It’s prediction time.


Dear Reader (and Joe Biden, who knows what this G-File is about already, because kitty litter is a great way to save for college and deter Iran),

Today is the last G-File before the elections. As we all know, this is the single most important variable left before Election Day (save for, quite literally, nearly all of the others, but it’s not like you’re suddenly going to be a stickler for rhetorical exactitude in the G-File now). If the G-File had been available in 1894, the GOP would really have had a good year.

So, fully recognizing the awesome power of this fully operational G-File, here are the predictions:

Republicans will win 77 seats in the House and seven in the Senate.

Now, just to clarify, this is what social scientists call a complete guess. But it is an informed guess. One of the things that annoys me at this stage of the campaign cycle is the way malt liquor stings your sinuses when you blow it out your nose when you realize the cockfight you’re watching has been fixed. But that’s not nearly as relevant as another thing that annoys me: the way people make House and Senate predictions as if it were a science. Charlie Cook’s predictions are every bit as much a guess as mine, it’s just that his are considerably more informed. But the truth of the matter is that nobody knows what’s actually going to happen (“Except for my dark lord, Cthulhu!” – Gracie the Cat), and as long as your intuition is in the realm of the reasonable, your guess is as good as anybody’s.

It’s About Obama

One thing that is clear, however, is that this election is about Obama and the Democrats. I find it amusing how so many Democrats are eager to point out that the GOP is unpopular according to the polls, too. “I have news for Republicans,” whines some Dana Milbank wannabe like the kid on the playground who’s getting punished for something everybody does. “Their approval rating is in the dumps too.” Harrumph, smug nod, harrumph.

And yeah, that’s true and does raise some interesting post-election challenges for the Right. But, uh, what does it say about the Dems that they’re about to lose so unbelievably badly to a very unpopular party? It’s like a toothless, pockmarked hooker saying to her colleague, “The Johns think you’re ugly, too, Candiii.” To which Candiii responds, “Yes, so how does it make you feel that they all want to go to the Super 8 with me, Saphire?”

Yes, I know: In a just society, I would be flogged for an analogy that bad (“Flogging costs extra!” – Candiii).

They’ve Lost Already Be that as it may, and I know I’ve made this point a million times now, but even if the GOP simply wins the historic norm of 24 seats (or whatever the actual number is, look it up yourself), a lot of people already look awfully silly, starting with Obama himself. Two years ago, we were told this was going to be a new liberal era that would last for a generation. But you can’t have a new progressive era or a new New Deal if people don’t want one.

I debated Peter Beinart last week at Maryville University. I noted that his 2008 prediction in Time magazine of a “new liberal order” and “Obama’s new New Deal” was already disproved by the fact that the entire Obama agenda (or at least the Obama approach) is unpopular and that anti-Obama candidates – in both parties – have been on the upswing for a year. Under FDR, the New Deal grew in popularity after he was sworn in. Legislative successes fueled more popularity. The exact opposite has happened with Obama. Beinart responded as if this were a bizarre statement because Obama passed a bunch of liberal legislation over the objections of the public, which means the new liberal order is doing just fine. I shook my head like a basset hound trying to clear all the slobber from his flews and jowls, but I still didn’t understand how he could say that.

Ever since Hell dispatched one of its flying pigs to Scott Brown so he could fly a victory lap over a frozen river Styx and buzz Mephistopheles’ snow-covered patio furniture before landing in Ted Kennedy’s Senate seat, we’ve known this wasn’t a new New Deal underway. It wasn’t even the Great Society – becausethat was popular, too. When liberals say “Oh, Obama’s not in that much trouble, this could be like 1994 or Reagan in ‘82,” they don’t realize that they’re admitting they lost the argument they made in 2008. It’s like claiming the Messiah is here and the eschaton shall be immanentized, then two years later saying everything is hunky-dory because our one-time savior still gets a lot of applause on The Daily Show. Oh, wait, that’s not an analogy; that’s pretty much a description. But you get the point.

Several Paragraphs Later, It’s Still About Obama

 Earlier this week, Obama told Al Sharpton: “My name may not be on the ballot, but our agenda for moving forward is on the ballot, and I need everybody to turn out.”

Well, lookey-lookey, I agree with him. And this is an important point (“Why, just because you say so?” – The Couch). If this election went the other way, if Democrats gained seats (or even lost just a few), every single liberal in America would insist that it was a rousing endorsement of Obama and his agenda. They would insist that he had replenished his political capital. They would say – à lathe New Deal and the Great Society – that the new liberal order had been reaffirmed. And they would be right. But, as pretty much everyone assumes now, something very close to the opposite is happening. And that means his agenda is being dealt a serious blow. His mandate is gone. He is the god who bleeds.

One Term and Out And that brings me to my last prediction for today. Obama will lose his reelection bid in 2012. I know, I know. This stinks of hubris (and, inexplicably, the faint scent of herring). I could give you a long explanation about how the Rust Belt and the South will both be far, far less hospitable to Obama and Democrats in 2012. My one caveat is that the GOP nominee needs to be a fairly mainstream figure. How to define mainstream will no doubt occupy a lot of discussions in the months and years to come. But suffice it to say for now that Obama’s biggest problem will simply be this: He will have to run on his record. And the merits of that record aside, he has never had to run on a record before, because he had no serious political accomplishments under his belt before he became president. He’s only ever sold the upside, promising ill-defined hope. That schtick will play very differently in 2012, because in 2012, people will understand what that code really stands for.

Various and Sundry Tweet, tweet. For no discernibly good reason, I am back on Twitter for an indeterminate period of time. I’m still trying to figure out why I should – or shouldn’t – Tweet, not counting how incredibly gay it sounds for a grown man to say “tweet.” If you want to follow me, that’s fine, but please give me some privacy when I go through the curtain into the back room at the local video store. If you want to “follow” me on Twitter (again, for as long as that lasts), I’m at @JonahNRO. It’d be cool if I could break 10,000 followers with this announcement. But it’d be cooler if I could break a cinderblock with my mind.    Blood Was Every Color As promised, Lowry acceded to my request and put my Sons of Anarchy piece up on the web. You can find it here.

By the way, one of the reasons I wandered back over to Twitter in the first place was that I’d heard that Kurt Sutter, SOA’s creator, had mentioned my piece on his Twitter feed. He wrote: “i love it when guys 4 times as smart as me make me sound twice as smart as i really am. god bless, you, @JonahNRO.”

More Goldberg than an Octuplet Bar Mitzvah! I think I mentioned around here that C-Span is going to do a three-hour (!) interview with me on Sunday, November 7. I think it’s bizarre, too. Earlier this week, C-Span sent a videographer to my AEI office to film me in the throes of my “writing process.” They wanted to see where I do my writing. The problem, as I explained, is that my basement, complete with the Couch, has been stripped to the studs (which sounds like intern initiation at Eric Massa’s office). Still, they did get some shots of me smoking a cigar on the 12th-floor balcony at AEI, where I wrote most of this G-File. Anyway, I think they take calls, and I’m sure the lefties will be dying to ask me all sorts of “When did you stop beating your wife” questions. So, if some of you folks could call in, I’d appreciate it, even if it’s for some baba-booey stuff.

More Wilson-Bashing! Sometimes it grates on me that my spaghetti strainer codpiece takes so much duct tape to stay on. But that’s not important right now. It also grates on me that so many of the liberal eggheads mocking the anti-Woodrow Wilson crowd absolutely refuse to engage any of the best arguments against Wilson. Instead, they cherry-pick one or two entirely trivial misstatements or overstatements by Glenn Beck, or they offer some truly idiotic charge of hypocrisy (Bush was like Wilson, so you can’t criticize Wilson!) and then commence dismissing all of the critics as if they have nothing credible to say. David Greenberg is a perfect example of what I’m talking about. My response is here.

Full Disclosure Time Just so I can anticipate criticism, I thought I’d acknowledge here and now that tomorrow’s column will recycle an argument I made a while back in the G-File. I’m going to do that from time to time, because A) I am very busy, B) this is sort of like a Cleveland nightclub where I try out material before I head to Vegas, and C) I know you are a kind and forgiving people. What will I be recycling? Tune in tomorrow.

John Maynard Keynes Gets Even Deader


Dear Reader (and Barney Frank’s boyfriend, who’s “just here to heckle”),

First, let me apologize. I know I’ve said over and over again that the G-File is what it is whether you like it or not. Like Dr. Johnny Fever yelling “Booger” when he gets his job at WKRP, I feel liberated to write about whatever I want around here, whether or not it’s timely, informative, intelligent, or even intelligible. And I still do. See:

Rat farts!

But sometimes you can get caught up in the idea of letting your freak flag fly and let things get the better of you. And it seems that many readers thought that there was just a bit too much sodomy humor in last week’s column. Message received!

But While We’re on the Topic of Pains in the Krugman I finally read Steve Spruiell’s excellent magazine piece on Paul Krugman. One passage in particular caught my eye:

Krugman’s claim that the stimulus should have been bigger is consistent with his view that for every macroeconomic problem there is a correct answer that it is within the power of one man to calculate. Not only is such a claim unfalsifiable, but our experience with fiscal stimulus indicates that this particular form of voodoo economics simply steals demand from the future and leaves us worse off in the long run. Krugman urges us to ignore that history: He argues that real fiscal stimulus has been tried only once in recent memory, when massive government borrowing during World War II pulled America out of the Depression. But there are many competing explanations for the post-war boom – too many to allow us to gamble our prosperity on a World War II-sized stimulus on the chance that the Keynesian view is right this time.

This raises a number of points, gripes, grievances, and, well, the dead. Not literally, of course. But not quite figuratively either. Let me take another lithium pill and start again. It raises the issue of John Maynard Keynes, who is dead, literally, and apparently figuratively in Europe. So says the New York Times, which ran an intellectual obit for Keynesianism just this week.

This is more devastating to Krugman & Co. than I think anyone really appreciates.

First of all, liberals like Krugman routinely argue that the Europeans are smarter than us. Not smarter than Krugman per se, because according to Krugman no one is smarter than Krugman. Even imagining such a thing is like asking if God can make a boulder so heavy he can’t lift it, which itself is problematic for the obvious reason that Krugman resents the suggestion he isn’t God. But liberals generally love to press their noses up against the glass of the social-democratic candy store that is Europe. Oh, the deliciously high taxes! The mouth-wateringly rich vacation times! The succulently egalitarian socialized medicine. The subsidized cheese that smells like urine and tastes like you wish it could be. The state-funded black-and-white movies with no discernible narrative that make insecure people feel smart for understanding and twisted people feel normal by being sexually aroused at all the right parts.

Well, suddenly Europe’s breaking up with us, and not over some cowboy war in the Middle East for “democracy” or American “national security” (please note: those are sarcastic air-quotes). Europe is saying they disagree with theNew York Times op-ed page! Cognitive dissonance like this might just make MSNBC watchers explode like mice when subjected to music by the Ramones.

But it’s not the best part. Krugman, Brad DeLong, and other voluptuaries of Keynes don’t merely insist they are right. They insist that people who disagree with them are incredibly stupid or dishonest or both. Suddenly, the smarty-pants Europeans these guys always used as exhibit A in their case for spending money like a New Jersey Turnpike official on crack are testifying for the Tea Partiers. How inconvenient!

The next time some Krugman-worshipping yutz tells you how stupid you are about for opposing another kabillion-dollar boondoggle, you can just say, “Hey, hold on a second. I’m just agreeing with the French, the Germans, and the British. Why are you so provincial in your American exceptionalism?”

War, What Is It Good For?

Another point! Steve is absolutely right that the only example smart liberals point to for proof that Keynesian spending works the way they claim is World War II. I wish dumber liberals who keep insisting that the New Deal ended the Great Depression would pay more attention to this fact.

In fairness, some liberals of indeterminate intelligence don’t expressly claim the New Deal ended the Great Depression, they simply say conservatives are redonkulous for claiming the New Deal prolonged it. In other words, the New Deal just sort of happened until the Great Depression ended.

It’s entirely fair to say, as a conversational matter, that World War II ended the Great Depression. But as a matter of economics and policy, it’s sort of crazy. First, let’s imagine Krugman’s right that it was the domestic spending during the war that pulled us out of the Depression. We came out of World War II with a debt equal to 109 percent of GDP. Is that what Krugman is suggesting? At the end of 2008, our debt was 40 percent of GDP; now it’s 62 percent. So I guess we need a stimulus on the order of another 55 percent of GDP to get the economy moving? Everyone whose mouth and chin is unstained by bong resin, please raise your hands if you agree with that in any way.

Second, the war didn’t end the Depression, at least not the way Krugman says. The reason we got on a sustainable economic growth path was simple. This place called Europe (and Japan) had been flattened by the war. Their factories were smoking. Their people were desperate to rebuild. Guess who sold them their cars, dishwashers, food, and the rest? The U. S. of A.: The one country left standing after the war with a real market economy and factories ready to go. Trade builds economic muscle mass. Stimulus is a sugar high.

Whatever Happened to Vocab?

No, I haven’t developed a bad case of Hippopotomonstrosesquipedaliophobia. The vocab section will be coming back after the election. Why after the election? Burp. Why not?

Boredwalk Empire

I’m afraid my friend Shannen Coffin is simply wrong about Steve Buscemi. I like him as an actor and I like the character of Nucky Thompson, but the two don’t work together. On this, there can be no debate!

Anarchy! Anarchy!

This season’s Sons of Anarchy is really starting to heat up. But that’s not important right now. The good news is that the suits have agreed to put my piece on the Sons on NRO in the coming days.

About That Panel

I have been inundated with questions about the C-Span panel for Proud to Be Right [BROKEN LINK]. I completely understand that. I did warn readers in this space in advance that they should check it out. But my colleague Helen – who just happens to be the one who edits the G-File – has taken the high road and refrained from commenting further. I’m going to take the same road as best I can.


But if you want to ask me about it in person and you live in the Colorado Springs area, you should swing by this [BROKEN LINK].

More C-Span!

Or you can wait until November 7 when C-Span will have me on “In Depth” for a full three hours, solo. No, really. I don’t understand why they’re doing this either.


As I noted in the Corner, a Crocodile escaped from a carry-on bag on a plane. I let Kate at Small Dead Animals speak for me: “I got to tell you, if I see amphibians who are in Crocodile garb and I think, you know, they’re identifying themselves first and foremost as Crocodiles, I get worried. I get nervous.”

What to Expect When Your Life Expectancy Is Unexpected


Dear Reader,

I know what you’re thinking: “If I hide the body here, will anyone be able to find it before the monsoon season?”

Oh, wait. That’s not you. That’s somebody else altogether. Sorry.

Anyway, perhaps what you’re saying is: You know what’s been missing from the G-File? Long and extensive discussion of buggery. Well, I’d get your back on that except, alas, Will Saletan has got that beat covered, and I can’t possibly compete with his penetrating insights and in-depth coverage. (“Talk about new lows in muckraking!” – The Couch.)

But if you’ve been saying “What the G-File needs is more demography!” then this is your lucky day. No, wait! Before you blow your brains out in anticipatory boredom: My aim is not to Saletanize you with numbers for their own sake.

A new report was released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this week. It provides the best proof to date of the Hispanic Paradox – which until this morning I had never heard of either, and would have guessed had something to do with how Latinos are incapable of tampering with the space-time continuum in Star Trek. But it turns out that, despite the fact that American Hispanics are poorer and more obese and disproportionately lack access to health care compared with whites and blacks, they nonetheless live longer.

According to the AP, “A Hispanic born in 2006 could expect to live about 80 years and seven months. Life expectancy for a white person is about 78, and just shy of 73 for a black person.”

But wait a second. According to just about everybody who supported Obamacare, one of the main reasons we desperately needed to Saletanize the economy and our personal liberties was to improve life expectancy. Heck, Michael Bloomberg once said on Meet the Press that the very purpose of government is to extend life expectancy. If only the Founders knew that, they would have ditched the Federalist Papers and written a manual on how to put everyone on a respirator.

One of the beauties of the G-File is that I don’t have to run through all the quotes from Obama, Clinton, Clinton, Pelosi, and Reid – not to mention Ezra Klein, Jonathan Chait, and the whole gang – about how central improving life expectancy was to the whole rationale for Obamacare. You can just take my word for it.

And yet it turns out that one of the populations most obviously in “need” of socialized medicine, according to the Democrats – Hispanics – is already outliving people with greater access to health care. To quote Ralph Wiggum, that’s unpossible!

Except it’s entirely natural. No, I don’t know why Hispanics have better life expectancy than whites. I could offer some guesses about diet, family life, the benefits of physical labor, or simply genetics, but they would all be guesses. (One theory mentioned in one of the stories is that Hispanic immigrants tend to be disproportionately healthy compared with their home populations.) The simple fact is life expectancy varies for a lot of reasons, and access to health care is at best one factor among many. In fact, some estimate that if you simply exclude the Americans who die from car crashes and homicide, America has the best life expectancy in the West.

Back when the Obamacare debate was still raging, Britain’s life expectancy was 79.4 years, America’s was 78.2 and Cuba’s 78.3. Cuba and Britain have socialized medicine, America not so much. Does anyone think these tiny discrepancies will be solved by the individual mandate and the ability to keep kids on their parents’ plans until they’re 26? Is it worth trillions to move that number ever-so-slightly? Meanwhile, Asian-American women have a life expectancy of 87 years (in Bergen County, N.J., it’s 91 years – again, for Asian-American women). In fact, Asian-American women live three years longer than women in Japan – the country with the best life expectancy. At the same time, Indians in South Dakota have the lowest life expectancy, even though they’ve had access to the Indian Health Service for decades.

By all means, investigate the Hispanic Paradox, but don’t call it a paradox. It’s just another one of the many fascinating faces of human diversity.

Tom Lowers His Sights

America’s most influential booster of tyranny has finally stopped celebrating the genius and enlightenment of the authoritarian Chinese. This week, he’s celebrating the enlightened authoritarianism of Singapore!

I should say in fairness that I’m not entirely unsympathetic to his basic position, at least in this regard: I’d rather Congress spend a bunch of money on basic research than spend nearly $200 million on signs that say “This boondoggle brought to you by the stimulus.” I’m paraphrasing.

Commentary Rises

I know I’ve said it before, but I really love cheese curds. But that’s not important right now. If you haven’t been paying attention, Commentary is rapidly becoming a really great magazine (again). I don’t want to overly disparage the pre-John Podhoretz days, because it had some great stuff back then, too. But it was, on the whole, easily ignored in the magazine pile. That’s really changing, and fast, since J-Pod took over. To the dismay of no small number of naysayers, he’s turned Commentary into one of those magazines you’re excited to see in the mail again. Sort of like Juggs, but with more stuff about Israel.

One of the secrets of successful magazines is that you always need one must-read article (more than one is better, but you need one to get the reader engaged). That’s what made Tina Brown’s New Yorker so good, and Michael Kelly’s New Republic and Atlantic great. John seems to understand that, too. Which is why he’s lucked out with Andy Ferguson’s Pressman column, which has rapidly become essential reading every month.

Great Moments in Typo History

Some of us remember from the Electric Company’s Letterman how important a single letter can be.

But in case you whippersnappers needed reminding, Debby passed this along:

Correction: This blog post originally stated that one in three black men who have sex with me is HIV positive. In fact, the statistic applies to black men who have sex with men

Actual correction posted to a blog on the Washington D.C.-centric TBD news website.

Tune In to C-Span

Last week, I was the old man on a panel of young conservatives at Georgetown to promote PBR. It’s going to be on C-Span 2 this weekend. Some of you will enjoy it for the earnest conservative banter. And some of you will enjoy it for the incredibly awkward – nay, bizarre – interaction between Todd Seavey and NR’s own Helen Rittelmeyer. Todd decided that this would be the perfect time and place to vent some anger at his ex-girlfriend. It was . . . strange. Judge for yourself:

[BLOCK]Saturday, October 16th at 8pm (ET)

Sunday, October 17th at 9:30am (ET)

Sunday, October 17th at 10pm (ET) [BLOCK]

Applebaum v. Goldberg It sounds like a lawsuit between the owners of two delis, but in case you missed it, we’ve been going round and round on her silly column from the other day. You can find all the links here.

Just for the record, a bunch of readers and a few commenters seem to think I am now an anti-elitist; I’m not. Never have been, never will be.

I’m anti-snobbery, anti-government meddling, anti-government condescension, anti-all number of things. But I’m not anti-elitist per se. I just don’t like much of what passes for the current elite.

Okay, I gots to go. But I wanted to say sorry for all the number-wonkery, but some of you have been veering toward floccinaucinihilipilification in your attitudes toward the G-File.

Talking to the Super-Intelligent Spider


Dear Reader (and the hard-bitten cop who was shot in the back by the drug lord Mendoza’s henchman, laying in his own pooling blood, who asks just two things from his partner: 1) “Read me the latest G-File” and 2) “tear the whole mutha down, starting with . . . with . . . with Men . . . Men . . . Mendozzaaaaaa . . .”),   Okay, so I’m very busy this week touting Proud to Be Right, so I’m afraid I’m going to have to keep this light . . . after this one quick point:   What the hell?

Now, I know I could be referring to any number of subjects, but the one I have in mind is the fact that a bunch of countries are joining with the federal government to sue the state of Arizona for its dastardly crime of enforcing federal law.  Put aside all of the other fascinating questions, moral outrages, and assaults on logic and decency this represents; what I want to know is why more liberals aren’t outraged by this. Yes, yes, I know it’s just a bunch of amicus briefs and not an expeditionary force. But it seems to me that since the invasion of Iraq, liberals have been insisting that we shouldn’t “meddle” in other countries. Who are we to judge? Who are we to interfere? And so on. You know the tune.

Well, here we have a bunch of countries joining the lawsuit against an American state for legally and democratically enforcing the rule of law. Where’s the outrage about their meddling? Now, in fairness, some paleocons and other types on the right have made similar arguments about how we shouldn’t meddle, shouldn’t interfere, shouldn’t impose etc. But you know what? I’m pretty sure they’re outraged by this too. It’s the lefty opponents of American empire and hegemony that seem to find our meddling with evil regimes to be offensive but when foreign regimes meddle with us . . . meh, what’s the big deal?    Speaking of Outside Intruders Imagine the following scenario. An extraterrestrial race has been kidnapping American military personnel for decades, probing them for information. Returning again to planet Earth, the green-eyed buggers once again abduct even more American citizens. But now it has a new trick: Rather than steal the humans for reasons we cannot fathom, it brainwashes them so that they want to go with the aliens. Not only do they volunteer, they are compelled to risk their lives to join the aliens and subject themselves to probing. These brainwashed citizens are willing to abandon their jobs, their communities, even their own children just for a chance to satisfy their artificially implanted psychic urges.   And now you find out that the U.S. government is in on it.   Well, that pretty much describes the plot of Close Encounters of the Third Kind.   The fair Jessica and I stumbled on it the other night while channel surfing (for reasons that do not defy easy explanation she didn’t want to watch Cheerleader Ninjas on Cinemax. Damn her traditional values!). Don’t get me wrong, I really like(d) Close Encounters. It’s a pretty brilliant movie. But if you take a step back and watch it with a critical eye, it’s kind of nuts. Richard Dreyfuss, a mild-mannered energy-company lineman from Indiana, is literally mind-screwed with a raygun into deserting his wife and small kids, and at the end of the movie we cheer that he successfully got away!  Meanwhile, the U.S. Army, which at first tries to stop Dreyfuss, eventually goes along with it. Worse, it seems the military has no discernable objection to the kidnapping of its own men and the stealing of its equipment (during a war!) going back at least to WWII. We never once hear a military official say, “Hey, maybe we should have some artillery ready in case these guys aren’t friendly.” None of the brass is even the slightest bit concerned that the aliens visit in what could easily be described as overwhelming force, with shock and awe to boot. I mean, did they really need all of those ships and the mothership?   Oh, and who is basically calling the shots on all of this? A French guy.   Now, I know what you’re about to say: ”How on earth does Goldberg get away with writing this crap and get paid for it?” ”Part of the appeal of the movie is that we don’t know the full back story and the scientists and soldiers orchestrating the meet-and-greet have already been convinced of the aliens’ peaceful intentions.” But that doesn’t really work. At the beginning of the movie we learn that the communication between us and them is so rudimentary we can’t even figure out that the aliens are beaming us the address for the rendezvous. Remember that bearded geographer-turned-French translator (played by the guy who played Russell Dalrymple on Seinfeld), the one who explains the signals are longitudinal and latitudinal coordinates? If they couldn’t figure that out, how could they possibly be convinced this wasn’t a huge setup, whereby the aliens not only brainwash the entire military-industrial complex but get away with some vigorous anal probing (what is with aliens and anal probing by the way? With the notable exceptions of Keith Olbermann and Michael Moore, we humans do not store our brains down there).   There are two things that really stood out to me. First: Man was this the perfect movie for the Carter era! Clearly the United States president in 1977 had no inordinate fear of alien invaders who snatch our citizens, confiscate our weapons, and brainwash people into loving them. I suppose if the aliens replaced Cleveland with a giant crater, Carter’s response would be to boycott the first interstellar Olympics.  I know someone who argues that aliens under Republican presidents are scary and under Democrats they’re friendly. I don’t think that really holds up. But you can be damn sure the Gipper would have more of a “trust but verify” policy to any potential anal probers from space.

But what really stood out, to me at least, was how Richard Dreyfuss did one of the most selfish things in the world – abandon his own wife and children to fulfill a personal desire – and that desire was literally forced on him by alien life forms. I think there’s something interesting to be said about 1970s culture there; The selfishness of “self-discovery,” the glibness of divorce, etc. But it’s time we left this topic for something really important.   The 8,000-Pound Gorilla in the Room – Talking to the Super-Intelligent Spider While we’re on the subject of movies, I might as well vent about King Kong again. Okay, so some guys discover an island. It is teeming with giant snakes, dinosaurs – including a real live T-Rex – and the reaction from everybody seems to be that the only interesting creature on the island is the giant monkey. Don’t get me wrong. The giant monkey – sorry: gorilla – is cool. But if you were writing up an inventory of King Kong’s island, wouldn’t you at least be a little psyched to have found a frickin’ dinosaur? And yet if you were to imagine a New York Times page-one headline consistent with the movie, it’d go something like “HUGE GORILLA FOUND ON HIDDEN ISLAND,” and somewhere in the metro section it would mention that the island also had a thriving population of dinosaurs.   Then there’s Charlotte’s Web. Everyone’s amazed by the fact that the spider has this great opinion of the otherwise ordinary pig. The spider spells out in its web that this is “some pig”! Wa-frickin’-hoo. Why isn’t anyone impressed by the fact that there’s a spider that can spell!?   Speaking of Focusing on the Wrong Thing That reminds of an old joke. I’d tell you to stop me if you’ve heard this one, but to stop me you’d need a time machine. Bwahahah. Anyway,   A guy sees a sign out front of a gas station.

“Talking Dog for Sale.”   He goes into the store and says to the clerk. “You’re selling a talking dog?”   The clerk says, yup. He’s out back.   The man goes out back and finds a dog tied to a post.   ”Uh, you talk?”   ”That’s right,” says the dog.   ”Wow! That’s amazing! How’d you end up here?”   The dog sighs and says, “Well, I discovered I could talk when I was still a puppy. I wanted to serve my country, so I got in touch with the CIA. Almost right away I was on missions all around the world. Spying on presidents and dictators, working behind enemy lines. After that, I came back to the states, where I worked for a dog-food company telling them what tasted good. They rewarded me with a whole harem of beautiful girl dogs, if you know what I mean. After that, I was a private detective, tracking down kidnapped children, lost dogs. All that stuff. Now I’m just retired.   The man was stunned. He raced back inside and asked the clerk how much he wanted for the talking dog.   The gas station owner barely looked up from his newspaper and said “Ten bucks.”   ”What? Ten bucks? That’s the most amazing dog I’ve ever met. Why so cheap?”   The owner responds, “Because he’s just a big liar. He never did any of that stuff.”   Boredwalk Empire I hate saying this because I’m a huge Steve Buscemi fan (“Is that literally or figuratively?” — The Couch), but HBO’s Boardwalk Empire is failing to captivate its key audience (that would be me) because Buscemi simply cannot carry the role. For whatever reason, his range doesn’t go where it needs to go.   Lonebore Well, that was fast. Lonestar has been cancelled because it wasn’t very good (the same will soon be said about the Parker-Spitzer show).

Media Update I’ll be on Fox and Friends at 7:15 Friday morning. I will be on the next Ricochet podcast with none other than Mark Steyn – if he really exists. The Georgetown panel on PBR will be on C-Span, not sure when (and that’s Proud to Be Right, not Pabst Blue Ribbon or Professional Bull Riding).

Rahm Emanuel Beyond Thunderdome


Dear Reader (and the little green man in my head, who said you’re not going crazy, you’re just a bit sad. ‘Cause there’s a man in ya, gnawin’ ya, tearin’ ya…)

A reader, though not necessarily you or the parenthetically mentioned green man above, wrote me and asked a good question. How would you like to be the poor Chicago family leasing Rahm Emanuel’s house? If Rahm can’t prove his residency, he can’t run for mayor – and, as we all know, Chicago Democrats are unshakably committed to the letter of the law. No words come more quickly to mind when I hear the phrase “Democratic mayor of Chicago” than “fidelity,” “probity,” “decency,” and “rectitude.”

So if it really came down to it and the Doe family’s (they’re real name is being withheld to spare them being cleaved into a million pieces by Rahm Emanuel dressed in a garbage-bag suit and hairnet) living in Rahm’s house was all that stood between him and his dream of ruling Chicago like Tina Turner ran Bartertown in Beyond Thunderdome, is there any doubt that he would go all Ike Turner on those poor people? He’s probably already hanging upside-down like Robert De Niro in Cape Fear, doing gut crunches and calling their daughter on the phone.

What Is It about the Windy City?

We’ve all read a bunch of times that Rahm has always dreamed about being mayor of Chicago. And I read somewhere once that Obama also dreamed and schemed to be mayor of Chicago, too, until he realized it would be easier to ride to the planet’s rescue on a rainbow-colored Pegasus. What is it about the Chicago mayoralty that is so seductive and appealing? Does the mayor get to do stuff in Chicago – eat ribs in bed? run with scissors? kill a man with a baseball bat to make a point over a dinner meeting? – that mayors don’t get to do in, say, Scranton? Help me out here.

Who Worships the Constitution?

So you may remember that last week I mocked Dahlia Lithwick – Slate’s legal eagle – for her bizarre and ignorant suggestion that Congress isn’t supposed to consider the constitutionality of laws they’re writing. (I would link to last week’s G-File to remind you but, alas, Chaka says that the technology hasn’t been invented yet and it would be easier to simply have an intern print it out and run it over to each and every one of your houses). Well, here in G-File land, last week’s mockery is this week’s analysis!

So here’s my column on the topic. An excerpt:

A progressive blogger, meanwhile, writes in U.S. News & World Report that such talk of requiring constitutionality is “just wacky.”

Before we get to the historical niceties, a question.

Does anyone, anywhere, think legislators should vote for legislation they think is unconstitutional? Anyone? Anyone?

How about presidents? Should they sign such legislation into law?

Yet, according to this creepy logic, there’s no reason for congressmen to pass, obey, or even consider the supreme law of the land. Reimpose slavery? Sure! Let’s see if we can catch the Supreme Court asleep at the switch. Nationalize the TV stations? Establish a king? Kill every first-born child? Why not? It ain’t unconstitutional until the Supreme Court says so!

And of course, that means the president can’t veto legislation because it’s unconstitutional, because that’s apparently not his job. Wouldn’t want to “encroach” on the judiciary!

Of course, reasonable people understand how absurd all of this is.

There’s nothing in the Constitution – nothing! – that says the Supreme Court is the final or sole arbiter of what is or is not constitutional.

While I was slaving away at the law library researching that column, Michael Tanner pretty much wrote the same thing before me. But I also ran across this “Lexington” column in The Economist on “the perils of constitution worship.” I couldn’t squeeze it in to my column, so I wanted to address it here.

The “Lexington” piece isn’t awful in all of its particulars, but it is awful – condescendingly awful – in its generalities. It takes the views of a few liberal academics as if they were dispositive and pretends that the Tea Partiers touting the Constitution understand it less than (the Red Tory) Lexington does.

Then there’s this revealing passage:

More to the point is that the constitution provides few answers to the hard questions thrown up by modern politics. Should gays marry? No answer there. Mr Klarman argues that the framers would not even recognise America’s modern government, with its mighty administrative branch and imperial executive. As to what they would have made of the modern welfare state, who can tell? To ask that question after the passage of two centuries, says Pietro Nivola of the Brookings Institution, is to pose an impossible thought experiment.

For starters, one needn’t ask what the Founders would have made of the modern welfare state. One need only ask whether the modern welfare state is in fundamental disagreement with the Constitution the Founders (and succeeding generations) left us. Lexington’s claims notwithstanding, even the most dogmatic originalists don’t read the Constitution to find out what the Founders thought, they read the Founders to find out what the Constitution means. Big difference there. But according to liberals, conservatives are really worshipping the Founders and using the Constitution as a Ouija board to commune with them.

More importantly, what was that bit about the Constitution and gay marriage? I’ll save you the effort of scrolling up. Lexington writes: “More to the point is that the constitution provides few answers to the hard questions thrown up by modern politics. Should gays marry? No answer there.”

This is either revealingly ignorant or revealingly sneaky. First of all, why write “should gays marry”? I don’t think anyone on any side of the debate thinks the Constitution answers the question of whether gays should marry. That’s left to Bible classes, eHarmony chat rooms, and conversations during boring commercials at Oscar parties.

Okay, maybe this is a British idiomatic thing – like calling trucks “lorries” and elevators “lifts” or French Fries “chips” – and he really means “can gays marry.”But wait, that can’t be right either. Why? Because virtually none of the crazy, right-wing Constitution idolaters thinks the Constitution answers that question either. Look around, it’s the Left (plus Ted Olson) that’s arguing the Constitution allows gays marriage, not the Right. Progressives think the thumbs-up on gay marriage can be found in a forgotten corner of an emanationof some constitutional penumbra underneath some Betamax tapes of the 1979 Canadian Men’s Figure Skating championships, because (as I’ve been saying for years) progressives think the Constitution is like Felix the Cat’s magic bag: Look in there long enough and hard enough, and you can find anything. They are the ones suffering from magical thinking, not us.

Meanwhile, we alleged Constitution worshippers argue that the Constitution issilent on such issues, which is why some want to amend it to protect traditional marriage (I’m probably not one of them, by the way). The reason I thinkLexington’s comment is so revealing is twofold. First, it shows that Lexington really doesn’t understand the argument he’s mocking. He assumes the tea partiers are opposed to gay marriage, so they must think the Constitution backs them up.

Second, the whole point of these supposedly crazy “tenthers” is that the U.S. Constitution is not some kind of shrunken monkey paw that grants wishes to liberal social planners who want to make everyone into wonderful happy people. Ask a liberal if something can be good and necessary and progressive but also unconstitutional, and he’ll likely meltdown like an android in “I, Mudd” [BROKEN LINK] being told his ears are green. Heck, when Tom Coburn asked Elena Kagan if the Constitution prohibited the federal government from forcing everyone to eat their vegetables three times a day, she said, in effect, golly that’s a really tough question but probably not.

What Lexington fails to understand is that conservatives see the Constitution as a very basic, albeit brilliant, thing. It can do only what it can do. It’s a noun. The Left sees the Constitution as a verb, an alchemic means to make all good things possible, so long as “good things” is defined as the liberal agenda. Those who assert that conservatives see it the same way are simply projecting their vision on those (of us) who do not share it.

In Other News

Proud to be Right is out next week. I’m not going to hector you mercilessly to buy it or anything like that. I’ll save such hectoring for the next book I actually write rather than lightly edit (it’s coming, it’s coming). Still, if this is the sort of thing that interests you, please give it a gander. Here’s Jim Antle’s generous review in the Washington Times.

Oh, and here are the details for next week’s panel on the book:


Georgetown University

White Gravenor Hall / Room 201A

Washington, DC 20057

Roundtable Discussion / Book Signing

With Jonah Goldberg, Todd Seavey, Helen Rittelmeyer, and Ashley Thorne

Event co-hosted by the Georgetown University College Republicans and the Young America’s Foundation

I really had a grand time out in Ohio at the Ashbrook Center this week. It was one of the best days on the road I’ve had in a long time. Very smart people, fun conversation, enthusiastic and serious students, scotch, steak, good times. I’ve been to scores of campuses over the years and I don’t tout schools too often, but having a kid at the Ashbrook Center would be money well spent. Peter Schramm, a true scholar-hero, is too kind to me here.

On a different note: This is a pretty funny video documenting the salesman’s plight. Very, very bad language ahead.

I remember watching a speech by Tom Wolfe in which he said something about how hard it was to write Bonfire of the Vanities, since every time he had a good make-believe idea, reality would screw him by producing a real-life event that tracked too closely to his fictional idea. That’s how I felt when I read this story in the Telegraph, which has completely undercut my screenplay:

Lesbian martial arts expert frees under age lover in Indonesia.

A lesbian martial arts expert has staged a jailbreak to free her underage female lover from protective custody where she was being “cured” of her attraction to women, according to reports.

‘Undercover Boss’ – is that like ‘Bruce Springsteen, P.I.’?


Dear Reader (and the Mentat Thufir Ponnuru who deduced the contents of this “news”letter years ago after an overdose of sapho juice and some bad clams),

So I finally caught an episode of Undercover Boss the other night. I thought it was arguably the most brilliant piece of pro-corporate propaganda since the launch of NBC’s Green Week (do not get me started on Green Week).

If you haven’t seen the show, the gist is pretty obvious (unless you guessed it’s somehow about Bruce Springsteen solving crime, in which case it’s either not pretty obvious or you are pretty stupid — which would be impossible, given the wisdom you’ve shown in subscribing to this “news”letter). Anyway, just in case, here’s the idea: A CEO climbs down from his corporate keep and goes in mufti amongst the lower peons of his business empire to find out how the business really works and, natch, to learn some heartwarming lessons about the nobility of work and all that.

It’s a brilliant idea for a reality show but a terrible cliché otherwise. This is an ancient plot device. Odin and Zeus used to dress-up like lumpen proletariat to get jiggy with the mortal girls (hence the famous line in the Asgard men’s bathroom, “Mortal Girls Are Easy,” and the less famous one in the Olympian locker room, “For a Good Time Ensorcell Rhonda”). A disguised Prince Hal boosted morale at Agincourt. In Brubaker, a new prison warden (Robert Redford) checks in among the inmates to learn about the conditions first hand, only to discover the inmates are living the life of Riley and those no-good meddling reformers are hell-bent on ruining everyone’s good time. (Hey, that’s how I remember it.)

And that just scratches the surface. Who can forget the Oscar-robbed The Prince and Me with Julia Stiles and some other people? Oh, wait. Everyone can.

Anyway, the episode I watched followed the CEO of 7-11. He spent a week working at various “Sevvy” franchises, including one of the most profitable stores in the system, as well as the one that sells the most coffee in the entire chain of some 36,000 stores. That was the first giveaway that this was going to be one long commercial for 7-11.

As everybody knows, there’s no difference between good flan and bad flan, but there is a huge difference between a well-run 7-11 and a badly run one. Yet somehow the producers couldn’t find a single 7-11 where the hot dogs on the perpetual rollers have been there since the Harding administration. Apparently, they just couldn’t locate a 7-11 where what appears to be brown caulking between the bathroom tiles . . . isn’t caulk. The franchise with coffee that smells like a long-haul trucker’s urine after a healthy portion of asparagus and the storage room containing both an unlicensed chinchilla ranch and a very confused man in a ballerina outfit handcuffed to the sprinkler pipe also completely escaped their notice.

But — polish your Emmy now! — they did find one super-clean franchise where a couple fluorescent lights were out. This outrage against public safety, professionalism, and All 7-11 Holds Dear so shocked the CEO, he immediately ran out to the parking lot and, instead of pulling open his shirt to reveal his Superman outfit, whipped out his cell phone and called the boss of the boss of the boss of the boss of the boss of the guy who would normally get around to changing the bulbs.

When the Jews on the Russian shtetl were being harassed by Cossacks, they would often naïvely complain, “If only the czar knew!” This is sort of the same thing. Just swap “Fluorescent bulb out in aisle 3” for “The Cossacks burned my barn.”

The most brilliant propaganda came with the CEO’s discovery that one franchise — contrary to corporate policy — was throwing away all of its perishable pastries every night instead of giving them to soup kitchens and other charities. The CEO was outraged, but it was the perfect outrage from a P.R. standpoint. The CEO got to show that 7-11 has a heart while slyly also letting the world know that all the pastries are served fresh every day.

Every storyline worked the same way. Every employee was a saint whose greatest shortcoming was that he cared too much or was too talented. The CEO was like Good King Richard returning to give the Sheriff of Nottingham his comeuppance, feed the poor, and knight Robin Hood.

Of course, it makes total sense that the show would work this way, because no CEO is going to agree to get all shlubbed out only to help expose his own company as a hotbed of villainy and sloth and a leading purveyor of mystery meat stewed in e. coli. Anyway, I could easily go on too long (“Uh: ‘Could’?” — The Couch), but I was just so impressed with the shameless gall of it all.

Anyway, I will stop now.

On the Next Episode of Undercover Boss

Okay, I know it really seemed like I was about to stop there, but I just had a great idea. They should do a show where Rich Lowry goes undercover to work with the guys and gals in the trenches at NRO. Returning from his “research villa” on the Aegean, Lowry could toil with the associate editors, chained to their drafting tables like so many Korean animators. He could spend a day in the editorial hot box, where such miserable wretches as Stephen Spruiell and Kevin Williamson are locked away until they almost literally sweat out another editorial on debt reduction or steel tariffs. For once Lowry would have to tie Ponnuru’s shoes and hand-crush each cube of ice for Kathryn’s margaritas. Potemra could swing by Lowry’s desk instead of poor Helen Rittelmeyer’s and drop some 500-page tome in the original Greek in Lowry’s lap with the order “Summarize this by morning.”

Oh, and Chaka, sweet Chaka, could finally be the one swinging the sweat-sock full of rusty bolts and rolled-up quarters.

What’s That Now?

And now we interrupt this waste of your lunch hour with a brief interlude of substance.

I loved this bit from Dahlia Lithwick, Slate’s esteemed legal correspondent (hat tip RP):

I have been fascinated by Christine O’Donnell’s constitutional worldview since her debate with her opponent Chris Coons last week. O’Donnell explained that “when I go to Washington, D.C., the litmus test by which I cast my vote for every piece of legislation that comes across my desk will be whether or not it is constitutional.” How weird is that, I thought. Isn’t it a court’s job to determine whether or not something is, in fact, constitutional? And isn’t that sort of provided for in, well, the Constitution?

This is awesome. It’s not just that Lithwick dismisses a perfectly sensible and mainstream argument. It’s not just that she is ignorant of the contents of the actual Constitution (it does not provide for the Supreme Court serving as the either sole or final arbiter of what is constitutional). It’s not that she seems to have forgotten Marbury v. Madison. It’s not that she cannot grasp the idea that some legislator might not want to vote for unconstitutional legislation. No, what really makes this great is the absolute bunkered pomposity behind her instinctual certainty that anyone who disagrees with her bouillabaisse of ignorance and ideology must be “weird.”

Ah, TV Season Is Upon Us

Yes, I will be chiming in about 2010 TV fare. But, remember, my schedule is complicated so I don’t always see stuff as it airs. I did watch the first episodes of Lone Star and Boardwalk Empire, but I was less impressed on both scores than were many of the fancy-pants critics who wear belts. Still, both show promise.

Oh, and the missus and I have watched the new “Just Desserts” Top Chef and despite the fact we generally hate it, it’s oddly compelling, thanks to the very weird people (weird men, really) who become pastry chefs. I used to love the expression “gayer than the volleyball scene in Top Gun,” but I think I’ll have to switch to “gayer than the male cast of Just Desserts.”

Don’t Tread on Akbar!

Since Ole Miss didn’t adopt Admiral Akbar as their mascot, I’m thinking that he might make a good mascot for the Tea Party Caucus next year, when the appropriators try to seduce the new Rebel Alliance into joining the Dark Side. And, by selecting a unifying symbol with the name “Akbar,” we can push back on the notion that conservatives are Islamophobic.

Various & Sundry

Good news for the gentlemen out there. You have a new totally legit reason to buy Playboy. From a reader:

Hi Jonah,

In response to a reader challenge of a Playboy article calling Hitler a “right-wing radical,” Playboy says you are wrong on Nazis in your book Liberal Fascism. I just wanted to alert you to it so that you can defend your position, but I am also interested in hearing your rebuttal.

Their comments can be found in the October 2010 issue on page 134 in the Reader Response.


Well, if Playboy says I’m wrong, I guess I better refund everyone’s money.

Read the Enterprise Blog! People, I really need all of you to read the Enterprise Blog. I’m supposed to be driving traffic over to AEI’s website, and so far all I’ve done is litter the place with empty beer bottles and, soon, piles of “research” for my exhaustive response to Playboy. You can read it for my posts, or you can read it for the good ones. I don’t really care about your motives, just please bookmark it and then hit reload a billion times this afternoon like a cocaine-study monkey looking for one more sweet, sweet pellet.

Speaking of science, is your son watching Top Chef Just Desserts? If so, you might be interested in this article on “pre-homosexuality.” Get your prescription of Homocil now!

Back to School. It’s about two weeks before the publication of Proud to Be Right, edited by yours truly. You can read a bit about it here.

Obama administration releases revised list of “You Might Be A Redneck” Jokes. Okay, I made that up, but this is making the e-mail rounds:

You might be a redneck if: It never occurred to you to be offended by the phrase, ‘One nation, under God.’

You might be a redneck if: You’ve never protested about seeingthe Ten Commandments posted in public places.

You might be a redneck if: You still say ‘Christmas’ instead of ‘Winter Festival.’

You might be a redneck if: You bow your head when someone prays.

You might be a redneck if: You stand and place your hand over your heart when they play the National Anthem.

You might be a redneck if: You treat our armed forces veterans with great respect, and always have.

You might be a redneck if: You’ve never burned an American flag, nor intend to.

You might be a redneck if: You know what you believe and you aren’t afraid to say so, no matter who is listening.

You might be a redneck if: You respect your elders and raised your kids to do the same.

You might be a redneck if: You’d give your last dollar to a friend

Family squabbles


Dear Reader (and the opposition researchers working for my primary challenger),

Exciting times.

Last Saturday, I was in Racine, Wisconsin, home of the Danish kringle (which I didn’t get to try) and the largest settlement of Danes in the world outside of Greenland (teach me, O Wikipedia sage!). I was the keynote speaker for the tea-party rally there. It was an awesome time.

At one point, emcee (and free-market dominatrix of Wisconsin talk radio) Vicki McKenna raised the question of whether it’s pronounced “Ruh-seen” or “Ray-seen.” The audience yelled both pronunciations, of course.

When it came time for Paul Ryan to speak, he told everyone that it could be pronounced either way. “‘Ruh-seen,’ ‘Ray-seen,’“ he explained, it’s a potato/poh-tah-toh kind of thing.

Now, I’m a huge fan of Ryan’s (I even said he was the best congressman in America later on in my remarks). But little did he know that he had walked directly into the Claymore mine of my niggling pedantry. When I took to the stage, I explained that with all due respect to Representative Ryan, “No one says ‘POH-TAH-TOH!’”

I’ve always hated that expression because it validates one mispronunciation by citing another mispronunciation. And don’t give me any of this “Well, the British and Thurston Howell III say ‘poh-tah-toh’“ crap. This is America, dagnabbit.

Family Squabbles

Would that all disagreements on the right mattered so little these days.

As you can imagine, I get a lot of nasty e-mail. Some mornings peering into my e-mail box is a face-melting experience akin to looking into the Ark of the Covenant at the end of Raiders. I’ve developed a pretty tough hide about such things. I don’t even notice the anti-Semitic stuff anymore (which comes almost entirely from the left, for the record). Though I must say I was pretty appalled recently when a reader insisted that she loved my eulogy to my dead father, which is why she was so disappointed that I had betrayed him by taking some position or other she didn’t like. She was sure that my father would have agreed with her. I’m even more sure that my Dad would say she was an idiot.

I also don’t like it when pundits whine about their e-mail to make themselves into martyrs of one kind or another. Kathleen Parker’s bebopping and scatting on her reader feedback to denounce Sarah Palin and elevate herself was particularly unseemly (as I noted at the time).

All that said, I find a lot of the rage over the Christine O’Donnell stuff a bit dispiriting. As I’ve written a billion times before, I don’t put much stock in the “cocktail-party invite” theory of punditry. It’s not that there’s no merit whatsoever to the charge that some Gergenesque Republicans or nominal conservatives “grow” out of their conservatism in order to be more mainstream. It does happen, though it’s rarely as simplistic as most people think.

But the charge is thrown around so promiscuously (often fueled by some of our friends in talk radio) and with so little justification that it can be incredibly tedious. To go by the angriest folks e-mailing me over the last 24 hours, not only am I a “fake” conservative, but everyone at National Review and The Weekly Standard is, too. Not to mention Karl Rove, Charles Krauthammer, and pretty much every Republican or conservative analyst or pundit who expressed any skepticism about Christine O’Donnell’s chances of winning in November.

Now, I don’t want to re-argue the case against O’Donnell. I was never that invested in the Delaware race to begin with. Indeed, until yesterday, I think I offered one post on the matter. And besides, now that she’s the nominee, I sincerely hope she wins.

But what is so vexing about all this is how little it has to do with substance. It all has to do with perceived loyalty to some sort of purity test or disloyalty to the agenda of the folks invoking the purity test. Actual positions on issues don’t matter. You can be pro-life, pro-Second Amendment, pro-tax cuts, pro-everything conservatives are supposed to believe, but if you argue against the “anti-establishment” figure purely on tactical grounds, you are a fraud and a sell-out.

This argument is not being made solely in my e-mail box. It can be found on radio and TV, and all over the web. And it is pointless and self-destructive.

It also makes no sense.

For starters, while I understand the frustration with the official GOP apparatus, beyond the RNC and such organs, what exactly is this “establishment”? Some say it’s Fox News, citing Krauthammer, Kristol, and Rove. Okay, but Fox News is also Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck. Are they any less a part of the conservative establishment? Heck, they’re full-time Fox employees. Oh, and is Fox News contributor Sarah Palin, the GOP’s vice-presidential nominee in 2008, not a member of the establishment? Jim DeMint is a sitting senator. Is he not part of the conservative establishment? Rush Limbaugh and Mark Levin have been on a tear against the establishment. Are two of the most successful Republican commentators in America really outsiders? If you were talking about mainstream politics or media, you could call them outsiders. But we’re talking about the conservative realm, and these guys are more popes than heretics.

The simple truth is that this is a disagreement among friends and allies, not an ideological civil war. I just wish some of my friends and allies didn’t want to make it into a civil war.

My intent is not to disparage any of these people, some of whom are friends or people I admire (or both!). It’s simply to say that this “anti-establishment” talking point is paper thin and it’s being used in a shabby fashion.

Second, the notion that National Review has sold out is flat-out bizarre. The cover this week is a full-throated editorial against gay marriage. But that sort of thing counts for nothing because, don’t you see? Some folks around here expressed concerns over O’Donnell’s electability. Suddenly we’re The New Republic!

If we’re showing our “true colors” – as scores of e-mailers tell me – why did NR go in early and strong for Rubio when he was a long shot? Why have we been so supportive of the tea parties? Why have we . . . oh, to hell with it. We shouldn’t have to defend our conservative credentials.

Third, the most annoying argument made by the “anti-establishment” establishment is that we have an obligation not to say anything that might harm their preferred candidate’s chances. Now, I think there’s merit to this point of view when it comes to GOP officials, especially after the primary results are in. But I can’t begin to tell you how many people have written to tell me I’m a hack and a fake conservative because I won’t follow their party line. I don’t do party lines (unless you’re talking about those phone-sex chat lines I see advertised on TV where incredibly hot women decide to stay home on Saturday nights and talk to stamp-collecting nerds. Oh wait, then I still don’t do party lines).

This is a fantastically exciting and important moment for conservatives and, by extension the GOP and the country. I’d hate to see us blow it over such nonsense. Because if we do, it could be another couple years of this.

Look, I’m sorry to use up this incredibly valuable space for a rant like this. But I kind of needed to vent. I promise we’ll get back to “immanentizing the eschaton” puns and thoughtful essays on the perils of women’s prison movies next week. Oh wait, I think that should be the other way around. 

An Obama-inspired Bluto Moment


Dear Reader (and the suits who monitor these newsletters for the slightest hint of insubordination or pecuniary advantage),

Remember that scene in Animal House when the Deltas are going through the slideshow of prospective pledges? It’s a soporific crowd, half in drunken stupor, half bored to tears. And then the picture of Flounder appears on the screen and Bluto screams in horror and shock.

That was pretty close to my reaction Wednesday when I heard this from Obama in his Cleveland speech yesterday:

I believe government should be lean, it should be efficient, and it should leave people free to make the choices they think are best for themselves and their families, so long as those choices don’t hurt others.

And that’s when I had my Bluto moment.

If Barack Obama believes that, then why hasn’t he fired his entire administration for undermining him at every turn? Why hasn’t he finally had it out with his homunculus/Teleprompter, which has made him say so many things that don’t sound like this at all?

Isn’t this a bit like the Pharaoh saying, “I love the Hebrews. I believe they should be full citizens of Egypt, and should be well compensated for their labors,” while looking out the window as the pyramids go up in the distance? Or maybe it’s like King Louis (played by Mel Brooks, natch) explaining how he loves the people even as he uses them for clay pigeons. Whatever, pick your own analogy. Does anybody really think Obama believes this?

Okay, actually he might believe this – but in a very lawyerly way. The key phrase, I suppose, is “so long as those choices don’t hurt others.” For classical liberals, this is what you might call a strictly constructed concept.

Under the do-no-harm principle, you don’t have the right to poison someone else’s well. You’re not free to invoke prima nocta – or some other fictional right – to get jiggy with another man’s wife against her will. You can’t junk-punch a guy in his man-business every time he orders a vegetarian sandwich from Subway, no matter how much he deserves it.

But according to the liberalism that is liberal in name only, the formulation means something very different. Hurting others means hindering progress. It means costing the state revenue. It means defying the precautionary principle. Hurting others is a zero-sum thing. You can’t make a lot of money if someone you never met who has never done an honest day’s work in his life is only making a little. That’s how Obama defines “neighborliness,” after all.

The Joys of Fatherhood

One of the best things about being the father of the sixth-cutest second-grader on the planet (that’s a back-of-the-envelope calculation, margin of error ± 6) is that you can act gay without being gay. No I don’t mean “gay” in the sexual proclivity sense. I mean gay in the way even gay teenagers mean “gay” these days. Not gay-gay, just sorta gay. This is hard to explain. Let me give you an example.

I have a convertible. I drive my daughter around in it a lot, and she absolutely loves show tunes, and most of all Annie. So, when we drive around town, I’ll often blast “You’re Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile” or “Tomorrow.” No matter how self-confident a straight guy is when he’s single, and no matter how much he may love festive show tunes, he’d never do that without the cover of a wedding ring and a small female child. That’s just the way life is.

The same goes for all sorts of things. I love amusement and water parks, but despite my Greco-Roman physique (“Snarf! I just spit lint through my nose!” –The Couch), I wouldn’t be caught dead walking around a water park in a swimsuit without the corporeal excuse of my daughter. And don’t even get me started on tea parties.

Why is the Sky Blue, Daddy? One of the things I try to teach my daughter is that the smartest thing she can do is ask a good question. It’ll be years before she has a lot of sophisticated knowledge, but you can start really early teaching kids how to ask good questions, which is just another way of saying you can start really early teaching kids how to think.

I’m neither a romantic nor an ideologue about this sort of thing. What do I mean? Well, remember that part of It Takes a Village – sure you do, we all read it, right? – where Hillary says that she never met a stupid child? She went on to say that some of the “best theologians” she ever met were five-year-olds. That’s what I mean.  Children are not deep repositories of wisdom and insight, they are shallow repositories that need to be filled up with such stuff. You’ll never hear me say that there’s no such thing as a stupid question, particularly for adults. But even if there were no stupid questions, there are certainly questions that only stupid people would ask. “Maybe we should try to calm the bear down by giving it a bath with our tongues?”

There are also some questions only ignorant people would ask. That’s less of an indictment, because we’re all ignorant about everything to one degree or another. Was it Kant or Fawn Leibowitz in her yearbook quote who wrote, “The more you know, the more you realize you don’t know”?

More Questions!

Since we’re on the subject of questions, I thought I’d ask a few. Let’s start with the conversation starters you can try around your own veal pen cubicles.

As recent episode of “This American Life” presented the question: Which superpower would you rather have? Invisibility or flight? Interestingly, almost no one surveyed wanted to use their powers for fighting crime. More interestingly, the general consensus was that invisibility was a basically dishonorable power. And yet even more interesting still, women disproportionately wanted to be invisible rather than fly. Which would you rather?

Who are the ugliest truly famous celebrities of the last, say, 30 years? I believe you’ll find most of them are in sports. But I don’t want to prejudice your answers.

Everyone’s talking about how letting the Bush tax cuts expire is bad because of the effect it would have on small business. Is there a good reason why nobody talks about treating small-business income differently in the tax code?

Other than raising revenue, is there any reason to tax corporations at all? To listen to many liberals talk about corporate taxation, you’d think corporations were like some rapist tied up in your basement who deserves to be kicked just because he needs kicking. But let’s say we could prove that taxing corporations above, say, 5 percent (or above zero percent) hinders national prosperity and, in turn, government revenues. I don’t think that would obviously be the result, but I don’t think it would be impossible to prove either. Is there another reason to tax corporations I am missing?

Whittaker Chambers famously declared that when he switched sides from Communism to democracy, he was moving from the winning side to the losing side. Fortunately, he was wrong. But I think this is potentially a fascinating insight into the differences between the progressive and the conservative minds. With the exception of environmentalism, is there an area of life where liberals generally believe they are on the losing side of history? I can think of many areas where conservatives defend positions they know, or at least deeply suspect, are ultimately losing propositions. Gay marriage comes to mind. Religious orthodoxy, for some, might be another. Is this because there’s something un-Whiggish about conservatism that doesn’t simply assume that History must move in a single, positive direction?

Why the Hell are there so many bank branches being built when everything we’re told about the economy says that such bricks-and-mortar installations are increasingly unnecessary?

Why do family-oriented television channels run commercials for products that are inappropriate for small children? I think I know the answer to that, but why is there no backlash against the practice?

Why are you still reading this Goldberg File when I’m so clearly mailing it in and using you people to help me think through future columns?

Various and Sundry

First, thanks for all the suggestions for how to live kitchenless.

Second, Quote of the Day: “I sit on a man’s back, choking him and making him carry me, and yet assure myself and others that I am very sorry for him and wish to ease his lot by all possible means – except by getting off his back.” Leo Tolstoy, What Then Must We Do?, Chapter 16

I was on TASP – that’s “The All-Star Panel” for you novices – on Special Report last night; here’s video

I am coming to Racine, Wisconsin this Saturday! I am a very last minute fill-in keynoter at the Racine Tea Party event. Come on down and pretend to laugh at my jokes!

The latest Ricochet podcast is up. It includes not only the pundit stylings of yours truly, but the Solomonic insights of Pat Sajak.

Here’s the video of the APSA panel I participated in last week.

Behold: The Caffeinated Destructor!

Some of you may not dig it, but I’ve really enjoyed “Between Two Ferns.”

The chainsaw of populism


Dear Reader (and the millionth monkey that independently stumbled on this column, banging on his typewriter),

So the other day in my column, I said that if Beck wasn’t a libertarian, I’d find his populism worrisome (in the LA Times version of the column, I’d said “terrifying” but changed it upon reflection — and about a quart of scotch, but that’s neither here nor there).

This launched another round of “what’s wrong with populism?” e-mails. Populism is merely siding with the people over the elites, say my insistent readers. Aren’t you for the people and against the elite, they ask, while poking me with a proverbial finger in the chest. Aren’t you? Huh, aren’t you?

Well, I respond, backing away to establish a greater zone of personal space, it’s complicated.

And then, since we’re having an entirely fictional conversation anyway, I pull out a really huge and intimidating chainsaw.

And I say: See this chainsaw (and I give it a nice rev: rrnnnn ninn nnn). This chainsaw can be used for good, like saving an adorable puppy from a car crash. Or (rrnn ninn nnn!) it can be used to dismember readers who poke me in the chest. Saving puppies, or grisly murders (or grizzly murders, if you want to kill some bears).

The point is, chainsaws are very powerful and dangerous tools and they can be used for good or for ill.

The same goes for populism. The French Revolution was populist. So was Nazism. So was Communism, at least when it was seizing power. Mobs are populist.

Populism can also be good. The American Revolution was populist, and our constitution reflects our populist origins with that boffo “We the People” opening (or, for fans of a certain TV show, “E Plebnista”). The civil-rights movement was populist, as were the tax revolts of the 1970s. And, as we all know, what has two thumbs and likes the Constitution, civil rights, and tax revolts? This guy.

Whoops. Dropped my chainsaw.

In short, populism is good when A) the people are right in what they are being populist about and B) they understand that populism has its limits.

Chainsaws are good for rescuing puppies. They’re not so good for things like puppy grooming or training.

Similarly, people power is good for clearing out bad government. It’s less good at governing. The Founders understood that, which is why they put in all of those populist circuit breakers. Remember all that stuff about the tyranny of the majority in the Federalist Papers? Remember why we ended up having a Bill of Rights? That was the Founders’ way of curbing the dangerous excesses that come with populism. It’s why we have a republican form of government, or at least why we’re supposed to.

I am pro-tea party but still generally anti-populist (for people sick of my juvenilia, you can read Henry Olsen’s excellent piece on “Populism, American Style“). I just think this is a moment when we need to take a chainsaw to government and replace it with the original software (“Goldberg doesn’t just mix metaphors, he emulsifies them!” – The Couch). And any populist movement that is dedicated to limiting the role of government is, quite obviously, different than a movement dedicated to socialism, free silver, lebensraum, whatever. As readers of my book know, this is a distinction often lost on liberals who seem to think that radical libertarianism is a variant of fascism.

Philosophical Anti-Populism.  But there’s also a philosophical point that conservatives should understand. Populism qua populism simply holds that the people are right because they are the people. No conservative should accept this uncritically. As we all know, pure democracy is an awful system whereby 51 percent of the people get to pee in the cornflakes of 49 percent of the people. Populism is even worse because, technically, it doesn’t require anything so formal as a clear majority. Populism at its purest is the politics of the mob.

The logic of the mob should be familiar, since it is such a staple of identity politics: We’re for X, therefore X is not only good, but if you’re against X you’re against us.

For the typical populist demagogue, the demands and desires of “the people” (often self-servingly defined) trump everything: rules, tradition, and reason. “The people of Nebraska are for free silver, and I am for free silver,” insisted William Jennings Bryan. “I will look up the arguments later.” Or as Willie Stark, the Huey Long-inspired character from Robert Penn Warren’s All the Kings Men, says, “Your will is my strength. Your need is my justice. That is all.”

Such naked faux-majoritarianism doesn’t rank high in the conservative hierarchy. One with the law on his side is a majority, as Calvin Coolidge put it.

Moreover, who is to say that the people alive today are so smart or deserving? Our ancestors fought and died to give us a certain kind of country. Who are we to piss on their graves? Chesterton understood this: “Tradition means giving votes to the most obscure of all classes, our ancestors,” he writes in Orthodoxy. “It is the democracy of the dead. Tradition refuses to submit to the small and arrogant oligarchy of those who merely happen to be walking about.”

The logic works forwards as well as backwards. Who says that we deserve what we want more than our children or grandchildren deserve what they will need? Populists who want to blow up the system for their own betterment leave me cold. Populists who want to restore the system for their posterity’s betterment get two thumbs up from me.

Damn, dropped the chainsaw again.

Various and Sundry

So we’re having work done on our house, and that means the Goldbergs will be without a kitchen until at least Halloween, maybe Thanksgiving. We’ve moved the fridge into the living room – a lifelong dream of mine – but it’s proven anticlimactic. Meanwhile, the loss of oven and stove cooking has hit the Goldbergs hard. If readers have suggestions for family dinners that involve either no cooking or only microwaves, let me know. (Yes, we can grill, but for logistical reasons that’ll be hard until the work is done.) 

Meanwhile, in case you missed it, here’s the latest flapdoodle about Liberal Fascism.

Bonus! Goldbergians.

Video Potpourri

Behold the Keynes-Hayek rap. It’s a little old, but really awesome. If I were taking a college econ course, I’d simply memorize the whole thing. 

This is newer and really brilliant, but full of profanity. It’s a parody of those smarmy New York Times commercials done for the New York Post. 

Debby’s Odd Links For reasons that must have to do with Helen Rittelmeyer’s obsession with the Twilight books, this never made it into the Corner last week. So you can have it now:

The Government’s New Right to Track Your Every Move With GPS. Related: Big Brother is Searching You and Cleveland’s “Big Brother” high-tech trash cans tell the government if you aren’t recycling enough!

Urine-powered fuel cells.

Germans, the other other white meat.

Top 10 accidental inventions.

Everything you wanted to know about projectile pooping in the animal kingdom is here and here.

How to increase the money you get from eBay auctions.

The stories behind 8 back-to-school essentials.

Mug shot (and related story) of the week. Somewhat related distracted driving story.

Video: Hay baling fun.

Inside a celestial super-volcano.

Returning next week: Vocab!

Super-secret CIA assassins: not all they’re cracked up to be.


Dear reader (and Todd Frumplemeyer who sits at his cubicle staring at the G-File, fake laughing to hide the shame of his illiteracy),

Risking the painful barbs of Jim “I’m jolting every morning” Geraghty’s mockery, I’m going to let you know up front that this will be a short G-File today. It’s my second-to-last day at the beach, I have a weird chest cold, and last evening, I celebrated the ninth anniversary of the day I successfully Jedi-mind-tricked the Fair Jessica into marrying me. It will be one ugly conversation when she finally shakes off the brain spell, let me tell you. I’m afraid I’ll have to make like Saddam Hussein or Lord Humungus and use my daughter as a human shield when she comes to.

“How could you do this to me?”

“But look how adorable our daughter is.”

“Don’t change the subject. And don’t tell me these aren’t the droids I’m looking for either.”

Why this requires a short G-File, is an excellent question – for a longer G-File.

The thing I want to know now is: Why hasn’t the CIA assassinated Julian Assange? Indeed, why didn’t the CIA or the DIA or the NSA or the phone cops that came for Johnny Fever take this guy out with a poisoned umbrella or an exploding cigar long before we ever heard the name of the WikiLeaks founder? Hell, why have we even heard of Wikileaks in the first place?

I’m not necessarily advocating that we take him out. First of all, even if it were a good idea, it’s too late now. But think about it. If you go by nearly every Hollywood treatment of the CIA or the NSA, Assange is precisely the sort of guy who should have been garroted in his French hotel room years ago. He’s setting up a website – a series of websites, really – that will allow whistleblowers, traitors, cranks, and misguided morons to publish the government’s most closely kept secrets. Some of these disclosures are guaranteed to damage American national security and put U.S. interests and lives at risk. What are super-cool CIA assassins for if not stopping this sort of thing in its tracks? Whether you think the CIA is an honorable  and unfairly maligned outfit that does democracy’s dirty work, or if you think it’s a hotbed of lawless evil setting back human progress at every turn, you would still expect the spooks to off this guy quietly before anyone had heard his name.

What I think is interesting about this is that the Wikileaks case is a perfect illustration of how not just outfits like the CIA and NSA but also the far more powerful entity most commonly known as “The Man” aren’t nearly as powerful as many think they are.

Wikileaks threatens not just national interests but corporate interests, so not only could it potentially out the CIA agents who sold crack in the inner cities, invented AIDS, and killed Kennedy, but it could reveal the secret chemical Colonel Sanders puts in his chicken to make you crave it fortnightly. It could blow the lid off the upholstery business and divulge the locations of the 100-year lightbulb, the working prototype of the electric car, the Bush family’s huge stockpile of Nazi gold, and, of course, the formula for the everlasting gobstopper.

How many movies are based on the idea that governments, corporations, the Catholic Church, the United Nations, and rogue billionaires are all deploying teams of assassins, cleaners, fixers, and editors-at-large to keep the lid on this and limit our exposure to that?

But here comes an outfit that threatens to expose everything, out everyone, and the global Powers that Be are powerless to stop it?

That’s a pretty amazing indictment of a lot of paranoid worldviews.

Unless, of course, Wikileaks is in on the whole thing!

Blame the Right for Left-wing Killers

Late in the day yesterday, I got a call from the folks at the New York Post telling me they desperately wanted me to update my column on “Islamophobia” to take into account the cabbie-stabber in New York. My e-mail box was filling up with asinine taunts from lefties about how stupid I looked given the attack. By the time I revised the column, however, it was becoming clear that this Michael Enright guy wasn’t the right-wing bigot lefty bloggers clearly hoped he would be.

Needless to say, it’s not a great argument to say that conservatives need to stop opposing the Ground Zero mosque lest mosque supporters continue their bloodthirsty rampage against peaceful, law-abiding Muslims – Muslims who oppose the mosque!

Who knows what the story with Enright will turn out to be? But I do think this is a fascinating area for further exploration. I honestly believe that there are a small number of leftists who are so convinced of their Manichean worldview that they are willing to take matters into their own hands to prove it true. I also know that some young people are desperate to gain stature or authenticity by casting themselves as victims. There is something so attractive about being anointed as a member of the Coalition of the Oppressed that young people often fake being attacked in order to gain entry into the fraternity. Indeed, it’s something of an epidemic on American campuses (John Miller did a great peace for the magazine years ago on the problem of hate-crime hoaxes on college campuses).

A third factor is how the professional Left is organized to seize on martyrs. As I’ve written at considerable length elsewhere, the Left’s rhetoric and orientation is fundamentally religious, so it only makes sense that it would organize around people who died or suffered for our collective sins. Sometimes, as in the case of Martin Luther King, the martyrdom treatment is largely deserved. In other cases – JFK, RFK, Matthew Shepard, Horst Wessel, Pavlik Morozov et al. – the stories are more complicated. I’m always intrigued to hear liberals, the supposed champions of empiricism and rationality, invoke ghosts to defend their preferred policies, as if preserving FDR’s legacy were a strong argument for opposing social-security reform, or Teddy Kennedy’s “memory” were a great reason to socialize medicine.

Anyway, more to ponder another time. I’ve got to go.

Making a Mosquery of the Truth


Dear Reader (and those of you who get the gist of this column from the guy in the next cubicle who needs to read everything out loud),

I was home in D.C. for a little less than 24 hours. I was on Special Report, I picked up some bills, checked on the less-than-Herculean progress of the work being done on our house, had a drink with a friend, and caught up on some TV I’d missed in my travels.

I’m now current on HBO’s True Blood. It’s, as you may know, a vampire series (though now there are werewolves, shape-shifters, demons, and, one can only suspect, some Henry Waxman-like mole people coming soon).

I didn’t like the show too much at first. The first season was often a slow, didactic American Gothic tale about sybaritic lychnobites, but it’s been growing on me since then. What’s really struck me this season is how far the show has strayed from its allegorical mission.

In the first season, vampires “come out of the coffin,” as it were. They’ve been hiding amongst us for thousands of years, but with the invention of a human blood alternative – “True Blood” – they decide they want equal rights. The whole theme of the first season – and apparently the books – rests on this premise, that vampires are analogous to gays. The analogy is mostly subtext, but quite often it’s closer to plain old text. Evangelical Christians hate vampires and are made to look ridiculous when they rant about their inherent evil. Opponents of the Vampire Rights Amendment insist that “God Hates Fangs!” Vampire-fetishists are “fangbangers.” You get it.

But here’s the problem: For the most part, those kooky evangelicals have turned out to be right. With a handful of exceptions, the vampires are actuallyevil. Moreover, the vamps don’t really like the bourgeois-assimilationist synthetic blood, and they won’t drink it if they can get away with it. The vampires have contempt for humans and human morality. Even the head of the vampire-rights lobby – who was originally cast as a perfect analogue for a gay-rights advocate – secretly prefers to feast on nude and nubile young girls (and, really, who can blame her?).

Now, in fairness, the creative types often claim that easy analogies are not what they are after. The Wikipedia entry on True Blood notes that Alan Ball rejects all of these comparisons as “lazy.” It’s the critics who can’t resist finding allegories, maybe because movie critics tend to resent the fact that they only get to criticize movies. But I’m not sure I always buy that defense; if the creators didn’t want to analogize, they wouldn’t have made it so easy for the viewer to do exactly that.

Regardless, this all brings to mind 28 Weeks Later, the sequel to 28 Days Later. In the sequel, which came out during the worst stretch of the Iraq war, the U.S. military goes to Britain to restore order after a horrific zombie outbreak (technically, they weren’t zombies, they were humans infected with the “rage virus”; distinctions matter, people). The Yanks also bring with them the first wave of British refugees from the outbreak. The Americans set up a “Green Zone” (get it?) and get to work.

Well, of course, things go ass over tea kettle. The Green Zone is overrun. Zombie-movie themes unfold. The response to all of this from critics was predictable. “It’s hard not to think of Iraq and the fear of Islam generated in the Dubya era as the U.S. occupying force starts shooting and bombing without regard to collateral damage,” Peter Travers opined in Rolling Stone.

Let’s leave aside the fact that what is intellectually hard for Peter Travers – quite possibly the most intellectually whorish major movie critic in America (discuss amongst yourselves) – might well be intellectually easy for a small child with a light head injury. Here’s the problem: In the actual context of the film, analogizing the “fear of Islam” to the fear of eyeball-eating, throat-ripping, phlegm-oozing zombies does not make “fear of Islam” seem irrational or overheated. It makes it downright obligatory. Moreover, worrying about the spread of the threat, given that the rage virus can be passed through saliva, never mind a good bite to your pancreas, isn’t a sign of right-wing dementia; it’s a prerequisite of sanity. If you take the analogy seriously, the Americans in the Iraqi Green Zone should have felt even more free to open fire, not less.

Likewise, if gay-rights activists were on the ball, they’d recognize that the allegorical plot of True Blood is doing them no favors.

Making a Mosquery of the Truth

I cannot be alone in thinking that the mosque debate is getting really old. But since I still seem to be in the minority, here are three quick points that I think need to be given more air.

1. The liberals are the ideologues on this. Michael Bloomberg and Barack Obama have claimed countless times that they are non-ideological pragmatists. But their position, right or wrong, is wildly ideological. Meanwhile, conservatives who say, “Fine, build your mosque, just not right there,” are the pragmatists. But conservative pragmatism is never recognized as such if it breaks with the liberal party line. When conservatism breaks with liberalism, it must be denounced as ideology or, of course, bigotry.

2. Stop calling it a mosque. Defenders of Cordoba House sometimes say, “It’s not a mosque, it’s a cultural-affairs center with a prayer room,” or some such, as if this were a defense. To me, that makes it worse, not better. If this were some small, one-story mosque for the handful of Muslims living nearby to pray in, the arguments over freedom of religion would have more merit. But this would be a 13-story institution with an obvious political component to it. That strikes me as gaudy and an invitation to mischief. This is another point I think non-bigoted Americans understand better than the condescending supporters of the mosque.

3. The staggering hypocrisy of liberals is really an amazing thing. Everywhere you look, you hear these scandalized liberals talking as if it were beyond the pale to criticize religion. You’d never know that these overnight stalwarts of religious freedom had been demonizing Christian conservatives, Mormons, and increasingly orthodox Jews for years. It’s as if these people never wanted to ban a crèche, outlaw a Christian group, or claim that Jewish supporters of Israel suffer from dual loyalties. I’m not making a two-wrongs-make-a-right point here. I do think that some of the rhetoric on the right goes too far – Newt’s Nazi analogy, for instance. But it is amazing how establishment liberalism can spend years demonizing organized religion in this country only to turn on a dime when it comes to defending the Islamic equivalent of NikeTown two blocks from Ground Zero.

Chicken and Waffles, My Friends, Chicken and Waffles

In Bethany Beach, Del., there’s a place called Patsy’s. On Sundays, their signature brunch item is chicken and waffles. I confess that I’d never heard of the dish until about a year ago, when I saw a Throwdown with Bobby Flayepisode about it. But let me say now, and I never exaggerate, that this may be the greatest dish ever created. I could see how it could be bad: if there was bad fried chicken, or bad waffles. But if the fried chicken is good, and the waffles are good, then the two combine for a geometric increase in goodness. Really. So good. So, so, so good.

Various and Sundry

Of course, when you finish a plate of chicken and waffles, you’re apt to suffer from pandiculation, which is the stretching and stiffening one feels after a good sleep or a meal of chicken and waffles. That in turn brings us to better dentistry through rocketry.

Oh, no, wait. It brings us to this week’s vocab. Earlier in this “news”letter I used the word lychnobite, which is someone who turns night into day, like a fisherman who casts after sundown or a nocturnal golfer who likes to go night putting with the dean’s daughter. Which reminds me, according to Tracy Jordan (in 30 Rock), vampires are the world’s greatest golfers but their curse is that they can never prove it.

Meanwhile, some folks may have taken offense at my earlier disparagement of Henry Waxman, whose philtrum is wider than a human thumb. Fair enough, but can anyone really deny that he would look completely natural hunched-over, naked, and smudged with dirt, eating a small live rodent (sort of like Gollum with a fish)? Oh, and for the record, your philtrum is the vertical groove on the median line of your upper lip. Meanwhile, I’m increasingly interested in holophrasis, so if you have any good examples of it in modern life, shoot me a line. Feel free to share any other thoughts about the G-File. I’m elozable.

Victorianism: Poised for a Comeback?


Dear Reader (and those of you who consume this newsletter in our new easy-to-swallow pill form),

I am at the beach for much of August. I know what you’re thinking: Jonah Goldberg + beach = more sexiness than the human mind can contemplate. If by sexiness, you mean sweatiness, you’re absolutely right. I am descended from a desert people, but spending our diaspora years spent eating fatty cured meats and smoked fish while compounding interest rates and running from Kossacks have apparently resulted in a genetic abnormality that causes me to sweat like Burl Ives moving a piano while wearing Huggy Bear’s Technicolor pimp coat.

The Delmarva coast has a lot going for it (Delmarva is not only a fitting name for a transvestite born with the name Del, it’s also an abbreviation for the intersection of Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia, in case you didn’t know). It’s quaint. The people are nice. It’s family oriented. What it doesn’t have going for it is climate. In California, New England, etc., you go to the ocean and you cool off. But this is figurative. You can sit outside and have a sandwich without looking and feeling like the Wicked Witch of the East after Dorothy threw water on her (“Helios! Look what you’ve done to me, I’m melting!”). In Delmarva, or so it seems during this heat wave, you have to be physically in the ocean to cool off. Step out of the ocean and within seconds you feel like a forgotten order of fries under a Denny’s heat lamp. It has the same climate as Washington, D.C., which, we all know, is a pestilential swamp where the horseflies and water snakes have been replaced with congressmen and senators. And that’s not a fair trade, because horseflies and water snakes leave your wallet alone when they bite.

Everything Old Is Still Old But Feels New (or Something)

It’s been a while since I read Eric Voegelin, one of my favorite philosophers – and a profound influence on my book – and my lips are still sore from the last time I did. Voegelin is the hardest interesting writing I’ve ever encountered. Uninteresting writing is always hard because, well, it’s uninteresting. The only thing that can give me a headache and put me to sleep faster than reading the impenetrable miasma of, say, John Dewey is a fish mallet to the back of the head – and that might be more desirable.

Anyway, one of the things I took away from Voegelin is that the nature of human existence is unchanging (though the revolution in genetic engineering might change that). Voegelin argued that the “structure of history” – what he calls “metaxy” (borrowing from Plato) – is permanent and unchanging. For example, the desire to create a heaven on earth is written into the human heart. All that ever changes is the latest snake-oil recipe for achieving it. The elixir may promise to turn everyday Joes into Aryan Man, Soviet Man, or Eugenic Man, but at the end of the day it’s the same bad wine in a new skin.

Voegelin understood that all of these isms must eventually fail because, again, you can’t change the structure of history. You cannot make this life perfect, because imperfection is written into the very nature of human existence. As Leo Strauss wrote (in a somewhat different context), “Finite, relative problems can be solved; infinite, absolute problems cannot be solved. In other words, human beings will never create a society which is free from contradictions.” For Voegelin – and countless theologians in the Judeo-Christian tradition – there is a “society” where there are no contradictions; it’s called “heaven.” When we try to create heaven here on earth, we are immanentizing the eschaton.

Modern man’s greatest hubris is to believe that we have stepped outside of history, transcended it, escaped from the algorithms that define it and that inevitably create problems. For instance, fans of Karl Marx think he was brilliant for noticing that capitalism has crises every now and then. Well, guess what? Everything under the sun, including the sun, has crises from time to time (for more on this point, see here).

Okay, I’ll dial back the philosophy stuff. But what I take from all of this is confirmation of the basic conservative insight that there’s nothing new under the sun. Many of the things we think are new are really ancient dynamics presenting themselves in new ways. (Ancient may be the wrong word because it suggests that they are subject to the vicissitudes of time. These dynamics are simply permanent.)

For me this translates into something of a mental parlor game. Whenever I hear that this or that trend or phenomenon is new, unprecedented, etc., I try to think “Okay, what if it isn’t new? It just looks new because it’s manifesting itself in a different form.” So I then ask, “What is it?”

For instance, many conservatives – including yours truly – get bent out of shape over political correctness. And quite often it is something to get bent out of shape over. Left-wing activists and intellectuals try to use political correctness to reshape the culture in ways they find desirable. But the appeal of political correctness for the average person isn’t the chance to advance some Marxist or feminist agenda. It’s to be polite. The bulk of political correctness is merely an attempt to come up with good manners. Understandably, blacks decided they didn’t want to be called negroes or colored anymore. Onetime Orientals are now Asians. Politically correct definitions of sexual harassment are, for the most part, only reasonable and persuasive to the extent that they overlap with old-fashioned definitions of boorishness. The perniciousness of political correctness is that it uses our natural sense of decency to hide other agendas. But the decency part remains, well, decent.

Or consider another possible example I’ve been noodling. One of the staples of the New Media era is the story of how so-and-so was caught doing X because he didn’t realize he or she was being videotaped. (Forgive me for not revving up the Google machine to find all of the examples, but you know what I’m talking about.) Another staple is the story about how people can’t escape their Google histories. Your “permanent record” was always a lot of hype – until now. Once your name is on the Interwebs, it’s there forever.

It occurs to me – and I might be completely wrong – that if this trend continues, we could see the return of something like Victorianism. Okay, maybe not Victorianism, but a kind of mercenary moral rearmament.

I’ve long liked the Victorian model, where everyone was expected to behave one way in public, but it was understood that some wild stuff might happen behind closed doors. One of the things that maintained public adherence to this moral standard was a powerful investment in one’s reputation. Another bulwark of social order was the fear that God was watching you. Those days are gone (which is not to say nobody is God-fearing anymore), but what seems to be emerging is something like a world where we try to maintain our e-reputations out of fear that everyone is watching us.

The downside of this theory is that what constitutes a good reputation, never mind shame, is changing rapidly. But that’s not a new story either, alas.

Oh, crap. I rambled on for a while there without actually getting to the point. I’m working on a larger project on these themes – or at least I’m thinking about it. If you have any good/intriguing/insightful examples of Nothing New Under the Sun-ism, shoot ‘em my way.

The Long Arm of O’Sullivan’s Law

Any good NR reader should know O’Sullivan’s Law: “All organizations that are not actually right-wing will over time become left-wing.” A reader sent me this link to a FrumForum piece lamenting that the site’s readership is moving farther left all the time.

Sons of Anarchy

It’s one of my favorite shows, and I’m going to try to write about it for the magazine. I got a review copy of the premiere episode of Season 3. It is awesome. That is all.

‘I Don’t Care’

If you haven’t seen this video, which became a web sensation a while back, you should watch it now (some profanity). The critter that says “I don’t care” has gotten under my skin. I can’t say “I don’t care” except in her voice. And I find myself seeing my daughter and dog as responding to me with “I don’t care” every time I talk to them.

Me: “You’ve already had dessert.”

Child: “I don’t care. I want ice cream.”

Me: “The cat is our pet too.”

Dog: “I don’t care. I want to kill it.”

And so on.


The latest Ricochet podcast, with Rob Long, James Lileks, and moi. On iTunes or over at their shop. Oh, the Trek references.

My “official” reaction to the cover of Kos’s book, which is a pretty naked rip-off of mine.

No vocab this week, I’m at the beach.

JournoList vs. Jonahlist


Dear Reader (and overly aggressive spam filters),

I am on a bit of vacation these days, by which I mean I’m working half-assed from someplace nicer than D.C. in August. That doesn’t narrow down my – as of yet – undisclosed location too much, since, outside of Kandahar – where the weather is nicer, for the record – it’s hard to think of someplace more unpleasant than D.C. in August. The whole city feels like a Port-o-Jon in New Orleans during a heat wave after Dom DeLuise paid the price for eating a whole bowl of really bad clams.

Anyway, I’m in Friday Harbor (there, location disclosed!), in the San Juan Islands (where my wife and I were married, and where I killed a man with a salad tong, but that’s a story for another day). It is objectively beautiful here, as it always is during the summer. We try to visit family here every year, and we succeed most years. Two of my sisters-in-law live here year round, and many of my Alaskan in-laws swing by.

On Conformity, Real and Imagined

Whenever I come out to the Pacific Northwest, I am always particularly struck by the studied non-conformity of today’s youth, particularly the slacker culture (now in its third decade, by my calculations). The meticulously perfect “messy” hair, the crocheted hats that are so stylishly un-stylish, the rebellious tattoos that everyone has to have to be cool (including the esoteric Chinese characters that actually read “I am a douche bag” or “I have chlamydia”): These are uniforms for enemies of uniformity, the tribal markings of fierce individualists. I read somewhere that a third of “Generation Next” has a tattoo. I assert that when a third of an entire generational cohort does something “rebelliously individualistic,” it’s called a “fad.”

It’s one of these great cultural contradictions. Looking like a maverick is stylish, but there’s nothing more un-mavericky than actually dressing to look like a maverick.

Want to know who the real rebels are, the people who really don’t care how they look or what people think about them?

Old people.

Seriously, look at that guy wearing shorts with black dress socks and loafers. Look at the 70-something woman barging to the head of the line at the supermarket or just ordering hot water because she brought her own teabags. On NR cruises, you see these older couples walking around with their National Review ID-card necklaces and money belts wandering through Old San Juan or Dublin or wherever. They just don’t care how they look. I’m not saying they look bad. Just the opposite: They look comfortable.

It’s not just clothes. Take my Dad. One time when my wife, a.k.a. the Fair Jessica, and I were visiting my parents, we tried to convince my Dad to try some expensive single-malt scotch that we’d discovered. My Dad commenced to explain that he thought all of that sort of thing was overrated and wildly overpriced. He liked his store-brand blended scotch just fine. We went around the horn on this for a while, and then I tasted his scotch and told him it tasted horrible. He immediately responded drily: “Well, then I’m the luckiest man in the world, because I can’t tell.”

It seems to me this is one of those obvious points that everyone sort of understands but nobody articulates. We hear all of this stuff about how we live in a youth-oriented culture. Advertisers care about young people precisely because they are gullible and impressionable. But what does that mean? It doesn’t mean they’re independent-minded; it means they’re the herd. It’s just that we nudge the herd by telling it “You’re all individuals!”

JournoList vs. Jonahlist

Speaking of herds, I refuse to be cowed into finding just one or two things to love about the JournoList story. Everything about it is great, including the fact that it’s not nearly as big a deal as people are making it. That just adds to the deliciousness. The JournoListers could shrug the whole thing off if they didn’t mind being seen as political hacks. But because they cling to an oversized view of their own importance, they feel they have to simultaneously argue the list was a good and fine thing – because they are very serious people – despite the fact that it was chockfull of hackery. I love how honest mainstream guys like Chuck Todd (a truly decent guy) are dismayed by such an unsurprising phenomenon and how his dismay launched a whole new round of denial. I love how the so-called “reality-based community” sees nothing wrong with trying to shape reality. I love the breezy confirmation of so much that I’ve said and written about contemporary liberalism, to wit: Liberals have settled dogma so they end up arguing about tactics – how to get power, what to do with power, how to crush opposition – rather than principles.

For instance, I wrote this five years ago:

Of course there are arguments on the Left and there are individual liberals with deep-seated convictions and principles. But most of the arguments are about how to “build a movement” or how to win elections, not about what liberalism is. Even the “Get out of Iraq now!” demands from the base of the Democratic party aren’t grounded in anything like a coherent foreign policy. Ten years ago liberals championed nation-building. Now they call it imperialism because George W. Bush is doing it.

A good illustration of the fundamental difference between Left and Right can be found in two books edited by Peter Berkowitz for the Hoover Institution, Varieties of Conservatism in America and Varieties of Progressivism in America. Each contains thoughtful essays by leading conservatives and liberals. The conservatives defend different ideological philosophical schools – neoconservatism, traditionalism, etc. – but the liberals argue almost exclusively about which tactics Democrats should embrace to win the White House.

On a much pettier note, six years ago I wrote this Corner post:

Rereading my Wilson post I noticed that it might seem like I think Napoleon was an obviously bad guy. I don’t know that I believe that. He did put a stop to the French Revolution – surely a favor to us all. As for all the war and invading, I don’t know what to make of that in the modern context. Obviously, when in doubt, I side with the British. So in that sense alone, I’m anti-Napoleon. Also, I’ve developed a soft spot for the Austro-Hungarian Empire thanks to reading a lot of Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn over the last year (and listening to my Slovakian father-in-law). So I don’t know. Derb, Rick, other Cornerites? Any thoughts on what we’re supposed to think about Napoleon?

This was during the early days of the nutroots ascendancy and, if memory serves, quite a few lefty bloggers – and a bunch of lefty e-mailers – jumped on me. “See, Goldberg doesn’t think for himself!” “He needs marching orders!” “Conservatives are about orthodoxy!” And other stupid things.

Now I suppose I could have phrased it better, but I think it’s pretty clear that I was merely trying to get a conversation going, in public, about Napoleon! Oh, the violation of trust! The shallowness! Conservatives trying to coordinate their message strategy on the French dictator. What next, asking for talking points on the Defenestration of Prague?

Meanwhile, the same sorts of people (indeed, if I had time to work the Google-machine I’m sure I’d find that it was many future JournoListers) did the same thing in secret, about contemporary politics.

Sorry, I know that was peevishly petty. But that is part of the G-File’s mission statement, right between dog-whistled pop-culture references and Straussian hypnosis. You could look it up.

I do think this points to a broader point about the JournoList (which Rob Long and Mickey Kaus discussed on the Ricochet podcast a couple weeks ago). The conservative JournoList is the Corner (and other blogs like it). Liberal journalists, because they either have jobs in the MSM or are working toward getting them, need to maintain a transparent fiction about their motives and their ideology. Conservatives, meanwhile, just say stuff out loud.

Speaking of JournoList

For some reason, this seems like the perfect image for the JournoListers. The Democratic donkey soaring terrified and powerless high above the reality-based community.

Video Update

If you’re interested, here’s a panel I did over at Reason on the whole libertarian-conservative divide.

Vocab Update

First off, no new wacky vocab this week.

Furthermore, I have concluded, after consultation with many readers and upon deep soul-searching reflection, that I will not weave the $20 words into the warp and woof of the G-File any longer. It disrupts the flow, steps on the punchlines and yanks the reader out of his reverie. Too often it’s about as subtle as a trout in the milk. Instead, I will ghettoize the fancy words at the end of the column, where they can do less damage.

But about last week’s vocab. The one word that really threw people for a loop last week was tripsolagnophile, as in Al Gore is in trouble because of allegations he is a tripsolagnophile. And while Al Gore may well be an alien, he’s not from the planet Tripsolag. Rather, tripsolagnophile means someone eager to get sexual pleasure from a massage. Note: There’s nothing wrong with that, unless the masseuse in question is a) not a whore and b) not your wife.

Another word from last week that flummoxed quite a few people could be found in this sentence: “Our team of sacofricosis-suffering Web monkeys are dealing with this question night and day.” Sacofricosis is an ailment, often referred to in its more harmless manifestations as “pocket pool.” But it can develop into a pretty tacky condition whereby you become, shall we say, an auto-tripsolagnophile and your massage is delivered through a hole in your pocket.

Okay, I gotta go. Even I am disappointed in me.

The liberal Gleichschaltung is alive and well.


Dear Reader (and the Chinese algorithm randomly scanning this missive in search of banned technology),

A Note on the Eternal Struggle

I think I’ve said all I need to on the Shirley Sherrod story for now. And I don’t say that simply because I’ve already written a lot. I also say it because I think this story is winding down, and that’s a good thing for everyone (despite my legendary yearning for one more national conversation about race).

But I’d like to add one last observation. Controversies come and go, even ones that divide the Right. I’ve been getting piles of e-mail from readers that begin along something like these lines: “I’m usually on your side but…” I’ve also gotten my share that start a bit less diplomatically, if you know what I mean. And I’ve gotten a lot of notes from people claiming that the conservative movement will never heal from this terrible rift – to which I say: Meh.

I’ve been through a great many of these moments over the last decade, and it’s worth keeping in mind that few of them do permanent damage to the Right, particularly when the opposition is working so hard to keep the Right unified, what with the industry-seizing, deficit-ballooning, and whatnot. The fault line this has (re)opened on the Right is not new, though some of its vocabulary is. People who think I’m mistaken (and those who think I’m a sausage-spined coward) think the Right must fight this Chicago-style administration Chicago style (they bring a knife, you bring a gun, they put one of yours in the hospital, etc.). Many of Breitbart’s biggest supporters insist that the Right needs to out-Alinsky the Alinskyites. As a matter of principle, I generally disagree with all of that. Chalk up my reluctance to whatever motivation you like; I can’t stop you. But, as a writer, being an Alinskyite is not what I signed up for. I think I stretch the boundaries of what pundits are supposed to do in print (don’t believe me? pull my finger). But the very definition of an Alinskyite is someone who will do anything for the cause and who counsels others to do likewise. That’s simply not what I signed up for. And when journalists — even opinion journalists like me – get seduced into that mindset, you get things like JournoList and much, much worse.

Now, there certainly will be times when I support going to the mattresses and will encourage conservative politicians and activists to fight Chicago style and never give an inch. But if you’re going to fight Chicago style, you need to be really, really right. Otherwise, you fall not just into an ends-justifies-the-means situation but into an even more perverse means-justify-the-ends situation. In other words, saying we need to fight like Alinskyites out of some principle almost certainly guarantees that we will lose sight of what we’re supposed to be fighting for.

I don’t think conservatives were right in this case, or at least right enough. But the next battle may be different.

Speaking of JournoList

From my column this morning:

Many conservatives think JournoList is the smoking gun that proves not just liberal media bias (already well-established) but something far more elusive as well: the Sasquatch known as the Liberal Media Conspiracy.

I’m not so sure. In the 1930s, the New York Times deliberately whitewashed Stalin’s murders. In 1964, CBS reported that Barry Goldwater was tied up with German Nazis. In 1985, the Los Angeles Times polled 2,700 journalists at 621 newspapers and found that journalists identified themselves as liberal by a factor of 3 to 1. Their actual views on issues were far more liberal than even that would suggest. Just for the record, Ezra Klein was born in 1984.

In other words, JournoList is a symptom, not the disease. And the disease is not a secret conspiracy but something more like the “open conspiracy” H. G. Wells fantasized about, where the smartest, best people at every institution make their progressive vision for the world their top priority.

Why it’s almost like the liberal Gleichschaltung is alive and well.

The Snollygoster Caucus

Tim Carney over at the Washington Examiner notes that for all Obama’s talk about taking on the “special interests,” he is in fact closely allied with the biggest special-interest lobbying outfits. And that’s not even counting the unions, which, by definition, are special interests (unions believe their members deserve more and better than everyone else).

I bring this up for three reasons. First, it’s worth pointing out on the merits. Second, this was a big theme of my book, and it’s nice to say “I told you so” every now and then. Third, Tim’s reporting on these sorts of things has been indispensable for years now, and it hasn’t gotten the props it deserves.

Don’t Bet on It

Lately, it seems that a lot of liberals have been showing some sympathy for this line of argument. JournoLister Kevin Drum claims to pine for a new left-right convergence on this idea. Chris Hayes (another JournoLister) made a similar case at some length a while ago. I have no reason to doubt that they’re anything but sincere (despite their JournoListing), but I think it’s terribly naïve to think it will happen. It’s not impossible – the hugely beneficial deregulatory period of the late 1970s was a bipartisan affair. But that was a rare moment. It seems to me that the essence of contemporary economic liberalism is the desire to plan, shape, and nudge. Picking winners and losers is so central to the liberal approach to governing that it strikes me as inconceivable that folks like Drum (I know less about Hayes) could just sit on their virtual porches and watch the fireflies of the free market sparkle without interfering. Moreover, there’s no way liberals will stop calling conservatives scrooges (or, if you prefer, quomodocunquizing clusterfists) any time the next GM comes hat in hand. Indeed, I have a problem with liberals claiming to be interested in fighting corporatism just as soon as the current riot of corporatism is over. This is the economic equivalent of crying, “Lord, make me chaste, but not yet.”

It’d be nice if I were wrong (“It usually is” – the Couch).

Take Care of This!

I’m willing to suspend judgment on the question of whether Al Gore is an inveterate tripsolagnophile, at this point. I do think people need to get over their reflexive impulse to dismiss the Enquirer as if it were The News of the World. The Enquirer doesn’t do “Elvis’s Jockstrap Found on the Moon” stories. Yes, it pays for stories. But only after it’s confident it is paying for true stories. Getting paid to tell the truth is unseemly and should invite more skepticism than other kinds of testimony, but it isn’t inherently disqualifying. What are autobiographies other than extended efforts to get paid to tell the truth? What do reporters do, if not get paid to tell the truth? When Sully Sullenberger sold the movie rights to his story, he was getting paid to do so. It doesn’t mean he wasn’t heroic. Al Gore’s masseuse may have been paid to tell her story, but that doesn’t mean it’s not true.

Meanwhile, it’s been pretty interesting to see how the media has been trying to figure out how to cover the story. I’ve got to say, I think Jaclyn Friedman in The Nation makes a lot of good points.

Booger, Booger, Booger

Not to be verbigerate, but booger.

That’s in response to the people who tell me I’m wasting their time with the G-File. No, they’re wasting their time by reading it. I don’t send letters to the editors of Cat Fancy or Coastal Living saying, “Hey, you’re wasting my time with this magazine!” I don’t read them, and so save everyone the trouble. Meanwhile, leave me alone so I can talk to the thousands of brilliant, attractive, and generally awesome people who do want to be here. Oh, and booger (it’s a G-File/WKRP reference, look it up). And if you don’t like it, forgive me. I suffer from Witzelsucht.

Speaking of Looking It Up

I am getting e-mail from a lot of people wanting to know how to link to or excerpt the G-File. Our team of sacofricosis-suffering Web monkeys are dealing with this question night and day. But since they are distracted by other matters, if you know what I mean, if one of you brilliant people has a solution to the problem, please let me know. Basically, the problem is this: The psaphonic suits want you to subscribe to the newsletter so we can subject your eyeballs to advertising. If we post the newsletter online for all the world to see, we will discourage people from subscribing to it.

See You Next Week

Hey, I hate to be an epistolary swedge and skip out without offering a glossary this week, but I had to write this very, very fast because I’ve got a million things on my plate (“That sounds consistent with your physique” – The Couch). I’m basically leaving town for the rest of the summer and having work done on our house, which requires clearing out my office, which has accumulated stalactites and stalagmites of old papers, matchbooks, books, press releases, comics, various insect life, unlabeled DVDs, unopened bills and letters, notes, and what appears to be gnu scat. Add to that some professional and personal matters best left for the made-for-TV movie, and my head’s just not in the game. My apologies for being a day late, and perhaps a dollar short, in today’s G-File. But then again: Booger.

Those twinges are coming from inside you small intestine!


How to Talk about the Black Vote

I don’t think I need to spend a lot of time persuading you that the media and the Democrats (but I repeat myself) are going to keep trying to claim that opposition to Obama is racist. The NAACP vote is just the latest in a long string of examples that the liberal playbook is really just one play Xeroxed over and over again.

We don’t need to get into the weeds on all of this, but there’s one slice of the issue worth dwelling on here. Whenever conservatives point out that Obama’s standing in the polls (or Bill Clinton’s when he was president) is skewed heavily by the overwhelming support of African Americans, liberal writers insist that the only motivation for pointing this out is racism. Here’s ”conservative” writer Dave Weigel last year:

Byron York engages in a perennial conservative media stunt – breaking down poll numbers between blacks and whites to make the point that Democrats wouldn’t be so popular if it wasn’t for the 14th Amendment. Or something. I’ve really never figured this out. (Some of the less tactful analysis I’ve seen on this was David Horowitz’s 1998 comment [BROKEN LINK] that “the black community votes like a communist country.”)

I find this sort of deliberate obtuseness annoying. Are there really no legitimate reasons for pointing out that certain groups are outliers in their voting behavior? If that’s the case, please no more analysis that depends on pointing out that evangelical Christians are conservatives, that “angry white men” are Republicans, and so on. Oh, but wait, if we banned that from polite discourse, Frank Rich would have to take up fishing.

Here are a few reasons why Obama’s outsize and fairly unshakable support among African Americans is relevant to political debate.

1) Thanks to gerrymandered districts (the result of an evil scheme hatched by the RNC and the Congressional Black Caucus), blacks are concentrated in a relative handful of congressional districts. Hence black support in national polls doesn’t reflect the party’s chances in most swing races.

2) Black support for Obama seems to be detached from most questions of day-to-day policy (just as it was with Clinton). Sure, philosophy is important, but African-American voters are devout Democrats. Just ask yourself what public policies Obama could enact that would cause African Americans to abandon Obama and the Democratic party in significant numbers. Within the realm of the plausible, I’m not sure I can think of any. It’s no more racist to point this out than it is anti-Semitic to point out that for the last 70 years Jews have lived like Episcopalians and voted like Puerto Ricans. This is relevant because it means that Obama’s policies are more unpopular than they might seem with swing voters, centrists and other voters the press normally insists are so noble.

3) It’s entirely legitimate to illuminate and discuss the fact that African Americans are politically monolithic. There’s a diverse array of conclusions one can draw from the fact, but it is a fact and pointing it out isn’t racist. I’d argue it’s bad for African Americans because it means they’re votes are taken for granted (how many black political activists have you heard making that point?). But I’d also argue it’s bad because I think, on the whole, very liberal public policies are bad not just for America generally but for blacks in particular.

I can think of other arguments for why it’s perfectly legitimate to point out this electoral disparity. I’m sure there are nasty justifications for such observations as well. No doubt racists draw conclusions of their own from African-American voting behavior. What I find offensive is that liberal pundits immediately assume there can’t be any other kind of explanation or justification.

What Lurks Within

So the missus and I stumbled on Animal Planet’s highbrow show, Monsters Inside Me. If it were a show on SyFy, it’d be about a Lovecraftian creature from another dimension living inside an underwear model. If it were on ”E” it would be the subtitle of the True Hollywood episode about Mel Gibson. If it were on Logo – well, some jokes are probably best left for the director’s cut of the G-File.

But, since it’s on Animal Planet, it’s about people afflicted with invasive species. I’m not talking kudzu in the backyard or the zebra mussel in your ballast water. I’m talking about critters inside you.

Cue When A Stranger Calls trailer, except the “phone call” comes from your stewed bowels.

“Have you checked your undergarments?”

“Those twinges are coming from inside your small intestine!”

Anyway, we caught the end of one program where some older couple had picked up a nasty parasitical worm that worked around their bodies like Donald Pleasance in Fantastic Voyage.

The doctor thinks he knows what it is! It’s the spongey-thorn whatchamacallit. Apparently, the only way to get this critter inside you is to eat undercooked fish or to eat the feces of something that ate undercooked fish (“I guess Sidney Blumenthal better get himself checked out!” – The Couch).

So the woman says something like this to the camera: “I wracked my brain trying think of where in the world I could have possibly eaten undercooked fish. I couldn’t think of anything. And then it hit me. It might have been when my husband and I were in Africa on a safari and our guide caught some catfish and decided to serve it to us sushi-style.” They then show a reenactment of these bottom-feeding fish being pulled out of a muddy river and then cut up with a filthy knife that looks like a small machete.

It reminded me of the time I accidentally rubbed hot sauce in my eye. My dad came into the bathroom, where I was furiously trying to rinse out my eye at the sink. He asked what happened, and when I gaspingly told him about it, he responded: “Damn. I could kick myself for not telling you not to rub hot sauce in your eye.”

The Stagliano Window

Speaking of stuff inside stuff, the other day I participated in a panel at Reasonmagazine HQ to discuss the whole libertarians vs. conservatives thing, again. It was a fun time. The folks at Reason were grand hosts. You can read the exchange here, and, allegedly, the panel itself will be available at ReasonTV.

Before the formal proceedings began, Matt Welch, editor of Reason, called to the audience’s attention the “Stagliano Window.” While it sounds like spy-thriller title, it’s actually a real window at Reason’s swank offices that was paid for by one of Reason’s donors: John Stagliano, a porn mogul. Matt Welch encouraged everyone in the audience to educate themselves on the topic. He suggested the whole thing was self-evidently outrageous. I haven’t had the time to go to school on it yet, but you can find a world of links here. I don’t suggest you start here, unless you want to be persuaded that what’s under consideration is actually obscenity. As to the question of whether we should have federal obscenity laws at all or whether they are too strictly and arbitrarily enforced (a stronger case, if you ask me), that’s a matter for another time.


Last week I wrote that Khan (the Star Trek villain played by Ricardo Montalban) was “from the Muslim world.” A lot of readers objected. For instance:


I know this is probably email #3,212 telling you this, but Khan Noonien Singh was a Sikh, not a Muslim.

Memory Alpha states the following:

“The surname ‘Singh’ suggests northern Indian ancestry (from the Sanskrit simha, ‘lion’) and possibly roots in Sikhism (male Sikhs are obliged to assume the surname ‘Singh,’ regardless of their geographical or familial origins); however, ‘Khan’ (‘ruler’) is a name of central Asian origin generally associated with Islam, which may suggest heteroethnic parentage.”

However, it was clearly established in The Eugenics Wars series by Greg Cox (Pocket Books), The Rise and Fall of Khan Noonien Singh, Volume 1, that he is indeed of Sikh descent. (I know you’re very busy, but if you ever read any Star Trek books in your life — that trilogy is among the most entertaining of the hundreds of books out there!)

Don’t you just hate people like me? 😉


Your Auxiliary Word Guy and Trek Fact-Checker

First, let me say, “Yes, yes I do hate people like Michael. But not because of this e-mail. I know Michael. And I hate him because he keeps live ferrets in his pants.”

Second, as I pointed out to ferret-pants, I did not say that Khan was Muslim. I said he came from the “Muslim world.” And he did. Or so I assert, which is good enough for one of us.

Vocab Dolorifuge

Okay, so last week’s experiment with weird words seems to be a hit. But several readers made a good point. If I deliberately sprinkle wild words into the text of the G-File, it completely messes up the melodic flow of my lucid prose. I mean, I could be divagating wildly about the merits of Canadian porn and its relevance to William Shatner’s girdle when, just as I was about to deliver, with foudroyant panache, an insight into Friedrich Hayek’s concept of the knowledge problem, suddenly the reader is distracted because he doesn’t know what “salariat” means. The charming quaquaversality of my writing would be ruined.

So, I guess I’m just going to have to figure out how do this without messing up the flow.

Meanwhile, most readers supported the idea of having a glossary, but some didn’t like the idea. I think not having a glossary makes more sense if I’m not trying to weave the words into warp and woof of the G-File.

Still, I’ll backslide today.

Divagate: To wander off. According to Simon Hertnon in his fantastic book,Endangered Words, divagate is very close to digress but not quite the same thing. If you stray from your planned remarks once, you digress. If you wander around in a million crazy directions like David Hasselhoff after a two-for-one Happy Hour at Bennigans, you divagate. I don’t merely digress in the G-File, I divagate like a mental patient who has wandered off in the snow.

Foudroyant: This means to strike suddenly and overwhelmingly, lightning-like. When the waitress brought the plate of nachos, the National Review interns struck foudroyantly at the snack.

Salariat: The salaried class. These are the folks in an economy who make a salary. Pirates, typically are not members of the salariat, though pirate henchmen may be.

Quaquaversal: This is mostly a geological term, but geologists can kiss my ass if they want to keep this word to themselves. It means: “dipping, pouring, or occurring in every direction,” according to the OED. Sort of like the old Al Sharpton in an extra-small tracksuit.

That’s it for today folks. If you read this far, again I ask you to spread the word about the G-File. We at NR are trying to figure out if this is worth continuing, and the more subscribers it has, the weaker my arguments become with the suits, who want me to do this slave labor on principle!