really still enjoys doing. The girl responds, with perfect appropriateness, "Fuck you." Life, ladies and gentlemen, captured on film.

The Social Network. A smart friend asked me: Why does anyone think this movie "defines a generation"? Oh, that's easy: Because they're old and The Social Network believably shows young shits acting like shits. Duh.

I'm old too, and a Leveller to boot, so my favorite part of the movie is the beginning, when the shittiness of Harvard shits is vividly revealed, and the Trent Reznor music has just started to kick in. Really, I loved it: For 20 minutes we're immersed in a milieu both dark-and-aged (kudos, DP Jeff Cronenweth) and totally frattish, and the kids are believably and expeditiously shown to be in equal parts callow and ambitious, and swimming in privilege. It's such a casually brutal portrayal that, at that stage, you might have convinced me that it defined something-or-other.

That doesn't last, but that's not so bad. Indeed, the ripping Alan Sorkin gabfest unto which we devolve is sort of the definition of not-bad. Sorkin's dialogue is always crisp, glib, and fun, and he's major enough that he can get top actors to supply the character attributes his writing by and large doesn't bother with.

In this regard he's extremely fortunate here, especially with Jesse Eisenberg. His Zuckerberg has been characterized as an Asperger's case, but the brilliance of the performance is that you can't write off his self-involvement that easily -- you can imagine all kinds of reasons for his behavior (parental coddling, youthful alienation, genius), and still be left wondering -- which, if I may say, is the kind of mysteriousness that distinguishes great acting, and probably why his narrow-band performance got an Oscar nomination.

But his singularity is something from which the other characters aren't exempt (except for his partner Saverin, very well played by Andrew Garfield). I still recall with a little shiver the shy arm-punch Zuckerberg gives Saverin when he arrives at his and Sean Parker's apartment, and it strikes me now that this is the reason: It's the most intimate gesture in the movie. Most of the characters are so absorbed in self-definition strategies that they can't bond. Maybe that's what really spurred the "defines a generation" idea -- unlike almost any other movie about young men (and it's almost exclusively about men) I can think of, The Social Network portrays a set of manhood rituals that drives them apart instead of bringing them together, and maybe people (and, who knows, maybe Sorkin) think that this is what the internet has done to them.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

SHORTER ARTHUR LAFFER: Watch me write a 983-word article about Reaganomics -- for a major newspaper with editors, yet! -- without once using the word "deficit."

UPDATE. Shorter is shorter, but not always better, and Doghouse Riley does the hard work of identifying some of the specific streaks of bullshit in Laffer's self-serving item. One of his digressions struck me hard:
Y'know, somebody, sometime--I nominate Mitch Daniels--needs to explain to me why simple is always better than complex, except when they decide it isn't. You don't go to a mechanic who can only work on flathead Fords. You don't go to a doctor who stopped studying surgery when anesthesia was introduced. If this were just proposed as an ethical argument that would be one thing, and bad enough at that. But it's not; it's supposed to be a declaration of apodictic certainty even though the facts say otherwise.
This hardstruck me because earlier I'd been listening (though I'd promised myself not to) to Paul Ryan at CPAC talking about how the Obama Administration/liberals/socialists/Hitler were in love with experts -- "government wizards," "bureaucrats," etc. -- and the idea that "there must be someone or some few people who have all the information." He contrasted this with the allegedly more homespun conservative concept that "each person is the world's top expert in his or her unique skills, the people as a whole understand society as a whole, no matter how complicated it gets," etc.

Bullshit. Our economy was self-evidently fucked by purported free-marketeers like Ryan who'd been telling us for years that government should get out of the way and let the people drive us to prosperity. But the "people" they were talking about weren't Joe and Jenny Six-Pack -- there were Lehman Brothers and Goldman Sachs. And contrary to Obama's piquant analogy, they didn't exactly drive us into a ditch -- they pushed us out of the car and over a cliff, and then drove on down the road to sinecures and prosperity.

The financiers who screwed us over were "experts," too -- and very good ones, as they successfully achieved their goal of directing a larger share of the nation's wealth into their own hands. The only experts Ryan and his buddies oppose are those who might attempt to direct some of that money back to the rest of us.

...Can you blame me? Sure, I missed Cheney's name being heckled, but I got a little fresh air. And if I'd stayed outside, I wouldn't have seen this monster who once ran our trillion-dollar multi-war pretending to be a tea partier and talking about "the gentle despotism of Big Government."

(Oh, and no cutting the Defense budget!)
CPAC 5: DONALD TRUMP. I'm really starting to have a toxic reaction to this and would like to stop, but... Donald Trump?

Introducer announces Trump is "thinking about tossing his hat into the ring" for the Presidency, which Rick Santorum didn't even get.

Some drunk chick is yelling YOU'RE HIRED! at him. He thanks her, tells them he'll decide about running by June. He sounds like Ed Koch with a bad cold. Says the United States has become a "whipping post for the rest of the world... they are not treating us properly... we have become the laughing stock of the world..." And Trump knows from laughing stocks! He claims his many foreign contacts have informed him that all foreigners now "view our leaders as weak" and have actually been ripping us off, by means which Trump really should be sharing with the Treasury if they're factual rather than with CPAC.

Talks about how his money is a "scorecard" showing how great he is. Then comes a long ramble about billionaire psychology that I couldn't follow, which is probably why I'm not rich.

The current President "came out of nowhere... with no track record and, I will tell you... wonderful guy, nice man, but he had no record." With Trump, however, you know what you're getting: Giant ugly buildings! And now he brags on his press clippings. New York magazine, Steve Forbes, they all love the Donald! Segue: "We don't have free trade," says Trump. China is manipulating their currency -- Trump won't stand for it. "We buy so much of their product because their currency is so low" that it's too cheap not to buy. What to do, Donald? "We need a highly competent person or we're going have very, very serious trouble very, very quickly."

But what do we do, Donald? "We have to watch China and we have to watch OPEC..." Suddenly he's talking about OPEC. "$4.54 for gas. Get used to it, folks... nobody calls up OPEC and says, 'That -- price -- better -- get -- lower -- and it better get lower fast!'" The crowd loves it: War with Saudi Arabia! Maybe we can hire George Bush as a general.

"How 'about this?" he says, working the room. "Germany is buying the New York Stock Exchange!... how about the Somali pirates?" Where you from, darling? Salt Lake City? Wonderful town.

"By the way, Ron Paul cannot get elected, I'm sorry to say." OUTRAGE! BOOING! "I like Ron Paul, I think he's a good guy" -- silence -- "but honestly I think he has zero chance..." More yelling! But! If Trump runs, "This country will be respected again." YAY! GO TRUMP! "I'm pro-life." YAY! "I'm against gun control." YAY! etc. "We'll be taking in hundreds of billions of dollars from countries that are screwing us... create vast numbers of productive jobs..."

He's just spinning and cruising like he always does. I think his goal might really be to see how full of shit you can be and still get away with it. Well, at least he has the brains to smell that he's dealing with rubes here, and he laid it on thick. But I wonder what the organizers were thinking. Maybe they too wanted to see how far they could take them down the primrose path. As far as you like, it seems.
CPAC 4: WAYNE LaPIERRE. This is rich -- NRA's Wayne LaPierre wants us to remember the dead at school massacres like Virginia Tech -- who were killed not by guns, but by gun control laws which kept those students from firing back!

Same goes for the Tucson shooting, only the media is a co-conspirator. "The national media wasted no time making a celebrity of the deranged killer," says LaPierre, and "airing photographs of a mass murderer" makes other people killers. "The media ought to be ashamed of themselves…."

Here's the glory, right here:

"If Tucson tells us anything anything at all, it tells us this: Government has failed… heck, they can hardly get the snow plowed."

In Hell, Joe Goebbels is giving him the golf clap.

UPDATE: "As soon as you leave this hotel, your life is in jeopardy." Ooga Booga! Also, a story of an illegal immigrant child rapist. Well, he knows his crowd. (Also refers sneeringly to Hollywood stars and -- get this -- "the wealthy." Wonder what his suit cost.)

UPDATE 2. "The presence of a firearm makes us all safer." This guy's full of great one-liners.

(I'm generally pro-gun -- I want lots and lots of them! And hollow point bullets! -- but I wouldn't join a group run by someone like this. Does this kind of talk really help build their membership? Or just terrify current members out of leaving?)
CPAC 3: Aaaack Carrie Lukas... of The Politically Incorrect Guide to Women, Sex and Feminism and other outrages. For someone who's been in the culture war game so long, she looks good. She's in favor of people getting married, staying married, and having children.

And she's gathered a panel of other scolds, one of whom -- an excitable Harlem conservative, bless him (Update: He's Michel Faulkner, author of Restoring the American Dream) --hollers THANK YOU FOR CARING ABOUT MARRIAGE! His great line (really, how can you top it?) is "Our liberties, which have made us great, are now destroying us." See, "we are beginning to destroy ourselves" with non-traditional marriage. "We must stand for traditional marriage on the grounds that it is good for our society... one man and one woman... if we do not, we will indeed destroy ourselves."

I wonder how the GOProud guys are liking this.

UPDATE. Now there's an old white guy with a PowerPoint presentation about "the decline of marriage," which was caused by Lyndon Johnson's War on Poverty and causes infant mortality. It's a festival of correlation as causation! Also: Countries with gay marriage and/or unions tend not to believe marriage is necessary to happiness, about which we should be outraged. "Let me conclude with Ronald Reagan's statement..."

UPDATE 2. New black preacher up now, saying the GOP shouldn't give up on black people because a lot of them hate gay people and abortion too, and thus can be tempted -- don't "try to sell the whole farm" of horrific Republican ideas to them, just dangle a fetus. Stands strongly against Heather Has Two Mommies and has said "Don't throw us under the bus" five times, which helps get the crowd on his side.

UPDATE 3. Lukas comes back on to blather something about how traditional marriage was in trouble before we started talking about gay marriage and we should all take a "friends and family" approach to the issue, whatever that is (maybe an anti-gay calling plan?). Possible translation: Please, you guys back in civilization, don't give me too much shit about this at Happy Hour.
CPAC 2: RICK SANTORUM. Some guy (Foster Freeze? Is he a DC supervillain?) introduced Rick Santorum. Made a couple of non-political jokes, bless him. Also talked about Santorum's anti-abortion mojo. Quoted a "valentine greeting" to a special needs child (Update: Apparently it's Santorum's child), full of words like "self-sacrifice" and "perseverance," which proves that abortion is murder.

Santorum comes on looking like an 80s ad executive, to "Don't Stop Thinking About Tomorrow." His career is finished!

Said his grandfather came here to escape fascism. And that makes even more treasonous Obama's rejection of American exceptionalism! "He doesn't believe that America is exceptional -- well I can tell you Ronald Reagan… believed in American exceptionalism." Also Obama "apologized for America" because to him, America has "evil, even sinister aims" and doesn't have the "moral authority… to help spread this objective truth that Reagan and Bush believed in."

Well, "there are real consequences" to this attitude -- for example, where we "turned our backs in Iran," when we could have sent encouragement and nukes. And why? Because Obama "sides with that regime." Same thing in Egypt -- only this time Obama sides with the protestors. Why? Not because he loves freedom, but because Egypt is our friend and Obama hates America's friends.

So, the story thus far: Obama always picks the side that hates America most.

UPDATE. More Santorum: Obama "does not believe in truth or evil or America."

Also: "We allow people to fail... you learn more from failure than you do from success," which is why we should cut unemployment benefits, so starvation will teach the jobless a lesson. "My Grandfather didn't come here because we had 99 weeks of unemployment benefits!" (applause)

Now he's talking about culture war, which he characterizes as the indispensible third leg of the conservative stool, but oh so much more: "America is a great moral enterprise. What I read to you abut being endowed by our Creator is a great moral enterprise." And All Men Are Created Equal means God made you equal, not because you're equal to your neighbor per se.

Finally, his speciality: Social issues "are the issues that matter... and those are the issues we can not retreat on. I know that's not necessarily a popular thing." But Obama's reign is "tyranny," and abortion and gay marriage are proof of that. "The judiciary did not create life, and it did not create marriage, and it has no right to redefine either one of them!" Then he picks up his introducer's valentine reference. Santorum's special-needs girl is further proof that abortion is murder. Some people -- unnamed, alas -- "told us to move on," I guess meaning they should drown her in a well or something. But Santorum and his wife don't drown her in a well because "we love her."

"Ladies and gentlemen, America belongs to God." He asks people to put on their "Cap of Citizenship, and go out and fight for the greatest country in the world." So if you see a mob of pro-lifers wearing identical caps coming down the street, run! They mean business!

Then Q&A, in which he endorses state legislatures passing anti-abortion laws to challenge Roe v. Wade.

UPDATE 2. They played Fleetwood Mac three times! Doomed, I tell you.