Friday, March 26, 2010

PANTLOAD AND THE PERFESSER DO AMERICA. Every once in a while some smartass tells me about something awful at Pajamas TV. That pisses me off, because PJTV wisely doesn't offer transcripts, which means I have to watch the fucking things if I want to keep up.

A few of you recently lured me to a chat between the Ole Perfesser and Jonah Goldberg. This promised the greatest team-up since Beavis and Butt-head, but alas, these two titans are not at their best. Nonetheless, some highlights:

• The Perfesser asks why "conservative intellectuals" like David Brooks have "not a lot of enthusiasm" for the totally awesome Tea Party movement. "There are different reactions from different people," muses Goldberg, "but you're right to generalize."

That could be the Shorter! But let's press on:

• Goldberg finds it "really bizarre" that Brooks compared the Tea Parties to the old New Left. Why, the New Left was "seeking to tear down existing institutions," says Goldberg, whereas the TP movement is "about restoration. There's a reason why they're buying all these books about the American Founding, why they're constantly talking about Thomas Paine and Don't Tread on Me."

That these alleged restorationists are attracted mainly to the most violent Revolutionary sentiments rather than, say, The Federalist Papers does not alert Goldberg to any contradiction, even when the Perfesser later elaborates that back in the colonial era, it was assumed that "if the government went too far, the people would just rise up in a body, it would be an organic thing" -- presumably like Shay's Rebellion, defeat of which began our long descent from the libertarian Valhalla of the Articles of Confederation to the Era of Big Gummint. (Or was it a false-flag operation?)

(BTW, do they know Paine thought Washington was an asshole?)

• Goldberg, in a semi-coherent ramble about the populism of the Ross Perot Reform Party, says that in '92 "the timing was just wrong because of Clinton and Bush I and the rest." Too bad there was no citizen journalist on hand to ask him the Tough Questions as to what he meant by that.

• The Perfesser gets down with The People! "The minute they do get interested in politics," he says, "everybody is basically saying 'why are all these ordinary Americans out there, shouldn't they just listen to their betters?' And actually that 'listen to their betters' is a lot of the tone I get not just from David Brooks but from a fair-number of sort of higher-level conservative intellectual types..."

The Perfesser quotes no examples of this, but as it's a matter of "tone," rather than actual words, he might have needed to express it via interpretive dance or his techno music, so it's just as well.

• "The Left," says Goldberg, "has bought into this idea that they have the monopoly on authentic protest" -- illustrated by a rant about "hippie kids" of the kind no one has heard since the days of Al Capp -- while conservative intellectuals are "trained to be skeptical of populism and mass-movement protest," which will certainly surprise anyone who's heard of Howard Jarvis and Proposition 13, the Moral Majority, etc.

Goldberg also chides the Left for being quick to call conservatives fascist, which I would find a charming piece of chutzpah if I had any faith that Goldberg knew what the fuck he was saying.

• After Goldberg claims National Review has always "had this internal debate about elitism vs. populism" -- Goldberg portrays William F. Buckley Jr. as a populist, which is like portraying Ernst Rohm as a scoutmaster -- the Perfesser pipes up, "I'm actually happy to be an elitist."

Well, of course he is -- after all, he's a Yalie and a tenured radical, and he's going to be among the elect for real when the Robot Rapture comes! But how's that square with his pitchfork Tea Party fervor? Simple:
I don't think the people running the country are an elite. I think if you look at it, they're not especially bright. They have no track record of especially good success.

What's happened in this country that's gone well over the last 50 years has mostly gone well in spite of the people running the country, not because of it. And so I don't think it's necessarily anti-elitist for groups of people to come up and say that the politicians and the journalists and the pundits are all a bunch of idiots because I think that's objectively a defensible position to take.

And I don't think that's anti-elitism. If you want to be an elitist, one of the things I think you have to be is an elite. It's like, you know, to be a diva, you're not actually just a woman who treats people badly, you're supposed to also be a woman who sings really, really well. And to be an elite, you have to be elite! You have to be good at something! And I look at Nancy Pelosi, or I look at, for that matter David Brooks, I think. what exactly are these people that good at, and I'm still waiting for an answer.
...says the guy doing a video in his rec room.

• "I think you make a good point," says Goldberg. Whereas "elite" is a meaningful term in plumbing, in politics "the word elite gets weird" -- because the political elite is really a "ruling class," or at least they are when they're Democrats, who are defending a "labor union-academic establishment and protecting their own interests to the detriment of society," in contrast to the altruistic oilmen behind George W. Bush.

• After a Perfessorial skein on his previous theme about how Politico is trying to work the "narrative" against the Tea Parties, Goldberg gently explains that Politico just likes to fuck shit up.

Corrected by Jonah Goldberg -- now that's a downfall! Fortunately for the Perfesser, the balance of the universe, and the ongoing cause of comedy, Goldberg immediately takes back the title of Clown Prince of Conservatism by offering as evidence of the Right's superior intellectual vibrancy the ongoing "healthy debate" between order and liberty as exemplified by... Mike Huckabee and Ron Paul.

Next time they should get Goldberg all hopped up on Pibb Xtra before they turn on the cameras. The same basic idea worked for Chris Farley!
JUST FOR FUN. A local correspondent (that means Texas, hoss!) has tipped me to an Austin rightblogger called Urban Grounds and his offering for the day:





This is, I believe, the Inigo Montoya Award Winner of the Decade.

UPDATE. "Honestly," the guy adds in comments, "do you actually believe I don’t know the definition of an antonym?" This reminds me of the TV version of Shogun, when they tried to give Richard Chamberlain a boy and he snarled, "Do you take me for a God-accursed sodomite?"

(Just to save us some time: No, guy, that doesn't mean I'm calling you gay.)

Thursday, March 25, 2010

SHORTER ENTIRE RIGHTWING: All these claims of threats against Democratic legislators, hah! These sissies just can't face up to the will of the people. Plus how do we know it isn't all a fraud? Why, in olden times OH SHIT ERIC CANTOR SAYS SOMEBODY SHOT AT HIS OFFICE DEMOCRATZ ARE OBVS KRAZY MURDERERS!

Bonus: Confederate Yankee, who explained the necessity of violence yesterday, is outraged by this alleged assault, and blames Rep. John Lewis.

This is why I tend to be phlegmatic about this kind of story -- not because they're necessarily untrue, but because by the time such reports get to us punters, there's nothing left but bloody shirts and instructions for waving them.
IF AT FIRST YOU DON'T SUCCEED... Tom "Not the Total Wingnut in the CA GOP Senate Race" Campbell says everyone knew he supported gay marriage before Maggie Gallagher of the He-Man Faggot Haters' Club produced a smear ad based on that fact. Gallagher says no, they didn't:
But before we launched that ad, we polled... Bottom line? Tom is wrong. Just 2 percent of his own voters know he favors gay marriage...

Bottom line: I think Tom Campbell is about to find out, as Dede Scozzafava did, that it is not a good idea to be for gay marriage if you are Republican.
Despite the superfluity of bottom lines, this is a great comparison, and a great idea in general: Alert voters up and down the state how much Republicans despise homosexuals, and seek thus to replicate the results of the Doug Hoffman-Dede Scozzafava-Bill Owens race -- in which conservatives triumphed by dooming the Republican candidate and electing the Democrat. If it worked that well in conservative upstate New York, imagine how it'll go over in California!

Please, Republicans, more Maggie Gallagher! We could use the laughs.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

WHAT COMES AFTER DERANGEMENT? Conservative rage at the passage of the health care reform bill provides many opportunities for hilarity, and Sadly, No! and others have been slatherin' on the schadenfreude. But some of the featured performers in this circus are, I find, getting a little too weird for funsies.

Take Confederate Yankee, tightly-wrapped even under the best conditions, and today particularly deformed by anger.

First there is, as you might expect from someone whose cognomen proudly celebrates treason in defense of slavery, a badly-encrypted threat of violence:
Some are calling for the armed revolt against this encroaching tyranny. It was for this specific reason, after all, that our Founders made sure Americans would not be denied the use of arms.

Some misguided souls seem to already be responding to this affront to liberty with violence. I fail to find the usefulness or utility of such symbolic and largely impotent acts. This sort of petty vandalism is not what the Founders sought to protect.
Nay, not for such as the Founders the mere breaking of windows:
They sought to protect our right to replace—yes, overthow—would-be tyrants and rouges that history has taught us always eventually arrive to usurp power and run roughshod over the rights of the people.
Yes, a big-time rightblogger is calling for insurrection over National Romneycare. I'd mischievously suggest we call on his bigger-time buddies to denounce him, but that's a mug's game, and what would be the point?

His follow-up is just sad. A North Carolina report finds an employed-but-not-yet-insured fellow with diabetes, DeCarlo Flythe, who is happy about the bill, because he and his family will soon have access to medicine -- "we are going to go ahead and pay our co-pay and be alright." Check your own feelings on this: Happy for him? Maybe a little cynical about the plan being as much "like Christmas" as Flythe wishes to believe? Unless you are an untreated survivor of horrific child abuse, you probably didn't feel anything like what the Confederate expresses toward "un-men like DeCarlo Flythe and other dependent wards of the welfare state":
For dim souls like Flythe, Obamacare certainly seems to be an answer to their worries. In the short term, IRS agents will confiscate monies from those of us who pay taxes to pay for his inability to take care of his own family. Obamacare will pay for his diabetic medicines, and his eventual blindness. After all, with me and you picking up the tab, there is little incentive for Flythe to change his behavior to help regulate his diabetes.
This is the sort of Randroidal contempt for the less-fortunate you usually get from Megan McArdle, and though I am inclined to give the Confederate credit for sparing us McArdle's trademark self-pity, he loses it by advancing a non-fact -- "Obamacare promises a near stasis in medical care" -- as a reason for his concern. He's already made himself quite clear, and that feint suggests he doesn't even have the courage of his loathsome convictions.

Confederate Yankee may be sui generis, but polling suggests there are plenty more like him back home, and some of them may yet learn to read and write.

Monday, March 22, 2010

NEW VOICE COLUMN UP. Yeah, I'm still doing these on Mondays, for the time being. Today's is about the Jesus angle on that health care bill passage anguish. Some Catholic groups had gotten involved with the struggle, which afforded ripe opportunities for hilarity, as well as a chance to introduce new readers to The Anchoress at her most stupidly vicious, laying down Catholic doctrine to actual churchmen and churchwomen from her little suburban fake-nun castle. Jesus, what an awful person she is.

Part of me wanted to get in on the nigger/faggot tea party thing, but first-hand reporting was sparse and I wasn't sure whom to believe, frankly. On the one hand, of course Democrats and their fans can get an easy lay-up by reporting they were slurred by neanderthals -- who besides the Ole Perfesser and likeminded doofuses would disbelieve them?

And they'd have cause to believe -- despite the Perfesser's carefulness to find the few black folk at these events and get pictures of them, anyone who's been to one of these shindigs knows the score. My own coverage of the early tea parties as well as their Version 2.0 showed me that the overseers of the tea parties want to make them as mainstream as they possibly can, and have cooled out the original hot rhetoric insofar as they have been able to. But, let's face it -- it's not a grassroots movement, it's a rightwing movement that wants to look grassroots, and such gatherings are bound to, of necessity, pull in some straight, white, and loose cannons of the slur-slinging variety.

So the words may have been said. The irony is, even if they were, I doubt they'd reflect much more that the deep-seated prejudices of some of the participants -- and if that were a crime, as Hamlet said, who should 'scape whipping? That's America, folks. The real question is, why and how did the equivalent of Orange County John Birch Society meetings from the 60s gone al fresco become such a big media deal?

UPDATE. Thomas asks in comments about my remark on "grassroots" in this context.

It's not that I think rightwingers less able to community-organize than liberals, but that I think most "populist" movements in our own era are mere inventions of seasoned political operatives and big moneymen. Like Ross Perot; some populist! (And let's not forget the periodic insistence that Obama, of all people, is a populist too.)

While I wouldn't write off the Tea Parties (and the closely-related anti-health-care rallies) as pure astroturf, they too have some fishy roots and receive a lot of unpaid advertising (you can't reasonably call it "coverage") from the rightbloggers. Their organizers get the crowds to show up, and famously to make their own signs, but not to draw up the agenda; when the big dogs staged those Tea Parties in New York last year, I doubt the congregation was polled to choose S.E. Cupp, Deroy Murdock, and several local Republican candidates for public office as speakers. Those picks were straight off the rightwing comintern go-to list.

Thus, they're stage-managed events, but with an open door policy. Shouters and spitters will turn up at such things and, like I said, it can't be much helped. But the belligerent response of the rightwing press to this revelation suggests stronger message discipline than most grassroots movements could manage: If it were a movement over which they really thought they had NO control, they'd just denounce the racist nuts and move on, rather than try to explain to us, first, that the incidents didn't happen, and second, that they are actually a healthful sign that racism is over.

Friday, March 19, 2010

GREENPOINT APARTMENT, ANYONE? My landlady claims to need help renting my 1BR up here in North Brooklyn. It's relatively cheap. Drop me a line if you're interested.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

DEFINING GALT DOWN. Dr. Mrs. Ole Perfesser talks with an Atlas Society Randroid about Going Galt. It appears they've lowered the bar considerably since they were predicting masses of Bigbrains fucking off to the Gulch and taking Amerika down. Now Dr. Mrs. offers new and "different definitions of Going Galt." There's "the Randian definition... producers going on strike." But it can also mean businesses moving to different states to get tax breaks, and some kid moving her bank account to a credit union. It's E-Z and fun, kids!

The Atlas Guy claims that, just as in the 60s there was a "rising consciousness among blacks about civil rights," people are no longer thinking of themselves as liberals and conservatives, but as "producers and moochers." (Put me down with the moochers! I've been working like a son of a bitch, but I'm willing to learn.) Also, the Tea Party people use Ayn Rand slogans on their signs, which means the revolution against Obama's "socialism" is near.

I wish the PJTV thing more success than they, alas, have so far managed. Tea Parties would last about ten minutes if people got a load of what their Great Minds actually think.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

FOLLOW-UP.

DA, DA, WE LAUGH! I finally saw one of those "Obamafeld" things the Ole Perfesser is pushing. At least the Obama/Seinfeld concept is a new one, and I thought it was promising. But they don't do anything with it except Be Wacky -- you know, a Pizza Nazi throws pizza at Ben Nelson, Joe Biden's a drunk, Scott Brown is dreamy, etc.

I don't think the makers have ever actually seen a Seinfeld episode. It has the same off-the-mark, trying-too-hard feel as their attempted viralizing of catchphrases like "stuck on stupid" and their attempts to convince the world that everyone's Goin' Galt. It's like they don't have an actual sense of humor, but were still determined to create some comedy because the Central Committee ordered it.

You know, I want to like these things. First of all, I prefer jokes that are funny to those that are not. Second, I get tired of having to haul out Evelyn Waugh, yet again, as an example of a Tory who had some artistic and humorous sensibilities. Any kind of person can hear the muses and everyone has a sense of humor.

I think it's because they're eager to play populist but have forgotten what people are actually like. They have a list of talking points -- People love humor! And irreverence! And pop culture! -- and make sure to check off all the boxes when they create some cultural ordnance. But it doesn't seem like they do much actually laughing, as opposed to heh-indeeding.

And they sure flip out when someone makes fun of them -- which is something else they bizarrely think will endear people to them.

This is probably not advice I'd be offering if I didn't think they were too deranged to take it, but if they just relaxed a little it would not only improve their efforts, but also their electoral prospects and maybe even their lives.

Monday, March 15, 2010

SHORTER ROSS DOUTHAT. Liberal Hollyweird, just like that hack Mark Twain, cannot comprehend the Shakespearean tragedy that is the Iraq War. Were I a playwright rather than a pundit, Bush would be Hamlet, and Claudius his father, Saddam Hussein.
NEW VOICE COLUMN UP, about the schoolbook mishegas in Texas (my new home!). Many of the brethren approve of the proposed changes, but some seem a little guilty about it -- they're happy to see von Hayek in there, but don't say much about the weird, specific deletions of Anne Hutchinson, Thomas Jefferson, Colin Powell, et alia -- tip-offs that the new program is not just about showing a little pride in capitalism ('scuse, "the free market" -- that's planned to be changed, too), but an attempt to make history lessons less inclusive rather than more.

And more Jesusy. "If God were good enough for our founders and Creator-language important enough to be in pivotal documents like the Declaration of Independence," thunders World Net Daily, "then why can't our kids be educated about that Creator from at least their original documents?" But the original documents may not be emphatic enough, so the author is working to give them some modern conservative context:
Maintaining a balanced curricula in our public schools is the reason my wife, Gena, and I joined the board of "The National Council of Bible Curriculum in Public Schools," whose state certified Bible course (elective) has been implemented in 532 public school districts (2,035 high schools) in 38 states.
He counsels readers to "consider petitioning your state's education board, school district and local school to adopt 'The National Council of Bible Curriculum in Public Schools' curriculum about the influence of the Bible in history, civilization, law, literature and the founding of America." Highly recommended: the module about how that turn-the-other-cheek stuff was just rhetoric.

Jeremy Binckes has a great backgrounder on the conservative curricula reviewers here.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

SERVICE ADVISORY. After a brief lull, you have reason to expect a great spike in production here at alicublog.

The spike will be because I'll soon be leaving the Village Voice. Amazingly, there is no related scandal or dispute; I'm only leaving the Voice because I'm leaving New York. I will be relocating to a small town in Texas to live with my girlfriend.

Yeah, I was surprised too. But beneath this gruff exterior, I am actually a terrible romantic, and once I decided I wanted to live with her, living without her was out of the question.

I felt that way for a long time about New York. This would be my cue to lament the decline of the place, as I have frequently done at the Voice blog, but I can't. God forbid I should become one of those sullen expatriates who tells everyone New York is over because he left.

No. New York remains the capital of everywhere. I went Friday evening to the Whitney to take in the Biennial, and even though most of the art was crap (though not Robert Williams, nor George Condo and Nina Berman and Stephanie Sinclair and Hanna Liden and a few others), it was still a good time, with the Black Monks of Mississippi singing in the basement and the sort of people who would find this sort of thing interesting swirling around me, and pizza at Totonno's afterward. You don't get this sort of thing where I'm going, or anywhere else.

More to the point, New York has been my home. It hasn't always been an easy place to live, but if I was ever bored it was my own fault. Here I've been chased by cops in the Tompkins Square riot, and heard Allen Ginsburg read poetry there some days after ("Look, I'm wearing a tie -- am I a yuppie?"); fretted with my Williamsburg neighbors as the ruins of the Twin Towers smoked on the horizon; walked over the Williamsburg Bridge during a blackout; spilled a giant thug's beer in a basement after-hours, apologetically bought him a new one, and been rewarded with fat lines of coke; read poetry at St. Mark's Church; played CBGB so many times I forgot it was a shrine; been advised by Jimmy Breslin on how to talk to cops, handed a flyer by Jean-Michel Basquiat, advised on my music career by Lieber and Stoller, given a tour of Terry Teachout's art collection, yelled at by Hilly Kristal and several members of the NYPD. And at the Voice I held a desk next to Tom Robbins. Everywhere I met remarkable people, because this is one of the places they like to be, and saw and did remarkable things, because here they happen all the time.

So, no. Not for me the route of that rootless anti-cosmopolitan Rod Dreher, telling people how mean the urban teens were to him before fucking off to Dallas. I was blessed to live here, and I'll always be grateful and proud. And if this poor woman ever figures out what a horrible mistake she's made, you may see me back in the Big Town, living under a bridge.

I've been to Texas a number of times but I barely know what I'm in for. I know it's pretty there, and they have some good people. And that it's the only place in the country that gives New York serious competition for the most self-regarding jurisdiction on earth (heard on the radio: "Thunderstorms and Tyler roses always make me think of you"), which I can appreciate. I expect I'll learn to two-step and handle a gun, and if I wear a hat I'll tip it to the ladies.

As for work, I'll be freelancing to start, so if you have any leads let me know. Also I expect to stop suffering and write that symphony, or something like that.

I thank the Voice for the platform and for more kindnesses than anyone has a right to expect, especially from journalists. (I expect to do some more work for them and I'll let you know when I do.)

Meanwhile, if you want me, you can find me here.
LA VIE BULLSHIT. Ann Althouse does one of those piquant posts (so clever, she is) where she affects to challenge Rush Limbaugh, who criticizes Nancy Pelosi for offering health care to artists and other parasites. It has nothing to do with anything (Pelosi is talking about employed people, not starry wannabees), but the boobs Althouse has cultivated for years react with the expected Ah hates me a art-faggitt! ("The only thing at which [art] succeeds is polishing the egos of the elite") responses.

My favorite among those:
I write, and I hope to be published and I hope to make decent money... but I'd love to do a thousand other creative things I'm not very good at, if I could afford to do them. The writer's life... an artists life... who wouldn't find long days of unfettered creativity delightful?
Oh, deary, you have no idea.

UPDATE. Further down it gets even better:
Even thick-skulled Hollywood types have been able to weasel in on the fun and turn it to their advantage. In order to be considered a person of brilliance and great compassion they simply suck up to some bullshit Lib cause. Nothing says "I'm a deep-thinking artiste" like getting the rubber stamp of approval from some shit-for-brains organization like Greenpeace or PETA. Blasting coke up your nose while smacking around strippers and driving 140 miles per hour is totally cool as long as you wear the right ribbon on your lapel.
Where does one get jobs like that? Oh right -- via the free market! I'm still unsure about Greenpeace's and PETA's roles in it, though; perhaps commenters can enlighten me. I could go for a gig like that, and I'm willing to wear ribbons.

UPDATE 2: Dan Riehl gets in on it: "We owe, not only our modern living standards, but our political freedom to capitalism... If the world were to run off to create mostly bad art, who is it that will be running the engine to subsidize it?" Yeah, you airy-fairies, some of us man up and blog, like Adam Smith intended. Hit my "Make a Donation" button and help keep capitalism alive!

This whole thing is giving me a retro thrill. I really thought even the denser types had stopped reacting to the Damned Artist of the Day as if he were their own no-good son who needs to cut out all the nonsense and go work at the plant like his daddy. Now the laughter is back, and every day is Footloose!

Friday, March 12, 2010

FUNDAMENTALLY UNSOUND. Some conservatives are enraged that that Politico did a story about evangelical disapproval of the Tea Parties -- mostly, though not exclusively, because the Party people don't engage social issues, which is an observable strategy of some TP organizers and seems calculated to broaden their appeal, like getting pictures of the dozens of black people who have attended the events.

As they're trying to bring new recruits into their anti-Obama juggernaut (they're always claiming that it's "non-partisan"), you wouldn't think the TP people would take so hard a story noticing one of their points of difference from traditional GOP feeder streams. If they just wanted another Moral Majority, they could always reanimate the old one, and maybe call it the Jesus Party and hand out loaves and fishes instead of teabags.

But the Ole Perfesser says Politico's Ben Smith "was used," and is part of the ominous "they" who are "afraid of this movement" and thus "trying to divide it." (Smith has gotten that kind of treatment from the other side as well, and I doubt he minds.) Gateway Pundit yells that Smith quoted an Obama supporter, but doesn't mention the quotes from Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council et alia. Evidently the differentiation of their movement is something they prefer to keep quiet.

Robert Stacy McCain, in a refreshing approach, takes the story for granted and yells at Christians who are not sufficiently attuned to the "moral argument for economic freedom."

This is all familiar from other recent dustups between conservatives and the fundies, whose coalition isn't what it used to be. I understand the dilemma -- they still want those godly votes, but don't want to run any more Terry Schiavo operations lest they scare the ungodly. But good luck keeping other people from noticing.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

THE QUINTESSENCE OF DREHERISM. Rod Dreher repeats a story about "How rock killed the Soviet Union." He applauds when "Vitya pulled the new Zeppelin LP out of what at the time was a mind-blowing sleeve and put it on, and 'Whole Lotta Love' rose up with a beckoning howl. Corks formed of cloying Soviet music flew out of our ears..."

Then Dreher does the old needle-scratch:
But any force that powerful must be just as capable of being used for evil as for good. I recall reading Allan Bloom's "The Closing of the American Mind"...
I'll spare you; he used to think Bloom was an old fuddy-duddy. (And he was, though his fans are much worse.) But:
Now, I see that I was wrong, but I don't say that in an ideological sense. It's not that I've turned on rock and roll -- most of my music collection is rock -- but that I see that Bloom was onto something, that rock is a far more ambiguous a phenomenon than I could possibly have grasped at 21. To the extent that rock music hastened the demise of the despicable Soviet regime, hooray. But the same energies called forth from the human spirit by rock music, and its descendants, have affected our own institutions, traditions and self-understanding.
This is sort of a classic Dreher argument. Rock is a powerful force -- like gelignite or opposable thumbs -- but it can be used for good or for ill. To determine which is which, see Rod Dreher's music collection.

The ass-shaking music Dreher likes is good. (Like Thriller. That's okay.) The "barbarism" of George Michael's "I Want Your Sex," on the other hand, is bad, as Dreher discovered in college after a Christian gave him a hard time about it: "He did make me reflect on how the lyrics of so many songs I dearly loved expressed sentiments I found at the time distasteful, and, as I matured, would come to find gross."

But what about "Whole Lotta Love," which blew the corks out of the Russians' ears? You gotta admit that's pretty raunchy. Maybe Dreher can work up a project at Templeton that will extract the song's tyranny-defying power while leaving out the sexually suggestive parts -- which would include the bass, drums, guitar, and vocals.

George Michael, by the way, appears to be very popular in the former Soviet Union.

It's a good thing that no one told Dreher when he was young that he looked ridiculous when he was dancing, or, when he was a child, that playing with a ball was infantile. Or maybe they did; maybe that explains him.

Monday, March 08, 2010

A RINGER. I'm pretty sure this item at Big Government by one "Mytheos Holt" is a parody that got past the irony-deficient staff there. Holt posits that "the current youth ethos embodied by internet subculture is fundamentally conservative in character, even if its denizens have not yet caught on to that fact," and believes this will become apparently as die Kinder start attacking liberals with.... parody websites and 4chan.
...even if you accept the framing of such sites as hotbeds of craziness and rabid disorder, there is a method to their madness. As for what that madness is, once you get past the persistent ironic glorifications of perversity and take a look at how the people who frequent these sites actually behave, and more importantly, who they target, it becomes abundantly clear that not only are the values of such sites fundamentally conservative, but that their communications strategies, even if toned down for a mainstream audience, are nothing less than the perfect weapons for disassembling the Obama Presidency...

While one can disapprove of the tactics used against these institutions/individuals (some of which make the much vilified “enhanced interrogation techniques” look positively benign by comparison), it is worth noting that ultimately, the power of internet goons lies in their ability to enforce social norms against the most flagrantly vile members of society through private sanction – something which conservatives from Russell Kirk and Irving Kristol to Tom Coburn and Dick Cheney have endorsed.
A blazing tell: He refers with approval to the fanciful South Park Conservative craze. From the comments, he seems to have put it over. Unmask, young Holt, and take credit! You needn't keep the game up merely to encourage them to embarrass themselves; nothing can stop them from keeping it up.

UPDATE. Commenters include people who've been following Holt's career awhile and will attest that he does indeed believe crap like this. Damn! I thought I'd found a great parodist, and ended up with merely another in an endless series of raving lunatics.
NEW VOICE COLUMN UP, about the struggle to identify the Pentagon shooter John Patrick Bedell with one ideological faction or another. This sort of thing reminds me of a graffiti thread from a library bathroom in my college days that began "Adam and Eve Were Black" and went back and forth on this theme until someone thundered in bold marker BIG SHIT WHAT COLOR THEY WERE.

Such disputes, alas, are not as easily resolved online. There Bedell is associated with the left for several reasons, including the natural cheerlessness of liberals, which apparently drives us to kill. The need to operate a keyboard isn't the barrier to entry we once thought it was.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

WHAT WE DO IS SECRET. Nick Gillespie on the libertarian content of punk rock in... San Francisco, taking off from a new book which "focuses on the Bay Area scene that ultimately gave rise to Green Day and other acts." A pretty damning indictment all around.
In the beginning, or near the beginning anyway, were groups such as the Dead Kennedys, whose scandalous name was of a piece with a wicked sense of humor that produced underground hits such as "California Uber Alles" (an attack on liberal Gov. Jerry Brown as a crypto-fascist who forced kids to "meditate in school") and "Holiday in Cambodia" (which taunted left-wing poverty tourists). "We weren't trying to tell people what to do," explains member East Bay Ray. "Our thing was to try to get people to think." (Sadly, this last directive seems to have escaped the defunct band's lead singer, Jello Biafra, whose recent interview in The Daily Beast is chock full of banal observations about politics and contemporary America.)
Jello changed, man. He's forgotten where he came from when he wrote songs like "Liberal Fascist Punks, Fuck Off."

(Here's an interesting article on Jerry Brown by Reason's Jesse Walker.)

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

IT'S YOUR MEANS I QUESTION. The Southern Poverty Law Center has complained of the rise of right-wing hate groups, and the response is as you might imagine. One of these days I may get to find out more about these hundreds of groups. But Robert Stacy McCain encouraged me to look at one.
This a non-profit organization founded by Robert Schultz, a hyper-litigious critic of the Internal Revenue Service.

"We the People" appears to be generally libertarian in orientation...
McCain then asks a spokesperson for We the People if they're "some kind of violent militia-type outfit." They say no. There you go, says McCain:
How many peaceful citizens like Lesha Martin are lumped together to create the "grim and alarming portrait . . . of extremist organizations" presented by the SPLC?
The Ole Perfesser hehindeeds: "THE GREAT HATE HYPE: Are Libertarians Dangerous? Yeah. They want to not boss you around! Tremble in fear!!!!!"

We the People has an interesting site, where they declare themselves dedicated to "building the critical mass needed to invoke the en masse program of citizen resistance, vigilance and action needed to restore our Constitution." To find out more, Read All About It in the Articles of Freedom, to which they direct you; it was drawn up by citizen-delegates chosen in a "Constitutionally-correct" fashion, and among other things declares:
We have a fiat currency, in violation of the money clauses of Article I...

We have a fraudulently ratified 16th Amendment in violation of Article V, a direct, un-apportioned tax on labor in violation of the tax clauses of Article I, and a judicial system that refuses to consider the evidence, in violation of Article III...

We have a President who apparently is not a natural born citizen, a violation of Article II...

...We demand that Government immediately re-establish Constitutional Rule of Law, lest the People be forced to do so themselves; and we hereby serve notice that in the Defense of Freedom and Liberty there shall be NO COMPROMISE to which we shall ever yield...

...Any infringement on the Liberty and Freedom of the People as enumerated in the Constitution is an act of WAR against the people and the People and their Militias have the Right and Duty to repel it...

...this Body appeals to the People to secure their sovereignty by any and all means necessary. This body recognizes that if or when force is brought to bear on the People, it is the Right of the People to meet that force with equal force; be it from a foreign body, or the misuse of domestic power...

Recommended Civic Actions by the People... To live our lives as free individuals, not ceding any authority to the federal
government which we have not expressly granted to it in our Constitution; and to disobey, when appropriate, any unconstitutional laws; and use every means at our disposal to challenge usurpations through the courts, political action, and any other means deemed necessary.
The 18th-Century getup little disguises their intent. The government is corrupt and ruled by a Kenyan; therefore, we can react to it as if it were Britain and We the People were the Continental Army.

Sounds like they want to do more than "not boss me around."

Monday, March 01, 2010

NEW VOICE COLUMN UP, about the conservative vogue for attacking Teddy Roosevelt. It should be noted that this is an existing theme, but was recently given a boost by Glenn Beck, whose denunciation of Roosevelt the brethren felt compelled to defend. Soon they'll just have Reagan, Gerald Ford, and maybe, in gatherings where no Southerners are present, Lincoln.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

HONORS ARE EASY. The study purporting to show that Liberals R Smarter is disputed by PZ Myers and that's good enough for me. (Myers is also referred by a blind link from -- and has chunks of his writing taken without attribution by -- No Sheeples Here, who probably doesn't want his readers to know he's relying on liberals to dispute liberal superiority.)

In general I take these things no more seriously than I take Charles Murray's insistences that black people are stupid -- or similar claims that conservatives R smarter, or happier, and such like.

This may in part be due to my utter ignorance of the cognitive sciences, but it also has to do with my experience of actual human beings, whom I have found fascinatingly varied in their abilities whatever their respective races, ideologies, etc.

Sometimes I talk as if I think conservatives are stupid or crazy or both, but I know from experience they aren't all like that. Many of the ones I write about seem to be, but maybe they're just putting it on for the public -- I notice that such behavior often gets them a lot of traffic.

And that might not even say anything about their readers, either; I don't think people who go to horror movies are necessarily monsters or serial killers.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

A FULL DAY. The Corner has been full of gems today. On the matter of the health care summit, its authors go passive-aggressive, either declaring that they don't care about it (Ramesh Ponnuru even going so far as to say he'd read a book instead!) to rustling up "reader" emails that declared Paul Ryan the big "winner."

Yuval Levin says Obama looked bad because "he doesn’t seem like the President of the United States -- more like a slightly cranky committee chairman or a patronizing professor who thinks that saying something is 'a legitimate argument' is a way to avoid having an argument." Maybe some of the 0.013 percent of the electorate who watched will agree with Levin; more likely the younger of them will be mystified by the spectacle of a President able to maintain, in complete sentences, a discussion with experts.

Levin later responds to Obama, who mischievously asked if the health care benefits government employees received, and which he proposes to give to all Americans, are "socialism": "Well sure they aren’t, but isn’t treating all Americans as though they were employees of the federal government a bit like socialism?" Now your boss has a new excuse when you ask for Martin Luther King Day off.

But this circus is just meant to distract you from the real crime, says Andy McCarthy -- that is, the Cruel, Inhuman And Degrading Interrogations Prohibition Act, which seeks to make some forms of torture expressly illegal -- or, as McCarthy puts it, "Democrats are saying they would prefer to see tens of thousands of Americans die than to see a KSM subjected to sleep-deprivation or to have his 'phobias exploited.'" (The Act was later pulled, in a great victory for Andy McCarthy and children who like to pull the wings off flies and wish to be assured of government jobs when they grow up.)

Ponnuru, tired of reading, emerges to provide an object lesson in Republican health care strategy:
Mickey Kaus argues that passing Obamacare is the only way the Democrats can disprove the Republican charges against it. "For months, both GOP and Fox hosts have been talking about socialized medicine and death panels and vicious Medicare cuts and the government coming between you and your doctor, etc. If Democrats pass the bill and none of this happens, Republican opponents will be more than defeated. They'll be discredited." Maybe. But if taxes and premiums rise and people don't see benefits from this big expensive comprehensive bill, maybe not. . . . Do Democrats really believe not only that this legislation is going to have positive effects but that its transition rules have been so well-designed that its short-term effects will quickly be seen as positive?
Translation: OK, we won't be able to get away with that bullshit anymore, but maybe the plan will take time to work. Then we can get started on our next line of bullshit!

And there's Jay Nordlinger, strewing aperçus like rose petals ("Calvin and Hobbes, Bloom County, The Far Side — where do they go? [That was merely rhetorical.]") He devotes a few paragraphs to the japes of panhandlers he and others have encountered:
I also mention, in my column, the most charming thing I ever heard a panhandler say: “Would you like to contribute to the United Negro Pizza Fund?” I did. That man was in Washington, D.C., I believe. A reader writes to say that he knew such a man in Albany, N.Y. — a man who used that line regularly. “I wonder who is training beggars to use that clever approach.”

Finally, a different reader writes, “You’ve reminded me of a sign I saw in San Francisco. The man said he wanted money for ‘alcoholism research.’” That’s the spirit! (No pun intended.)
Next week, he'll tell us that he saw some Mexicans on the subway singing "Guantanamero," and marvel that they had strayed so far from their homeland.

Inevitably, there is Goldberg. Challenged by a Ron Paul fan who imagines Goldberg has insulted him, he dances around, saying the Paulites don't really have anything ("If/when the Fed does get audited, it will be a lot like the search for WMDs in Iraq"), but "I'm with where Ron Paul where it matters" -- that is, he thinks his stupid Fed audit should be done even though it's useless. That's how Goldberg makes friends when he doesn't have a spare bag of Cheetos. And along the way he gives us one of the better Goldbergisms:
I also think it's funny how so many people (on the left and right) love to dismiss stuff from the MSM when it contradicts their ideological positions, but cling to it as God's proof they're right when it seems to confirm their position.
It's like he missed the entire internet, not to mention his own career.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

DON'T HATE THE PLAYER, HATE THE GAME. Maggie Gallagher has seen the Tiger Woods show trial confession, and admits "we cannot help but wonder how much of it is sincere and how much of it is image management." Nonetheless she imagines an alternate scenario, in which Woods said something like:
"Yes, I'm sorry. I'm sorry that I misled you and the American public into imagining that I was some kind of role model. Elin and I will be divorcing and I wish her well and will support our children. But right now both my image and my marriage need to be brought in line with reality. I'm not a role model. I'm just a man who's really really good at hitting golf balls into holes. I look forward to returning to the golf course to win back the title of greatest golfer in the world. In the future, I won't comment on my private life. I will let my golfing do the talking from here on out."

And it would work. As Pig Woods, Tiger can be rich, famous, successful and lie with and to models and Perkins waitresses to his heart's content -- and nobody will care.
It's as if Woods didn't lose significant market value, or lose a boatload of endorsement deals over his peccadilloes. And it was only going to get worse: As a celebrity endorsement expert said, "When celebrities do things that negatively affect a corporate deal, the legal terms typically end up more in the corporation’s favor the next time."

Tiger Woods is not just a man -- he's an industry. And industries don't get to say, fuck it, who needs those extra millions, we're going to do as we please. A lot of salaries are riding on good image management.

But in the culture wars, it's always yesterday: The days of Charles Barkley and Dennis Rodman, when general weariness with moral uplift briefly opened a market niche for bad boy sports stars. The market has adjusted meanwhile, and only a very small amount of "edge" is permitted to major players. If you don't believe it, scan gossipy sports sites like With Leather, and see how few hell-yeah-I'm-a-horndog sportsmen they're able to find; most of the scandalicious bits have to do with sports stars who got caught despite themselves -- like Tiger Woods. You're more likely to find a baller profusely apologizing for his nude photos than one bragging on them.

And that's because of something culture warriors never worry about: money. The pros are making ridiculous money. If it enables their fantasy fulfillment, as Woods said in his press conference ("[I felt] that I deserved to enjoy all the temptations around me... thanks to money and fame, I didn't have to go far to find them"), dollars demand that they keep that well under wraps lest a whiff of scandal discourage some major advertiser.

If Woods thought he would get caught, or was trying to get caught, as his behavior suggests, his handlers would consider that a psychological rather than a moral issue. And judging from the Soviet nature of his self-denunciation, it appears the "therapy" recommended to him is taking hold.

"He really wants to be the Tiger we once thought we knew and loved," says Gallagher. "And you have to love a guy -- at least a little -- for that." If Gallagher thinks what animates Woods' fans' purchases of anything with his name on it is "love," she's got more problems than I ever imagined.

Monday, February 22, 2010

NEW VOICE COLUMN UP, about CPAC and the Ron Paul straw poll victory. The brethren seem mostly dismissive of the result, though they continue to talk up CPAC as a meaningful event. The smarter play is to dismiss Paul but claim, as Patrick Ruffini does, that Paul's victory shows the new vigor of the conservative movement:
In terms of grassroots organization, Paul supporters are some of the best -- if not the best -- that we have. The iconography of the tea party movement is heavily libertarian (think the Gadsden Flag) and that's no coincidence. If you broke down the organizers and even those in attendance, you'd find more than your fair share of Ron Paul supporters...

In terms of organizing, conservatives can learn a lot from libertarians. Online, the moneybomb concept originally pioneered during the Ron Paul campaign has started to work for more conventional Republicans like Scott Brown.
In other words, hate the messenger, but love the marketing; get some of that flavor on mainstream stiffs, and victory is assured. He compares the Paulites to the Christian fundamentalists the Republicans got on board years ago, and who have only lately begun to suspect that they've been played. It remains to be seen how long it would take for the Paul people to catch on if Mitt Romney started wearing rEVOLution t-shirts.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

BUCKLEY, WAKE UP, THEY HAVE GONE MAD. People have been talking about the return of the John Birch Society at CPAC, and about Ron Paul's victory in the CPAC straw poll, but I was more interested in Glenn Beck's assertion that Herbert Hoover was a liberal who single-handedly caused the depression through his outrageous government spending.

That Beck was not struck dead by a lightning bolt proves there is no God.

Friday, February 19, 2010

AFFIRMATIVE ACTION. Randy Haddock:
What’s Olbermann’s evidence that Tea Parties are overwhelmingly racist? Apparently, that there are no “people of color” at these rallies. That is so blatantly false as to induce uncontrollable laughter.
I'm all about uncontrollable laughter, so I watched his video clip, which offers in evidence no fewer than 21 black people at Tea Party rallies. Total Tea Party attendance, as we have been tirelessly reminded, numbers somewhere around 50 kabillion.

The correct answer to diversity concerns about popular movements is, of course, "so what?" Yet even the explicitly racist British BNP feels compelled to recruit people of color these days. They aren't making right-wingers like they used to, except in one respect: However feeble their effort, they insist on getting top marks for it.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

LOW CHURCH. Mike Potemra's opening is a thing of beauty all by itself:
The question has been raised, Was it appropriate for a Catholic TV network to provide a platform for a torture advocate? In my view, the answer is yes.
You can stop there. But I can't! 'Cause this baby has everything. It has the Appeal to Widespread Belief:
Furthermore, if the polls are to be trusted, he speaks not only for the majority of Americans but for the majority of American Catholics.
Mirabile dictu, the cafeteria is now open! Then, the argument, popular in these precincts since Larry Craig's arrest, that hypocrisy in the defense of hypocrisy is no vice:
I think torture is a great evil, and that the resort to it in the past decade is a black spot on America’s record. But I am not in a stone-throwing mood against people like Marc, because I realize that the accusation that someone is not living to up to his or her religious creed is one of the lowest and least helpful arguments imaginable.
I should have just stayed in the Church; Catholicism seems to have gotten very easy. Now they love the sinner and the sin. It's as if Jesus followed up "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone" with "Right -- carry on being taken in adultery."

But though the Church is greatly changed, some old habits of mind die hard:
Say it’s 1942, and the Nazis, having conquered England and the U.S. eastern seaboard, have developed an H-bomb and plan to use it against St. Louis to bring the rest of the U.S. into submission. American forces in St. Louis have in custody a Nazi agent with knowledge of the specifics that would enable them to foil the attack and turn the tide of the war. The Nazi agent is being uncooperative. I concede that it would be morally wrong to torture him – but I also admit that I would more than likely sacrifice that principle.
I would bet that Potemra is not unacquainted with the fantasy of criminals forcing him at peril of his family's lives to have sex with Megan Fox.

In the last ditch, Potemra goes for that hoary chestnut, the Argument From a Liberal Was Mean to Me. He describes attending a "meeting at a liberal Catholic parish here in New York" about torture, where he starts comparing it to abortion. This is met with "eye-rolling, dark mutterings, and dirty looks." "I’m not so na├»ve as to have thought there would be no pro-choicers there," says Potemra, "but I think I know now what it feels like to have someone read you out of a moral community, even when you’re acting in good faith."

Actually I should have taken holy orders. When my outraged parishioners inevitably caught me in flagrante, I could have answered that they were all being pretty judgmental for a bunch of sinners who probably cheated on their income tax.

Though I can't be sure that this sort of thing works anywhere but on rightwing websites.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

KILLING JOKE. This post by Jonah Goldberg got me thinking more seriously about his case than usual. He starts out okay:
A bunch of people have sent me this story (via Drudge) revealing that the University of Alabama shooter was a leftwinger. A few, at times contradictory, reactions: First: So what? It's hard to figure out how her political attitudes figure into her motives for murdering these people.
Then, in what appears to be an attempt at logical jiu-jitsu:
But one of the things I take away from this is that there are a lot of crazy people in academia. There's something about the tolerant atmosphere of campus life, plus the way really, really, odd or dysfunctional people can get by, that makes them havens for the maladjusted. Obviously, the vast, vast majority of these oddballs are harmless and decent people. But the few dangerous ones don't stick out as much as they might elsewhere.
Someone protests that he's dissing academics. You might imagine he'd fart his way out of it, as in his dogs-rule posts, but instead he thrashes:
I think the reader is misreading me. I didn't say that all or most academics are crazy, merely that academia tolerates weirdness in ways most other sphere don't (government bureaucracies come close). I've had this conversation with a lot of professional academics, and I've never met one who really disagrees with me. Walk through through the stacks in a college library sometime, some of those carrels are homes to some truly Tolkienesque creatures.
It becomes increasingly obvious that Goldberg was writing a joke post, based on the cultural assumptions of which such things are made (by me too) -- but he didn't know it was a joke. And it strikes me that he probably feels the same way about the silly dogs-vs.-cats stuff, and everything else he writes.

Suddenly I'm beginning to see what Liberal Fascism was really about.

(The Steven Hayward post Goldberg finds "more persuasive" is totally insane, btw.)
IT'S THE LITTLE RED BOOK THAT MAKES EVERYTHING WORK. John Fund's Journal editorial has a promising title -- "Why Bayh Is Quitting the Senate." It quotes Bayh, too -- 48 words' worth. It quotes 64 words by Ronald Reagan. Some of these are from Reagan's version of a John Dryden poem, but Fund also includes a 28-word quote from Larry Kudlow paraphrasing Reagan.

Reagan has sort of become like Confucius to these people -- everything they need to know about anything is in the Analects.

Monday, February 15, 2010

NEW VOICE COLUMN UP, about the calls for the impeachment of Captain America after he said some mean things about the tea parties in a freaking comic book. I liked the culture war better when it had sex instead of superheroes.

I noticed along the way that The Falcon's claim that the crowds look awfully white drew counterclaims that there are, too, black people at tea parties. Instapundit always seems to find such African-Americans as there are at these shindigs, and to take their picture for posterity. So far I think he has maybe a couple dozen. Mudville Gazette explains that perhaps black people are scared they'll get beat up by liberals like Kenneth Gladney was and that's why they're not making the scene. With a little better security, I'm sure these events would look more like old Benetton ads. (I think Conservative Blog Watch is on surer ground: "How many black people are in Boise Idaho in the first place?")

Friday, February 12, 2010

SHORTER RIEHL WORLD VIEW: You say a guy who's in an anti-government organization was stockpiling weapons to use against the government? What makes you think it had anything to do with that venerable organization? I'd be looking at his wife, who tipped the police off to him and has filed a restraining order. Bitches will drive you nuts!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

SPIN CITY. It's not my way, you know, to just link something and go "read the whole thing." But I'll make an exception for John Cole on how a speculative, decent bill may become anathema, first on the fringe, then in the what-liberal media, and then for opportunistic purposes by wet Democratic legislators:
Somewhere around this time, Randy Scheuenemann and Meg Stapleton would post a bunch of nonsense on Palin’s facebook page, maybe declaring that Americorps is just like Hitler Youth Corps. This would get picked up by the Weekly Standard’s resident Palin fluffer, Matt Continetti, repeated by the increasingly loathesome Michael Goldfarb, and mainstreamed into CNN by Stephen Hayes in one of his typical fact-free appearances. Bill Kristol would pick up the ball and run with it, and before you know it, Fred Hiatt’s fishwrap would have 20 editorials railing against Americorps.

At this time, we would have tea partiers packing guns to town hall events, terrified of a socialist takeover of, well, something, carrying racist signs and chanting “Keep Government out of Americorps!,” and the rest of the MSM can start their coverage. Sensing an opportunity, shitheels like Ben Nelson and Blanche Lincoln and Mary Landrieu sense the bill is in trouble, and would start to pack the goodies into it for their home state...
This would have piqued my interest even if David Broder hadn't gone on about what a great populist Sarah Palin is at precisely the moment when a new WashPo-ABC poll showed that Palin has never been less popular. I still think Palin can adapt and improve her way to the Republican Presidential nomination, and that her trifling with fools -- which may currently disappoint ordinary Americans who, after all, are not that fond of complainers -- may pay off in the long run; that's partly because she knows the nervous "mainstream" types who don't wish to be exposed to big winds whichever way they blow will carry her water in the meantime, no matter what.

It's an unavoidable problem, I fear, of democracy in an age of mass communications and dwindling dollars. To the honorable old question, why oh why can't we have a better press corps? I can only answer: No money in it. The Kremlinology of the press, citizen and otherwise, can be extremely subtle, but the basic state of play is that those with little power are desperate and those with much power are scared.

In the positivist view, this constant tension is supposed to create a better state of affairs, with the bustling marketplace of ideas yielding a better product. Maybe the positive thinkers think that better product is a higher degree of truth. But from what I've seen, it's more like the progress of junk food: from an agreeable, consistent, and convenient substitute for the real thing, to something everyone eats and nobody remembers is junk.
SHORTER MAGGIE GALLAGHER. Pre-teens weighing over 200 pounds may or may not be a bad thing -- I'm no denialist, though the "science" of that doesn't convince me -- but when are we going to do something about teenagers having sex?

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

THAT EXPLAINS A LOT. John J. Miller at National Review:
My favorite blog of the moment is Grognardia, which is dedicated to old-school RPGs. (If you don't know what RPGs are, then stop reading this and continue your day.) Today's post is on Twilight: 2000, a Red Dawn-ish RPG published in 1984 and set in what was then the future, and specifically in Poland following a U.S.-Soviet nuke exchange. I never played the game, though I loved the concept and bought a copy of the rules when they were brand new. Twilight: 2000 engaged my imagination and is at least partly responsible for igniting my interest in what was at stake during the Cold War.
I suspect he also learned about economics from Richie Rich comics.

Monday, February 08, 2010

WINNING ISN'T EVERYTHING, IT'S THE ONLY THING. I've said in the past that politics is everything to the nuts who comprise my subject matter, and the Super Bowl supplied plenty of wearying examples.

Like a lot of us, President Obama has a soft spot for the underdog Saints, but figured the Colts would win. The delightful surprise of the Saints' victory also pleased the Obama Fail Blog, which said, "Sure, most of America picked the Colts - that's why they were a five point favorite. But it is really amazing how everything Obama touches turns to poop." "Did Obama curse Super Bowl's Colts?" asked Frugal Cafe.

There were a lot of posts like these, but American Thinker's Troy Nelson only heard the part about Obama being sympathetic to the Saints, which had him supporting the Colts, as he found the notion of rooting for the underdog emblematic of "this generation's elevation of 'victimology' and symbology above all else."
What happened to the days of pulling for organizations, teams, and players whom best demonstrate the virtues of team work and heart and will power? Who overcome the challenges of a determined opponent on the level playing field of competition? Of blood, sweat, and tears? I guess in our coddled, emasculated, socialist society any overt demonstration or celebration of these qualities is offensive, too Darwinian, too Randian, too capitalistic.
This guy probably felt cheated when Cinderalla scored against the wicked stepsisters.

They even found political import in the Super Bowl commercials. "SUPER BOWL COMMERICALS PUTS LEFTARDS IN THEIR ABSURD PLACE," said The Freedom Fighter's Journal, referring to Audi's funny "Green Police" ad. NewsReal was actually worried about it: "We’d like to say that this commercial is harmless... But let’s face it -- you can get more people to accept something with a laugh, a wink, and a smile that you can with an order handed down from on high. It would be funny if there weren’t too many environmentalists that really do think like this. It would be funny if it weren’t entirely too possible." It would funny if the stick up their asses didn't make it impossible for them to laugh.

National Review's John J. Miller yelled at kgb for being called kgb. "For some folks, the Cold War may be way back in history times," he said. "You will know them by their Che t-shirts. By my lights, it seems a little premature to forget that the henchmen of Communism were a force for evil in the modern world."

Don't they even get sick of being politically correct?
NEW VOICE COLUMN UP, about coverage of the recent Tea Party Convention. The stuff about Sarah Palin's palm notes is amusing (and has led to the sort of goofy support gestures we've come to expect from these people), but beside the point. The Tea Partiers have gotten a bit of press by holding rallies, some of them quite large, but lifted their coverage and profile exponentially by holding a small convention with celebrities in a hotel. Whatever the impact or import of the local events, the Tea Party is becoming a brand name that sustains itself with traditional PR gestures, of which sympathetic bloggers take advantage by making grand claims -- a Third Great Awakening? -- while they have the punters' attention. That's how populism works these days: as a guerrilla advertising advance campaign for traditional marketers. Their products, though, are hardly revolutionary.

Friday, February 05, 2010

ICWUDT. I usually find myself having to play catch-up on the issues of the day before I can talk about them, so it's kind of a shock to see something like Gerard Alexander's "Why Are Liberals So Condescending?" which discusses something I already know a little about, and find it completely at odds with what I've observed.

He talks about concerns with boob-baiting tactics as if such concerns had no cause but the vain wish of an intellectual cadre to feel good about themselves by feeling bad about someone else. This could be an interesting philosophical premise -- this is a republic, after all, and maybe baiting boobs is the only game in town. And complaints such as those I make, with increasing weariness, on these pages are on such grounds irrelevant, like going to a dance club and complaining about the loud music. It's an argument I'd be willing to entertain, especially on bad days.

But he also thinks one political group specializes in it to the exclusion of its opponents:
Every political community includes some members who insist that their side has all the answers and that their adversaries are idiots. But American liberals, to a degree far surpassing conservatives, appear committed to the proposition that their views are correct, self-evident, and based on fact and reason, while conservative positions are not just wrong but illegitimate, ideological and unworthy of serious consideration.
He also says liberals believe "the thinkers, politicians and citizens who advance conservative ideas must be dupes, quacks or hired guns selling stories they know to be a sham," and also believe "conservatives are driven purely by emotion and anxiety -- including fear of change -- whereas liberals have the harder task of appealing to evidence and logic."

This, I have to say, threw me. Has he never seen a conservative blog? Has he never noticed them explaining to black people that they're stupid and ungrateful to vote for Democrats? Or their belief that the media is hypnotizing the American people, and their threatening to take vengeance on it while simultaneously whining that it is all-powerful? Or Jonah Goldberg's insistence that his opponents are not just wrong, nor even just "driven purely by emotion and anxiety," but fascists?

It's almost too much to believe that such a person is arguing in good faith -- which, whoops, makes me one of those liberal elitists. Well, that's how it goes.

And very unfair of me too, after Alexander has gone to the trouble to almost admit the vague possibility of something resembling the Republican Southern Strategy:
Race doubtless played a significant role in the shift of Deep South whites to the Republican Party during and after the 1960s. But the liberal narrative has gone essentially unchanged since then...
This is like saying violence played a role in the impalement of the victim on my client's knife, but the prosecution insists on taking this thing to trial.
SPOILER ALERT. Culture warriors are starting early on the Oscar-related denunciations. There's Brent Bozell, telling us that liberal elitists want The Blind Side to lose. But he is heartened by the presence of blockbusters among the Best Picture nominees. "Even if this were simply a ploy for ratings," says Bozell, "Hollywood is sending a message that it doesn't hate and dismiss its audience as the ignorant masses." Whereas the collected works of Brent Bozell (see for example "Hollywood's Four-Letter Word: God") show that Hollywood does hate and dismiss its audience as the ignorant masses. I marvel he doesn't castigate Tinseltown for its duplicity.

But who cares about him when we have Jonah Goldberg to pick on? He announces at the start, "the Oscars are one of the most overhyped events in American life," so he chooses to discourse on "what [the movies] say about American life." What they say is what Goldberg already believes. That's why they call it the Dream Factory.

Goldberg says, sensibly, that "filmmakers aren’t always aware of their inspirations and that sometimes the best way to articulate a larger message is to not try." Then, perhaps remembering who he's writing for, he tells his readers what actually inspires moviemakers is hatred of America.
Since the end of the Cold War, Hollywood has been in desperate pursuit of enemies. You’d have thought that 9/11 would have provided a great opportunity for Hollywood to find a worthy enemy. But it turned out that moviemakers were more comfortable depicting jihadi terrorists before 9/11 than after (rent The Siege and Executive Decision if you don’t believe me). They’ve tried (and retried) aliens, drug kingpins, bad weather, and the always-enjoyable zombies. But, with a few exceptions, Hollywood is still most comfortable with the idea that the enemy is really us.
It's hard to tell from the way this is written whether the zombies, eco-cataclysms, etc. are supposed to be stand-ins for America in the treasonous parables of Hollywood, or what Hollywood settles on when it is frustrated in its attempts to destroy the country. What's clear is that Hollywood is against us, which is why no one ever goes to the movies, except when they do, which only happens when these America-haters accidentally make movies that people will like for sound ideological reasons: For example,
The Kingdom, another War on Terror movie, was a hit despite the best intentions of director Peter Berg, who wanted it to be a parable about the cycle of violence. It succeeded because it was a good action movie that depicted Americans as heroes.
Considering that Hollywood has made billions on movies that were supposed to advance their anti-American agenda but failed, I wonder why conservatives are so concerned about them. Maybe the bit about Hollywood needing an enemy is just projection.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

IDIOT. The whole business of demanding Rahm Emanuel apologize or even resign for calling a bunch of liberals "fucking retarded" is ridiculous, but at least in Sarah Palin's case it's clearly fake and opportunistic. I have no doubt that Hadley Arkes is sincere when he complains that Emanuel was allowed to apologize to the head of the Special Olympics -- "to a Kennedy," he adds with a palpable shiver -- rather than submitting to an inquisition of Arkes' own devising. Hell, he even thinks Sarah Palin wasn't hard enough on Emanuel:
...she too seems to have missed the deeper issue: Emanuel’s comment reflects the understanding, widely held among the “bioethicists” attached to this administration — including his own brother, working in the White House — that people with Down’s syndrome do not enjoy a high “quality of life"...

Would Emanuel think it permissible to end the lives of people walking around, well out of the womb, who happen to have Down’s syndrome?...

Emanuel’s embarrassment involves more than just a slip of the tongue — it involves a deeply planted moral understanding.
Presumably if Emanuel had called the liberals "a bunch of dildos" Arkes would assume he meant that they should be used as sexual devices, and that Emanuel should be asked whether he supports human trafficking.

When your babble provokes such as Mark Krikorian -- of all people -- to complain about "grievance-mongering," you know you've sailed off the edge of the earth.

What a douche, by which I do not mean a feminine hygiene product.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

POSITIVELY THE WORST SALINGER TRIBUTE YET. When J.D. Salinger passed a lot was said about him, some of it affecting, some idiotic. As he was not in any way an overtly political figure, there wasn't a handle conservative bloggers could easily grasp. And some of them were actually gracious -- even including Gerard Vanderleun, if you can imagine it.

There was Jules Crittenden's ridiculous screed, in which Crittenden seemed to confuse Holden Caulfield with his author and blame him for Flaming Youth, but I took that as a bit of willful contrarianism meant to generate traffic, which is a big thing on the internet with or without politics, rather than seriously.

On another order is Tom Bethell's American Spectator piece, which reader Greg Costello pointed out to me. Bethell mentions that librarians censored Catcher in the Rye in the 60s and thereafter -- "censored" in quotes, which is an ominous tipoff.

Bethell alerts us to a coming reversal: "But maybe the librarians knew something that the rest of us have overlooked." Then he recounts the part of the book in which Caulfield's old English teacher tries to get "perverty" with him.
So there you have it. Holden talks about perverts and flits, in a book published by Little Brown in 1951, and reprinted a million times since then. A Back Bay paperback edition reappeared in 2001.

Is it allowed, in the 21st century, to use words like that? Notice that the New Yorker refused to published Catcher in the Rye, but they did publish Salinger's unreadable story "Hapworth 16, 1924." So maybe Harold Ross at the New Yorker was alert to these nuances of political incorrectness long, long ago.
Bethell goes to the trouble to ask someone at Little Brown "if they would allow a book to appear today in which a gay man is called a 'pervert' or a 'flit.'" The guy "laughed openly. 'The question answers itself,' he said." Therefore: "If you haven't read Catcher in the Rye yet, better get a hold of it soon. Because it is likely to disappear from the shelves before you can say flit."

It's a miracle Bruno ever got made. Or that this line was approved for the cable series Party Down: "That is a question for a psychologist -- or as Adam would say, a Jew faggot.” Or that Joe Rogan can do a routine in which a guy tells his dog, "How about you stop chasing your tail, faggot!" Or bloggers can call Lil Wayne a faggot. Or Ann Coulter can call John Edwards one. Or -- 'scuse me, what were we talking about again?

This reminds me of the complaints of National Review contributor Mark Goldblatt, who in the last decade published a novel called Africa Speaks, by which he meant to show the world that "If not for the French... African Americans would currently rank as the most hypocritical, most paranoid, most pretentious group of people on the planet." His book was offered for sale on Amazon -- you can still buy it there -- but he was unsatisfied because he had received "no newspaper or magazine reviews" and "no bookstore shelf space." Though he had been allowed to publish, despite the PC police, he was mad that he couldn't get The Breaks, which he attributed to reverse racism.

When these guys bring up the specter of censorship, they usually mean not that they are denied First Amendment rights, but that many people don't approve what they're saying. This state of affairs, alas, is beyond Constitutional protection. They do have the right, though, to publish their claims of homosexual oppression -- with Catcher in the Rye as evidence, yet -- in whatever publications will accept them, which itself shows that our freedom of the press is exceedingly robust.

UPDATE. In comments Cleter makes what should have been the obvious connection: "The conservatives should LOVE Salinger. He actually went Galt, and stayed Galted for fifty goddamned years." Halloween Jack notes that librarians have actually been fighting to keep allegedly "politically incorrect" books in libraries for years. Hell, Laura Bush could have told them that.

Monday, February 01, 2010

NEW VOICE COLUMN UP, about the rightwing spin on the James O'Keefe arrest. Being a permissive, turn-'em-loose liberal, I approve the use of any legal means to win advantages for the accused. In fact, I doubt that the rightbloggers who are pretending to believe that the coverage of O'Keefe's legal troubles is the real crime here are very concerned with his hide. Hell, if he went to prison, that'd be holy martyrdom, no doubt attributable to the long reach of Eric Holder, and a great way to rally the troops.

If it comes to that, I look forward to FREE O'KEEFE rallies at which earnest young conservatives explain to passersby that justice has not been served. One way or the other it will be a radicalizing event.

UPDATE. The good Roger Ailes tells us in comments that "Ben Stein has started the 'Free James O'Keefe' movement, following on the success of his 'Free Credit Report' movement."