Saturday, October 29, 2005

The Marlboro Senator

The November 7 issue of National Review, the right's answer to Us Weekly, is out with a fawning profile of Virginia senator George Allen Jr. Lowry cloaks Allen (the son the late NFL coach) with the macho garb necessary for Republicans to compete in the age of Dubya:
Allen is the Senate's foremost expert in a certain kind of guyness. He will pour good-natured scorn on any softness. "with cream in it?" he asks incredulously in a CNN green room. "That's not real coffee." His brother Gregory is a psychologist, and recently made a reference to the TV show 24, which Allen says was lost on him. As is any other program "not of Fox, CNN, or ESPN." . . .

Allen has benchmarks for whether he will instantly find someone compatible or not. If he likes NASCAR is one, and "if his driver is Earnhardt Jr., that's someone I agree with." . . . If he is a rough-and-tumble Oakland Raiders fan, that's another good indicator. If he is a Harley-Davidson rider, that's still another. These are all signs, as Allen puts it, of, "good, individualistic, non-conformist minds."

I hate "guyness," a sort of vicarious masculinity derived from passive activities such as viewing professional sports. Rich Lowry, on the other hand, has such low standards that he swoons over a Republican politican man enough to take his coffee black. Allen's other announced tastes have the feel of focus group testing. Sure, Harleys are cool, but riding one is no more indicative of a "non-conformist" mind than riding the bus. I would give Allen credit if he chose as his favorite NASCAR driver a Virginian such as Elliot Sadler or Ricky Rudd. Choosing Dale Earnhardt Jr. makes it look as if an aide suggested him after a few minutes of research.

One would think that after five years of President Bush -- who at least has to occasionally clear some brush to look macho -- that even the guys at NR would be looking for a change. Does George Allen consider evidence, or just rely on his "gut." Does he ever read sissy newspapers or magazines? We don't find out from Lowry, who is too taken by George Allen's love of chewing tobacco to ask.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Lion of Hollywood

The November 7 issue of The American Conservative is out on newsstands with my review of Lion of Hollywood : The Life and Legend of Louis B. Mayer by Scott Eyman. It isn't likely to be posted on the web so I will post a brief sample:

For its first two decades, MGM was the dominant studio, consistently making money and earning Oscar nominations. Eyman notes “in the 1930s, MGM came to symbolize an alternate reality from the drabness and squalor of the worldwide Depression, an escape into a dreamworld of Park Avenue swells . . . For audiences at home and abroad, MGM was Hollywood at its most Hollywood in the best sense of the word.” Grand Hotel(1932) and Dinner at Eight (1933) are quintessential MGM films. Both feature John and Lionel Barrymore and Wallace Beery. The former includes Greta Garbo and Joan Crawford; to the latter add Jean Harlow and Marie Dressler. Both feature numerous interlocking stories involving rich and beautiful people. It was on the basis of such films that Mayer built his studio. He didn’t get directly involved in the creative process, but he did make sure to preserve the proper appearance of his films.If a script called for a woman to be rising from bed, Mayer still wanted her to look fabulous. Glamour trumped reality. Jean Harlow first appears in Dinner at Eight sitting up in bed wearing a gown that she might have worn to the Oscars.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Not A Parody

The little coupon that came with a fundraising letter from the Cato Institute has a circle to fill in which reads "I have contributed $100 or more. Please send me "Voices of Liberty," a CD of inspiring Cato speeches, including presentations by today's great champions of liberty -- Milton Friedman, Catherine Crier, P.J. O'Rourke and Dinesh D'Souza."

Dinesh D'Souza? They might have at least included Gene Healy.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Harriet's Homework

Is it to late to get Bernie Kerik? The New York Times: "The Supreme Court nomination of Harriet E. Miers suffered another setback on Wednesday when the Republican and Democratic leaders of the Senate Judiciary Committee asked her to resubmit parts of her judicial questionnaire, saying various members had found her responses 'inadequate,' 'insufficient' and 'insulting.'"

Calling Dr. Phil . . .

I rarely bother to read Larry Elder (forgive my cultural elitism, but he's a day time talk show host for crying out loud) but a passage in this column about the rise in rudeness, which is apparently purely a matter of liberals and Democrats saying mean things about George Bush, stands out. Elder writes, " . . . A couple of anti-war Democrats and I began talking politics. While I disagreed with their positions, they made sensible, if unpersuasive, arguments. You know the drill: Bush built a case for war on bad intelligence; the cultural complexity of Iraq makes America's "imposition" of a democracy unlikely; the Iraq War now serves as a breeding ground for terrorists . . ."

I can't think of any weaker arguments. Obviously, the administration had rock solid intelligence; Iraq's cohesive civic culture will make it another Switzerland and the dearth of terrorism in that country is a blessing. Now, I wonder if Dr. Phil has any thoughts on the issue.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Poddy is NUTS

John Podheretz shows is what happens when higher brain functions shut down:
Yes, he signed No Child Left Behind. Yes, he signed campaign-finance reform. Yes, he supports an immigration-reform proposal that some say features amnesty. But let's not miss the major fact. Anyone who cuts taxes by nearly $2 trillion is a CONSERVATIVE. Anyone who is willing to pursue an aggressive foreign policy without the support of the liberal elite is a CONSERVATIVE. And anyone who has appointed as many conservative jurists as Bush is a CONSERVATIVE.

You can fling open the borders and take over the public schools so long as you cut taxes and put perpetual war on a credit card. Now I get it.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005


Republicans run the show in Washington these days, but they still aren't happy. William Kristol and Jeffrey Bell whine in the Weakly, Standard that conservatives are being "criminalized." "THE MOST EFFECTIVE CONSERVATIVE LEGISLATOR of--oh--the last century or so, Congressman Tom DeLay, was indicted last month for allegedly violating Texas campaign finance laws, . . . Bill Frist, is under investigation by the Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission for his sale of stock in the medical company his family started. White House deputy chief of staff Karl Rove and vice presidential chief of staff Scooter Libby have been under investigation by a special federal prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald, for more than two years . . . It now seems clear that Rove and Libby are the main targets of the prosecutor, and that both are in imminent danger of indictment."

They are all under investigation according to Kristol and Bell because of their effectiveness as conservative leaders. "Since 2001, they have been among the most prominent promoters of the conservative agenda of the Bush administration." This is plausible in the Delay case, since his case grows out his scheme to redistrict Texas for the benefit of Republicans. But Frist? If there is any conspiracy involving his investigation, wouldn't it be of conservatives trying to get rid of an incompetent hack?

Rove and Libby are being investigated for illegally leaking so Kristol/Bell complain about the leaking of others at CIA and the State Dept. without making a specific charges. If K/B know of any crimes they should alert the proper authorities. But they are just engaging in partisan special pleading.

The article is notable for the name that it doesn't mention -- Jack Abramoff. Abramoff is a prominent conservative under indictment and facing more investigations. An article by Michael Crowley in the Oct. 17 issue of The New Republic argues that it will be the Abramoff connection that does Delay in. "Unfortunately for DeLay and loyal optimists around him, the real threat to his career doesn't lie with the Earle indictment. It lies with the ongoing Justice Department and House ethics committee investigations of DeLay's super-lobbyist buddy Jack Abramoff . . . [the] Justice Department investigators are keenly interested in DeLay's personal role in the Abramoff Saga . . ."

Apparently the notion that Republicans and conservatives, who came to power in congress promising reform, have simply become corrupted by both their power and their desire to hold on to it is unthinkable. Instead Kristol and Bell suggest that "it's a reasonable bet that the fall of 2005 will be remembered as a time when it became clear that a comprehensive strategy of criminalization had been implemented to inflict defeat on conservatives who seek to govern as conservatives. And it is clear that thinking through a response to this challenge is a task conservatives can no longer postpone."

I think that it's a reasonable bet that the fall of '05 will be rembered as the time when the chickens of Republican sleaze came home to roost just the way it did for the Democrats in the early 1990s.

Reverse Snobbery

I haven't seen Michael Kinsley weigh in on the "elitism" angle of the cat fight amongst conservatives over the nomination of Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court, but I hope that he does. It reached a new high, or perhaps low, yesterday when Jonah Goldberg posted the credentials of Hugh Hewitt:
Hewitt graduated from Harvard College cum laude with a degree in Government in 1978. He was Order of the Coif at the University of Michigan Law School and received his Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree in 1983, magna cum laude. Hewitt clerked for Judges Roger Robb and George MacKinnon on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit from 1983-84, and then went on to serve as Special Assistant to Attorneys General William French Smith and Edwin Meese, Assistant Counsel in the White House Counsel's Office, General Counsel for the National Endowment for the Humanities and the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, where he finished his career in the Reagan Administration as Deputy Director of the agency, having been confirmed by a voice vote in the Senate . . .

Goldberg added, "Ah yes, those Harvard alum, Coif-ordered, presidential library-building, appeals court clerking, Justice Department working, . . . men of the people really have us National Review aristocrats dead to rights." Hewitt replied saying that "an Ohio-born and raised Cleveland Indians and Browns fan cannot be an elitist. Further, my argument has been with the Bos-Wash Axis of Elitism, and not an argument about snobbery."

Actually, Hewitt is engaging in reverse snobbery. He's just a regular guy, working stiff from Cleveland -- a Browns fan. Ignore Harvard etc. Republicans and conservatives have been engaging in this with a great deal of political success in recent years. Remember all that stuff from last year about how the other guy windsurfed and spoke French -- heck he even looked French; while our guy (never mind Andover Prep, Yale, Harvard, and scads of help from daddy's rich friends) is a regular guy who clears brush and is barely coherent in English. Kinsley wrote about this in Harpers several years ago:
A journalist moving in generally meritocratic circles makes friends and has associates from widely different social backgrounds. No WASP aristocrat has ever pulled rank on me without seeming ridiculous, and none has put me on the defensive for being who I am. On the other hand, even very good friends from working-class backgrounds often manage to make me squirm. I've never been made to wish I'd gone to Groton, but I'm often made to wish I hadn't gone to Harvard. That's reverse snobbery.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Pay No Attention

Rightwing bloggers such as Michelle Malkin and the AnkleBitingNutcases are in a tizzy over reports that the Whitehouse stagemanaged yet another phony event, allowing the rapidly fading president to bask in the warm feelings most people have for the military. The Associated Press reported the dialog between Allison Barber (a deputy assistant defense secretary, no doubt short-listed for the Supreme Court) and several soldiers via a video link:

"OK, so let's just walk through this," Barber said. "Captain Kennedy, you answer the first question and you hand the mike to whom?"

"Captain Smith," Kennedy said.

"Captain. Smith? You take the mike and you hand it to whom?" she asked.

"Captain Kennedy," the soldier replied.

And so it went.

"If the question comes up about partnering -- how often do we train with the Iraqi military -- who does he go to?" Barber asked.

"That's going to go to Captain Pratt," one of the soldiers said.

"And then if we're going to talk a little bit about the folks in Tikrit -- the hometown -- and how they're handling the political process, who are we going to give that to?" she asked.

Before he took questions, Bush thanked the soldiers for serving and reassured them that the U.S. would not pull out of Iraq until the mission was complete.

"So long as I'm the president, we're never going to back down, we're never going to give in, we'll never accept anything less than total victory," Bush said.

So who do Malkin, et al. turn to try and debunk the story? Why a rightwing milblogger, Ron Long, who just happened to be one of the 10 soldiers who were chosen to appear with the president. Imagine the odds!

However, Long doesn't debunk the charge, he confirms it, using lots of bold print to make sure he gets his point across. "First of all, we were told that we would be speaking with the President of the United States, our Commander-in-Chief, President Bush, so I believe that it would have been totally irresponsible for us NOT to prepare some ideas, facts or comments that we wanted to share with the President." Long then channels Merle Haggard, circa 1970:

It makes my stomach ache to think that we are helping to preserve free speech in the US, while the media uses that freedom to try to RIP DOWN the President and our morale, as US Soldiers. They seem to be enjoying the fact that they are tearing the country apart. Worthless!

This latest attempt to stage manage reality by the Bush administration is very much a venial sin. After five years of buying columnists, creating and distributing fake news reports and never missing an opportunity to use the military as a backdropfor the president, I could only laugh when I saw it on the news. The Bush administration's attempts to manage reality aren't working anymore. It is a cliche, but an apt one. The curtain has been pulled and the Wizard exposed as a fraud.
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Thursday, October 13, 2005

The Greatest Generalization

The November issue of Liberty magazine is now out with my article, "The Greatest Generalization," about the tendency of some in the War Party -- I pick on Thomas Sowell and Victor Davis Hanson -- to compare the Iraq War to World War II. It is not available on the web so here is a sample:
It is easy to see why Thomas Sowell, Victor Davis Hanson and others (a few minutes with Google will turn up plenty) force the Iraq War into an ill-fitting WWII template. For all the death, destruction and dubious results, the allies vanquished two of the most dangerous regimes of modern times and midwifed prosperous and peaceful countries in Germany and Japan.
Adolf Hitler particularly stands out, both as a figure of pure evil and as a menace on an epic scale. the Fuhrer's armies swept Europe from the Paris to Moscow and from the Norwegian Tundra to the North African Desert. His U-boats and pocket battleships menaced allied shipping from the North Sea to the Indian Ocean.
But Saddam Hussein was no Hitler and the Republican Guard and Fedayeen Saddam were not the SS. If the emptiness of Saddam's "threat" wasn't obvious when his armies caved almost instantly in two wars with the United States, it should have been by the time he chose a humiliating capture and an almost certain execution instead of putting a Lugar in his mouth.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Fishing for Excuses

How sad it is, after almost three years, that supporters of the invasion of Iraq must fish for justifications for the war; but it happens. The American Spectator (admittedly, not the brightest star in the neocon firmament) has an attempted justification today. The article, by Christopher Orlet anticipates the upcoming war crimes trial of Saddam Hussein. "Depending on whom you ask, Saddam was responsible for the murder of between 300,000 (U.S. government figures) and one million Iraqi civilians (Iraqi politicians' figures), in other words, for the extermination of as much as 10 percent of the Iraqi population, according to the Iraqi Forum for Democracy."

I have problems with Orlet's article, other than his math -- obviously, one million is far short of ten per cent of Iraq's approximately 25 million people. As I have pointed out before, we invaded Iraq in order to dispatch a "grave" and "gathering" threat from Iraq that was so severe that the Bush Administration dared not fritter away its time worrying about how things might go after we "won" the war. Sure, the president mentioned human rights concerns when building a case against Saddam. Who wouldn't against such a monster? But it is obvious that the animating reason for going to war was an alleged "threat" against the US by Saddam.

Orlet has a bizarre quantitative obsession. ". . . the former Iraqi president still ranks with the most savage of mass murderers of the 20th century, the bloodiest of all periods. If Saddam failed to keep pace with Stalin and Lenin (62 million killed), Mao (32 million), or Hitler (20 million), it was not for lack of trying. In fact, if the antiwar gang had gotten their way, Saddam would still be piling up bodies, well on his way to surpassing the totals seen in the Armenian genocide of 1909-18." As if his level of evil is measured purely in numbers. Once he is evil, he is evil-- he doesn't get another stripe for every 100,000 killed. Orlet may not have noticed that, though the killing is much more decentralized, the bodies are still piling up in Iraq.

The biggest omission from Orlet's article is the name, "Reagan." For Republican/conservative war supporters, this is always a problem. During Saddam's murderous peak the Right's patron saint was in the Whitehouse, "tilting" towards Iraq in its aggression against Iran -- one of Saddam's more Hitlerian moments. He even infamously sent Don Rumsfeld to Baghdad to play kissyface with Saddam. It is fair to ask, If Saddam was Hitler, what role did Reagan play? Orlet doesn't say, although he does make a disparaging reference to a president distracted by an "intern's plump thighs." This being the American Spectator, everything always comes back to Bill Clinton.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Run For The Border

George Will takes notice of immigration control leader, Tom Tancredo, who will possibly mount a quixotic presidential campaign in the next election to highlight the issue. Will, however, mistates the problem:
The basic problem is that the nation's economy is ravenous for more immigrant labor than the system of legal immigration can currently provide. Furthermore, about 11 million illegal immigrants are in America. It would take a lot of buses -- 200,000 of them, bumper-to-bumper in a convoy 1,700 miles long -- to carry them back to America's border. America will not do that -- will not round up and deport the equivalent of the population of Ohio.

No, part of the problem is that Americans are consumers first and citizens second. Our bacon, lettuce and tomatoes must be cheap, no matter what the cost. Our political culture is also decayed and corrupt. As far as I could tell, no attention was paid to this critically important issue in the 2004 presidential campaign.

Note also, the patently phony choice Will presents to the reader. Apparently, we can either round up 11 million illegals in a mass deportation, or capitulate.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Always Low Prices

The Progressive reports on a local Wal-Mart's spying on its customers:

Jarvis had assigned her senior civics and economics class "to take photographs to illustrate their rights in the Bill of Rights," she says. One student "had taken a photo of George Bush out of a magazine and tacked the picture to a wall with a red thumb tack through his head. Then he made a thumb's down sign with his own hand next to the President's picture, and he had a photo taken of that, and he pasted it on a poster." According to Jarvis, the student, who remains anonymous, was just doing his assignment, illustrating the right to dissent.
But over at the Kitty Hawk Wal-Mart, where the student took his film to be developed, this right is evidently suspect. An employee in that Wal-Mart photo department called the Kitty Hawk police on the student. And the Kitty Hawk police turned the matter over to the Secret Service.


My only complaint with this Pat Buchanan column ("In a decision deeply disheartening to those who invested such hopes in him . . .") is this: surely nobody actually still has any "hopes" that George Bush will do anything but fill important jobs with semi-qualified cronies.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Behind the Wheel

One indicator of social decline that doesn't get enough attention is the way that people drive these days. It is depressingly common to see vehicles run red lights in Knoxville, Tennessee. In recent days, I have twice had an SUV tailgate me for lengthy periods of time on two lane roads while I drove at or slightly above the speed limit. I may be in the thrall of the Liberal Media, but it sure seems that people are more likely to drive like a jerk in an Excursion than in an Accord.

Just the other day, while driving in the left lane of a five lane street, I had a pickup shoot around me in the center turn lane while going about 10 miles above the speed limit. If the driver pulled that stunt just a couple of seconds later the results would have been disastrous as I was preparing to make a left turn. Today, I witnessed a similar incident as a pedestrian. While two cars stopped as I entered the crosswalk, a third quickly shot around them by driving into the other lane, while the driver yakked away on a cell phone.

I don't really know what to make out of this, but it's not a good thing that people are so careless while hurtling around in deadly two ton projectiles. It is even more disturbing that so few people seem to care.