One Stop-Shopping for First Katra Release!

Loading...

Dear Reader (and members of the radical faction of Up with People that dances out this “news”letter with life-affirming, family-friendly performances that make all decent people want to blow their brains out),

By now everyone knows about the NASA cheif propeller-head who never seemed to think twice (until this week, at least) about the fact that he was hired to be the Stuart Smalley of remedial-math-and-science students in Sudan. “Listen up, little Muhammeds, as the head of NASA, let me tell you: You’re good enough, you’re smart enough, and doggone it, we rocket scientists like you.”

What I’m hoping is that Charles Bolden, a decorated Marine, just sucks at diplomacy and was basically making it up, because it’s actually a little scary to imagine that the president of the United States actually told the chief administrator of NASA any such thing. Did he tell the head of the Social Security Administration to remind gays of their rich history of interior design and keen fashion sense? Has the poobah of OSHA been informed that his foremost priority is to buck up Chinese living abroad about their entrepreneurial achievements?

What’s so weird about Bolden’s statement is how condescending it is. It sounds like a compliment, but it’s actually something of an insult. Bolden’s charientism can’t possibly win him much good will from the Muslim world, because the people paying attention in the Muslim world already know about their scientific legacy and telling them that they’ve forgotten it really comes across as a lecture about how they aren’t living up to it.

I mean, would it ever occur to Bolden to remind Israeli kids of the Jewish history of excellence in math and science?

Alas, that’s not a very long list. Boston’s not much of a college town, either.

A Beat Behind

The other day, I wrote a piece for USA Today on what the Weigel episode says about the legacy media. One of my points was that the ideological homogeneity of the mainstream press causes them to miss stories the public wants to hear or read about. If the public didn’t want to hear such stories, Fox News wouldn’t be successful. If you are a Daily Kos type liberal — in which case I’m at something of a loss as to why you’re reading this — you might say “but those Fox viewers are just the conservative shock troops of the Republican noise machine,” blah blah blah. Putting aside the fact that this isn’t true, so what if it were? Conservatives are news consumers too. You can look it up.

Moreover, if the media were truly neutral and objective, why would it matter if certain stories have a conservative valence to them? Shouldn’t a press blind to such considerations run stories that are favorable to conservatives something close to half the time? Actually, when the country is run by Democrats, shouldn’t a press corps allegedly dedicated to speaking truth to power runmore stories that conservatives might want to hear, both because conservatives are out of power and because the press is supposed to truth-squad the government, no matter who runs it? Note: I’m not saying news should be deliberately spun in a conservative direction, I’m saying that news – i.e. facts, events, revelations etc – that tend to bolster conservative arguments shouldn’t be dismissed because they bolster conservative arguments.

The news business is one of these rare (though hardly unique) businesses that cares too much about what their customers think – not what they think about their product, but what they think about the world. If newspapers appreciated their roles as businesses just a bit more, they wouldn’t have gotten into quite the mess they’re in, because they would be meeting the consumers’ demand.

Anyway, there have been a lot of such stories in recent years – Rathergate, the TNR-Beauchamp story, Van Jones, etc. – where the MSM has been a “beat behind,” in the words of New York Times editor Jill Abramson. Again, ideology is only a partial factor. News outlets should care about water cooler talk, about what people want to hear, not just what editors want to tell them (don’t make me revisit the gory details contained in the Robert Wone G-File).

Well, according to Byron York [BROKEN LINK], here’s the tally of stories on the Bolden affair from the MSM:

Total words about the NASA Muslim outreach program in the New York Times: 0.

Total words about the NASA Muslim outreach program in theWashington Post: 0.

Total words about the NASA Muslim outreach program on NBC Nightly News: 0.

Total words about the NASA Muslim outreach program on ABC World News: 0.

Total words about the NASA Muslim outreach program on CBS Evening News: 0.

And I Suppose Pravda Was Unpredictable?

Since we’re on the subject of media bias, a reader reminded me of this classic  from the AP last year:

Chanting “Whose street? Our street!” hundreds of people rallied on Wall Street on Friday to protest the billions of dollars in federal bailout money to big business.

Monica Moorehead, managing editor of the left-leaning newspaper Workers World, said the crowd gathered to protest the capitalist system which helps AIG and other companies she said steal money from us.

The crowd was waving signs reading, “No more money for Wall Street.”

For your edification, here’s the website for Workers World.

From Hell’s Heart, I Stab at Thee

Let us not forget that some in the space-travel community have different views of the contributions made by the Muslim world.

Food, Glorious Food!

I am still mad at the producers of Top Chef for their infuriating, idiotic, left-wing-agitproppy school-lunch episode, but I should say the show has improved in the last two episodes. Sadly, I still find pretty much all of the contestants either boring or unlikable.

But since we’re on the subject of food, I thought I would let interested parties know that the Fair Jessica and I finally ate at David Chang’s Noodle Bar over the Fourth of July weekend in NYC. It was friggin’ supercalifragilisticexpialidociously good. We’re big fans of the David Chang cookbook, but we’ve never been able to get into any of his restaurants before. On a lark, we swung by last weekend, and we ate pork buns that would ignite futterneid in the most observant rabbi. If you don’t know about Chang, here’s an f-bomb-laced New Yorker profile.

Announcing a New G-File Feature!

I have waited several years for another, better qualified National Review writer to pick up Bill Buckley’s legacy of logophilia. To date, I don’t think anyone has. So, I am now going to start sprinkling the G-File with rare, cool words. I don’t know how long I will continue the practice because 1) I am forgetful, 2) I’m often quite drunk, 3) unlike the MSM, I am a slave to my readers and if they don’t like this feature, I will drop it like a crying baby that turns out to be a hideous, crab-like alien creature with a razor-edged, brain-stabbing tongue that just happens to be swaddled in a baby’s blanket, causing me to momentarily mistake it for a baby, 4) I am not Bill Buckley and therefore may not have the mental faculties to continue this feature indefinitely, and 5) I may collapse from karoshi, causing me to send out my last G-File with nothing more than a brief string of vulgarisms (unleashing the momentary euphoria of lalochezia) and then nothing more than the random letters crushed under my massive melon-pated forehead. Something like “Rat farts whfBV DCCCssssssss.”

But the question for the time being is: Do I offer a glossary at the end explaining these words? Or do I send you folks out into the wilderness to look them up on your own? Well, since we’re just starting, I’ll do the former.

Charientism: This is an insult couched in graceful language or a taunt hidden behind a jest.

Supercalifragilisticexpialidociously: Shut up.

Futterneid: This is one of my favorite words. It is the envy one feels when someone orders better food than you. For usage, see one of my favorite columns here.

Karoshi: Japanese word for death from work exhaustion.

Lalochezia: The emotional relief (though hardly akin to having your second chakra taken care of) that comes with using vulgar or profane language.

Correction Department

Last week, I said that some letter was from the coroner from CSI. It wasn’t. Lots and lots of readers wanted me to correct this error (which I eventually did in the Corner). But many of these readers wanted me to somehow correct in the G-File itself. Not this one, mind you, but last week’s G-File. This is a bit like asking me to correct the grammar in a note I’ve already inserted in a bottle and thrown into the ocean. Yes, I could have sent out a second e-mail with the correction in it. But my hunch is that for every one of you who wanted this, another 137 of you would have hated it. There’s nothing more annoying than when you get e-mail correcting previous e-mail when it’s not necessary. Okay, I guess there are a few more annoying things. A cubicle mate who taps on his glass eye with his pen when he needs to think, for instance. Or an obese man with a schoolgirl’s bladder sitting in the window seat on a plane. But you get my point.

Occasionally I will get things wrong in the G-File (“Occasionally?” – The Couch). You will just have to put up with it. As Edmund Burke said, “I must bear with infirmities until they fester into crimes.”

Is Your Gynecologist a Cylon?

Loading...

Dear Reader (and those of you who would have made good on your threats to leave if I didn’t restore this parenthetical gag),

Last week, I got a nice e-mail from a friend and G-File subscriber who also happens to be a high-level editorial muckety-muck at another publication. He complimented me on a passage from last week’s G-File, and I wrote back that I was just flattered he even subscribed. He responded, “I don’t get what it is, but I subscribe.”

And you know what? That’s exactly what I’m going for.

Yuccan’t Take the Nukes Out of Yucca

First of all, the science is settled: You can’t be 20 on Yucca Mountain. Oh wait, wrong mountain. On Yucca Mountain, you can’t be 10,000. Or something like that.

I bring this up because there’s news on the Yucca front. A judicial panel held that the law requires the application process go forward even though the Obama administration has decided to kill the project. Yucca will probably still never open, but as fate would have it, the Yucca process has a half-life all its own.

Which brings me back to this 10,000 years thing. I’m not going to get deep in the weeds on Yucca mountain (where I’ve been and reported from). Suffice it to say, a strange coalition of Nevada tourism officials, nimbyers, casino owners, national environmental groups, the Democratic party, and American liberals generally all conspired to kill Yucca Mountain. I don’t think all of the arguments against Yucca are idiotic, but many of them are for a simple reason: Who the Hell cares if it will work 10,000 years from now?

Much of the debate over Yucca Mountain has revolved around this absolutely batty issue. Here’s how I put it in the magazine eight years ago:

Seriously: Critics of constructing a subterranean repository for nuclear waste in Nevada’s Yucca Mountain argue that if the fictional Lothar decides to live in this godforsaken patch of desert 100 centuries from now, he must not be exposed to more radiation per year than you or I receive from a single chest x-ray. The Environmental Protection Agency and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission agree: Their minimum standard is for containment of the waste for no less than 10,000 years — at which point, even if the waste did seep into the groundwater and make its way back into the environment, its radioactivity would have decayed enough to be safe.]

But here’s the thing: Who cares whether it will be safe 10,000 years from now? The question is: Would it be safe 50 years from now? A hundred years from now? Five hundred years from now? And the answers to all of these questions is: Yes. Perfectly safe? No, of course not. But nuclear waste is not perfectly safe in the dozens of messy stockpiles scattered across the U.S. now. Does anyone doubt that, a century from now, we’ll be unable to fix this stuff? We can recycle some of it now. All we need Yucca Mountain for is to leapfrog our current ignorance. In 10,000 years, we’ll either all be dead (well, you folks will be dead – my un-frozen head will be doing just fine) or we’ll consider radiation sickness one of those ancient problems, like the mercury poisoning that once gave us “mad hatters” and Helen Thomas. 

Meanwhile, there are serious people who think the Yucca project was ill-conceived from the start because the waste won’t be safe for a million years. A million years! In a million years, humans will have giant foreheads shaped like Jennifer Lopez’s ass and we’ll be able to turn plutonium into Nutter Butter with our minds. We won’t even be on earth; we’ll have leased it out to super-intelligent bees – and even they won’t be worried about Yucca Mountain.

The Butlerian Jihad Begins

The backdrop for the Dune novels is something called the Butlerian Jihad. You can read all about it here, if you like, but the basic idea is that, in the far flung future, computers are given too much control over humanity. A self-aware computer orders the abortion of a healthy child for its own reasons, and the resulting backlash leads to an intergalactic religious upheaval and reformation ultimately leading to the banning of “thinking machines.” The chief commandment of the new faith holds that “Thou shalt not make a machine in the likeness of a human mind.”

This immediately came to mind yesterday when I was driving back from a Fox News appearance. (Yes, Megyn Kelley is terribly distracted by my stunning good looks. Oh wait, it’s the other way around.) On my car radio, I heard the tail end of a commercial for an outfit called the Women’s Surgery Center. Apparently, they offer OBGYN-related surgeries by actual surgeons instead of the “robotic surgeries” offered at other hospitals.

The tagline was something like “Don’t let a robot get between you and your doctor.”

Of course, a Butlerian Jihad may not be in our future; the gyno-robot might in fact be a Cylon.

Either way, vigilance!

On Elena Kagan

So Elena Kagan will be confirmed, and the Supreme Court’s ideological balance will remain relatively unchanged, but it will have become markedly sexier. So are the days of our lives.

I find the whole thing depressing, not because she is a liberal and will vote as a liberal — with markedly little of the moderation, evenhandedness, and objectivity she touted this week — though that hardly cheers me up. No, I find it depressing because Kagan epitomizes the kind of careerism I loathe. She has almost always talked as if she knew there was a tape recorder in the room and has always maneuvered as if her road map was her permanent record. Her whole career has been an act of self-grooming. Kagan is not a major legal scholar. Rather, she has published just enough stuff to allow her to claim to be a scholar and for her supporters, in and out of the press, to say she’s a scholar with a straight face. She’s never been a judge, and her litigation record as solicitor general, while impressive, mostly amounted to checking off another box to get her on the court. Nobody really doubts that she’s going to be a reliable, partisan liberal vote (like Sotomayor) for the rest of her life on the bench.

I don’t blame Kagan too much. There are worse ways for a person to organize her life than doing everything she can to get on the Supreme Court (and I’m hardly one to talk, as I’ve lived my life with the single-minded goal of winning the World’s Strongest Man competition). What I find so distasteful is the way the “system” works so hard to advance people like Kagan. As I noted in my column, in her now-famous book review, she denounced the confirmation process and celebrated Robert Bork at precisely the moment when it cost her nothing to do so and gained her much. But now she repudiates all of that, and the system – and her conscience – lets her get away with it. Meanwhile, Shannen Coffin has revealed that she behaved very, very badly when she worked for Bill Clinton, and no one in the mainstream media cares. I don’t know whether this anecdote should disqualify her from the Court or not. But I do think it would be a near fatal blow for a Republican nominee to have done the same thing. Anyway, you get all this, I just find it depressing.

So let’s turn to something cheerier: A Kitten Cannon!

Random Stuff A great letter from the coroner on CSI.

My response to Matt Continetti’s tea-party article. Continetti responds here, Ross Douthat here. I haven’t responded yet (crazy busy week).

I’ll be debating the merits of patriotism, happiness, and liberaltarianism with Cato’s Will Wilkinson for Bloggingheads later today. Video should be up by the weekend.

Speaking of liberaltarianism, I have a response to Brink Lindsey’s latest effort on that front in the current issue of Reason. It’s not online yet, but I’ve gotten some great feedback from the print edition already.

I saw Toy Story 3. I liked it a lot.

On Father’s Day, my lovely wife let me go to the movies by myself. It was awesome. I saw The A-Team. I thought it was really a lot of fun and even a tiny bit less stupid than I thought it would be.

Have a great Fourth of July. I hope everyone takes the time to read Calvin Coolidge on the subject. Just about the best thing ever written for or about Independence Day, save the Declaration itself.

Jonah vs. The Crypto-Shachtmanite Narcoleptic

Loading...

So, the other day, I participated in the Ricochet podcast. For those of you who don’t know, Ricochet is a hotbed of mopery, crapulence, and sloth that, like the kid who shot Gene Wilder in the ass in Blazing Saddles, is trying to murder National Review, conservatism, and vast swaths of Western Civilization. The podcast was hosted by Rob Long, a writer for NR no less, who is also the world’s foremost crypto-Shachtmanite narcoleptic – he constantly drops hints and insinuations that we can reach an ideal socialist state without sacrificing democracy, and then falls asleep before explaining how.

He was joined by Peter Robinson, another apostate contributor to National Review, who spends nearly all of his free time going to laser-tag emporiums by himself. And Andrew Klavan — yet another longtime friend of NR. Not much is known about Klavan, save that the street children of Macchu Pichu and Newark run in terror when they see Klavan turn the corner with his magnificent red velvet cape. Klavan was sitting in for Mark Steyn. Yes, that Mark Steyn. Who, you may not know, is actually one of three identical triplets, each of them assigned a different nefarious role in their plot to overthrow the world as we know it. One of them travels through Europe constantly, “coincidentally” hailing cabs that he ends up sharing with potentates, movie stars, and 1950s singers everyone has long assumed were dead. The other writes for nearly every newspaper and magazine in the world, the perfect cover for activating sleeper agents in remote corners of the globe. Need to “turn on” the Steynian assassin in Munich? Just sneak a seemingly innocuous reference to the chorus vocals in the 1979 off-Broadway version of 42nd Street into your SundayDeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung column. Need to notify your asset in the Congo that the CIA is coming for him? Why, just compare Mel Torme’s vocal stylings to the total fertility rate of Manchester, England. As for the last Steyn (soon to be the title of my novel), he spends his entire time expanding his Bond-villainesque headquarters in New Hampshire — and choking mallard ducks, for some reason.

Now, all of this is true, and beyond dispute. But, anyway, I was on the podcast. What’s that? Why did I agree to join such a wretched hive of scum and villainy? Well, they said there would be doughnuts.

Anyway, I was asked something about my book, and I jokingly responded that it was a work of stunning prophecy. I meant it as a joke. Really, I did.

But as the Italians say, “If you don’t need a receipt, I can sell you this wheel of cheese for a lot less.”

Oh, wait, wrong quote.

As the Italians say, the truest things are said in jest.

Now, I don’t mean to say that my book has turned out to be a work of stunning prophecy as an objective matter (“No, you just mean to imply it very, very, very strongly” – The Couch). Opinions differ among reasonable people. But I’ve been shocked at how determined the events seem to be to prove my book right. Not on every point, to be sure. But on the basic nature of liberalism, it’s kind of hard for me not to see Obama, his administration, and the intellectual climate defending them as a confirmation of my basic argument(s). I argued that liberalism is shot through with a deeply ideological faith in the power of government that masquerades as “pragmatism”; that liberalism is addicted to crisis and the moral equivalent of war; that liberalism is intellectually deracinated from its own tradition; that liberalism is in many respects a new religion (in the Voegelinian sense); that the default economic “doctrine” (tendency might be a better word) is corporatism; and so on. On all of these points I was proved right.

As for my historical arguments, I’ve been stunned that the efforts by the historical profession – late, mean-spirited, and hysterical as they’ve been – to debunk them have been so weak (see here, for more on that).

Why am I bringing all of this up? I dunno. I still get so much grief for the book from the left, largely from people who haven’t read it or refused to read it in good faith. Or maybe I’m just starved for topics for today’s G-File. We’ll never know.

David Gergen in a Dress

This morning, I posted a long item on the Corner about the news that Kathleen Parker and Elliot Spitzer will host a CNN show together. My guess is it’s doomed. It might end up being the most successful show on CNN, which is a bit like being the best string quartet on the Titanic. Hmm, that might be too generous, because the string quartets on the Titanic were probably really, really good. The show might end up being akin to the best Indian food in Duluth.

Regardless, I got an e-mail that I thought was pretty funny and on point: “Reading your post, I couldn’t help thinking, ‘Oh, so she’ll be the Alan Colmes.’ ”

Just a thought.

Discuss amongst yourselves.

Mailbag

Here’s an interesting e-mail in response to last week’s G-File:

Speaking of asses…

Oh. Yet another “joke” about France. Pretty strange, since we’re in the midst of massive reaction to a “joke” of similar caliber from Helen Thomas about Israel leaving Palestine. This is probably a waste of time, but here’s some real history, you ignorant bigot [?$%@]. (And, I couldn’t care less about your golf game or your endless ego.)

[I’ve cut his long excerpt from the linked page on French courage]

Note to self: the loudest “Conservatives” don’t give a [@&%!] about the truth.

Now what I find amusing about this – and the scads of e-mail I get along these lines – is this guy says he couldn’t care less about my endless ego, blah, blah, blah. But he’s clearly read me for years and – wait for it – he signed up for this “news” letter. And I have been nothing but transparent about my intention that the New G-File will be nothing if not grotesquely, scandalously self-indulgent. Want proof?

Booger!

Look, cows!

The framfra is disconnected from the queenestray!

I can do this all day long.

If you want to call this sort of thing a celebration of my endless ego, so be it. I can certainly understand why someone who hates my guts would see it that way.

What I don’t get is why such a person would sign up for this “news” letter. It’s like a homophobe signing up for a ten-day gay cruise. “I hate you! You’re disgusting! . . . When is the La Cage aux Folles Trivial Pursuit baby-oil Twister game starting on the Lido deck?”

‘Ass’ Issues

Loading...

Dear Reader(s),

Ass, And You Shall Receive

“What do you think of the word ‘ass’ on the cover?” So asked Rich Lowry, our esteemed leader.

These are the sorts of high level consultations I am party to these days. Ramesh Ponnuru is consulted on the arcana of entitlement reform, the Byzantine reasoning of the Supreme Court, the moral intricacies of human life and death. Rick Brookhiser is sought out for his encyclopedic knowledge of the American founding and the doctrinal imperatives of modern American conservatism. I, on the other hand, am the go-to guy on ass probity (and, given my recent G-File on Robert Wone, ass-probing).

I guess I’m getting ahead of myself. The next issue of National Review has a great cover with Obama dressed as one of the characters from the comic book/movie Kick Ass. Lowry, a man of adamantine moral fiber and oak-like commitment to public decency and editorial high-mindedness, wanted to know if I thought such profanity was okay.

I voted yes on prop A – though I did suggest that the A-word be put in quotation marks. As I noted the other day in a column, Johnny Carson once quoted Jimmy Carter’s use of the term (“I’ll whip his ass,” Carter said re Teddy Kennedy). Carson figured that the NBC censors couldn’t stop him from quoting the president of the United States accurately. I figured NR, which hews to a higher standard than the syphilitic degenerates who staff NBC’s standards and practices department, could just put the word “ass” in quotation marks and then explain the quotation marks in an editorial paragraph. But I was overruled.

Then Rich and I started to discuss what could only be described as NR’s previous “ass” issues (“You mean the ones where you’re on the cover?” – The Couch). He suggested the controversial William F. Buckley piece on Abercrombie & Fitch’s “porny” catalogs. I retorted that I never liked the Don Rumsfeld “pin-up” cover because it showed the secretary of defense waving his money-maker at the reader. But then, of course, the most definitive ass issue of NR had to have been the one in which WFB suggested that HIV-positive people have their status tattooed on their buttocks in order to warn off potential victims. It wouldn’t be public branding or anything like that, just truth-in-labeling. Something less than “Abandon All Hope, Ye Who Enter Here,” but you get the picture.

Better Dead than Read

Now, of course, I could talk about the ass-themed National Reviews all day. And then I could wax eloquent on boobs in The New Republic and pricks in The American Prospect, but that bit about Bill Buckley seems a good place to switch courses.

I was on a panel this week for the Bradley Foundation. I was honored to do it, and as the only non-politician on the panel not to have received a coveted $250K Bradley Prize, I have my fingers crossed that some day I’ll have one fantastic weekend in Vegas fully funded by, arguably, America’s most prestigious conservative foundation. I kid, I kid.

Anyway, one of the points I made was that this notion that conservatism and populism are at odds (the question for the panel) is overdone. “Oh, Lord, look at all the yahoos! Why can’t we go back to the days when conservatives played chess and wore charming smoking jackets?”

The way to translate these statements is usually: “Why can’t conservatives go back to being inconsequential commentators instead of people who win elections?” That is the entire argument behind Sam Tanenhaus’s The Death of Conservatism – a book whose thesis was disproved upon contact with the atmosphere. It all goes back to an argument Ramesh and I first made in NR years ago. Liberals use dead conservatives to condemn living ones. Here’s John Dean from a few years ago — who, simply by virtue of his reputation allows me to maintain the ass theme a bit longer — claiming Barry Goldwater’s memory to beat up living conservatives: “For more than 40 years I have considered myself a ‘Goldwater conservative,’ and am thoroughly familiar with the movement’s canon. But I can find nothing conservative about the Bush/Cheney White House, which has created a Nixon ‘imperial presidency’ on steroids, while acting as if being tutored by the best and brightest of the Cosa Nostra.”

I wonder: When Rand Paul came out with his comments about the Civil Rights Act, did John Dean, the devoted Goldwater conservative, leap to Paul’s defense? I must have missed that.

Anyway this is a longstanding gripe of mine (see here and here, for instance).

The simple point is that the use and abuse of dead conservatives to ridicule living ones is overwhelmingly a function of bad faith. Either they haven’t read them, or they have and they’re just lying. There’s also the Tito Puente factor. As Bill Murray says to his Tito Puente-hating girlfriend: One of these days, “Tito Puente’s gonna be dead, and you’re gonna say, ‘Oh, I’ve been listening to him for years, and I think he’s fabulous.’”

Oh, Bessie, I Can’t Say No To You . . .

Speaking of Stripes, the thing about Indonesians that I love is the stories that they tell. Like the time when . . .

An 18-year-old Indonesian man says he was seduced by a cow, and that’s why he was having sex with it.

A neighbour caught Gusti Ngurah Alit allegedly wooing the farm animal on Sunday, the village chief on the resort island of Bali said, the Times newspaper in Johannesburg, South Africa reported Friday.

“He was caught by one of the residents standing naked while holding the back of the cow,” village chief Embang Ida Bagus Legawa said in the newspaper.

Alit said he didn’t see an animal, he saw a beautiful young woman.

“She called my name and seduced me, so I had sex with her,” the man told the newspaper.

On This Day The GOP held its first convention in 1856.

Germany asked France for terms of surrender in 1940. (France replied, “We’re already typing them up.”)

The Watergate burglars were arrested in 1972. (John Dean claims he responded: “As a Goldwater conservative, I am appalled.”)

O. J. Simpson was arrested after his famous car chase in 1994. (That reminds me of Helen Thomas’s favorite joke. “Q: What do Jesus and Nicole Brown Simpson have in common? A: They were both killed by the Joooooooose.” It works better when you say it aloud and blend “Jews” and “Juice.”)

Can’t See the Oil for the Trees

In case you missed it, I wrote a bit about oil and energy this week. Here’s me in the NY Post, here’s me in NRO, here’s me at the Enterprise Blog. By the way, speaking of the latter, please do come by the EB as often as you can. I’m supposed to be helping out with traffic and buzz and what not, and it would do me a world of good if a mob of readers charged the place like caddies swamping the Bushwood pool.

It’s in the Hole I’ve kept it a secret for a while now, but a couple weekends ago, I went golfing with lawyer, Irish folk singer, and NR contributor Shannen Coffin. As I expected, I was just as awful as I was the last time I golfed, eight years ago. Shannen, meanwhile, is merely not great. The funny part is that out of charity, we capped the maximum number of strokes per hole. The result was that even though I probably shot something like a 200, I ended up just barely losing to Shannen. Not bad considering that I am the world’s worst two-armed, two-legged golfer.

I will concede that I get the appeal of the game. But I don’t get the appeal of it on crazy-hot days. Why you would want to spend a day in the D.C.-area’s tropical heat trying to hit a two-inch-wide ball sitting on top of a 25,000-mile-wide ball is beyond me.

Helen of Ploy

Loading...

Dear Reader (including those cruel bastards among you who will not release me from the curse of this parenthetical gag),

Here’s the exciting news: By the time you read this, I will be barreling toward Hershey Park, Pa., the Land of Chocolate (not to be confused with this land of chocolate). The Fair Jessica and I are taking our progeny and our niece to celebrate their ascensions from first grade and pre-K respectively. It’s a long promised trip. There will be water rides, roller-coasters, more Hershey bars than there are under Bette Midler’s pillow, and frivolity for as far as the eye can see. I expect Lucy to be happier than Helen Thomas at a Hamas rally.

What, too soon?

Feh.

Helen of Ploy

The only thing that bothers me about Helen Thomas’s long overdue retirement is that the circumstances have produced a backlash. For some, it’s the appearance that she was taken down by the Jooooooooz. This is no doubt how she sees it. The more interesting crowd of Thomas supporters are the people who actually believe she was some kind of serious journalist. She wasn’t that. For most of her career, her job was to keep the rest of the press corps from wasting their questions on the obvious question of the day. Later, her job became to ask unserious questions that everyone thought were somewhere between nutjob nonsense and anti-American or anti-Israel claptrap. “When will the president stop murdering the peace-loving people of Iraq to support the putrid Zionist entity occupying the Palestinians’ Holy Birthright?”

Dana Milbank and a bunch of others seem to think that these were impressive feats of journalistic seriousness and bravery when really they were banal examples of left-wing asshattery (hey, everyone can say “ass” now, the president’s Blue Ribbon Panel on Ass-Kicking says so). Serious and important questions are ones that reveal serious and important answers. They don’t need to be sharp and polemical (though sometimes that’s great), and they certainly don’t need to be measured by the question of what will get Anwar al-Awlaki to give you a shout out. “Go Helen, go Helen, woop-woop!”

Often, the best serious questions are the simplest ones. The one that comes to mind is when Ted Kennedy was asked why he wanted to be president and he couldn’t for the life of him come up with an answer; he just thought it was something he was supposed to do, like spend money on the poor or make a waitress sandwich with Chris Dodd at a bar.

What’s infuriating is the fact that so many liberal journalists who insist they’re neither liberal nor biased think that asinine left-wingery is hard-hitting journalism. But if a cranky carbuncle of hate had been asking similar questions from the right, Milbank & Co. would have been the first to recognize it as a waste of everyone’s time.

I usually cut old folks a lot of slack. But Helen Thomas is perfectly in control of her faculties, and she thinks the same things she’s always thought. Like the mushroom troll that she is, she will pop up somewhere soon enough and start ranting about how the Zionists pushed her off the public stage.

Already she is the preferred journalist for terrorists throughout the Middle East. Here’s Hussein Moussawi, a Hezbollah M.P.: ”Respected American journalist Helen Thomas’s answer shows . . . a courageous, bold, honest and free opinion which expresses what people across the globe believe: that Israel is a racist state of murderers and thugs.” And here’s a snippet from the Hamas-linked Al Qassam website: ”This statement by Thomas Helen reflects the opinion of American majority in USA and all masses who support justice and peace in Palestine an whole world.”

They can be forgiven for thinking that the journalist in question is some dude named “Thomas Helen.”

Make with the Yukety-Yuks

I’ve been talking to a lot of young-conservative groups recently, and I’m delighted to do it. However, as I am planning on doing some exorbitant work on my house soon, I wish I was also speaking to Fortune 500 CEOs a lot, too. But you take these things where you can find them, and it’s good to help the youth. It’s the only way you can be sure to keep those damn kids off your lawn. Anyway, the other night, I spoke to a small group of students and young professionals for the Young America’s Foundation. It was part of a two-day training conference on conservative communication and rhetoric.

My assigned topic: Humor in conservative communication and rhetoric. I warned them that it’s always dangerous to ask someone to talk about something they’ve never talked about before. “You can have a new speech or you can have a good speech,” I often tell folks. They stuck to their guns. Still, it worked out pretty well, I think.

Anyway, the first point I made had nothing to do with conservatism or humor, but it’s the most important one: Don’t bore the customer. Whether you’re a salesman, a politician, or a writer, if you’re boring, you can’t persuade anybody of much of anything. This doesn’t mean you have to be funny, or even try, but you have to be entertaining in the best possible sense of the word. All effective communication holds the reader’s attention.

In some fields – porn, for example – this is obvious. But in others, it isn’t. The best example of where effective communication is frowned upon is academia. And I think this is one of the reasons why academia has so little influence in American life. The full reason why academia has embraced a perverse form of obscurantism is something of a mystery to me, but I suspect part of it is a form of self-protection. Much of academia has become a guild where eggheads play with words. It’d be fun to talk about how it’s all about esotericism and gnosis and what not, but I think big chunks of academia are more like the Greek bus drivers’ union: They pretend there’s a secret to their job that makes them irreplaceable. You need the high sign to enter the Little Rascal’s club house, and you need to speak gobbledygook to get tenure. It’s the triumph of guild mentality over relevance.

At a more pernicious level, a great deal of academic jargon strikes me as so much verbal prestidigitation to conjure banshees of oppression that do not exist. You can’t really claim that America is evil, oppressive, or totalitarian. But if it’s in your job description to claim that it is, you’ve got to try something. So you bend, fold, spindle, and mutilate the language in order to make what is not so into what is so. It’s all St. Elmo’s Fire. (I wrote about this a bit in a G-File from 2002 called “Orwell’s Orphans,” and I think it holds up pretty well).

 

Order Now

Every few years, a debate breaks out in the Corner about whether the miracle adhesive technology that can solve any problem should be called “duct tape” or “duck tape.” I have no desire to wade back into the Great Schism myself. But whatever you want to call it, I think we can all agree that it could do the job of the “Goatee Saver” at a fraction of the price.

You’ve got to check out the picture. First, the dude looks like he’s halfway transformed into a Borg. Second, his lady friend looks like there’s nothing she digs more than to watch her man dry shave with a big piece of plastic stuck to his mouth. It’s as if she’s saying with her bedroom eyes, “My cyberkinetic moron boy toy is going to slice open his face, and that’s why I want him cleaned and perfumed and brought to my tent.”

Watch It Now  If you’re interested, here’s the video  for the panel I moderated at AEI on Wednesday. This was my first experience moderating a panel of any kind, so be gentle.

That’s all for this week. I’m off to happy fun land.

Abyssopelagic Matters

Loading...

Dear Reader (and winners of the Guess What’s in This E-mail Contest),

Like a peckish zombie having a nosh, I was picking the brain of an Israel expert the other day, as part of my prep for what turned out to be a fairly mediocre Fox News gig on Tuesday. Anyway, he was getting all revved up about how good Israel’s enemies have gotten at public relations. According to my friend, Israel’s foes in Gaza and around the world are increasingly clever at staging protests, photo-ops, and the like. Meanwhile, the Israelis have a thumbless grasp of international public opinion.

This has become something close to a consensus position among Israel supporters of late. And while I’m sure there’s some truth to it, I think the whole discussion misses the more important point: A whole lot of people have gone bat-guano crazy when it comes to Israel.

The argument that it’s all a P.R. problem presupposes that there’s an audience out there eager to hear both sides of the argument, if the BBC were willing to provide them. But that’s not the case. It seems a lot of people are willing to believe stuff about Israel they wouldn’t believe about any other democracy. They’re eager to hold Israel to a standard they won’t hold any other to. To date, there’s still been more outrage over this flotilla fiasco than there was over North Korea’s deliberate attack on a South Korean vessel. And going by Turkey’s rhetoric about the incident and its undying love for the nation-deprived Palestinians, you’d have no idea that the Turks have been killing nation-deprived Kurds for longer than Israel has existed, and have treated them with far more cruelty than Israel would ever dream of doing.

Israel is supposed to be guilty of deliberate murder and a massacre. If that’s the case, why’d they kill only nine “humanitarians”? Indeed, if Israel is bent on the “genocide” of the Palestinian people, why is Israel so bad at it? These sorts of obvious questions don’t seem to penetrate the craniums of people around the world. They’ve simply anathematized Israel into some kind of demon state about which no charge is too outrageous. The idea that you can fix that with more clever press releases or by equipping commandos with paintball guns is just plain stupid.

Hey, I think I’m going to write a column about this, so I’ll stop here and turn to the more pressing issue of . . .

When Doves Cry

So I had a Dove bar last night (“Just one?” – The Couch). We usually get them for my daughter, but sometimes she must be punished, so I will eat her dessert in front of her while laughing my moo-ah-ha-hah evil laugh. Just kidding. But they are really, really good. I have no doubt that when Saudi sheiks fly the entire Saturday night shift from the Spearmint Rhino out to Riyadh for a spread-the-faith seminar, they shower the girls with krugerrands and Dove bars. They are just that good.

In fact they are so good, you are immediately swarmed with guilt after eating one, because you know that, short of whale blubber, seal loin, or Christopher Hitchens’s liver, you’ll never have something so rich. And that’s why I find the Dove bar popsicle stick so hilarious. My wife was the first one to point this out to me: Unlike normal popsicle sticks, which tend to have kid-friendly jokes on them (“What kind of sandwich do fish like to eat? Peanut butter and jellyfish!” – ha!), each Dove bar stick has a life-inspiring, female-empowering, and Dove-bar-snarfing message submitted by a female Dove-bar fan somewhere in America. The one I got last night read: “Be proud to just run the race no matter the finish.”

It’s great advice metaphorically. But you can be sure it’s even more apt literally, if Dove bars are a regular part of your diet.

Spell! It’s that time of year again: The annual Scripps Howard Spelling Bee is in town. I love this event for a bunch of reasons. First, it’s classic American goodness. Second, the press famously hates to cover it but knows it has to, because normal people think it’s great. Third, every year it shows that homeschooling produces some really impressive kids. My only complaint is that you never get any of the real color and back story. For instance, while all the cameras are watching the action on the main stage, the big excitement is in the practice rooms, where booze, Pokemon cards, and cash flow like stuff that flows a lot. That’s where the real money is made. Why, last year, I put ten grand on a homeschooled kid from Sri Lanka who successfully spelledabyssopelagic while stubbing out a cigar in the palm of his hand.

Speaking of Abyssopelagic Matters

I’ll probably write about this more later, but for now I think I should at least admit I was wrong. The Deepwater Horizon disaster really does demonstrate that the technology isn’t fully ready for deepwater drilling. Yes, we know how to do it pretty well when everything goes right. But when things go wrong, the last couple weeks clearly show that we don’t know how to get them right again. I am still very much for domestic oil exploration, in part because, if we don’t drill more here, there will be more spills in the ocean (tankers are still more dangerous than rigs). But I can’t argue with the folks who want a moratorium on deep drilling until we have a serious accounting of what we know how to do and what we don’t.

In Coprophagic News Vital news story of the day: “NJ Teen Admits Defecating In Classmate’s Soda.” [BROKEN LINK]

AP has the scoop: “His lawyer calls it a foolish prank, but a judge isn’t laughing. A 17-year-old high school student from Haddon Township admitted in family court Thursday that he defecated in a classmate’s soda during an auto-shop class. Prosecutors dropped an aggravated assault charge in exchange for the boy’s guilty plea to a charge of tampering with a food product.

“Authorities said the victim sipped the soda, then spit it out as his classmates laughed on March 29.

“A judge ordered the boy to serve probation, serve 200 hours of community service, write a letter to the victim to apologize – and to write a 1,000-word report on why it’s unhealthy to ingest fecal matter.”

Man, if I had a dime for every time Lowry has made me write an essay like that (“The more they read this ‘News’letter, the more of your readers might want to put pen to paper too” – The Couch.)

That’s a Big Hole

The other day I posted an item in the Corner [BROKEN LINK] about that massive sinkhole in Guatemala. And then I asked: ”Has a Hellmouth opened in Guatemala? Did a massive horta emerge in the dark of night? Are the molemen about to invade?”

For the next 24 hours, readers sent in scads of suggestions of other fictional threats from below. (Note: I said fictional, so Bill Clinton’s pants don’t count.)

It could be a new Great Pit of Carkoon, in which lives the all-powerful sarlacc.Though, of course, the Guatemalan pit is actually considerably bigger.

It could be the point of egress for the Underminer, from the Incredibles. The Underminer had one of the great intro lines in film history: “Behold, the Underminer! I’m always beneath you, but nothing is beneath me! I hereby declare war on peace and happiness! Soon, all will tremble before me!” If only some politicians were as honest about their sales pitches.

Anyway, this seems like a good cubicle discussion topic: List all of the creatures and phenomena in fiction that created giant holes in the ground.

Meanwhile, back to Guatemala, as I used to say when I was a fugitive. It seems that this wasn’t the first time the Stygian depths yawned open in Pais de la Eterna Primavera, or “Country of the Eternal Spring.” It seems massive creatures have been eternally springing out of the ground for a while down there. Here’s a sinkhole from 2007.

My real hope, however, is that these are in fact burn holes from clandestine airborne-laser volcano-lancing tests. But that’s a subject for another day.

Photo of the Day

He will be furious with me for posting this, but Cosmo has come to realize that until his leg gets better, he needs help policing our neighborhood for bears, vampires, skateboard punks, and government workers of all stripes. And so, lacking a proper lieutenant to train, he’s using what he’s got. He can be seen here on what passes for our front porch (which he calls “Sentry Point Alpha One”) with his trainee. That expression on his face says, “We need to talk about talent recruitment.”

Of Wood and Wone

Loading...

Dear Reader (and those who, for reasons that will be obvious on the other side of the parentheses, will soon give up reading this “news”letter for reasons of taste):

A man named Robert Wone was murdered, and his semen was found in a place where the rules of physics, biology, and even the ever-metastasizing laxity of sexual norms still say it never should be.

Now, I bring this up not to make light of Mr. Wone’s murder or lifestyle – actually, according to all accounts he was a heterosexual family man like yours truly – but to make a simple point about newspapers.

For generations, newspapers were such a profitable business, it’s like they forgot they were businesses at all. It’s not that they forgot they were providing a service, but they saw themselves as providing a “public service.” This high-minded goal got so high-minded, the keepers of the craft seem to have lost sight of the very public they’re supposed to be serving. It’s hard to think of many businesses that have strayed so far from their customers. Some very high-end restaurants sometimes try to turn their food into lectures about sustainability, localism, good health, whatever. But the chefs still recognize that if the diners don’t enjoy eating the food, there’s no point.

That’s a lesson that sometimes seems lost on newspaper editors who seem to be motivated by the journalistically equivalent sentiment: The public must eat its spinach! And we must keep the fatty or sugary or salty snacks and meals down to a minimum. With the obvious exceptions of the New York Post and, to a lesser extent, the Daily News, it’s not clear that any of the major American newspapers care that much about making their newspapers fun to read.

There are some caveats. I’m not talking about sports or even business reporting, where I think the writers and editors have a much better sense of what the readers want — and a much greater desire to actually give it to them. And there are a handful of writers who, despite the pressures of their industry, actually manage to churn out engaging copy.

But as a generalization, it often seems as if a key part of the reporter’s job description is the ability to conceal precisely the juiciest information, the facts that might get the blood boiling. For instance, the New York Times didn’t mention that Jeremiah Wright had said “God damn America” for more than six months after the controversy broke. It basically didn’t cover the Van Jones controversy until it was over. The coverage of the Duke lacrosse scandal always seemed to be designed to avoid giving the reader a clear picture of what happened.

Again, I’m not just talking about political correctness or media bias – though Lord knows I could be – I’m talking about making things interesting for the reader. Mark Steyn has made similar observations more than a few times.

So let’s get back to Wone. I’ll admit, this might not be the best example, because the Washington Post is a family newspaper and this is a story that’s hard to tell in PG-rated terms. But this is also a story that lots of people living in Washington, D.C., can’t stop talking about. If this had happened in the New York Post’s backyard – or in London! – the story would be a huge national sensation.

I hope I’m not telling anybody something they don’t know, but people are interested in sex. They’re also interested in murder. They’re also interested in cover-ups. And, while I have less evidence to back this up, I suspect they’re also interested in strange, alternatively structured “families” involved in murder mysteries that are festooned with sex-dungeon props.

And yet the Washington Post has been covering the story of Robert Wone’s murder as if it were an ag-bill mark-up. I want to be fair: The coverage has been adequate in the journalism-school sense. The who, what, when, where, and whys have been addressed, if not exhaustively, then at least professionally. But in no sense has the Washington Post covered this bizarre story in a manner you’d expect from a business trying to sell newspapers.

If you don’t know the story, here’s the broad outline, from Gawker:

[BLOCK]Wone, a politically ambitious 32-year-old lawyer for Radio Free Asia, was stabbed to death in the million-dollar townhouse owned by his college friend Joseph Price in 2006. While Wone was straight and married, Price lived with his husband Victor Zaborsky, an ad executive, and his lover Dylan Ward, who played the dominant role in their sadomasochistic relationship. Price, Zaborsky, and Ward say Wone was staying over at their house when an intruder broke in and stabbed him. Prosecutors say they lured Wone there, drugged him, and got into some really strange sex play. [BLOCK]

How strange? Well, read the Gawker piece. But among the party favors found at the house: “metal anal probes,” “scrotal harness with weight attachments,” remote-control electroshock devices, and “various devices designed to inflict penile pain.”

Moreover, the story the three men tell is beyond implausible, involving some absurd intruder (not the name of one of their toys, by the way), who managed to sexually assault and murder Wone, clean up the crime scene, and leave without alerting any of them that something was amiss.

In the capable hands of the New York Post, the Wone story would be “wood” for months on end. Oh, and get your mind out of the gutter, “wood” is what they call front-page material in the tabloid business. But the Post – like the Times – has an acute problem discussing news stories where gay people are involved. Recently a high-school principal was murdered by some men he “met” on a gay chat line, and the Post spent a whole lot of time insisting the gay-chat-line angle had nothing to do with his death until it was revealed that it had nearly everything to do with his death.

A friend of mine insists that if he were the metro editor of the Washington Post, every Wone article would begin something like this: “Robert Wone, the murdered lawyer who was found with his own semen in his rectum . . .”

That might be going too far, but it would grab attention. Instead, the only place that tidbit has been reported in the Washington Post is in a Style-section article about a great website, whomurderedrobertwone.com. The irony is palpable. The newspaper’s most interesting story on the murder case is about a website that is exhaustively reporting on the trial largely because people interested in the story can’t get what they want from their hometown newspaper.

No wonder these things are going out of business.

Now for Something Cheerier

My apologies. I hadn’t planned on taking up so much room on the above item. And I suspect it wasn’t worth it. (“Go with your instincts” – The Couch.) Now there’s not enough space to deal with all of the other vital, hilarious, life-affirming items I planned for this week’s edition of the G-File. Now, I’m going through the five stages of storm-trooper grief.

Still, as the Latin phrase goes, “Everyone likes to watch a basset hound eat produce.” And if that doesn’t do it for you, this golden retriever’s breakfast habits might amuse.

Random Question For reasons that have nothing to do with national security, I can’t quite explain why I’m asking this, but if you have any ideas for what would make a good conservative-TV-show format or project – as in news, talk, debate, whatever – drop me a line. One hint: Don’t say “Bring back Firing Line.”

Speaking of TV Watch the Corner for my takes on 24 and Lost. I agree with much that JPod and Douthat have already said.

Oh, and if you’re interested, it looks like I have a standing appointment to be on Fox News every Wednesday at 2:30. Here’s this week’s appearance.

The next time you see me, I’ll have had a haircut. Don’t let your excitement and anticipation distract you from your work and family life!

Does Dick Blumenthal Dream of Sheep Who Lie about Being Wolves?

Loading...

Dear Reader (and those of you who have had memories of reading this e-mail artificially implanted),

I for one am stunned by the news coming out of Pennsylvania. It is mind-blowing. Oh, just to be clear, I don’t mean the news that Arlen Specter lost in the Democratic primary. I saw that coming. No, what just blows me away is the fact that Specter hasn’t invoked a rare codicil to Scottish common law that allows him to now run as an independent.

Schadenfreude is an ugly word, as befits the ugly language that produced it, but I can’t apologize for being genuinely gleeful about Arlen Specter’s defeat. In fact, I’m not sure Schadenfreude even applies here, because, as I understand it, Schadenfreude is taking joy in another’s misfortune. Well, misfortune is another word for bad luck. And Specter’s defeat isn’t bad luck, it is a long-overdue comeuppance.

Arlen Specter was a geyser of asshattery, spewing his particular brand of a-holuarness (to borrow a term from social science) with a regularity that would put Old Faithful to shame. And what Bart Simpson said of Old Faithful, I will say of Arlen Specter: He both sucks and blows.

Does Dick Blumenthal Dream of Sheep Who Lie about Being Wolves?

A lot of readers complained about this post, in which I asserted that Richard Blumenthal is “toast” because of revelations that he has lied about serving in Vietnam. “Oh, not here in Connecticut!” insisted quite a few Nutmeggers, who have resigned themselves to the fact that they live in a quasi-post-American state. And it looks like they were right. Blumenthal doesn’t appear to be toastqua toast. In other words, he’s not done . . . yet. However, I do think he’s in more trouble than people think.

Look at how Joe Sestak won. Everyone knew that Arlen Specter was all political appetite, an ego-singularity in a funereal suit. Everyone knew that he switched to the Democrats because he considered political parties and principles to be mere expediencies to power. But Sestak didn’t really remind voters about that until very late in the game. That Specter-Bush-Obama ad was effective precisely because it concentrated and defined the issues when the issues needed to be concentrated and defined the most.

Linda McMahon’s decision to release her oppo research now was odd, and the fact that she decided to publicly admit it is flat-out bizarre. Regardless, it’s out there. It may indeed lie dormant for a while. In fact, it’s good news if it lies dormant. It’s also good news that Blumenthal isn’t leaving the race; otherwise, the Dems could just pull a Torricelli and (illegally) put up a new candidate. But I have to believe that, come the final weeks of the general election, an ad pointing out that Dick Blumenthal is a big fat liar who pretended he served in Vietnam would be devastating. It looks like November will not be a great time for lying, opportunistic politicians — or, rather, it won’t be a good time for politicians who can’t hide that they’re lying and opportunistic.

As for whether he was in fact lying, the short answer is: Of course he was. I particularly liked this statement from his campaign when the story broke: “Dick has a long record of standing up for veterans. Tomorrow, veterans will be standing up with Dick.”

It fairly screamed for the response, “Well, I guess veterans don’t know Dick.”

In fairness, a reader did come up with a plausible counter-explanation (and the inspiration for this week’s “Dear Reader” gag):

Dear Mr. Goldberg:

Well, well. Mr. Blumenthal was not in Vietnam and (shudders of disappointment) was not on the Harvard swim team. How to explain it, how to explain it (other than the well-supported theory that Blumenthal may lie a lot)?

I humbly submit that Mr. Blumenthal may not be an actual human being at all, but rather a Living Artifact, an Artificial Person, like the lovely but deadly female courier “Friday” in Robert Heinlein’s book of the same name. That would explain why he has ‘memories’ but little accurate history. Or to put it another way, “his mother was a test-tube, his father was a knife.”

Sid Goldberg, the Godfather of Spam?

Perhaps it’s a sign of the lowered expectations that accompany a recession, but my spam is less ambitious these days. Instead of the sons of Nigerian oil ministers asking for huge gobs of cash, I get e-mail from “friends” who claim to have lost their wallets in London and just need a few bucks to tide them over.

It dawned on me that my late father (“The Hop Bird”) may have been a pioneer. When he was an undergrad at the University of Michigan, he took out an ad in the local paper. All it said was “Send your dollars now!” along with his mailing address. He made like 23 bucks or some such.

On Unwanted E-mail Every morning, I get up, curse the heavens for raining burning sunshine down upon me, brush my teeth and attend to other pressing needs, and then check my e-mail. And every morning, I’ll get between 40 and 100 new e-mails since the last time I checked the night before. A huge percentage of them are press releases: from politicians (“Alderman Bud Gretnick Eats Locally Made Pie at Diner, Says Opponent Eats Store-Bought Cake Made in Mexico and Smuggled in Drug Mules’ Rectums”), publishers (“Shocking new book reveals that bears are still using our forestlands for toilets! Author available for interviews”), and websites (“TransvestiteMom.Com posts 10 Best Gifts For that Special Him/Her or Her/Him”). I spend a lot of time unsubscribing to these things, but like zombies outside a Midwestern shopping mall, there are always more coming.

I’ve never been able to explain it, but I have what is clearly an irrational hatred of press releases. From my — again, irrational — perspective, they are the text version of false compliments. I’m very bad at taking sincere compliments (“Good thing you don’t get them very often” — The Couch), but I loathe false compliments, because they both insult my intelligence and they demean both the flatterer and the flatteree. Without dwelling on that, I get a very similar feeling from about 85 percent of the press releases I receive. It’s as if the author thinks he can fool me, as if he can use his Jedi mind tricks to get me to read and review the third Norton Anthology of Hmong Lesbian Poets. Sometimes I feel so insulted I’m tempted to turn into a version of the phonebook sniper, only I really do hate cans — if by cans you mean press releases. I have no idea why I went off on this tangent, and that just makes me even crankier.

Defending Liberty, Fighting Zombies

But since we’re on the theme of irrationality, one of the things I appreciate most about having an office at the American Enterprise Institute these days is that it is supremely defensible against zombie attack (NR’s DC offices: not so much). The elevators can be turned off. There are thick, steel-gated fire doors on the stairs that block intruders from going up without a key. There are any number of locking or easily barricaded steel doors. There’s a well-stocked kitchen and excellent roof access for helicopter evac, etc.

I still think a really well-stocked boat would be the best spot for long-term zombie avoidance, but if the zombie attack came on suddenly, you could do a lot worse than hunkering down at AEI. And, when the zombie menace finally abated, AEI could serve as the new provisional government (Brookings would have become a viscera buffet almost overnight. I can totally see E. J. Dionne leaving one of the emergency doors open just in case the gang from SEIU needed a place to hide.) 

 

Outings

Loading...

Dear Reader (and to those of you who feel the beat of the rhythm of the night, and want to dance until the morning light),

Many years ago, I wrote a column about the response to The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. A bunch of critics were keen on decrying the LOTR films as racist, in part because the Orcs weren’t sufficiently Caucasian and didn’t wear topsiders and wide-wale cords. You can find the old-school G-File here, which offers some examples of the lunacy, to which I responded:

Sigh. Okay, yes, it’s true. Many of the Orcs (and the super-Orcs) are dark-skinned and have slant-eyes. They are also – how shall I put this? – Orcs! Ya frickin’ idjit!

One is tempted to ask, who is the real racist here? On the one hand, we have people – like me – who see horrific, flesh-eating, dull-witted creatures with jagged, feral teeth, venomous mouths, pointed devilish ears, and reptilian skin, and say, “Cool, Orcs!” On the other hand we have people like Mr. Yatt who see the same repugnant creatures and righteously exclaim, “Black people!” Maybe he should spend less time vetting movies for signs of racism and more time vetting himself – if, that is, he free-associates black people with these subhuman monsters [BROKEN LINK]. Alas, the link to the really cool Orc pic is long since defunct.

I had a similar response to the apparently raging controversy over the Wall Street Journal’s decision to run a picture of Elena Kagan playing softball. I looked at the picture and thought (expressed charitably): “Elena Kagan looks like a typical Washington dork playing softball” (though apparently the picture is from her Chicago days).

Regardless, when a bunch of (presumably) gay folks looked at the picture, their first reaction was “Holy LPGA, Batman! The Wall Street Journal is outing Elena Kagan!”

From Ben Smith’s Politico piece:

“Personally I think the newspaper, which happens to have the largest circulation of any in the U.S., might as well have gone with a headline that said, ‘Lesbian or switch-hitter?’” grumbled the Dallas Voice’s John Wright.

And:

“It clearly is an allusion to her being gay. It’s just too easy a punch line,” said Cathy Renna, a former spokesperson for the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation who is now a consultant. “The question from a journalistic perspective is whether it’s a descriptive representation of who she might be as a judge. Have you ever seen a picture of Clarence Thomas bowling?”

Right: because Clarence Thomas was treated so well by the mainstream press, including the Wall Street Journal.

Anyway, I have no idea – or, rather, no way of knowing – whether the Wall Street Journal intended it that way. But I kind of doubt it. First, a more reasonable read of the picture might be “Kagan Steps Up to the Plate” or “Kagan at Bat,” not “Kagan Likes to Go Antiquing with Rosie O’Donnell.”

Another possible read: “Man, Rachel Maddow has really let herself go!”

I kid, I kid.

Regardless, I find it interesting how the Left immediately looks at a, uh, frumpy woman playing softball and immediately shrieks, “Lesbian!” Moreover, I think it’s interesting how the people who care the most about whether she’s gay are on the left. As I understand it, Andrew Sullivan wants her outed, and frankly I can understand the argument. If she’s not gay, she doesn’t fit Obama’s criteria for finding someone who knows what it’s like to be downtrodden – “the little guy” – nearly as well. If identity politics is your lodestar, then I can see why you’d care.

As for me personally, I must say, I really just don’t care. Indeed, I think it’s striking how few people on the right really seem to care whether she’s gay. I’d be inclined to call that disinterest “progress,” but however you’d describe it, it does seem to be the new political reality.

Follically Outed?

Now, one last thing. I haven’t seen the movie Four Christmases with Vince Vaughn and Reese Witherspoon all the way through. But I keep channel surfing to this one scene where Vaughn and his wife (Witherspoon) are talking, and he lets her know that he found out her childhood best friend, “Joe,” was a lesbian:

Vince Vaughn: It doesn’t bother me if you were a really abnormally large child with lesbian tendencies, ‘cause if that was your journey, then I’m cool with it.

Witherspoon: What are you saying, lesbian tendencies?

Vaughn: I saw the pictures of Joe.

Witherspoon: Joe wasn’t gay.

Vaughn: Haircuts don’t lie.

Heck, maybe they do lie. I dunno. But I thought it was funny.

Inherit the Wind?

So the new cap-’n’-trade bill is out, who among us can contain his excitement? I haven’t had time to look at it, or much of the analysis of it, but one point seems worth making already. Over at AEI this week, Steve Hayward gave a good little presentation on the current energy debate, climate change, etc., and he made a really great and obvious point I realized I’ve never made myself.

So I will make it now: We constantly hear about how we need wind and solar power to wean ourselves from foreign oil or to end our “addiction” to oil. But, uh, how would wind and solar power do that? Will windmills and solar panels power our cars, trucks, and buses? We could use solar and wind for 100 percent of our electricity production, and we’d still need gasoline to run our cars. A quick stroll to always-accurate Wikipedia says that only 2 percent of the oil we import is used to produce electricity. By all means, if it makes sense to end that, go ahead. But to listen to Nancy Pelosi, if we all had solar panels and windmills as far as the eye could see, we’d be sticking it to the Saudis. No, we’d just be paying a lot more for electricity while using pretty much the same amount of oil for transportation, plastics, etc. and those Saudi guys would still be laughing their asses off at us while they funded terrorists, beat their wives for breathing too loudly and eating dried fruits for the sweet, sweet taste. I’d have a lot more respect for these people if they claimed that we need to switch to “alternative fuels” to wean ourselves from our dependence on heating oil.

What to Do About Reader E-mail?

I’m getting some great feedback from readers, but I can’t post it all in the Corner or respond to it at any great length (though I do my best to read all of it). And, for space reasons, I can’t run much of it here. And, because you are members of a quasi-secret society, I can’t run it in the Corner. So, barring some third solution, I’ll just run one or two every week here. This week’s “winner”:

Jonah,

A few years back, I called your geek cred into question for alleging the hired help in Caddyshack were allotted a full hour in the pool when it was only a mere 15 minutes. Today, I feel compelled to do the same for what you wrote about Supes and time travel!

Consider how Supes is the big blue Boy Scout. Turning back time to save Lois would have effectively undone his rescuing of Miss Tesmacher’s aunt. There’s no way he would have done that even if it were to save Lois. He had to save them both. No, he couldn’t turn back time, had had to instead fly himself backward thru time.

Experiment – Take a top and spin it fast. Or prop up a bike wheel and spin that fast instead. Observe that if you spin it with sufficient speed, the object will eventually appear to slow and spin in the opposite direction in the form of an optical illusion.

Applying that theory to what Supes did, it wasn’t that he flew around the world fast enough to make it spin backward thru time – it only appeared that way due to the same optical illusion. The Earth continued to chug thru time normally. It only appeared to spin backward as he alone propelled himself backward thru time.

Yes, I’ve likely engaged in debate on this topic more times than my Senator Kerry has flipped on policy.

Of course, I still think it’s hokey. Were Supes to fly in orbit at superspeed, it would have had the same effect on the Earth as the passing asteroid did during the opening segment of Thundarr the Barbarian. That wouldn’t have ended very good for Lois, Miss Tesmacher’s aunt, Miss Tesmacher herself, or the rest of us.

The Five Point Palm Exploding Heart Technique is bunk. No abundance of cardio exercise could result in exploding anyone’s palm.

My vote for worst use of time travel goes to The Time Traveler’s Wife. Consider how her affection was not earned organically, yet was instead slowly groomed and fostered over time. It may not be the dumbest treatment of time travel, yet it was by far the creepiest.

You’re my favorite NR/NRO writer.

Odd Links These were actually supposed to be last Thursday’s odd links, but I forgot to post them:

North Korean jokes.

Miami airport screener accused of attack after jeers at genitals. [BROKEN LINK]

7 Scientific Innovations Held Back by Petty Feuds. Related, sort of: 6 People You’ve Never Heard of Who Probably Saved Your Life. (These may include NSFW language.)

Helmet cam view of Dutch raid on pirate ship.

McDonald’s menu items from around the world.

Stadium Demolition: View from inside. [BROKEN LINK]

Unintentionally offensive business & product names.

Were Russian secrets shared with ‘space alien’ visitors?

Teen suspected of drinking drives away with cop inside car. (One of those things most people learn not to do when they get older.) Then there’s this guy: DUI Suspect Downs Drink During Traffic Stop [BROKEN LINK]. Also, Jim Beam found drunk in public.

Baby has argument with himself in mirror.

Coney Island: City of Fire.

 

Bloomberg and More Bloomberg!

Loading...

Dear Reader (and those of you who subscribe to this “News” letter for the pictures),

I’m on the tarmac at the Moline airport (in a plane on the tarmac to be specific). I’m heading home after a speech at Knox College, a very impressive little liberal-arts school in Galesburg, Ill., – the town where Ronald Reagan attended third grade! And where Carl Sandburg was born. Abraham Lincoln earned his first honorary degree at Knox College, and one of the Lincoln-Douglas debates was conducted there. Perhaps the coolest thing about the place is that the Knox County Jail was converted into a school building, which now houses faculty offices. The cells are still pretty much intact. The bad news is that the empty jail cells appear to be just about the most exciting thing in Galesburg. Still, I had a lovely time. My on-site hosts – from the Intellectual Diversity Fund (IDF!) – couldn’t have been more charming.

Now my plane is aloft. The lady next to me is reading The Journal of Investigative Dermatology. Some days, I’m grateful for being a pundit.

Anyway, as you may know, I stayed in a Holiday Inn Express last night, which is sort of the same thing as that crystal spaghetti colander of wisdom that Bones put on in “Spock’s Brain” [BROKEN LINK] in order to learn how to put Spock’s brain back.

I am now a true pundit, which, as we all know, is an Hindu word meaning wise-man-priest-shaman-philosopher. The sort of man who knows the sound of one hand clapping, who comprehends why Steve Guttenberg is a star, who can tell you exactly how much wood a woodchuck would chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood.

In America, however, pundit means anyone who is willing to make a political opinion, no matter how banal, outlandish, or unjustified, so long as he’s never held accountable for it and is willing to change his opinion for an open bar and some free shrimp.

So go ahead and ask me any question and I’ll answer it for you. What’s that? You can’t simply shout out a question into your computer screen? Pshaw, that was true before I’d slept at the Holiday Inn Express. Now, I can sense your questions through mother earth’s vibrations.

Question #1: Have conservatives truly reached epistemic closure?

I have no idea what you’re talking about, and that’s all I know about that.

Question #2: What do you think of Stephen Hawking’s prediction that we’ll be able to travel forward in time in the future?

Hey man, I’m doing that right now! What’s the big deal? We’re all moving forward through time.

This is a point I’m looking forward to explaining to those damned dirty apes who blew it all up.

Question #3: What was the dumbest treatment of time travel in any movie?

I know this is going to raise some eyebrows, but I think it has to be the first Superman movie. If memory serves, Lois dies, and some really bad things happen, too. So Superman goes out into space and flies counterclockwise, as it were, around the Earth so fast that the whole planet not only starts spinning backwards but spins so fast in the wrong direction that the whole planet moves back in time. Forgetting how mind-bogglingly stupid this is in terms of the science, and putting aside the idea that Superman would be smart enough to know that this would work (Had he tried it before? What if it didn’t work and he’d just created massive tidal waves and earthquakes, basically destroying all life on the planet? Was he going to say, “Hey, it was worth a shot at saving my bitchy, type-A girlfriend?), and even ignoring that it was the second-greatest writing cop-out in history (the greatest being the decision to make an entire season or two of Dallas into a dream), it symbolized the reason why I always disliked Superman as a superhero. And, as we all know, Pandit Goldberg is now the measure of all things (thanks again, Holiday Inn Express!).

Question #4: What are you blathering about now?

No, seriously, I can’t speak to the original Superman who had limitations and was something of a Jewish fantasy/Nietzsche rip-off. But by the time I started reading comic books in the 1970s and 1980s, Superman was so incredibly lame because, basically, he was by definition super at everything. He was always strong enough, always fast enough, always everything enough. He could just throw the “super” adjective in front of any bodily function and – voila! – problem solved. (Hey, let’s not get juvenile with the whole bodily-function-plus-super thing)

I’ve never thought Superman was interesting because his human alter-ego was the fraud. There’s actually a great speech [BROKEN LINK] about this at the end of Kill Bill: Vol. 2 (profanity warning; also, the Five Point Palm Exploding Heart Technique). Bill observes that Superman is the only superhero whose alter-ego is a normal person and whose super-being is his real identity. Superman is Superman, he just pretends to be Clark Kent. It’s a great insight, and it helps explain why I’ve never liked Superman. That, and because he’s gay.

I kid, I kid. I don’t dislike him because he’s gay. But he is.

Question # 5 When are you going to stop taking these stupid questions?

Right . . . about . . . now.

Bloomberg’s Bust

As I noted Michael Bloomberg’s in the Corner, I think that Michael Bloomberg’s freelancing about the Time Square bomber is nothing short of a scandal. In his Katie Couric interview, he not only helped fuel the continuing “brown scare” B.S. aimed at Obama’s critics, he revealed that he was either a partisan hack or completely out of the loop while pretending to be on top of the investigation and all its particulars. Authorities already knew it was a Pakistani — or some other Asian-Muslim nationality – by the time Bloomberg was freelancing his Glenn-Beck-did-it bunk.

But that should be well-covered by the time you get this “news”letter. So let us focus on an overlooked idiocy. In the interview he said: “There is no evidence that it`s tied into anything else. It looks like an amateurish job done by at least one person.”

Ah. This is truly expert commentary. Without Bloomberg informing us that there was “at least one person” involved in the failed terrorist attack, many of us might well have assumed that the perpetrators could have been a null set. I would like to see the press conference for something like that.

Police Commissioner: “We are exploring every lead, including the possibility that this event did not happen, or that the atoms in the surrounding atmosphere simply spontaneously and randomly organized in the form of a 1990 Nissan Pathfinder full of propane tanks and fireworks. Of course, we are exploring the more likely scenario that some number of human beings are responsible, but we can’t rule out these other possibilities. Indeed, given the implications of the random-agglomeration-of-atoms possibility, we feel compelled to work diligently to rule out the zero-perpetrators scenario.”

More Bloomberg!

Here’s the opening to a piece by Mayor Bloomberg at the Huffington Post:

[BLOCK]It’s amazing but true: We can prevent terror suspects from boarding an airplane, but the FBI doesn’t have the power to block them from buying dynamite or an AK-47. I believe strongly that they should. And so do the 500 mayors who are members of our bi-partisan coalition of Mayor Against Illegal Guns. [BLOCK]

Um, not the best example. Didn’t the Christmas Bomber and the Unibrow Bomber (my pet name for the Times Square bomber) both actually, you know, get on the planes? Also, someone needs to tell Bloomberg that the “Mayor” in his group’s name is plural.

 

Anyway, I’ve got to jet. I just landed in D.C., and my Holiday Inn Express wisdom has worn off. And I can’t keep writing this stupid in such close proximity the couch without him chiming in.

 

See you next week.

 

Tea Partiers Don’t Count?

Loading...

Dear Reader (and those of you who bear a striking resemblance to hackneyed Indian stereotypes and who, putting your ears to the ground, heard this column coming a long time ago),

Well, so much for “epistemic closure.” The supposed Right Wing Industrial Complex – comprised of Fox News, talk radio, National Review, and the Republican party (and, if you listen to Andrew Sullivan, Cotton Mather, Mephistopheles, Torquemada, and the cop who caught him smoking pot) – marches and thinks in complete lockstep. As closed-minded as a Church Lady with a migraine, we are incapable of thinking there’s a world outside our ideological swift boat.

Just when this argument was about to implode from its own idiocy, a Godzilla-sized foot called “immigration” came stomping down on the delicate dorm-room-philosophical Bambi. Conservatives are split on the issue: David Frum takes National Review’s side, although he makes it sound like he’s the lone voice speaking in Arizona’s favor; meanwhile, Karl Rove, alleged leader of the homunculi within the right-wing colossi, Marco Rubio, the golden boy of the tea-party movement, and Jeb Bush, heir to the Bush dynasty, are just a few of the dissenters from the right-wing mob of unindependent minds.

I’m somewhere between the two conservative extremes on this stuff. I think theWall Street Journal’s open-borders position is bonkers (so long as there is a welfare state, at least), but I’m also in favor of generous immigration policies for the folks who actually wait in line. As one reader put it to me, I’m for high fences and wide gates. But, as familiar as this point may be, you can’t be in favor of a particular immigration policy if you’re not willing to enforce any immigration policy.

But we’ll have plenty of time to debate all of that now that the Cone of Silence, epistemic closure, has been lifted.

Conflicted by Good, Torn by Evil

But since we’re on the topic, I found this bit of political analysis Krugmanesque, by which I mean annoying and smug. Coincidentally, it comes from some guy named Paul Krugman:

Well, politically, though, this is one of those issues that cuts right through the middle of both parties. . . . Democrats tend to be pro-labor, which means they are worried about immigration; on the other hand . . . it’s the party that generally is for inclusiveness. So the Democrats are divided. Many of them divided within their own hearts. It’s an interesting thing, it’s not so much different wings of the party as each individual Democrat tends to be kind of torn about this.

Republicans are divided between the sort of cultural conservative wing, the “preserve America as the way it is,” and the business wing, which likes having inexpensive immigrant labor. So this is one heck of an issue. It’s going to — it’s deeply divisive among both parties, which is one reason not to rush it, to push it at the top of the agenda right now.

Now, obviously Krugman’s analysis isn’t completely baseless. But it still presents the issue as one where Democrats are torn in their bleeding hearts between two noble and kind concerns, while Republicans are torn between their love of reactionary atavism and their sweet tooth for exploiting the poor.

Tea Partiers Don’t Count?

I have a piece in the next issue of NRODT on the liberal reaction to the tea partiers and that NYT poll. Basically, now that the Times poll allegedly shows that the tea partiers are “affluent,” white, and well-educated, liberals insist they can be ignored as the same bunch of marginal, fringe right-wing cranks the Left always ignores. For example, E. J. Dionne says they’re a relatively small minority of voters, or some such.

Anyway, one point I didn’t have room to discuss in the piece still seems worth mentioning. Using the Times’s numbers, there are significantly more tea partiers than there are black voters. And yet whenever conservatives note that Obama’s (or before him, Bill Clinton’s) support is heavily skewed by the nearly monolithic support of African Americans, liberal bloggers go batty, suggesting that it is somehow racist to even take note of the fact. “Blacks are Americans too!” they shriek.

To which the reasonable response is, “Of course they are.” But as a point of political analysis, it’s hardly racist to take note of the fact that the black vote operates a bit differently than, say, the Catholic vote. Indeed, it’s an interesting question: Is the black vote more ideologically “fringe” than the tea-party vote?

Anyway, my only point here is that I find it funny to see so many liberals who have no problem saying that, because the tea partiers are white and middle class, they don’t deserve any respect or attention. But if one were to make a similar claim about the black vote, you’d invite charges of racism.

Socialism! Well, as promised, my Commentary essay is now up. Lots of interesting reactions have been coming in, but I’ll hold off discussing all that for the time being. Look for my odd quickie interview with Will Cain tomorrow, when it should be up on the Corner.

Frumianism! Also look for my upcoming conversation with David Frum for Bloggingheads. We’re taping it today. Should be . . . interesting.

Random Question Why is it that I get all sorts of generous and kind, but odd or not entirely convenient offers from readers? “Come visit my alpaca farm!” “Let me be your aluminum-market expert!” “If you’re ever in N’Djamena, I know a fantastic Chadian restaurant where they make the most awesome millet paste balls.” “Hey, I’ve been reading the G-File since 1998, and if you need a deal on industrial ball bearings, I am so totally your guy!”

I’m not being ungrateful; it’s all very flattering. And quite a few readers have shown me great kindnesses. But where are the eccentric billionaires with the empty villas on Lake Como just sitting there?

Anyway, this came to mind because I’m car shopping these days, and I realized that I don’t think I’ve ever had a reader say, “Hey, I can make you a great deal on a car.” I’ve gotten offers – and I’m not making this up – for serious discounts on Portuguese-language DVDs, but a nice convertible? No.

Random Question II

I’ll be in Philly for most of the weekend. Any family-friendly recommendations? I know about cheese steaks. What about good restaurants? Diners? Places to take the munchkin?

Debby’s Links You get them here first – I won’t post them to the Corner until tomorrow!

Quantum Mechanics Explains How Muscle Produces Force

The Most Depressing Toy Ever?

Video: Knife Throwing Mother of the 1950s

‘Rude Man’ Beaten, Pelted with Pasta

Where Star Wars Meets Bacon  Sort of related: Cooking Some Bacon – The Machine-Gun Method

How to Collect Whale Snot Using an RC Helicopter

The Physics/Mathematics of Rope

Mixed Messages? Not to Me.

The First and Only Emperor of the United States

How Not to Attempt Suicide

A Very Brief History of the Pocket

Cotton T-shirts with the Toughness of Body Armor

Insects Covered in Dew (Macro Photography)

This Is Not a Spiral

Smart Women Drink More [BROKEN LINK]

Lake Peigneur (Disappearing Lake) History Channel Footage

The Great Sperm Race: The Most Extreme Race on Earth

Loosely related: The Most Bizarre Life Story on Earth?

The Family Institution

Loading...

Dear Reader (and those of you experiencing parenthetical-joke phantom pain),

The Fierce Urgency of Now

The other day I wrote this short piece on Israel’s Independence Day over at the Enterprise Blog. In it I covered a theme familiar to longtime G-File readers (by which I do not refer to slow readers who take a long time reading the G-File but rather people who might remember ten-year-old columns like this one [BROKEN LINK]).That theme? The tendency to assume that the future will unfold as a straight-line projection of today.

Specifically, I noted that Israel’s existence is a blip on the radar, historically speaking, and the idea that it will be around forever is actually a pretty debatable assumption based upon a granite-like faith that tomorrow will look a lot like today.

But what got me revisiting the topic was actually a conversation I had with an AEI colleague about libertarians and family policy (those of you who bet that my getting out of the basement and into an office would make me less dorky, well, you’re going to have to pay up).

I don’t follow libertarian family policy (never mind conservative family policy, liberal family policy, or even Shining Path Maoist family policy) too closely, though I know some very smart people who’re involved in it. Anyway, the conversation turned to the claim made by many libertarians, as well as folks like Al Gore (wolfsbane to libertarians), that modern society has changed so much that it is only right and rational that family structure change, too.

Here’s my problem with this sort of thinking, which I don’t think is unreasonable on its face. Some institutions endure because they are, well, enduring.

The whole point of certain institutions is that they are insurance policies against the unknown future (picture G. Gordon Liddy talking about gold, only replace it with “the family”). The phrase “you can always count on family” may not be literally true, but it is more true than “you can always count on your old college roommate.” When times are great, the demands of family (or religion, or good manners, or thriftiness, or a thousand other institutions, customs, and habits of the heart that we can throw under the bulwark of “tradition”) might often seem like too much unnecessary baggage to carry around. But when things hit the fan, family is there in a way that other people aren’t. Not because those other people are bad, but because your family is your family.

But it’s important to keep in mind that the family – or the Bill of Rights, or good manners, whatever – isn’t a catastrophic insurance policy. The value of these institutions is best understood during a time of crisis, but the influence of these institutions is constant, even in times of calm luxury. The fact that these institutions exist forecloses certain options and avenues for reformers who yearn for a blanker social slate.

The family, like marriage, is an institution that predates our Constitution and the very concept of democracy, never mind modernity. That is not to say that it hasn’t evolved and changed or that conservatives should never, ever contemplate further changes and greater evolution. It is simply to say that we should do so carefully, reservedly, humbly, in full knowledge that tomorrow may look as little like today as yesterday did.

Keep It Simple, Keep It Loaded

A simple way of grasping this is to think of guns. There are lots of good arguments about gun rights. But it amazes me how often these debates boil down to whether you can imagine that tomorrow will look a lot different than today. So many liberals dismiss the “right to revolution” arguments on the grounds that they can’t imagine its ever being necessary. Nor can they imagine a military invasion or a collapse of the social order sufficiently chaotic to justify the laws of self-preservation.

And don’t even get me started on zombies.

I hope these unimaginative liberals are right. But I can tell you this: When the zombies rise, I won’t be racing to the homes of friends who happened to be lifetime members of Handgun Control Inc. I will be heading North to Alaska, where I have family and they have guns, lots and lots of guns. And, more to the point, while the prevalence of guns in our society will do little to nothing to prevent the zombie menace from ever arising, those guns go a long way toward circumscribing the menu of available policy options for the state. In other words, the existence of gun rights makes the “need” for gun rights seem less apparent.

Quote of the Day

I would be remiss if I didn’t make this the quote of the day:

“In the matter of reforming things, as distinct from deforming them, there is one plain and simple principle; a principle which will probably be called a paradox. There exists in such a case a certain institution or law; let us say, for the sake of simplicity, a fence or gate erected across a road. The more modern type of reformer goes gaily up to it and says, ‘I don’t see the use of this; let us clear it away.’ To which the more intelligent type of reformer will do well to answer: ‘If you don’t see the use of it, I certainly won’t let you clear it away. Go away and think. Then, when you can come back and tell me that you do see the use of it, I may allow you to destroy it.’”

-G.K. Chesterton, The Thing

No, no. Different Thing.

Oh, so anyway, I got started on all of this stuff about the fallacy of assuming tomorrow will look like today and I forgot why I brought it up in the first place: I need a word for it. Presentism isn’t right, because that’s the historiographical faux pas of imposing today’s biases on the past. Futurism doesn’t work because that’s either a pre-fascist artistic movement of early-20th-century Italy or another word for futurology, the “science” of selling unfalsifiable predictions to idiots.

Any suggestions? I’d prefer not to have a neologism, but if that’s what’s required, so be it.

Speaking of Guns

I loved this video [BROKEN LINK], posted by Dan Foster. “Guns! Guns! All kinds of guns!”

Cosmo Update

We are still debating surgery on his Achilles’ heel injury. But I actually have a story that fits with the theme of this “news”letter. This morning, my wife found two dogs on the front lawn. They weren’t from around here. One was big and labby, the other a smallish pit bull mix. My wife read their tags and saw that they live a few blocks away. She invited them into the house and called the owner, who explained that his brand new InvisiFence sucks — and that he’d be right over to pick up his dogs.

Meanwhile, Cosmo was infuriated by this complete breach of protocol. “What the hell is this?” he kept asking. “The whole system is breaking down!”

Then the pit-bullish feller started to eat out of Cosmo’s food bowl. Cosmotographer just lost it. They had a fight, and Coz held his own. Anyway, the Fair Jessica broke it all up and everything worked out fine. But for Cosmo, this was proof that his years of front-porch vigilance were entirely justified. No unwelcome dog had breached the perimeter in nearly a decade and then, all of a sudden, like that bright morning in Red Dawn when the Soviets dropped from the sky, Everything Changed. Worse, he discovered that his own mother is a security liability.

Again, you never know how different tomorrow will be from today.

Keep Your Eyes Peeled!

A preview of my big lead essay in Commentary is allegedly going to go up on their website early in the next couple days. I expect it will cause quite a fuss.

 

Rise of the Bike Path Left

Loading...

Dear Reader (and those of you who go by far more conventional and less pretentious first names),

As you’re reading this, I’m probably landing in Cincinnati, where I’ll be speaking at a Tax Day tea-party event. At least as of now, I have no regrets in agreeing to be the keynoter for this thing, but I will confess that I didn’t quite think it through when I said yes. And now that my speech is fast approaching, I’m pretty nervous about it. It will be the biggest audience I’ve ever spoken to, by far. Up to 13,000 people will be there. That’s roughly 11,000 to 12,000 more than the biggest audience I ever spoke to until today.

I’m not nervous so much about the substance – though I’m still working all that out – as I am about the mechanics of it. Sound works differently with crowds that big. I have a habit, for good or for ill, of testing whether an audience is listening by telling jokes, often as random sarcastic asides. My friend Michael Graham, who in his comedy days spoke to Ben Hur-chariot-race-size audiences, says that I need to use short declarative sentences because parenthetical asides don’t work well. This is bad news for me, because I’m all about parenthetical asides (“For the first time in living memory, I’ve got to agree with you there” – The Couch).

Anyway, it will be an interesting challenge, and if you have any suggestions for what I should talk about (they want something related to my book, which could be dicey given the need for short declarative sentences), I’m all ears (actually, ears make up a really tiny percentage of my anatomy, but you get the point (oh, man, am I in trouble)).

Some pithy declarative statements I’ve already ruled out:

Trieste belongs to the Italians!

Get these squirrels off of me!

You, with the mullet: Looking good!

Fifty-four forty or fight!

I’m going to talk to you tonight about the David Frum controversy…

Did you ever see the Seinfeld when…

Let’s give Barack Obama the benefit of the doubt!

Rise of the Bike Path Left

One of Mark Steyn’s greatest essays, in my humble opinion, was on Howard Dean and the “Bike-Path Left.” It came to mind after reading this:

WASHINGTON – Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, a weekend bicyclist, might consider keeping his head down and his helmet on. A backlash is brewing over his new bicycling policy.

LaHood says the government is going to give bicycling – and walking, too – the same importance as automobiles in transportation planning and the selection of projects for federal money. The former Republican congressman quietly announced the “sea change” in transportation policy last month.

“This is the end of favoring motorized transportation at the expense of non-motorized,” he wrote in his government blog.

The blog was accompanied by a DOT policy statement urging states and transportation agencies to treat “walking and bicycling as equals with other transportation modes.” It recommends, among other things, including biking and walking lanes on bridges and clearing snow from bike paths.

The new policy is a natural extension of the Obama administration’s livability initiative, which regards the creation of alternatives to driving – buses, streetcars, trolleys and trains, as well as biking and walking – as central to solving the nation’s transportation woes.

I find this hilarious, for it takes liberal muddled thinking on equality and applies it to, of all things, transportation modes. Sure, in some categorical or taxonomical sense all modes of transportation are equal in their status as, uh, modes of transportation. But they are not the same. If you cut your hand off in a band saw accident, you will want to be transported to the hospital via some kind of modern, motorized transport. You will not say, “No, no, let’s take the bike lane! All transportation modes are equal!”

Maybe I’m over-reading this, but it seems to me that this is one of the more egregious examples of what’s wrong with Big Government. The Department of Transportation – which barely deserves to exist – was created to fold together such regulatory agencies as the FAA and the Federal Highway Commission. Now, because it has the word “transportation” in its title, it sees fit to tackle lifestyle issues revolving around cycling and ambulation as part of the federal government’s self-declared mandate to improve “livability.”

President Obama defended his health-insurance mandate on the grounds that the government can tell people to buy car insurance, so it should be able to force people to buy health insurance as well. The analogy doesn’t work for a number of reasons, but the chief one is that humans aren’t cars. Now a cabinet agency seems to be moving in the direction of saying that their mandate covers human movement qua movement, up to and including walking. Get off your couch and the DOT has a plan for you.

Rage, Rage Against the Dying of the Right

Unless you missed the slew of posts and articles by me of late, you probably know that I think rumors of conservatism’s death, intellectual and otherwise, are greatly exaggerated.

And yet it seems like this meme (Lord, I hate that word) is spreading despite my best efforts. I’m not going to dwell much on it here. But one argument I keep running into is a version of Tanenhaus’s bizzaro view of William F. Buckley as a sort of ombudsman of liberalism, eager to point out mistakes and excesses but ultimately dedicated to making liberalism better rather than actually replacing it with something else. I think you know that I find this as persuasive as arguing that my cat is a missile silo because vests have no sleeves.

Still, I’m constantly running into people because I’m not looking where I’m going. But that’s not important right now. More relevant is that I’m constantly encountering people either at a safe walking speed or by e-mail, or from audience Q & A’s, who insist that Bill Buckley wasn’t really all that conservative and, unlike today’s bomb-throwers, was eminently reasonable. Now, I think Bill was often eminently reasonable, even when I may have disagreed with him, but that doesn’t stop me from asking these people a question. Here’s how it usually goes:

Scolding Liberal: You whackjobs today are so crazy and bombastic. What would poor, polite Bill Buckley think if he was alive to see you schmucks today?

Me: Wait? Which Bill Buckley are we talking about? Is it the one who argued that all HIV-positive people should be tattooed both on their upper arms and on their butts? I don’t think the butt-tat had to say “Abandon all hope ye who enter here,” but that was sort of the point. That Bill Buckley?

It’s always a blast to watch their faces.

Media Update:

I will be on Sean Hannity tonight before the speech in Cincinnati (“Good Lord, I hope not, you’ll crush him!” — The Couch). Also, I should be interviewed by Glenn Reynolds for PJTV, which will be covering the whole thing.

Parent-Teacher Conference Day

The Fair Jessica is out of town on a secret work mission (more on that someday), so she has to miss my daughter’s parent-teacher conference. Normally we go together, of course. But I’m kind of looking forward to going solo. Jessica is usually a big restraint on my rhetorical excesses in such meetings. For example, she’ll gently tap my arm to shush me when I start demanding that all the boys in Lucy’s first-grade class be brought to me in chains for my interrogation. Oh, just to be clear, nobody’s been accused of picking on Lucy (she’s pretty tough and can handle herself). I just think it’s worth doing this sort of thing on spec. You can never be too careful.

It’s sort of like one of my favorite Russian sayings: “If you see a Bulgarian in the street, beat him. He will know why.”

So anyway, I’m off. 

Taxes, Taxes, Taxes

Loading...

Dear Reader (including those of you starting to complain about this parenthetical gimmick),

I’m writing this in the lobby of the W Hotel in Minneapolis. Like most W hotels, the lounge area looks like it should be filled with platinum-blonde floozies snorting lines of coke off the glass-top tables while stoic Russian arms dealers ignore them so they can better hear the caller on their cell phone telling them that Jack Bauer intercepted the cargo. Like most W hotels, it’s actually filled with awkward traveling businessmen trying to figure out how to get Best Buy to carry more of their toner cartridges and beleaguered housewives trying to keep their kids from climbing all over the oddly tasseled, gothic furniture. Of course, the fact that I’m writing this at 8:30 in the morning probably has something to do with the lack of floozies and Russian mobsters, but you get the point.

Taxes, Taxes, Taxes

So I wrote this piece on taxes and tyranny for USA Today this week. In the course of researching the column, I went back and looked at newspaper coverage of the income-tax debates in the late 19th century and again around the time of the 13th amendment’s passage. It was a really interesting exercise for a bunch of reasons, even if I didn’t end up using that stuff. For starters, it was neat to discover that the Washington Post considered the income tax an “odious measure” in 1894. I was also intriguing to discover that, at least according to some foes of the income tax, it was in part an attempt by the South to shake down the North. Here’s what Senator Smith (oddly, the Post doesn’t say what Smith’s first name or his state was in the article, and I don’t have time to look it up because I’m heading to a plane) said on the Senate floor in 1894:

The income tax is especially unjust, because, as openly confessed by the Southern members of Congress, and it is upon this ground that they favor it, nearly the whole burden will fall upon the Northern States, while those that were in rebellion will escape its provisions. In thus combining to unjustly tax the North the Southern Congressmen are at least consistent with their traditions and prejudices. Their allies from the North are demagogues, pure and simple, in that they affect to protect the common people by a wickedly oppressive measure directed against another class of citizens. Such hypocrisy is rarely rewarded by temporary benefit even, and in this case the disguise is too transparent to deceive any but fools, or meet the approval of any but knaves.

More interesting, however, was how one of the major arguments against the income tax at the time was its grotesque violation of privacy. You still hear criticism about the “intrusiveness” of the tax code, but that usually has an economic connotation to it, as if the only problem is the inefficient burden of compliance and not the violation itself.

The other week, I wrote in the G-File and in my column about how overblown the hysteria over the Patriot Act was. The ACLU and all of the other usual suspects insisted that “sneak-and-peak” warrants were an unholy invasion of our privacy, even though the FBI needed a FISA court warrant to conduct them. Meanwhile, every American who files an income-tax return, or at least those who itemize, must account for their travel, their purchases, their place of work, most of their habits, and so on, and nobody thinks anything of it.

I’m not going to bust out the slippery-slope or boiling-frog metaphors (though, for the record, the boil-the-frog-slowly story isn’t true). But this is really a profound point (“If you do say so yourself . . .” – The Couch). When the income tax was first introduced, it applied to only a tiny fraction of Americans. Today, the share of Americans paying income taxes is still small in percentage terms, but in absolute numbers it’s huge. I could look it up, but I have to keep typing. Take my word for it.

So, imagine that for the last 200 years we’d been paying for government some other way — a sales tax or a super-property tax or some vast Gulag Archipelago of Abu Ghraibs where we forced Leprachauns to give us their gold — and then along came a politician proposing that millions of Americans should have to open up their lives to the income tax. There would be a huge outcry. But we’ve grown acclimated to these petty intrusions.

It makes me read this passage from Mark Steyn with increasing dread:

Every time I retail the latest indignity imposed upon the “citizen” by some or other Continental apparatchik, I receive e-mails from the heartland pointing out, with much reference to the Second Amendment, that it couldn’t happen here because Americans aren’t Euro-weenies. But nor were Euro-weenies once upon a time. Hayek’s greatest insight in The Road to Serfdom is psychological: “There is one aspect of the change in moral values brought about by the advance of collectivism which at the present time provides special food for thought,” he wrote with an immigrant’s eye on the Britain of 1944. “It is that the virtues which are held less and less in esteem and which consequently become rarer are precisely those on which the British people justly prided themselves and in which they were generally agreed to excel. The virtues possessed by Anglo-Saxons in a higher degree than most other people, excepting only a few of the smaller nations, like the Swiss and the Dutch, were independence and self-reliance, individual initiative and local responsibility, the successful reliance on voluntary activity, noninterference with one’s neighbor and tolerance of the different and queer, respect for custom and tradition, and a healthy suspicion of power and authority.”

Two-thirds of a century on, almost every item on the list has been abandoned, from “independence and self-reliance” (40 percent of people receive state handouts) to “a healthy suspicion of power and authority” – the reflex response now to almost any passing inconvenience is to demand the government “do something,” the cost to individual liberty be damned. American exceptionalism would have to be awfully exceptional to suffer a similar expansion of government and not witness, in enough of the populace, the same descent into dependency and fatalism. As Europe demonstrates, a determined state can change the character of a people in the space of a generation or two. Look at what the Great Society did to the black family and imagine it applied to the general population: That’s what happened in Britain.

Why I’m Not a Politician, Part 576,992,004

I suspect I could do better than either Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama when it comes to explaining my limited sports knowledge. I did actually follow baseball and football in my youth and can plausibly name my favorite players from my favorite teams (I still remember exactly where I was when Thurman Munson died). The thing is, because I’m not a people-pleasing politician, I don’t have to fake it. Barack Obama has no such luxury.

TV Update

So I started the pilot of Caprica and was immediately underwhelmed, but I’ll finish the show and watch a couple others because readers keep asking me to. Still, starting out with a virtual-reality, holodeck-y kind of theme was not encouraging.

Meanwhile, I’m a couple episodes into season three of Breaking Bad and I love it as much as ever. There are few shows with such deliberately slow pacing that can be as captivating. Since The Wire and The Sopranos are gone, I think I have to say that Breaking Bad is the best show on television, followed closely by Minute to Win It.

I kid, I kid. In case you didn’t know, Minute to Win It is a silly but oddly compelling TV show where contestants have to complete silly challenges in less than sixty seconds. It’s hosted by Guy Fieri, who hosts like five shows on the Food Network, including one of my favorites, Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. Fieri is kind of like the Glenn Beck of food shows: wild, crazy (in a good way), and compellingly watchable. But here are some things that confuse me. His last name is spelled “Fieri,” but I could swear he pronounces it “Fee-ett-ee.” Moreover, despite that Italian last name and frequent references to his Italian heritage, his profile on Chefography reveals that he grew up eating hippy food and his only European influences came from living in France. Curious.

Thanks

Thanks to everyone who showed up in Madison and Minneapolis this week. It always helps to have ringers in the audience.

Here are the details for the Tax Day Tea Party event I’m speaking at next week.

Oh, and mark your calendars now: I’ll be speaking at Knox College on May 4.

Gotta Go

If you ever read William F. Buckley’s Overdrive, you know that no pundit will ever match WFB’s crazed work ethic and schedule. But I had a pretty good mini-overdrive this week. Monday, I woke up early and started my LATcolumn. I flew to Madison, got picked up at the airport, and was driven to the Sheraton. While there, I finished my LAT column, finished off my USATcolumn (written over the weekend), wrote my speech, did a radio interview, and threw a few things up in the Corner. Then went to dinner with Wisconsin Senate candidate David Westlake, among others. I gave my speech and went to the Great Dane Pub afterwards for some beers. In the morning, I wrote this for the Enterprise Blog and dashed off a few more things for the Corner. Worked on the galleys of my 4,000-word piece for the next issue of Commentary. Got in the car and drove (was driven) for about five hours, in driving rain, to Minneapolis. Showered, ran out the door, and gave a different speech. Went out afterwards to Stub and Herb’s for drinks with NRO readers and others. In the morning, was woken up by a call for a radio-show interview I forgot I agreed to, to promote the upcoming Cincinnati gig. Then, more Corner entries, more work on galley, first attempt at writing lame G-File. Then off to the airport. Flight schedule was all messed up, so I got on the earliest flight I could to Philly. Barely made plane. Finished line edits to Commentary galley on my iPhone because the seat was too small for laptop work. In Philly, my layover was like four hours, and my wife insisted I had to get home for my daughter’s planned birthday party for our cat. While trying to figure out what to do, I bumped into the husband of my serious college girlfriend. We chatted for ten minutes. Then I grabbed a cab to the train station and got on the Acela. Took the train to DC, where the line for a cab was a hundred people deep at rush hour, so I took the Metro to National Airport and picked up my car. Drove home in time for cat birthday party. Got party hat on cat, trapped in bathroom.

Went to bed, woke up. Finished still-lame G-File. Now I just need to write my syndicated column and then pick up Lucy early from school so I can take her with me to a Heritage Foundation conference in Florida where I’m giving a speech.

See ya next week. 

A Time for Frivolity, Laughter, Pranks, and Jocularity

Loading...

Dear Reader (and those of you who just like to go with your instincts),

Okay, so yesterday I was in an absolutely foul mood and could only muster earnestness for the G-File.  

Then this morning I realized it was April Fool’s Day. No this isn’t a holiday commemorating the birth of Keith Olbermann, but that’s a good guess. It’s not even a holiday. But it is a time for frivolity, laughter, pranks, and jocularity — the perfect pose for lulling your enemies into a false sense of security and then crushing them over the back of the head with an old IBM Selectric typewriter.

Anyway, this is not the April Fool’s G-File I would have written had I realized that I was writing for April Fool’s Day. That G-File would have been awesome, with lasers and guinea pigs dressed like battle-ready orcs and lurid tales of Jeffrey Toobin’s dark and twisted nature. Stronger than dirt, faster than a rolling O, and more impressive than an army of Flintstone kids, 10 million strong and growing, it would have satisfied all of your desires and rekindled your confidence in mankind. The only potential downside is that you would have had to call the doctor if your erection lasted more than four hours, which could have been extremely embarrassing for my female readers.

Instead, you get this. Make sure you read through to the end for some treats and announcements.

A friend of mine likes to say that everything these days is a footnote to Liberal Fascism. I don’t think that’s actually true, but I like to hear it nonetheless. Still, I must say, if I wanted to spend my days blogging I-told-you-so’s and “That’s in my book!” posts, I could quite easily. Our president, who ran as a secular redeemer and has governed as a classic Potemkin Pragmatist, continues to embrace, personify, manifest, and prove themes and arguments from my book.

I just wrote a column about the fraudulent and/or absurd hysteria over the mini-Kristallnacht Frank Rich and Jon Avlon see unfolding before our eyes. It shouldn’t be necessary to point out that resistance – even stupid resistance – to a giant expansion of the federal government is not akin in any meaningful way to the horrific crime of the National Socialists crushing the Jews and paving the way to the Final Solution.

But, apparently, it is necessary.

If there is a similarity to the events in Nazi Germany in all of this, it is in the attempt to create an “internal enemy” in order to delegitimize and demonize internal opposition. While these hoaxes, distortions, and exaggerations do sometimes have a vaguely Reichstag Fire smoky flavor to them, I don’t think they’re comparable in any morally serious or historically straightforward way to what happened in Germany. Nobody is planning a Holocaust here.

But it is perfectly consistent with, never mind similar to, what liberals have been doing for more than half a century now. In 1944, FDR said that if we didn’t bring socialism (or, if you prefer, social democracy) to America – guaranteed jobs, homes, healthcare, etc. — we would be caving into the “spirit of fascism” here at home. Heck, if America merely went back to the “normalcy” of the 1920s, FDR insisted, we would become a fascist country. Note: The “return to normalcy” of the 1920s was intended as a break with the state-run propaganda, socialism, internal oppression, and war of the late Wilson administration (in which FDR worked). But according to FDR, returning to a time of democracy, economic growth, and limited government – that would be “yielding to the spirit of fascism.” I’m not saying the 1920s were perfect – I mean, Prohibition ain’t my bag – but come on.

Since then, liberalism has never stopped trying to delegitimize any conservatism that could compete for the hearts and minds of the American people. This is a crucial point. Lots of liberals love conservatives who acquiesce to the liberal program – the tinker-around-the-edges crowd – and lots of liberals love conservatives who have no chance of ever gaining power or influencing people. Is it any wonder that Pat Buchanan is so beloved at MSNBC or that Albert Jay Nock is a cult hero to liberals? In the late 1990s, “neoconservative” was code among liberals for the good, the nice, the harmless conservatives. Then, when Bush turned to a lot of neocons, they became those war-mongering bagel-snarfers we heard so much about.

Truman insisted that a vote for Dewey was a vote for “Hitlerism.” LBJ said that a vote for Goldwater was a vote for “hate.” The Contract with America was worse than Hitler’s program according to Charlie Rangel. In the 1990s and again last year, angry white men were going to tear the country down. And now opposition to socialized medicine is racist and scary.

What’s particularly amazing is what a transparent stunt this racist canard is. With the help of the press, the Democrats tried to turn the health-care vote into a replay of the Civil Rights struggle. A bunch of black congressmen deliberately walked through a legitimately angry crowd of protestors in the hope that it would seem brave and maybe even set off an incident. I mean, it’s not like they had to walk through the crowd. When they didn’t get the drama they wanted, they simply lied. About being called “N***er,” about being spit on, etc. The press instantaneously bought it, either because it confirmed what they already believed or because it helped change the health-care story to one they liked more: evil, racist Republicans!

Journalists love to say things like “If your mother says she loves you, check it out,” to prove that they’re such hard-bitten skeptics. They claim that their mission is to “afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted” (funny, I thought their mission was to tell the truth about what’s going on).

And yet, every time the Democratic party decides to play the race card, to shout racism, to launch another “brown scare,” they dutifully get in line.

I find that disgusting, but I’m used to it. What I find hard to get used to is the way so many conservatives believe this crap when they hear it.

Gregalogue Classic

This is a good moment to revisit this Gregalogue classic on the media’s effort to disseminate Democratic spin.

Work That Core

Via Jim Geraghty’s “Morning Jolt” – It Comes Out Every Day So It’s Gotta Be Good! – I found this quote from the AP: “President Barack Obama says he believes the Tea Party is built around a ‘core group’ of people who question whether he is a U.S. citizen and believe he is a socialist. But beyond that, Obama tells NBC he recognizes the movement involves ‘folks who have legitimate concerns’ about the national debt and whether the government is taking on too many difficult issues simultaneously.”

Of course, as Jim notes, the tea-party movement isn’t the birther movement – that’s just another variation on the age-old strategy of delegitimizing conservatives. But just for the record, Jeremiah Wright is part of a “core group” of people who think black brains like different kinds of music than white brains and that the U.S. government invented HIV to wipe out black folks. Who is a bigger nutter/conspiracy theorist, the typical birther or Jeremiah Wright? Association with the tea-party movement is supposed to be disqualifying in some way. Having Jeremiah Wright as your pastor and mentor not only is fine, but pointing it out is proof of racism. Sigh.

Speaking Gigs The details on upcoming ones:

April 5: University of Wisconsin, 7pm-8pm.

Hosted by Collegians For A Constructive Tomorrow

The Pres House, 731 State Street, Madison, WI

April 6: University of Minnesota, 7PM

Room 125, Wiley Hall (attached to the law school, near pay parking lot)

Also, on April 15 I’ll be speaking at a Tea Party event in Cincinnati; details to come.

Sorry for the Subpar Jocularity

I’m in a foul mood this week, and I’m taking it out on you. If it helps, my desperate plea for your money makes with the wocka-wocka (as Fozzie Bear might say).

In order to make up for it, I’m going to wait outside Jim Geraghty’s house with a video camera and throw a football at his crotch (simulation here).

While I’m setting that up, here’s a list of Debby’s Odd Links not yet posted in the Corner!

Top 100 April Fools Pranks and Gadgets.

Do not tailgate. Related.

State police have charged a central Pennsylvania man with public drunkenness after he was seen trying to resuscitate a dead opossum along a highway.

Ten Crazy Medical Inventions That (Thankfully) Never Caught On.

A 3-D reconstruction of the apartment buildings of the Roman Empire.

Awesome Food Landscape Photography, and more.

Shark-bitten crocodile poop fossils found. Sort of related: Giant meat-eating plants prefer to eat tree-shrew poo.

Chandelier of the day.

Breathable coffee. And here’s a car that runs on coffee.

RearGear, the fashion accessory for your dog’s butt. Also, A Squirrel’s Guide to Fashion.