California Dreamin’

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Dear Reader (and those of you mandated under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 to have an SEIU-member nurse read this to you),

I know, I know. I don’t want to pay for it either. But sometimes you just have to take a beating, dust yourself off, and get back into the fight.

Not me, of course. I for one welcome our new bureaucratic overlords. I can be helpful explaining the forms to the proletariat and informing our leaders where subscribers to this newsletter — healthcare kulaks, let’s call them — are hiding their unearned wealth.

I’m not going to spend a lot of time on the PPACA (a term which, when pronounced phonetically, sounds a bit like a person struggling to scream “There’s an alpaca sitting on my face!”), because I have little new to add. But one thing did occur to me (and I think I’ll be making this point in Friday’s column, so don’t give me grief about the repetition). A reader who likes to do the Internet equivalent of sticking metal forks into wall sockets was reading the comment section on my L.A. Times column. I don’t really recommend this for most of you, though at the same time it’d be nice if I had a few more defenders in there. Anyway, here’s a snippet of a commenter from L.A.:

Why can’t Mr. Goldberg get his mind out of the toilet and take a positive look at this? Is he a fool? I hardly think so. Is he a prisoner of his own ideology? That’s closer to the mark, but unfortunately he’s one of those famous people (per Tommy LaSorda) who “buy ink by the gallon.”

The reader who sent me this wanted to note how in L.A. people confuse Tommy LaSorda for Mark Twain. But I have a different point to make. A lot of people on the left cannot come to grips with the conservative “overreaction” to Obamacare. I don’t think it’s an overreaction, and I can help liberals understand what’s happening. Just consider the Patriot Act. Here was a law that affected a teeny-weeny number of people. Almost all of the horrible things it did never happened. Remember all that teeth-gnashing about searched libraries? Totally bogus.

And yet, people all over the country got their dresses over their heads about the Patriot Act. Why? Well, I would argue partly out of addlepated paranoia, ignorance, and Bush hatred. They would argue it was out of deep-seated principle. Let’s compromise and say that for many, it was both, and for a few, it was all about principle.

Well, opposition to PPACA seems vastly more rational to me. By its very design it affects everyone. It costs them money. It will cost them freedom. It will cost our country money, medical innovation, and mounds of debt. It involves far, far more government intrusion into our lives than the Patriot Act. And yet, many of the same people who considered the Patriot Act an American Nuremburg Law think this is one of the greatest moments in American history.

California Dreamin’

I’m writing this from California, where I’ve spent much of the last week pricing calf implants. Just kidding. And I wasn’t out here “going Galt” either, though it was tempting. Instead, I’ve spent most of the week playing with my daughter. I apologize for my light Corner presence, but, if it helps, Lucy and I had a great time going Galt at Six Flags Magic Mountain. We rode the Colossus four times.

I’d make a sick joke about how that sounds like something Tiger Woods paid extra for, but this is the family portion of this “news”letter.

(Oh, before you offer suggestions for other activities, I’ll be on a plane home when you read this.)

Here are some minor observations from my time out here:

I’ve seen fewer hybrid cars here in L.A. than I do in Washington.

Tattoos are completely mainstream.

I took my daughter to a freak show at Venice Beach. No really, there’s an actual, literal, carnival-style freak show at Venice Beach, complete with sword-swallowing, two-headed turtles, etc. Attending a freak show within the confines of Venice Beach felt a bit like going to an Olive Garden in Italy. You go into an establishment ostensibly dedicated to the theme outside its doors but which should be that less authentic than its surroundings. Or maybe it’s more like renting a pay-per-view porn movie at a brothel. Regardless, I felt a heck of a lot more comfortable watching a dude hammer a giant nail into his septum than I did strolling past the skeeves.

But the most intriguing thing I discovered was in the men’s rooms at Six Flags. It seems that kids today think it’s vital to claim a small slice of immortality by carving their initials, graffiti tags, or girlfriend’s names into the toilet seats at amusement parks.

I find this fascinating.

Now, keep in mind that there are metal detectors at the gate, so you can’t come in with knives or any other cutting device. This means, I suspect, that boys and young “men” are using car keys to carve their names and whatnot into the hard plastic seats at a place crawling with teenagers in Bugs Bunny costumes. I’d guess that it takes a good deal of time to grind your name into a hard plastic seat — maybe 20 minutes to a half hour. To do so, even for a relatively short kid, would mean bending over, possibly putting your knees on the wet floor of the crapper, and working at this task for a good long while.

No girl will ever see these territorial markings, only males.  Given the traffic patterns of these bathrooms, you will have to work through a lot of men and boys knocking on the stall door as you yell “Occupied!” while continuing to dig at the plastic butt-guard like Charles Bronson working the tunnels in The Great Escape.

What sort of self-esteem issues are involved here? I did some crazy, stupid, shameful stuff as a young man (“Why put a timeframe on it?” — The Couch). As President Bush likes to say, when I was young and irresponsible I was young and irresponsible. So I get the male imperative to do stupid things.

But never on my worst day did I ever feel that I needed the pride boost of saying F-you to conventional morality and bourgeois norms by spending half an hour scratching “Jonah Rules!” on an amusement-park toilet seat. Never on my best day did I feel like I had to let the world know that I’m the cock of the walk by scraping “JG Rocks” on the headpiece of the porcelain throne. I have endured the brain-melting power of adolescent love and the soul-filling satisfaction of true love. But I’ve never felt the need to immortalize that love by inscribing “Jonah Loves Jessica” in urine-brined plastic.

But that’s just me.

Last question: What are the odds Joe Biden has already carved his initials in the Oval Office bathroom seat?

Hey, wait . . . a . . . second. That L.A. Times commenter was right! I can’t get my head out of the toilet!

Youth, Terrible Youth

So my daughter and I have been talking about Scooby Doo a lot. She thinks the show, in all its myriad incarnations, is riveting. She will interrupt conversations with “Oh, Daddy, did you know . . .” and I will expect to hear about something from school or from her daily life, and she will commence to tell me something about Shaggy or Velma or Scooby.

The show has gone through a lot of changes over the years (the Wikipedia entry is disturbingly interesting; one of these days I must remember to carve it into a great chain of toilet seats). In case you didn’t know, the show now features real monsters and ghosts quite often. Not always, but often enough. For decades, the monsters weren’t real, merely the attempts of hucksters and con men. Now the makers of the show teach little kids that there really are vampires and witches.

At first, I thought this scandalous. I always thought the point of the show was to teach little kids not to be scared of things that go bump in the night.

But this is actually the least offensive thing about the show. Bear with me.

Recently, I caught the tail end of one of the newer episodes, and I was dismayed to discover that the perpetrator of the scary hoax was not the bad guy. He was something of an environmentalist/historic preservationist who wanted to keep some greedy corporate fat cats from developing some land. It seemed like something close to an endorsement of ecoterrorism.

Obviously, I was going to turn this revelation into an NR cover story. But as I pondered it, I thought more deeply about the original series. The show starts in 1969. The kids of Mystery Inc., who seem to have absolutely no parental supervision, are clearly counter-cultural. Freddie may not be gay, but he wears an ascot, and, for anyone under the age of 60, that alone is an invitation to a beating. And given that the show was launched in 1969, he may just be dressing that way to duck the draft. (Indeed, why the heck aren’t Fred and Shaggy knee-deep in some rice paddy somewhere?) Velma, meanwhile, certainly looks like she runs a pottery shop in Burlington, Vt., if you know what I mean.

And Shaggy, well, he’s a filthy hippy who always has the munchies. ’Nuff said.

These spoiled, educated kids seem to have enough money to drive their van all around the country (again, perhaps to stay one step ahead of the draft board). As my daughter says, “They’re always on vacation!” It reminds me a bit of the Port Huron Statement’s opening line: “We are people of this generation, bred in at least modest comfort . . . looking uncomfortably to the world we inherit.”

Wherever they go, they are told about something scary. They refuse to take the word of their elders, and opt to investigate. Lo and behold, they discover that the local taboos are not true, but are in fact useful myths designed to protect the financial interests of the landholding ruling class and the property of disgruntled heirs seeking to maintain control of unearned intergenerational wealth. These hoaxes would have worked, were it not for these “meddling kids” who refused to know their place.

It’s like “Hanna Barbara” is really Charles Beard’s pen name.

G. K. Chesterton would have recognized the agenda here: to teach kids they should reflexively overturn received wisdom in a fit of misplaced hyper-rationalism.

Cue: Wild in the Streets trailer.

 

How Progressivism Works

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Dear Readers (and those of you who can barely hear it being read through the covers as you go snorkeling with Eric Massa),

I’m writing this on Wednesday morning. By the time many of you read this, I will be in California and all of us may well have been “deemed” to live in a different country than the one we knew. I am not referring to the fact that we will live in a “Deemocracy” and all that, because, frankly, I’m far less appalled by the Deem-and-Pass process than I am by the Deem-and-Force substance.

If Obamacare passes we will have permanently transformed the relationship between the state and the citizen. Even if it is repealed down the road, in whole or in part, the idea that such a thing can be done will serve as a permanent precedent. Like a poorly broken-in baseball glove, no matter what we do, the originally impression will endure. Or you can think of it this way: Some things can never be fully taken back. If you hit your wife, or cheat on her, or if she catches you peeing in the kitchen sink, no matter how nice and respectful you are after ever after, things will never be the same. So it is with health-care reform.

Lots of liberals think this sort of rhetoric – “rhetoric” being a sly word intended to mean “unserious, irrational blather” – is bizarre and paranoid, except when they spout it themselves (see Douthat for more). This is just one of the countless ironies of progressive politics these days: When talking to the base, Obama and the Dems insist that Obamacare would be transformational, the greatest progressive victory in a generation, the fulfillment of a century-long dream to take care of everyone, that it would make this the best yearbook ever and finally extend the franchise to kittens and puppies. Yet when conservatives take them at their word, we are deranged militia-men gibbons, hysterically beating our chests and freaking out over a piece of luggage.

Forget the double-counting of Medicare cuts, the White House is triple-counting its own signature achievements. It wants to put Obamacare in the win column with the Left and the win column with moderates, and also use it to discredit the Right.

How Progressivism Works

When giving talks about my book (now in its 20th hardcover printing!) – i.e., when I’m taking old hickory to the progressives — I’ll often get a question like, “You say the progressives were similar to fascists, but the progressives loved democracy! They expanded the franchise, pushed for the direct election of senators and expanded the referendum process.”

There are a lot of political complexities to that history (progressives joined up with populists, the direct election of senators was an end-run around local machine politics, etc.), but that’s all true. My answer to these sorts of questions is usually “Take a shower, you dirty hippy.”

No, no, just kidding.

My usual response to this is that the way to understand the continuity of progressivism throughout the 20th – and now 21st – century is that progressives or, if you prefer, the Left, always runs where the field is open. Its support for a specific tactic is always exactly that, tactical. When democracy works to your favor, celebrate democracy! When the voters turn against you, run crying to the courts. When the courts grow weary of your antics, support a strong executive. When that doesn’t work, burrow deep into the bureaucracy. Wherever there’s an opening to impose your vision, that’s where you carry the ball. That’s pretty much the history of progressivism in America for the last quarter-century. The Left loved the legislative branch during the Progressive era. Then they embraced a strong executive under Wilson, then Hoover, and, of course, under FDR. When the executive branch started proving less helpful, they ran to the courts. At each of these stages, progressives insisted that they were committed to these mechanisms of state power out of high-minded principle. And whenever these mechanisms lost their utility or fell into the hands of the enemy, they suddenly saw the downsides. It’s like a combatant who will use any weapon near to hand suddenly whining how unfair it is that his opponent got a hold of the nunchucks.

The late senator Alan Cranston had a great line during the Watergate hearings: “Those who tried to warn us back at the beginning of the New Deal of the dangers of one-man rule that lay ahead on the path we were taking toward strong, centralized government may not have been so wrong.”

Anyway, I bring all this up because I think Nancy Pelosi’s now-familiar promise to get the bill passed is a good synopsis of my point: “We will go through the gate. If the gate is closed, we will go over the fence. If the fence is too high, we will pole vault in. If that doesn’t work, we will parachute in. But we are going to get health-care reform passed for the American people.”

Now, keep in mind, that it seems not to have occurred to Pelosi that these “gates” and “fences” are not merely hypothetical obstacles, but real obstacles put there for good reason. Few people put up fences and gates for no reason. Usually, people who disregard locked fences and closed gates do so because they are trying to go some place they shouldn’t go. Most often, we call them “criminals.”

On the Gitmo Bar

Over the weekend Andy McCarthy and I had a little back-and-forth over the Gitmo Bar. Andy argued that some – some! – of the lawyers defending the Gitmo detainees are in fact supportive of al Qaeda. I took this to be a pretty outrageous charge. I could understand the argument that they are unwittingly or naïvely helping al Qaeda, but the idea that they’re consciously pro-al Qaeda seemed like a bridge too far. (Here, here, and here are the relevant links.)

Then came this op-ed by Debra Burlingame and Thomas Joscelyn in the Wall Street Journal, and I must say that Andy’s claims don’t seem nearly so far-fetched anymore. I’d still like to see more on all this before I completely sign on to his view, but if we’re going to apply the Duck Test (walks like a, talks like a) then it’s certainly true that we’re hearing some quacks from the Gitmo bar. And it may be necessary for me to eat some crow, when the ducks come home to roost.

(“Okay, that may be the single worst sentence you’ve ever written.” – The Couch)

While we’re on the subject. A lot of people on the left and, alas, on the right have been invoking John Adams’s defense of British soldiers after the Boston Massacre. I think the comparison is flawed in numerous ways, but I thought this post by Rick Brookhiser was brilliant, in part because he shows how it might be at least somewhat apt after all:

A Little Historical Perspective on the John Adams Comparison [Rick Brookhiser]

John Adams was part of his cousin Sam’s long-term revolutionary strategy. Sam wanted tension between Bostonians and the occupying British. When the tension exploded into American deaths, he exploited them to the hilt.

At the same time, he wanted to show that Americans were not barbarous savages, and could uphold a civilized legal system, so cousin John was dispatched to defend the Brits. (John was happy to do so, from his own sense of principle, and from his love of controversy and unpopularity.) The conclusion is to be inferred from a post-trial election to fill a vacant seat in the Massachusetts House of Representatives: John ran, with Sam’s backing, and won. (He wasn’t that unpopular.)

Sam’s goal: to undermine British power and to prepare Americans to set up their own parallel institutions.

Now, I don’t think the Gitmo bar is the tip of the spear in a subversive effort to prepare the way for a revolution. But I do think the subversive aspect is one that deserves a bit more attention.

Random Asides, Clarifications and Correckshuns Dogs playing in the snow! To borrow a line from Greg Gutfeld, if you can watch this without smiling you are worse than Hitler.

If you can look at this and still think cats are somehow truly competitive with dogs in the category of worthwhile animal, you need to put down the crack pipe.

It is obvious that House is more realistic than The Office, because Dr. House’s obnoxiousness earns him a punch in the face pretty regularly. Michael Scott almost never gets punched, and he often deserves it more.

Season three of Breaking Bad is coming, and I am very excited. But when is season three of Sons of Anarchy going to start?

Last week I said that the HBO series True Blood was on Showtime. It’s on HBO.

Behold the Power of the G-File! There is now an e-mail address TheSuits@nationalreview.com. G-File readers should use this e-mail address for all of their most important suggestions and complaints. (“Give Goldberg a raise!” “Make Lowry eat potted meat!”)

Many readers complained that, in the last G-File, I focused too much on romantic vampire movies instead of action and/or allegorical movies. What about Blade? Daybreakers? My short answer is: “Get a job you dirty hippy!” Again, I kid. I didn’t talk about the action movies because I didn’t have much to say and that’s not where vampire-philia is breaking out these days. As for the allegorical stuff like Daybreakers and a host of 90s movies that were basically about AIDS, well, I just didn’t have the energy.

Oh, and I have a request. So far the G-File seems to be catching on just fine. Lots of good feedback, increasing subscriptions, etc. No one has sent me a gift bag full of scotch and cash yet, but I can only assume that’s coming. But a couple people – literally a couple – have written me to complain bitterly that they don’t like the G-File and that they want me to remove them from the list.

Here’s my heartfelt response: I truly don’t give a rat’s ass. I ain’t getting paid anything extra to write this thing. The reason I agreed to revive the G-File is that I missed writing stuff the way I want to without worrying about appealing to a wide audience or the sweaty-toothed madman pounding on my brain. This thing is for old school – and newly recruited – flying monkeys only. Think of me like Dr. Johnny Fever in WKRP in Cincinnati – I finally have a chance to say “booger” on the air again.

Besides, this is a newsletter (admittedly with less actual news than there’s “real fruit juice” in Hawaiian Punch). Don’t like it? Don’t read it. Regret signing up for it? That sucks for you. Don’t like my attitude? Send an e-mail to TheSuits@nationalreview.com.

Okay, now that they’ve left the room: Booger, booger, booger.

The New Left Loves America!

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Dear Reader (and those of you who obsessively sculpted this column in your mashed potatoes at the dinner table),

I have a confession to make. Indiana wants me, and, Lord, I can’t go back there. But that’s not important right now.

My other confession: I like vampires. I like vampire movies and TV shows. Now, because I am not a 16-year-old girl, nor a 50-year-old housewife, nor a 26-year-old computer-programming Goth, nor a veteran of Eric Massa’s tickle fights, I don’t read much “vamp lit.” But I did see Twilight — on a plane — and I’ve come to like the True Blood series on Showtime, both vamp-lit spin-offs.

I’ve seen every episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel. I liked John Carpenter’s Vampires (the first one, not the sequel), although I hated John Carpenter’s Dracula 2000. I thought every scene with Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise in Interview with a Vampire was gayer than the volleyball scene in Top Gun (and we all know how gay that was) (careful: profanity warning). I’ve watched more episodes of Vampire Diaries than I care to admit, and I’m still a little ticked off that Kindred: The Embraced was cancelled.

I’ve even started listening to the band Vampire Weekend.

I can understand why John Miller wants the culture to move on to werewolves, Frankenstein, mummies, or whatnot, but I don’t think that’s likely. Vampires are better literary devices for, I think, obvious reasons. Werewolves are nice people who turn into mean animals. Mummies are zombies wrapped up in Ace bandages. Frankenstein is a DIY zombie with a slightly better operating system. (Note: Lord knows I’m not dissing Zombies. But two points need to be made on that score. Individual zombies are not particularly scary or interesting. For zombies to work cinematically, pretty much the whole word has to go zombie. Second, even then it’s not like there are a huge number of plot innovations for zombie-themed movies.) Meanwhile, vampires are smart and wise (thanks to their age) and they can have sex and so on. Oh, and they’re subversive: They live among us.

There’s just a lot more there to work with. You couldn’t make really good vampire movies (Near Dark, Let the Right One In, etc.) with mummies or werewolves.

But I do have a problem with the vampire mania sweeping pop culture. There’s something gross about it.

In Twilight, the romantic lead is Edward Cullen, who’s about 120 years old and falls in love with a 17-year-old girl.

In Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel was born in the 1700s, and he’s in love with Buffy, who’s 16 or so when the relationship starts.

In The Vampire Diaries, Stefan Salvatore is about 160 years old. His girlfriend seems to be about 17.

In True Blood, Bill Compton is roughly a century-and-a-half old, and he seduces a woman in her early twenties.

Anyone see a trend here?

Put True Blood aside, since it’s intended for adults. Imagine if the 17-year-old girls in Twilight, Buffy, or Vampire Diaries were being seduced by 65-year-old guys. That would be gross. But when the teenage girl is seduced by a guy two, three, four times as old, it’s like totally OMG super romantic. Why?

The explanation, according to the girls, seems to boil down to: because he’s good looking. Because he’s mature. Because he’s mysterious (“I’ve never met anyone like him!”). And because he’s at war with his urges.

The problem is that if you take away the good-looking part, you’re describing a run-of-the-mill dirty old man. If you keep the good-looking part, you’re describing a slightly younger but really, really sleazy dude who cruises high schools looking for jailbait.

Either way, I’m not sure it says anything good about the men and women who get too carried away with the “romance” of the vampire genre. Just try to imagine an old white guy in these roles: Phil Gramm going to the prom. Harry Byrd necking in the woods with a 17-year-old. Walter Cronkite sweeping a young damsel off her feet. All of these guys are a lot younger than the buff old men cruising the girls in these movies and TV shows. And if you think it’s different just because the super-old men look good, what does that say about you, or the culture? (“Don’t ask us, you’re the creepy nerd watching all these shows!” — The Couch.)

And that’s putting aside the question of whether vampires can even be good people. Even if you allow for personal growth, they’re all still murderers. Imagine your teenage daughter dating a forty-year-old with a serious criminal past. Now imagine she tries to defend him:

“He’s so sweet!”

“He’s so gentle!”

“He’s grown so much; he’s, like, super mature now. He’s not like he was when he killed all those nuns!”

And what does it say about a dude if he thinks, “Man if only I could get my brain inside the body of a buff teenager, I’d totally hit the high schools”?

The New Left Loves America!

Over the weekend, I posted a long response to David Brooks’ deeply flawed column comparing the Tea Parties to the New Left. I don’t have too much to add to what I said (though I think you should read Lee Harris’s essay up at The American — where I’m moonlighting these days).

But I thought some of the responses from lefties were interesting. A bunch of left-wing e-mailers insisted that the New Left was not anti-American. “How could it be anti-American if it worked so hard to make America better?” asked a couple readers.

I’ve always found this formulation fascinating. You hear it all the time, in hard and soft versions. Progressives aren’t anti-American; they’re pro-American, which is why they’re always trying to make it better, to realize the American dream. And so on.

Now, let me say I think this is undoubtedly sometimes — nay, often — true for a great many liberals and leftists. But it is not always true, now, is it? This argument has been used as a get-out-of-jail-free card for every leftist in American history. And that’s just idiotic.

Some of the leftists spying for the Soviet Union surely told themselves they were serving a higher patriotism, but that doesn’t mean they all loved America; it means that most were either lying or stupid.

In the case of the New Left, it really depends which New Left you’re talking about. Lee Harris is right when he notes that Brooks is wrong to conflate hippies and the New Left. Some New Lefties looked like hippies and some hippies were probably also New Leftists. But they’re hardly synonymous terms. Bill Ayers, who wishes he used more bombs, was a member of the New Left. I don’t think he loved America. Jane Fonda went to North Vietnam and allowed herself to be photographed with an enemy anti-aircraft gun while openly wishing she had American planes in her sights. She might tell herself she did such things out of misplaced love, but serious people need not credit such arguments. Serial killers often claim they love their victims, too.

I’m thinking of writing a column on this, so I want to keep some of my powder dry, but it seems to me that the desire to wholly transform America is not really an act of love. It is an act of self-love.

True Love

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Dear Reader (and the Mentat Thufir Hawat who deduced the contents of this email after an overdose of sapho juice),

Sorry, this is going to be a light G-File today. I’m here at a Veterinary Orthopedic and Sports Medicine facility, waiting for Cosmo the increasingly bionic wonderdog. He has what appears to be a bad Achilles tendon injury and I’m getting a second opinion on his options. Cosmo is sort of a canine version of Nick Nolte in North Dallas Forty these days, or maybe Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler; beaten and bruised, but his heart is as willing as ever. We’re hoping to avoid more surgery, in no small part because it would be cheaper merely to hire someone to carry Cosmo around on a velvet pillow like a canine pasha. The problem is that’s not what Cosmo wants to do. He wants to investigate crimes, check the credentials and bonafides of neighborhood intruders, ensure that squeaky toys never, ever come to life, and guarantee that bat-wolverine hybrids never plague northwest Washington.

It’s all terribly dispiriting. He’s very blue these days over his patrolling being severely curtailed. And, for good reason, he considers every vet’s office to be nothing less than an abattoir. He’s almost as miserable as he was at my daughter’s first birthday party a few years back.

But he’s still the best dog I know.

True Love

But enough of all that. On the drive here I listened to a story on the local NPR station about the legalization of gay marriage in D.C. I don’t have much energy to argue the pros and cons of the issue, but I did find NPR’s interview with a lesbian woman pretty hilarious. She and her partner (wife?) moved from New Jersey to D.C. so they could be legally married to one another. Fine, fine. If I were gay, I might do something like that, I guess. But what struck me as funny was the woman’s statement (quoting from memory) that she and her partner cared so much about getting married that “we were willing to sacrifice congressional representation.”

I hear these sorts of things all the time on local radio and TV, and, as someone who thinks D.C. statehood is one of America’s dumbest “major” issues, I always find it hilarious. I remember Jamie Raskin – then an American University law professor – explaining how he moved out of the district just so he could vote for federal legislators. He made it sound like this was a grave matter of conscience. (He’s now a state legislator himself, so my hunch at the time has been borne out: He wanted to get into politics, and D.C. wasn’t the place to do it.)

And then there was Jesse Jackson – back when he wanted to be a U.S. Senator on the cheap – who used to insist that D.C. statehood was America’s most pressing civil rights issue. As I’ve written before, this always struck me as a wonderful admission that America’s civil rights problems have been solved. It’s like a Secretary of Defense insisting that our most pressing national security problem is the threat posed by a potential Lithuanian invasion. If such are our most pressing problems, then we’ve got no problems to speak of. It’s like Warren Buffet saying his biggest financial problem is the lack of safes big enough for all his gold bars and diamonds.

Now, I admit I may be the odd one here. I’ve never had a congressman I liked, or even the opportunity to vote for anyone I liked who had the slightest chance of winning, although I guess Daniel Patrick Moynihan was pretty cool as my senator in my youth. But when I hear someone say that they love someone so much and are so desperate to get married that they’re willing to “sacrifice” their ability to vote for their congressional representatives (from New Jersey!), I don’t see it as a heart-wrenching expression of true love. Quitting your job, leaving your family, donating a kidney: that’s the stuff of true love. Giving up your ability to send Rodney Frelinghuysen back to Congress, meh, not so much. It reminds me more of Anthony Michael Hall in The Breakfast Club, explaining that he got a fake I.D. so he could vote.

Friedman Self-Parody Watch

Here’s the opening paragraph from his latest column:

I was traveling via Los Angeles International Airport – LAX – last week. Walking through its faded, cramped domestic terminal, I got the feeling of a place that once thought of itself as modern but has had one too many face-lifts and simply can’t hide the wrinkles anymore. In some ways, LAX is us. We are the United States of Deferred Maintenance. China is the People’s Republic of Deferred Gratification. They save, invest and build. We spend, borrow and patch.

This, of course, is pure Friedmanism. Here’s an excerpt from my mag piece on Friedman:

It’s telling that the beat Friedman covers most adroitly in his column is his own brain. The datelines are often from Shanghai or Cairo, but they should really be from his frontal lobe. As with the Nilekani story, Friedman thinks the real news is how he came up with his latest idea, his next burning insight on the world. These “eureka moments” – as he likes to call them – usually come in conversations with rich CEOs and high-ranking international cookie-pushers in places like Davos. For instance, in his January 31 column, Friedman writes: “‘Political instability’ was a phrase normally reserved for countries like Russia or Iran or Honduras. But now, an American businessman here remarked to me, ‘people ask me about “political instability” in the U.S. We’ve become unpredictable to the world.’“ And from there Friedman is back on autopilot, visiting the same argument he makes in just about every other column: China is beating America because China isn’t hobbled by a broken-down, outdated, inefficient political system known to its fans as “democracy.”

Friedman told The New Yorker that his analogizing instinct, which allows him to compare everything to anything and vice versa, is like a “pinball game going on in my head. Balls bouncing around.” The more apt metaphor would be a furnace. Every distinction, every objection to his vision for the world, every bit of countervailing evidence inconveniently popping up in reality simply melts away. He honestly believes that the year 2000 will be known as the first year of the Energy Climate Era: Jan. 1, 2000, really began 1 e.c.e. His panic that America can’t get important things done while the mandarins of Red China fiat utopia intensifies as Obama’s New Progressive Era retreats into a sad and strange historical parenthesis.

Anyway, the funny thing is that I was recently in LAX, too, and I had a somewhat similar epiphany. I started a column on the topic, but then thought better of it. Here’s the draft first paragraph:

I was traveling via Los Angeles International Airport – LAX – last week. Walking through its faded, cramped domestic terminal, I got the feeling of a place that once thought of itself as modern but has had one too many face-lifts and simply can’t hide the wrinkles anymore. In some ways, LAX is Tom Friedman. He is the columnist of recycled dross. His faded insights, dulled by constantly traversing the same territory, have left his prose like the worn-out carpeting at an airport departure gate. Ross Douthat is the New York Times columnist of deferred self-indulgence. He reads, reports and thinks. Friedman’s brain farts and he thinks it’s enlightenment. His mental toot is nearly always moot.

Probably for the best I never ran with it.

 

First a Word about Cocktail Parties

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Dear Reader (and those of you who only tune into this newsletter to see what the opening “Dear reader” gag will be),

One day, I hope to be so fabulously wealthy that I’ll be able to induce prominent personages into humiliating contests with irresistible bribes: “Garrison Keilor, if you can eat fifty hard boiled eggs, I will pay audiences younger than 70 to laugh at your jokes! Herr Olbermann, if you win, I will pay enough people to watch your show to to get you higher ratings than a midnight repeat of iCarly. Go! And don’t give me any of that guff about how ‘no man can eat fifty eggs.’ ”

Alas, I’m not there yet (thanks a bunch, laissez-faire capitalism). But, other than the egg-eating thing, one of the items on my to-do list is to write the definitive article on one of the single greatest influences on public intellectuals, pundits, et al., that almost never gets discussed: spouses.

But First a Word about Cocktail Parties

There’s a deeply cherished myth on both right and left that any political or ideological moderation by a writer can best be explained by a burning, yearning desire to attend cocktail parties, particularly in Georgetown.

In the case of NR, I’ve tried for years to explain to folks that whatever faults we might have in reasoning, facts, or motive, a desire to ingratiate ourselves with the D.C. social scene really isn’t one of them. The reasons for this are numerous, mostly having to do with our profound integrity, our unshakable commitment to principle, and stuff like that. But, at least speaking for myself, it also has to do with the fact that D.C. cocktail parties suck. Take a gander at the “high society” magazines in Washington — Capital Style, Capital File ,Filed Capital, whatever — and you’ll see a lot of people I would hate to waste a babysitter on just to have a drink with. If you want a sense of the coprophagic phylum that truly loves the D.C. cocktail circuit, you need only look at the White House-crashing Salahis.

And yet, to listen to some of my e-mailers from “real America,” there’s a soiree every night where all the popular kids gather ‘round David Gergen as he riffs on the knuckle-dragging jingos who run the GOP while Maureen Dowd titters about Dick Cheney’s testosterone poisoning. Moreover, we’re told that we inside-the-beltway types are constantly trying to merit an invite to such affairs by throwing conservatism under the bus.

Now, it may in fact be true that there are some marvelous moveable feasts flitting from one Georgetown salon to another, ones at which David “I Speak Jive” Broder mixes his trademark smoldering sexuality with his off-color, street-savvy wit to let fly some hilarious stories: “And so then I got up in Jesse Helms’s grill and said, ‘You wanna dance? ‘Cause if you wanna mix it up, all you got to do is step to me.’ Helms doesn’t do anything, so I say, ‘Sheeyut, that’s what I thought.’” But I never hear about them, nor would I intentionally write anything in order to make it more likely I’d get invited to one.

I do not reject the Unified Theory of Cocktail Parties entirely. There’s certainly a tendency for some conservatives to drift leftward, and some of that drift can almost surely be explained by a desire to sit with the cool kids in Washington or New York. But the UTCP is wildly overplayed analytically and rhetorically. It’s gotten to the point that Rich Lowry (praise be upon him) will start sarcastically shouting “Where’s my cocktail-party invite?” the moment he says something that might be disparaged as running-dog liberalism.

Back to Significant Others

The reason I bring all of this up is that I think in many cases the Unified Theory of Cocktail Parties pales in comparison to the General Law of Wives, which says that, all other things being equal, the ideological space between a male writer and his wife will shrink over time, with the husband moving the greater distance. Barring divorce, male writers cannot long maintain an independent orbit from their wives.

Note that although this is a rule about male columnists and similar professionals, I’m sure it has an analogue among female writers, not to mention humans generally (in fact, I keep a mental list on this score).

I’ve floated this argument to friends for years. You can’t completely understand where some columnists are coming from if you don’t know the role their spouses play. One reason I’ve never written about it is that it’s terribly bad form to “go after” someone’s wife or husband. Another reason is that it’s terribly difficult to prove, in no small part because the writer in question will almost never admit that he’s caving in to the missus.

My old boss Ben Wattenberg, who worked for LBJ, had a theory about why so many good anti-Communist liberals turned against the Vietnam War: They just couldn’t take the grief from their wives and daughters. He had a lot of anecdotes to back it up, too. I think the same thing applies to male columnists with wives who are not on the same ideological wavelength. If you’re a right-wing orthodontist, it’s really not that big a deal if your wife is very left-wing. You might get into fights at dinner parties and what-not, but it’s not like she’s going to harangue you for the way you fit a retainer in a ten-year-old’s mouth. But if you’re wife is pro-choice and you’re pro-life and you write about abortion all the time, trust me, she’s going to wear you down eventually.

This is why some of the happiest male writers I know have wives who basically agree with them on the big questions. Which brings me to my own case. The Fair Jessica and I don’t see eye-to-eye on everything; she’s more conservative than me in some ways, less so in others. But it’s very rare that I’ll get serious flak for a substantive position I’ve taken. She will give me a hard time for being too nice or too mean to some writer or politician (and she doesn’t always approve of every manifestation of my, uh, jocular transparency about our home life), but such pressure usually takes the form of good-natured disagreement. Moreover, on the list of things she gives me spousal grief about, what I write ranks way, way below my slovenliness, my snoring, and other typical husbandly shortcomings.

Anyway, what got me on all of this was a tidbit from The New Yorker profile of Paul Krugman. I’d heard for years that one of the reasons Krugman has become so nasty and insufferable in his column (he was actually pretty enjoyable to read in the 1990s) is that his wife is far to his left and has pulled him into her orbit. Well, now Krugman has confirmed it. Here’s the relevant bit:

When he has a draft, he gives it to Wells to edit. Early on, she edited a lot – she had, they felt, a better sense than he did of how to communicate economics to the layperson. (She is also an economist – they met when she was a postdoc at M.I.T. and he was teaching there.) But he’s much better at that now, and these days she focuses on making him less dry, less abstract, angrier. Recently, he gave her a draft of an article he’d done for Rolling Stone. He had written, “As Obama tries to deal with the crisis, he will get no help from Republican leaders,” and after this she inserted the sentence “Worse yet, he’ll get obstruction and lies.” Where he had written that the stimulus bill would at best “mitigate the slump, not cure it,” she crossed out that phrase and substituted “somewhat soften the economic hardship that we face for the next few years.” Here and there, she suggested things for him to add. “This would be a good place to flesh out the vehement objections from the G.O.P. and bankers to nationalization,” she wrote on page 9. “Show us all their huffing and puffing before you dismiss it as nonsense in the following graf.”

On the rare occasion when they disagree about something, she will be the one urging him to be more outraged or recalcitrant. She pushed him to denounce the filibuster. She wanted him to be more stubborn in holding out for the public option in the health-care bill. He spent a few sleepless nights wrestling with his conscience about that but ultimately decided that a flawed bill was so much better than no bill at all that he had to support it. “You can get beaten down,” he says. “When Robin and I started writing about health care, single payer was clearly the way to go. And then bit by bit you start saying, ‘O.K., you take what you can get.’ There’s a trap I’ve seen some people fall into – you let your vision of what should be get completely taken over by what appears possible right now – and that’s something I’m trying to avoid.”

It seems fair to say that in the battle for Paul Krugman’s brain, his wife is winning.

Oh, and Cosmo insists that I ask readers to note the picture in the article. Not only do the Krugmans have cats, but they’ve given them pretentiously eggheady names.

Minor Announcements Speaking of Cosmo, some readers want updates. He’s had better years. He’s getting old and has a bad arthritis issue with one of his paws that’s causing him a lot of discomfort. Worse, my daughter’s cat, Gracie, is constantly getting into Cosmo’s dog bed. And since we’ve told Cosmo he’s not allowed to kill her (which he clearly would like to do), he doesn’t know how to deal with her in a proportionate manner.

Speaking of cats, I thought this story from the UK about animals who’ve received military awards was interesting. It seems carrier pigeons are in the lead (thanks to WWII), with dogs a close second, horses a distant third and a lone cat bringing up dead last.

I ventured over to CPAC last week. I gave some brief remarks for a panel. For those of you interested, here you go.

My apologies to readers who sent email to the address TheSuits@nationalreview.com. It seems that when they read over the draft of last week’s G-File, they didn’t take a hint and actually set up said email account. It is now up and running, so you should once again resume hectoring them. The plenary meeting of the subcommittee on Good Ideas that Must Be Stalled by Mental Mastication is still considering whether to offer my NRODT pieces to G-File readers. 

No Debby links today. Maybe next week. Instead, I will provide you with this old clip of Jack Fowler – publisher of NR – coming into the office on a Monday morning.

Friedman’s Folly

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Dear Reader (and those of you who won 10,000 quatloos betting you could guess the contents of this e-mail and another 50,000 quatloos you could disembowel the Andorian Thrall),

This has been a very rough week for me, so I’m just going to race through this like the IPCC through the facts (Bam! Wonk humor!).

I’m writing this from my new office at the American Enterprise Institute, which is very weird. Being back here as a recently minted 40-something is very odd. The closest thing I can compare it to is returning to your college as a professor. Everything is recognizable except your own role.

My favorite moment so far was when I had my Human Resources orientation. The head H.R. guy was out of the office that day, so I dealt with a perfectly nice, attractive young woman. She explained how to make long-distance calls, how to fill out various forms, this, that, and the other thing. Then she got to the sexual-harassment policy. She grew serious. We have a strict zero-tolerance-for-sexual-harassment policy, she explained. I nodded with grave understanding (while I thought back somewhat wistfully to my bachelor days here, 15 years and 60 pounds ago). Then she said to me very earnestly: “So you should contact me immediately if anyone makes you feel uncomfortable.”

Cue record scratch.

My internal monologue then went something like this:

Uh . . . wha? So you’re worried that someone here is going to want to get with this (I looked down at the deformed trunk of my body) so badly that they won’t take “No” for an answer?

Interesting!

Would it perhaps be the cast of Ninja Cheerleaders? Or perhaps the female market analysts at the Fox Business Network?

Alas, all I offered as an audible response was a loud, inexplicable guffaw.

Speaking of Inexplicable and Guffaws . . .

I can only assume you’ve seen the Andrew Sullivan robot? I try not to write about Sullivan, because he’s such a shameless whore for attention (and that’s just the first reason on a long list), but I think his avatar doppelganger is okay to mention.

Friedman’s Folly

I mentioned a couple weeks ago that I was working on a piece on Tom Friedman.

I just finished it. It was supposed to be short but got long (gimme a Michael Scott “that’s what she said!”).

It’s pretty G-File-ish for an NRODeadtree piece. There’s just something about that guy that makes the inside of my skull feel like sandpaper.

Hey, here’s an idea. The suits could bequeath subscribers of the G-File access to my dead-tree magazine pieces. Frankly I think this is the most brilliant idea I’ve had since I came up with the idea of heat-bottomed hover-cars to melt all of the snow on the streets, or even my paradigm-breaking insight that there’s no such thing as “too much” cheese in onion soup. All I ask, if you agree with me, is that you don’t e-mail me about it. Because it’s not my call. Hey, wait a second, that gives me another brilliant idea. We should have an e-mail address like TheSuits@nationalreview.com so whenever I have one of these brilliant ideas — “Give Goldberg a raise! Give Goldberg Lowry’s office! Give Goldberg the heat-bottomed hover-car we all know Ponnuru is building in his garage! Bring back the National Review Archives! And other Crazy Ideas!” – I can Jedi mind-trick you good people into harassing the suits!

Okay, what was I talking about?

“How you’re a giant dufus phoning it in yet again?” – The Couch.

Right . . . no, wait a second, that wasn’t it.

Oh right. Friedman.

As I note in my piece, the single best takedown of Friedman’s writing style was by Matt Taibbi in the New York Press a few years ago. I cover similar turf, but to make a different point.

Still, space didn’t permit me to dwell on the substance of Friedman’s jihad for a “Green Revolution” as much as I’d hoped. But there’s one point I think is worth making, so I’ll make it here. Or, to be more accurate, in the space below the word “here.”

It’s all crap!

Sorry, that’s too lowbrow. It’s all broken windows.

What do I mean by that? Well, if you stop interrupting, I’ll tell you.

During the “cash for clunkers” debate, a lot of writers, including this guy (yes, I’m pointing at myself with both of my thumbs), pointed out that the Democrats’ plan was just a variant of the parable of the broken window. As superwonks know, the broken-window fallacy is not to be confused with James Q. Wilson’s and George Keller’s justly vindicated broken windows theory.

Here’s how I explained it back then:

Bastiat’s essay is most famous for the “parable of the broken window,” in which a young boy shatters a shopkeeper’s window and, after some initial outrage, the villagers conclude that the rascal helped the local economy. Why?

Because if no one broke windows, window makers would be out of business, and if window makers were out of business, they wouldn’t buy any more bread or shoes, hurting the bakers and cobblers. So the six francs the shopkeeper must spend for a new window is really a boon to the community.

The problem with this argument can be gleaned from the title of Bastiat’s essay. By counting the money the shopkeeper spends to replace a perfectly good window (that which is seen), we ignore the money he might have spent on something else (that which is unseen). The shopkeeper might have instead dropped six francs on new shoes, a book, or a bonus for his assistant. Those who celebrate the broken window as a generator of growth take “no account of that which is not seen.”

Breaking a window doesn’t “create wealth,” it steals wealth from the owner of the window and redistributes it to window makers. (“Steals” is the right word, because the difference for the shopkeeper between having a vandal steal the window and having him break it is close to zero. Indeed, breaking the window is worse because it creates clean-up costs.)

Window makers might be great and good people, but it is a political, not an economic, decision to transfer wealth from shopkeepers to window makers. If I smash your hand with a ball-peen hammer, don’t get angry. I’m just doing it to transfer some of your wealth to emergency-room doctors and hand surgeons. Likewise, paying people to buy cars earlier than they need to doesn’t create wealth, it takes wealth from taxpayers and launders it as a voucher for automakers and dealers. That’s pure politics.

The same applies to much of Tom Friedman’s insipid quest to “green” the American economy. (When I am czar, using “green” as a verb will earn you six months clearing road kill from the highways in the outer southern provinces or three months cleaning bathrooms in Penn State fraternities.) Yes, yes, energy efficiency is good because energy is valuable. But yanking excess carbon molecules out of the air will not create wealth any more than announcing we’re going to start removing grains of sand from beaches will. Sand haulers might get richer, but society won’t. Now, carbon-scrubbing may or may not be necessary to fight global warming, but that makes it a cost, not a windfall.

Meanwhile, creating new green jobs to replace “dirty” jobs is just as silly. First of all, who says “green” is the opposite of “dirty”? Green stuff grows in dirt. Many things that turn green aren’t “clean”: gangrenous limbs, nauseous children on a bus trip to the world’s largest ball of twine, shrimp fried rice that you put in the fridge last June and then forgot about, teenage girls bitten by zombies — these things turn green, too, but I wouldn’t call them clean. And anyone who’s been near a Grateful Dead show knows that those damn dirty hippies are green, but they ain’t clean.

Anyway, to create a green job you need to eliminate a “dirty” job. Not dirty as in intern-wrangler-at-the-Clinton-ranch dirty, but dirty as in coal mining or oil-rig, uh, rigging. According to Friedman & Co. these jobs will be better paying and more high-tech. Well, a lot of green jobs so far tend to be light-bulb switchers and insulation installers. Not only are these one-time jobs, they don’t — and shouldn’t — pay very well. Meanwhile, the oil industry is one of the highest-paid professions in America. The average oil worker makes double the national salary.

Then there’s the fact that most “green” energy — wind, solar, etc. — is less efficient than coal or oil. Friedman wants “green” to be synonymous with “efficient.” Again, a dirty hippie on a bike is more efficient than a hippie on a unicycle. But he can’t hold a macrobiotic beeswax candle to someone in a car when it comes to moving efficiently from point A to point B.

I could go on, but I need to keep moving before the sleep deprivation kicks in and that naked Indian finds me again.

Bits and Pieces

I do need to go, but I have a few announcements. I’m going to start including recent editions of Debby’s Odd Links at the end of the G-File because people sometimes miss them and I’m trying desperately to add some value to this thing.

I’m speaking at two events at C-PAC. Alas, you’ll have to look up the details as I don’t have them handy.

I will be Twittering again soon. I find that if you stop tweeting, the people in neighboring seats on the bus are deeply relieved. Oh, wait, that’s something else. I’ve found that if I stop tweeting for any extended period of time, I forget why I ever twittered in the first place (I can’t say tweet ever again).

Thanks to all the folks who sent me nice notes about my entirely mediocre appearance on Special Report (particularly the folks who emailed FNC to have me on more).

Peter Beinart and I just recorded a new Bloggingheads session. By popular demand, it’s a bit more animated than usual. As is always the case, you think of the smartest things to say after the conversation ends.

Last night I participated in a panel for the invaluable America’s Future Foundation on movements vs. parties. It was interesting to see how alienated a lot of young conservatives are from the GOP and the conservative movement alike. More on that later. But, if I’m allowed to brag, I had a good one-liner. James Poulos, the moderator, explained that he didn’t want to get too deep in the weeds on the topic of Evan Bayh because it just isn’t that fruitful or interesting a topic. I interjected: “What? You’re not Bayh-Curious?”

Lastly, I invite readers to start offering suggestions for “Dear Reader (and . . .” salutations. I’d like to keep this as a Goldberg File tradition — like kitten juggling — but I know I’m going to start running out of ideas eventually. So send ‘em along.

And now, Debby’s Links:

Leonardo da Vinci’s Resume.

Macro Photography: The World’s Deadliest Insects.

Implantable permanent bras.

Spray-on liquid glass is about to revolutionize almost everything. Also,Japanese Scientists Create Elastic Water.

Kids who like candy are future alcoholics?

Demon monster bunny.

How to Survive a 35,000-Foot Fall – Plane Crash Survival Guide.

Human-powered ferris wheels.

Unusual and Fascinating Currency.

Why Does Time Fly By as You Get Older?

Japanese machine turns used office paper into toilet paper.

Hearing Aid Uses Your Tooth To Transmit Sound.

Warning Sign Generator.

Compare Aerial Images of World War II Destruction With Today in Google Earth.

Somewhat related: Viking frogmen vs the Google streetmobile.

Caring for Pets Left Behind by the Rapture.

Everything I Need to Know about Winter I Learned from Sci-Fi Movies.

Pakistani President Zardari sacrifices goats to ‘ward off evil’.

Scientist: Aliens Already May Be on Earth.

Lock Picking for Beginners.

A short history of the search for perpetual motion.

What’s That Now?

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Dear Reader (and those of you who really should have taken the blue pill),

All work and no play makes Jonah a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jonah a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jonah a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jonah a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jonah a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jonah a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jonah a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jonah a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jonah a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jonah a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jonah a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jonah a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jonah a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jonah a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jonah a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jonah a dull boy.

Whoops, sorry. I’ve been locked up in my snowbound house for nearly a week now, and I’m going a little Shining.

True story: The other night I taught my daughter to go into the kitchen and say to my wife (who was chopping the last of our supply of green vegetables) “redrum, redrum, redrum” in her scratchiest voice while bending her index finger.

My wife screamed. My daughter was confused. I laughed.

Good times.

Truth be told, this is one of our favorite games with Lucy. We often tell her to repeat movie lines, and it’s amazing how funny it is. One of our favorites is when we’re swimming in a pool. Lucy and Mommy knock over Daddy in his floating bed. Then, after Daddy breaks the surface and gasps for air, Lucy proclaims with all the seriousness she can muster: “This was no boating accident!”

Good times.

I’d apologize for the cabin feverishness of this missive, except cabin feverishness (cabin feverosity?) is what readers demand from this odd feature.

The problem is that I’m experiencing the real thing these days. The weather has just been whackadoodle (to use a phrase from the climate sciences). The schools have been closed all week and it looks like they won’t be open again until Monday. My daughter’s seventh birthday party had to be cancelled.

Who knew Mother Nature was that girl in high school me and my friends drenched with pig’s blood at the prom?

What’s That Now?

David Freddoso (formerly of NR, now with the pirate’s cove known as the Examiner) played a little gotcha [BROKEN LINK] with Robert F. Kennedy Jr. the other day. Not long ago, RFK Jr. wrote a typically stupid column in which he lamented that the D.C. area doesn’t have snow anymore. “Snow is so scarce today that most Virginia children probably don’t own a sled.”

Uh-huh.

Kennedy told NRO that it’s okay for him to be stupid because all the idiots do it. “Idiots on the right like Rush [Limbaugh] like to point to any cold-weather anomalies as proof that global warming doesn’t exist,” Kennedy says. “They are either deliberately blind to science or trying to protect their corporatist interests.”

Actually, this isn’t what conservatives do, for the most part. The warm-mongers claim all convenient weather as “climate” and write-off inconvenient weather as mere “weather.” They are the ones who are making predictions about Gaia’s intentions. Skeptics merely point out that the actual facts often don’t jibe with the predictions.

This raises two points worth making.

Here Is the First Point

Our political discourse is rife with what you might call tu quoque-ism. Okay, you might not call it that. Tu quoque-ism actually sounds like an unpleasant discharge produced by an intestinal infection of some kind. In fact, odds are you’ll never call it that. But what the hell.

Tu quoque is a Latin term for a certain kind of fallacious argument whereby you dismiss a criticism by saying that the person offering it is guilty of the same charge. Here’s how Wikipedia defines it: “A tu quoque argument attempts to discredit the opponent’s position by asserting his failure to act consistently in accordance with that position; it attempts to show that a criticism or objection applies equally to the person making it. It is considered an ad hominem argument, since it focuses on the party itself, rather than its positions.”

Here’s an example:

The Couch: “Goldberg, you’ve got to get more exercise.” Goldberg: “Nonsense. You haven’t even moved for years.” The Couch: “That’s right, moron. I am a piece of furniture.”

Or something like that.

We see this sort of thing all the time. Democrats say Republicans can’t complain about Obama’s deficits because Republicans didn’t complain about Bush’s deficits. Never mind that Obama’s deficits are worse. Meanwhile, Democrats complained about Bush’s deficits but think there’s nothing wrong with Democratic deficits because it’s the Democrats’ turn. And so bad behavior becomes democratized.

The most glaring example in recent years has been the Left’s obsession with Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, Karl Rove, and all the other monsters Keith Olbermann has his interns look for under his bed before he lays his head down on his enormous pillow and goes to sleep. For years, Democrats — particularly the nutroots moonbats – insisted that everything conservatives did was illegitimate and evil. Pick your own examples. Rove running a political operation from inside the White House (cue When a Stranger Calls – “Mr. President we’ve traced the call; that political advice is coming from inside the White House!”), Fox blending opinion and news, the unfairness of talk radio . . . whatever. In each of these instances, the Left’s reaction was to copy what the Right was doing, even as they continued to say that what the Right was doing is evil.

One problem with this is that, when the Left aped a paranoid caricature of what the other side was actually doing, the practice actually became worse the second time around. Democrats concoct the most cynical and dastardly interpretation of Republican actions possible and then adopt the same practices. But any criticism of the Democrats’ behavior is dismissed as “hypocritical” in a bonfire of tu quoque-ism. Yes, yes, Republicans are guilty of this stuff, too. But it really does seem like the Democrats have become unhinged in this regard.

Regardless, the upshot is that partisans on both sides feel justified in doing the very worst things they accused their opponents of doing, even though the accusations weren’t accurate. It’s not merely tit-for-tat-ism, another highly technical term, but that’s part of it. It leads to things like Robert Kennedy Jr. (admittedly a dim bulb even for a Kennedy) seeing nothing wrong with defending himself on the grounds that all the idiots are doing it. Never mind that his facts and his interpretations are wrong. The only thing he gets right is that he is, in fact, an idiot.

Oh, That Second Point.

I can’t remember exactly why this second point belongs here, and I’m too lazy to scroll up and reread what I wrote to figure it out. But, anyway, I’ve been thinking about whether it pays to be right early. Whatever the real state of the climate may be, skeptics have certainly been right on the basic point that their skepticism is justified. The global-warming industry is imploding from scandals created by its own dishonesty and exaggerations. See our latest editorial, or my column, or Steyn’s Corner posts for more on all that (and of course you should be hitting refresh on Planet Gore like a cocaine-study monkey, not just for the heat of exercise but for the light of reason). And yet it’s not like elite institutions are beckoning skeptics back into the fold.

Or forget global warming. I certainly have as I’ve been breaking down our furniture and throwing it in the fireplace.

For a year, conservatives have said that Obama’s problems largely stem from the fact that he’s campaigning for a job he already has. Now, after the facts are glaringly obvious, liberal pundits are starting to say the same thing. And lo, behold, the argument is being hailed as some sort of brilliant, novel insight.

Yet, as far as I can tell, no one on the left is saying, “Hey, the conservatives are on to something.”

Or take John Edwards. I’ve written some very harsh things about John Edwards over the years because I, like countless other conservatives, could tell that he is what social scientists call “full of sh*t” and an awful person. I once wrote something to the effect of: “No serious person I know thinks Edward would have ever gotten into politics if he’d been burnt by acid as a teenager.” I remember some idjit left-wing blogs went beserk about what an idiot I was. Not only did they not get the joke, they insisted that John Edwards is the most sincere, caring, decent, honest, wonderful, shiny-happy-neato-peachy-keen, pretty person this side of a Teen Beat centerfold (I’m quoting from memory). Now, it’s clear that John Edwards is to decent politics what crack whores are to nunnery. And yet, in all of the commentary about Edwards, no one says, “Hey, conservatives had a point all along.”

It’s a bit reminiscent of all those liberals who insisted that the Cold War was a simpler time because we all agreed on the nature of the Soviet Union.

Is there are a larger point? I’m sure there is, but I don’t really want to spend my last moments of warmth on such bitter topics. I fully expect to be encased in an ice tomb any minute now, so I should turn to happy thoughts.

Ah, TV, You’ll Never Let Me Down

Which brings me to TV. I think I’m going to be writing more about TV in this space in the coming weeks. I’ve got a billion-bajillion deadlines coming up, and I kind of need to conserve the punditry for columns for a while. So, expect more of this sort of thing.

Just FYI, I haven’t watched Caprica yet, but I will. Eventually.

The American What Now?

Oh, one last thing. While working on my column about Audi’s “Green Police” ad, I learned that, according to Wikipedia, the band Cheap Trick is known in Japan as the “American Beatles.”

That’s just awesome. And I should know. In Cameroon, I’m known as the American Jonathan Swift. Not the famous writer Jonathan Swift, but the Jonathan Swift who once moved to Cameroon to try to sell snow-cone machines.

Why, just this morning I was telling the imaginary bartender at this abandoned resort I’m staying at, “Little slow tonight, isn’t it? HAHAHAHA!”

Speaking of . . .

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Dear Reader (and those with a team of a million monkeys banging on typewriters that independently came up with the contents of this e-mail years ago),

I’m sitting here at the Knoxville airport wondering what to write about. I just gave a speech at the University of Tennessee, where blood runs orange and even the mountains smoke.

Speaking of smoking . . .

I have some news to report (contrary to everything I’ve said about this not being an actual newsletter). Word on the street is that when Christopher Hitchens was here earlier this year for a speech, he smoked like an expectant father with the clap. I don’t really care, but Vanity Fair made a big deal about the fact he had successfully conquered the nicotine demon. And I did not say that this would be important news.

Speaking of Hitch . . .

He has a piece in Slate in which he reviews a new book on North Korea (emphasis mine):

Karl Marx in his Eighteenth Brumaire wrote that those trying to master a new language always begin by translating it back into the tongue they already know. And I was limiting myself (and ill-serving my readers) in using the pre-existing imagery of Stalinism and Eastern deference. I have recently donned the bifocals provided by B. R. Myers in his electrifying new book The Cleanest Race: How North Koreans See Themselves and Why It Matters, and I understand now that I got the picture either upside down or inside out. The whole idea of communism is dead in North Korea, and its most recent  “Constitution, “  “ratified “ last April, has dropped all mention of the word. The analogies to Confucianism are glib, and such parallels with it as can be drawn are intended by the regime only for the consumption of outsiders. Myers makes a persuasive case that we should instead regard the Kim Jong-il system as a phenomenon of the very extreme and pathological right. It is based on totalitarian “military first” mobilization, is maintained by slave labor, and instills an ideology of the most unapologetic racism and xenophobia.

It seems Hitch is still translating things back into his original language. Readers of Liberal Fascism will know where I’m coming from here. Why does North Korea — socialist, totalitarian, avowedly Marxist North Korea – reside on the  “right”? Because it is racist and militaristic. Well, the Soviet Union and China were and are racist and militaristic; are they on the right now, too? Hitch is certainly free to associate racism, militarism, and xenophobia with the Right. But if he does so, he should be more explicit about it, and he’s going to need to move a lot more pieces around on his ideological chess board.

Speaking of the Soviet Union . . .

Last spring, after Obama gave a speech proclaiming nuclear weapons “the Cold War’s most dangerous legacy” I disagreed in the Corner. Here’s part of what I wrote:

Anyway, what really interests me is the question of what the most dangerous legacy of the Cold War really was, if it wasn’t the existence of nukes.

Some might say the military-industrial complex or the national-security state. But not me. To me, the most obvious dangerous legacy of the Cold War would have to be the damage the Soviets did to the world. I don’t mean the millions they murdered; those dead do not threaten us now, even if they should haunt us.

I mean the relentless distortion of the truth, the psychological violence they visited on the West and the World via their useful idiots and their agents. I’m thinking not merely of the intellectual corruption of the American Left (which even folks like Richard Rorty had to concede), but the corruption of reformers and their movements around the globe. Soviet propaganda still contaminates, while nuclear fallout does not. Lies about America, the West, and the nature of democratic capitalism live on throughout the third world and in radioactive pockets on American campuses.

The Soviet effort to foster wars of national liberation, to poison the minds of the  “Bandung Generation, “ to deracinate cultures from their own indigenous building blocks of democracy, to destroy non-Marxist competitors interested in reform, to create evil and despotic regimes that are seen as  “authentic “ because they represent the  “true will “ of their subjugated and beaten down peoples: these seem to me to amount to the most dangerous legacy of the Cold War. Not least because it was those sorts of efforts that gave birth to North Korea in the first place.

This came to mind after reading a post by Jay Richards at the American Enterprise Institute’s Enterprise Blog on the Soviet Union’s relationship to liberation theology.

A new article in the International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence by Robert Chapman — a former CIA operative — apparently details how the KGB promoted liberation theology around the world. I haven’t seen the article — I let my subscription lapse; it was either that or Black Tail — but according to Richards:

[Chapman] argues that the KGB infiltrated the Russian Orthodox Church through Metropolitan Nikodim, the Russian Orthodoxy’s second-ranking prelate. Nikodim was a proponent of liberation theology. Nikodim was active in the otherwise-Protestant World Council of Churches. And the WCC, of course, became an actively left-wing organization during the last half of the 20th century.

Chapman also details the growth of liberation theology in Latin America — and the Vatican’s struggles with it — and the growth of black liberation theology in the United States. Prominent proponents of the latter include James Cone and . . . Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

And then he quotes Chapman directly:

Without doubt, the Theology of Liberation doctrine is one of the most enduring and powerful to emerge from the KGB’s headquarters. The doctrine asks the poor and downtrodden to revolt and form a Communist government, not in the name of Marx or Lenin, but in continuing the work of Jesus Christ, a revolutionary who opposed economic and social discrimination.

A friend of mine, a head of Catholic social services in my area and formerly a priest, is a liberation theologian. He has made a number of humanitarian trips to Central America and told me, “liberation theology is alive and well.” The same can be said of its sibling in the United States.

I think this is one of the most fascinating and under-explored areas of 20th-century history. Not just the liberation theology angle, but the whole effort by the Soviets to manipulate world opinion, and thereby politics, in countless and often little-understood ways. So many of the conspiracy theories that have inflamed the moonbat Left over the years were, at least in part, psyop cons by the Soviets. Some scholars made their careers by making pro-Soviet arguments in good faith and then being rewarded with more access to the Soviet Union. Some people were bribed and others simply flattered into aiding and abetting the Soviet cause. One technique was to plant propaganda in foreign papers with low or no standards and then get Western newspapers to pick up the story without any further investigation.

My Dad was a great student of this sort of thing, and he spoke of it often to me. Sometimes it went over my head:

Dad: Patrice Lumumba wasn’t killed by the CIA. He was killed by opposing Congolese forces. He was set up by Mobutu. The Soviets used African dupes and useful idiots in the Western press to cast Lumumba as a martyr against American imperialism and establish Mobutu as some kind of African Saladin.

Me (age 7): Um, okay Dad. But what do you think would happen if Superman fought the Hulk?

Mainstream historians have little inclination or incentive to explore this stuff, but we will never get a full accounting of the 20th century and how we got to where we are in the 21st without exploring it. I know from working on my own book that our conception of fascism is in many ways a product of direct and indirect Soviet propaganda efforts. (Oh, and before you get the crazy idea that this is a good book for me to write, I want you to put down the crack pipe.)

Speaking of the American Enterprise Institute . . .

I suppose I should break even more news to you folks. I’m going to AEI. No, no. I’m not leaving NR and have no desire ever to leave. Very little if anything around here should change. I will still be making rough-hewn and somewhat unpleasant-to-look-at kitty-litter sculptures with my words. I will still be hanging around the Corner like Bill Clinton outside a girls’ volleyball practice. I will still be dancing the Lambada with an inflatable Willmoore Kendall doll in Jack Fowler’s office when he’s not around. (“They don’t call it the Forbidden Dancepor nada! “ –Cosmo.)

But, I’m going to AEI to work on my next book and do some consulting and guest editing-writing-and-kitten-juggling for a year. I spent my formative years in Washington walking around with a system of constricting leather bindings and pulleys in my pants. But that’s not important right now. During that time, I worked at AEI (or in its orbit) and I’ve always wanted to go home again, at least to visit.

Speaking of Unclassified Detritus

What’s that? I wasn’t actually speaking of unclassified detritus? Whoops! Regardless, some random items worth throwing in here.

Random House informed me that the hardcover edition of Liberal Fascism went into its 19th printing this week.

I am 693 followers away from having 6,000 followers on Twitter, at which point the fifth dentist will cave and agree that Trident sugarless gum is the way to go.

I loved this headline from Instapundit. “RAHM EMANUEL COMPARES DEMOCRATS TO RETARDED PEOPLE, then apologizes to retarded people.

I’m working on a piece for the magazine on Tom Friedman, about whom I’ve written quite a bit in the Corner and elsewhere. Indeed, I have a mild Friedman obsession. I’m not quite at the point where I kidnap and kill college co-eds to make a Tom Friedman suit, but it’s still not entirely healthy either. If anybody has suggestions for particularly egregious columns of his ( “I for one hail our new Chinese overlords, “ etc.), please let me know.

Special thanks to everyone who came out for the Knoxville talk. Having friends in the audience always makes a big difference, particularly when I’m doing the Dance of a Thousand Veils. But also when I’m just talking about the New Deal.

See you next week.

Candidates vs. Presidents

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Dear Reader (and those who’ve foreseen the content of this e-mail in the entrails of a goat),

Because of the vicissitudes of the space-time continuum, I have to write this missive before the president’s State of the Union address. As we all know, this speech will be brave and bold, deft and nuanced. It will hit all of the right notes and thread the needle exactly as needed. It will remind Americans of Obama’s masterful oratory and his command of the details. It will confirm that Michelle Obama was right to be proud of America for electing a manbeing like Barack Obama.

Or at least that’s what we’ll be told by the usual suspects who say this sort of thing after every “speech of his life.”

Obama could let loose a belch like Booger in Revenge of the Nerds and someone at MSNBC would swoon over the Churchillian chords. He could let one rip in Jon Meacham’s face, and, with tears streaming down his face and his hair askew, the Newsweek editor would still compare him to Cicero.

Left out is that since he’s been president, Obama’s “make or break” speeches never do much for him. Sure, when he was a candidate and the media wanted him to win as much as the base of the Democratic Party did (to the extent these are different demographics, of course), such speeches always “worked.” Just ask Jeremiah Wright, who still has the tracks of a bus tire running up the trunk of his body.

But being president is different than running for president. Candidates promise, presidents do. And yet this distinction is not only lost on Obama – who’s been in permanent campaign mode from day one – it’s lost on his biggest fans, who seem to think that the most overexposed president in American history only needs to talk a tiny bit more and everyone will suddenly fall in love with the guy.

Obama himself allegedly told Arkansas congressman Marion Berry (not the fun Marion Barry of D.C.) that the one important difference between today and 1994 is “me.”

At some point soon, someone is going to have to march into the Oval Office and tell him that the message from the American people is “we’re just not that into you.”

On the Brighter Side

In last week’s Goldberg File I secretly encrypted instructions for how to build a perpetual motion machine made only from room-temperature mayonnaise, two D batteries, and miraculous alien technology completely unknown to mankind (the instructions began: “First obtain miraculous alien technology . . .”). But none of that is important right now

I also took a moment to gloat about Scott Brown’s victory in Massachusetts. Little did I know that the sundae would come with chocolate sauce and sprinkles. (Not to be confused with the 1970s blaxploitation crime-fighting team of Maurice “Chocolate” Sauce and his cross-dressing sidekick Sprinkles.)

First we had the news that Air America was going off the air. Since nobody listened to Air America, it might have been prudent for them not to tell anybody they were going away, sort of like Menudo.

Then there was the news that basset hounds can in fact swim.

And then there was far more momentous news: The Supreme Court pulled down the existing campaign-finance system like Christmas decorations in July. No, that’s not right. They tore down campaign-finance laws like a Jewish shantytown in Mecca. No, that’s not it either. Like Tracy Flick tears down her opponents’ posters in Election. Grr. I just can’t get it right. Use your own frickin’ analogy.

Anyway, they did something really cool. As I noted in the Corner [BROKEN LINK] the other day, there’s a good lesson here for conservatives who get too infected with fatalism. The slippery slope may exist, but it is not some cold, impersonal force of history. We can push back against the slippery slope. The notion that the Constitution was a binding document with a specific meaning had been in disrepute among elites ever since Woodrow Wilson declared war on our written Constitution. Ronald Reagan made restoring the Constitution a centerpiece of his candidacy and presidency. The Federalist Society was a mere twinkle in the Gipper’s eye back then, and it is now a powerful force in our legal system and culture. Bad trends may be deep. They may have momentum. But they aren’t necessarily irreversible. This is one reason why the Left is so fond of asserting inevitability. The more they can persuade people that their preferences are going to materialize eventually – socialized medicine, gay marriage, the conservative crack-up – the better chance they have of making it a self-fulfilling prophecy. I know some of my colleagues subscribe to the “We Are Doomed” school of conservatism, and let me admit right up front that they may be right. But the only way to guarantee they’re right is if we assume that they are.

If I may digress for a moment (“Right, because until now your writing has been the apotheosis of disciplined linearity . . .” – The Couch): The campaign-finance ruling elicited the predictable howls of outrage from the gitchy goo establishment and the lollipop guild. A friend pointed me to this great line from the New York Times’ editorial on the matter:” The founders of this nation warned about the dangers of corporate influence.”

His response: “Right, how could anyone forget the famous Federalist Paper warning that ‘Big Firewood’ was manipulating the 1770s U.S. energy market?” Personally, I liked Thomas Paine’s pamphlet on Big Whale Oil’s funding of research by the beeswax deniers.

Oh No . . . the Historians Are out to Get Me . . .

I actually had plans to go an entirely different way in this week’s TNGF. Lots of readers suggested that I should be more cerebral and intellectual along with the pull-my-finger jokes, and I had this whole big thing about genetic determinism sitting in my prefrontal outgoing box. But then I got blindsided by “the historians.” Over at the History News Network, a bunch of real historians – and a few fake ones – have teamed up to attack my book. I ended up spending a day reading the nonsense and then writing a reply, which, believe me, is not how I wanted to spend my time, not when I’ve finally got season one of The Shieldon DVD.

Anyway, for those interested in this stuff, I think it’s worth reading the attacks and my response. Most of the attacks are just bat-guano crazy. Roger Griffin, a prominent historian of fascism, comes completely unglued, calling me the moral equivalent of a Holocaust denier and Liberal Fascism the modern incarnation of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Meanwhile, what substance there is in his essay is trivial and non-responsive to the arguments of my book. Robert Paxton, an even more eminent historian, is a tad less deranged and nasty, but he too keeps shooting where I ain’t. And for a guy who mocks my scholarship, he gets just a pile of stuff wrong.

If I may gloat for a moment – and who will stop me? – I find this whole late-hit attack extremely reassuring. I don’t think I got everything perfect in my book. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to disagree with big chunks of it. But if this is the worst that some of the best living historians of fascism can throw at me, I think that’s pretty cool. That said, I’d have preferred if they had criticized the book in good faith, as I do have an interest in the actual subject matter and I’m not under the illusion that I don’t have anything to learn.

Still, I think the overreaction from these guys is a real compliment. It means I hit them in the soft stuff.

Anyhow, we’re all out of time. I hope you enjoyed the State of the Union but didn’t get turned into a pod person as a result. See you next week.

A Few Moments of Gloating

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Dear Reader (and those of you who have this column banged out to you in tribal semaphore on goatskin drums at an Iron John sweat lodge),

I’m writing this while riding the back of a winged pig doing Mach 5. We’re going to be heading south — way south — to the Winter Carnival in Hell, where the massive snowfall has created a festive atmosphere. The ice-sculpture competition is a particularly big draw. This year the theme is “David Axelrod soils himself.”

By now you’ve heard the news that the seat controlled by Ted Kennedy or his clan since the days when Louis Prima was a household name has fallen into Republican hands.

I’m not going to dwell on this too long, because by the time the web monkeys shove this “news”letter into the pneumatic tubes, it will seem like a lifetime ago when the forces of truth and light laid siege to Camelot and won the Cathedra of Liberalism from its tower.

But it’s worth dwelling for a moment, because conservatives are due a few moments of gloating. Given how bad things looked just a year ago, and given the adamantine arrogance of the Dems even now, to see the political landscape flip like an Oldsmobile on a Chappaquidick road is an amazing thing. It kind of makes you want to kick open the doors of The American Prospect and do a little Ace Ventura dance while holding up a copy of the Boston Herald (“Can you feel that, Democrats? Huh? Can you feel that?”).

For some reason the image that keeps coming to mind is that scene from The Jerk where Steve Martin is eating at the fancy French restaurant and discovers there are snails on his wife Marie’s plate.

“Marie, just stay calm. Don’t look down. Don’t look down. Look up. Keep your eyes up and keep ‘em that way.

“Waiter! There are snails on her plate. Now get them out of here before she sees them!”

[Marie starts to look down.]

“Look away! Keep your eyes that way! You’d think at a fancy restaurant like this you’d be able to keep the snails off the food! There are so many snails in there you can’t see the food.

“Remove them! Bring me the cheese-sandwich appetizers you talked me out of.”

I kind of see the American electorate the same way. We were promised all of this fancy-pants great stuff from the Democrats. Their agenda wasn’t going to be left or right, but smart, and pragmatic, and intellectually elegant. It was going to be French! The progs talked endlessly about how we were finally going to have a European-style welfare state while keeping all of our economic dynamism and job growth. The technocrats could pick just the right policies, the way one might select this delicate canapé or that insouciant amuse-bouche.

And what did we get? A really expensive meal that’s hard to stomach, never mind look at, that we never really wanted in the first place, delivered by some hoity-toity types who can’t understand why voters are such philistines.

You don’t want snails on your plate because you’re a bunch of boobs!

Indeed, that’s the message from the liberal punditsphere. Watching Rachel Maddow and Keith Olbermann discuss the returns in Massachusetts, you’d think the obvious message from Bay State voters was that Democrats need to not only stay the course, but run on the theme of “A Snail in Every Pot.”

Speaking of Europe

Paul Krugman has been insisting that Europe is every bit as much of a success as America and folks like Jim Manzi are nuts for saying otherwise.

This is of course a special brand of nonsense. But it is very old nonsense. As I’ve been writing for years, including in my book, the essence of American progressivism often boils down to the very simple desire to turn America into a “European” country. It’s as if the Royalists regrouped in the 1890s and have been working at their revanchist project ever since. Although even that’s unfair to the Royalists, because they wanted America to be part of Britain, and the progressives want America to be a Sesame Street version of Prussia.

Anyway, Mark Perry has a great chart showing how European countries match up with U.S. states in terms of per capita GDP (purchasing power parity). France? Well, it ranks right below Idaho and just ahead of Arkansas and West Virginia.

Meanwhile, Michael Boskin had a fantastic factoid buried in his op-ed earlier this week that I think is worth a column all by itself. While discussing France’s effort to cook its books, he writes:

A commission appointed by French President Nicolas Sarkozy suggests heavily weighting “stability” indicators such as “security” and “equality” when calculating GDP. And voilà! — France outperforms the U.S., despite the fact that its per capita income is 30% lower. Nobel laureate Ed Prescott called this disparity the difference between “prosperity and depression” in a 2002 paper — and attributed it entirely to France’s higher taxes.

Think about that for a second. The Left is obsessed with getting their “new New Deal” to fend off what they claim is a Great Depression-like recession. And yet, if America adopted the sorts of policies these people advocate, it would actually throw Americans into an economic depression.

And Now for Some Self-Promotion

First off, because of the rapidly changing news, I couldn’t run my L.A. Times column on NRO this week. So, for my piece on the Dems and the filibuster click here.

And here’s the column — on Haiti’s problems — that I wrote for NRO to sub for it.

In other news: Liberal Fascism has gone into its fifth printing in the U.K. and has just come out in Portuguese.

Oh, and I’ll be on Glenn Beck Thursday. No wait, scratch that. I will be on Glenn Beck’s TV show on Thursday. Physically, I will remain at a safe and tasteful distance from him.

I’m also in that Communism documentary of his, which I believe will come out on Friday.

And Now a Very Special Plea

I’m still working all of this stuff out. So, please send me ideas for regular features. And that sort of thing.

For instance, last week, someone said, “Maybe you should post Chinese-voiced-over animated videos of NR staffers settling public disputes. For instance, maybe you could get Jay Nordlinger to work out this whole Conan-Leno thing?”

Well, ask and ye shall receive!

Needless to say, the only way it makes sense for me to write the new G-File is if people actually read it (“If it’s needless to say it, why’d you say it, dumbass?” – The Couch).

The suits made me do this so they could sell ads in this space and other nefarious motives they did not care to elucidate. I said yes because I love you guys. Well, most of you.

Regardless, I can only continue to do it if TNGF catches on. So if you like getting the New Goldberg File, please advise the like-minded to get it too.

If you don’t, the terrorists will have won.

 

This Is the New Goldberg File

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Dear Reader (and those of you who have this column performed for you by an interpretive dance troupe), this is the new Goldberg File. The old Goldberg File was sort of an ur-blog (coincidentally, that’s the name of Gog and Magog’s lesser-known cousin), that became a thrice-weekly column, that then became an occasional column, that then became a noun in such frequently heard sentences as “Hey Goldberg, when are you going to earn your keep and write another Goldberg File?”

This Goldberg File, however, is what most people call a newsletter. And no doubt, some will call it spam. And perhaps for reasons no one will ever be able to decipher, someone will call it Todd. But let’s stick with this newsletter business. The suits said I could either start writing a newsletter or start cleaning their gold-and-alabaster executive washroom. I chose this.

Like Japanese games shows, the format of this thing is going to be hard to pin down. The basic idea is that I’ll share some thoughts, point to and/or discuss some things that interest me on NRO or elsewhere, and get out of here before my real job kicks in. I’ll do short movie reviews, though don’t expect timely movie reviews as I rarely get to see stuff right when it comes out. And, because of Fatherhood, I tend to see a lot of kids movies. So you can expect me to give late-breaking thoughts on R-rated movies only after they reach pay-per-view — or you can read more timely takes on, say, Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel:“ . . . Simon and Theodore were great, but Alvin simply wasn’t believable.”

Some of it will no doubt be self-promotional, linking to stuff I’ve written, announcing upcoming speaking or TV gigs, etc. But that’s okay. I’m not getting paid to do this, so the least you can do is indulge me a bit when, say, my new line of Flirty Pundit Dance Exercise videos comes out (watch this space). Moreover, if you don’t like whatever-this-thing-is . . . You Don’t Have To Read It!

Since this edition of TNGF is in part intended to help the web monkeys figure out how to layout this thing, I suppose I should think through how this will work. First, I think there will be sections set apart by headline-style font. Like this:

You Heard It Here Third: I’m Going To Write A New Book!

That’s right. I’ve closed a deal with Penguin Sentinel to write my next book. I’ll no doubt be blegging for help from you folks in the weeks and months to come.

What’s that? The web monkeys need another section-break headline thingy? Okay . . .

Would A Glossary Do the Trick?

The original Goldberg File had a lot of running jokes in it. Every time I reference one of them these days, lots of newer readers ask me, “Dude, what’s up with this ‘Couch’ thing?” Or even “Who’s Cosmo?”

So let me explain for the uninitiated.

The Couch, is quite literally my couch. But when I was single and living on generic-brand cheese products, I would sometimes use my Couch as an interlocutor of sorts. Sort of like Wilson the Volleyball in Castaway. My Couch doesn’t like me (you wouldn’t either if I sat on you all day). He likes to keep me honest. He will probably appear every now and then in here.

Cosmo is my Wing-dog. He is quite simply the greatest dog to have walked the earth. I am proud to say that when I just Googled “Cosmo” my dog’s biography was the sixth result, appearing before the Wikipedia entry on the Cosmopolitan cocktail. (Alas when I repeated this, it was no longer the case). Occasionally, he will do interviews for NR. As he did here and here.

Other possible phrases that might throw off the uninitiated? Hmm.

Mendoza!

The Mobutu Sese Seko Kuku Ngbendu waza Banga of the world wide web.

And of course Airborne Laser Volcano Lancing.

The thing about that last one is that it is exactly what it sounds like. I think that we need to create a defense against volcano eruptions by alleviating the internal pressure with airborne lasers. It’s a long story.

Anyway, in the future The New Goldberg File will be less self-indulgent, which is not to say it won’t be way too self-indulgent. We’ll talk about in-house debates on the Corner, have reader trivia contests (quick: Who said: annallnathrach oothvas bethood dochyell dienvay”?), and have a grand time. I might even get the suits to allow me carte blanche to link to stuff beyond the legendary NR Digital Firewall, as a special treat to subscribers.

But as Tiger Woods said to the cocktail waitress, this should do for now.