Saturday, December 22, 2007

Randomness

What a drag it is getting old
I find it humorous that as the Boomers age, the thinkers and artists among them by and large still cling to their youthful pronouncements, unaware of or unwilling to acknowledge their often painfully apparent callowness.

I guess honest introspection hurts your chances of your work being reissued and distributed by Starbucks.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

The Politicization of Culture, or "It's 1968 All Over Again (Except Without the Idealism)"

"I am Legend as Political Manifesto"

Why Serious Films Aren't Making It At The Box Office


The Progressive movement hasn't been given as much to be angry about since Ronald Reagan. Deciding to embrace new media rather than ignore it, progressives in a position to advance their agenda feel that everything from sports articles to popular movies to advertising is fair game to carry the message. The messages try to grab you by the lapels and scream in your face:

Don't you see the awful things that are happening?

Our President is the triple embodiment of Pure Stupidity, Religious Hypocrisy and Pure Evil!

Global warming will kill us all in a few years!

Everybody hates us because we are so greedy and stupid!

Christianity is even worse than Islam and Israel is even worse that us, so shut up about terrorism already!

Our military atrocities mean we are worse than our enemies!
It would be flip to dismiss these sentiments out of hand. Progressives are the Canaries in our Coal Mine, sounding the alarm and speaking (selective) truth to power. I should and do consider their arguments. George Bush has a worldview antithetical to many on the Left, and his strengths are often blunted by his arrogance. In addition, his checkered record as president makes him an even better target than Reagan, whose many successes eventually silenced a few critics. War is a terrible thing, and this foreign proxy war seems like another Viet Nam to those for whom Viet Nam was a rallying cry, a clear sign that the people in power are evil and despise us. Christians are unfortunately people and as a result possess many of the failings of people - greed, sloth, anger and hypocrisy being just a few. I can see how it is tempting to lay much of our country's problems at their feet since the majority of our citizens (especially - as Progressives are wont to point out - the stupid ones!) profess a belief in the divinity of Jesus Christ.

By and large, people are not buying the Progressive line. But that just makes the Progressives even angrier. The rhetoric gets shriller and more unreasonable.

I am not sure where it all will end.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Norman Mailer

What is the Christian response to the death of a man who spread as much spiritual damage through the culture as Norman Mailer? The writer is dead, but his legacy of unbridled egotism, vanity, lust and depravity will continue to lure thousands of fragile intellects down his dead-end path for years to come.

He wasn't even a good writer.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Vonnegut's Last Laugh


Slaughterhouse Five was for me, like many of my generation, a seminal book by a guy I could relate to. Kurt Vonnegut, the "above average" geek who wrote science fiction stories, the sensitive, childlike man who found himself adrift in the very adult activities of World War II, who weathered all those grown-up trials and came through the other side still a child and convinced of the absurdity of life, was a character after my own heart. His Billy Pilgrim placidly observed the horrors of war and Vonnegut's imaginings of a postwar America. One of the things Vonnegut foresaw in late twentieth century America was that it would be balkanized into several smaller nations to reduce its power and hence its threat to world political stability. While his vision was never realized and politically naive (what historical precedence is there for any nation, much less the most powerful nation on Earth, relinquishing any of its power voluntarily?) the balkanization of American Culture continues apace. American intellectuals, among other groups, have moved from imagining themselves a demimonde of like minded spirits spread among the population at large to "the Society" itself, with the rest of the population as phantom observers. How else explain pundits like Daniel Lazare, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens and Carlin Romano confidently proclaiming the end of faith and scoffing away the last vestiges of our religious trappings in a country where 98% of the populace believe in God? Intellectuals, like celebrities and the very rich have often felt that their reality and/or morality have little to do with the rest of the world. Technological innovation has made it progressively easier to actually create an insular and alternate reality, given sufficient means.

Vonnegut's success as a writer allowed him to remain an outsized misantropic child to the very end (comparisons of Vonnegut to Mark Twain I think focus more on outward resemblances than actual philosophies of life, ignoring Twain's humanitarian core) surrounded by fans who shared his worldview. His balkanized America, while never a political reality, has become a societal one.

Friday, September 28, 2007

The Subtle Poison of Gould's NOMA

My kids were watching the film "Facing the Giants" in the car the other day. It's an inspirational sports film with an overtly Christian message shot in Georgia on a budget of $100,000 using mostly amateur talent. Listening to the coach unabashedly use Christian concepts to inspire and motivate his players, I was struck by both the strangeness and rightness of what what was unfolding. The solidity, depth and "rightness" of his Christian viewpoint resonated much more deeply than any standard Hollywood feelgood humanist dialog, but at the same time I thought "in the real world, this coach would be considered a kook and fired on the spot".

Looking into the film online, I discovered that it had done well (eventually grossing $10,000,000 in very limited distribution) while being savaged by the critics. This review from the Austin Chronicle really hit home:

"...its feel-good storyline, shopworn message, and bottomless sermonizing would have played better in Sunday school than on the big screen, which is — let’s face it — Babylon’s turf."

Here is the reality of Life in 21st Century America, the result of the triumph of cultural humanism, as put forward by people like Stephen Jay Gould in his idea of Non-Overlapping Magisteria (NOMA):

"the magisterium of science covers the empirical realm: what the Universe is made of (fact) and why does it work in this way (theory). The magisterium of religion extends over questions of ultimate meaning and moral value. These two magisteria do not overlap, nor do they encompass all inquiry (consider, for example, the magisterium of art and the meaning of beauty)."

I'm sure for many in this country (sadly, even for many Christians) the above sounds not only temperate but fair and reasonable. The catch, as I'm sure Gould knew, is in the way things are divided. Anything dealing with Reality or Truth is the province of Science. The sly assignation of questions of "ultimate meaning" to religion appears to venerate it while at the same time stripping it of any of its intrinsic value in our life. The result of NOMA's tacit acceptance in our culture is that God is put in a very small box. Any reference to Him outside church is now unwelcome, and any reference in the larger culture must honor "equal time" commitments to any and all competing religious views, further weakening its impact. A film like "Facing the Giants" flies in the face of that, and it produced a visceral and negative reaction from secular critics precisely because it chose to ignore Mr. Gould's rules. Well, I'm all for pissing off the right people. Bravo to director and star Alex Kendrick.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

gotta love British candor

While I have little desire to relocate to The Land of Fried Bread and Lager, their understatement and lack of pretense can be very refreshing. Take these selections from bios on the British Film Institute site:

Julie Andrews:
"It seems a shame that she, quintessentially English, has wasted herself on many feeble American films when she could have found feeble films at home - and 'home' needed her more."

Tom Baker:

Stardom made him proprietorial, and he berated directors, producers and 'ordinary' scripts. He was ill for much of his record-breaking seventh year as the Doctor and, when faced with a new producer, incoming 'juvenile' assistants and a ratings slump, he announced his retirement in October 1980. Before leaving the programme Baker wed his assistant Romana - actress Lalla Ward - although the marriage lasted just 18 months.

Baker's final Doctor Who was shown in March 1981 and he subsequently struggled with typecasting, retreating to the theatre and runs of Treasure Island, Educating Rita, Hedda Gabler and She Stoops to Conquer...

The typecasting receded in the 1990s - he was now physically heavier and the famous curls had begun to grey, while directors who had grown up watching Doctor Who began to cast him...

Compare these to the typical American writing on celebrities, which either treats them as maincured, PR-vetted High Priests of Culture or seedy scandal sheet fodder.

P.S. Eek! The above-mentioned Lalla Ward is now telegenic wife and illustrator to Current Pop Science Atheist Rockstar Richard Dawkins (well, "current" given the death of Carl Sagan and Stephen Jay Gould and limited mobility of Stephen Hawking) who is perhaps one of the most arrogant people on the planet. Check out his latest offer (sorry no link): damn your soul to Hell and get a free DVD!

Small world.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Keith Ellison: Muslims and Atheists and Nazis, Oh My!

Will the state of public discourse, freighted with postmodern ironies and disengenuous anti-intellectual sloganeering, ever emerge from its current condition as something resembling principled, reasoned debate? I don't consider myself naive, or a fool, or even an old fogey pining for "the good old days". I understand that (for now) postmodern America overlooks hypocrisy or character deficiencies in anyone as long as the person or persons involved a) have no moral standards to begin with, b) are perceived as "fighting the good fight" in a different cause deemed worthy to the given worldview, or c) are part of a protected class created as a result of priviledge-based guilt, notions of a universally inclusive, morally neutral society, or in reaction to perceived historical injustices. So those who fail us and also fail to meet the above requirements are given the equivalent of a "Go Directly to Jail - Do Not Get 15 More Minutes" card and the rest are perhaps rapped on the knuckles but are otherwise free to go. How else explain can one explain Al Sharpton, or the Clinton Dynasty?

In addition, the growing partisan desire to "defend one's own" and "get the word out at all costs" has led to even higher level of sniping and crosstalk, instead of issue-oriented debate. As a result loons and publicity hounds with suspect motives like Anne Coulter and Michael Moore are still getting airtime because their high visibility and easily identifiable ideology trump their often insidious rhetoric.

I guess it's going to get worse before it gets better because, like tryouts for a new season of reality TV, there seems to be no shortage of new applicants for the Crazy (Like a Fox?) Club.

The Newest Kid on the Block is a freshman Muslim congressman named Keith Ellison. Ellison's remarks at at a noontime speech before the group Atheists for Human Rights have already made the rounds in the blogosphere and are now radiating out into the world at large. This is the same Ellison who, aided by a one-two punch from a sympathetic MSM and a couple of comically rabid reactionary pundits, successfully painted his colleague Virgil Goode as a racist when Goode objected to Ellison's decision to be sworn into office using the Qu'ran.

It sounds strange to use "muslim pundit" and "chutzspah" in the same sentence, but I guess we're all Semites on this bus. In any case, here are a few choice excerpts from the afore-mentioned love fest from Gehenna:

"You'll always find this Muslim standing up for your right to be atheists"
Well, at least he used a qualifying "this", but apart from the fact that he makes no sense (does this mean he is a "bad" Muslim?) the statement not only makes the incredible claim that Islam is the only tolerant religion in the world but does so in the most nauseatingly sycophantic tone pssible. That's pretty good for a 13 word sentence!

"It's almost like the Reichstag fire, kind of reminds me of that. After the Reichstag was burned, they blamed the Communists for it and it put the leader of that country in a position where he could basically have authority to do whatever he wanted. The fact is that I'm not saying [Sept. 11] was a plan, or anything like that because, you know, that's how they put you in the nut-ball box -- dismiss you."

The "Bush is Hitler" slur in the above has been remarked on everywhere, but I think this paragraph's real significance is it's detailing of an increasingly common tactic of the Political Thug:

1. Make a sweeping and offensive statement.
2. Give the statement the appearance of historical credibility or deeper truth.
3. Immediately and subtly qualify your statement to cover your rear in case of controversy.
4. Take a last postmodern swipe at the opposition by complaining about the fact that you have to even engage in such subterfuge, thereby retaining your ideological purity among your listeners.

How someone can make such a public pronouncement and still feel a sense of personal dignity is beyond me. I mean, the checks cash and the people applaud, but it's just you and your Maker and your reflection in the hotel mirror when all is said and done.

Finally, if you thought the above was some kind of political joke or Theater of the Absurd, Atheists for Human Rights spokesperson Marie Castle provides the punch line:

"We're trying to upgrade the image of atheists. They don't think we have a moral compass."

As with a child who exhibits bad behavior to get attention it is tempting to shout, Sean Hannity-like, "Where's the outrage here!?" but you know that's only giving this guy what he wants. The current political climate rewards these kind of outbursts by giving people like Keith Ellison a platform - unless, of course, their target is white males or the current administration.


Saturday, July 14, 2007

L'Homme d'Acier

It's okay - all my ancestors were French.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Salon's Glenn Greenwald, or why do these guys always have such friendly drawings for their byline?

Glenn Greenwald is a Salon columnist who almost makes you think he's a conservative plant. His mean-spirited, virulently partisan writing would probably make anyone outside of his normal Salon/Huffington Post/Kos readership cringe. Why then, you ask, am I even bothering to write about him? Perhaps because this past hour is one I will never get back, and by documenting what I've found I can save someone else the trouble. Okay, that's neither true nor honest, for there is already too much reliance on secondary sources and canned rhetoric in the world. So, for no good reason, here is a fairly complete sampling of the titles of Glenn Greenwald's blog entries for the past few weeks followed by my own commentary. I found myself getting more confrontational as I wrote, so I apologize upfront for the general tone - next time I won't try to read so much bad-tempered writing in one sitting.


Tucker Carlson, stalwart defender of sexual privacy A good introduction to the world of Glenn Greenwald, a world where sarcasm, cherry-picking facts and a generous helping of self-righteous anger are your unwavering diet.

Our broken political discourse A standard if unoriginal topic for discussion in political circles becomes unintentionally ironic given his tone. C'mon, Glenn - be part of the solution.

Sen. David Vitter, a leading Christian social conservative Sigh. Sarcasm again. What's unsaid here is that if you're possessed of an amoral or materialist worldview then you can't to be labeled a hypocrite - just ask Jon ("So, was that out of line? Well I'm only a comedian!") Stewart.

The ongoing journalistic scandal at the New York Times and
The NYT's growing pro-war fan club Mr. Greenwald fumes that the usually reliable liberal Paper of Record has drunk the wrong Kool-Aid. Well I thought dissent was patriotic.

Yesterday's ruling on NSA warrantless eavesdropping Spinning a setback into a victory based on wordy technicalities is certainly nothing new in political circles, but Mr. Greenwald's greatest strength seems to lie in this very lack of novelty, this dogged insistance on sticking to familiar talking points. Oh my goodness! I just had the thought - perhaps he think he's the liberal George Bush! Well, no wonder he's so angry!

Why has world opinion of the U.S. changed dramatically since 2000? Perhaps the millionth expression of liberal incredulity over how the current Administration can't see the obvious uncoolness of it's brazen nationalism and utter lack of introspective nihilism.

Notes on A Tragic Legacy - "Various matters concerning my book, including its debut on the NYT BestSeller List"

The tragic collapse of America's standing in the world Mr. Greenwald's unending reliance on standard liberal tropes has by now lulled me into a dream state where I see an image of Barbara Streisand and Jane Fonda staring intensely into the camera cheek to cheek, a single tear from each commingling in mute encomium to the infinite sadness of a progressive Paradise Lost.

Lewis Libby owes his freedom to our corrupt political elite Even more galling is that in Bush's America patriots like Mark Rich are afraid to show their faces outside of New York and LA. Oh well, you can't get good Chinese takeout in Flyover States anyway.

Michael Gordon trains his stenographer weapons on Iran Once again noting that if the NYT can't be counted on to toe the line, the "real" War - the War of Ideas - is going very badly. Wake up, sheeples!

Our rotted press corps, a division of "Camp Victory" The irony of lambasting the press corps using the same "if you're not for us, you're against us" logic of his simian evil twin seems to be lost on him.

Interview with Helen Thomas If you're going to interview someone else to hammer home your own speaking points, it's probably safest to choose someone who thinks as much like you as possible.

How did the Bush administration use its secret eavesdropping powers? Without pieces like this, it's easy to forget that many liberal pundits are, sadly, a product of their environment, relying heavily on the scaremongering and distrust of authority they learned from all those scary dystopian books and movies they were exposed to in high school.

Blogs and the establishment media Summary: "Without the fearless liberal blogosphere around to recognize my inestimable genius, you would all now be reading William Bennett purchased under duress from the state-run Barnes and Noble."

Standards of American justice under George W. Bush Hmm, higher or lower? I know - let's ask our friends at the NYT Op-Ed page!

A Tragic Legacy released today
FDL Book Salon FireDogLake momentarily relieves Mr. Greenwald of his tireless self-promotion duties.

McClatchy reports on shift in Iraq propaganda and
Everyone we fight in Iraq is now "al-Qaida" Flogging - I'm sure he thinks boldly - the familiar liberal canard that Al Qaeda in Iraq is a nothing more than a Bushite fabrication designed to facilitate the Administration's consolidation of power. I didn't read far enough to see if he gets bonus points for making references to a) The Skull and Bones Society b) Bush family ties to Arab sheiks or c) Orwellian ideas of continual war and thought crime.

Krauthammer's plan to deny Palestinians gas and electricity A fitting last citation and another bold, Greenwaldian choice - ridiculing a braver and much deeper intellect by using his Weapons of Choice: misrepresentation and sarcasm.


Well, with writing that runs the gamut from "conservatives are really stupid and evil" to "did I mention I'm on the NYT Bestseller list?" you can count on Mr. Greenwald to always meet your expectations. By the way, the practices elaborated on above called to mind another prominent example of the genre, although the pundit pictured on the left seems a little unsure of his greatness, thus requiring the strategic placement of cuddly animals and a distant admirer. I'll have to keep a lookout now, for perhaps we are witnessing the emergence of a new phenomenon: The Acid-Tongued-but-Cartoon-genic Blogger.

UPDATE: I have just been reading about Mr. Sullivan's recent pronouncements as well as some long-standing controversies regarding him of which I was unaware. (really I'm just too busy to keep up and too disconnected to care). In retrospect, my singling out of him now feels more like overkill. He has refined the Art of Alienating All Hues of the Political Spectrum and brought it to a level not seen since Richard Nixon, and to further dwell on his situation would be petty. He is also a man with some vestiges of religious sensibility, so I think he would rather have my prayers than my feeble attempts at humor.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

It's All My Fault



Don't Cry for Me, San Ber'dino (Feet of Clay, Part 2)


It's hard to believe, but Frank Zappa has been dead for 14 years now. He always was an iconoclast and a loner, but like R Crumb his ambition and unique and misogynistic talent was right for the times and carried him into the limelight. He was a prolific serious composer with a love of doo-wop, but seemed to realize early on that the racy, rockier side of his avant garde sensibilities sold better than his cerebral atonal work. Whether this compromise was something he embraced happily or not I'll never know, but I think it contributed to the sneering undercurrent of intellectual elitism that runs through almost all of his work. In a sense he was equally disgusted with everything. As for his fans, he he spent most of the 80s producing songs whose bathroom humor appealed to his audience's basest instincts while their delivery and composition derided that same audience for their inability to appreciate his polyrhythmic complexities (it also didn't help that a deranged Brit pushed him off the stage in 1971 and put him in a wheelchair for a year). He continually complained about the inability of his band members and orchestras to play his music correctly; his experiences with the London Symphony left him so upset that he added a disclaimer on that album as to the performance's accuracy. For the recording industry, the business side of the arts, Britain and the US Government he harbored a special and unwavering contempt that found expression in songs like "Baby Snakes", his acrimonious break with his long-time manager Herb Cohen in 1976 and his anti-censorship crusades in the 80s. He was passionate about music as an exercise of the will, an ideal construct with the the composer at the apex and hordes of willing performers and listeners arranged below. He ended his life composing on the Synclavier, finally doing away with any and all collaborators.

I was a big fan of his music until about 1979; after that everything sounded shrill and disappointing to my ears. I realized that there was perhaps one song in all of the albums I had (and that was every album of his in print at the time) that you could say was "beautiful" - the title track on his album "Sleep Dirt". Even there he undercuts the piece's impact by ending it abruptly with some inane studio banter. Sincerity and tonal beauty were simply not a part of his vocabulary.

Frank Zappa was diagnosed with inoperable prostate cancer in the early 90s. I don't think he was the kind of person who would have mellowed with age and he died far too young. Maybe his childhood in Baltimore, surrounded by poverty and the toxic chemicals his Dad worked with and brought home hastened his end. Maybe it was the thousands of cigarettes he smoked even as he derided the widespread drug use of the 70s. His wife and children have tried to carry on his legacy even while trying to establish their own identity in his giant shadow. He was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but almost as an afterthought and with little fanfare; the presenter, Lou Reed, had been a sworn enemy of Zappa's since the 60s. The family have hundreds of hours of unreleased material in a temperature-controlled vault, but only time will tell what will remain of this brilliant, misunderstood, caustic, industrious and perhaps fragile individual.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

pic


from my days posting at Fark.com

Feet of Clay Department

Way after the fact, I finally connect the dots about a couple of heroes (read anti-heroes) of my misspent youth, with varying results.

Tony Hendra is a brilliant writer and satirist who worked on National Lampoon, Spy (a guilty pleasure of mine), and the movie Spinal Tap. Lately he has written the spiritual confessional Father Joe (2004) and the anti-evangelical fantasy (imagine a book-length riff on the Kris Kristofferson song "Jesus Was a Capricorn") The Messiah of Morris Avenue. Father Joe was supposed to be a purging of sorts, a middle-aged dissolute’s account of his discovery of grace and spirituality through his friendship with a monk. The always gloriously wrong Andrew Sullivan praised it to the skies. Maybe in his Sullivanish way when he wrote sentences like “These ideas of sin that we have are not really sin” he was speaking as much about himself as Hendra. Who knows? In any event Sullivan’s review made the book a runaway hit; this confessional of a debauched man who’d come clean and found a kind of acceptance was touted as the perfect Father’s Day gift.

I then found an amazing review by Carolyn See in the Washington Post:

To be frank, I didn't much care for the book…Hendra's voice was sour, peevish…I was snide, I suppose: "It's a book for men who think of themselves as trapped, misunderstood geniuses," I wrote, "so it should sell well"…

Flash forward a few weeks. I'm drinking coffee and watching morning television and there's a desperately nervous woman being interviewed. She's Tony Hendra's daughter and she's saying, in a barely audible voice, that her father molested her when she was a child…

The younger Hendra’s book, How to Cook Your Daughter (2006; the title comes from a short story written by her dad shortly before the alleged incidents begin) chronicles life in the 70s with her self-obsessed, drug-addled, philandering father. The older Hendra denied her allegations of abuse and suggested his daughter was mentally ill, but some legwork done by the New York Times confirmed many of the specifics. Perhaps the most damning fact, however, is Hendra’s subsequent behavior: cutting off all contact with his daughter, he has returned to writing satire but with a bitter partisan edge and a smugness reminiscent of Christopher Hitchens at his worst. He often blogs at the Huffington Post, where last Thanksgiving he offered a mock prayer that opened with a request for the speedy death of VP Cheney and rapidly went downhill from there. Even without his daughter’s revelations, it seems that any sort of conversion he experienced with Father Joe was short-lived.


In retrospect, a few of the bright lights from that era have prospered: Bill Murray, Harold Ramis and P. J. O’Rourke come to mind. But for every O’Rourke (who incidentally, Hendra loathes, perhaps because he replaced Hendra as editor at National Lampoon) it seems there are dozens of Doug Kenneys, Michael O'Donoghues, and John Belushis. And Tony Hendras.

more to come...

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Watch Out! It's CulturalRelativism Man!


Actually, he probably shouldn't be smoking.

EjectEjectEjectEject!

Tora! Tora! Tora!

Bill Whittle of EjectEjectEject! is a Big Idea Guy par excellence. His lengthy essays always leave you saying to yourself "Yeah, that's just what I've been thinking all along but have felt too intellectually confused by the liberal zeitgeist to thoughtfully articulate it". The sporadic nature of the essays also leave you wanting more. Now Bill has simultaneously unloaded perhaps the heaviest articulation of his philosophy and summoned the faithful to create an online community of like-minded believers. I wish him all the best, although the avowedly secular nature of the endeavor is probably not ideal for me. But anyone who loves clear-headed and fearless analysis who doesn't already have Mr. Whittle's RSS feed on their reader of choice should do so immediately.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Stereotypes - the Great Conservative Time Saver and a Renewed Promise to Write Some More

Too much time away and where to begin? There is so much to talk about. I've been subscribed for a while to a few standard left-wing blogs such as the Daily Kos and The Huffington Post. It is important to be able to confront/consider all points - the Right would be poorer without the Left and vice versa. But although Best of the Web's James Taranto's concept of the "Angry Left" is perhaps an over-generalization, I still see very little to contradict it in the Left-Wing Blogosphere. Like Bernard Goldberg (although unlike Goldberg he is an excellent writer), his points are very apt. And in spite of voices like Goldberg and Taranto the concept of activist journalism (facts are secondary to the greater and usually progressive truth) has continued to thrive by adopting quasi-scientific terminology (such as "post-normal science") to justify its existence.

Science is now more than ever the "moral engine" that drives the Progressive movement. In a world where trickle-down versions of scientific Big Ideas like Evolution, String Theory, Relativity and Behavioral Sciences seem to offer the average humanistic intellectual something like Truth and with the Humanities immolating itself in a bonfire of nihilism, the Progressive Movement sees the continued march of humanism as the only way to a rational, happy future. Who would have thought that the bold standard carried by men like Voltaire and Nietzsche would end up in the hands of Gene Roddenberry? And if it's hard not to see the appeal in progressive activist journalism to someone like me, then it must be near impossible for someone on the other end of the political spectrum .

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

...And the only thing that can cure it is MORE COWBELL!

Okay, I know that Fox News is getting hammered in the liberal media these days, but this is kinda funny.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

The first good news to come out of my home town since Carly Patterson


You may have heard of him before. He parents are Indian. He was born and raised in Baton Rouge, LA. He went to Oxford as a Rhodes scholar and was drafted into LA politics shortly thereafter. He is a conservative Republican who is wicked smart and currently serves in Congress. He is running for governor against the severely compromised Ms. Blanco. Even a state as messed up as LA can't keep him down.

His name is Bobby Jindal.

I was first made aware of him by my dad who was impressed by his work as Secretary of the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals about 10 years ago.

Illinois (a state that gives LA a run for its money as most the corrupt in the Union) may have Barack, but we have Bobby. And he's only just getting started.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Busy Busy Monday


So not too much today. I've been reading too much about the Middle East these days, so I can kill two birds with one stone by combining it with a tribute to the late, troubled genius of B Kliban.



Enjoy more of these here

Saturday, January 20, 2007

It's another Taqiyya Sunrise

From the Jerusalem Post:

Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas on Saturday renewed his offer for a 10-year truce with Israel in return for the establishment of a temporary Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem.


Wow, I thought chutzpah was a Yiddish word

Friday, January 19, 2007

Sincere Apologies to Mr. Kliban


Happy weekend!

The Democratic Executive in the 21st Century: a blueprint

Occaisioned by a piece in Commentary by Joshua Muravchik on Carter.

Carter and Clinton: the models.

Two very different men on the surface, yet their similarities point us in the direction of what a successful Democratic nominee would look like. Their main shared traits seem to be:

1. Massive intellectual capacity - as far as IQ goes, both of these men are generally considered to be among the smartest to hold the office of president.

2. The lack of a solid core - this is a little more troublesome, but both men seem to lack a solid set of values, picking and choosing causes based not so much on their merits but rather on their appearance to others. The Muravchik piece and other biographies of Carter are filled with anecdotes where seemingly fundamental policy choices and campaign platforms are arrived at through a calculating, Machiavellian process. Clinton's similar methodology has been perhaps better documented, but the disconnect between public and private faces is very pronounced in both men.

3. An obsession with a historical legacy as something to be cultivated after leaving office, usually by choosing statesmanly causes that, as above, seem calculated rather than genuine.

4. Enigmatic and Self-Obsessed Personalities - this is a little vague and perhaps included in the traits above, but neither man really gives you the impression that you fully connect with what makes them tick. Both men have the ability in the moment to connect to people on a personal level, but this can be seen in retrospect as a skill rather than an inward trait.

It could be said that these are vague observations that are common to many ambitious men, not just politicians. But if Carter and Clinton are compared with their Republican counterparts (Reagan, the Bushes, and Ford) these men seem opaque, calculating and self-serving.

I would argue that their lack of a "center" and desire to disguise their private motivations are a almosta Party template (cemented by both men's unquestioned success) that are common to Kerry and Gore, but these unsuccessful candidates lacked either the intelligence or personal charisma to complete the picture and connect to voters.

Well that's as much of a thought piece as I'm good for on a Friday. Have a great weekend!

Why? Because they try harder!

Volokh Conspiracy: Former Member of CAIR (Council on American Islamic Relations) Board Files Complaint with Justice Department About (Among Others) "the 'Jewish Lobby'"

I guess that's how you stay ahead of the competition. Use the system. Use the "Arab Street". Use foreign aid. Throw up the specter of internment camps and Kristallnacht.

BTW, I wonder whether the whole inversion of Nazi persecution of the Jews ("now they're killing all the Palestinians! Oh, the irony!") by the Arab Press is really even acknowledged or believed or is some self-contained trope used to deflect criticisms and internal strife. Besides the fact that it's untrue on the face of it and patently unfunny, there is the kind of crass opportunism of the bazaar in trying to simultaneously leverage a historical event for your own advantage and at the same time trying to deny that the event even happened.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

CAIR to be #1

...now that that it has surpassed the NAACP and other civil rights organizations in whining and preying upon liberal guilt. This according to my unscientific poll - well, actually it's more anecdotal evidence than a true poll, but...

Okay, I made that statistic up. But doesn't it just feel right?

Fin de partie

I suppose today is a slow news day since the blogosphere is full of very speculative thought pieces on Iraq, 2008 and Scooter Libby.

I would like to add to this ragout by putting forward this possibly historically interesting but nevertheless borderline useless proposal:

We elected the wrong Bush.

As the war with Iraq almost inevitably continues ( I don't think that, in hindsight, we can imagine any scenario that would have presented a quick and easy victory there) the winning of hearts and minds at home and the ability to convey at least the appearance of nuance and diplomacy abroad have become more desired qualities than indomitable resolve and populist appeal. Both Bushes may be all of these things and both may have brought us to this same juncture, but in a way we have reached the endgame in Iraq, and Jeb's Bishop cuts a much more useful figure than W's bellicose Knight.

It is one of the ironies of history that the best and brightest do not always rise to the top, and Jeb's earlier successes on the smaller stage of Florida may have precluded him from holding an office where he could have done his country a better service. In any case, I doubt that the US is ready for a yet another Bush (or even a Bush-Clinton-Bush-Clinton-Bush cycle) in the White House.

I wonder how history will assess it all?

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Welcome Back, American Idol (I guess)

We don't own a TV right now, but I caught a bit on my downstairs neighbor's beautiful HD plasma screen
Actually, I am Uebermann

Pluggage

Middlebrow - John Mark Reynolds hardly needs my plug to be noticed, but he is a great guy and a friend and covers a wide range of topics. I agree on a lot of what he says about Romney, troubled and perhaps uninformed as I am about mainstream Mormonism.

Besides his usual fare on Theology and Politics he's also an inveterate film and theater buff and a card-carrying Disneyland aficianado.

What more can you ask for?

Taranto: Things that make you go "Ouch"

From BOTW today, on Obama's tepid showing among Black politcos:

"Our view is that Obama threatens Jackson, Sharpton and Belafonte precisely because he has an appeal that transcends race. If Obama is able to gain widespread appeal as a national political figure, it undermines the basis of white guilt, namely the assumption that America remains a deeply racist society. Men like Jackson, Sharpton and Belafonte have made their careers on the exploitation of white guilt. Obama is a threat to their power and livelihood. "

That's gotta hurt. But Al and Jesse are no strangers to pain (albeit perhaps more in their past than present), and, as they say, "Pain is God's megaphone".

But as New Orleans and a few of my own personal shortcomings can attest, suffering is no guarantee of growth or change. Human nature often (wrongly) tries to tell us the easiest course is to just hunker down until the pain goes away.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Becker and Posner take on "Libertarian Paternalism":

A libertarian paternalist is happy to accept information arguments for government regulation of behavior, but typically stresses other considerations.

Ugh. What a waste of electrons.

I think to wax legalistic about this issue or to bring Mill into it only empowers a specious debate and obfuscates the real issues. Mill had the luxury of appealing for individual freedoms in a culture that was largely monolithic and whose behavior was already circumscribed by a host of universally recognized laws. Like a Picasso or a Kandinsky, he could "push" against the dominant paradigm because there was something to push against. We have no such luxury. Our social contracts are vague and polymorphous, so Science as the final (and only unquestioned) arbiter is allowed to creep in to the discourse. But Science can make no value-based arguments, so the bait-and-switch leaves us with an impoverished arguments that gets bogged down in legal footnotes.

Ham-Berglar, or Schadenfreude on the Right

This whole Sandy Berger thing is gotten a little too post-post modern. The Right is fuming and polishing off their ever un-popular "b-but Clinton " shtick (and they said Reagan was a Teflon president!), the Press is ignoring, the Blogosphere is teeming with petitions and the Administration, who has already dealt very gingerly with the guy through the Justice Dept., is saying nothing.

Stuff:

The reheated "b-but Clinton" trope makes me uncomfortable and a little ashamed because of the parallels to the current "Chimpy McBush" (or is it Chimpy McHitler?) rhetoric on the Left. While the Right tends to exercise slightly more restraint (unlike the Left, the Right is at least theoretically held in check by its own appeals to a standard of morality), I am chastened by what jerks we conservatives can be.

The whole Berger affair is strange (at least to an outsider like me) because of the appearance of plans within plans on both sides. Is the Bush Administration trying to retain the high ground by letting the Blogosphere doing its dirty work? Is there dirt that Berger/Clinton has that constrained the Bush Justice Dept? Is this really an example of closet Dems at work in the rank and file of the Dept? How have Bill and Hilary still ended up smelling like roses?


My head a splode.

Blogging is an art, same as any other method of self-expression. Some are better at it than others. - hugh macleod

The world does not need another blog, but this is a tiny little "s*** or get off the pot" moment for your humble correspondent. I will attempt to focus on politics, culture and their intersection with larger philosophical and theological issues. I will set a few guidelines:

1. No (or very sparing) use of mean-spiritedness, sarcasm, or self-serving wit.
2. A promise to get over the blank submission box and start typing already.

As for the rest, we'll just have to see.


RG


Everything takes three times longer than it should. Especially the money part. - hugh macleod

I would only add: it still takes three times longer if you figure in the "three times longer" beforehand