Tuesday, September 05, 2006

SHORTER MARIO LOYOLA. Pay close attention to my plausible-deniability amulet as I tell you that Michael Moore is sort of a Nazi, if you substitute "House of Saud" for "Worldwide Jewry" and "reduce deleterious effect on our foreign policy" for "genocide."
IT'S ALWAYS WINGNUT HAPPY HOUR SOMEPLACE! The end of summer (and, no matter what the calendar says, Labor Day is the end of summer) always gets me down. Thank God for my imaginary playmates! Here's Leon Wolf at Redstate, enraged to hear from his friends in the Movement that the AP stylebook has made a usage flip from "pro-life" to "anti-abortion," and from "pro-choice"/"pro-abortion" to "pro-abortion rights*":

So what exactly have the folks at Associated Press done? In the first place, they've done a great "framing" favor to the pro-choice side by casting the pro-lifers as the "anti-" side in the debate. As any "framing" person will tell you, labeling any cause as "anti-" anything will make it less appealing than labeling it "pro-" something else, even if they are functionally equivalent (pro-freedom sounds more attractive than anti-slavery...)

I'm sure it sounds more attractive to you, hoss!

(* The brethren claim that the AP-acceptable term is simply "abortion rights," but it translates to "pro-abortion rights" for purposes of clarity, as seen in this AP story that ran September 3 in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.)

Even if this change has actually happened, I don't know what the guy is bitching about. First of all, abandoning the old "choice" and "life" tags with which these teams traditionally identify themselves is actually a step toward neutrality.

Also, RedState, like all winger sites, doesn't seem to own an AP Stylebook -- or a Chicago Manual of Style, or a dictionary for that matter (though I'm sure Tacitus has several thesauri). They use a stylebook of their very own, in which the press is the "MSM," where liberals are "lieberals" or "fifth columnists" or "Neville Chamberlain," where "Bush" is "Churchill," and "freedom" is "slavery."

So why should they care what the lieberals use in their MSM rags? Truth keeps bloggering on!

Monday, September 04, 2006

YOU NEVER HAD IT SO GOOD. The idea that, despite their misgivings, Americans are actually living like kings was addressed here and has been taken up by the Ole Perfesser. Among his linkees, Jane Galt seems to think that, despite our great wealth, we little people (or maybe it's just liberal economists -- it's hard to tell) are jealous of those who actually do live like kings.

Others challenge the numbers that are alleged to support the negative analysis. David R. Henderson mentions that, though corporate profits have risen and "marginal tax rates have increased for most people except the highest-income people," the money is actually coming back to us in spades because "employers have paid a higher and higher percent of compensation in the form of untaxed benefits" to workers. Well, it's not a small-government argument, anyway. Also more Americans have cars and houses than previously, though the debt amassed in their getting is not mentioned, nor their condition.

This discussion was originally spurred by reports that voters are leaning Democratic on the economy, which some attribute to said voters smelling a rat in the positive numbers attributed to that economy. So Henderson's argument -- and those of the others -- is already being considered, on less elevated terms, by citizens.

The issue will be decided, assuming the voting machines work OK, on the tricky grounds of perception. Democrats have a natural and, it must be said, unfair advantage going in, as the alleged party of the little guy. To combat this, Republican supporters offer good numbers and a sunny outlook. This is an optimistic enterprise, and when it does not seem to get traction, Republicans can be counted on to attribute the disconnect to media bias.

But, as previously observed, citizens do not observe the economy from above or afar, but live in it. In a sunny-side analysis in the Washington Post, AEI's Nicholas Eberstadt seems to acknowledge this: "the official poverty rate is utterly incapable of tracking material deprivation in the United States with any accuracy." Here is part of his picture:
Among low-income households in the United States, the gap between reported income and reported spending has widened gradually since the 1960s and now has taken on chasm-like dimensions. In the early 1960s, the poorest quarter of U.S. households spent 12 percent more than their annual incomes. In 1973, spending by America's poorest fifth surpassed their income by almost 40 percent. And in 2004, spending by the poorest fifth of American families exceeded income by a whopping 95 percent; in effect, spending was nearly twice as much as income.

These patterns might be due to easy access to credit, with many consumers maxing out their credit cards or engaging in other unsustainable borrowing. (Curiously, however, recent credit surveys suggest that the net worth of poorer Americans has been rising, not falling.)

Another important factor could be the increasing instability of American incomes. Scholars such as Jacob Hacker at Yale University and Robert Moffitt at Johns Hopkins University have noted that the income of American families is likely to bounce around much more today than it did three decades ago -- whether due to greater global competition, increasing rewards for education or other factors. Intensified swings, in turn, mean that more households may, in any given year, earn low incomes and be temporarily classified as living in poverty. But they continue to spend as they did before, anticipating that their incomes will bounce back. Such oscillations also mean that the incomes reported by families in annual surveys -- the backbone for the official poverty estimate -- are a steadily less accurate indicator of true living standards.
What reality does this suggest to you? A class of Americans outspending their official incomes surely shows a problem with our intelligence-gathering -- and, the citizens who are doing the outspending must feel, a good thing too. They are job-hopping madly, not, as the Eberstadts of the world might, to beef up their resumes, but because jobs come and go rapidly -- they might be doing light carpentry one month, cleaning out a storeroom the next, and getting it under the table when they can. They spend not because they are "bouncing back" but because they have to: some citizens may be buying Porsches, but they are probably buying milk, blankets, light bulbs, etc. When they fall short, somebody is always willing to stake them, at ever-rising rates and with ingenious penalties.

The last thing they need is government tracking. Actually, they might think that the last thing they need is this Government.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

ARTS ROUNDUP: MAHFOUZ, FRIEDMAN, KISS KISS BANG BANG (NOT PAULINE KAEL'S). Last week Naguib Mahfouz died. Years ago, I read a bunch of his books and got caught up in his rhythm, at least as rendered by translators. I remember the books less well now than I do their effects:

The one big novel I got through, The Palace Walk, first in the Cairo Trilogy, had the sort of stiff grandeur that I associate with Henry James, that is, all foreboding explained and announced in silent-film intertitles, e.g. "Even so, she tried to drag out the discussion, guided by false hopes." The language in general felt stiff too. But it was grandeur nonetheless. The effect of the upheavals in postwar Egypt on family lives of the sort we Westerners call bourgeois would excite any novelist, and Mahfouz exquisitely did the epochal novelist's job of catching the lightning, then using it to marble a portrait of his society.

Large-stepping as The Palace Walk is, Mahfouz found time for grace notes, mostly expressed through the consciousness of Kamal, the young man who is widely considered to be Mahfouz's alter-ego. Check this, when Kamal learns that his sister Aisha's labor has begun:
He had once seen a cat give birth when he was not quite six. She had attracted his attention with her piercing meows. He had rushed to her, finding her on the roof under the arbor of hyacinth beans, writhing in pain with her eyes bulging out. When he saw her body part with an inflamed bit of meat, he had backed away in disgust, screaming as loud as he could. The memory haunted his mind, and he felt the same old disgust. It was a pesky, distressing memory, encompassing him like a fog, but he refused to let himself be frightened. He could not imagine any connection between the cat and Aisha, except the slight relationship between an animal a human being, which he believed to be as far apart as earth from heaven...
This is, as I said, stiff, in the classic manner, but also true and human enough to pierce the heart of anyone who has learned to read outside his time's own idiom.

The other, smaller Mahfouz books I read -- Midaq Alley, The Thief and the Dogs, and Wedding Song -- belong more to a Kamal's-eye point of view, though history still serves as canopy over, and infiltrator of, the lives on display. The Thief and the Dogs is short and easy to comprehend, especially for those of us steeped in Camus and Genet and Burgess -- and maybe Dostoyevski and Lagerqvist -- and the whole 20th Century literature of the dispossessed.

In The Thief and the Dogs, Nasser reigns, the revolution is institutionalized -- and still there are thieves. Said Mahran is one such, newly freed; once he was allied with the revolutionaries, but his former mentor, Rauf, is embarrassed by him and what he represents (and frightened -- Said breaks into his house). Detectives harass him; his daughter disowns him; his spiritual leader, the Sheik, shoves him off with the Koran. He steals, kills, pledges himself and his hopes to a prostitute, who forsakes him, out of need perhaps or betrayal. He steals a uniform, uses it to brave the unfriendly streets. He is belligerent, and for a long time carries the dream that his survival is tied to that of his nation -- "Whoever kills me will be killing the millions. I am the hope and the dream, the redemption of cowards; I am good principles, consolation, the tears that recall the weeper to humanity..." His dream reduces to survival for himself -- "At last exhaustion conquered his will. He forgot his determination to get the uniform and fall asleep..." The dogs get him in the end. I mentioned Lagerqvist before; The Thief and the Dogs is a nice bookend to Barrabas. Like Lagerkvist, Mahfouz won the Nobel. Good call.

More present in my mind is Bruce Jay Friedman's 1964 novel A Mother's Kisses, which I just read. Friedman came out of the same 60s chute as Philip Roth, the one marked "Urban Jewish Neurotic Humorist." Both these UJNHs wrote for New York magazines, were funny and a bit difficult (trendily so) and got into novels. Roth muscled his way into the Great American Writer top-ten; Friedman's route was more circuitous. He wrote two excellent plays, Scuba Dooba and Steambath, that were Broadway hits in that little 60s window of opportunity for UJNH playwrights. Later, Friedman sopped up some Hollywood gravy with Splash and The Lonely Guy, then devolved to teaching, occasional writing (really good occasional writing) and the care and feeding of Josh and Drew Friedman, his brilliant sons.

A Mother's Kisses is an excellent, though little remembered, example of the genre -- on the same pitch as Goodbye, Columbus and Portnoy's Complaint. Joseph, a New York Jewish kid of early 60s vintage, lives in a two-room apartment with his mother, father, and sister (Joseph sleeps on a board that juts from the pantry into the kitchen). Joseph wants to go to college, but only applies to Columbia and Bates -- making the latter choice solely on the basis of a guy he once saw playing pick-up basketball in a Bates sweatshirt, "a short, scrappy fellow with heavy thighs... Joseph had come to think of the school as a scrappy little heavy-thighed college full of fast little fellows who pressed their opponents."

Joseph places in neither school, and has to spend more time with his mother, a "heavy-breasted" harridan who disastrously handles Joseph's affairs while loudly announcing, in psuedo-wised-up, passive-aggressively negative terms, her achievements, real and potential, and aspirations for her loved ones:
"...Your mother has nothing to do in the city? I don't have organizations waiting for me that if I wanted to condescend and become their type there aren't women who'd give their right arms to have me at their side? There aren't charities right now that are passing out for your mother's interest? Real poor ones, my kind, on the Lower East Side, that could break your heart? That when I go to them with bundles when nobody's looking I don't have to insert an ad in the paper telling everyone to look what I did? There isn't a job waiting for me in my millinery shop for sixty-five dollars a week that Polly knows good and well she could get it back, times ten, with the trade your mother's charm would lure into the store?..."
Joseph's mother -- she is known by no other name -- wheedles him into a place at Kansas Agricultural Land Grant College, accompanies him on the trip there and, despite his ceaseless protests, lives with him in a small hotel room until he becomes enraged enough to throw her out. This is as classic an example as I've ever seen of what postwar types called "Momism" -- even better than Jim Backus in an apron in Rebel Without a Cause, or Ruth Gordon kissing George Segal's ass in Where's Poppa? One could take it as a precursor to the negative notion of the "mommy" or "nanny" state, or as a natural complement to the patricidal furies of the later 60s, or as plain misogyny, or all of these, and have ample evidence for any case.

That Friedman was responding to Momism, or Mom, is plain, but in A Mother's Kisses he also creates a whole, painful world of male and female grotesques in which Joseph's mother is only the preeminent horror. (Friedman also wrote a book called A Father's Kisses, which I haven't read but am very eager to find.) Most memorable among these is Joseph's self-appointed college pal "Gatesy," a Philadelphia kid defined by self-referential tics who insists that he and Joseph are real "New York guys," and has slang-stuffed speeches that rival those of Joseph's mother for lunacy -- though it's a lunacy that Joseph, on balance and because of his stage of development, comes to prefer. A Mother's Kisses turns out to be a UJNH bildungsroman that ends in something less than maturity, as Joseph chases his mother's train out of Kansas:
...he began to holler things after his mother, first softly, then at the top of his lungs, anything he wanted to: "What was the rush?" and "You're not great at all."

"I never enjoyed one second with you," he shouted, and kept on, fairly much in the same manner, until the shriek of the engine no longer covered his words.
Being a son and sort of an anti-Momist myself, I found this rather touching.

Speaking of kisses, I finally saw Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, which greatly pleased me by temporarily lifting the heavy cloud over L.A. Noir that had closed in with James Ellroy and L.A. Confidential and is bound to descend again with Hollywoodland and The Black Dahlia. I love L.A. Confidential, but I figure if we can't have Chandler straight-up -- and, alas, it appears we can't -- then let us have something like Altman's The Long Goodbye, which revivified the original mix with hints of Bukowski and Joan Didion, as this film does with cheaper equivalents (Tarantino and -- fuck, I don't know who else). Robert Downey, Jr. has perfected and apotheosized his fuck-up routine; fat Val Kilmer, like fat Elvis, has discovered the joys of self-parody. The L.A.-specific supernumeraries -- like the reverse greeter who tells the beaten-up Harry "Have a better night," or the rap-poisoned macho gangsters who are undone by Gay Perry's ploy -- give all the local color I need. The narration engages and the resolution disgorges. If I have a better time learning who killed George Reeves, I'll be very surprised.

Friday, September 01, 2006

NAME GAME. Oh, this is cute: the boys at The Corner are debating on what name we should give our adversaries in the War on Whatchamacallit. Slow propaganda day!

Goldberg shows off some of the names he learned while researching his alleged book; he certainly can parrot catch-phrases, but alas, education gives Goldberg about as much real benefit as Cytosport Muscle Milk would give Stephen Hawking, and his proposed name for the dusky hordes is -- get this -- "Bin Ladenism."

Bin Laden? Isn't he that guy we don't care about anymore? Also, what if we find Bin Laden? Does that mean Bin Ladenism is dead, and the war over? (Fools! Bin Laden is at this very moment enjoying the hospitality of our luxurious American psychiatric facilities!)

Cliff May sums up:
We are struggling to come up with a term that (1) accurately describes the network of ideologies and movements that have risen up with the “Muslim world” (I hate that phrase) and which seek to defeat America and its allies, a term which also (2) clearly conveys to the average person in the West that this is an enemy who must be taken seriously.
Are you tempted to send in your own suggestions -- but painfully aware that The Corner, which keeps a large bin of prepared "reader responses" next to Goldberg's cooler of Snickers, will never publish them? Drop them in our comments box! Somebody will read them, as I plan to visit an internet cafe later and loudly announce, "Hey check out http://alicublog.blogspot.com/2006_08_27_alicublog_archive.html#115712390303821411 -- they got Shakira fucking a dog!"

Just try and pick something that can complete phrases like "In our war against..." and "England, alas, is already a casualty of..." in a such way as to warm the willies of warbloggers. I'll start:

Ooga-Booga.

Islama-dama-ding-dong.

Homosexuality.


Actually, I'll just stick to "Whatchamacallit."

UPDATE. Thanks to commenter R.Porrofatto, who points out that winger nuthouse Gates of Vienna has just concluded a WOT Slogan Contest. Among the entrants: "Kill 'em All, and let Allah sort them out," "Eradicate or be Eradicated," and "Burn the Koran." The winner was "Allah Akbar -- It's the New Sieg Heil!" Oh, that'll get the crowds on their feet! I imagine half the Cletuses asking, "Whut's Ally Akbur?" and the other half asking "Who's Zig Heil?"

If they'd only had the humility to ask, I could have told them that FREE BEER! or PARTY! would serve their purposes much better, assuming that the sound trucks from which they blared would also distribute weapons and Pantone chips indicating the darkest acceptable skin tone.

My own slogan: Death to Dhummitude!
LABOR DAY POST. The MSM are very busy and powerful indeed. To hear the Perfesser and Back Talk tell it, in addition to their tireless labors on behalf of Islamofascist victory, reporters have managed to hyp-mo-tize the American people into disliking their "fabulous economy."

Back Talk has a lot of graphs but, as some of his commenters point out, they are no so good at showing exactly what sliver of the citizenry is sopping up the gravy of our Fabulous Economy, and what sector is obliged to take an old cold tater and wait.

We have seen this sort of thing before, as when Jeff Goldstein suggested that Americans were underestimating our Fabulous Economy because they felt sorry for some imagined underclass that was not doing so well as they ("Americans -- a compassionate people -- are often concerned about this phantom suffering of others in the abstract, and will react less confidently to the current state of the economy based on how they believe others are suffering under it").

Now, as then, I have to marvel at the breathtaking difference between the academic view of working life, and the view normally taken by actual working stiffs. A Back Talk commenter makes an observation that should be pitifully obvious but is, in this context, refreshing:
How do individuals judge "how good the economy is doing?" Answer: If they don't know how to understand the numbers (which they don't, because the numbers are meaningless), they judge by their personal circumstances.
Buy that man a beer. Ask a citizen for his opinion on mayhem in far-off lands like the Sudan or Lebanon, and his response may be influenced by guilt, social pressure, or indoctrination; but poll him on the economy, and all such vapors disperse.

If a man tells you he's worried about money, he's not bullshitting. Why would he? Americans don't try to sound worse off than their neighbors. As I have previously observed -- and tell me if your experience contradicts this -- America is a land of folks who are (thumbs up) doin' great, feelin' fine! Just bought a new car! Listen to that engine! Boy's goin' off to college, and the best of anything is not too good for his little girl!

You don't get such go-getters to allow as how they worry about making ends meet by printing a jaundiced editorial in the New York Times.

For one thing, they don't read the New York Times -- only sissies and fags do. They read red-blooded American papers and watch Fox. But no matter what they read or watch, they probably hear more than a few stories like this:
Getting fired is traumatic enough, but imagine getting fired by email. Radio Shack emailed layoff [notices] Tuesday morning to 400 of its workers at the Forth Worth Texas headquarters.
And when they read such stories, they are reminded, if they are far enough along in their adulthood, not only that their jobs are fragile, but that the people who run this Fabulous Economy don't give a rat's ass about them. They see their credit card interest rates and cable bills jacked up, seemingly arbitrarily; they see gas prices go through the roof; they see pension plans go bankrupt; and they get the message. And if they could be brought in contact with the Ole Perfesser, who laments:
...everyone I know who has a business complains that they can't get enough decent help even when they raise pay, because people are always leaving for better jobs. That may be a local phenomenon or something, but I'd like to see something that accounts for worker mobility, too.
They would know what to think of that, too.

Yet these schoolly conservatives still tell the little man: tut tut, can't you see you're rich? Cafe Hayek:
Given these two options, I’d choose to live today with only 1967’s real median household income. The reason is that the economy today offers so very many more options than did the economy in 1967 – or even the economy of that halcyon year, 1973. Today I can buy cell-phone service; today I can buy cable television with hundreds of channels, including ones that specialize in sports, cooking, history, and science; today even the cheapest automobiles are safer and more reliable than were the finest cars for sale in 1967; today I can buy telephone answering machines (with caller-ID), microwave ovens, CDs, personal computers, Internet service, and MP3 players. Today I can watch movies in my own home – in color – whenever I want without having to wait for one of the three or four available television stations to telecast a movie for viewing on a black-and-white television.

Today I can use GPS....
On the litany goes: "Today’s coffee is indescribably superior to the coffee Americans regularly drank just a few years ago... Today I can buy an inexpensive quartz wristwatch that keeps time with remarkable accuracy...."

All the beautiful junk of empire is yours, little man! Just don't fuck up and become a loser. Keep your skills sharp and relevant -- and don't make the mistake of following a career that will become obsolete. Technology's ever changing, so you'll have to stay very nimble. Re-train yourself constantly. That'll take a heap of money, of course -- maybe you can get the tuition on eBay!

And if, by some ordinary misfortune -- a disease, a failed marriage, an extra child, or a shift in market forces that you just weren't sophisticated enough to anticipate -- you find yourself underqualified, living in a double-wide, working an extra job just to make ends meet with no time or opportunity for advancement, well, shows to go ya: some cats is meant to enjoy indescribably superior coffee, and some cats ain't.

Let that be a lesson to the rest of you! And don't come crying to the government for help: we reformed the shit out of that option long ago.

If the argument above does not convince you, take some comfort in the fact that you are far from alone; but be advised that, given how things are going, how you and any but a precious tenured or think-tanked few feel about it may not mean much of anything at all.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

SAY IT LOUD... Yet another American Scene posting about how in the 60s bad liberals made everyone have sex:
...if you make up a fantasy of Samoa (as Mead did) and use it as the basis for your social revolution*, you shouldn't be too surprised when it turns out to look less like a South Sea utopia, and more like today's Duke.

*And yes, left-wing intellectuals didn't cause the sexual revolution, any more than Hugh Hefner did - that honor belongs to a changing economy and the birth control pill. But they made its consequences a hell of a lot worse.
Fellow members of the liberal traitor cabal, I address this to you.

When we make fun of ('scuse me, "purge") Joe Lieberman, Marty Peretz, and all those jerks, the Voices of Responsibility tut-tut and tell that no electorate will ever love us again.

But Ross Douthat and his fellow nuts are handing us a secret weapon, if we have the wisdom to use it.

Maw and Paw America may have lingering doubts about our National Security competence, but once they get a load of what ol' Ross is cooking up in his intellectual meth lab, not even Ohio-2004-style waiting lines will stop them from voting the Republicans out.

Because while conservatives keep saying our current era demands a new level of seriousness, their own intellectual class (such as it is) has floated off into the ether when it comes to a great many subjects. They think that the War on Iraq goes well -- or, if it doesn't go well, it can be made to go well by the invasion of one or more other Middle Eastern countries; they think the economy is going great; they think the failure in New Orleans is in no way the fault of the Bush Administration; and, as this latest squib shows, they think people are happier with less sex than with more.

For the most part, circulation of these lunatic notions has been confined to little journals and blogs frequented by like-minded dorks. But elections provide politicians and their people with endless opportunity and obligation to talk and, sooner than later, the influence of these radical theorists will start to be felt in their very boilerplate. When handed these absurdities to mouth, the candidate will perhaps demur at first, then accept, either through fatigue or a desire for added differentiation, the wisdom of the Young Turks. Then, let the jaw-dropping commence!

I say we steal a march on them now, and let America know that we stand contra Douthat! Here's a bumper sticker for starters:

I KNEW THIS WOULD ALL END BADLY. Now we're in for months of scoliotic asscrack preggo porn. Softcore, yet.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

THE COMPANY THEY KEEP. When Left-Left-Me Types harsh on their former comrades, they can always expect megadittos from their commenters, who are generally not former liberals, to say the least.

But when LLMTs come up with an anti-anti-gay post -- it's rare, but it happens -- the cheers fade into confused grumbling, boos, and, in places, the sound of seats being ripped out.

This is what happens when Roger L. Simon condemns John Derbyshire's anti-gay remarks. Major finding: homosexual pedophiliac assault, whether completed or merely attempted, can lead to conservatism.
I was an innocent twelve year old kid who liked to go walk around the reservoir near our home. One summer evening I was approached by a man who seemed nice... The shame. The guilt. And the fucking homosexual hadn't even succeeded in seducing me! You liberals. You noble, tolerant liberals. Go fuck yourselves, forever!
Butt-rape narratives aside, the consensus is that gayness leads to/results in "degeneration of concepts of manliness" etc. But the gays share the hate with their enablers: those "nice, respectable, bien pensant" types, who will "check [their] brain out in exchange for that warm, moist feeling: 'I'm so ENLIGHTENED...'" That is, the same people Simon's commenters hate already.

Oh, a lot of the commenters hate Andrew Sullivan, too. But you know what they say about stopped clocks.
A DEFENSE OF KATHERINE HARRIS. John Podhoretz criticizes Katherine Harris' campaign tactics:
In an interview with a Baptist paper, she said, "If you’re not electing Christians then in essence you are going to legislate sin." Now, let's see here. Miss Harris is running for statewide office in FLORIDA. Guess which religious-ethnic group makes up a significant constituency in Florida?
At the risk of exposing myself as one of those famously liberal anti-Semites, I will assume Podhoretz is talking about Jews.

If so, why would they necessarily present a problem for Harris? For one thing, the right-wing have been encouraging Jews to embrace the growth of Christian fundamentalism because, in David Klinghoffer's words, “Christians are the most logical allies that Jews could have.” (This may be the beginning of a new conservative sect: neo-Marranos.)

And after all, didn’t the Jews of Palm Beach famously turn out in droves to vote for Pat Buchanan in 2000?

If you’re of a cynical turn of mind, and do not believe these voters were really in Pitchfork Pat’s amen corner, but were instead mere pawns in the heist of the century, then you still have reason to believe Harris can pull it off. For, though she is no longer Secretary of State, her successor seems like the sort to accommodate old friends.

So on Election Night we may yet see Harris declared the winner, with the margin of victory shown to be provided by members of her opponent’s own family, just for shits and giggles. Then who’ll be laughing, Mr. Podhoretz?
U.K. ART ROUNDUP. I spent a lot of my London time in museums, and the time was well spent. I am depressingly uneducated about the stuff, but I try to look and to see, and take what it gives me.

The National Portrait Gallery is fun -- what a great idea to put up pictures of people the Empire deemed important, and then watch 99% of them turn into Some Old Guy No One Remembers. With any luck it'll happen to Elton John in my lifetime. Good or bad, rich or poor, the subjects of masterpieces or of hackwork, all are equal now. I loved Paul Brasson's "Conservative Party Conference, Brighton 1982", with Margaret Thatcher rising as if to meet a threat and her husband shielding his eyes from the glare, and Joshua Reynolds' Laurence Sterne, looking like Harpo Marx in bard drag. And this year's BP Portrait Award entrants are a very good bunch. Some strive for New Artist ugliness, like "Poet Laureate" by Annemarie Busschers (Andrew Motion should ask for clarification -- it's the Dutch PL, with lots of enlarged pores), but this is just one flavor among many and very well done. I especially liked Patricia Rorie's "Black Beads," the enormous head of a young girl, with stiff hair and waxy pallor but a penetrating gaze, like a mannequin coming to life.

Like all big-city supermuseums, the British Museum and the National Gallery are purposefully overwhelming -- Britain brings the culture, motherfuckers! Of course, they take culture, too: The Elgin Marbles are still at the BM, but renamed "The Parthenon Sculptures" and endowed with teaching signage about Greece's claims on them -- another shocking example of Britain's capitulation to the Hellenofascists. Lots of dead Egyptians lying around -- and a dazzling living artist previously unknown to me, Avigdor Arikha. NatGal had a nice "Rebels and Martyrs" show about the romantic image of the artist, which starts with Sir Joshua ("Hero of the Establishment") looking smug and settled, followed by a bunch of nuts with berets, haunted expressions, and filthy ateliers. I loved Henry Wallis' dazzling "Chatterton" in beauteous death-sleep illuminated by grey morning light from garret windows, and was surprised to see documentary evidence that Rodin's "Balzac" is, under that sweeping robe, fondling himself. And of course there were plentiful galleries of Great Ones, pummeling you with genius. Before I saw Hogarth's "Marriage-a-la-Mode" here, I had not known (as I had not known about Daumier before I saw him in the Phillips Collection earlier this year) that he had done paintings as well as engravings and drawings. I wish revelations of my ignorance always came with such compensating pleasures.

The Tate Modern is another glorious monstrosity, an old power station with giant steel girders framing tons of open space. The galleries are well curated, and while I'd gorged overmuch on the Dada show in D.C. (and again at MOMA) to be in the mood for the Surrealism show, it was full of great hangings, like a streak of Balthus bracketed by Meredith Frampton. Two great Four Seasons, too: the Rothko paintings originally commissioned by that New York restaurant, shown in dim light as diners might have experienced them, like big rainy-fogged windows; and Cy Twombly's "Four Seasons," about the most majestic abstract expressionist paintings ever, balanced with an appropriately massive Beuys installation. These guys know what they're doing.

Also saw Damien Hirst's 40-foot-tall "Virgin Mother" outside the Royal Academy. Fucking hilarious.

The rest was all bitters and balti, but this is what sticks with me.

Monday, August 28, 2006

SHORTER JIM LILEKS: Those damned artists never talk about anything important, like the twin menace of Islamofascism and bad living-room decor.

UPDATE. Apparently it's also unseemly to attack Intelligent Design unless you condemn Islamofascism at the same time. Maybe we should pass a law that every new book, movie, play, etc. must include the words "Islamofascism delenda est," preferably as an acrostic.

The real joke is that both these guys are writers, but they want someone else to create their War on Terror epics for them. What's stopping them? I would pay good money to see Lileks' "Babes in Baghdad" at a theatre near me.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

LAST BLIGHTY BIT. I haven't the time or the money to make a full report now, but it's been mostly museums and bitter here in London, and I've enjoyed them all. Editor Martin will be more eloquent, or windy, depending on how you want to look at it. Thanks for your patience. Tomorrow, after the ten-hour nap, I will sum up.
MORE FROM ROY'S ASSOCIATE. The proprietors of our hotel, the Arosfa, are a sweet older couple of indeterminate national origin, though her accent is more inflected with British than his. We asked for a wake-up call yesterday morning so that we could catch breakfast, but apparently the ringing phone wasn't enough to rouse us. This morning I struggled to consciousness at 8 a.m., in time for the breakfast, provided in a little room downstairs. The landlady, wearing a patterned housekeeper's smock, served us orange juice, coffee, toast, sausages, a fried egg, and bacon.

We spent most of the day inside the National Gallery, studying 16th- and 17th-century pictures until they all seemed to fuse into a jumble of luminous flesh and rich drapery. Art-induced exhaustion notwithstanding, we still managed to fit in the Cabinet War Rooms and the Churchill Museum. I've breathed the air inside the bunker, preserved just as it was on V-E Day, where decisions upon which everything depended were made as German bombs fell all around; and I can die now that I've seen Churchill's own hearing aid.

I have an early plane to catch. If you'll indulge me, I will wrap this all up upon my return to New England.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

STOPPARD'S THIRD WAY. I got to see Tom Stoppard's new play, Rock 'n' Roll, at the Duke of York's. Rock ‘n’ Roll adheres to the usual Stoppard formula: a dramatic conflict corresponding to some actual social/political/aesthetic/scientific conflict of the 20th Century. The combatants in this case are Max, an Oxford prof Communist loyalist, and Jan, his former student, a Czech reverse-refugee dreamer. Each of them plays a little part in the decline of Soviet empire from 1967 to 1990. We know from long experience how Stoppard feels about Commies, but we also know that he's been trying to define more specifically what he hoped would be, and then what he hoped had been, saved from Communism. This time he goes in a very unexpected direction.

Through the inglorious Soviet decline, Max clings to his Marxism and his tenure, becoming "the last white rhino," contemptuous of all "bed-wetters" who can't accept the pitiless logic of dialectical materialism. This (seemingly) includes Jan, who leaves Oxford, and Max, unexpectedly and (seemingly) without motivation to return to his native Prague. Despite his philosophical talents, Jan adopts a kind of hippie mysticism based on rock music -- which puts him among, but not of, the reformers who rally behind Dubcek and Havel.

This reduces, not too unfairly, to a good old head-vs.-heart dust-up. Max is a thoroughgoing materialist, and longtime Stoppard fans can already hear the boo-hiss coming there. When his wife is fighting cancer and her body is cut to pieces, Stoppard forces Max to admit that he loves her with his mind -- implicitly because he has no ready access to what we capitalists would call our hearts. And of course he is deaf to Jan's rock music.

But Stoppard is, as usual, generous with his wrong-thinking characters. He gives the old Bolshie credit for intellectual consistency, for human decency, and resiliency, the ability to hold fast not only when the going gets tough, but when it gets ridiculous. In fact, as other characters flip among identities as the times dictate, Max's stubborn streak becomes rather attractive.

Jan, meanwhile, gets beat up by the occupiers, but hangs on to his music-love and even makes speeches about it. Jan is given some character-deepening foibles, too -- though on the right side of history, he suffers injuries to his spirit that, while topically administered by the Government, originate in his weak and unthoughtful character. He is not heroic at all, just persecuted, and his emergence into the sunlight of freedom is a redemption by grace rather than by merit.

I could swallow most of this, happily and with a yum-yum, but something bugged me very much throughout. When Stoppard uses Fermat's theorem or the Third Law of Thermodynamics to carry his case, I can accept his presentation, conditionally, so long as the drama is sustained. But rock 'n' roll is something I know about, and nearly every reference to it in the play -- every musical quote, every panegyric of Jan's, and especially the end in which (I shit you not) Jan’s final triumph comes at a fucking Mixed Emotions-era Rolling Stones concert in Prague -- felt totally false.

Now, come on. If it were anyone else symbolizing the triumph of the human spirit with gummy old Mick and Keef playing a stadium show, I’d say he was kidding. But Stoppard doesn't know enough about the subject to kid -- at least, his writing doesn't show it. I didn't feel any of the divine madness or spiritual sap-rising that was being attributed to rock music. I don't think Stoppard really felt it either. He probably liked the idea of rock music. But rock and the idea of rock are two different things. If Stoppard knew that, Rock 'n' Roll would be a different play -- and Stoppard a different writer. So, in the long run, maybe it's just as well that they aren't.
GUEST BLOGGER MARTIN AGAIN. How surprised we were to find the London pubs shuttered or putting up their stools at 11 p.m., when we left the Duke of York theatre and wended our way back to our neighborhood, desiring to discuss Tom Stoppard's Rock 'n' Roll over a pint of bitter. Because of this unfortunate circumstance we reluctantly joined the queue outside the Roxy, a dance club on Rathbone Place. Soon we passed the velvet rope and descended into a space packed shoulder to shoulder with well-scrubbed young things bopping to popular music. We took our drinks and studied the scene, which was not in any way our kind of scene, as would become more comically apparent the longer we hung around. I spied a nice-looking bird dancing alone, and I bid Roy to engage her. Off he shimmied into the mix. I, meanwhile, sought out the loo and then jockeyed at the bar for an interminably long time to place another order. After searching the crowd for some time I rejoined my friend, who now encouraged me, in a shouted and several times repeated exchange, to dance some. I don't like to be a wet blanket, so I danced. Nearby a group of young women and one bloke were arranged in a loose circle, dancing -- that is, sort of shuffling their feet and kind of moving their hips and shoulders, arms bent, hands in loose fists. I inserted myself into the circle. I raised the roof. I did the eagle rock. I did the pogo. I limped to the side like my leg was broken, shakin' and twitchin' kind of like I was smokin'. I threw my hands high in the air and partied harder like I just didn't care. I said, come alive girls, get on your feet, to the rhythm of the beat to the beat, the beat, to the double beat-beat that makes you freak, to the rhythm of the beat that says you go on, on and on until the break of dawn. I succeeded in dispersing the circle. The dude tried to force his girlfriend to dance with me, but she shrank away in disgust. Then I accidentally knocked a beer bottle off a ledge and it broke at her feet.

Before the play, we dined at a restaurant across the street from the theatre, which must only survive on its location. Outwardly it looks okay, like any middle-of-the-road bistro. My meal was amazing: a grey, fatty cutlet of sirloin steak served alongside microwaved frozen vegetables and chips.

The play was nice. "Niiice!" That's what my little girl, Esme, says about things she likes, while stroking them. Esme is the name of a major character in the play. I am happily reassured that I pronounce her name correctly. So many people say "Es-mee" I began to doubt that it's actually "Ehz-may." I should see more plays.

Today we took in the Tate Modern. The building itself shows up its collection on the whole, although there are some standout pieces. Balthus' Sleeping Girl alone made the trip worthwhile. The photography on display was singularly boring: large-scale photos of massed consumer goods in a U.S. supermarket, unremarkable people standing around doing nothing, suburban European houses, etc.

After traversing the Harmonic Bridge to the steps of St. Paul's, we cabbed it out to Brick Lane in Spitalfields, a refreshingly less tony district than what I had heretofore seen, and after walking up and down to see all the options, we allowed ourselves to be diverted by a friendly steerer promising a 20% discount on our meal into a Bangladeshi/Indian restaurant, which measured up to my expectations for curry in London.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Cheers! I am the one Roy sometimes refers to as "editor Martin," though I'm not sure why. I haven't been anyone's editor, let alone his, for many years. I have come to London to sightsee and take the culture. I simply adore culture, and I have been satisfied to find it in evidence everywhere I turn. My companion I'm sure will give a full account of the serious objects of cultural interest we've encountered, with his usual considerable insight. I shall be content to comment upon the trifles and mundanities that preoccupy me.

Immediately I was struck by how well turned out Central Londoners are, almost without exception. The young people are all dressed in the height of fashion, as if they expect at any moment someone could come along and photograph them for an indie-rock album cover. The professional men wear nicely cut dark suits or jackets with thick, Windsor-knotted ties. The women of the city are demurely chic. Both sexes seem to favor square-framed eyeglasses. What I've observed is beyond mere urbanity. I am a frequent visitor to and former resident of New York, and in no quarter there have I seen such a uniformly sharp throng on the streets.

When our self-directed walking tour yesterday took us past the place, a loop played in my mind of Chevy Chase's voice: "Look kids, Big Ben, Parliament ... Big Ben, Parliament ..."

I liked the portraits at the National Portrait Gallery. Becuase I can't always recognize British historical figures by their faces, it was fun to respond to a portrait and then walk up to read the name. For example, I looked at one and thought, that fellow looks intensely serious and very proud. It was Sir Issac Newton.
ON HOLIDAY. Notice the way I said that? Don't I sound British? That's because I'm in London for a few days with editor Martin and, pretentious shit that I am, will mix local colloquialisms into my natural argot til I am given a good sound thrashing by yobs, which should be any moment now.

Our first day was spent walking around central London, which had to be got out of the way because Martin's never been here before, whereas I have, often on business. So we went down from Bloomsbury to Trafalgar to the Embankment etc. I pretended not to be excited to see them again, so Martin would feel like an uncultured ass. But I was excited, and took pictures, with which I may plague you later.

One art highlight so far: the BP Portrait Awards show at the National Portrait Gallery. I'll tell you more about it later as I don't have my notes with me, but I will say now that it was wonderful to see some of that boldness we associate with new British artists allied with decent rendering skills.

We're going to see the new Stoppard tonight, which unfortunately coincides with the Selfish Cunt show at Spitz. If I had any taste at all I'd ditch Stoppard for the thrill of having a painted twat snarl at me while drum machines throb. I am an uncultured ass!

But one who's very happy to be here. Time now for my morning IPA.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

DON'T THEY KNOW, IT'S THE END OF THE WORLD. Why, look, the Perfesser gives us a tip on a guy who gives us a tip on another guy: "Bruce Kesler says you don't know Jack. But he thinks you should."

"Jack" turns out to be a nut of the pipe-puffing, philosopher-quoting sort, who whipsaws between despair over the decadent West and hope for its continued dominance over the Islamic hordes. His essay becomes a dramatic contest between these mania, and I read it eagerly to see which would win. At first it seems the "Lickspittles and vassals of the elites" and the "soccer thugs and soccer thugs in-waiting" will prevail (or rather, destroy each other or themselves but in any case piss away our patrimony), resulting in "Eurabia" and "Muslim Oxford." Then Jack realizes that "Europeans have among the nastiest histories of brutality, barbarism and genocide on the planet" -- and that "it is unwise to assume that these characteristics can be bred out of peoples so quickly, no matter what the doddering elites and their court jesters in the MSM seek to portray."

So we slaughter the wogs and wind up on top, yes? Here the crystal ball grows cloudy -- that is to say, the writing becomes inpenetrably dense: "Eurabia may well emerge. It is, however, our expectation that upheavals far worse than anyone is currently forecasting lie ahead for Europe and America in the intervening years." However?

Over at OpinionJournal, another guy says liberals are doomed to irrelevance because they're not having enough babies. Someone gave this guy a teaching job at Syracuse University, yet he seems to think voting choices are heritable racial characteristics. Maybe this categorical confusion comes from hanging out with "Eurabia vs. the Decadent West" types.

You know what's too bad? By the time I got to Lileks staying up late for Dick Clark's Rockin' Apocalypse, it had all begun to seem normal.

Monday, August 21, 2006

I HEARD ABOUT THE NIGHT CHICAGO DIED, YET THEY STILL HAVE TWO BASEBALL TEAMS. I've often wondered what the Giuliani fetishists think Giuliani actually did on September 11, besides his job as defined by law and custom. Today The Anchoress gives us a glimpse: had Giuliani been elected Senator the year before and gone to Washington,
Giuliani would not have been in the middle of NYC, and that city would have died under the ministrations of the ineffectual Mark Greene [sic].
Yes, the woman actually believes that without Rudy at the helm, we citizens all would have said, "fuck this, I'm outtie," and moved to Schenectady. Or, given her crackpot Catholicism, maybe she thinks a giant red hand would have come out of the ground and, to the sound of pitch-shifted laughter, pulled us into Hell.

If they were just wrong, if they were just dishonest, they wouldn't bug me so much. But these people seem to have learned everything about life from Gigantor cartoons.
SHORTER MARIO LOYOLA. The millions of Americans who think Iraq was a mistake are hippies, and George Bush can win them over by calling them hypocrites. (But in a funny way, because hippies love that.)

(I must say I'm enjoying the whole Republican meme to which Loyola is contributing here -- i.e., that there's nothing wrong with Bush that can't be fixed with better bullshit and universal forgetting.)
SHORTER JIM LILEKS: Say what you want about Joe McCarthy, but lay off Mickey Mouse, ya damn beatniks! You make this world a garbage can!

(Despite Jimbo's negative review of someone else's review, Putney Swope is a treat -- more surreal than vulgar -- and I recommend it highly.)

UPDATE. Photo at right shows Joseph Heller, Norman Mailer, and Arthur Miller fucking with the squares' heads.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

SUNDAY MISCELLANY. I sighed at the picture of the 1986 Mets in today's New York Post. Has it really been 20 years since I passed out in front to the TV during Game 6? Now they look like the Beer-League Champions of 1998. Sic trans-fat gloria mundi. Remind me to get my cholesterol checked.

The current team was apparently inspired by the old team's presence and example: Lastings Millage told the Post that after the pre-game tribute "I was ready to run through a brick wall." And he had a great game. Intangibles, my friends. Speaking of which, Wally Backman told the Post that the Diamondbacks "fucked" him on that managerial offer in 2004. Glad to see the years haven't taken off his edge.

Speaking of old, belligerent drunks, I'll be hauling my aged ass to London in a few days, and I'm looking for pub recommendations. In previous visits I've always gone wherever's been nearest, and it's usually worked out okay. But now, with the power of distributed citizen journalism at my disposal, I hope to eschew Firkins and such like and take my pints and pasties at blogger-approved locals. I'm not interested in darts and quizzes so much as good ale, comfortable seats, and pleasant surroundings.

Finally, with this story I begin to see the need for airport profiling. If I see a 59-year-old white lady in a Rolling Stones T-shirt at JFK, I'm going Peggy Noonan on her ass. A pack, not a herd!
SHORTER OLE PERFESSER: The boys sorta got outta hand with these here "minorities," but that's what happens when the government is always bending over backwards for niggers.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

REYNOLDS' UNIVERSAL ROBOTS. A few posts back, when I quoted Motörhead ("That's the way I like it, baby, I don't want to live forever"), I was aware that not everyone sees things that way. Perfesser Glenn Reynolds, for one, looks forward to a near-future in which exist "individuals with powers that would have been until recently regarded as godlike." The Perfesser has elaborated:
Yes, it's possible to draw parallels between the Christian idea of The Rapture -- and, even more generally, between religious ideas of transcendence generally -- and the notion that, once human technology passes a certain threshold, roughly that described by Vinge and other Singularity enthusiasts, human beings will potentially enjoy the kind of powers and pleasures traditionally assigned to gods or beings in heaven: Limitless lifespans, if not immortality, superhuman powers, virtually limitless wealth, fleshly pleasures on demand, etc.
Oddly enough, I was reading Çapek's R.U.R. around the same time, which put me into a fugue state, and resulted in this:

2079


(A midwestern American town. Citizens, like the ones we know today, but with hyperextended thumbs and gently sloping brows, gather in a town square surrounded by barbed-wire and kill-droid guardians, in a high state of excitement)

ACE II: (mounting a plinth) Citizens! We are juiced today by the hyperpresence of the greatest robot lawgiver in our nation-state! Throw your citizenguns in the air like you just don't care for Perfesser Glenn Harlan Reynolds!

(Applause, shrieks, citizengunfire. ACE II descends and the PERFESSER mounts the plinth. He moves somewhat stiffly, being a nanotechnologic replication of his former pre-Singularity self; but his plasticine body is covered in roomy, luminescent grey cloth, and his head -- actually a titanium CPU -- is encased in a bullet-proof glass globe, upon the front of which is projected a lifelike image of his face from his pre-transhumanist days, and on top of which, like Happy Hooligan's hat, rests a small solar generator. His voice issues from a small speaker near what used to be his throat.)

THE PERFESSER: (With a gentle, whirring sound, his arms raise) Citizens! Heh! (giddy general response: "Heh!") Indeed! ("Indeed!") Hear me! (With a gentle, whirring sound, his arms descend; the crowd grows still) I am come to tell you that World War XXVII goes well, and the Free Market still rules! (whistles, cries of "hehindeed") Only a few statists remain in six or seven unsuburban spider-holes. And the statist stronghold of Madison, Wisconsin, I hehindeed to tell you, is today a Patriot Zone! (Cheers, gunfire) We heard the good news this morning from Ann Althouse, who will share it with you today.

(ACE II hands the PERFESSER a medium-sized globe, within which flickers an electronic representation of the face of ANN ALTHOUSE, rendered in psychedelic colors)

ALTHOUSE GLOBE: What a hoot! Partisan peoples running around, then they splashed like Jackson Pollock all over the walls and floors. They were so depressive! Why would I care about them! My toes were all tingly! I saw a pretty butterfly.

(The ALTHOUSE GLOBE makes a sputtering noise. The PERFESSER's arm rises; the crowd applauds; The PERFESSER's arm wobbles, which the crowd takes as a sign to be still)

THE PERFESSER: This news is very hehindeed, but we still face challenges from the Islamocommifascistevilstatistsquareds. (boos, screams, beach balls tossed) I am told that last night Kimkushkiba rockets landed just outside the Freedom Zone. (His voice slowly rising as ACE II turns his volume knob) Citizens, you know what we must do: increase production of iBrains threefold! And of Cafesodasplurges even more! And blog! Blog! Forever blog! (The crowd cheers lustily) For it is blogging, and coffee drinks, and technology, and most of all the Free Market that will destroy our enemies, as it did in the days of Winston Dubya and Reagan Hayek! Thank you, Good Night, and HehIndeed!

(The PERFESSER is helped from the plinth to enjoy the favors of robowhores, as the citizens scream, do the Electric Slide, and shoot each other with their citizenguns.)

2197


(The same midwestern American town as before, but somewhat the worse for wear. Citizens wear crudely-stitched flannel shirts and shapeless leggings, and gather around the PERFESSER, whose body-stocking is now of a faded pink, and stands erect only because he has had an iron bar implanted in his back. His face-image flickers but dimly in his head-globe.)

CITIZEN 1: (holds a stick shaped like a microphone at the PERFESSER) Perfesser! You say we beat Islamofish! That no true me think! Bomb bomb bomb all the time! Me sick alla time and wife she dead!

(Other CITIZENS roar, and point at the sky, each other, and the PERFESSER blocks of wood shaped like handguns.)

CITIZEN 2: Me sick too! Me iBrain no make tune no more! (crying) Me only know one tune no more! (tunelessly wails) "Put body, put body in motion! Put body in lo-co-co-motion!" (snarls, eyes gleaming at the PERFESSER)Uck uck uck! Me hate 'im! It sugg! IT SUGG! IT SUGG! EAT MY SHORT YOU KILL KENNY! EAT MY SHORT YOU KILL KENNY!

(Crowd yells and waves its wooden guns)

THE PERFESSER: (his voice tinny and faint) Citizens, citizens. The Free Market is the answer to your problems. Hehindeed. What is your manufacture? Where is your technology?

CITIZEN 1: Technol'gy? Technol'gy? (Pulls his flannel shirt up by the chest) We smesh together ol' clothes! Cause me got sewing machine, we pedal with feet! Cause no electric! Cause all bomb! Me make wood gun to fight, an' me fight you! You no good! You no good!

(Citizens hurl their wooden guns at THE PERFESSER, who topples, but whose face maintains its rictus grin.)

THE PERFESSER: Where are my robowhores? Bring me my robowhores!

2230


(The same midwestern American town as before. The air is full of blue smoke. The PERFESSER is in the same spot and prone position as before. His plasticine body has flattened and is covered by filthy pink rags. The speaker that was near his throat has been ripped away. The glass globe that served for his head is cracked and unlighted, and to the front of it is taped an ancient photograph of Gordon Ramsey. The solar generator hat tilts almost to the ground, hanging by a few thin wires. Some wild boys, naked and filthy, run up to him. One holds the PERFESSER's former voice-box, and waves it at him tauntingly.)

BOY: Ea' myshort! Faggit funna funna! Fagga ea' myshort!

BOY 2: Skree!

BOY 3: Body in motion! Body in motion!

(The PERFESSER, with his last dying electrical charge, thinks: I have no mouth. And I must heh indeed.)

Friday, August 18, 2006

NEEDED: A BLOGGER COMMONPLACE BOOK. Tbogg provides the first precept:
No one is going to get a blogging Pulitzer for being the fastest to post what they just saw and heard on the TV.
I love that guy.

UPDATE. The nut whom Tbogg is advising does not appreciate the help; nor does he appreciate all those "Brave, Tough, Strong Warriors of the Left" who laugh at his bogus terror alerts. He says that "this country needs a divorce, or at least a trial separation period," from the Left.

Loyal commenters roger that: "Really, Ace, the left and right in this country severely need a divorce. That, or we're gonna kill the bitch." But there are a surprising number of dissenters, some with a good deal of moxie:
Funny how the bedwetters never seems to live in New York, LA, Chicago, whatever.

It's always some loser in Bumfuck, Nebraska who's afraid the swarthy brown man is gonna drop da bomb on him at the In & Out Burger on Main.

To steal a bit from Maher, New Rule: If you're going to wet the bed from every alleged terror plot, you must live within five hundred miles of civilization.
If only my trolls were that funny! But Mr. Spades should probably take heed: this weird, morose state can't be good for him or his co-religionists. Even Jim Lileks, a pants-pisser from way back, is sick of it: "Frankly, I’m weary of dismay. I’m tired of feeling like tremulous Belgium in the latter thirties. We need to buck up. To paraphrase: we need to barg the farg up."

That's the spirit, Jimbo! Barg the farg up, you farging schmarg! And you too, Mr. Spades -- stop apost-hating Andrew Sullivan, that's for Lamont moonbats, the GOP's a big tent! Have a nice big bowl of Patrioats, and turn your attention to the real enemy: common sense!

UPDATE II. He's taken my advice!
CHEAP JOKE FOR THE WEEKEND. Damnum Absque Injuria (new to me, but apparently a Perfesser fave -- and, like the Perfesser, the sort of "libertarian" who can pretty much take or leave Constitutional rights) has some yucks with conspiracy theorists:
Recently we’ve read that 38% of Americans polled believe the U.S. government is withholding information about UFOs proof of the existence of intelligent life from other planets, and 36% think 9/11 was an inside job... Is there any question so wacky that one-third of the population will not answer it in the affirmative?
Wait a second. What's Bush's approval rating again?

Thursday, August 17, 2006

PERUBLICAN ALERT. Not to be too optimistic, but it appears that folks are warming to the Democratic Party, while they remain highly disapproving toward George W. Bush.

Naturally, Republicans cry for a do-over.

Wizbang announces that "we need two effective parties in America." For the Democrats to be effective,
Once the hysteria of discovering they are no longer in the majority, but actually in a condition which may fairly be described as a tailspin, the Democrats will have to decide if they are willing to do what it takes to survive.
And what would that be?
The Democrats need a center of focus, to understand what really matters.
I am new to Wizbang, and thought this might be the prelude to a yoga, Rosicrucianism, or colon-cleansing pitch. But there was no follow-up, new age or otherwise, so I assume the author just likes putting the words "Democrat" and "center" together, as if this magical confluence will summon up, Golem-like, an Army of Liebermans.

Oh, and Democrats have to stop their constant attacks on George W. Bush. And for the Republicans to be effective, they also have to stop their constant attacks on George W. Bush:
Republicans, for their part, were only too happy to take the gains which Dubya made happen, only to shun him the moment the MSM claimed he was not effective.
Let us pause to enjoy the mental image of Rick Santorum, his eyes glassy and arms outstretched, in zombie-like submission to the commands of Bill Keller.

The Republican Party also suffers, says Wizbang, from its "Extremists" -- and also from its "moderates," and from its "leaders" as well. Whew -- what's that even leave? Dubya, who "has done more for the United States of America and its citizens, than most Republicans and the Democrats put together."

To sum up, the Democrats -- who, here on planet Earth, may actually luck into some Congressional gains -- are portrayed as hapless losers in "freefall," while George W. Bush, polling at 36% approval, is the Republican Party's only hope, and must be prevailed upon to protect the GOP from the extremists, moderates, and leaders that would drag it down.

I still think the GOP can pull it off if they scream NINE ELEVEN! and FAGS GITTIN' HITCHED! loud enough, but it is nice to see their advocates and apologists so panicked for a change.
WHISKEY! DEMOCRACY! SEXY! BULLSHIT! NYT:
“Senior administration officials have acknowledged to me that they are considering alternatives other than democracy,” said one military affairs expert who received an Iraq briefing at the White House last month and agreed to speak only on condition of anonymity.

“Everybody in the administration is being quite circumspect,” the expert said, “but you can sense their own concern that this is drifting away from democracy.”
I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, it is always good to see frauds exposed, and this unraveling might have a salutary shock effect on the American voter, and cause him to question his fearmasters. On the other hand, the state of our education and intellectual life being what it is, the American voter may not remember how we got into Iraq in the first place, and Bush might go on TV tomorrow and blame it on some recently-dead celebrity like, say, Bruno Kirby.

"Sadly," the President may tell them, "the lovable Ed Furillo of 'City Slickers' and Young Clemenza of 'The Godfather Part II' were not the only roles Bruno Kirby played. He was known to his terrorist minders by his secret Islamiciscisc... Islamsis... Islama-ci-sist name, Yabba Dabba Doo. As Bruno Kirby, he enjoyed a great reputation as both an actor and as an expert of Arab-American relations, and unprecendeted access at the highest levels of government. But as Yabba Dabba Doo, he was devoted to undermining and embarrassing the United States of America. When we invaded Iraq, our actions were based on his recommendations, and thousands have lost their lives, or their political viability, as a result of that tragic deception.

"The loved ones left behind in both America and Iraq may take some comfort that justice was done on August 8th, when Yabba Dabbo Doo was taken down by a team of Navy Seals posing as leukemia.

"We must make sure that America is never again caught unprepared for this kind of deception. I have issued an Executive Order establishing a new cabinet-level office, the Department of Sincerity Assessment, which will consist of teams of psychics like they have on TV. These psychics will be able to tell who is telling the truth, and who is lying, or has a terrible secret. Cold cases will be solved, and tragic errors avoided. And unique plot twists will keep audiences coming back week after week."

Or something like that. Maybe he'll just go on TV dressed like Obe Wan Kenobe and say, "We are not the droids you're looking for." Or hold up a swinging watch, or sprinkle pixie dust on us. What the hell: we voted for him twice, how smart can we be?

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

JESUS, FREAK! Crunchy Con Rod Dreher has started talking about what a mess that Iraq is. We were "rolled" by the Shiites, he says: "They played us for useful idiots...I hate that a single drop of American blood was shed for these people," adds Dreher, whose Christianity apparently stops at the water's edge, "But what happened, happened."

And part of how what happened, happened was crap like this, written by Dreher in the run-up to war:
We’re already moving toward Baghdad in our war against Iraq, one I believe with all my heart is just and necessary. We don’t know how long it will last, or what the fallout will be. When the smoke clears, I am afraid that one home-front casualty will be some friendships.
With America preparing to blow the shit out of a bunch of people on the other side of the world, for Dreher the clear and present danger was arguments with his anti-war buddies.

At least Dreher had an exit strategy: "There’s simply no point in talking to most antiwar people, left and right, because they’re lost in a fever swamp of emotionalism." Comity problem solved! Unfortunately for the Iraqis, they couldn't wish us so easily into the cornfield.

Now that the place is a hellhole, does Dreher regret his support for the Maximun Leader in 2004? Well...
...my heretical thought is not, "Maybe I should have voted for Kerry," though that might be true. My heretical thought is that no matter what my reservations were about Bush either time I voted for him, they were overcome by my single-minded focus on the Supreme Court.
And get this -- he's not sure he wouldn't do it again! Even knowing what was to come of it, and despite all the American (if no other) blood spilled.

Ladies and gentlemen, your Moral Majority Redux: willing to permit the needless deaths of as many non-American non-embryos as it takes to keep women from getting abortions and gay people from getting married.

And they say Allah attracts a rough crowd!

UPDATE. Like Clouseau's crime scene investigation in The Return of the Pink Panther? ("What wax? AAAAAH!"), Dreher keeps finding new and more amusing ways to display idiocy. In a new post, he lambastes the Republicans for playing a "confidence game" in which "all they have to do is keep banging away on the public's fear that the Democrats would be worse." As if to demonstrate the effectiveness of this approach, Dreher finishes:
[The Republicans] deserve to lose. They really do. But I don't think the country deserves the Democrats, at least not the Democrats we have now.
One reaches this level of self-unawareness only after years of patient non-study, or immediately following a strong blow to the head.
A PLEASANT SURPRISE. Hey, Professor Althouse has delivered a stern rebuke to parents who use homeschooling as religious indoctrination! "The beauty and freedom of this country does not include the right to deprive children of schooling," she says. And boy is she hard on parents who make their children memorize Bible texts to the exclusion of other subjects!

Actually when I said "Bible," I meant "Koran." But I'm sure the professor would agree that the principle is the same.

UPDATE. Her commenters seem to think it's all about Islam and some epochal struggle ("the battle is joined - the one that England's already lost"). What a hoot!
BUT SOME ARE MORE GODWIN THAN OTHERS. Iranian PM Ahmadinejad was on "60 Minutes" last week. Media scold Bernard Goldberg reports:
...And how unfortunate it was that 45 million Americans don't have health-care insurance. "That," [Ahmadinejad] said, "is very sad to hear." You just know that every liberal tuned in to "60 Minutes" was nodding in agreement...

In fact, instead of seeming like a modern Hitler (a not unreasonable comparison, given that one wanted to exterminate all the Jews while the other wants to wipe Israel off the map), Mr. Ahmadinejad came across as, well, a fairly typical, run-of-the-mill liberal.
Compare Bush to Hitler and you're a nut; tell the world that a Hitleresque dictator is a "run-of-the-mill liberal" approved by all American liberals within the sound of his voice, and we run that baby on page one.

It's been a long time since overestimating their degeneracy was even possible, but they still manage to surprise me sometimes. A tribute to my childish faith in human nature, perhaps.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

TODAY'S PHILISTINE. Lindsay Beyerstein plans to read The Tin Drum. Tim Blair implies that, because the book's author used to be a Nazi, Beyerstein is therefore an anti-Semitic semite.

I've read a lot of Shakespeare. I must be a monarchist.

It is amazing that these people learned to type words into computers without ever having learned to read.
FANTASY, CAMP. Tbogg directs our attention to a Citizen Journalist who thinks baby-killing needs a public defense. He also thinks colloquy, being an antique device, should be written like a Gor novel:
The gentle soul -- how I respect her! -- will begin by pointing out how many innocents have died in the recent wars, and especially the children, who are the most obviously innocent. She will point out figures for Iraq, for Afghanistan, for Lebanon, and ask: "How can you justify this? These poor children, who might have been good men, good women, lain in the cold earth?"

We have all had the conversation that far, have we not?
Well, maybe all of us who have a hitch-hiker tied up in the basement.

Another Citizen Journalist posts this provocative statement at a fellow Journalist's website:
If this were WW2, we wouldn’t be worrying about the feelings of Muslims, or castigating ourselves as racists for attempting to defend ourselves. We’d be girding our loins to defeat the Ragheads just as we battled the Nips and the Krauts to an unconditional surrender.

Admit it — you winced at my last sentence, didn’t you? That illustrates the depth and breadth of the problem we now face.
When taken to task by one of our own commenters for this display of "testicular lunacy," he responds, "At least we’ve got the testiculars with which to be lunĂ tic" -- manhood, in the Citizen Journalist universe, being proved by ready use of racial slurs, on the internet and under a pseudonym.

Following the rule of three, I looked this morning for a capper, and went directly to Ace of Spades. I know he wouldn't let me down. Sure enough, I find him lecturing an imaginary Arab (no use of the term "Raghead" here -- where are your balls, man?) who, in Mr. Spades' roleplay exercise, has objected to British racial profiling that harasses him despite his innocence. Mr. Spades is unmoved except to hot rage:
What did you guys think was going to happen? Did you think we were just going to let your fellow Muslims kills us, with only the smallest amount of help from you in stopping them, forever?

Did you think we would never decide "It is you who are causing the problem. It is you who should bear most of the inconvenience/'humiliation' from the problem"?

What you've been taking as "weakness" and "stupidity" was just a naive, idealistic hope that if we treated you well enough you would stop. You didn't. The naivete and idealism are giving way to cold hard ugly realities forced upon us by your soft support of terorism...

The outrage you'll now be directing at us should have been directed at the terrorists and terrorist-inciters and terrorist-supporters among you five years ago.

But it wasn't.

So now here we are.

How ya like them apples?
This routine is best imagined with Jon Wayne of Texas Funeral fame ("Mr. Egyptian, yer a goddamn liar!") reading the text aloud to a dusky-faced scarecrow.

As previously noted here, the latest Arab-Israeli clusterfuck has got our Citizen Journalists moody and restive. Sold out by Bush's cease-fire, and denied the invigorating bloodbath they had come to expect, some turn on one another; others go out back to see how those robot brides are coming along; but the most entertaining ones wait upon that candy-colored clown they call the sandman, and report his visitations as if they were real.

Monday, August 14, 2006

VISION THING. Boy, that Liberal Media sure is tricky -- letting former Bush apparatchik Michael Gerson go on for thousands and thousands of words in Newsweek! If any of you fellers figure out how this advances the LM's Islamocommie agenda, please let me know, 'cause I'm stumped.

Gerson was once a Bush speechwriter, and like Peggy Noonan is trying to tell the new breed how it's done. His peroration is meant to convince the public to stay the course, terror-wise, despite their obvious desire to go another way.

Gerson acknowledges that the people are no long singing "Glory, Glory, Hallelujah" with W and the boys. But guess whose fault that is?

The President, says Gerson, is a visionary -- "Every element of the Bush doctrine was directed toward a vision: a reformed Middle East that joins the world instead of resenting and assaulting it." Condi Rice is the midwife stoically enduring the new Middle East's "birth pangs" (though if I were the Middle East right now, I'd be wondering where the fucking epidural was).

And you crappy little people are harshing their new paradigm:
First, the nation may be tired, but history doesn't care. It is not fair that the challenge of Iran is rising with Iraq, bloody and unresolved. But, as President Kennedy used to say, "Life is not fair"...

Some commentators say that America is too exhausted to confront this threat. But presidential decisions on national security are not primarily made by the divination of public sentiments...
Or, to put it in the visionary Bush's own words, who cares what you think? Gerson goes further, proposing a "new compact between citizens and their government":
Americans have every right to expect competence and honesty about risks and mistakes and failures. Yet Americans, in turn, must understand that in a war where deception is the weapon and goal of the enemy, every mistake is not a lie; every failure is not a conspiracy. And the worst failure would be a timid foreign policy that allows terrible threats to emerge.
In other words, you have a right to your expectations, and we have a right to do whatever we want without your goddamn belly-aching. This is a "new compact," indeed, as applied to the citizens of a Republic, though it is familiar enough to conscripts, battered children, and such like.

Having thus cuffed his audience, Gerson believes they will sit quietly while he fills the middle section of his address with W's Greatest Hits. Democracy in the Mideast is "messy" but "no one has a better idea." We must "draw a line." "Liberty improves life." Democrats practice "McGovernism." Etc.

And now for the wow finish:
The response of many Americans to all of this is ... up in the air. And, unfortunately, the demands of history may just be beginning, requiring more engagement, more sacrifice, more promotion of democracy, more foreign assistance to raise failed states where dangers gather. Setting out this case will fall to presidents of both parties, in calm and crisis—and making it will always be difficult in a weary hour. But necessity, in the end, makes a stronger argument than the finest rhetoric. And from London to Lebanon, history is proving that peace is not a natural state; it is achieved by a struggle of uncertain duration. In that struggle, the cynical, the world-weary, the risk-averse will not inherit the earth.
Wow! I'm juiced, aren't you? We're locked in a struggle that will never end! Let's crank some Twisted Sister and get down with some dismal necessity!

(I love the little knock against "the finest rhetoric." As long as he's lowering our expectations of the government, I suppose Gerson has a right to lower our expectations of himself, too. Though I must say he needn't have bothered.)

I imagine Gerson and all these guys, the moment the latest terror incident broke, running to the tank and finding there was nothing left but bitter dregs, too noxious to be made palatable even with the Coke syrup of patriotic sentiment.

So they're serving it up raw: weary struggle and blind obedience, and "cynicism" is the new treason.

This new model does not require formation-flying displays, the National Anthem, or invocation of the Founding Fathers. In fact, such things would tend to mess up the routine. We are no longer talking about our hopes, but about our apprehensions. We are no longer encouraged to celebrate our infinite possibilities, but ordered to accept our lack of choices. And democracy is not a gift with which America is blessed, but a sort of chemotherapy that America must wearily roam the earth administering to other nations.

I'm a New York City smart-aleck, yet I think more highly of this country than the Republicans do! I never thought I'd say this without irony, but I really think they've lost their patriotism.

UPDATE. See Kung Fu Monkey's related thoughts about FDR and Churchill versus piss-pantsed us.
SHORTER BRENDAN LOY: I didn't hang up on the Democratic Party -- the Democratic Party hung up on me!

(Presumably Loy will now double not vote for Ned Lamont. No doubt by November the voting machines will allow that.)

Saturday, August 12, 2006

AN ECHO, NOT A CHOICE. The U.N. resolution on Israel-Hezbollah brokered by the Bush Administration (and France!) is answered at National Review's The Corner with disgust, anger, and despair. Editor K J. Lopez takes a moment to direct us elsewhere: "THE BLAME-BUSH INSTINCT: Anchoress has had enough...."

Momentarily forgetting what sort of people I was dealing with, I expected The Anchoress would address Bush complaints such as those at The Corner. But she is instead angry at liberals, whose complaints are "...adolescent spouting off, backed up by nothing more than 'feelings,' 'caring,' and hysterical, dramatic angst."

The Israel situation roils the belly-juices of the Internet's killingest voices. TigerHawk asks, "What will it take to militarize the United States? What will it take to militarize Western Europe?... We will almost certainly need conscription..." He asks his patrons for their input. Along with the traditional talk of "ragheads," Verdun, and ammo, readers fault Bush for "poor communication," a "compassionate nation building approach," and his reliance on Condi Rice. But the President is not without his defenders: "I swear I am going to vomit if I read one more Islamofascist apologist blame any current event on Bush or on Iraq."

Little Green Footballs is also skeptical of the cease-fire -- because the UN and them Frenchies are involved. Bush is barely mentioned, and only in comments, mostly approving ("This is a bush poker strategy at its' best!") -- the main page is mostly given over to investigations of liberal media treason.

"This is a great victory for the forces of evil," says Don Surber. At Surber's sidebar you can still open his posts entitled "Bush=Truman" and "Bush's plan works."

But let us be fair: many of these people are turning to a Democrat: Joe Lieberman. Conservatives, most of whom do not live in Connecticut, rush to support him against Ned Lamont and whatshisname, the Republican guy. Jeff Jarvis, Andrew Sullivan, and David Brooks want to see Lieberman on a national ticket. (The Perfesser is not averse.)

In other words: Things are going very badly, and the only solution is to step up our support of the people who made it so.

Friday, August 11, 2006

YOUR ASSIGNMENT. Some highly-placed crackpots have already started telling the world that Ned Lamont is bad for post-airliner-plot America because he is against the war in Iraq.

To them I issue a challenge: Pray this day, on one side of one sheet of paper, explain how our half-assed war in Iraq helped to foil the airliner plot.

The length stipulation (borrowed from Winston Churchill) is placed to restrict your output to names, dates, and events relevant to the topic, and to reduce your opportunity for patriotic gassing.

Warning: if you turn in anything as sloppy and poorly-reasoned as this...
If we just pick up like Ned Lamont wants us to do, get out by a date certain, it will be taken as a tremendous victory by the same people who wanted to blow up these planes in this plot hatched in England...It will strengthen them, and they will strike again.
...we will have to mark you down "Republican," and you will run serious risk of expulsion from the Senate.

(Or not. The nation is not a classroom, or if it is, it's more like one from the first half of Lean on Me.)

Thursday, August 10, 2006

SEVEN COME ELEVEN, SNAKE EYES WATCHING YOU. I see the news outlets are flooded with accounts of the the dog that did not bark. It is particularly weird to watch long morning news reports on non-events. The newsreaders furrow their brows and project a sense of urgency, and keep repeating the same thing: basically a variation on their usual mantra, be afraid be afraid be very afraid, be afraid be afraid be very afraid...

I also notice that the various rightwing blogs "report" on these events by repeating the stories of the hated MSM, adding as a garnish their own signature lunacies. Ace of Spades, for example, dabbles in numerology:
9/11

3/11

7/11

...?

How about 8/11?

I know 7/7 doesn't work, but mustn't stand on ceremony when you have people to kill.
It's funny that, when confronted with even reports of a foiled terror incident, someone who calls himself "Ace of Spades," and leans heavily on his butchness, retreats into Kabbalistic gibberish.

Michelle Malkin is near-hysterical that more people don't share her ceaseless concern with terror in general and Muslims in particular. If we were all constantly at the same fever pitch of racial and danger awareness as she, though, how would that help? My understanding is that the current plot was defeated by police work and intelligence gathering, not gangs of "truth squads" examining wire photos for modifications.

I'm supposed to go to London in a few weeks with Editor Martin. I see no reason to postpone or re-route. Terror only works if you're terrorized.

You know I'm born to lose, and gambling's for fools; but that's the way I like it, baby, I don't want to live forever.