Friday, March 27, 2015

FRIDAY 'ROUND-THE-HORN.


Song's been going through my mind for some reason. Weep, sad freaks of a nation.

•    I guess 2012 was the last year I paid attention to "Human Achievement Hour," the annual chest-thump in which the Competitive Enterprise Institute says Fuck You to the World Wildlife Fund's Earth Hour by asking True Sons of Liberty to burn up as much energy as possible in celebration of the stinking shithole we've made of the earth, I mean progress. The event remains hilarious. Got some links from a CEI publicist to "Human Achievement of the Day" posts about how guitars only exist because of capitalism and so forth. My favorite is about bitcoin:
These are still very early days, and bitcoin is still thought more as a volatile store of value rather than an emergent system of property rights, but the prospects for this particular human achievement are incredibly bright, if regulators do not find a way to stifle it (by regulating people rather than the system, for example).
This puts me in mind of Hearst on the trail of The Color in Deadwood, except Hearst's psychosis was not the type that kept him in his parents' basement. Murder and dismemberment were more his thing -- the sort of activities in furtherance of capital that the CEI pencil-necks are more likely to dress up in purty language than directly perform.

•   In the high-decibel world of wingnut blowhards it's tough to rise above the din, but in a column about the Bowe Bergdahl prosecution at PJ Media Michael Walsh amps it up:  In addition to standard-issue slur-slinging -- "the Coward-in-Chief and his deliberate thumb in the eye to the honor of the American military," "pathetic little pansy Bergdahl," "painfully stupid Jen Psaki," aargh,  blaargh -- Walsh bellows:
...it’s a rare instance of the military finally asserting itself against a rogue commander who is imperiling the nation and insulting it as he goes. Unlawful orders do not have to be obeyed, even from Fearless Leader; that’s a principle the U.S. clarified at Nuremberg. 
One imagines Walsh parachuting into Fort Bragg, a cigar in one hand and a pearl-handled revolver in the other, crying PATRIOTS! NOW IS THE TIME! Or maybe not: see, everyone's a disappointment to Walsh:
John McCain and Mitt Romney should both be hanging their heads in shame. They could have defeated him, and they chose not to. But that’s America in the 21st century — it never saw a fight it wanted to finish.
Maybe Walsh can stake out a little corner of his mental ward and declare that The Real America. I'll have to read Walsh more often; I haven't seen anything like him since the heyday of Ralph "Blood 'n' Guts" Peters.

•   The composer John Adams recently remarked at Avery Fisher Hall that Rush Limbaugh exercises "casual brutality toward women" -- which, really, is about as close to an incontrovertible statement as you can get -- and to National Review's Jay Nordlinger this is Hitler plus Big Brother:
To this remark, the audience responded with sustained and robust applause. In 1984, Orwell writes of the two-minute hate. The applause in Avery Fisher Hall did not last for two minutes, but it went on long enough... 
You’re never supposed to analogize anything to the Nazis. That’s the rule. But sometimes I break the rule. And I believe I got a whiff — just a tiny whiff — of Nuremberg in Avery Fisher Hall tonight. Collective hatred, and self-satisfied hatred, based on damnable lies.
I suppose this makes me Genghis Stalin, but Nordlinger is a fucking idiot.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

ANNALS OF LIBERTARIANISM, PART FFS.

At The Federalist, Georgi Boorman gives us the usual rightwing schtick about ISIS (i.e., Obama's a pussy let's get our war on):
Despite Boko Haram’s purported pledge of fealty to ISIS, apparently neither organizations’ bloody rampages have reached the level of egregiousness that stirs the executive branch to crush the evil gobbling up Iraq and surrounding territories. President Obama has told us repeatedly that there will be “no boots on the ground” save for “advisers, trainers, and security personnel.” Regardless of whether the advisory missions happen to put those advisers in a combat role, the goal, apparently, is to keep us “out of another ground war.” 
Whether this be on principle of non-interference or sheer ignorance of an organization that will, if unchecked, eventually threaten global stability, the result is inaction (save for a few airstrikes).
By "a few airstrikes," Boorman of course means over 1,300 as of December 2014. At The Federalist, bullshit walks and talks!
The U.S. military wears a heavy boot, but at the moment it does nothing more than cast a shadow over the growing terrorist threat.
With a prose style like that Boorman will go far in the movement. But she still has to thread the needle: something that looks like a solution to ISIS but doesn't come with blinking QUAGMIRE tags all over it. Her Big Idea: Bring back privateers!
“Privateers” were given letters of marque permitting them to capture and plunder enemy ships; an admiralty court adjudicated on the legality of the capture... 
To fight war tourists like Jihad John, hire some guns! Maybe they'll be dashing, shiver-me-timbers young libertarians looking for adventure! Or Somali pirates fresh out of prison!  (Probably, though, they'll be petty criminals and navy rejects with nothing left to lose.)
Some will rightly point out the potential for abuse, as there almost certainly will be, as with all social and governmental institutions. However, the U.S. government would be holding accountable a much smaller group of individuals, whose scope of operations are far more limited than the expansive U.S. military. If abuse were to be found, processes for investigation and prosecution would be in place to swiftly bring to account and deal punishment for violations, as they had in the past.
You know, like with Blackwater.
Some less rational factions will undoubtedly hail this as a crazy right-winged conspiracy to privatize the military. But Founders did not design a Constitution with powers that undermine other powers. If letters of marque were a tool of privatization, what good would it have been to include provisions, just a few lines below this, “to raise and support armies” and to “provide and maintain a Navy”?
I dunno -- the Post Office is also in the Constitution, but conservatarians want to privatize that, too. Self-evidently, their dream is to strip the federal government for parts and empower privateers to handle all its former functions. Of course, the ones who would be fighting ISIS for us would be flying no flag but the Jolly Roger, and if it should turn out that someone else is offering better pay than Uncle Sam, there's nothing to stop them from turning their guns around. That's what happens when you love the market more than your country.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

ZHDANOV NEVER LEFT.

This pops up in the middle of a Charles Two Middle Initials Cooke rant about how PC is intimidating professors and you liberals who think Ted Cruz looks like Joseph McCarthy are actually The Real Joseph McCarthy:
But the truth is that if Arthur Miller were writing The Crucible today he would likely be less interested in effusive senators from Texas and more interested in the more modern pathologies that the Cruzes of the world tend typically to disdain. Presumably, Miller would look at our universities and our media, at our malleable “speech codes,” our self-indulgent “safe spaces,” our preference for “narrative” over truth, and at our pathetic appeasement of what is little more than good old-fashioned illiberalism, and he would despair.
It seems never to have occurred to Cooke that if his analogy is sound, then The Crucible is already about speech codes etc. -- because it's not a news report but a work of art, which pertains to the universal, and resonates with anyone who has experienced mass hysteria and its attendant repression in whatever form. Other people know that; that's why the play is always getting revived. Audiences get the connection. Cooke might get a theater company together to alterna-stage The Crucible to look like Oleanna if he likes.

I suspect that Cooke's not interested in universals, though: What he wants is an already-famous property that's about how college students are oppressing conservatism -- or, failing that, to get people to believe that the dead author of the famous property was really a rightwinger and just didn't know it. You know, like they do with George Orwell and many others, to avoid the hard work of making (or even seriously engaging with) any art themselves.

UPDATE. Jonah Goldberg tells his colleague: You say McCarthyism like it's a bad thing.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

THE VIOLENT BEAR IT AWAY.

Kevin D. Williamson at National Review:


Believe it or not, the article is about charter schools. Liberals don't like them, and some of them say it's because they're a racket but the real reason is liberals are communist tyrants:
The Left’s heart is still in East Berlin: If people want to leave your utopia and have the means to do so, then build a wall. If they climb over the wall — as millions of low-income parents with children in private schools (very commonly Catholic schools) do — then build a higher wall. If they keep climbing – and they will — then there are always alternatives.
Also liberals are George Wallace:
But then, standing in the schoolhouse door when the poor, the black, and the brown want to enter is an ancient tradition for Democrats.
And you know what else is CommieWallace?
It’s a funny old world when being “pro-choice” means that people who object to abortion will be forced at gunpoint to pay for them. But that’s progressivism: a purportedly secular movement with a whole lot of “Thou Shalt” and “Thou Shalt Not.”
In rightwing world, some of the brethren endeavor to advance arguments to which outsiders (or at least credulous editors who wish to be considered even-handed) might respond. But there seem to be fewer of these all the time. Maybe it's because that particular budget is all eaten up by high-end, big-ticket pundits like George F. Will and Peggy Noonan; maybe organizations like National Review no longer believe the arguments can travel very far outside their own circles. Whatever the reason, Williamson represents the future of the movement: Not evangelists, but jeerleaders.

UPDATE. Speaking of which:


Well, at least it's a nice break from them calling him Hitler.

UPDATE 2. If it isn't out of keeping to mention the ostensible topic of Williamson's column, it appears charter schools aren't doing so hot:
Underscoring the risk to bondholders such as Nuveen Asset Management, two New York schools are set to shut at the end of this school year after their charters were revoked this month for academic shortcomings. The closings represent a default under terms of the $15 million bond deal that financed the land acquisition and construction of Brighter Choice’s middle schools for boys and girls, which opened in 2010 under the same roof. 
While charter schools are gaining popularity across the U.S. as an alternative to local systems, their default rate reached an all-time high last year of 5 percent of outstanding issues, according to a biannual study by the New York-based Local Initiatives Support Corp. That’s up from 3.8 percent in 2012.
Look on the bright side, citizens --  you're not losing your money to a Big Gummint grift, you're losing it to an honest, privatized grift! (h/t Atrios)

Monday, March 23, 2015

THIS YEAR'S MUDDLE.

After hearing blessedly little from or about him in recent years, I see Hugh Hewitt has become the Important Conservative Journalist of the moment. At National Journal, Shane Goldmacher tells us in "It Had To Be Hugh" that "Hewitt, a professor of constitutional law who often sounds the part, isn't a conventional right-wing talk-radio host" and has "the demeanor of a friendly academic"; he also says Hewitt's "relationship with the mainstream media is complicated." At Power Line John Hinderaker says "Hugh tries to elevate our discourse about politics and public life" and "believes that, day by day, intelligent conversation with important, knowledgeable people on both sides of the political aisle can bring us closer to realizing the democratic ideal."

This does not much comport with the Hugh Hewitt I've been observing lo these many years. For example:

In 2005 an Iraq War correspondent suggested to Hewitt that he didn't really know what was going on at the front, and Hewitt rejoined that he did indeed know because he was at that moment broadcasting from the Empire State Building and "the Empire State Building... has been in the past, and could be again, a target..." Also, "in downtown Manhattan, it's not comfortable, although it's a lot safer than where you are, people always are three miles away from where the jihadis last spoke in America... Although you are on the front line, this was the front line four and a half years ago." Hewitt's primary residence at the time was in California.

By 2006 the war wasn't as popular as it had been and Hewitt explained that turncoats like Andrew Sullivan and Peter Beinart had only "turned defeatists" because they "feel disdained" by President Bush, and that the President should have them over to the Indian Treaty Room for a chin-wag: "Even if some are too far gone into opposition to be recalled, some will wake up." Ah, what might have been!

Hewitt also does his bit for organized religion: When Tom Hanks was pushing his Da Vinci Code movie and said "we always knew there would be a segment of society that would not want this movie to be shown," Hewitt warned Hanks, "Tom: Careful now... stick to the obvious – it is an absurd piece of invention that makes for a fun thriller – and all will be well." Nobody crosses the professorial Hugh Hewitt! When Jeff Jarvis (!) said something negative about the religious right, Hewitt said, "it is a useful exercise to run through Jeff's piece and substitute 'the Jews' for the 'religious right' and all pronounces referring to the 'religious right.' Jeff is of course not anti-Semitic..." That's elevating the discourse!

And Lord, does he go on about that Emm Ess Emm. You can catch Hewitt doing the traditional goldurn-librul-media schtick anytime, but a particularly good example of his "complicated" relationship with it is this 2004 bit in which he suggested that Michael Kinsley, who'd just taken over the L.A. Times editorial page, should hire Roger L. Simon, Laura Ingraham, Max Boot, Jim Lileks, and Mickey Kaus. But what's the difference, Hewitt went on, "even a reinvigorated editorial page and opinion page won't help much given the senior staff's refusal to deal with the poisonous bias in the 'news' reports..." Kinsley for some reason didn't take his advice, and Hewitt must have been pissed: In 2005, when Kinsley's paper did a story about a couple of North Koreans who offered an obviously untrustworthy defense of their country, Hewitt pretended to believe the L.A. Times -- or, as he called it, The Pyongyang Times -- was peddling Nork propaganda.

Hewitt's devotion to the "democratic ideal" is such that in 2011 he was trying like hell to get Herman Cain and Ron Paul bounced from the Republican primary debates so the establishment candidates could have more time on camera.

Other Hewitt nuggets: "The only reason [Chris] Muir [creator of the horrible Day by Day comic] isn't widely syndicated is MSM bias." There's also Hewitt pretending to be outraged at the treatment of John Murtha a year after supporting that treatment.  And Hewitt predicting in 2005 that the Catholic cardinals, inspired by "the cruel death of Terri Schiavo," would elect an American Pope.

And given that one of Hewitt's plums is the right to ask questions at a Republican debate, we should recall this brainstorm of his from 2013:
Proposed opening question for the first GOP presidential debate in the fall of 2015: "Was the 'shutdown showdown' of October 2013 good or necessary -- either or both -- and why?"

I don't have any idea how it will be answered by the 10 or so potentially serious candidates who may be on that stage, but the difficulty of predicting the best answer can be found — where else? — in two movies about war.
But what's the use -- every so often a rightwing apparatchik like Hewitt is elevated and promoted as a fair-minded voice of alternative reason; in fact it's happened to Hewitt before, in a 2005 New Yorker blowjob ("Hewitt is definitely a Republican, but he is no mere mouthpiece"). If Hewitt really thinks the MSM is as nefarious as he portrays them, maybe he'd consider they might only be promoting him to make conservatism look bad.

UPDATE. In comments, The_Kenosha_Kid: "Don't make fun of the dangers of working in the Empire State Building! I saw a documentary once where it was attacked by a giant monkey."

Hardcore spelunkers can also read Hewitt's 2008 propaganda ebook, "Letter to a Young Obama Supporter." At the time, I reviewed its mendacious and definitely not "friendly academic" approach, though I missed some of Hewitt's youth outreach, such as this let-me-put-it-in-terms-you'll understand explanation of why Obama's lack of experience should concern the youngs:
If you could be given golf lessons by either Tiger Woods or the local club pro, guitar lessons by Eric Clapton or the guitarist for the garage band playing downtown, cooking lessons by Emeril Lagasse or by the night cook at the local diner, which choice would you make in every case?
 I like to imagine Hewitt laying aside his pen after that one and sighing with satisfaction, "eat your heart out, Greg Gutfeld."


Friday, March 20, 2015

FRIDAY 'ROUND-THE-HORN.


"I got drugs to take/and a mind to break"
Thanks to Chuck Gilligan for steering me -- these guys do Britain & Mike Skinner proud.

•   After that last post I hate to subject you good people to a Megan McArdle streak, but this is irresistible:


Fans of Tbogg already grok the internet tradition of conflating McArdle's conspicuous-consumerism with her crap political views, but I  think anyone can appreciate that she's seriously miffed Canada has $1.4K Thermomixes but America does not (guess the one she was kvelling about in 2011 got a dent in it or something), and gets her editor to indulge her in speculating at 1,400-word length on the Economix, e.g. "QVC's 'gadget' price point seems to top out at 'Dyson vacuum cleaner,'" tee hee. If they haven't sent her a new "test" model by now this isn't the rotting corpse of a Republic I grew up in.

•   It's clearer than ever that Obama consciously trolls rightwing idiots as a hobby. I'm not sure what to think about the universal voting proposal, but it has elicited some choice gibberish from Peggy Noonan:
Most of us are moved by the sight of citizens lined up at the polls on Election Day. We should urge everyone to care enough to stand in that line. But we should not harass or bother those who, with modesty and even generosity, say they are happy to leave the privilege of the ballot to those who are engaged.
How dare we refuse their generosity by demanding they participate in our stupid "democracy"! Next we'll be demanding they pay taxes! (I wonder what the Crazy Jesus Lady thinks about Ben Carson's request at CPAC last year that conservatives drag their grandparents to the polls even if they say, “I’ve given up on America, I’m just waiting to die.”) Oh, and here's Noonan explaining her apparently brand new idea that Presidents named Bush are bad (except the next one -- he'll be swell!):
George W. Bush broke his party after his 2004 re-election, in part with his immigration proposals and the way he advanced them, with aides insulting his GOP opponents with insults—“nativist,” they said—and, in the end, by two unwon wars.
That's up there with "He dressed badly and was not a good mixer,  in addition to being a serial killer."

•   Remember the Oppressed Children of Sperm Donors whose lamentations I covered a few years back? Well, they're back at The Federalist, where two anti-donor activists rally support for those Dolce & Gabbana guys who called test-tube kids "synthetic children." The authors note that some people were upset about this because they had donor-enabled offspring, nephews etc., and here's the authors' stern rejoinder:
It is important to note, however, that infants, toddlers, and all of these “miracle” beings are too young to protest their own objectification.
I hear ya, sister -- I didn't ask to be born into this fucking world, but my mother got knocked up in a time before abortion rights. Rough luck all around! Oh, and also:
I am indeed a human being. My liver, heart, hair, and enzymes all work the same. I’ve discovered it is my psychology that is different and not-quite-right, due to my conception.
No comment.

•   Since it's nearly the weekend, here is your latest installment of What Is Rod Dreher Whining About Now?
UPDATE: I’m all for praying with the body. We do that all the time in the Orthodox Church. But yoga is a Hindu discipline, not a Christian one, and the syncretism of mixing yoga with Christian worship is troubling.
This has been What Is Rod Dreher Whining About Now?

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

THE HACKMAID'S TALE.

The latest surge of Poors-Must-Learn-Morals-from-Their-Betters gush, inspired by the new Robert Putnam book but rooted in traditional Marriage Makes You Rich boilerplate, is best known by its David Brooks effusion, covered here. Since then we've had Ross Douthat and all manner of idiots shaking the scold-stick on this subject. But leave it to Megan McArdle to accelerate the stupid like a Hadron Collider:
There is one place this change might come from: Hollywood. Entertainment is a surprisingly powerful venue for articulating social norms, and if Hollywood decided that it had a social responsibility to promote stable families and changed its story lines accordingly, that might actually do some good. 
Yes, the Artist Formerly Known as Jane Galt wants private enterprise to pitch in with some free propaganda.
I'm not talking about sticking a few propaganda story lines into Very Special Episodes of some sitcom, which wouldn't do a darn thing. Rather, I'm saying that if Hollywood actually believed that married two-parent families were overwhelmingly optimal, that would naturally shape what they wrote, in a way that would in turn probably shape what Americans believe, and do.
Hang on -- this suggests that Hollywood product currently militates against marriage. Is that so? I must have missed the successful sitcoms "How I Met Your Baby-Momma" and "My Three Sons (from Separate Mothers)." And looking at last year's top-grossing films, I'm having a hard time figuring how they could have shoehorned marriage into movies about wizards and superheroes; maybe they could have had Katniss from the Hunger Games movies falter until a priest rushes in to marry her to some guy, like Popeye deriving strength from spinach.

Of course, McArdle's offer isn't serious --
But this is an inherently socially conservative message, and Hollywood is about the furthest thing you can name from socially conservative -- our entertainment industry tends to send socially conservative messages only accidentally, as it did with "16 and Pregnant." And there is nearly as much social distance between David Brooks and your average Hollywood show runner as there is between David Brooks and the kids whose lives he wants to change.
-- it's just more ressentiment for the regular crowd, who sometimes need help believing that social-net-shredding policies have less to do with the parlous state of the poor than evil Hollyweird cokewhores.

UPDATE. Hang on, asks Meanie-meanie, tickle a person in comments: "Hollywood who? Or is that a surname? Joe Hollywood from Detroit? Or maybe Frank Hollywood from Miami?" Tsk, Meanie -- it's a metonym for the cultural apparat -- you know, what such people used to call "Jews." Or maybe McArdle doesn't know this, and imagines herself handing out Operation Hitching Post slide decks to a bunch of guys who look like Robert Loggia, wear their shirts unbuttoned to the plexus, chomp fancy cigars, and produce all the movies.

MORAL RELATIVISM.

You've heard about the NYPD sneaking into Wikipedia to edit brutality victim Eric Garner's page and those of other victims so that they might better reflect the cops' own view of events. Probably you figured this is the sort of bullshit that's so egregious even conservatives wouldn't approve out loud. Well, you forgot about City Journal, also known as Late-Stage Giuliani In Print, where the problem is always The Black Guy. Here's Matthew Hennessey (whom we last saw asking "Is Bill de Blasio still a Sandinista at heart?") on the subject:
Cue the predictable howls of outrage at this attempt to whitewash the cold-blooded murder of an innocent man. The technology website Ars Technica called the edits an attempt “to sanitize Wikipedia entries about cases of police brutality.” Think Progress said they were an example of the police department’s fumbling its response to “increased scrutiny” after recent protests. 
The outrage is misplaced, however. The real scandal is that anyone thinks Wikipedia is a reliable source of unbiased information.
[blink. blink.]
...At best, Wikipedia is an approximation of the truth. If the philosophy is come one, come all, then the NYPD has as much right to fiddle with the entries that pertain to it as anyone else. Let the edits fall where they may.
In other words: See, Wikipedia isn't perfect, so why are you complaining that we're smearing it with shit? (In other words, their traditional argument when it comes to healthcare or any other public equity they've fucked up.)

Just in case you're not yet sure where Hennessey is coming from, here's his portrayal of the Garner case:
Garner’s death was caught on a cell phone video and has been viewed by millions across the country, but what happened on the day he died remains in dispute.
You know, like everyone saw the Apollo 11 moon footage, but there's still a perfectly understandable controversy over whether it was fake. Also global warming!
Reactions to the video vary. Some think the cops murdered Garner; others think he goaded them into taking him down. Some see Garner as the victim of an out-of-control police force targeting African-American men. Indeed, Mayor Bill de Blasio called Garner “a father, a husband, a son—a good man.” Others say that he was a career petty criminal with a chip on his shoulder.
In either case, I'm sure all good people can agree that Garner deserved to die.
With so much to disagree about, it’s no surprise that Garner’s Wikipedia page has become a battleground.
For people like this America needs a Master of Bullshit degree, perhaps bestowed with a cattle brand.