Thursday, May 31, 2007

OVER THE BORDER. In a previous post I made light of the immigration question. It's easy to do when so much nonsense has been written about it.

But I wasn't joking when I said that I could understand concerns with the current bill. That's why I'm glad it is being debated in the Senate instead of, say, out back of Fred's Texaco. This is still a Republic, everyone will have an opportunity to see the sausage made, and we may entertain a faint hope at least that the attention of the public will inform, if not enforce, the decisions of our elected leaders.

The voice of the people, however, is not the only and certainly not the loudest in this event. John Derbyshire, lately mocked here, achieved an odd moment of clarity in a recent post, in which he characterized the virtually-open borders position of the Wall Street Journal editorial board:
I thought Ramesh's response to that clip of the Wall Street Journal editorial conference was basically sound.  I'm just amazed that Ramesh stayed so calm all through it.  Me, I was...  well, no, not foaming at the mouth, but gaping in wonder at such a concentration of smug rich-guy arrogance on display all in one place.

What color is the sky in these guys' world?  I've modified a trillion or so pixels scoffing at the Left's blithe indifference to actual human nature, but Gigot & Co. take the biscuit.  It's pretty routine now to mock the WSJ editorial crowd for believing that there is no such thing as a nation, only an economy.  Well, there it is.  You saw it.  That is what they actually, literally believe.  We kick around phrases like "arrogant elites" pretty carelessly, but here they are, out in the open, brazen and unashamed.
Derbyshire is a lunatic, as the rest of the quoted post (like many others by him) amply demonstrates. But he is poignant in moments like this, when he recognizes that the savage god of conservatism which he has so long served does not give a shit about anything but money.

While Derb, alas, is mainly concerned with the declining whiteness of his adopted homeland, those of us who do not share his mania may also acknowledge that among easy-immigration advocates there is a constituency that, while small in number, is rich in capital, and thereby powerful in the debate. That's why our current policy is a mess -- confusion has well-served their purpose, which is to keep the low end of our labor market flooded with cheap workers, as the fate of the Dorgan-Boxer Amendment shows.

Competing pressures add to the confusion. One may argue, as Nathan Newman does here, that other domestic factors do more to depress wages, and that "immigration is a distraction, cooked up by conservatives to take the focus off of their opposition to the minimum wage, their cuts in jobs programs and training programs, and from their ruthless tax policies that have driven inequality." A fair argument, but good luck getting it heard by voters who have been conditioned to worship "free markets," which have been defined over decades to preclude any government action other than tax cutting. What they will more easily perceive is that they are the people who, in the popular Bill Clinton phrase, "work hard and play by the rules" -- and that cynical gaming of illegal immigration makes those rules a joke.

Conservatives have perversely reframed our debates in a number of harmful ways, pitting national security against constitutional liberties, economic competitiveness against environmental safety, and so on. Their double game on immigration -- love the guest worker, hate the Aztlan hordes! -- may be their most poisonous gambit yet, and the short-term damage it's doing to the Republican Party is a sign that the poison is so powerful they can't even control it themselves. Humorous as the short-term effect may be, we have reason to worry about the long term.
HOW NICE FOR YOU. Rod Dreher, speaking in anticipation of loving Knocked Up, the new comedy by the maker of slightly-better-than-average fart-and-swearing-granny comedy The 40-Year-Old Virgin:
I think about how snotty and cruel (but funny) my own writing used to be before I had kids, and I just shake my head. It's fatally easy to make fun of everything when you don't have a stake in it.
I've been reading Dreher since Rupert Murdoch inflicted his worthless film criticism on New York Post readers, and in my experience he has never written an intentionally funny line in his life.

It bugs me when newspaper and internet gasbags rhapsodize on the changes these blessed events allegedly wreak on their consciousnesses, because one almost never sees evidence of these life-altering epiphanies in their actual writing. Take for example this John Podhoretz essay about how 9/11 made him realize "the antidote to horror is love" and drove him to propose to his girlfriend and make a baby tout suite. One would expect this realization to have a major impact on his thinking, yet there is absolutely no sign on this in his work: Podhoretz was a right-wing fist-shaker before, and he is a right-wing fist-shaker today. (To be fair, maybe he saved up all the philosophical stuff for his magnum opus, Can She Be Stopped? Hillary Clinton Will Be The Next President of the United States Unless...)

Similarly, when Dreher was childless he devoted his film criticism to tiresome cultural crankery, and, post-enlightenment, that remains his stock in trade. For all his writing reveals, he might as well have spent his time between assignments in a sealed cleanroom.

I don't think that they're lying about their feelings; rather, I think that the sort of writing they're doing (popularly known as propaganda) doesn't have anything to do with their feelings or anyone else's, except perhaps those of the publishers and think-tank presidents who employ them. In either case, it's just one more reminder not to confuse their work with anything important, and that perhaps none of us is as open to transcendent experiences as he likes to believe.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

SHORTER PETER BERKOWITZ: People don't know how smart we conservatives are because they don't read our books, and only know us by the way we run the country, which makes us look like total morons.

UPDATE. Over at The Corner, Jonah Goldberg amplifies:
Peter Lawler asks whether it's really true that Kirk, Strauss and Hayek constitute conservatism's Big Three. That's a toughie and I think the folks with the most interesting answer to that question would be Hayek, Strauss and Kirk themselves. Isn't influence a more diffuse phenomenon? Lots more folks were probably directly influenced by, say, Tom Sowell, George Will and William F. Buckley than those Big Three, but Sowell, Will & Buckley were in turn deeply affected by them.
Or, as the standard English translation has it, farrrt farrrrrt fart faaaarrrrrrt. From what I can see, by far the best Big Three candidates would be Stone Cold Steve Austin, El Duce from the Mentors, and Screech from "Saved By The Bell."
PRETTY UGLY.God bless Michelle Malkin. When I have trouble finding teh crazy she's like a big, screaming lighthouse guiding me to the rocky shoals of psychopathology.

Today she quivers with rage over two slights to our national honor. One is a few years old but, like 9/11, should be Neverforgotten: Mexicans chanting "Osama" during a football match with the U.S. Malkin doesn't get out among sports fans much, does she? Please don't tell her about "Hextall... Get a Porsche!" or she'll be convinced New York and Philadelphia are in a state of war.

This weekend, the "America-haters" were back, says Malkin, and their target was... Miss USA!
Throughout the week-long festivities leading up to the Miss Universe pageant last night, Miss USA, Rachel Smith, was booed and heckled. First, at a national costume event (half-way into the news segment)...

Ms. Smith, who fell during the evening gown competition but recovered gracefully, was subjected to hatred again last night during the Top Five interviews, when hecklers in the audience launched into chants of "Mexico, Mexico" and disrupted her entire interview. The two hosts of the pageant, Vanessa Minillo and Mario Lopez, did nothing to chastise the crowd for the rudeness shown to their fellow American.

At least the hecklers didn't yell "Osama." Or maybe the microphones just didn't pick it up this time.

Meanwhile, as Heather Mac Donald points out, the White House continues to attack opponents of mass amnesty as "nativists."

Yeah, we're the nativists.
One wonders how this drama is recreated in the lurid diorama that is the inside of Malkin's skull. Are the haters ordinary beauty pageant fans -- that is to say, nuts -- who let their enthusiasm for their favorite candidate get out of hand? Or are they hard-bitten jihadists whose plan for global domination includes Zoolander-style walkoffs?

Next week: people who prefer Cheddar to American cheese on their burgers are Britcaseofascists!
MOVIE NIGHT. Saw two late Herzog documentaries at the Film Forum this weekend: Christ and Demons in New Spain and Bells from the Deep. The former is about poor Guatemalans whose Christianity is suffused with ancient paganism, though it is hard to tell whether the Christian or the Aztec Mayan part of their devotions is weirder -- like most people who got their Catholicism from Spain, they are morbidly obsessed with the agony of Christ crucified, but they also perform rituals that involve smoking huge cigars and spitting liquor on each other. The latter is about Russians whose devotions are no less strange, and include throat-singing, faith-healing, a Jesus impersonator, and pilgrimages to a miraculous city that is alleged to exist under a frozen lake.

Both films are discursive and poetic, like reality TV shows made by Luis Bunuel. In both his fiction and his non-fiction films, Herzog is obviously fascinated by primitives, though in his view primitives may be found practically anywhere (in Stroszek they are found in Wisconsin, performing the ritual of chicken tic-tac-toe). Herzog seeks not only to document their rituals and behaviors, but also to approximate the rhythms of their lives. This last feature may be what saves these films from cheap exoticism: these mini-civilizations, so detached from our world that they might as well be on different planets, are for him objects of contemplation and reverence, and he doesn't seek to project himself, or us, into them -- in fact, these places seem unlivably hellish to the likes of us. This is my kind of multiculturalism: a healthy respect, terror, and disgust for all the cultures of the world.

Monday, May 28, 2007

BUT HE LEFT OFF THE CAPTION: "Already I feel the power of the nanobots coursing through my veins! Soon I will be fit to sire a race of immortal robot lawyers."

Good for him giving blood, though. The doctors told me that they freeze blood, and therefore did not need any that was already fortified with preservatives.
MEMORIAL DAY. The words that ring in my ears this Memorial Day are not from a Memorial Day speech. They're from FDR's proclamation of Bill of Rights Day, December 15, 1941, in honor of the document's 150th anniversary.

A week earlier, America had declared war on Japan, which was followed by Germany's declaration of war against America. Roosevelt alluded to the new national crisis, and to the sacrifices it would entail, in his proclamation:
Those who have long enjoyed such privileges as we enjoy forget in time that men have died to win them. They come in time to take these rights for granted and to assume their protection is assured. We, however, who have seen these privileges lost in other continents and other countries can now appreciate their meaning to those people who enjoyed them once and now no longer can. We understand in some measure what their loss can mean. And by that realization we have come to a clearer conception of their worth to us, and to a stronger and more unalterable determination that here in our land they shall not be lost or weakened or curtailed.

It is to give public expression and outward form to that understanding and that determination that we are about to commemorate the adoption of the Bill of Rights and rededicate its principles and its practice.
Our current Administration, prosecuting its own, very different war, does not often nor so eloquently allude to the liberties at the heart of the American experiment. Yet out of all the other spurs that drive us to war and sacrifice, these "privileges" are the most meaningful. Without them we would be just another clan fighting to keep, or increase, our land and possessions. That might be worth a barbecue, but it wouldn't be worth a single soldier's grave.

But if we believe America is more than that, and that the principles of its founding are still our principles, then those who have died in its wars will command our special respect. Whether they served because they were patriots, or because they wanted to prove themselves, or because they were drafted; whether we agree with the individual mission -- whether they agreed with it, or even thought about it; whether they fell at Anzio, or at Cinfuegos, or at Khe Sanh, or at Fallujah, they served under the flag of the United States of America, whose cause is ours, and died for it.

Whether the dead themselves can benefit from the consolation of remembrance is a theological question beyond my abilities. Following FDR, though, I would say that it can do us some lasting good to remember the object of their sacrifices.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

MOVIES ARE STILL YOUR BEST ENTERTAINMENT. I'm beginning to believe that, as Doghouse Riley likes to say, American conservatism is in its Ghost Dance phase, summoning the power of myth to bring new life to its people. We have recently seen an American Spectator howler claiming that "a different cut of Star Wars would have become a rallying cry for Thatcherites." Now Reihan Salam, ostensibly reviewing a DVD of an old Chevy Chase movie, tells no doubt saucer-eyed Slate readers that their favorite funny movies are paens to Reaganism:
So, why is Fletch such a failure? It could be that—like it or not—hipster liberalism just doesn't mesh well with screwball comedy. Animal House, the ur-text, pits the lovable ne'er-do-wells of Delta Tau Chi against the duplicitous and icily priggish Dean Wormer, and we know from the start whom we're rooting for. Or take the more recent smash hit Wedding Crashers, in which a pair of charming scoundrels square off against the privileged scion of a great American family. To the extent there's any political subtext here, you might think it's simple, straightforward egalitarianism: You can't let some two-bit tyrant ruin all your fun, and you can't let some J. Press preppie bastard get the girl.

But there's more than a passing resemblance between this narrative and classic right-wing populism. Like "Bluto" Blutarsky rallying his fraternity to ruin the homecoming parade, crafty conservatives have been riling up middle America for decades against champagne-sipping limousine liberals. The boys in Animal House aren't, say, fighting tooth and nail for a living-wage ordinance. These mostly privileged young men are fighting for their right to party—a libertarian cause if there ever was one. And consider that the villain in Wedding Crashers is a Kennedy clone, a cultured environmentalist who hides his woman-hating ways behind earnest platitudes.
Regrettably, Salam does not address the burning issue of whether The Flintstones was a rip-off of The Honeymooners.

That this argument is being made in a major online publication, rather that through clouds of bong smoke in a dorm room, demonstrates that the jazzed-up leftists who used to tell us how mainstream movies and Madonna singles were "subversive" have passed their jingling fool's-caps and motley to conservative culture warriors. Such are the uses, and perhaps the necessity, of fantasy.

Friday, May 25, 2007

SOON THE OTHERS WILL BE THE MAJORITY. There's a lot to be said about the current immigration bill. I can understand how people of goodwill can disagree over it. And I am sympathetic to my friends down South who worry about unregulated immigration.

On the other hand --

I'm sorry. I know it's wrong. But every time some honky at National Review freaks out about Mescans, I feel compelled to crank Black Flag.

You soy un hombre malo.

¡Happy Memorial Day, amigos!

UPDATE. Anything that provokes the bitter tears of John "Mescans Will Strangle Me In My Old Age Home" Derbyshire is de facto double plus good. ¡Vota para la Reconquista, Senadores! ¡Andale, arriba!
DEFINING LIBERTARIANISM DOWN. When I heard Ross Douthat declare that Ron Paul and Rudolph Giuliani
...demonstrate just how much two candidates can diverge on policy matters and still both be cast as the "libertarian" in the race...
my neck snapped and I fell to the floor, dead. Well, almost. Rudolph Giuliani a libertarian? The man who confiscated over 90,000 guns? The guy who enforced a dancing ban in New York bars, chased porn out of Times Square, and at the recent Republican Presidential debate talked lovingly about how much don't-call-it-torture he would allow?

Douthat explains:
Giuliani, by contrast, is a libertarian of results alone, and only on certain issues. He wants to maximize "reproductive freedom," for instance, and doesn't care if doing so involves ceding enormous authority to unelected judges; he wants taxes to be low, but doesn't question the principle of income taxation (as Paul does), and so forth.
I'm guessing the quotes around "reproductive freedom" refer to Giuliani's speech to NARAL in 2001, and Douthat means to show Giuliani as a brave champion thereof. In the here and now, of course, Giuliani spends most of his abortion spiel saying how much he hates abortion and how as Mayor he tried to "reduce abortions" and "increase adoptions." If he's a libertarian, so's Bill Clinton.

As for "wants taxes to be low," yeah, that's some fucking distinction for a REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE. I remember George Bush and John McCain in 2000, competing to see which of them could yell "I'll tax your asses off!" louder.

I'm still chewing over "and so forth," though. That may prove to be the crux of Douthat's argument.

Douthat concludes that "a libertarianism that's pro-choice, pro-growth and pro-'enhanced interrogation techniques' is the only libertarianism that has any mass appeal these days." Similarly, tofu will sweep the nation as soon as we find a way to give it the flavor and consistency of choc-o-mut ice creams.

Douthat isn't worth thinking about, but I had been wondering what had become of his erstwhile partner Reihan Whatshisname since Douthat joined the Atlantic Monthly. Bouncing off the walls, shrieking rap lyrics and other gibberish as horrified passersby fled to safety, I imagined. I returned to the American Scene of the crime and found this new post about how Ghostbusters is right-wing and Real Genius is left-wing and if you go to family reunions to meet women, you might be a redneck. Which is to say, I had guessed correctly.
ONE TRAITOR'S VIEW. We seem to be in the middle of another rightwing rev-up of the notion that the Iraq occupation is going great and anyone who says different just wants America to fail. (I could just link to the Ole Perfesser's entire site here, but history demands that I be more specific.)

Having followed with a jaundiced eye this whole Iraq adventure from the outset, and remembering when the statues were toppled and the flowers were strewn and "Democracy! Whiskey! Sexy!" was proclaimed the New Coke of Iraq -- only to be swiftly supplanted by the classic formula, "Aiieeeeee! My leg/arm/torso!" -- I have to say that shifts in trends, real or merely reported, do not mean that much to me.

The problem remains what it was: we dug ourselves a very deep hole in Iraq, with no idea as to how it might be filled. If Iraq were sufficiently pacified that John McCain could walk through the Green Zone without body armor and a couple of Apache gunships at the ready, this reality would persist. We took command of a gigantic slice of earth and millions of people, and after five years the net effect (besides thousands killed, with Saddam and his miserable allies only a fraction of them) has been a spectacular loss of popular support and continued, if not exacerbated, turmoil in the region.

When war enthusiasts resort to claiming that the U.S. Armed Forces have been too "PC" in enforcing order in Iraq, you know that, despite the current boomlet in propaganda (might we call it black-optimism?), a pooch has clearly been screwed. The current surge may vitiate the effects, but it will not unscrew the pooch. Over time we may forget -- as many have already forgotten, perhaps willfully, and are endeavoring to make the rest of us forget as well -- that things might have been differently and better handled. One might argue that it doesn't matter -- the horrifying reality is what's left for all of us to deal with. But I would rather that we did remember, so that we might know better than to make mistakes like this again. Imputing treason to those who knew better is not the way to go.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

AS BELOW, SO ABOVE. People sometimes ask me why I don't engage wingnuts who have more intellectual cred than the feebs and dimbulbs who comprise my normal subject matter. So I read this Joseph Bottum essay at the schoolly First Things. The essay is 300,000 words long and tells how evil San Francisco liberals want to get as far away from corpses as possible, whereas highly moral conservatives like to keep theirs hanging up in the smokehouse or something.
In its way, San Francisco’s turn against graves provides a nice synopsis of the twentieth century, all the forces of modern times pushing toward a single end. So, for example, whatever politicians may have thought they governed, American cities were actually driven, for much of the twentieth century, by the juggernaut of city planners and public-health officers, their eyes gleaming with visions of Tomorrowland’s immaculate metropolis. So, too, the great engine of modern finance put enormous pressure on real estate—skyscrapers! bank towers! the downtown office!—in narrow urban spaces such as the Golden Gate peninsula.
Somehow I missed the giant Necropoli dominating the landscapes of Salt Lake City and other highly moral Red State cities. Nor did I know that the terms of Burke's famous partnership between the living and the dead required that we actually hang out with the dead.

Mostly I am confused to encounter, in so famously intellectual a publication, the crackpot idea that liberalism is defined, not by its historical advocacy for expanding human freedoms, but by its alleged opposition to timeless realities such as grief and mourning. I'm more accustomed to hearing this crap from blog dummies than from lofty dons.

Speaking of dummies, at The Corner they're all talking about "Lost" -- having worn out their higher minds over the preceding week with rages against Mexicans.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

THE SELF-PITYING BOOK OF BLUBBERING "NO FAIR" FOR BOYS: Stop me if you've heard this one: guy goes to a graduation ceremony, notices that many of the women graduates are covered with honors -- 31 of the 41 "distinguished scholars" are women, 21 of 27 National Honor Society designees are women, and 16 of the 24 International Baccalaureates have gone to women.

Guy says, holy shit, men are being preju-ma-diced against! No, really:
If this local pattern is the national norm, we are in the midst of creating a generation of male failure.

Apparently it is getting to be the norm. A 2005 NPR interview quotes a Pell Institute scholar who found that by the late 1970s women had caught up to men in high school graduation rates, and by the early 80s they had caught up in college graduation rates. That’s the good news. The bad news is that since then, men have lost even more than women gained. Two years ago American colleges awarded 200,000 more degrees to women than to men.
When the rich get tax breaks, these people tell us that a rising tide lifts all boats; but when females start to excel, we're told that success is actually finite, and the more women get of it the less is left for the guys.

Linked by The Ole Perfesser, of course, who in a related essay calls for "affirmative action for male [degree] candidates." Wake me when this trend reaches my neck of the woods, and I can bitch that female executives have been promoted ahead of me, not because I spend my days playing YouTube videos and making paper airplanes, but because bitches are preju-ma-diced.
BOOK CLUB. I have heard some enthusiastic talk about The Dangerous Book for Boys. Apparently it teaches lads how to make bows and arrows and slingshots, and the Ten Commandments. Sounds like ripping fun. I wonder how it's doing in Washington Heights? I rode my bike up to Fort Washington Park this past weekend, and there saw young fellows playfully trying to hit each other with their fists, while others played baseball with a small toy soccer ball and a tree branch. What these youngsters need, I found myself thinking, are some bows and arrows and slingshots. Also the Ten Commandments, or at least Mr. T's Commandments. Boys demand order, and if you break the rules, God help you, fool, you got Mr. T to fear!

I expect the book is doing best among suburban parents eager to fight the sissifying scourge of political correctness. All well and good, but I expect the Boys' Movement will soon devolve into a junior edition of the Men's Movement, with the inevitable drum-beating and hugging. At least it will help prepare them for their teenage years.

I notice that this book is fighting it out for top spot among non-fiction books with another example of wishful thinking, The Secret. I understand its popularity and embrace its message. At this very moment I am telling myself that my fridge is full of beer, and I know it will be so, for I have some dollars left in my pocket and the deli is still open. Mirabile dictu!

Monday, May 21, 2007

TRUE SON OF LIBERTY. Garance Franke-Ruta follows up on her famous call for new laws against consensual nudity:
Others liberals, finding the present raunch culture wanting, posited a need for an even more sex-saturated media environment. “If the brain-damaged idea of sex as explotation [sic] is the problem, I say let us militate against that idea,” wrote thespian Roy Edroso at Alicublog. “Let us have wide and unapologetic dissemination of sexual imagery."
Son of a gun, she's right: There are two i's in "exploitation." (Also, it should be "other liberals," shouldn't it?)

GFR is also right, in a way, about the sex saturation thing, though I must say it is not my goal, but rather a thoroughly acceptable means to a noble end.

As I said before, the problem in our current plague of dirty-mindedness over sex is not the sex but the dirty-mindedness. "Girls Gone Wild" is not a hit because tits are a hit -- why, tits may be had by the bushel from any self-respecting internet pornographer! -- but because it combines tits with trickery, which indulges the sad conviction of many, many customers that tits do not spring easily and happily from their hiding places, but must be lured with snares (in this case, the promise of cheap fame and beads).

GFR's attitude -- eternal vigilance over breasts under 21 is the price of female empowerment! -- feeds into that gnarled and tragic world-view. I would much prefer an everybody-wins scenario, whereby the ubiquity of hardcore pornography makes the very notion of Girls Gone Wild and all such sniggering simulacra ridiculous. It may take a couple of generations, but I'm willing to see it through.

I doubt this clarification will persuade GFR that I am not in fact a "leering lout eager to ogle 18-year-old girls and transform society into a deregulated libertarian paradise where low-income women are routinely exploited," but, really, whatever would?
THE LOST CAUSE. David Brooks (TimesSelect, sorry*) has an plan to revive the Republican Party: "A Human Capital Agenda." The basic idea: imitate George Bush back before everyone hated him:
In fact, it was Bush in 1999 who single-handedly (though temporarily) rescued the Republican Party. He did it not by courting Republican interest groups, but by coming up with something new. On July 22, he delivered a speech in Indianapolis in which he explicitly distanced himself from Washington Republicans and laid the groundwork for compassionate conservatism.
After brushing off the "substantive problems" with the old comp-con agenda, Brooks proposes a new round of social program perscriptions that he believes will fire the imaginations of voters:
It means increasing child tax credits to reduce economic stress on young families. It means encouraging marriage, the best educational institution we have. It means a national service program, so young people can experience the world.
None of these ideas are new. In fact, versions of them -- permanent child tax credits, $1.5 billion for staying-married lessons, and the USA Freedom Corps -- have been tested, and found wanting, at least as political firestarters.

The real problem is that, when Bush pulled the compassionate conservative dodge, he was working to negate the natural Democratic advantage in social issues. Today, thanks to the gross incompetence of the Bush Administration, no one believes that Republicans, at the Federal level at least, can be of any assistance at all in such matters, except perhaps to help us drown faster during national emergencies.

Our current crop of Republicans candidates recognize this, and only briefly allude to the sort of social programs that define compassionate conservatism, instead using their bully pulpits for actual bullying: endorsing torture, threatening double-Gitmos, pledging to protect us from Mexicans, etc. I doubt that most voters think these candidates can achieve much in those areas, either, but their battle-cries may invigorate a certain class of Republicans that turns out for fundraisers, rallies, and primaries.

Under such circumstances, I doubt any candidate will dare a shift toward a Brooksian Human Capital Agenda. In fact, I expect they will go further in the other direction. Witness the most credible unannounced candidate, Fred Thompson (R-TV), who ladles boob bait even more generously than the others in "viral" videos such as this one, in which he flourishes a big cigar and appears to threaten Michael Moore with incarceration in a mental institution.

I fully expect that, when the next debate rolls around, the standing candidates will bring their own stogies, or suspenders, or golf clubs, and lean into the cameras to promise rough justice to Jimmy Carter, Barbra Streisand, et alia, leaving social uplift to the Democrats, who do it much better.

*UPDATE. Thanks to Stephanie who points out that you can get Brooks' column here for just the price of your attention. Which is still too much, but that's the world we live in.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

MOVIE NIGHT. Finally saw An Inconvenient Truth. It's a nice primer for the mainstream POV on climate change. It goes down smooth enough, and I am very impressed with Big Al's voiceover skills. But admirable as it is as a presentation, as a movie it's not much. Maybe my standards for the documentary form are too rarefied, but the ones I admire -- Nanook of the North, High School, Harlan County U.S.A., God's Angry Man, Fast, Cheap, and Out of Control, et alia -- have something in common with my favorite fiction films: they carry a wealth of meaning that can't be conveyed by talking points. In An Inconvenient Truth we learn a lot about environmental science and about Al Gore, but there's no room to wonder about either. Even the details of Gore's life, nicely rendered as they sometimes are, lead us only to expected conclusions, as any campaign bio or convention speech might. It's nice that they want to save the planet, but I don't think I'll be taking in An Inconvenient Truth or Dare or whatever they call the sequel.
SHORTER ANN ALTHOUSE: Schools should get serious and stop teaching ridiculous, new-agey subjects such as Literature.

UPDATE. While it is amusing to take this as, in Amanda Marcotte's pithy phrase, "a novel idea for [Althouse's] endless quest to make everyone else as small-minded and stupid as she is," it may also be the harbringer of a new culture-warrior strategy. Rather than just bitch about how awful liberal artists are, they may shift to bitching about how awful the arts themselves are. From that POV, literature's a good place to start: for one thing, it is more civilizing and intellectually strenuous than, say, video games, so neither they (with the possible exception of Richard Brookhiser) nor their followers would ever miss it.

Althouse's claim that fiction offers nothing that can't be had from technical manuals or textbooks would be sad -- betraying, as it does, a heart immune to transcendence -- if she were not so well rewarded for her ignorance with an academic sinecure and waves of wingnut approbation.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

AMERICAN PRIMITIVE. Here is a post by Ace O. Spades about how "liberal men are simply too pussy to get chicks." Here is another post by Ace O. Spades about a feminist who enjoys sexual domination, a phenomenon apparently brand new to Mr. Spades, who becomes quite excited by it ("dirty filthy whore... dirty filthy whore... Amanda Marcotte...").

In between, a post about beating off.

I don't understand why Mr. Spades posts 90,000+ words a day when he could communicate his thoughts just as well with a handful of sound files from 300, I Spit On Your Grave, and One Million Years B.C..
FORGET FALWELL, LET'S BEAT UP GOLDBERG AGAIN. I'm ready to say bad things about Falwell now, but why bother, when there are so many living, breathing imbeciles sticking up for him? The expected winner of the Most Fartalicious Fallen-Falwell Fluffer is of course Jonah Goldberg, who defends the late Reverend's insane claim that Tinky-Wink of the Teletubbies was designed to promote Gay Pride:
The liberal media loves — loves! — casting evangelicals as sexually hung up prudes. It should not detract from the basic unfairness of this bias to also concede that some evangelical leaders have supplied their enemies with ample ammo in this regard.
Try it this way: "The liberal media loves -- loves! -- casting Mars as the fourth planet from the Sun. It should not detract from the basic unfairness of this bias to also concede that the Earth is third from the Sun, Jupiter is fifth, and Mars is between them." I sometimes get the impression that Goldberg learned how to argue from a roomful of Furbys.
The problem with all of this was that Falwell didn't get the idea from watching the show, he got the idea from gay people. Tinky-Winky was a campy icon of gay clubbers in London and New York long before Falwell even knew who Mr.(?) Winky was. At least according to sources such as the Washington Post.
I'm suspicious. For one thing, I have been a New Yorker for nearly 30 years, which makes me an honorary homosexual -- hell, for all I know it may make me an actual homosexual, albeit one who uses frequent sex with women to conceal his true identity -- and I never heard of such a thing. But even if it were so, does that mean that all icons associated with gayness were designed to be so? Was that really why Mervyn LeRoy made The Wizard of Oz? "We gotta make America love fags! Get me a confused young woman I can make into a pillhead! It'll take decades for the caper to pan out -- but it'll be worth all the trouble if only my children's children can suck cock!"

I used to think Goldberg was just intellectually lazy -- that he just couldn't be bothered to do anything so hard as thinking. But consider: While most rightwing guys are just stubbornly insisting, against all evidence, that Jerry "9/11 was Punishment for Fags" Falwell was a great American -- which requires nothing more than a thesaurus and a lack of normal shame -- Goldberg pretends to have a point, and even fashions crude simulacra of arguments to enhance the fantasy. That takes real effort, or maybe the sort of genius that I thought passed from the world with the death of Junior Samples.