Tuesday, September 23, 2008

In Praise of Hypocrisy

First, a disclaimer: I fully realize hypocrisy is a human failing and is, like narcissism or addiction, not a state to aspire to. But in our modern world concepts like shame and morality are considered optional or unessential to daily life. In the political or business arena for example, having a moral compass can even be seen as a liability, limiting one's options. So hurray for the fact that hypocrisy at least presupposes a moral context. Of course, progressive pundits - the classic example is Jon Stewart - get to have it both ways, using charges of hypocrisy against supposedly "moral" public figures as a way to shut them down while insulating themselves from such charges with the defense that they don't adhere to the values in question to begin with.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Out of Step With the Lizardroid Army

As a consumer of conservative blogs, I would be remiss not to be well aware of Little Green Footballs. Charles Johnson's regular exposes of "fauxtography" and other MSM lies and half-truths serve as an invaluable fact-checking resource and epitomizes much of what is good about the blogosphere. But, like anyone who believes his good press and then becomes galvanized against his opponents, the site is also prone to a bit of smugness and a sneering tone towards people he despises (mostly the Kos Kids) and issues he finds especially pertinent. The principal "issue of the heart" on which LGF waxes strident is the defense of Israel and Zionism, a characteristic unfortunately shared by my personal hero James Taranto. Don't get me wrong: I am no defender of Palestinian thuggery and see Israel as a bulwark of (relative) freedom and democracy in a region short on both. But Johnson's arguments are almost comically one-sided. His favorite "issue of the head" which he enjoys pillorying is Intelligent Design. His arguments against ID are shrill and supercilious and show a mind completetly given over to materialism. Like an inversion of his coverage of Israel, Johnson never attributes a single cogent thought to the proponents of ID. Given his background as a Computer Scientist I guess I shouldn't be surprised. But the enjoyment he seems to derive from ridiculing an idea that he constantly demonstrates he knows nothing about is a bit unsettling.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Life and Elections Aren't Fair

It's pretty frustrating to see the mainstream media abandoning any sense of balance or fairness. Any news outlet outside of Fox News, the right-wing blogosphere or conservative talk radio (and that includes almost all traditional news sources) have, in their panic over the recent surge in McCain's popularity gone on a crusade to assure the election of Barack Obama. Whether selectively fact-checking McCain ads, or scurrying to sully Sarah Palin's image, the effect is almost comical. The left wing opinion writers are almost completely untethered. The lack of a moral center that charatcerizes much of the social Progressive movement means that many liberal commentators' worst instincts are going unchecked and the level of meanness is just appalling. The child in me sees the unfairness of the situation and wants to let everyone know, but fortuantely the country doesn't need me to save it. For even though the media and academia have undermined (and in some ways mortally wounded) many of the the core values that served as the foundations of American Democracy and Western Civilization, many Americans sense the bad faith and slander inherent in the left's message.

Addendum: I see Bill Whittle has just addressed the issue much more colorfully and thoroughly than I ever could here

The Richard Rich Army

I was opening the mail a few days ago when a piece of mail caught my eye. It was from NewYork and had no return address. A thick plain white envelope, it appeared to contain newspaper clippings. Upon opening it I found it was an entire page of newsprint advertising a government grant seminar. Affixed to it was a Post-It note with a simple scrawled note: "Ya gotta see this!" The signature was illegible. Most folks would have felt compelled to read the article; I went and Googled the web address provided and saw it featured prominently on RipoffReport and other scam notification sites. I resented having spent my time on it, but I also wondered about the folks who sent this out. I imagined a room full of poor souls scribbling notes and stuffing envelopes for minimum wage (or even worse, for less than minimum wage and a negligible commission based on the number of successful contacts). In what kind of armor, I wondered, does one have to encase one's soul to be able to perform that kind of work (or order others to perform that kind of work and reap most of the profits) day in and day out? Talk radio and late night TV are filled ads for these kinds of schemes. Like pornography, it is one of the uglier sides of an open society.

It made me think of John Hurt's portrayal of Richard Rich in A Man for All Seasons. When shame is banished, man is capable of truly horrible things.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Acura Wants You to Make Someone Very Special Happy

It's hardly a new phenomenon: advertisers co-opt a song to sell a product even though the song's lyrics or original meaning run counter to the product being sold. Heck, I got a chuckle last week when I was at Disney's California Adventure with the kids and heard Randy Newman's "I Love L.A." blaring over the speakers. On the surface it seems to be a snappy little tune extolling the virtues of California's largest city, but a closer listening reveals Newman's true intent as he rattles off a list of some of the ugliest places on planet Earth (that happen to be right here in the Southland).

But it is (to me at least) a sad thing to take a song with a lofty intent and warp it to fit a more "modern" view of existence. Jimmy Durante's 1965 cover of "Make Someone Happy" is a wonderful statement of the then universally understood Judeo-Christian sentiment that living for another is essential for a deeper understanding of life. By the time the agency responsible for creating a commercial for the Acura MDX acquired the tune, however, the song's meaning had been diluted by years of cultural self-absorption. It was then easy to invert its meaning, so that the person you really should do something special for is not some significant other but the more significant you.