Friday, April 29, 2011

TEAM PLAYERS. "Lionel and I censored ourselves in the interest of the greater good, " laughs Roger L. Simon of himself and PJTV colleague Lionel Chetwynd, "because we did a show about Atlas Shrugged, which we're gonna do today, but we didn't want to hurt the film because we're good team players so we decided to hold off." But now that the movie has "tanked," they're free to tell us it stinks.

Their fellow conservatives denounce this politicization of the critical process. Accuracy in Media finds it "noteworthy" that these critics "would ignore this particular movie while reviewing scores of others arguably less relevant to today’s current events." The New York Post's Lou Lumenick quotes a commentator who finds their failure to file "even more deplorable than that taken by the distributing company to withhold an invitation to its opening for reasons of editorial politics, operating policy or anything else." "Too bad the movie's already been out for two weeks," scoffs Ray Gustini of The Atlantic Wire.

Oh, whoops, sorry, they're talking about the New York Times. But I don't know why they're so upset that the Times hasn't reviewed the film. Haven't bloggers rendered the Lamestream Media irrelevant?
THE LAND OF MAKE BELIEVE. John Cole seems mildly excited that Paul Ryan has expressed a willingness to reduce or eliminate oil subsidies -- bucking his own party, and a previous incarnation of himself -- but worries that the GOP will get unearned points for it.
This, something pretty much every liberal the last few decades has proposed, will be hailed as courage...

In no sane world would they ever be subsidized- it’s simply insane. And smarter folks have been pointing this out for quite some time, and are simply ignored.

But now that a Republican has suggested it, I guess it is “serious” enough that something might happen.
I can put his mind at ease. This will never happen. Maybe some Potemkin plan will be erected for show which moves the money around a little. But seriously? Come on. Obama proposed cuts in the industry's subsidies and tax breaks at the last State of the Union, and I didn't see Republicans running to endorse it -- quite the contrary.

And though some lefty sites are enjoying Ryan's retreat from orthodoxy, I'm not seeing the rightbloggers rush to second his motion. This bit from American Power represents the furthest reaches of their criticism of the oil biz -- namely, that its behavior encourages socialists:
It's hard to defend big oil if they adopt market positions that appear completely against consumer interests. There's an economic logic to trends, even economic necessity. Yet the bummer is that massive oil company profits feed the progressive left's demands for higher corporate taxes, and hence demands for ever larger spending initiatives...

Again, until the demand flattens out a bit after the peak summer travel season, it's going to be easy pickings for the communist left's attacks on big oil.
As far as actually withdrawing any of their perks, Bridget Johnson's perspective is representative:
With gas prices hitting $3.90 today, Dems are undoubtedly singing an alleluia chorus at the revived opportunity to swing the “Big Oil” bat once again.
ExxonMobil can sleep soundly.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

THE END OF A BIRTHIC DAY. "MORE: But the question remains: Why did Obama, who has proudly vowed his administration would be the 'most open and transparent in history,' wait so long?" -- Ole Perfesser Instapundit.

"President Obama coughed up his birth certificate today. So, the question is: How is this good for Obama?" -- Melissa Clouthier, RedState.

"THE NEW BURNING QUESTION... But it does raise the perplexing question: If this was possible all along, why did the WH take such sweet time releasing it? Could it be that this White House, continuing a tactic used by Democrats for years, actually liked being able to cast their opponents — often through guilt by association — as paranoid nuts? No, that couldn’t possibly be it... Update: For the record, I don’t actually think this is the 'new burning question' in the sense that it must rise to the top of the national conversation. I just think farrrt faarrrrrrt farrrt fart." -- Jonah Goldberg.

"If it was anybody else I'd say what's gonna happen to you would be a lesson to you. Only you're gonna need more than one lesson -- and you're gonna get more than one lesson." -- Boss Jim Gettys, Citizen Kane.
GALTIAN SUPERMAN SPEAKS. (UPDATED.) The producer of the Atlas Shrugged movie, business for which has fallen off, tells the Los Angeles Times that he will fight to the last to bring Ayn Rand's vision to the promised 1,000 screens and follow up with the final two parts of the trilogy.

Just kidding:
"Critics, you won," said John Aglialoro, the businessman who spent 18 years and more than $20 million of his own money to make, distribute and market "Atlas Shrugged: Part 1," which covers the first third of Rand's dystopian novel. "I’m having deep second thoughts on why I should do Part 2"...

Though the film has made only $3.1 million so far, Aglialoro said he believes he'll recoup his investment after TV, DVD and other ancillary rights are sold. But he is backing off an earlier strategy to expand "Atlas" to 1,000 screens and reconsidering his plans to start production on a second film this fall.

"Why should I put up all of that money if the critics are coming in like lemmings?" Aglialoro said. "I’ll make my money back and I'll make a profit, but do I wanna go and do two? Maybe I just wanna see my grandkids and go on strike."
On strike! That'll show 'em.

It seems the perpetual motion machine runs on whine.

Here's a video of Aglialoro and other members of the creative team talking about the film last week ("This book, this movie… it's a liberation of the human spirit," Aglialoro says). The discussion is hosted by Nick Gillespie, who reacts eagerly to the filmmakers' sunny assessment of the movie's fortunes: "Does it seem somehow in keeping that the critical reception might be mixed but the audience response is huge? Because this seems totally in keeping with Rand's reception, which is there's something about her work that an audience gets that escapes the gatekeepers and the Wesley Mouches of the world."

UPDATE. Comments are choice. "Randianism: the sound of one teenager slamming a door in your face--forever" quoth aimai, who also collaborates with wiseguy cleter on a Galt-speech film starring Wallace Shawn, to be called My Dinner with Atlas. lacp posits Plan 9 from Galt's Gulch.

BigHank53 asks the relevant question, though: "Remember how the critics slagged Sucker Punch, 300, and The Phantom Menace, and those movies sank without a trace? Do Objectivists ever take responsibility for anything?" Just so. Rand's characters never bitched so much about their reversals, even when they were caused directly by hostile moochers, looters, scalawags etc. This guy gets bad reviews for his lousy movie and suddenly he's Josef K.

UPDATE 2. Almost forgot: There's a "Support the Atlas Shrugged Movie(s)!" Facebook page. I'm not sure it's not a parody. One of the members suggests: "What about a fundraiser all of us could contribute to, for marketing funds for the movie, so the word gets out to other people?" Boy, is she unclear on the concept.

UPDATE 3. I'm beginning to rethink this Aglialoro thing, thanks to commenter Brian H, who has discovered a 2007 Milford (MA) Daily News report on a Massachusetts Opportunity Relocation and Expansion grant bestowed upon Aglialoro's company, Cybex:
Several officials noted the long process of the Medway Industrial Park project, which began in the 1970s. The town nearly lost Cybex, which recently opened a new $15 million facility in Minnesota.

"Cybex had been looking to state government for several years, or frankly, it had to leave,'' said John Aglialoro, Cybex's chairman and chief executive officer.

But within months of taking office, the [Derval] Patrick administration awarded Cybex one of the MORE grants, Aglialoro said.

"Our global competition would certainly maintain a dry eye if they learned the Medway facility was shut down,'' he said. "For America to compete effectively, businesses must work with local, state and federal entities.''
Doesn't sound lke the Rearden way to me. But I don't blame Aglialoro -- in fact, the more I think about it, the more I admire his nerve.

Like I always say, if you can swindle zealots into paying for your art, then swindle, comrades, and God go with you. And now that I know Aglialoro was full of shit coming in the door, even his ridiculous pretense of moral high ground is less offensive to me, and in fact has something glorious about it. I confess that when Oliver Stone was passing out "Open the Files" buttons during his talk-show publicity appearances for JFK, I was thinking: Greater love hath no man than this, that he would pretend to be an idealist for the sake of his project! That a drug-addled monster of ambition like Stone would play so well the reformer struck me as a miracle of artistic devotion. If Orson Welles had learned that trick, we might have been blessed with five or six more masterpieces.

Maybe, in the service of his mission, Aglialoro has a similar plan to shake down the dummies who pony up for National Review cruises and crap like that. You can imagine it: Liberal film critics have tried to silence Ayn Rand. But they won't get away with it -- if you give generously. I would prefer to think of him as a modern-day François Villon than as someone dumb enough to actually believe this Objectivist horseshit.

"I guess the Obama administration felt they had milked all the political advantage they could out of refusing to release the birth certificate," huffs Rob Port of Say Anything. This familiar blaming-the-victimology is seen elsewhere -- including a post from, get this, Tom Maguire, for years king of the passive-aggressive crypto-birthers:
My Official Editorial Rumination was that there was no reason for the White House to hide it other than Obama's practice of managing his brand by hiding everything (leaving critics and skeptics unsure which haystack actually conceals a needle which may or may not exist.)
I'm sure Comrade Obama appreciates Maguire's cooperation in that strategy.

Others use the occasion to declare a big win for Donald Trump, whom the release leaves without his one reliable source of publicity, and obliged to explain to the plebes why a thrice-bankrupt blowhard should be their next President. Well, at least those investigators he sent to Hawaii got a nice paid vacation out of the deal. ("Hello, boss? We're hard on his trail! Soon as I finish this stinger -- er, report -- we're on our way to Bimini to explore the Adam Clayton Powell connection!")

But where there's dumb, there's hope! PunditPress:
Why they waited until now and why they released it to TwitPic is unknown at this time.

Update- The White House website also has this picture as the birth certificate, which for some reason, is a different color...
Cue the Colorists! Nah -- the next phase of Operation Confuse-a-Con will be led by Obama's Alinskyite soulmate, the trickster Bill Ayers.

UPDATE. PunditPress seems to have altered its post. Have to wait for the cache.

UPDATE 2. William Jacobson of Legal Insurrection takes a Questions-Remain approach:
Succumbing to the realization -- which I also predicted -- that the "Birther" strategy was failing, the White House has purported to release this morning a "long form" birth certificate.
Perhaps sensing that the purportance was not going his way, he amplifies:
Update: For some reason people have seized on the words "[i]t looks to me like a 1961 version of the short form" as a reflection of skepticism on my part. That was not my intent. I merely wanted to point out that the document doesn't look all that different than the document previously released, although it does have some additional information.

My comment at Politico's Arena:
The document goes a long way, if not completely, towards quieting the issue...
To the last ditch with Colonel Mustard! The night before he was telling people that birtherism was Good News for Republicans:
Obama may be winning in some circles, but the polling indicates that increasing percentages of Americans -- including substantial percentages of independents -- do not believe Obama was born in the U.S. or are unsure. I'll have more on the polling tomorrow, but you never hear about the numbers for independents, you only hear about the numbers for Republicans.

Hint, go out to dinner with four independent voters; then try to guess which one of them thinks Obama was born elsewhere. Because if the polls are accurate, one of them does.
Easy. He's the one with the bib.

UPDATE 3. In comments, Cargo: "The conspiracies will continue as long as the President remains black."

Thanks also to mark f for alerting me to Jonah Goldberg's related mouthfart:
Distractions, Silliness Are Our Enemy

So proclaimed Obama in his “I am a grown-up” press conference just now. He railed against “distractions” and “silliness” that prevent us from grappling with our very serious problems. Then, he left to go tape the Oprah Winfrey show and hold a fundraiser. No word on when his next tee time will be.
I can't fault his reasoning here, because he doesn't supply any; it's just a bizarre tantrum. (I was going to call it an embarrassment, but Goldberg has never shown any capacity for that emotion.) And he keeps the tone up in his own comments section:
Stan - Troll much? I've never endorsed birtherism, I've been blistering in my criticism of Trump, and all you're doing here is tu quoque b.s. By the way I'd rather be a member of a party that flirts with birtherism than trutherism.
Which Democratic Presidential front-runner endorsed trutherism, again? Somebody throw Goldberg the rubber doll to wrestle till he calms down.
TIMOR MORTIS CONTURBAT ME. It's already a big death week for music. I thought I was unacquainted with Hazel Dickens, but apparently that was her heart-rending voice in Harlan County U.S.A., which I hold in my memory to this day. At least she made 75. Phoebe Snow was just 58 when she passed and had been sick. I saw her in the early 70s; she didn't move much, just stood there and skeined out that distinctive sound, which would often start big and then turn into husky static and evaporate. That trailing-off was her signature, which is kind of eerie considering how she went out. No one should have so much death and sorrow in her life, not even an artist.

For me, though, the chill wind really came with the news that Poly Styrene had died of cancer at, gasp, age 53. I saw her and X-Ray Spex at CBGB in 1978. James Wolcott was there too -- I was probably further back from the stage than he, because my stoner friends were not in the mood to be rushed and I lost my reservation. But I could have been out on the sidewalk and her presence still would have reached me. She was physically ample but in no sense heavy, and bounced with obvious pleasure every time the music started. Her voice was strong and from the gut, but though angst was the style in those days, she clearly delighted in her power and shared it with the crowd cheerfully. She lit that dank hellhole right up. It was one of those occasions in which showmanship and animal spirits are indistinguishable. I remember her full of life.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

THE LONER. Thanks to Plonsky shop teacher Leyla Bandy I got to see Neil Young's solo show at Avery Fisher Hall last night. The audience appeared to be mostly middle-aged executives dressed like roadies. But who knows, I haven't seen him in about 15 years, so maybe that's his crowd now.

The old guy played some acoustic hits at the top to remind everyone he was Neil Young, and then strapped on the electrics and began to diverge. When I first listened to Le Noise I figured Young was doing a Nebraska -- stripping down to get to the essence. Or maybe he was tired of splitting the take with Crazy Horse. But this show convinced me that what he's tired of is the restrictions of playing in a band, including having to keep up a steady rhythm. He sped up "Ohio" till the choruses and then slowed back down for them, as if playing that riff was too pleasurable to rush. (Does he still get high?) In other songs he appeared to become enamored of a groove and stick with it till he was satisfied that it was wrung out. He deconstructed "Cortez the Killer" so that every line came with drawn-out guitar embellishments, and when he did the outro straight it seemed almost parodic -- like cheering Cortez "dancin' across the water" was the lame mainstream move. (He played many of the instrumental passages of "Cortez" to a wooden Indian upstage.)

And that was great. He's Neil Young, he can do whatever he wants. He did perform pretty normal versions of "After The Gold Rush" and "I Believe in You" and such like; the crowd swooned, and I suppose I did too. He's in pretty good voice, too -- despite a little thinness at the tippy-top and some unexpected downward modulations, it's surprisingly clean and expressive still. If you just wanted classic Neil you got enough of that.

But while he's happy to open up his treasure chest for the punters, he never comes onstage to pander. Some decades back I saw Young start a Meadowlands show with acoustic faves, then put on the headset mike and sunglasses and sing to tapes, which utterly stilled the swaying seas of buckskin. Later he asked the crowd, "Do you wanna go back?" Everyone roared that they did. "How far back do you wanna go?" he asked -- and he brought out the Shocking Pinks to play rockabilly. As I watched concertgoers stream through every exit door in the auditorium, I thought: This man will never be a nostalgia act. So far I've been right.
SHORTER NANCY FRENCH: I can't get excited about a royal wedding in which the bride is not a virgin.

Monday, April 25, 2011

KEEPING UP WITH THE OBJECTIVISTS. The Atlas Shrugged movie expanded from 299 to 465 theaters last weekend -- and took in about half as much money as it did opening weekend.

Nonetheless its fans proclaim it a success: "exceeding all expectations," "leaves Hollywood scratching its head, because it’s succeeding without them," "Hollywood baffled by success of 'Atlas Shrugged,'" etc.

Orlando Sentinel film writer Roger Moore caught some flak for pointing out that the film isn't doing so hot:
One loon calling himself Art Woolsey bombarded this site with scores of comments of the “Liberal pinko socialist conspiracy” variety. Another banned fact-bending commenter who labels himself “America” suggested, among many other things, that I am taking orders from on high (Does he KNOW my company?) for reporting this...

Another fibber ID’d himself as working for “Warner Bros,” and “we’ve just picked it up for WIDE” distribution...
Maybe one of those commenters was King of AttackingtheDemi-Puppets, who liked the movie better than critics did and, instead of taking a chacun à son goût perspective, announced that "the reviews turned out to be lies matching lies about the Rand novel—the most ambitious American novel ever written," and demanded to know "Why the lies about the 'Atlas Shrugged' movie found in review after review?" Ralph E. Vaughn of Right Here on the Left Coast said, "most reviewers savaged the film, but ignored the message - to attack the theme would require some commentary on a government that is far too much like our own, and they were too timid to do so..." -- a redefinition of the duties of the film reviewer that would render criticism as intolerable as rightwing blogging.

In short, their response to the movie's fortunes is the same as their response to everything else --bullshit and outrage.
BRODERISM 2.0. Kenneth Vogel has this long story at Politico about an "anti-Palin movement," which he portrays as massive and important and strongly tied to Trig Trutherism (the belief that Sarah Palin only pretended to give birth to the special needs child). This section kinda sums it up:
The members of this loose network have had their spats and rifts. Moore and Devon, for instance, reject Trig Trutherism, while the founder of Palingates asked Patrick and his partner to leave the blog after he posted an item about a massage therapist who had been implicated in a prostitution sting and with whom the National Enquirer tabloid alleged Palin’s husband, Todd, had a dalliance — a report the Anchorage police pushed back against.

But they have nonetheless found common cause in their shared belief that Palin is not what she purports to be and that the mainstream media, for the most part, have miserably failed to expose her.
This is like saying that, though Tim Pawlenty rejects birtherism, he and the birthers share a common mission of exposing the truth about Barack Obama. Which is to say, technically accurate but suggestive and misleading.

Maybe they're just looking for hits, but this story tracks with Politico's recent articles in response to an alarming poll showing birtherism strong among Republicans (for which, I may add, no Democrats/Trig Truthers equivalent exists). First Ben Smith told us that birthers are only kidding ("a way to express reflexive hostility"); then he reminded us that 51 percent of Democrats in a 2006 Scripps-Howard poll showed alarming trutheristic tendencies -- the 9/11 kind, not the Trig kind.

Smith neglected to mention that the Democrats in that poll were actually not so far ahead of their fellow countrymen: 36 percent of all respondents answered the same questions affirmatively. Maybe that would have harshed the Broderrific overall message that Republicans and Democrats say crazy things sometimes but they're really just blowing off steam. For a growing political media empire, I guess, there's no percentage in saying that a disturbing number of people say crazy things because they are in fact crazy.
NEW VOICE COLUMN UP, about recent developments in birtherism. I think the fresh divisions among conservatives on this issue actually work to their advantage. Not in common sense, but politically, I mean. It's another example of how being crazy works in one's favor in American politics today; with birtherism you can play both ends against the middle, whereas the wacky ideas held by Democrats -- for instance, that millionaires can afford to kick in a couple more bucks to keep America from turning into Kyrgyzstan -- cannot be similarly leveraged.

In another decade or so, assuming perhaps unfairly that the United States will last that long, I expect the major parties' candidates will be debating whether Bewitched or Mad Men is more awesome before a small audience of citizens who still have cable.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

OLD MOVIE NIGHT. Saw a coupla rock docs recently -- Who Is Harry Nilsson (And Why Is Everybody Talkin' About Him?) and Lemmy -- as well as the Ian Dury bio Sex and Drugs and Rock and Roll. I just now noticed the pattern, and that I'd been missing music. Yes, music is all around, but some years back, when I put down the instruments and set to work at the writer's trade, I sort of deafened myself to it -- abandoned my stereo, didn't follow new bands, stopped paying attention. (This is consistent with a psychological quirk of mine best explained by Uncle Tupelo.)

But my time in Texas, where I was surrounded by a less familiar kind of music, must have re-sensitized me; time and solitude have probably done their work too. Now I find myself responding emotionally, even outsizedly, to songs, including crap ballads played in the supermarket. The heart is a garden, I guess, and flowerings come and go with the seasons and conditions of the soil.

The three movie subjects are among my very favorite musicians, but for the most part the movies disappointed me. As I've observed before, biographies don't often ascend to the higher level of art, so we can only hope to have the story of a person's life presented in pleasing dramatic form. The makers of the Dury pic, unfortunately, muck about a lot. For instance, there are semi-animated sequences which are meant, I guess, to mirror Dury's garish style, but still play like misguided efforts to liven up the film for the benefit of video addicts.

There's also a peculiar extension of the movie's focus to Dury's troubled son. The best excuse for this would be that Dury, too, had father-abandonment issues, and these are recreated in his kid. But as is common in the disturbed-genius genre, Dury is shown to have problems with responsibility, and it's mostly left to his loved ones to be understanding and make adjustments; it's not satisfying to show the hero's struggle to be a good father if he doesn't actually change to accomplish it.

Finally and frankly, I didn't rent the movie to see the Baxter Dury story. I wanted to see something of what the great man was about. The best thing about Sex and Drugs and Rock and Roll is its believable picture of Dury as a romantic character, a nobleman/shit defiantly dancing his rickety leg to the front of the stage and the Top of the Pops. Andy Serkis pushes the Richard III a bit too hard, but I bought that his brave front bonded people to him, even after they'd seem him snap. The portrayal gets right, too, Dury's vision of sex magic as folk wisdom. But overall I'd have been better off listening to 90 minutes of the real Ian Dury.

The Nilsson and Lemmy docs share some common problems. The pleasure we get from hearing our idols eulogized by famous people is really a cheap kind of pleasure, isn't it -- aimed at our insecurities about our own opinions. I think that's why comedy roasts are so popular -- constantly seeing toffs jerk each other off at banquets and on talk shows offends our better natures so much that it's a real pleasure to hear them insult one another. Still, it's bearable to hear someone like Randy Newman or Van Dyke Parks praise Nilsson, albeit with a remarkable lack of eloquence -- watching Lemmy get his ass kissed by the likes of Dave Navarro and Lars Ulrich is just repulsive, and watching them act out their admiration by playing with him is even worse. (The redeeming feature in Lemmy's case is that he doesn't seem too excited about it.)

Nilsson has the advantage of being dead and thus spared the obligation to play along. The sound and video clips of him are very nice, especially rarities like his demo for Popeye's "Blow Me Down"; the glimpses of his childhood are tasteful and of real interest. Over time, though, I got the dispiriting sense that I was being sold Harry Nilsson. I realize not everyone knows a lot about him, but I don't think even novices would appreciate the film's slightly pushy way of trying to convince you that the guy was a genius with awards and celebrity endorsements.

Lemmy's doc is more gross that way, and also throws in testimonials about his drinking and drugging prowess. But at least the man himself has real dignity. When the filmmakers put him on camera with his late-acknowledged son, Lemmy doesn't seem to pay him much mind -- he's aware of the absurdity of the situation, and that it requires his interest but not his effusions. And if the film can't make anything interesting out of Lemmy's random enthusiasms -- video poker, Nazi paraphernalia -- his attitude makes clear that there's nothing to make of them: He's a simple person who likes things because he likes them. As his songs reveal, Lemmy's a philosopher but not a deep thinker, and the thing he's most serious about is not taking things too seriously. This is refreshing, but it also invites us to ask ourselves why we're watching a movie about him in the first place.

UPDATE. Lots on interesting reflections in comments on music appreciation and the effect of age and disappointment upon it. I've known people all along the spectrum, from early abstainers to guys still crunching away at bands into middle age. How we get where we get with music would make a fascinating study. The caprices of Euterpe are hard to figure, but I understand she responds well to tickling; the bitch goddess Fame is less easily appeased.
SHORTER ANN ALTHOUSE: Paul Krugman is a hypocrite because he complained about "eliminationist rhetoric" after Gabby Giffords' assassination, and now he's talking about shooting zombies in the head.

(I expect she's got her teaching assistants going through the cast and crew of "The Walking Dead," trying to find Hollyweird liberals against whom she can make the same charge.)

UPDATE. Giffords ain't dead, commenter map106 reminds me, so it wasn't an assassination. Swap in "attempted assassination."

Friday, April 22, 2011

TOWARD A NEW THEORY OF TRUMP. You know the rule of three -- Anaheim, Azuza, and Cucamonga, etc. Having plumbed the depths of conservative insanity with Wizbang's tale of Obama's attempt to impeach himself and Big Journalism's tale of the Democrats' attempt to hide/promote birtherism, I knew I would need a button before the weekend.

Fortunately I also knew the most reliable well of craziness on the internet. I ran to American Thinker to take in the latest Robin of Berkeley posting, and all my problems were solved.

Guess what: She's endorsing "Donald Trump -- or a Trump-like man" for president. Mainstream conservatives are, after a brief flirtation, now fleeing Trump, but they apparently don't deliver their memos to wherever Robin hides from the world.

Reminding us again that she used to be a leftist, Robin tells us that though she will "no longer vote along gender or ethnic lines," she was at first at least open to the "many strong female politicians out there, the so-called Mama Grizzlies. Some of them, for instance, Gov. Jan Brewer, have bigger cojones than many of the conservative pols."

But can they win? "My opinion is no, and for one simple reason: because of what the left does to women."

And what did the left do to even Robin's favored, cojone-hung women? Sarah Palin "has been subjected to a high tech wilding, replete with verbal rape and sexual objectification," she says, and "[Michele] Bachmann's abuse has already started, and it will get even worse should she run for President."

And it's "not just conservative women that the left will eat alive," says Robin. "It is any nice guy or gal, anyone who plays by the rules. Mitt Romney, that wholesome Mormon; Tim Pawlenty, the soft spoken Midwesterner; Paul Ryan, the brainiac; Huckabee, the pious. Obama and his henchman will chew them up for breakfast and spit them out before noon."

Among the Obama thugs mentioned in the article: The "New Black Panthers" and Cornel West.

But unlike these Republican pussies, Trump will stand up to the right people. For example: "Notice how Trump didn't back down after The View's Whoopie Goldberg insinuated that he's a racist. In fact, Trump went on to confront that other black icon, Bill Cosby."

You get the picture: Only Trump is tuff enough to save America from black people who eat alive GOP white men and verbally rape Sarah Palin.

I'm pretty sure the other people who would vote for Trump see things the same way.
APB. Need an ebook cover designer. Preferably one who works cheap and can either hook me up with a cheap photographer or do the snaps him- or herself. If you are or know someone like that, please drop me a line.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

BUT THEY'RE ALL NUT GRAFS. These are golden days for wingnuttery. The new column by SusanAnne Hiller at Big Journalism -- swear-to-God titled "What If The Birthers Are Right?" -- has to be seen to be disbelieved. I commend her on packing so much lunacy into one tasty nut cluster:
While I won’t rehash all of the issues here, I will note, for the record, that the left started the birther issue (and continually attacked McCain) and Obama is also a McCain birther as he co-sponsored the Senate Resolution declaring McCain a natural born citizen–clearly understanding the difference between being a US citizen and being a natural born US citizen and its importance.
I at first expected her "left started the birther issue" link to advance the theory promoted by Jonah Goldberg that Democrats were "pumping the birther story in order to tar Republicans as extremists." But that one's kinda hard to work now that birtherism is on its way to becoming the consensus among Republicans.

It turns out Hiller's point is that liberals were trying to screw McCain by pushing his Canal Zone background as an issue in 2008, although as someone who was alive and sentient at the time I recall that it blew over very quickly, despite the strenuous efforts of some Ron Paul people.

The most obvious counter to her claim is that McCain's Democratic colleague Pat Leahy put the issue to rest with a Senate resolution way before the national conventions met -- which Hiller tries to preempt by implying that the resolution was actually an attack on McCain, because of the "difference between being a US citizen and being a natural born US citizen and its importance" -- which importance the U.S. Constitution ("a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States") does not acknowledge.

(I wonder that Hiller didn't advance the more elaborate McCain eligibility conspiracy theories of Orly Taitz. They make just as much sense.)

Further down Hiller's column:
Now that that’s out of the way, I’ve been watching the brouhaha that Donald Trump is causing and he is not backing down–that’s obvious. But during these interviews, it makes me wonder why the MSM so aggressively attacks anyone who even dares come close to this issue–even now–after they seemingly put it to rest. What are they afraid of–what might they find? And was Oprah wrong again?

Another question that I’d like to float: Is Obama intentionally withholding his long-form birth certificate to continue to perpetrate the notion that those who question him are crazy giving the media more ammo against the birthers and the right? It wouldn’t surprise me, but with [Jerome] Corsi’s evidence [in an impending birther book] that may not be the case.
Son of a gun, she got to the Goldberg Variation after all -- and in the most mind-bending way: Immediately after suggesting that Obama's MSM enablers are trying to hide the fact that he's foreign-born, she suggests that Obama is maliciously advancing the false theory that he's foreign-born.

If our country seems to be going insane, it's because the insane have all the advantages. If you're crazy enough to write something like Hiller's column, and have readers who are crazy enough to swallow it, you don't have to make the slightest bit of sense. Just mouth whatever random talking points come to mind, and you have a publishable column. Think how freeing that must be!

Oh, and as Teresa Kopec points out, the Very Serious People will cover for you. Politico's Ben Smith on the GOP birther boom:
What does this mean? I find it hard to believe that millions of Republicans have looked at the non-existent evidence and soberly concluded this. It seems that answering "was Obama born in a foreign country" elicits from Republicans the sort of response from Repubicans that "is George W. Bush a moron" would have elicited from Democrats -- a way to express reflexive hostility...
Really, in a world like this, what's the percentage in not being crazy?

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

THE NEW NORMAL. From Jay Tea at Wizbang, Obama's plot to impeach himself, and no I am not even joking:
Which brings me to what should be an unthinkable possibility:

Does Barack Obama want to be impeached?

On the face, it sounds absurd. But I can construct two scenarios under which he just might.
Jesus Christ.
...impeaching Obama would be a disastrous move, tactically and strategically [for Republicans]. But it really looks like Obama is pushing for such a move, calculating that it would do him far more good than harm.
That bastard! Well, let's not let him get away with that!
Plus, there's always the possibility that the longer Obama is denied his impeachment, the more aggressive and reckless and offensive he'll grow, and might even push enough Democrats into abandoning him and going along with removing him from office. Yeah, it's a long shot, but why rule out the chance?
I... uh... it...

I don't even know what to say. What can I say about a grown man talking about Obama's dastardly plan to sabotage Republicans by getting them to impeach him*? That it's the most insane thing yet? How do I know until I look at, say, The Anchoress or Patterico? Because all these guys have been absolutely tearing asunder the very fabric of space and time with their insanity on a daily basis.

Sometimes I really think the right-blogosphere is just one immense practical joke.

*UPDATE. Oh yeah -- not to mention the idea that Obama might go too far with his impeachment scheme and actually get convicted. I wonder that Tea didn't war-game that one -- once freed of the cares of office, Obama can go back to building bombs for Al Qaeda, while Lord Biden reigns supreme and the Delawarean Prophecy is fulfilled!

UPDATE 2. Tbogg brings my attention to Confederate Yankee, who calls Obama "in some respects pedophilistic" because young people like him. If not a practical joke, perhaps some kind of contest?
NATHANIEL BRANDEN REDUX. From the twitterverse, Ben Domenech:
In the related story at Coffee & Markets (the deformed progeny of Andrew Breitbart's Big Government and RedState) Ryan's staffers tell Domenech that reading Rand wasn't required of them ("The paranoia this meme has spawned is quite incredible," says Domenech, "...the meme is completely false"). It's an LSM smear, your argument is invalid, etc.

We do appreciate Domenech's service to either truth or the PR team at Ryanville. But debunking this very Big Lie takes very little space, leaving Domenech with time to kill. Rather than insert Latin dummy copy or perhaps some of his famous mash-ups, Domenech starts freestyling, and tells us that Ayn Rand is a totally awesome, world-class philosopher:
While Rand’s books may fail as literature, any full education requires you to be as familiar with Rand’s philosophy and intellectual arguments as you are with, say, Immanuel Kant’s — who Rand famously despised.
Sigh. Ben, haven't you got the hang of this thing yet? If you want to imply slander, you have to assume that the slander is slanderous. Otherwise it's like liberals are spreading the word that Ryan loves Jesus. Except, of course, Jesus is not as great as Rand.

Failing that, you could tell the punters liberals think Rand is no good, so it's their bad intentions that make this a big deal. Okay, go ahead, and try not to fuck up:
Suggesting people should read Rand is hardly a bad thing. But it appears the left thinks this is a dangerous thing. Yes, many of Rand’s ideas are dangerous, but primarily to the persistence of crushing bureaucracy, the redistributionist power of the state, and the equality enforcers who would destroy the pursuit of individual exceptionalism.
Ah, that was much --
The Simpsons illustrated this quite well.
Sigh, again. The last line is linked to a clip of The Simpsons' parody of The Fountainhead, posted at Popmodal, "the conservative alternative to YouTube," to which its Randboy poster has attached the commentary, "only problem I have with it, though not seen here, is Lisa saying, 'The Fountainhead, isn't that the Bible for Right wing losers?' Isn't that a contradiction? Losers? Then they go on to depict the story of an individual that would not conform blah blah blah..."

If you're trying to get people to take your story seriously, it helps to change out of the Atlas Shrugged PJs first.

UPDATE. Some commenters are confused by the existence of a "conservative alternative to YouTube." Are YouTube's resolution rates antithetical to conservatism or something?

One Guest points out, "There's a conservative alternative to everything... They have an alternative to school, they have an alternative to real colleges, they have an alternative to Wikipedia, they have an alternative to real museums, and their alternative to the media worked so well that it became the media."

Just so. The new breed is positively allergic to discordant points of view; where do you think sad cases like Domenech -- who has grown up so insulated that he literally doesn't know how to argue a point -- come from? They don't see the need to proselytize (after Bush v. Gore, why bother?) and they certainly don't think they can learn anything from non-believers. So, on the Christian fundamentalist model, they create alternative worlds where they may be safe from the the risk of ideological miscegenation.

Wait'll their son comes home with a hippie girlfriend, though. That'll be a wacky half-hour of family fun.

UPDATE 2. Speaking of alt-cons, gaze upon The People's Cube, where laughs come cleared by the central committee. It's like Krokodil if the censors themselves were writing it.

And Susan of Texas, thanks for informing me that there really are Atlas Shrugged PJs. I'm disappointed -- I was hoping for a model festooned with a sleepy l'il Atlas. He's shrugging 'cause he wants to go nappies!
DEFINING DEVIANCY DOWN. I told you people not to underestimate Sarah Palin (though I probably should have said that you shouldn't underestimate her media enablers, particularly as they respond so generously when badgered by her factota). But even I was a little surprised to see how seriously the press took her ridiculous show in Madison last weekend. Her supporters were sufficiently countered (and probably outnumbered) at that event by hordes of unruly protesters that she seemed to strain her voice to be heard above them, yet her disastrous appearance was covered as if it were the triumphal return of a head of state.

In the recent McClatchy-Marist poll Palin finishes in Presidential preference behind Rudy frigging Giuliani. Her numbers have been lousy for months. And still she gets serious treatment; even her new website ("Has Pundits Buzzing") is big news.

Not that she needs more help, but I'm beginning to think that the emergence of Donald Trump as a Republican contender has been a boon to the Palin quasi-campaign, if not in numbers then in press perception. At first I thought Trump's absurd presence would only cannibalize the bottom-feeder constituency on which Palin relies. But now I believe the great attention his birther-blowhard campaign has received may be serving to normalize absurdity in the 2012 GOP race to Palin's benefit. Whatever her many drawbacks -- quitting governor, spectacularly failed vice-presidential candidate, reality TV buffoon, etc -- as long as Trump is out there bellowing, Palin is not the most ludicrous Republican candidate extant. (The nearly invisible Bachmann doesn't count, yet.)

Maybe she thinks so, too:
Palin, who’s been trading kind words with Trump in recent days, said on Fox News that the real estate mogul isn’t pushing the birther issue and would talk about more substantial issues — if only the press would let him. Reporters, she said, are “hammering [Trump] about the one issue that he has brought up and not been shy about — that's the birth certificate. ... He's answering reporters' questions about his view on the birth certificate. And reporters turn that around and say that's all he's got.

“That's not the case,” she added. “Trump is running on the issue, bottom line, that President Obama is in so far over his head.”
Among the alleged high end of Republican candidates, we have Romney, Huckabee, and maybe Daniels -- all uncharismatic ciphers who couldn't raise a piss-on at a glory hole. In the shitstorm that 2012 promises to be, who do you think is most likely to reap the whirlwind? I am put in mind of Deep Throat in All The President's Men: "They were frightened of Muskie, and look who got destroyed. They wanted to run against McGovern, look who they're running against..."

Monday, April 18, 2011

SHORTER ROSS DOUTHAT: Obama wants to tax the rich, which proves that he doesn't care what happens to black people.
NEW VOICE COLUMN UP, about the rightblogger reaction to Atlas Shrugged. A surprising number of the brethren admit the film stinks, but still direct their followers to pay for tickets to it in order to teach Hollyweird and Obama a lesson. It reminds me, as if I needed reminding, that conservatives remain the children of Zhdanov, dreaming of a day when they can take over what they are pleased to call "the culture" and make everyone dream the same dreams as they.

Among the outtakes: Something called Politically Empowered says,
This is one of the few movies in my memory to actually champion the creators and doers instead of the 'Mr. Smith' in Washington, who really ends up more times than not being a combination of Bernie Madoff and the Godfather or a combination of Barney Frank and Barack Obama.
I'm used to them defending Ebenezer Scrooge, but it is something to see them turn on Capra. I would have thought they'd prefer to see Smith as a dedicated Tea Party person like Rand Paul, fighting Claude Rains as Senator Rino. I guess anything from the age of FDR is too tainted even for analogy.

UPDATE. Oh Jesus, just saw this at Pundit Press:
My take? (Drum roll please...)

Perhaps the greatest movie ever made.

I put it up there with Saving Private Ryan, and Schindler's List.
God, imagine Atlas Shrugged directed by Spielberg: Indiana Galt and the Atmospheric Engine.

UPDATE 2. In comments, mds wonders why a Randian would endorse Schindler's List when Schindler was so miserably lacking in the virtue of selfishness: "Seriously, did this reviewer watch a pro-Krupp propaganda film and get them confused with Schindler's story? Because Krupp managed to come much closer to the Randian / schmibertarian ideal."

Sunday, April 17, 2011

NEW ON THE BLOGROLL: Thanks Jay Ackroyd for introducing me to The Bobblespeak Translations, a fun distillation of each Sunday's yakfests. It's been going on for years and I just woke up to it. Shame on me. Sample from this morning:
[David] Gregory: Senator will the Tea Party raise the debt ceiling or will you destroy the USA

[Sen. Mike] Lee: we will only vote for it if we also amend the Constitution to require a President to wear his birth certificate at all times around his neck on a sandwich board

[Alan] Greenspan: I don’t understand what is going on

Gregory: Did Betsy get your pudding?

Greenspan: Debt is bad
Having done this sort of thing myself, I know how much fun it is, but it requires greater dedication than I can muster to watch these horrible people on a weekly basis.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

UNMITIGATED GALT. Whatever understandable prejudice you might have against Ayn Rand, you have to admit that the giant concrete block of her novel on which Atlas Shrugged: Part I is based could make a movie of some sort.

Consider all that happens in it: Dagny Taggart, who wants her family's railroad to succeed on its own merits, is opposed by her weakling brother James, who prefers that it succeed via corrupt influences. Conglomerate head Henry Rearden wants success on his own terms, too, but is opposed by, well, the whole wide world, which instinctually recoils at his greatness. These two superior beings inevitably meet, are inevitably attracted to each other, and inevitably couple, after which they together work to find the solution to their mutual dilemma.

OK, it's ridiculous, but no more so than Rand's The Fountainhead, out of which King Vidor, Gary Cooper and Patricia Neal made a silly and operatic but perfectly entertaining film.

That was what I hoped for as I watched the thing last night, because as much fun as it is to slag rotten movies, it is much better to be surprised by a good one, especially when you've reached the stage in life where two hours in front of a stinker sets you dreaming of the warm couch and leftover sesame chicken that you left back home. But it is my great regret to inform you that Atlas Shrugged: Part I is neither good nor good-bad, but bad-bad-bad-bad. I dreamed, not of sesame chicken, but of my own swift and merciful death, and that of the director, not necessarily in that order. It is not a pleasurable surprise, not a hoot, nor an outrage; it is Rand's granite crushed, reconstituted, and spread across the screen with steamrollers.

Taggart and Rearden are supposed to be important and accomplished producers of wealth, but we never see them doing anything productive. Rearden smiles as he watches steel poured in his foundry, and Taggart walks around purposefully with folders, but neither is shown engaged in actual work. In fact the filmmakers seem to go out of their way to avoid showing it: At one point Taggart appears outdoors at a worksite, and Rearden compliments her on her easy manner with the workers, but we never see Taggart actually interacting with them.

It's as if the filmmakers couldn't imagine such a thing (nor can I: "Hello, factotum, your brute strength is useful to my enterprise, keep up the good work!"). In fact, it's as if they thought that the sight of either character doing anything like what real executives do would spoil the effect. Because executives make deals, and Taggart and Rearden can't deal with anyone but each other; the only thing like negotiation they perform is their own meet-cute, in which haggling over price becomes a romantic pas des deux. Everyone else they encounter, besides subordinates, is unworthy of their efforts, and thus can only be browbeaten or belittled.

Consistent though this may be with Objectivist mythology -- noble producers standing among, but not of, ignoble looters -- it destroys any opportunity for actual drama. Atlas Shrugged has several villains, yet none of them is allowed to effectively challenge Ragny Dearden. The union boss and the government factotum are wusses who are easily glowered down; the director of the State Science Institute -- "the last science center on earth," we are informed, all the others having presumably been turned into global warming propaganda centers -- only appears to tell us how pathetic he is; and the D.C. players never even get to meet Tagny Raggart. It's like a version of The Dark Knight in which the Joker says "I don't understand you, Batman," and Batman says, "I don't think you'll ever understand, Joker," and the Joker slouches off to get drunk at the Ebbitt Grill while Batman smiles at his glistening Batmobile.

The short shrift given the D.C. mob especially annoyed me, because their ringleader Mouch is played by the wonderful actor Michael Lerner, whom I thought might at least do something interesting if given a big confrontation scene with one of the principals, instead of being left to sit around being superbad with the other bad guys. In fact, Lerner is not even allowed to be interesting in his own milieu; when Taggart's supertrain succeeds, we see Mouch hearing the news on the phone; I hoped his pause before reacting presaged an explosion of some kind. Then he spoke as if nothing much had happened, and it became painfully obvious that Lerner had just been waiting for a cue, and that the phone voice had ended a beat too soon -- which is the opposite of what anyone should be noticing in a scene like that.

This setup does no favors to the actors playing Dagden and Rearly, either. Taylor Schilling and Grant Bowler show some chemistry in their negotiation duet, but after that they aren't allowed do much with one another until their ghastly sex scene. They show interest and admiration, but actual romance was presumably deemed too weakly looter-human for them. (In early scenes, Bowler actually starts to give Schilling a puppy-dog look, before dialing it back to something more suggestive of colonic irritation.) We've all seen movies in which lovers are obliged to restrain their feelings for one another (Cousin Cousine and Remains of the Day come to mind), but this is the only one I can think of in which, once the lovers finally have their night of passion, they emerge pledged to mutual pursuit of a perpetual motion machine.

(Rearden's married, by the way. This is quickly dismissed as an impediment, because he and his wife hate each other. There's so much wrong with the movie that I can't even care about the morality of this, but I do wonder whether South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford was thinking about Atlas Shrugged when he went hiking with his true love on the South American-Appalachian Trail.)

The movie is so starved of humanity that the big turning-point scenes are about as thrilling as a Congressional budget negotiation. When the supertrain goes on its controversial trip over the bridge, we know that the bad guys want it to fail, and that the good guys want it to succeed. Drama, right? But not only are the good guys incapable of failure -- they're incapable of doubt, too. Not even the guy who's driving the train seems worried. So the train accelerates (the fastest any train has ever gone in America!), it approaches the bridge, we cross-cut, see the wheels going around, and -- guess what? It succeeds, just like we always knew it would. If the soundtrack swells it's only so we can't hear D.W. Griffith spinning in his grave.

There is only one moment of true feeling and drama in the whole movie. Reardon has made a bracelet out of his precious supermetal for his hated wife, who doesn't understand it/him; at a party, said wife expresses her contempt for the bracelet to Taggart; Taggart impulsively offers to trade it for her expensive necklace. Suddenly, for a couple of seconds, the actors come alive -- because they at last have an ambiguity to play: A simple transaction that has deep emotional meaning underneath. The movie comes alive, too, because we have been wrenched from our preordained path onto something vivid, theatrical, and mysterious. Then Rearden interrupts, and Atlas Shrugged gets back on the supertrain to nowhere.

Other observations:

- The country at the time of the film (2016) is in some kind of chaos which is not well explained -- the Middle East is in crisis, gas is absurdly expensive, and plane travel is moribund, which somewhat justifies the otherwise perplexing and anachronistic interest in railroads. Poverty is widespread, signified by beggars and trash fires. No attempt is made to tie all this together, but it is also suggested that the nation has been given over to sociamalism -- the opening montage shows protesters marching with signs touting those twin menaces, Martin Luther King and communism, and the D.C. guys talk about sharing the wealth in ways that have never been heard in Washington, nor anywhere in the United States except perhaps Louisiana in the time of Huey Long. I suppose this is the film's Tea Party tell, but I notice that it seems not to affect the actions of the principals in any direct way. This is made comically clear when Taggart, dressed in fancy duds, bolts from her brother's limo and walks home through an urban hobo jungle. I know the filmmakers were in a rush, but I marvel that they resisted the temptation to have Taggart explain her natural superiority to a bum, after which he would cower before the force of her logic instead of raping her and taking her purse.

- A shadowy figure appears at intervals to give the good Galt news to select entrepreneurs. (Sample pitch: "I'm simply offering you a society that rewards individual achievement.") His targets then "go Galt," vanishing to be met up with at the Gulch later in the series. The last to slip the surly bonds of socialism in this film is the fat white guy who gets screwed by Taggart's brother and later becomes Dagny's and Rearden's best pal. He leaves his oil fields behind with a sign saying "I am leaving it as I found it" -- though when he acquired the property, it was probably not, as he leaves it here, in flames (to be put out by the union-looter fire department), nor unsuitable for any future use. But I expect the TP people will nod with understanding at his self-evident producer-wisdom.

- It strikes me that the heroes of this series are enabled in their Galt-going journey by an as-yet unseen super-metal and a perpetual motion machine discovered behind a hidden door. The secret ingredient in Rand's Objectivist tale is magic beans.

Friday, April 15, 2011

That VegNews story reminds me of a longstanding curiosity I have about the ethics of veganism and to a lesser extent vegetarianism. Much of the industry (movement?) suffers from profound meat envy. So many dishes are attempts to simulate the experience of eating meat. That’s understandable except so many vegan types insist we’re not supposed to eat meat. If that’s the case why come out with fake beef stew?
For research Goldberg apparently glanced at the few frozen vegetarian items at his local convenience store as he dug past them to get a Fudgsicle. I'm not remotely a vegan, and even I know meat substitutes are merely the fast food of dilettante herbivores. See here, here, and here, or for that matter the kitchen of any actual vegan. For every "unchicken" entree there are about a dozen items proudly announcing their veggie provenance.

Plus he quotes a faux-P.J. O'Rourke article ("If meat is murder, why hawk products that look like the mutilated corpse?") that he says he wrote "years ago," in which he bitches about how bad soy pizza tastes. Which is like bitching about French food because you didn't like a croissant you had at Au Bon Pain in 1987.

Sometimes I think Goldberg is a performance artist, purposefully choosing to write on the subjects he understands least.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

SOME CONSERVATIVE TRIBUTES TO THE 150th ANNIVERSARY OF FORT SUMTER. "Southern Avenger" Jack Hunter notes in a video that Rachel Maddow has mentioned the role of nullification doctrine in the Civil War. He retorts that some Northerners wanted to split from the South over slavery; also, Lincoln at one time supported the right of rebellion in the abstract, as well as the Fugitive Slave Act, so he "was for slavery before he was against it," ha ha. (Also "flip-flopping.") Hunter brings this up, he says, "not to prove that slavery wasn't a major issue during the Civil War," but that it was "quite frequently a wedge issue exploited by those on both sides for the purpose of empowering political, corporate, or special interests."

"If a liberal like Maddow's primary reason for denouncing nullification or secession is these concepts' popular association with the Old South and slavery," he asks, "would Maddow have respected the Fugitive Slave Act, or nullified it?"

The video is thus called "Liberals for Slavery," and ends with gush about "the left's collectivists' historical narrative" and pictures of Lincoln's fellow tyrants, FDR, Lyndon Johnson, and Barack Obama.

If the video is too long for you, or the supercilious voiceover reminds you too much of authority figures from South Park slowed to 16 RPM, you might take in commenters at Hit & Run denouncing the War of Northern Aggression.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

THE TELLING DETAIL. This is all good fun at Tbogg's place, but the Megan McArdle cooking video he mocks is just a multimedia add-on to her article about upscale kitchen trends. It is a perfectly fine piece of reporting, and even makes some good points about those trends. But it contains what to me is a striking presumption:
Schwefel says, “The core of my business is that 40- or 50-something woman who has more time than she did 10 years ago and is rediscovering kitchens.”

In other words, cooking is increasingly a leisure activity, especially at the high end of the market.
Especially! You see it throughout the story: "...the $250 Breville toaster ovens … the Japanese knives with their own display stands. Why are we spending so much money on a place where we spend so little time?" "Perhaps we’re spending so much on our kitchens precisely because we’re using them less," etc.

Who's this "we"? I'm cooking at home plenty, because it's cheaper. I'm also using less exalted cuts of meat than I used to. I expect a lot of people are these days. Recession, you know.

So who's the audience for this article? It's the target market for $200 knives and $350 Margarita makers. If the number of Sur la Table stores has grown in five years "from 49 to 83—despite the worst economy since the Great Depression," it's not because Joe Sixpack said, screw the rainy day fund, I'm buying a convection oven. It's because even in the "worst economy since the Great Depression," there are plenty of people who are still doing really, really well.

At one point McArdle says
According to Mintel, another market-research firm, 60 percent of restaurant-goers say that the recession has changed how their family spends money, and one-quarter plan to cut back their restaurant spending in 2011. But this can’t explain the decades of movement toward higher-end kitchens and kitchen equipment.
No explanation is needed: The people who are going out to eat less need to go out to eat less. The people with baroque kitchens don't. They can blow tens of thousands of bucks on a home cookery and leave it spotless for guests to inspect. They could do this before the recession, and they can do it now.

I wouldn't normally waste this much bile on a trend piece. But it does appear in The friggin' Atlantic, under the byline of their business and economics editor. And it's a little jarring to be reminded so forcefully that our commentariat is basically talking not to people like me, but to the Travel + Leisure and Cigar Aficionado crowd.

In conclusion, tax the rich. Tax their asses off.

UPDATE. In comments, Whetstone makes good points, illuminated by a link to his excellent article at Chicago magazine's 312 blog on molecular gastronomy.

I also appreciate something Riggsveda said: "The gentrification of food and cookware in the last 15 years is not confined to cooking but an almost inevitable phenomenon that seems to infest every interest that fires the public imagination. If people are liking it, someone will find a way to make it more expensive."

This expresses well a problem with gentrification generally, and tracks with McArdle's and others' attitude toward residential gentrification; though they're allegedly free-market enthusiasts, they seem to think neighborhood uplift is a favor the moneyed do the poor (sometimes backed by the testimony of apocryphal bus riders), rather than something to poor do for themselves, which attracts the rich, who then colonize it and make it difficult for others to afford. But at least the foodies don't price you out of your pots and pans.
OBAMA'S DEFICIT SPEECH. The actual deal will probably be a bit of a mess, if not a hell of a mess, and we peons will probably get it at least glancingly in the neck once again.

But even so, I think the idea of an America that "prizes individual freedom and our commitment to one another" and seeks to accommodate both makes more sense and better politics than the Randroid dystopia offered by the Republicans. So there's that.

I'm glad that Obama focused on this, and patiently, even painstakingly, laid it out in moral and historical terms, talking about the millions "we'd be telling to fend for themselves" under the GOP proposal. The "social compact" he described is no longer top of mind among our citizens, alas, due to the death of civics education and decades of policy promoting a I-win-you-lose philosophy. But the only way he can succeed is if people at least dimly remember what America is supposed to be. I find it touching at least that he assumed many will.

And who knows, he may even be right. And for those who don't get it, maybe the idea that roads and bridges must be fixed, and children educated and workers provided with skills, and that our energy resources are not unlimited, may get through to those who have been paying some attention to the way things work and the world around them, which may comprise a majority of our fellow citizens.

It's too bad that I'm so pleased and even surprised to hear the President of the United States talking common sense, but that's where we're at.

I also appreciate that Obama told it like it is about the "deeply pessimistic" assumptions of the Republican plan, though I would have preferred "cynical" as a modifier and the insertion of a few obscenities. And congrats to whoever came up with the bit about creating a $200,000 tax cut for a rich President by asking 33 seniors on Medicare to come up with $6,000 each. I appreciate also the little smile he gave as he acknowledged he'd receive "fierce" criticism from Republicans for whom tax cuts for the rich are "an article of faith" -- which was confirmed for me in real time by the conservatives on my Twitter feed. (John Podhoretz says, "This speech is like a paid ad for 'Atlas Shrugged: The Movie,'" and I agree -- it will rouse the few million who think goldurn gummint is sociamalist to assemble in their klaverns and select theaters and feel the outrage while the world goes on outside.)

We'll see about the details. I'm always interested to hear what these guys think a simplified tax code is -- it certainly won't be Steve Forbes' but it probably won't be Jerry Brown's either. And the "debt fail-safe" sounds like term limits to me -- a promise that'll be easy to get around. But the best we can ever expect from modern Democrats is a slightly larger small piece of the pie, and it looks as if Obama might actually try to get it for us. On those very limited terms, I'm very cautiously semi-optimistic.

UPDATE. For a more dour review, see Joshua Holland. He finds the speech "replete with impossible-to-fulfill promises" and thinks we're getting screwed. Well, yeah, what else is new?

Ah, I see Jonah Goldberg has reacted:
I listened to Obama’s speech on my drive down to North Carolina for my talk tonight. I thought it was a breathtaking tour de force of dishonesty and tendentiousness for all the reasons covered around here. It was also just weird and annoying.
Sounds like someone missed his rest stop.
A small gripe: he keeps saying “win the future” like it’s a phrase A) everybody understands and B) everyone has a positive reaction to. Neither is the case.
Goldberg knows nothing about marketing, which is unsurprising coming from an officer of a commercial enterprise that is always begging for change.
More substantially, Obama’s speech was just plain reactionary. It was an amazing about face for a guy who ran in 2008 on a “yes we can” message of fundamentally “transforming” America. Now the philosophical thrust of his approach is that we must not change the America we “grew up with.” Uh ok. I guess his 2012 slogan will be “Let’s All Go Down With the Ship — Together!”
Goldberg understands the word "reactionary" about as well as he understands the word "fascism."

His claim that Obama's defense of Social Security is inconsistent with his transformative message makes no sense -- was Obama promising to transform Social Security into a voucher program? -- except as an example, albeit poorly expressed, of the traditional rightwing reaction to Democrats who talk back. It's very like the reaction of a bully whose victim suddenly pops him in the nose -- hey, he wasn't supposed to do that!
SERVICE ADVISORY. I made a few little tweaks here, including the addition of social media hoo-hah at the end of each post. They're from AddThis, which was the only vendor I could find that works with Blogger Oldschool, the template to which I stubbornly cling because I fear change. If anyone has a better idea feel free to let me know.

UPDATE. I ask for help, and all I get is jokes about hoo-hahs. Hmmph!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011


Also: "Was Glenn Beck Ousted From Fox by the Saudis?" Apparently Rupert Murdoch's heir apparent James recently moved to New York. Murdoch fils, says Diana West, "is known for his trash talk about Israel (sez the Palestinians 'were kicked out of their f— homes and had nowhere to f— live'), his green enthusiasms (News Corp. is the first entertainment conglom to be 'carbon neutral') and for being a former hip hop impressario (wow; not my dream date)." Within days, Bill O'Reilly and Sean Hannity were denouncing the burning of a Koran, and Beck was out at Fox. Connect the dots!

"That stuff's been buttoned up for ten years now on Fox," says West; "no reason to spoil a good brand now with free inquiry into the ideology that drives our mortal enemies." Don'tcha see? Now that Beck's magic whiteboard has been erased with extreme prejudice, the coast is clear, and the Murdochs will visit sharia, environmentalism, and hip hop upon us -- just like they always wanted! What America needs to combat the Murdoch menace is a right-wing news network.

Finally, this from Conservatives 4 Palin: "CNN Poll Shows that Governor Palin Probably Leads If You Take Huckabee, Trump, and Bachmann Out of the Poll." And if wishes were horses, Palin would probably shoot one. I still think Palin has a chance, but if she's going to get there, she'll have to knock her rivals down herself before she can climb over their bodies. If America's so fucked that it would entertain President Palin, other lunatics will surely want that opportunity for themselves.

Monday, April 11, 2011

THE HE-MAN WOMAN-HATERS CLUB. David French is inspired by Kay Hymowitz' book about how feminists made men into pussies:
"My wife would never let me do that."

I can't tell you how many times I've heard those words. Most commonly, I hear it when I discuss some of our more extreme family choices of the past five years, like joining the Army Reserves, volunteering to deploy to Iraq, serving for a year during the Surge in Diyala Province, the extensive travel of my civilian job, and even my thriving video game hobby and all-around science fiction geekery.

My response is simple: "Have you even tried to ask?" The answer is almost always negative. There's a look of resignation, and we move on.
This is an odd mix. Their wives won't let them play video games, read science fiction, or enlist in the military? Maybe French's fellow males are just making up excuses for not joining him in Iraq or cosplay. I so would, dude, but, you know, the missus.

French instead reads the situation to mean that bitches be all up in their manhood.
...the ideal man becomes—in many essential ways—a woman: emotionally available, always eager to talk, never afraid to shed a tear, and ready, willing, and able to shoulder the household workload.
Because if you talk to your wife, occasionally show your feelings, and help with the dishes, how can you possibly kill a bear, serve in Iraq, or go to Worldcon?

French sees another problem: The girly-men and their female keepers misunderstand the Bible.
There's an alternative, of course, and the alternative is biblical. No, not the soft-spoken, ultra-sensitive version of "biblical" that dominates the evangelical small-group, but the robust, aggressive, and honorable example of the actual men of the Bible. There, men go to war at God's command. There, men face death, far from home, for the sake of Truth. There, men confront the powerful and call out injustice. There, men actually lead.
I suspect this article is really advance work for a sequel to 300 called 666, in which God, played by Vin Diesel, commands an army of righteous, oiled-up soldiers of Christ to take out the Whore of Babylon.

Or maybe it's just an effusion of the sort that long predates Hymowitz's book, not to mention feminism, made by guys who are convinced the world would be a lot better off if the stupid girls weren't always around to ruin it.
NEW VOICE COLUMN UP, about the rightblogger consensus on the budget deal, which is that Planned Parenthood is evil. Up next, the AARP. Once these twin menaces and NPR are eliminated, America will be on sound fiscal footing again.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

ANNALS OF LIBERTARIANISM. You may remember Bryan Caplan, the libertarian intellectual who insists that women were freer before they had the vote because of socalism & stuff, and who wants to create a clone of himself because "I want to experience the sublime bond I'm sure we'd share." What's he thinking these days? Per Will Wilkinson, this:
[T]he most realistic long-run path to liberty is boosting libertarians’ Total Fertility Rate to 3.
These people think sociology is animal husbandry with less field work.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

SIDNEY LUMET, 1924-2011. There's at least something worthwhile in all his films that I've seen. Daniel, for example, was awful, but I still get goosebumps when I recall its child's-view funeral sequence, with Paul Robeson's "There's a Man Goin' Round Takin' Names" in the background.

Lumet had several successes, and they remind me that while most hit movies don't bear re-watching (really, who wants to curl up again with The Eyes of Laura Mars?), all of Lumet's do. When he got good scripts he knew what to do with them. Dog Day Afternoon and Network are crazy stories, and he kept them urgent but sufficiently grounded that even mass audiences could accept them. He set excellent actors to perform outrageous actions in high-pressure environments, and took the results down without much underlining. (Try to imagine the Ken Russell versions.)

This isn't to say he was without style -- God, no, look at this -- just that he knew the value of restraint, and was at his best, I think, when the situation damanded it. The Verdict is for the most part a very quiet movie, which forces us to focus on the words and, especially, faces -- James Mason's "Welcome to the World" speech, and the pan to Charlotte Rampling, is a great example. Lumet and Paul Newman really make us lean forward for the summation scene. It starts with Newman small and off-center in a crowded long shot -- and stays there until he moves to the jury: "Today you are the law." Then his face becomes the focus. It's not the only way it could have been done; it just seems, now, the only right one.

He obviously liked to work, and was game for anything, whether a musical (The Wiz), black comedy (Bye Bye Braverman), or high-toned Broadway adaptation (Child's Play, Equus). He started in TV and, years later -- when it had been awhile between hits -- he went back to TV for the ill-fated 100 Centre Street. Red lights didn't stop him, and he kept following chances until he got to make Before The Devil Knows You're Dead, a capstone any filmmaker could be proud of.

His work was uneven, but I don't know that we'd have the good films he gave us if he husbanded his energies like Kubrick, and made movies less often. His was not a ruminative talent. He got the idea, made the picture, and moved on. This resembles the method of the hack, but Lumet was clearly not only talented, but artistically ambitious -- he actually got an NYPD trilogy (Serpico, Prince of the City, Q&A) made in Hollywood; who among our auteurs could do likewise? They could sell a superhero property, of course, but a three-film examination of big-city police and political corruption? It wouldn't even occur to them. Which is just another reason to mourn Lumet's passing.

UPDATE. You really ought to read Glenn Kenny on the subject, and his 2007 interview with Lumet.