Tuesday, January 22, 2008

THE PETER PRINCIPLE DIDN'T GO FAR ENOUGH. Early last year, in her much-covered "20/20 Bias" post, Megan McArdle began by announcing that she had been wrong about the war in Iraq, and then proceeded to explain why people who had been saying the war was a mistake all along were right for the wrong reasons, and were also in some way persecuting her:
This has not convinced me of the brilliance of the doves, because precisely none of the ones that I argued with predicted that things would go wrong in the way they did. If you get the right result, with the wrong mechanism, do you get credit for being right, or being lucky?...

What the doves would like to see the hawk's do--"I was wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong about everything, I am a stupid idiot, you are a brilliant figure with god-like omniscience"--is no better a guide to future decisionmaking than ignoring the fact that you were seriously wrong about the Iraq invasion.
This sort of work got McArdle a job with The Atlantic, where she has been writing a great deal lately about her diet, in which, her readers have learned, she will "only eat humanely raised meat" and has "virtually stopped eating bread." In this post she starts out talking about "a very real phenomenon: meat-eaters who are angry at you for not eating meat." She describes these unpleasant encounters, and says "Those who, like me, have made ethical choices about our diets that we haven't asked anyone else to emulate, find the aggressiveness of these encounters puzzling..."

By the end, you may have guessed, McArdle is lecturing vegetarians who are "hectoring" and "humorless jerks" and blaming them for making the meat-eaters mad at her. "You're not only annoying them," he says, "you're annoying me by proxy. Please stop."

If you think old-fashioned magazines are dying now, wait till the bloggers they've hired get through with them.
SHORTER JAMES LILEKS. I can't enjoy Hollywood films anymore because of their steady drumbeat of anti-Bush politics. I am speaking of course of Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End.
NOT BEANBAG. I won't even bother to link many of bazillion posts going now about how Bill Clinton shouldn't campaign so ruthlessly for Hillary Clinton. Two are indicative enough. On the left, Ezra Klein:
The impulses behind his actions are easy to understand. And, on some level. it's his reputation, his capital, his right to expend it as he sees fit.

But even as he's got that right, he's also got a responsibility to the millions of Democrats -- and Americans -- who worked on his campaigns and fought in his battles, who sacrificed and toiled so he could have this place in our polity, and who expected he would use it to push for progressivism, not just for his family.
I hate to break it to Ezra, but Clinton was barely a progressive president. The distinguishing features of his reign were welfare cuts, pro-growth business policies, and NAFTA. The "progressive" social programs he managed to get through (like the Family and Medical Leave Act) were sufficiently modest that the moneyed interests were able to accommodate them without breaking a sweat. FDR he wasn't. He wasn't even Hubert Humphrey.

Despite this, he had to fight off the most highly developed political attack machine in history. He knows that even moderates have mortal enemies and have to fight like radicals to win. Why should he give a fuck about his reputation among the goo-goos or anyone else? He governed from the middle and got treated like an American Lenin. Presumably he thinks his and his wife's brand of competent, centrist government will be judged kindly by history, but it has to get voted in first.

And from the right, sort of, Andrew Sullivan. I don't even need to quote him; you know what to expect from him and have known it for years. If Sullivan has nothing else in common with his old rightwing colleagues anymore, he is reunited with and even outstrips them in his reflexive hatred of all things Clinton. I'm not so keen on them myself, but I don't need a fucking drool-cup whenever they come into view. And I must say that Sullivan's current concern for gentlemanly conduct in Presidential contests is a little rich when compared to his far more measured assessment of Karl Rove* as recently as 2004:
And the Mary Cheney thing is a brilliant maneuver by the Republicans. Rove knows that most people do find mentioning someone's daughter's lesbianism to be distasteful and gratuitous. So he can work it to great effect, exploiting homophobia while claiming to be defending gays. Again: masterful jujitsu. I tip my hat to the guy. Poisonous, but effective.
Compared to that loathsome episode, what the Clintons have been doing is strictly Marquis of Queensbury stuff, but they'll never get the kind of good-show Sullivan gave Rove because Sullivan is afflicted by what, in other contexts, is commonly called a Derangement Syndrome.

Again, Hillary Clinton is my least favorite Democratic candidate, but here reason forces me to defend her. The notion that saying mean things about Obama to beat him in a Presidential race is some kind of offense to decency is ridiculous even when you don't consider the source.

* Please forgive the tertiary sourcing; Sullivan's posts from his days of Bush enthusiasm are effectively memory-holed.

Monday, January 21, 2008

THE NEWS BUSINESS. Michael Yon gets a very friendly profile in the New York Times. Conservative bloggers for the most part treat it as a further opportunity to hammer the Times. (Tigerhawk is among the few noble exceptions.)

"I guess it’s that time of the year again, for the broken down clock at the NYTimes," sneers Flopping Aces. "The NY Slimes," says Ray Robison. Jammie Wearing Fool complains "they carefully avoid saying too much about his coverage other then giving his web site and the obligatory nod to the now famous picture he took of a soldier cradling a wounded little girl" as if that weren't something most journalists, citizen or otherwise, would kill for. "Pigs were recently seen flying over Central Park," hyuks the Ace of Spades correspondent. Neptunus Lex sees it as a "through the looking glass" event, and his commenters pile on the "chronically lying and serially leaking of defense secrets scumbags at the NY Times!"

RedState, trying hard to huff up some outrage of its own, gets oh-so-close to reality:
The article wasn't negative at all; however, to me it just seems like you could substitute any topic, and any individual, that you wanted to, and the story would read the same way, no tweaking necessary -- like it was a prefab piece.
Of course. The New York Times is a very large newspaper with plenty of room, resources, and motivation to maintain a consensus reality that will accommodate enough readers to keep it viable. When it feels it has to shore up its right flank, it hires a William Kristol or employs freelancers like Glenn Harlan Reynolds and Ann Althouse to write for them, or covers someone like Michael Yon, albeit in a "pre-fab" manner.

The paper is "liberal" only to the extent that it does not, in its institutional voice, full-throatedly endorse the views of its most rightwing constituents. If it did, it would gain nothing, least of all the respect of folks like the ones quoted above. But why should the Times strive for their respect, so long as it clearly retains their attention? Scan the conservative blogs and note all the references and links to the Times. In these days of newspaper attrition, such bloggers are among its most reliable readers.

As for Yon, as I have noted before, he has been far from unnoticed or even underemployed by the "mainstream media," and his insistence that he is being ignored has built his following and enhanced his profile, as the current article amply demonstrates. I applaud this old punk-rock trick of loudly announcing you're too hot for The Man until The Man comes calling with coverage lauding your independence; David Peel couldn't done it better.

As for the rest, I wonder if it ever crosses their minds that all this journalism stuff has something to do with money.
(HATE) IN THE NAME OF PRIDE. MLK Day (observed) has drawn no observations at this writing from National Review Online -- which, given their past observances, is about the most respectful thing they could do.

Wingnuts in general are quiet, perhaps saving up their vitriol for Abraham Lincoln's birthday. Extreme Mortman manages only a short MLK tribute:
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in a 1968 appearance at Harvard: “When people criticize Zionists, they mean Jews. You are talking anti-Semitism.”
I don't blame him; all I remember about Nixon is his rousing piano rendition of the Missouri Waltz.

At Reason Jesse Walker reproduces a very apt passage by the late Dr. King. I assume concern over the recent Ron Paul newsletter fiasco prevented Reason from printing their planned denunciation of the statist Civil Rights Act. Well, isn't Martin Luther King Day all about being grateful for the little we get?

UPDATE. They're still pretty quiet about it. One of the guys at Libertas does stand up for King against his mortal enemies -- that is, the "wretched NAACP today or liberals in general trying to effect change through divisively revelling and dwelling on our real or perceived mistakes and refusing ever to acknowledge our many virtues." Because King was nothing if not a booster. That's why he kept interrupting the "I Have a Dream" speech to lead the crowd in a chant of "U.S.A.! U.S.A.!"

Pierce has this sort of gibberish well-handled at Sadly, No!:
No, what MLK was all about was color-blindness! Yes, he was only interested in a unified world where everyone behaved exactly like white people. He was not interested in nonsense like affirmative action or restitution for slavery, despite his many public statements to the contrary; even the fact that he wrote an entire book about it shouldn’t sway us into thinking that Dr. King supported anything as crazy as racial quotas or economic compensation in addition to legal equality.
We live in a hell of a world, where liberals are fascists and MLK is Edward Brooke.

On a lighter note, there are some laughs in this Ron Paul video which compares the two doctors' philosophies and (disastrously for Paul) rhetorical styles. There's even a glimpse of young Paul talking cheerfully with black people -- I though Lew Rockwell burned all those!

And since he's all the rage (literally) these days, let me close with a little somethin'-somethin' on Jonah Goldberg's history with the schvartzes.
STILL MORE LIBERAL FASCISM. Jonah Goldberg leads his latest column about the liberal fascists with the grim news that "California is proposing revisions to its housing code that would require all new or remodeled homes to have a 'programmable communicating thermostat'... you would basically cede control of your home's heating and air conditioning to the state (when and if state officials wanted to exercise it)."

You cannot tell from Goldberg's column that the California Energy Commission withdrew this proposal on January 16, nor that the Commissioners, with one exception out of five, were appointed or re-appointed by Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Then Goldberg talks about all the bans proposed or put in place by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg without mentioning that Bloomberg was elected as a Republican.

I can't wait for the Ole Perfesser to put this one in his "name that party" file.

Goldberg pads out the remainder of his column with references to other countries, "public service announcements that use fear, terror and gruesome imagery to encourage workplace safety," and the Third Reich.

At The Corner, Goldberg links to an item on the invention of the cup-holder without mentioning that it was first proposed by Hitler to weaken the self-reliance of German motorists.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

THE HOLLYWOOD VERSION. Via Memeorandum, I see Oliver Stone wants to do a George W. Bush biopic. Roger L. Simon and Libertas have already started snarling.

I am intrigued. Stone's Nixon is a muddle, but a pleasurable one, and certainly not a hit job -- in fact, it's Stone's quixotic attempt to humanize Nixon that makes it both confused and interesting. Stone could never concede that Nixon was just a monster of ordinary ambition; he scours his biography for insecurities that might explain him ("I kept thinking of my old man tonight -- he was a failure, too"), even inventing troubled relationships with his wife and mother to show the depth of his existential loneliness. These Freudian interludes clash badly with the massive historical events to which Stone absurdly gave equal weight: Nixon goes to China, Nixon goes to Russia, Nixon goes to Hell.

At times the ill-fitting gears mesh to lovely effect, as when young Nixon attends his mother's admonition to seek "strength in this life, happiness in the next," and the camera sweeps skyward and then down upon a thoughtful Nixon waiting to take the Republican Convention stage in 1968. But the real Nixon, or even a poetic equivalent, remains as elusive as Nixon's dialect in the mouth of Anthony Hopkins. The real hero of Nixon isn't Nixon but Stone, the adrenaline-addled Vietnam volunteer seeking to justify his psychedelic patriotism even amidst ample, excellent cases for abandoning it. His sentimental inability to see Tricky Dick plain provides its own fascinating spectacle of wishful thinking, which reverberates through the eulogies Bob Dole and the ex-Presidents yammer during the end credits.

How could I not be eager to see what Stone will make, ten years later, of Dubya and his exceedingly strange family (and please God let James Cromwell play Poppy)? We'll see then if even Stone's forgiveness has its limits.

Friday, January 18, 2008

IS NOTHING UNTAINTED BY LIBERAL FASCISM? Now the color blue is fascist, or something. Jonah Goldberg posts a reader's note:
I'm powering through the book and will try to send more interesting thoughts and criticism as I can, but I had to write in about that little trivia about the naming of the Philadelphia Eagles. That aside solved a huge mystery for me. This year, the Eagles celebrated their 75th year with throwback jerseys from their inaugural that were mysteriously hideous. They were blue and tannish/yellowish. What the heck did those colors have to do with eagles? Now I know. The blue, which was the main of the jersey, comes from the Blue Eagle of the NRA.
The Eagles were indeed named after the NRA's signature bird -- a neat bit of bandwagoning in a Depression-wracked city -- but the uniform colors are those of the Philadelphia city flag and had been worn by the jurisdiction's previous pro team, the Frankford Yellow Jackets.

But the city of Philadelphia is predominately Democratic, which means that it's fascist, so this only strengthens his point.

Presumably naming the franchise of ultraliberal New England the "Patriots" was just an attempt to fool people. Like Alger Hiss!

This isn't the first time a National Review writer has identified a football team's political affiliation by its colors: "I love it that [the Steelers'] opponents this year will be wearing the colors of — hard to comprehend this — Hamas! Couldn't be a better opponent, who will probably be favored..."

With pro football so riddled with treasonous influences -- and, per Rich Lowry, "a race-obsessed zone" -- it's no wonder another National Review author has argued for a change of allegiance -- expressed, naturally, in terms of occupation: "If American conservatives dedicate themselves to backing American soccer, the resultant energy and optimistic buzz might just push the U.S. men's national team to the final rounds of this summer's World Cup, or at least lower the percentage of the fans sitting next to me who voted for Mondale, Dukakis, and Gore."

Thank God pitchers and catchers is just a month away.
A CHANGE ELECTION. My first reaction to this ad was that it, and its sponsor, Americans for the Preservation of American Culture, couldn't be real; they had to be mischievous inventions of the Romney or maybe even the McCain campaign.

I'm still not sure, but I'm tending toward the view that I've been overthinking it. This is after all an American election, and a little Stars 'n' Bars controversy before a Southern primary is as much a tradition as lawn signs and walking-around money.

The innovations of our glorious new age have given 2008 a patina of novelty, but let's not get carried away. If Obama gets the nomination, we'll get Willie Horton II (and possibly III, IV, and infinity); if Clinton gets it, the position papers of the opposition will resemble the taunting letters-to-the-editor of serial killers of prostitutes, and if Edwards wins they will all be written by the Club for Growth and Mr. Burns from "The Simpsons." So maybe American Culture is being preserved after all. And maybe, despite all the talk of change, that's really what the American people want.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

SOMEDAY NEVER COMES. As usual, Ed Driscoll is telling us that "legacy media" is over. But he also offers us the face of the future: Hotline TV! Turns out to be a lot like legacy media, except the jokes are even lamer, its viewership is in the low hundreds, and it has a scoop: the Michigan Primary was good news for Rudy Giuliani. (Male host: "We've been talking about how he's dead in the water, but he might end up being sort of crazy like a fox!" Female host: "Hmmm!")

I keep hearing Hollywood is over, too, but people are paying millions of dollars to go see The Bucket List instead of Bloggingheads, although the plots seem rather similar.

I have my own idea about what the future will look like. It involves omnipresent clouds of blue smoke, sporadic gunfire, and the revival of ring shouts. Naturally I don't talk about it much.

WHERE ARE THEY NOW? Ross Perot is right on top of things:
When I asked about Barack Obama, Perot said he admired his eloquence but thought it "a little odd that we would be less concerned about his background than being a Mormon." Perot was pleasantly surprised when I told him that Obama was a Christian, not a Muslim, and relieved when I informed him that the e-mail Perot (and untold others) received about Obama not respecting the Pledge of Allegiance was a fraud.
I hope we can resurrect some more former giants of American politics for their views on the Presidential race. Jesse Ventura, for example. This is from a review of his new book:
Jesse "reveals" that he met with CIA agents after he took office (it sounds about as sinister as a fan-club meeting between FBI agents and a NASCAR driver), says he told President Bill Clinton to bomb the Israel-Palestinian problem (Clinton considered the source) and imagines a weird scenario in which Jesse and Robert F. Kennedy Jr. make a run for the White House that ends with an assassination attempt that leaves Jesse in a coma.

How can they tell?

The final words of the book, while uncredited, are lyrics from "Hotel California," by one of Jesse's favorite rock bands, the Eagles:

"You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave!"
I want more! Please, somebody give Ventura and Perot a talk show, or a sitcom. It would beat the hell out of Mark Shields and David Brooks.
ASSHOLE BUDDY. Let me just say that I admire and approve the statement by Ezra Levant made to the Alberta Human Rights Commission. (You may also read his opening remarks to the Commission here.) If you don't have the right to print stupid, offensive things in your own publication, you have no meaningful freedom of speech at all.

I also reaffirm my defense of Mark Steyn's freedom of speech. Though I'm sure none of this changes the fact that I'm a fascist.
RAIN-DANCERS OF THE RIGHT. Peter Wehner, a former Fellow at the Bill Bennett School of Public Scolding and Bush White House strategist who has run for shelter from the upcoming conservative apocalypse to National Review's The Corner, nonetheless feels optimism: "Something good seems to be happening in our land." And that glad tiding is that Matthew McConaughey has referred to the thing growing in his girlfriend's womb as a baby.

"A baby, not a fetus," marvels Wehner. "I wonder how this locution will go down in the militantly pro-abortion world of Hollywood, where the 'right' to an abortion is sacrosanct." Trust me, if McConaughey's career ends in 2008, it won't be due to his use of the b-word -- it'll be due to Fool's Gold.

Things are rough for the right-wing when they jump on proud-parent usage as a sign of the Third Great Awakening. Not even The Corner's normally undemanding readers can stand for it, and they send Wehner complaints -- not, alas, that he has wasted their time with his gibberish, but that McConaughey has not married the mother of his proto-child and is therefore an unsuitable harbringer of moral revival.

Wehner, using some of the skills he no doubt honed at the White House, eats a certain amount of Christer shit before asserting, "I’ll take progress where we can find it. If we are seeing a movement toward respect for the unborn child in Hollywood, let’s accept that — and then, hopefully, we can move toward a greater commitment to marriage."

I suppose the next Hollywood wedding, however doomed, will have them convinced that Christ's Second Coming is right on schedule. (Maybe Jesus did help them with the timing -- they could have got stuck with Eddie Murphy.) Then they can move on to the next step -- getting McConaughey to denounce homosexuality.

Failing that, though, they could raise a small cheer if he tells some reporter that he's not into anal. Or if he gets a nice haircut or holds a door open for a lady or something. These people are like roadside rain-dancers; they can dance through weeks of drought, and still take credit for the shower that breaks it.

UPDATE. gypsy howell makes an excellent point in comments: "Huh. Judging by the number of celebrity out-of-wedlock babies, I was thinking that 'Hollywood' has never heard of having an abortion." What Would Tyler Durden Do concurs. They could add a "Cutest Baby" category to the Oscars and conservatives still wouldn't be satisfied. In fact, when Hollywood finally becomes a giant kindergarten they'll just complain that these "neo-Boomers" will all grow up to smoke pot and have riots.
GOLDBERG VARIATIONS. Jonah Goldberg is upset that Jon Stewart took him to the gas chamber:
Yeah, I knew I was in trouble when the interview just wouldn't end — and I got the sense it wasn't ending because Stewart didn't feel like he "won" so he had to keep going. I haven't watched it (though I pretty much never watch myself on TV), but I knew that editing wasn't going to help me. Still, I also went in knowing I wasn't going to get a supportive reaction from the guy.
I don't have cable, but let me guess -- did it go something like this:

Or was it like one of those old Smothers Brothers routines where Dick gets all up in Tommy's face and Tommy goes, "You... you.. you're a fascist"? Or was it like the old Bob & Ray routine in which an author of a book on American History (who is not an academic but a longshoreman, and so has written the book "mostly from memory") is called out for listing Lincoln's birthplace as "Bailey's Mistake, Maine," and responds, "Well, it's a big book, a few mistakes are bound to slip through"? (The author also, when confronted with a obvious 17th Century plate of American Indians parlaying with settlers that he had captioned "FDR signing the Social Security Act," counters, "Well, look, if you want to nit-pick a book...")

Well, such is the life of a legacy pledge when confronted with a world that, to his horror, is not bound by law or custom to be true to his school. I'm just surprised Ramesh Ponnuru didn't warn him off.

UPDATE. It must have been worse than I thought, as Goldberg has hauled out the "letters of support" routine. (I bet the interns hate this: "Get cracking, kids, Jonah needs some love!") As is common in the genre, one of the correspondents says he's a liberal -- though he adds "probably 'classical' by your definition" because even Goldberg fans might find the idea of a liberal saying "Thanks for calling me a fascist" hard to swallow.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

CAN'T WE ALL USE A LITTLE GOOD NEWS? The local ABC Affiliate reports that should rich prick Michael Bloomberg run for President, he couldn't beat anyone or even carry his "hometown," New York City. For extra schadenfreude, WABC failed to add the usual "that's because New Yorkers want him to keep being their bestest mayor ever" that traditionally appears with these things.

Mmm. Even the air smells fresher.

I actually hope Bloomberg doesn't dwell on it too much -- and not just out of fellow-feeling for whatever servant he will abuse in his rage; I fear he may seek to punish us all with another ban. But what's left? Maybe sugar-free chewing gum. Which would suck, as that's part of my weight-loss program.
ROMNEYMENTUM! Another impressive showing by Old Fred Thompson. This guy's catching fire. Despite what the liberal media says, Thompson's manager says he got "about 15%*" in Michigan. No doubt the discrepancy is due to the fact that his supporters are still in their voting booths, trying to figure out how to work the levers.

(* Ooops -- misread, the manager was talking about Huckabee's 15%. My only excuse is all the excitement in the air -- call it Referred Huckafever -- and the peculiarity of a campaign release leading with the third-place finisher's number. So dazed was I that I also failed to mention the Thompson campaign's gracious congratulations to the winner. Oh, wait a minute...)

And say what you will about Uncommitted, he's still very much in this race!

Romney invokes "George Herbert Walker Bush," just to make sure no one thinks he's talking about that stupid drunk in the White House.
JONAH GOLDBERG'S I KNOW YOU ARE BUT WHAT AM I? I'll say this for him: Jonah Goldberg's Liberal Fascism is full of fun historical facts, including these hilarious biographical details for Rabbi Michael Lerner: "When [Lerner and his bride] were married, they exchanged rings extracted from the fuselage of an American aircraft downed over Vietnam. The wedding cake was inscribed with the Weathermen motto 'Smash Monogamy.'"

But the book doesn't offer much in the way of analysis. As in his writing for National Review and elsewhere, Goldberg treats facts as dirt-clods to hurl at his opponents; the task of condensing them into a case that fascism comes out of liberalism (and that modern-day liberalism is still just a putsch short of fascist dictatorship) is well beyond him.

We get a hint at the problem early on, when Goldberg defines fascism. "Scholars have had so much difficulty explaining what fascism is because various fascisms have been so different from each other," he says. But he is unwilling to take as a guide such apparently definitive statements as Mussolini's ("the resolute negation of the doctrine underlying so-called scientific and Marxian socialism") -- even while calling Il Duce "The Father of Fascism" -- prefering instead to emphasize Mussolini's youthful enthusiasms for Marx and socialism, which Goldberg accepts as proof that Marxism, socialism, and fascism are all the same thing -- that is, liberalism.

As a perhaps semi-conscious defense of this selective reading, Goldberg notes that "as a pragmatist, [Mussolini] was constantly willing to throw off dogma, theory, and alliances whenever convenient" -- yet he doesn't seem to grasp that this statement cuts both ways; if Mussolini was just conning people when he denounced the Left, why couldn't he have been conning them when he embraced it?

So Goldberg offers his own definition:
Fascism is a religion of the state. It assumes the organic unity of the body politic and longs for a national leader attuned to the will of the people. It is totalitarian in that it views everything as political and holds that any action by the state is justified to achieve the common good. It takes responsibility for all aspects of life, including our health and well-being, and seeks to impose uniformity of thought and action, whether by force or through regulation and social pressure. Everything, including the economy and religion, must be aligned with its objectives. Any rival identity is part of the "problem" and therefore defined as the enemy. I will argue that contemporary American liberalism embodies all of these aspects of fascism.
If the charge at the end surprises you, you have missed a trick: by "all of these aspects," he doesn't mean all at the same time. Any little piece of the bill of particulars, regardless of context, will serve. Thus, the fact that Mussolini supported old-age pensions and a minimum wage becomes as important to understanding his fascism as hyper-nationalism and the one-party state, because "takes responsibility for all aspects of life, including our health and well-being..." appears in Goldberg's definition.

You can imagine how this figures in Goldberg's classification of the Great Society and national health care as fascist phenomena. Indeed, there isn't an American welfare program or idea in the book that Goldberg doesn't find fascist or proto-fascist (this includes George Bush's compassionate conservatism). One wonders why he failed to mention the fascist provenance of Home Relief or the Sermon on the Mount.

Once you start using history and logic so irresponsibly, anything goes. For example, when we come to Hillary Clinton, Goldberg's "First Lady of Liberal Fascism," we are offered her 1973 Yale graduate paper arguing for granting legal autonomy to children in court cases as evidence of her fascism. Many of us might question the scope of Clinton's youthful claim, but it takes a Goldberg to compare Clinton's arguments to those of Robespierre and Hitler on the grounds that they, too, advocated "'capturing' children for social engineering purposes." Goldberg follows with some characteristic broken-field running, saying that Clinton's project "is in no way a Nazi project" -- and then compares her to Stalin and Mao ("they share a sweeping vision of social justice and community and the need for the state to realize that vision").

Clinton took a side in legitimate competing interests, and the most evident legacy of her efforts may be seen in the relatively mild legal and policy efforts of the Children's Defense Fund. But Goldberg finds her fascist because "while there are light-years of difference between the programs of liberals and those of Nazis or Italian Fascists or even the nationalist progressives of yore, the underlying impulse, the totalitarian temptation is present in both." And didn't Goldberg explicitly use the word totalitarian -- in italics -- in his bill of particulars? Close counts in horseshoes and Liberal Fascism.

If you think this is rich, see what he gives Norman Lear. Yes, that's Norman Lear the TV guy. The sitcom maker's formation of People for the American Way, and his despair at "the spiritual emptiness of our culture" and "our obsession with numbers, the quantifiable, the immediate," draws this analysis from Goldberg:
Lear's cri de coeur is an almost pitch-perfect restatement of the neo-Romantic objections to modern society that inspired fascist movements across Europe and the search for 'a cause larger than ourselves' of the American Progressives. He might receive an appreciative hearing from the early Paul de Man, Ezra Pound, and countless other fascist theorists and ideologues who denounced the Western -- particularly Jewish -- obsession with numbers and technical abstraction.
From wan, warm-hearted boilerplate to fascism in two easy sentences! And it can be used on anyone who pleads for deep feeling -- even Mr. Spock! ("It is almost a biological rebellion, a profound revulsion against the planned communities, the programming, the sterilized, artfully balanced atmospheres...") Try it at home yourself!

There are many similar howlers in the book. The barbarities of Leftist radicals in the 60s -- despite Goldberg's admission that these people sought to "differentiate themselves from liberals, whom the hard left saw as too concerned with politeness, procedure, and conventional politics" -- are connected to official Democratic politics because Howard Dean once spoke nostalgically of the Civil Rights Act and Hollywood made Easy Rider. Goldberg glides over the blacklists of the 50s -- he has previously spoken sympathetically of them -- but takes care to remind us that "[Joe] McCarthy's political roots lay firmly in the Progressive Era." The Da Vinci Code is linked to "the Nazi attack on Christianity." And there are all those brain-farts ("The white male is the Jew of liberal fascism") that have been the joy and solace of Sadly, No! lo these many weeks.

Goldberg is on firmer ground documenting the often deplorable overreach of the Wilson and Franklin D. Roosevelt Administrations. Of course, you may have already learned about many of their atrocities from Howard Zinn, Gore Vidal, and other liberal writers. That liberals, socialists, and progressives mainly took it in the neck from Wilson doesn't bother Goldberg -- after all, the Nazis fought the Commies, and they were all fascists. And I doubt Goldberg would even acknowledge that the more coercive aspects of the Roosevelt Administration are now rejected by most liberals, and indeed mainly defended by conservatives.

And that's really what this book is about. Throughout Liberal Fascism Goldberg inserts complaints that liberals unfairly call conservatives fascists -- a slur that, in our age of blogospheric intemperance and extraordinary renditions, is even harder to escape than when hippies were yelling it. Well, he'll show them. Having heard the "Why do you think they called it National Socialism?" routine for decades, I have some idea of the depth of Goldberg's well of resentment. Though he has plowed up a lot of source material to stuff his magnum opus, that sense of ancient grievance permeates and dooms his book. Goldberg betrays a palpable need to get all his (and previous generations of American conservatives') grudges in, from Rousseau to John Kerry. And he's got to prove they're all fascists. Even a skilled polemicist would have collapsed under the weight of the task, but a skilled polemicist would have known enough to rein it in a little. Goldberg doesn't. Whenever he does manage to string a few points together, The Quest calls him unto a new absurdity.

That won't matter to the built-in market of Coulter fans and dittoheads who have already adopted Liberal Fascism, but unaffiliated readers will probably be flummoxed. As for those of us on the other side -- the real fascists, if you will -- it is, as tradition dictates, just the latest, if also the largest, of Goldberg's gifts of laughter.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

QUESTION OF THE DAY: Whatever happened to thepoorman.net?

UPDATE. Look, proud brothers: the club is open!
A SOLITARY MAN. Rod Dreher is on one his natalist tears. "Will Boomers die alone and unloved?" he asks, and refers to Philip Longman's harrowing premonitions of Boomer-geezer disappointment in Social Security, of which my favorite part is this:
The younger generation to whom Boomers will turn for support in old age will also contain a higher proportion of African Americans and Hispanics than does the Baby Boom generation itself. So on top of the generational divide, and on top of the culture divide, will be a widening racial and ethnic divide.
As if anticipating that the prospect of senescence in hands of dark-skinned strangers may not be enough to sway us, Dreher doubles down with a childless couple's lament: "It's the other side of the Boomer childlessness story."

It's amazing how much of the Jesus people POV is based on the Ant and the Grasshopper. Just you wait, they say, one day you'll be old and alone and godless -- and, if we have our way, broke. Then who'll be laughing?

Speaking as a childless man of no great fortune, I fully expect to die one of these days, and I have respect enough for narrative, and the odds, to also expect that my end may not be heartwarming. But I fail to see how that should drive me to procreate. As Lear and a million other geezers knew, children are an unreliable source of comfort and security. However long a span I am granted, the end is just a little piece of it. If that isn't sweet, I know that my memories, if I am blessed to retain them, will be, and thereafter is oblivion. I have front-loaded my happiness, and have no regrets.

I understand that Dreher wants for religious reasons to encourage increased childbearing, and would threaten abrogation of the Social Security contract to achieve it. That he and others would use such a crude weapon to scare people into having babies is frankly disgusting. If my natural inclinations would in any case encourage my resistance, under such circumstances my self-respect demands it. Better, morally speaking, to fall back on my default retirement plan: a pistol and a rooming-house.

If you are not so inclined, you might still consider carefully before taking life lessons from a guy whose idea of Walter Cronkite is Ross Douthat.

Monday, January 14, 2008

THE BLOODY HORSE. I'm surprised at the restraint Tim Burton shows with Sweeney Todd. To be sure, there's plenty of swooping camera movement, acres of grime and gallons of blood, and many inventive openings-up of the stage play (the "By The Sea" number was my favorite of these, with the comically morose Sweeney planted like a black beach umbrella in Mrs. Lovett's resort fantasy). But Burton doesn't really own the property so much as do a creditable movie version of it.

In a way I'd have preferred to see Burton do Brigadoon or something else that might have resisted his scalpel and thus encouraged him to outrageous mischief. He seems to respect Sweeney Todd a great deal -- in fact, by excising the original, didactic prologue and epilogue, he shows that he got the point well enough not to belabor it. Much as I love the musical, though, I would have liked to see Burton take more liberties with it. I appreciate, for example, Alan Rickman's vulpine Judge Turpin, but wasn't Burton tempted to show him running his fingers along something more interesting than the leather bindings of antique pornography? I wonder what Ken Russell would have made of it. A botch, perhaps. Still, with Burton in the ring with Sondheim, I expected a bit more grappling.

All in all, we get a first-class musical handled by a director with a feel for it, and that's not bad. The acting's very fine. It doesn't bother me that Johnny Depp's no George Hearn -- the film wouldn't bear that kind of high-voltage dementia. Though comparatively wan, Depp is sufficiently alert to the demands of his vengeance to keep us watching. Maybe if Burton keeps working with him, they'll eventually get to the places Hitchcock took Jimmy Stewart. Helena Bonham-Carter's underplaying beautifully captures the more ordinary madness of Mrs. Lovett. All the others are good, but I especially liked Timothy Spall as the Beadle. I only know Spall from his Mike Leigh grotesques in Life is Sweet and Topsy-Turvy, but here he really out-gargoyles himself, swollen with self-regard and bad diet, and most repulsive when he's trying to charm. The very tilt of his topper is nauseating. All the craft aspects are what you'd expect: extremely clever about torturing tones out of the Victorian London muck.

The blood must be mentioned. It may be that, in its display, Burton gave himself the largest measure of freedom. Were the film less successful, that would be a sad commentary. As it is, the bloodletting constitutes a kind of signature. An unnaturally viscid stream unites the elements in the credits; when the killing starts, more fluid sprays and seepings add color to Sweeney's joyless, silver-and-black shop -- a nice objective correlative. The climactic slaughters are best of all. (Mild spoiler alert.) When Sweeney achieves his revenge, he and Burton revel in a nicely choreographed, effulgent display of gore. And at the tragic conclusion, the blood drools thick and slow to unite, absurdly and pathetically, the lost lovers. With apologies to Roy Campbell, while I respect his use of the snaffle and the curb, it was something to see Burton give us at last the bloody horse.

UPDATE. There are apparently a lot of YouTube videos of Sondheim teaching musical acting. Here he instructs a couple of kids who are working on "My Friends." Kudos to the boy for wearing white pants; I would have worried about soiling them. But Sondheim is very gentle and very, very educational. I like to think Depp saw and took this lesson.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

VARIATIONS ON CONCERN TROLLING. Brendan Loy publishes a long letter to Barack Obama, warning him to disassociate himself from race-baiting supporters. He concludes:
By the way, I am a registered voter in Tennessee, which holds its primary on February 5, I will be closely following this issue, among others, as I finalize my decision of whom to vote for. I hope that, in the end, I will be able to cast my ballot for you.
In an update, he says of those who accuse him of concern trolling, "Sorry to disappoint, but I actually am a (tentative) Obama supporter, as my archives make clear; I'm not just pretending to support him to make a point. It's telling that folks would assume that, though. How dare I question the party line, eh?" (In an update he clarifies further: "I am leaning toward Obama for the Democratic nomination, not necessarily for the presidency.")

Let us indeed consult the archives. Loy claims to have voted for Kerry in 2004, but when Kerry lost he said, "I’m not all that upset with the result... I think Kerry had a decent chance of being a colossal failure, and Bush has a decent chance of being a surprising success... Meanwhile, I look forward to watching the Loony Left implode in utter confusion over the result."

In 2006 Loy said he quit the Democratic Party because Connecticut Democrats failed to nominate Joe Lieberman, a result he called "disturbing one to anyone who cares about the future of the Democratic Party. (Which, frankly, I no longer do, particularly. I do believe it’s important to have a viable opposition party, but personally I’d love to see McCain and Lieberman hook up, form a third party, a centrist/unity party — let’s call it the Liberty Party, since Libertarian is already taken — and watch the Democrats’ numbers shrink and shrink until they become the third party. That’d be sweet.)"

Last month Loy ranked his Presidential choices: Biden, McCain, Obama, Clinton, Giuliani, Romney.

So in Loy we have an embittered ex-Democrat and presumptive McCain supporter (particularly since he seems very excited by the prospect of a McCain-Lieberman ticket), earnestly advising Obama on campaign strategy. Because he might just vote for him if things don't work out.

Is that concern trolling? Let us be kind. Loy is an earnest young man who perhaps doesn't know his own mind as yet, and may not be capable of the kind of cynical gambits employed by the pros. I will note, though, that when I offer advice to, say, Rudolph Giuliani, I don't expect to be taken seriously.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

OLD WAYS. Perfesser Reynolds complains of woolen knickers on a Brooks Brothers model, and compares them to foofy shorts. Tigerhawk seconds: "Old WASP culture, of which I know more than most bloggers (other than GreenmanTim, of course), is now well and truly dead."

These gentlemen may wish to revise their judgments. Who was a better avatar of Old WASP culture than explorer George "Because it is there" Mallory? He was lost on Everest in 1924, and his remains, along with those of his companion Andrew Irvine, were found in 1999. Attend the words of their discoverers:
"The idea of these two Oxford English gentlemen in tweed coats and woolen knickers attempting to climb the highest mountain in the world in 1924 just automatically makes people's eyes open wide."
It does indeed. Here is a comparison of Mallory's outfit with that of the leader of the 1994 team. The latter is better prepared, but the former, you must admit, is more stylin'.

Mallory and Irvine sent themselves into harm's way, rather than send others as the WASPs in our current Administration do. So there is some argument for degeneracy there. But let us not harsh on the woolen knickers. Though I would like to see them in cream flannel. For tennis, you know.

Friday, January 11, 2008

CAMPAIGN ROUNDUP. Apparently Giuliani was paying his staff something, but now they're going to have to be content with him not killing their families. Meanwhile Giuliani keeps appearing in commercials and debates, which may explain his precipitous slide in the polls, even among New York Republicans. Unlikability will only get you so far in politics.

The rise of McCain has prompted Mitt Romney to remind conservatives why they hated the war hero in the first place. McCain is "an individual who voted against the Bush tax cuts and continues to feel that his vote against the Bush tax cuts was right," says Romney. You know a campaign is in the trouble when it tries a little of that old Bush magic to win votes.

Fred Thompson's brief display of vital signs continues to impress bloggers. "Who put the vitamins in Fred Thompson's oatmeal?" observes Ed Morrissey. "UPDATE: Fred ate more Wheaties between the debate and his appearance on Hannity & Colmes." After he drops out, perhaps Thompson can endorse high-fiber breakfast products.

Mike Huckabee's current strategy is to be a good boy and wait for Jesus to make him President. But the other Republicans have begun picking on him in debates, so he has gone to columnist James Pinkerton for backup. Presumably Huckabee thinks Pinkerton will help him sell religion in politics without sounding entirely like a snake-handler. For his part, Pinkerton has proposed a "space ark" to preserve human specimens when we have destroyed the planet, so maybe he thinks Huckabee is the best hope for effecting both ends of that plan.

Ron Paul's racist newsletter articles have been well-covered, but they won't effect his support, as none of the people who love him care about such things. But the mere imputation of crypto-racism is a much bigger deal for Hillary Clinton, and sent her husband to Al Sharpton to mend fences. I can comfortably predict that this concern with liberal racism will remain popular unless Obama wins the nomination, at which point we will hear much more about black racism. That and madrassas.
THIS FRIDAY MUSIC THING... I'm gonna dive in:

If you're an old 80s punk psycho like me, you'll come out of this wanting more Human Switchboard. No problem. You can turn your heart in if you like; I'm not turnin' in my hope. (You may follow the further career of Myrna Marcarian here.)

UPDATE. Oh, yeah... Phil Ochs. Sob. A good reaction would be to demoralize some fascists. Yeah, I know: we're supposed to be the fascists. Confront the idiots who think so with humor -- it tends to turn them out.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

OLD MAN SMELL OF THE WEEK. Despite the recent brilliant adjustment in the Giuliani campaign, the National Review folks (previously pledged to Mitt Romney) are now pumped for... Ole Fred Thompson!

Smell the victory:
Thompson made a point of using an inside-the-Beltway question about whether the Reagan coalition still exists that had been directed to Huckabee to launch an attack on him. He obviously was waiting for such a moment -- as he criticized Huckabee on a litany of specifics, he was looking at notes.
As National Review previously tried to put it, this was Thompson's "I paid for these index cards!" moment.

Makes sense. Thompson's the most Reagan of the group, being observably dumb and close to death. And, as Kathryn J. Lopez observed:
Well, I think it certainly looked like he was running for veep until tonight. Wasn't too absurd a conclusion for folks who wanted to like him but were watching the campaign to draw.
Translation: irritable bowel syndrome revives Reaganism! If Giuliani is smart, he'll announce that his prostrate has begun to swell again, and has made him right pissy!

UPDATE. Speaking of piss, National Review keeps pouring it on:
Winner: Thompson. This performance was so commanding, I wanted his last answer to echo back to the lights in the back of the auditorium, blow out all the lamps and spotlights, for the theme to “the Natural” to play, and for him to trot around the stage in slow motion while sparks showered down in the background.
Of course, Ole Man Thompson circling the bases would of itself constitute a one-hour TV special. Maybe, hard against the commercial breaks, they could insert numbers by Joey Heatherton and Lola Falana, and then cut to Ole Fred huffing at whatever base he was crouched over, making cracks between sucks on an oxygen mask like, "Boy, I tell ya, Mike Huckabee talks about Jesus like he was some kinda Republican! I say suffer the little children come unto me, and I'll ask the little bastards for their green cards! Pant, pant..."

UPDATE II. Thanks to Atrios for pointing this out:
Mr. Thompson rocks tonight. Asked about the recent confrontation between United States warships and Iranian speedboats, he suggests casually that if Iran’s Revolutionary Guard becomes more hostile, the Iranians will see those virgins they’ve been looking for.
Rounding third and taking a breather in the coach's box, Ole Fred gasps, "I'ma gon' show them Irani-mescans what's what... they wan'em some virgins... i'ma show 'em some gals uppa Raleigh way knows how ta stick some chewin' gum up they cooters... pant, pant..."
READ HIS LISP. Giuliani's 9/11 message, and his recent invocations of Reagan, having failed to move the needle, he shifts to a classic Republican Presidential gambit, and in a big way: from his first day in office, his new ad promises, he'll "cut taxes by trillions of dollars." The ad claims that as mayor Giuliani "delivered more tax relief than all the other Republicans combined" and adds he's "gotten it done where it was even more difficult to do it than in Washington" -- that is, in the liberal hellhole New York City.

Giuliani's cuts (disputedly totaling $9 billion) mostly took place during an economic boom. His first and most successfully-slashed budget was $31.6 billion, and in his last post-boom days in office before the 9/11 attacks, he expected to leave a deficit of $2.8 billion (the WTC fallout stuck a few more billion on it). Giuliani's tax-cutting career seems to follow a national pattern for the era of big deals at the top, fudging in the middle, and a mess at the end.

The "trillions" in cuts he now proposes are still pretty fudgy: the Giuliani campaign includes "making the current tax provisions... permanent," "the expansion of tax-free savings accounts [which] will encourage Americans to save and eliminate the double taxation of individuals’ current savings," and exemptions that pertain to his health-care plan.

This seems a very old-fashioned Republican gambit, but the non-traditional campaign Giuliani's been running has demonstrably failed to work. I guess his operatives are moving Giuliani's old themes -- 9/11 and his peculiar mix of progressive and authoritarian social policies -- into the subtext. He will be the guy who is tough on terror, tough on goddamn New York, tough on ex-wives, tough on anyone who stands in his way -- and tough enough to cut your taxes by trillions! Whether this works may depend on how much voters surmise he'll also, when circumstances require, be tough on them.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

THERE'S NO NEED TO FEAR -- UNDERDOG IS HERE! Subscribers received a message from Team Rudy this morning:
When Rudy started running for President, he never planned to run a conventional campaign. Conventional wisdom and political pundits said he wouldn't be a viable candidate and he would be out of the race by last summer.
This is a new one on me. As far back as December 2004, Quinnipiac's polling showed 68 percent of Republicans wanted Giuliani to run for President. When he declared in February, USA Today/Gallup had him as the preference of 40 percent of Republicans; his nearest competitor, McCain, had 24 percent. Rasmussen had him leading the GOP field as late as December 10!

And till recently, Giuliani never lacked for high-profile support, nor press coverage befitting a front-runner. In March a Time magazine profile, while admitting Giuliani's "missteps" and that "the political rule book says a pro-choice former New York City mayor married to wife No. 3 cannot possibly win the Republican presidential nomination," added, "the political rule book has been stuffed into a shredder this year," and ended, "No news is good news for the Giuliani brand, and every quiet week that passes, the unlikely candidate is one week closer to rewriting the rules." In June Chris Matthews said Giuliani was "always there, right in your face, dealing with reality. I think that's what -- with all his aggravations and personality stuff and roughness -- I think that's what people are looking for: somebody who's clear and present and right there answering our questions..." Scour your own memory banks and tell me if the man known universally as Rudy! was getting a raw deal before his numbers began to plummet.

It doesn't matter; the naysayers, Team Rudy says, "were wrong. This election, much like Rudy, is not conventional. We're in uncharted waters with this new election calendar and winning requires a different strategy..." To spare you the details, it all comes down to Florida and Super Tuesday. "Recent polls have demonstrated that our strategy is working. A new Insider Advantage Poll of registered Florida voters has Rudy at 24%, a solid lead over his next closest competitor..."

I am compelled to also note an August 23 USA Today article about Giuliani's vigorous campaigning in New Hampshire (!), headlined, "Giuliani out to win a state 'made for him.'"

Now, I don't like the guy, but I can't say I blame him. As the recent Clinton victory in New Hampshire shows, there can be magic in a dose of underdog appeal, even for someone who is only an underdog by the most forgiving of definitions. But, typically for Giuliani, this current attempt to capture some of that appeal comes mixed with belligerence and a haughty certainty that everything is going according to plan. Team Rudy might want to rethink that approach. As the late Wally Cox showed us, real, or at least plausible, underdogs don't snarl.
EVERYBODY WINS. Life gave the Cornerites Hitlery, so they made Hitleryade. As the New Hampshire votes rolled in, they went from sour conspiracy theorizing...
"The Hillary 'revival,'" Mark writes, "seems confined for the most part to Nashua and Manchester." How come? What would it be about those two cities that would make them more amenable to (or manipulable by) the Clinton machine? Jeepers. Think of all those state employees in Concord, the capital. Wouldn't you expect them to line up for the Democratic machine?
...to cheerier spin, like "Hillary as insurgent against the liberal MSM—you go, girl!" and "We will have Hillary Clinton to kick around anymore, and I'm glad."

Some operatives spun less happily. Right after Romney got his ass kicked, Hugh Hewitt greeted him with this:
Now Governor, this is not unfolding the way any pundit called it, certainly not the way you had hoped it would unfold, but also not the way your opponents hoped it would unfold. John McCain’s down from 60% eight years ago...
This is such a refreshing departure from all that MSM bias we had to put up with before the rise of the blogosphere.

The Anchoress thinks it's all fixed -- "It seems to me that such a circumstance makes fraud so easy" -- but approves because "I was getting a little creeped out thinking that an untested but charismatic guy could so overwhelm the process so quickly in such a dangerous age." This is quite a switch for her from just the day before ("Thanks to their 'naive' belief in the election process, they actually believed they could walk off the heavily fortified Clinton plantation, and they did it"). It's true what they say -- with God, all things are plausible.

A few days ago, Daniel Casse said at Contentions, "How ironic it is that, in the wake of her [Iowa] defeat, Hillary Clinton will retreat to the issues of health care and the need for 'universal coverage' as the core message of her comeback strategy in New Hampshire," and "Hillary is looking stale with that has-been husband at her side." Casse tonight: "She is substance over theory. She quickly got into the quicksand where Obama dares not tread: College loans, housing foreclosures... This was a gracious, patriotic, confident, American victory lap speech."

Here's to the miracle of democracy, by which I mean the fact that these people have jobs outside of canneries or fast-food outlets.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

SLAP MY HAND, BLACK SOUL MAN! James Lileks surveys Presidential field, likes Mayor 9/11, but sees a black cloud on the horizon:
I do not want a National Dad or even a Cool Brother (double-meaning unintended) for the President; I want someone with JFK’s optimism, Roosevelt’s steel, Truman’s irascibility, and so forth.

But it’s all for naught if the Obamaboom continues, because he has the zeitgeist at his back and a sail the size of an IMAX screen. People will vote for him because they want to be part of something larger, and that’s a rare and potent thing these days. Whether that’s a wise thing to do in perilous times depends on whether people think we’re living in perilous times, I suppose. We’ll see.
I don't see how the wisdom of voting for the Cool Brother is contingent on the feelings of the electorate, and I expect he doesn't see it either. But let's give him a break: he does write these things for free, and he's obviously depressed. If even Iowa favors the dark over the dork, it's no longer the Great Flyover he grew up in and ran back to.

I do find these early, baffled stirrings of Obama dread amusing, but if things go like they're going I expect they'll haul out the firehoses soon enough.

UPDATE. In comments ChrisV82 rejoins: "I want someone with Taft's girth, Van Buren's hairstyle and Taylor's acute gastroenteritis."
CONFRONTING THE NEW REALITIES. I guess Obama's the frontrunner now, because (though the dopes at National Review are still tearing at Hillary's carcass) the Wall Street Journal is giving him a hard time, on the grounds that "the division Mr. Obama promises to end has largely been put to rest":
A nation in which the poor are defined by an income level that in most countries would make them prosperous is a nation that has all but forgotten the true meaning of poverty. A nation in which obesity is largely a problem of the poor (and anorexia of the upper-middle class) does not understand the word "hunger." A nation in which the most celebrated recent cases of racism, at Duke University or in Jena, La., are wholly or mostly contrived is not a racist nation. A nation in which our "division" is defined by the vitriol of Ann Coulter or James Carville is not a truly divided one--at least while Mr. Carville is married to Republican operative Mary Matalin and Ms. Coulter is romantically linked with New York City Democrat Andrew Stein.
Well, Stein and Coulter have broken up, so maybe America's sorta divided after all. (And you thought Parade fucked up!) But I see their point: welfare queens are pretending to be lynched and stuffing themselves with Devil Dogs while supermodels vomit -- we're in great shape. Other signs of America's New Golden Age:
The problem with Iraq today is that it is a net importer of terrorism and instability. Yet when the U.S. invaded, it was a net exporter of both. An improvement? On balance, probably yes.
Because, to quote someone's grandpappy, terrorism's like manure: it ain't no good 'til you spread it around. Other encouraging developments: "Mr. Maliki... must run a government besieged by al Qaeda and Iranian-backed militias," and Ground Zero's still a festering hole.

OK, admits the Journal, that all sucks, but:
It is often said that the Bush administration's effort to bring democracy to the Middle East wasn't so much a case of American idealism as it was of hubris. That may yet prove true. But is it any less hubristic to think the enterprise was ever going to be brought off without blundering time and again? It's a thought that ought to weigh especially heavily on Mr. Obama, dream candidate of America's great expectations.
Now that I think of it, maybe this is, at least tangentially, actually a pro-Obama editorial: He can't possibly fuck things up any worse. And if he wins, let's see him do any better than the dumbass fratboy the Journal has been fluffing for eight years.

Yes. Let's.

Monday, January 07, 2008

DR. MACPHAIL GASPED. HE UNDERSTOOD. After long, long attention to the meltdown of Britney Spears, Rod Dreher lets slide a compassionate tear:
At long last, it has happened: I feel sorry for Britney Spears. Really, really sorry for her. Dr. Phil McGraw is a vampire. No doubt one of many in that pathetic young woman's life.
Well, we all know what happens next.

LIFE'S BEEN GOOD. John Scalzi objects in strong terms to an Indiana State professor's Privilege quiz, and is seconded by Megan McArdle. Both have sound complaints about the methodology, and both (McArdle especially) dislike the idea of the quiz. "This list reeks of academics confusing their petit-bourgeois disdain of ostentation with actual privilege," says McArdle.

I'm not a fan of touchy-feely exercises, especially in college (at least not this kind of touchy-feely), and I share many of their objections. But I do recall that when I was these students' age, I was a jacked-up little shit. I had minuses as well as pluses on the professor's privilege scale, but the fact that I was even able to attend college in the United States put me at an enormous advantage to many of my fellow countrymen, and I was too often oblivious to it. I didn't set bums on fire or require school employees to call me Sir or anything, but when I look back on my experience then, I am struck by how easily I took my privileges for granted. If I hadn't been required by the terms of my financial aid to work in the cafeteria, I might have been totally insufferable.

I imagine that many students would take offense at the hectoring nature of the quiz and the proposed discussion to follow. As many of the Scalzi and McArdle commenters demonstrate, this kind of exercise is bound provoke the objection that the school is trying to run some PC trip on the students, and an inevitable, counterproductive round of dueling resentments.

Fair enough; there'll be plenty of time after college for life to smack some sense into the kids. But I don't think it's a bad thing in and of itself to be reminded that one has a leg up. This is not to plead for morbid self-flagellation, but for ordinary awareness of a simple fact of life. Like many of the folks who post things on a blog, I've got a job, a place to live, and more than the clothes on my back, which means I'm filthy stinking rich in global terms, and I'm not doing too shabby in national terms either. That I have this time and these resources to do what I do instead of foraging in trash cans for food is pretty miraculous.

The thought does not obsess me; in fact, most of the time I'm as oblivious to it as I was in college. So an occasional, gentle reminder won't kill me. On the contrary, as I'm still a bit jacked-up and a bit of a shit, I think a reality check now and again does me some good. For one thing, it works against some unpleasant tendencies I've noticed in myself. You know, sometimes I can even get as self-righteous about my now-aged working-class credentials as the Scalzi and McArdle commenters. (Did I mention that I worked in the cafeteria?) It can be good for a laugh sometimes, but there is something to be said for a little healthy perspective.
STOP THE PRESSES. Here it is folks -- after days of controversy -- Billy Kristol in the New York Times!
After the last two elections, featuring the well-born George Bush and Al Gore and John Kerry, Americans — even Republicans! — are ready for a likable regular guy. Huckabee seems to be that.
Translation: Huckabee is the candidate America would like to have a beer with Jesus.
His campaigning in New Hampshire has been impressive. At a Friday night event at New England College in Henniker, he played bass with a local rock band, Mama Kicks. One secular New Hampshire Republican’s reaction: “Gee, he’s not some kind of crazy Christian. He’s an ordinary American.”
Translation: Huckabee is Bob Roberts.
Some Democrats are licking their chops at the prospect of a Huckabee nomination. They shouldn’t be. For one thing, Michael Bloomberg would be tempted to run in the event of an Obama-Huckabee race — and he would most likely take votes primarily from Obama.
Translation: The Kristol appointment is a New York Times plot to make Maureen Dowd look profound.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

IT'S A HORRIBLE DAY FOR AMERICA -- LET'S PLAY TWO! I set out to watch last night's debates, but kept getting interrupted, so I got a look at part of them and went to the transcripts for the rest.

Behaviorally, the only candidate who left a bad impression was the slouched and somnolent Fred Thompson. Peter Robinson interprets his disengaged manner as "gravitas," but I thought he'd just missed a nap. In his muttering putdowns of Ron Paul and Romney on health care, he reminded me of old, slightly drunk uncle at a family event he didn't really want to attend. I can certainly relate, but I don't see how it helps his chances.

Outside of that, everyone appeared to be running for President, and some of them made interesting adjustments. Giuliani has replaced "9/11" with "Reagan" as his buzz word (for younger viewers who might not know about Reagan, Giuliani explained that he was the President who favored amnesty for illegal aliens). McCain took a swipe at Big Pharma, then, sensing himself out of balance, pandered his ass off on immigration. Romney fell in love with MassCare all over again. And Huckabee praised "the document that gave us birth" and didn't read from the Bible! In fact the Constitution got a lot of props from candidates who were not Ron Paul, which sent a clear signal: no more trying to out-torture one another -- this is indeed a change election.

On the other side, John Edwards supported Barack Obama, by which he meant himself. Hillary got mad and intellectuals went "meeow" and "reer". Obama limited his health-care mandate to children and reiterated his willingness to invade Pakistan, which I guess makes him the moderate candidate. Bill Richardson leaned heavily on his experience as Energy Secretary, U.N. Ambassador, Congressman, and Governor of New Mexico, causing us all to marvel at a country where such a lousy public speaker could score such high-level gigs.

Charlie Gibson pointed out that one of these people is going to be our President. If that doesn't give Dennis Kucinich a bounce, this isn't the America I grew up in.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

ROCK 'N' ROLL REVISITED. I saw Tom Stoppard's new play in London last year (review here) and saw it on Broadway last night. The production, which keeps the principals from the Duke of York's run and has mostly excellent replacements for the other roles, held my attention throughout; it's really good enough to see more than once.

There have been some changes. I was puzzled when Michael Feingold wrote that the show, "as far as I can tell, is mainly a tribute to the ancient Czech folk custom of yelling," and concerned when I heard that Rufus Sewell was having vocal problems (at least one correspondent noticed this in London too, though I didn't). The Broadway version does indeed have more shouting and broader playing of the big confrontations, and Sewell was evincing more phlegm than before.

Part of this may be due to the inferior acoustics at the Jacobs, and the noble decision to use little or no electronic amplification for the voices. I think Trevor Nunn may have also encouraged the actors to hit the key points harder for us dumb Yanks. This hurts the performances at times, as in the scene in which Max tells the cancer-ravaged Eleanor that he loves her with his mind; it was almost grotesquely jacked-up and Brian Cox and Sinead Cusack didn't seem entirely comfortable with it.

But, maybe because I'm a dumb Yank myself, I didn't mind it for the most part. And some performances I liked better this time. Cusack's Eleanor was all right, but when she became the grown-up Esme in the second act, I saw her sadness and rootlessness more clearly, which made her decision [spoiler!] to go off with Jan both more understandable and funnier. And Sewell, phlegm and all, has done great things with Jan. He was very fine in London, but now I perceive more of a Chaplinesque quality -- an innocence (though not untainted) trying to work its way out of giant conundrums that other people don't see. And as the elder Jan he carries both the weight of years of repression (which has only been partly lifted by his social liberation) and his old sweetness and yearning. When people are chattering around or at him, you watch him to see what he thinks. The play's pretty good, but no play is so good that it can't be elevated by a great performance.

Friday, January 04, 2008

AN IOWA KIND OF SPECIAL CHIP-ON-THE-SHOULDER ATTITUDE. Iowa wasn't a big win for the two New Yorkers in the Presidential race. Each absorbed the blow characteristically.

The former mayor -- who famously began his charm offensive in Iowa by bailing on a May 2007 meet-up because the hosts didn't make enough money to highlight his estate tax message -- preemptively willed the result into irrelevance, spending the day in New Hampshire and Florida. The lead story at JoinRudy2008.com was "Rudy Giuliani Announces Maine Leadership Team." "Skipping Early States All Part of Giuliani's Plan," reported the Washington Post's blog The Trail. "We were not going to emphasize Iowa in the way two or three other candidates did," shrugged Giuliani. "We see this as a very different election." Huckabee's win (34% to Giuliani's 4%) drew a terse congratulation from Giuliani campaign manager Michael Duhaime, ending with "Rudy is the only Republican candidate who can not only win the primary and general elections, but will turn purple states red."

If Giuliani sought to ignore the import of the evening, Clinton sought to transform it to her benefit. She gave what we might call a victorious concession speech. She gloried in the "unprecedented turnout" and "clear message that we are going to have change." She grouped herself with Obama and Edwards and all the other candidates: "Together we have presented the case for change and have made it absolutely clear that America needs a new beginning." Then she gave the speech she probably would have given if she'd won. Translation: change is good, and the night's historic events were a victory for the Democratic Party and its eventual Presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton.

Iowa may not mean much for a while after the current crop of confetti is swept up, but it does contribute seven electoral votes in Presidential elections. If either candidate is back on the ballot in November, Iowa voters will probably recall the face each showed the state yesterday. Giuliani in particular may then be reminded of the old song from The Music Man: there's nothing halfway about the Iowa way to treat you.

UPDATE. Peggy Noonan, who was hard on "creepy" Huckabee a few weeks back, is now at least willing to suck up to his followers:
They believe that Mr. Huckabee, the minister who speaks their language, shares, down to the bone, their anxieties, concerns and beliefs. They fear that the other Republican candidates are caught up in a million smaller issues--taxing, spending, the global economy, Sunnis and Shia--and missing the central issue: again, our culture. They are populists who vote Republican, and as I have read their letters, I have felt nothing but respect.
Then she rips into Huckabee again. Sorta reminds me of Blazing Saddles: "You've got to remember that these are just simple farmers. These are people of the land. The common clay of the new West. You know... morons!"

She's kind to Obama, mainly for pwning Hitlery, but I detect another Blazing Saddles moment underneath.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

GHOST OF A CHANCE. Rod Dreher has found something to like about Dennis Kucinich: he believes in UFOs. "I have no idea what to think about UFOs, and truth to tell, I rarely do," says Dreher. "But I don't believe they're a hallucination."

Dreher also believes in voodoo and ghosts, thinks God gives him job advice, and is uncomfortable with Halloween in part because "my friend, the Louisiana exorcist, strongly warned against it (and told pretty scary personal stories to explain his point)..."

I believe we have identified Mike Huckabee's base. In future videos, Huckabee should trumpet his endorsement by the shades of Washington, Lincoln, and Reagan. They can even appear on-screen with him. The technology has long been with us.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

DON'T THINK, FEEL; AIN'T NO BIG DEAL. At TCS Daily, Lee Harris argues in favor of stupidity. No, really:
In a world that absurdly overrates the advantage of sheer brain power, no one wants to be seen as a member in good standing of the stupid party. Yet stupidity has been and will always remain the best defense mechanism against the ordinary conman and the intellectual dreamer, just as Odysseus found that stuffing cotton in his ears was his best defense against beguiling but fatal song of the sirens.
That's the close; the rest doesn't illuminate it much. Smart people will attempt to "pull the wool over the eyes of the rest of us," and though "the intellectual conservative of our day excels in good arguments," he must not use them to defend propositions such as (to use Harris' own example) resistance to gay marriage, because he might get out-argued by the smart alecks.

I suppose this is one of those just-among-us-wingnuts articles, like meditations on the fatness of Michael Moore, that are not meant to be engaged in any serious way. But it's interesting that it comes up just as conservatives fret about the dissolution of their once-winning national coalition.

Conservatives normally like to brag on their "good arguments" -- "Conservatives, rightly, have a greater ownership of their intellectual history than liberals have of theirs," says Jonah Goldberg. "We're proud of our heritage of ideas." But at present, their policy wonks seem paralyzed and reactive: While Democratic candidates compete over their health care plans, for example, conservatives denounce health-care recipients. Their response to Iraq is Iran, and their response to human rights issues is Double Gitmo.

Whither Goldberg's "heritage of ideas"? The voters aren't going for it. Historically-minded conservatives may shrug this off, remembering the Goldwater days of exile, but political operators, who have to try and win elections, may be unnerved by it. With a contentious pre-season fraying the Republican coalition, the idea men may be worrying that yet another version of "No Pale Pastels" might not do the job this time. They need magic; they need dynamite. But all they have, besides the discredited old standards, are diddly-shit demi-ideas.

So Harris' prescription could be helpful to them, at least as a calmative. If their arguments aren't working, it isn't the arguments that are to blame, but argument in general. Once this message is internalized, the heavy thinkers of conservatism may feel as if a great weight had been lifted from their shoulders. They may enter a sort of right-wing Zen state, in which all things disintegrate into red, white, and blue pieces. Then, perhaps, the magic dynamite will come.

And if it doesn't, well, they'll all get jobs at think tanks anyway.