Thursday, March 31, 2005

Normalcy, Anyone?

The military will run out of gas sometime in 2006, according to the military analysts quoted in this article in the Arizona Republic. "With recruitment lagging and no end in sight for U.S. forces in Iraq, the 'breaking point' for the nation's all-volunteer military will be mid-2006, agreed Lawrence Korb, a draft opponent and assistant defense secretary in the Reagan administration, and Phillip Carter, a conscription advocate and former Army captain."

Carter co-wrote a case for the draft in the Washington Monthly that has drawn a lot of attention. I oppose such a draft, but then again I oppose U.S. attempts to impose democracy around the world. When a draft is required to sustain Bush's Wilsonian foreign policy, I expect that more and more Americans will favor a return to Harding-style "Normalcy."

The Iraq War has remained for most Americans a "livingroom war," as Andrew Bacevich calls it, with real sacrifices made by a tiny minority:

The attack of Sept. 11 elicited from the American people a universal sense of shock, anger, and outrage. But when it came to tapping the energies inherent in that instantaneous emotional response, the administration of George W. Bush did essentially nothing.
Instead of a Lincolnesque summons to "think anew and act anew," President Bush instructed his fellow citizens to "enjoy America's great destination spots." Within weeks of the terrorist attack, he was urging folks to "Get down to Disney World in Florida." Rather than announcing that the imperative of victory had now transcended all other priorities—in his day, FDR had pointedly retired "Dr. New Deal," making way for "Dr. Win-the-War"—Bush thought it more important for Americans to "enjoy life, the way we want it to be enjoyed."

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

"Freedom" of Speech

Justin Raimondo points to this Washington Post(registration) story about Bush adminstration officials ejecting potential trouble makers from one of the president's Stepfordian 'town meetings.' "Three Denver residents yesterday charged that they were forcibly removed from one of President Bush's town meetings on Social Security because they displayed a bumper sticker on their car condemning the administration's Middle East policies. The three, all self-described progressives who oppose Bush's Social Security plan, said an unidentified official at an event in Denver last week forced them to leave before the president started to speak, even though they had done nothing disruptive, said their attorney, Dan Recht. Initially, the three believed Secret Service agents had grabbed them and ushered them out of the auditorium, Recht said. But he said that Lon Garner, the Secret Service agent in charge of the Denver office, told them the service investigated the matter and found it was a 'Republican staffer' who removed them because they had a 'No More Blood for Oil' bumper sticker on their car."
This is the norm the Bush administration, which likes to keep the president from being exposed to dissenting opinion. James Bovard told the story of retired steel worker, James Neel, who was arrested at a Bush event a couple of years ago while carrying a sign that read, "The Bush family must surely love the poor, they made so many of us." That case was thrown out of court:
At Neel’s trial, police detective John Ianachione testified that the Secret Service told local police to confine "people that were there making a statement pretty much against the president and his views" in a so-called free speech area. Paul Wolf, one of the top officials in the Allegheny County Police Department, told Salon that the Secret Service "come in and do a site survey, and say, 'Here’s a place where the people can be, and we'd like to have any protesters put in a place that is able to be secured.'" Pennsylvania district judge Shirley Rowe Trkula threw out the disorderly conduct charge against Neel, declaring, "I believe this is America. Whatever happened to ‘I don’t agree with you, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it'?"

All the president's men shelter him from opposing viewpoints to avoid having him wind up like this other emperor:

So now the Emperor walked under his high canopy in the midst of the procession, through the streets of his capital; and all the people standing by, and those at the windows, cried out, "Oh! How beautiful are our Emperor's new clothes! What a magnificent train there is to the mantle; and how gracefully the scarf hangs!" in short, no one would allow that he could not see these much-admired clothes; because, in doing so, he would have declared himself either a simpleton or unfit for his office. Certainly, none of the Emperor's various suits, had ever made so great an impression, as these invisible ones.

"But the Emperor has nothing at all on!" said a little child.

"Listen to the voice of innocence!" exclaimed his father; and what the child had said was whispered from one to another.

"But he has nothing at all on!" at last cried out all the people. The Emperor was vexed, for he knew that the people were right; but he thought the procession must go on now! And the lords of the bedchamber took greater pains than ever, to appear holding up a train, although, in reality, there was no train to hold.


I don't know why, but this site is pointing its readers to mine.

Monday, March 28, 2005

Little Mengeles

Jay Nordlinger is the managing editor of National Review. Most of the articles I have read by him in the last few years have been fawning profiles of the macho men in the Bush administration, like this one from The American Enterprise .

Another matter that Nordlinger addresses regularly in his Impromptus column in NRO is the rhetorical excess of leftists and liberals. His most recent column is no exception. He quotes Jesse Jackson saying "Today the Congress reconvenes to save a woman — Terri Schiavo — from starving to death, but then votes to starve millions every day," and "There is a fascist attack on civil rights and civil liberties. We cannot be silent." Outrageous stuff, to be sure. Fortunately, few people pay attention to Jackson anymore. I remember when he was a powerful media figure. Those days are long gone.

Below that, Nordlinger disdainfully quotes from an article by Leslie Gelb referring to "Republican Ayatollahs." This would seem to be an example of such extreme language except that in context it is clear that Gelb is not denouncing Republican extremism:

Mr. Cheney also does well at herding his party's ever-feuding foreign policy ayatollahs and keeping them faithful to White House policy. Republican ayatollahs come in three varieties: The old-fashioned conservatives of the Jesse Helms and John Bolton type, torn between their traditional isolationism and the impulse to nuke the bad guys and get it over with. The neoconservatives, mainly former Democratic conservatives, ever eager to wield U.S. power to change the world to suit our interests and values. And the classic realists . . . who like power, but who give equal weight to limits imposed by human nature, culture and politics.

Also, one should point out that the Ayatollah who has received the most publicity in the last few months is supposedly one of the good guys.

I am devoting all of this space to Nordlinger, ordinarily one of the minor stars in the neocon cosmos, because the most extreme words by far in his column are those he uses. Refering to the Terry Schiavo case he reproduces a brief exchange with an unidentified friend: "
In a discussion with a friend, I mentioned something about Dr. Mengele's laboratory. He said, 'No, this is worse. Mengele had the pretense — indeed, the argument — that he was benefiting humanity [with his inhuman experiments]. Where's the argument here? They're just starving her to death."

Talk about not doing nuance! Nordlinger and his friend casually reduce Michael Schiavo, his lawyer and numerous judges to the level of not just ordinary Nazis--but worse than one of the most contemptible and repulsive monsters of the Third Reich. Note how black and white the issue is--"They're just starving her to death." End of story. There are no open questions about Terry Schiavo's intentions or level of consciousness.

I am sympathetic towards arguments in favor of saving Terry Schiavo. It is easy to see that her husband, who has two children with another woman, may not have his wife's best interests at heart. But I haven't seen anything that justifies the recent interference by the Bush administration and the Congress. But if one takes Nordlinger seriously, then Bush brothers--who are standing by while Judge George Greer opens up an Auschwitz in the Sunshine State--are both moral cowards of the first order worthy only of the contempt of decent people. And speaking of the people; some conservative have criticized poll results that show most people oppose congressional interference in the Schiavo case, but I haven't seen any reason to doubt that such results are largely accurate, so Nordlinger can't have much regard for the American people either.

His statement reminds me of the recent controversy surrounding Ward Churchill's reference to victims of 9/11 as "little Eichmanns." Churchill's use of such contemptable rhetoric has led to a campaign on the right to deprive him of his job in the department of "Ethnic Studies" at the University of Colorado. I wonder if any of the same people will be outraged by Nordlinger.

Update: Ben Stein confirms it. We now live in Nazi Germany:
I wonder if a poll of Aryan Germans would have found a majority who cared enough to pull a lever to save the Jews. I suspect a good majority -- voting in total secrecy, of course -- would have said, "Let them die. They're inferior and not worth providing food for." So now we are at that level.

Sunday, March 27, 2005


The guys at Libertas, "a forum for conservative thought on film" are big fans of Turner Classic Movies, (TCM) as am I. Unlike them, I don't feel the need to offer my daily reccommendations other than to say that it is the perfect TV hideout from the present sad state of American pop culture.
Their reccomendations from March 26 includes Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds.
One of the more famous films from one of the most celebrated directors doesn't need a plug from anybody. A casual movie fan will be aware of the movie even if he hadn't yet seen it. Turner Classic Movies shows most of the great movies like that. Pay attention long enough and you will see Gone With The Wind, Casablanca and most of the other greats. What Makes TCM so great are the films they show that aren't as celebrated. Take, for example, Shadow of a Doubt, another Hitchcock film that I hadn't heard of until I saw it on TCM a few months back. It stars Joseph Cotten as a handsome and debonair, murderous sociopath. Another great discovery I made is In a Lonely Place, starring Humphrey Bogart as a mercurial screenwriter who is suspected of murder he didn't commit, and whose violent behavior makes those who believe in his innocence have second thoughts.
I haven't yet checked the TCM April schedule, but I am sure that it contains hours of great entertainment for anyone who cares to look.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Never say die?

Thomas Fleming has one of the more worthwhile columns on the whole Terry Schiavo situation:

But supposing we still believe, despite the strong weight of evidence, that Mrs. Schiavo remains conscious at some level and might someday lead a normal life. The question then becomes not “What is the right thing to do,” but “Who is to decide?” As in so many human affairs, it is easier to have moral knowledge than knowledge of facts. We do know that, in our tradition, spouses are next of kin and empowered by law to make decisions when their wife or husband is incapable. That is why Mr. Schiavo, when the physicians concluded the case to be hopeless, was free to decide his wife’s fate. To change this legal tradition, in the heat of a passionate case, is a perilous undertaking.

I do not know what Mrs. Schiavo’s husband ought to do, but I do know that the decision belongs to him and not to either Jeb or George Bush. To those who wish to defend physical existence for its own sake at any cost, this will seem like Pilate’s decision. They are wrong. Pilate shirked his responsibility as Roman procurator by giving in to the mob. He should not have allowed the execution of Jesus, but neither should he have overturned both Roman and Jewish laws in order to strip families of their legal rights. The analogy, used with increasing frequency, between Mrs. Schiavo and Christ is blasphemous on many counts. She is not the God who willingly accepted death in order to redeem mankind. She is only a poor, frail mortal, like the rest of us, and her condition and death, so far from being a willing sacrifice, is the result, apparently, of binge dieting.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

New Destructive Generation

Justin Raimondo correctly pegs the repellent Frontpage of David Horowitz:
Desperate for attention -- and, increasingly, for more funds from his right-wing backers -- Horowitz has been getting increasingly crazed lately, working himself and his dwindling band of supporters into a frothy-mouthed lather in a effort to convince himself that anything he says really matters.
What's interesting to note is that the Horowitzian technique hasn't really changed since his heyday as a New Leftist. Back then, his enemies were "capitalist running dogs" and agents of "the ruling class." Today, as then, there can be no honest disagreements with Horowitz: his enemies are all "terrorists" and agents of "Al Qaeda."
Horowitz, Plaut, and their fellow nutjobs are the real anti-Americans: fanatics who want to see their alleged enemies silenced, shut down, and jailed. That of course is the real intent of someone who labels their political opponents "pro-Al Qaeda."
No conservative, no matter what their view of the Iraq war, should countenance this kind of intellectual dishonesty -- and outright hooliganism. That's why we're urging all conservatives and libertarians of good will to boycott Horowitz, and all his works. People that irresponsible need to be marginalized.

Horowitz was a leftwing nutcase when that was the fashionable thing to be, now he is a rightwing crazy. It seems that the only consistency in his life is extremism.
At Frontpage, one of whose more hysterical writers threatens a lawsuit every time he gets his panties in a wad, most of the other contributors follow the Horowitz tone. Stephen Schwartz is one of the more looney of the Frontpagers, but he fits right in. Raimondo quotes Steven Plaut as describing as "pro al Qaeda" even though if a Raimondoesqe foreign policy had been followed for the last fifteen years or so al Qaeda would be a marginal organization that noone had ever heard of.

The Coming Battle

If you ignore Andrew Sullivan's silly nonsense about "Stone Age conservative isolationism," he provides a compelling take on the coming battle on the right: "The race to succeed Bush will become, in part, a battle for the future of American conservatism. I have no idea how it will turn out. But I do have one clear prediction: the Republican internal battle in the next four years is going to be bloody. After the mid-term elections in 2006 it will be brutal."

The Question is . . .

When will Stephen sue?

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

The Barone of Hackery

Michael Barone has a remarkable column that I saw via Instapundit. It is remarkable because he has so little of substance to say on his chosen topic, the "trustfund left." Such a demographic may well, in fact probably does exist, but you get no substantive evidence fro Barone. He doesn't even use the cool word "trustafarian."
Instead he offers a vague description:

Who are the trustfunders? People with enough money not to have to work for a living, or not to have to work very hard. People who can live more or less wherever they want. The "nomadic affluent," as demographic analyst Joel Kotkin calls them.
These people tend to be very liberal politically. Aware that they have done nothing to earn their money, they feel a certain sense of guilt. At the elite private or public high schools they attend, and even more at their colleges and universities, they are propagandized about the evils of capitalism and globalization, and the virtues of environmentalism and pacifism. Patriotism is equated with Hiterlism.

And a vague idea of where they reside:

Where can you find trustfunders? Not scattered randomly around the country, but
heavily concentrated in certain areas. Places with kicky restaurants, places tolerant of alternative lifestyles, places with lots of art galleries and organic food stores and Starbucks competitors. The heaviest concentration is in the San Francisco Bay area, which, Kotkin says, has the largest percentage of trustfunders of any major metro area in the country. The Bay area stands out in stark relief on the political map. It voted 70 percent to 29 percent for John Kerry in 2004, up from the 64 percent to 30 percent margin it cast for Al Gore in 2000. Without the Bay area's 1.15 million-vote margin for Kerry, California would have come within 82,000 votes of voting for George W. Bush.

So on that slim basis their is a large class of rich liberals who don't work, vote for Democrats and think everybody else is Hitler. He cites Joel Kotkin as saying that the Bay area has a lot of trustfunders but he doesn't say how many. Then he assumes that this group is solely responsible for Kerry's huge margin in that area. He doesn't even consider that the Bay area might have a lot of wealthy people in the tech industry who tend to be liberal.
As Walker Percy said about a certain Wednesday afternoon a few years ago, the only thing about Barone's column that is notable is that nothing about it is notable. I guess it is easy to be a columnist when all you have to do is toss off a few generalities in order to demonize your political enemies.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Do Nothing Congress

It seems that I a always denouncing the American Spectator. I never got around to praising this fine article on the atrocity of sending young women and mothers into war last week. Now they have dissipated the good will that they built up with me by publishing a silly article urging President Bush to go on the offensive against a Congress controlled in both houses by members of his own party.
The author, Patrick Hynes believes president Bush, who won his first political office in 1994, the year that Republicans took over the House and Senate, "more than anyone else, helped to create" a Republican Congress. Newt Gingrich, call your office.
He also urges the president to denounce the Congress for wasting time with steroids hearings last week. Which would be fine except for the fact that I have reason to believe that Mr. Bush doesn't think it is a waste of time.
By all means Mr. President, go to war against the Republican Congress. Just be prepared to work closely with Speaker Pelosi in 2007.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Law & Etiquette

the professor takes note of the Schwartz v. Raimondo copyright imbroglio: "I think that has the better of the law here, but I think that web etiquette is being violated all around. I think it's OK to link somebody's image if you're not causing them bandwidth problems, but I think that it's churlish not to take the link down if they complain. On the other hand, it's also churlish to complain too readily. "
It's good that he reviews the issue and notes that the law is on's side, but he misses the point, I think. Schwartz didn't just complain, he threatened an utterly baseless lawsuit, for apparently the second time. I don't usually assume that people I disagree with on political issues are simply bad people, but Schwartz's behavior seems perfectly in keeping with his deranged writing at Frontpage. His obsession with referring to Raimondo as "Dennis"(which Reynolds was taken enough with to provide a smirking second-hand link to the other day) is only the tip of the iceburg. In this, Schwartz is in tune with the style of Frontpage and the rest of the Horowitz web empire (not the use of a Raimondo picture, not just a link).
Reynolds doesn't regularly read which is sad. I have noted a tendency towards groupthink on the right which I discuss in my forthcoming review of Blog (already available to electronic subscribers of The American Conservative). I try to read a broad spectrum of opinion including Instapundit, The Corner and other sites on both the left and the right.

Sue Google?

Stephen Schwartz has been having fits because Justin Raimondo linked to a copyrighted picture of him in his column last Friday. Schwartz seems to have problems understanding that a link simply points in the direction of another webpage. Perhaps he should sue Google.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Legal Question

Prof. Reynolds links to a blog that quotes Sen. Barbara Boxer as saying, "Why would we give lifetime appointments to people who earn up to $200,000 a year, with absolutely a great retirement system, and all the things all Americans wish for, with absolutely no check and balance except that one confirmation vote. So we're saying we think you ought to get nine votes over the 51 required." He concludes that Boxer wants to change the constitution.
Perhaps Reynolds, a law professor at the University of Tennessee and a graduate of Yale Law School can help me out. I searched the document for relevant passages. I found the following:
Article I, Section 5, Clause 2: "Each House may determine the Rules of its Proceedings . . ."
Article II, Section 2, Clause 2: "[the president] shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur; and he shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, Judges of the supreme Court, and all other Officers of the United States, whose Appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and which shall be established by Law . . ."
Note that it specifies a two thirds vote to approve a treaty, but not to approve judges and other officers appointed by the president. I assume that since the second clause I quote is silent on the matter, the first controls and the Senate can make its own rules which currently provide for filibusters when 60 senators don't vote to cut off debate.
The good professor should explain why it is unconstitutional for the requirement to apply to judicial nominees, but not other votes.

Update: I just noticed the post below the one that Reynolds linked to. It describes the "plain words of the framers" saying that "51 votes to confirm a nominee is all that is required." Of course, the "plain words" say no such thing, especially since there would have only been 26 senators at the time of the founding.
You have to actually read the constitution sometimes.
UdateII: George Will comes to the same conclusion on the Constitutional issue and quotes from article I, section 5, clause 2 of the Constitution as well. I guess you aren't required to have read the Constitution to graduate from Yale Law School, or to teach it at the University of Tennessee.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Ha Ha Ha

I think it's official, Susan Estrich ill-advised attack on Michael Kinsley has made her a laughing stock. The Washington Post's Anne Applebaum is forced to spend a column addressing the issue:
In the paragraph I have remaining (this, girls, is truly the hardest thing about newspaper columns: making the idea fit the space) I'm not going to discuss the thorny question of whether some affirmative action policies do some good, of whether newspapers matter anymore anyway, or even return to the subject of Sinn Fein. Those are complex, gender-neutral issues, and I've now used up my allotted weekly slot on a "women's issue" instead. Happy, Susan Estrich?

Dubious Note

Dubious blogger, Glenn Reynolds holds Thomas Woods' endorsement against Jim Powell's new book, Wilson's War. I'd be more inclined to hold P.J. O'Rourke's endorsement against it; but with Thomas Fleming's magisterial Illusion of Victory, I doubt Powell's book is neccessary . I am confused as to why two strong supporters of the president's most Wilsonian of crusades as O'Rourke and Reynolds are, would be partial to a work critical of Woodrow in the first place.

Deep Thoughts

Suzanne Fields shares her deep thoughts on Condoleezza Rice, and her political future:

Call it Condimania. Her fans call themselves "Condistas." A team of teens who will be barely old enough to vote in 2008 have already opened the campaign, distributing "Condi for president" buttons.

The Germans call her "coquettish"; the French admire her chic pointy shoes. When I stepped into a beauty salon in Madrid the other day, the hairdresser curled the coif in back, handed me a mirror, and told me proudly: "That's the Condi flip."

It's not easy to further trivialize American politics, but Fields succeeds. She makes Dick Morris' ravings on the the same issue seem profound.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Historically Correct

I haven't read the Politically Incorrect Guide To American History beyond flipping through it in a bookstore. I imagine that if I read it I would find some areas of disagreement with the author, Thomas Woods; but the book's growing ranks of enemies make it sound interesting. The latest attack is by David Greenberg and appears in Slate.

But Woods' book is incorrect in more than just its politics. Take, for example, Page One, where Woods opens with what he calls the "first basic fact": "The colonists were not paragons of 'diversity.' " I don't know any historians who teach that the colonists were "paragons of 'diversity' "—whatever that phrase, scare quotes and all, is supposed to mean. Most students of early America, however, would agree that Woods' elaboration of his claim is far from accurate. The colonists, Woods continues, "came from one part of Europe. They spoke a common language. They worshiped the same God." He then briefly describes the major waves of British immigration that came to American shores in the 17th and 18th centuries, as laid out in David Hackett Fischer's Albion's Seed (though Woods does not cite Fischer).
It doesn't take a Ph.D. to see why Woods' statement is false. Obviously, one large segment of Colonial Americans didn't come from England and didn't, at least initially, share their religion or language: the millions of Africans shipped to the colonies as slaves. But then, slavery doesn't appear in Woods' account until his discussion of the pre-Civil War era, by which time the peculiar institution was 200 years old.
Greenberg, a history professor, is saying that African slaves were "colonists" as well. Africans were captured, sold into slavery, and brought to the colonies against their will. After the Civil War it took a constitutional amendment to grant citizenship to ex-slaves. Would Thomas Jefferson, who said; "nothing is more certainly written in the book of fate than that these [black] people are to be free. Nor is it less certain that the two races, equally free, cannot live in the same government," have described a slave from Africa as a fellow colonist?
From their, Greenberg's article is a mess. He notes the criticisms from some neocons, denounces some of Woods' theories without bothering to justify his positions. He makes some general comments about conservative anti-intellectualism that are not totally unjustified, but it is clear that he didn't do his homework. If he can't tell the difference between Sean Hannity and Pat Buchanan, whom he mentions as proponents of Woods' book; then he his a fool. It is more likely that he did not bother to find out first hand like he didn't bother to actually refute his claims about the Politically Incorrect Guide.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Safe For Democracy

I see that Liberty is putting more of their archive on the web, including my review of The Illusion Of Victory, by Thomas Fleming. Fleming's Book is about a previous war that the US won. It should be required reading for the democracy brigades.

Dull Blade

Maureen Dowd has wasted yet another column writing about her feelings about being criticized for her writing: "Guys don't appreciate being lectured by a woman . . . the metaphors used to describe my column play into the castration theme: my scalpel, my cutting barbs, razor-sharp hatchet, Clinton-skewering and Bush-whacking. 'Does she,' The L.A. Times's Patt Morrison wondered, 'write on a computer or a Ronco Slicer and Dicer?'"
I suppose some people might think that Dowd is "cutting" and "razor-sharp," I can't see why. I find her to be one of the weakest columnists working today. I can't remember anything that she has written that is, well, memorable. I find a couple of her colleagues at the Times, Paul Krugman and Nicholas Kristof, to be worth reading; if often full of it. They, at least have something to say.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Blame the Eco-Whackos

Maybe Neal Boortz can show everybody how stupid the "eco-whackos" are by building himself a house across from a refinery. . .

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Ready. Set. ZZZ.

Every neocon in the world, no matter how boring or lame will eventually get a syndicated column. Case-in-point: National Review Online's Kathryn Jean Lopez will be starting hers next week. The NEA could have found someone with something, anything to say, such as Scott Richert, or Bill Kauffman or Steve Sailer. Instead, K-Lo will join the daily Republican echo chamber at Townhall.
I can't wait

Boo Hoo

Is it unraveling already? The American Spectator's George Neumayr complains that the Republicans are wimping out on tax cuts and Social Security reform. I want my taxes cut as much as the next guy, but the Republicans are the party of Big Government, no Monstrously Large Government. You would think that would be obvious by now, but not this howler from Neumayr:

Didn't rudimentary Reaganomics teach them that tax cuts are not a source of deficits but a solution to them -- a spur to reducing the federal government's size and a stimulus to the economy that makes Americans less dependent on the federal government? Tax cuts at once boost the economy (and can actually increase government tax revenues) while sending a signal to Washington that it must back away from the trough. Cut taxes and fiscal discipline may follow; suspend tax cuts and continued bloated government spending is guaranteed.

What planet does he live on? The budget was balanced after repeated tax increases in the 80s & 90s; along with a divided government with a Democratic president. President Hilary Clinton is more likely to cut spending and balance the budget than President Bush.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Film Comment

I have been following a debate at LIBERTAS, a "forum for conservative thought on film" about the film, American Beauty. One poster, Dave Ross thinks that it is the only film from the last quarter century to deserve its best picture Oscar. Jason, apparently co-editor of the site, disagrees:
The stock conservative villain (Chris Cooper) is a racist military guy who beats his wife, forces his son to watch Ronald Reagan movies, collects Nazi china, and is secretly gay(!). The hero (Kevin Spacey) is a pot-smoking, shiftless, narcissistic liberal who lusts after his daughter’s teenage friends. And Annette Bening - a fine actress, who is otherwise wasted in this role - plays a shrieking, conformist, uptight harridan … who is supposed to be an indictment of suburban womanhood. Instead she comes across as no-one so much as Hillary Clinton. The film seems to be a strange allegory for the Clinton years, with Kevin Spacey as Clinton, Annette Bening as Hillary, Mena Suvari as Monica Lewinsky, and the villain a composite Henry Hyde/George Bush/Ken Starr.

This silly rant sounds as if Jason didn't actually see the movie and is reading from some sort of rightwing, Hollywood-watchdog factsheet. Lester Burnham, Kevin Spacey's character only resembles Bill Clinton in the most superficial sense--his lust for a girl young enough to be his daughter. Other than that, Clinton is an ambitious schemer who lusts for power as much as women. Burnham on the other hand is devoid of ambition and ends up working at a fast food place. His other complaints are silly as well. While we can assume that the gay-psycho-Marine character is politically conservative, I don't see how Burnam is especially liberal. Here he provides further a further brief against American Beauty:

which gratuitously defecates on Reagan, our military, etc. I don’t see why is this so hard to understand - or why I should care what the film says about Kevin Spacey’s acting abilities, which are nil, so far as I can tell. The man is an absolute cipher, a kind of ‘man without qualities’ to borrow a phrase from Musil.

Sam Mendes directed American Beauty, and I’ve been in the editorial suite of his next film. It’s pretty obvious that his new film Jarhead is going to be another screed against the ‘dehumanizing’ U.S. military (Jarhead is an account of the first Gulf War, starring Jamie Foxx and Chris Cooper). And I noticed Mr. Mendes smiling gleefully during the Oscars at Chris Rock’s repeated jabs at Bush - so what is there not to understand here?

His defacation comment is just wierd. Reagan's only appearance is via an old movie on TV that the Psycho Nazi-plate collector is not forcing his son to watch. Note also, his review of the yet unreleased film Jarhead. Jason doesn't let the reader in on what the Internet Movie Database does--that Jarhead will be based on the 2003 book of former Marine, Anthony Swofford. So if it portrays military life as 'dehumanizing,' it will be coming straight from the horses mouth.

Friday, March 04, 2005

Thinking of Smedley

Whenever I read about Marine veterans like this person:
The man was beside himself with fury. He accused me and the AFSC of being
shameful and that the AFSC wanted to see all of our soldiers in Iraq "tried for
war crimes." I just sat at the hospitality table trying to let the veteran blow
off some steam – I couldn’t answer his concerns at that point anyway – I felt
his accusations were for the representatives of the AFSC.
The very, very
angry man finally screamed one thing that I couldn’t ignore. He was practically
frothing at the mouth when he roared: "You people are all cowards. You wouldn’t
die for anything."
That’s when I had had just about enough of Mr. Marine. I
stood up to him and I said: "You are wrong about that, sir. I would have gladly
gone to Iraq instead of my son. I would have died in his place without

I comfort myself by remembering Smedley Butler:
I have visited eighteen government hospitals for veterans. In them are a
total of about 50,000 destroyed men-men who were the pick of the nation eighteen
years ago. The very able chief surgeon at the government hospital at Milwaukee .
. . told me that mortality among veterans is three times as great as among those
who stayed home. Boys with a normal viewpoint were taken out of the fields and
offices and factories and classrooms and put into the ranks. There they were
remolded; they were made over; they were made to "about face"; to regard murder
as the order of the day. They were put shoulder to shoulder and, through mass
psychology, they were entirely changed . . . Then suddenly, we discharged them
and told them to make another "about face"! This time they had to do their own
readjusting, sans mass psychology, sans officers' aid and advice, sans
nation-wide propaganda. We didn't need them any more . . . Many, too many, of
these fine young boys are eventually destroyed, mentally, because they could not
make that final "about face."

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

More Tyrrell

I previously noted Emmitt Tyrell's lame column on Jon Stewart's America, describing it as the worst book of 2004 (which is impossible since Tyrrell also released a book last year). Now I see that Tyrrell has made that the cover story in the March issue of the American Spectator. Imagine paying the outrageous ($7.95 last time I checked) to get a month old reprint of a syndicated column.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005


Sometimes bloggers go to great lengths to catch big media people in falsehoods and errors. Matthew Hoy, for example thinks he has the goods on Paul Krugman:

"Nearly two months ago, in what appears now to be a fit of pique, New York Times columnist Paul Krugman made a promise to his readers.
In the next few weeks, I'll explain why privatization will fatally undermine
Social Security, and suggest steps to strengthen the program.
Well, as the graphic indicates, Krugman has suggested no real "steps to strengthen the program" in any subsequent column. Counting today's column, Krugman has written 15 pieces in the Times, but not one has contained the promised plan."

So Krugman, in a very general way, pledge to "suggest steps to strengthen" Social Security at some point in "the next few weeks." So what's the big deal? Krugman is still working on the Bush plan it would seem. Hoy should work to find genuine examples of dishonesty and incompetence among big media figures instead of trying to whip up a phony controversy. The professor disagrees, however.